Pachomius as a non-christian ascetic priest and "prophet"
Web Publication by Mountain Man Graphics, Australia
“The revolution of the fourth century,
— Arnaldo Momigliano (1908-1987),
carrying with it a new historiography
will not be understood if we underrate
the determination, almost the fierceness,
with which the Christians
appreciated and exploited
that had transformed Constantine
into a supporter, a protector,
and later a legislator
of the Christian church.”
Pagan and Christian Historiography
in the Fourth Century A.D; (1960)
[Considered in the foremost of 20th century ancient historians]
— Arnaldo Momigliano (1908-1987),
Pachomius as a non-christian ascetic priest and "prophet"
It will be argued that later christian ecclesiatical "historians" forged into the record that Pachomius was a christian in the sense that EUsebius of Caesarea was a christian. It will be argued that Jerome, and others, who preserved and translated the literature of Pachomius, fashioned Pachomius as an authodox christian "ascetic hermit".
It will also be argued that Life of Anthony by Anathausius is simply a romantic fiction that has served to establish an historical link and correspondence between the early fourth century desert dwelling ascetic movement (such as Pachomius', and a number of others) and the history of early christianity. Pachomius is the historical figure, and was a non-christian. Anthony was the subject matter of the biography of a saint, and represents nothing but propaganda. It was an expedient means to "christianise" the great movement of the ascetic monks into their remote monasteries.
Aristocracy, subject to torture and excessive taxation at the hands of the christian emperors of the fourth century, found it a reasonable option to give away their lands and possessions, and flee to the refuge of the desert communities, far from ] the roving spies (Bishops) of the emperor and his state.
Pachomius forsaw this. Perhaps he witnessed Constantine's destruction of the oblelisk of Karnack in 324 CE? Perhaps in the same year Constantine's utter destruction of the ancient major temples of Asclepius, in Aegae and elsewhere, and the public executions of his chief priesthood.
The possibility that Pachomius was this known as "A Prophet" is presented first. It is by no means sure. But the question is at least supported ...
**************** Armarnd Veilleux Coptic fragment: Letter by a certain Paphnoute to a certain Pachomius. Pahpnoute(d.346 CE), brother of Theodore, many years the steward of the "KOINONIA" residing in Pbbow, and of Pachomius. Address is via the title: "my prophet and father Pachomius" ****** Says: Pachomius and Theodore anathematised the writings of Origen? ***************** PALAMON The Letter of Ammon and Pachomian Monasticism By James E. Goehring Numbers of Pachomians...... Ammon reports 600 at Pabau 352 CE. Ammon reports easter gathering of 2000 Palladius lists 1300 at Pabau Palladius also 200-300 in each of other monasteries with a total around 7000. Numbers did increase after 346 CE (Pachomius died) Cassian (Institutes 4.1) numbers 5000 Jerome (Reg. Pach, Praefatio 7) suggests 50,000 at Pabau for easter SOURCE While St Anthony stressed solitary life, St Pachomius (292-348) emphasied cenobitic life, that is communal monastic life. Pachomius was born to pagan parents in Thebaid (Upper Egypt). There he received an excellent secular education. At the age of either 20 or 21, he was called to serve in the Roman army. It was then that he stayed in a prison, used to house the new conscripts, which was run by Christians. He was so impressed by their love of their neighbor that he vowed to become a Christian after his military service ended. Thus in 314 Pachomius was baptized and began to practice the ascetic life. Three years later he withdrew to the desert under the guidance of the elder Palamon. According to tradition, after ten years with Palamon he heard a Voice telling him to found a monastic community at Tabbenisi (also Tabenna, Tabbenisiot). He and Palamon traveled there, and subsequently Pachomius had a vision in which an angel came to him, clothed in a schema (a type of monastic garment), and gave him a rule for the cenobitic life. This is significant because up until this time ascetics had for the most part lived alone as hermits, not together in a community. Pachomius’ rule balanced the communal life with the solitary life; monks live in individual cells but work together for the common good.Furthermore, Pachomius was strict with the community of monks that began to grow around him. He gave everyone the same food and attire. The monks of the monastery fulfilled the obediences assigned them for the common good of the monastery. The monks were not allowed to possess their own money nor to accept anything from their relatives. St Pachomius considered that an obedience fulfilled with zeal was greater than fasting or prayer. He also demanded from the monks an exact observance of the monastic rule, and he chastised slackers. By 348, Pachomius directed almost three thousand monks, housed in different monasteries. This, however, was also the year that he was infected by some form of plague or pestilence: he died around the year 348, and was buried on a hill near the monastery.
