Athanasius Portration of St. Antony as Uneducated
The importance of education among monk is one of the issues that have been considerably discussed by many writers, philosophers, and researchers. It is hard to understand how ancient monks and hermits, who did not have access to numerous books and other literary sources, could be defined as saint and wise. One of such cases of misunderstanding takes place in the Athanasius’ work, The Life of Antony. The author portrayed St. Antony, one of the first famous Christian monks at the end of the 200s, as an uneducated person despite the fact that many sources identified him as quite highly educated.
In this paper, the evaluation of the contradictions concerning the level of St. Antony’s education will be offered to prove that the intentions of Athanasius were not to offend the monk or prove the inappropriateness of his identification as a wise saint but to explain that the level of knowledge should not be considered as the only criterion of the evaluation of person’s importance. MacCulloch writes that, during the ancient times, the common Greek culture supported the idea of understanding and creating a powerful system of sacred knowledge that had to be used in their everyday life. In the lectures, the necessity of commentary writing and the respect to the institutional authority has been discussed as well. Such historical details proved that the representatives of the Ancient Times were bothered with the importance of knowledge and classic education.
St. Antony may be defined as illiterate by Athanasius because of several reasons, and these attempts could not be regarded as mistakes. First, Athanasius was not only an ordinary writer, who described the life of St. Antony. He was a good friend and supporter of St. Antony. He got access to a number of details from the life of that monk. His writing was not a simple description of the life. It was an analysis of the achievements and impact of the monk in religion and history. St. Antony could be called illiterate because he did not speak any other language except Coptic, his native Egyptian language. He found it enough to “took knowledge of another’s freedom from anger and another’s loving kindness”. Probably, he was called illiterate because of his isolated style of life he could not get the classic education that was so crucial for that period of time. Still, his abilities to listen, watch, observe, and analyze everything that was happening around made him a great representative of Christian monasticism.