49 of 50 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Early Christian Lives (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
This book is a translation of the biographies of six early monastic saints of Christianity. The particular lives - Antony, Paul of Thebes, Hilarion, Malchus, Martin of Tours and Benedict - are chosen as representatives of particular monastic styles from the early hermits to the monastic community, as generally envisioned today. The choice is also driven by the fact that the lives were written in Latin, which is the interest of Latin scholar and translator, Carolinne White.
In her introduction, she discusses the issues of proper translation, the types of monasticism, the milieu of their lives, and the styles of the authors, the likes of Sts. Athanasius and Jerome, Sulpicius Severus and Gregory the Great. To put things in context, she also provides a brief introduction to each biography.
For the Christian, however, the value of the book is the witness to the lives themselves. They are inspirational, if not almost unbelievable; so far are God's work through them so different than our own modern experience and subconsciously accepted empiricism. These are struggles with visible demons, not only seen by them, but also seen or felt by those around them. These are struggles with pagans and with heretics who mean to torture and kill them. These are struggles with the envious, who want a prophetic relationship with God without making the sacrifice. And these are struggles with good Christians, who fall and are helped by them.