Home > Late Antiquity, North Dakotiana > Thesis Defense: The Representation of Salvation in The Sayings of the Desert Fathers

Thesis Defense: The Representation of Salvation in The Sayings of the Desert Fathers

Paul Ferderer defends his M.A. Thesis today at 1 pm in O’Kelly 221.  He will be my first student to write in my area of research (the previous group includes theses on Frankish Cyprus, Roman military equipment, and Caesar’s Gallic Wars).  So this alone is reason to celebrate.  More importantly, Paul is a great guy.  He worked with us last year in Cyprus and has continued to help manage data this fall.  He is a regular visitor to my office and an expert on the NFL, professional wrestling, and public service announcements.  He also is a thoughtful commentator on the state of evangelical Christianity and longstanding member of our Latin Friday Morning group.  It will be sad to see Paul move on, but wherever he lands will get a first class mind and an all around good guy.

Here’s the abstract for his thesis:

This thesis examines four prominent works of monastic literature composed during the third through the sixth centuries and contrasts the representations of salvation within them.  The Lives of Constantine and Antony, The Lausiac History and The Sayings of the Desert Fathers discussed conceptions of salvation in some of the earliest forms of monastic literature.  The contention of this thesis is that in relation to the major works of monastic literature composed during the same period, The Sayings, articulated an existential dimension of salvation experienced as deliverance from sin and manifested in restored communion between God and the believer.  Using genre as its primary unit of analysis, this study reveals the unique theology of salvation found in The Sayings of the Desert Fathers.

While this study focuses on the early monastic community, it has much broader implications in the study of historical theology and Late Antique religion.  This study’s theological focus contributes to the existing discussions on the holy man of Late Antiquity.  At present, such scholarship remains focused on the sociological implications of ancient religion.  This thesis provides a point of departure for studies of theological texts as works that describe the intellectual history of Late Antiquity. 

The present discourse on the history of Christianity places much of its emphasis on Western Christendom.  Saint Augustine and Aquinas remain the exemplars of Christian thought, and the reformation the pinnacle of the church’s impact on the course of history.  This thesis contributes to a growing body of scholarship which probes Eastern foundations of Christian spirituality through the monastic movement and its rich intellectual history.   

He wants his defense to be open to the public.  So if you know Paul or this topic interests you, stop in to see the show!

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