The Rediscovery of Gnosticism: Proceedings of the International "Pachomius certainly laid claim to visions of heavenly mysteries (hence his troubles with the synod of Latopolis), and in correspondence with the superiors of his monastic houses he used an alphabetic cryptography which the recent discoveries of Dr Quecke have much illuminated, while still leaving the cipher unbroken.  [12=H Quecke, Die Briefe Pachoms (Regensburg, 1975)] The cipher is partly paralleled by the alchemist Zosimus who entitled each of the 28 books of his magnum opus with a letter of the Greek alphabet plus four Coptic letters, each letter representing a god. The parallel with Pachomius was already evident to Reitzenstein. So the hypothesis of a gnostic sympathiser among Pachomonius' monks is not rediculous. Papyri fragment: Published Dr. CH Roberts Oxford collection 1939 (Memorial Vol for Carl Schmidt, ZNW 37 for 1938) Dated early 4th century "Catalogue of a christian library, including Biblical books, a 'great book' which is evidently a gospel book, the Shepherd of Hermas, two works of Origen and one by 'Father Val ..." For heretical penetration into orthodox monasteries we have plentiful evidence during the Origenist controversies in Egypt and during the long struggles to contain Messalianism in Asia Minor. Texts of Origen could be brought into a monastery near Gaza about 530 AD and prompted some risky speculations that caused anxiety  [13 = See the "Erotapokriseis of Barsanuphius and John 999" (p.283 ed Schionas, Volos, 1960)] In a word, the bizarre nature of Pachomius' cyrptographic letters, the proximity of the Nag Hammadi find to the great Pachomian monastery together with the now demonstrated connection of the codices with the nearby Pachomian house, the suddenclamp-down on the apochyphal texts resulting from Athasius' Paschal Letter for 367 (which may be the cause of the cache), add up to make it probably enough that until 367 CE gnostic material was easily infiltrated into the monastic houses of Pachomius' foundation.
CHAPTER XXXII. -- PACHOMIUS AND THE TABENNESIOTS
 TABENNISI 198 is a place, so-called, in the Thebaid, in which there lived a certain Pachomius, one of those who have lived in the straight way, so that he was counted worthy both of prophecies and angelic visions. He was exceedingly devoted both to his fellow-men and his brethren. Accordingly, to him as he sat in his cave 199 an angel 200 appeared and said: "You have successfully ordered your own life. So it is superfluous to remain sitting in your cave. Up! go out and collect all the young monks and dwell with them, and according to the model which I now give you, so legislate for them;" and he gave him a brass tablet on which this was inscribed----
 "Thou shalt allow each man to eat and drink according to his strength; and proportionately to the strength of the eaters appoint to them their labours. And prevent no man either from fasting or eating. However, appoint the tasks that need strength to those who are stronger and eat, and to the weaker and more ascetic such as the weak can manage. Make a number of cells within the enclosure and let three dwell in each cell. But let them all go to one building for their food.  Let them sleep not lying down full length, but let them make sloping chairs easily constructed and put their rugs on them and thus sleep in a sitting posture. And let them wear at night linen lebitons and a girdle. Let each of them have a worked goatskin cloak, without which they are not to eat. When they go to Communion on Saturday and Sunday, let them loosen their girdles and lay aside the skin cloak and go in with the cowl only." And he prescribed for them napless cowls, as for children, on which he ordered an imprint, the mark of a cross, to be worked in dark red.  And he ordered that there should be twenty-four sections,206 and to each order he assigned a letter of the Greek alphabet---- alpha, beta, gamma, delta, and so on.207 So when the Superior asked questions, or |114 busied himself with the affairs of the great multitude, he asked the second: "How is the Alpha section?" or, "How is the Zeta?" or again: "Greet the Rho," and they followed a private meaning assigned to the letters. "And to the simpler and more unworldly thou shalt give the Iota, and to the more difficult and perverse thou shalt assign the Xi."  And so, in correspondence with the nature of their dispositions and manners and lives, he fitted the letters to each section, only the spiritual knowing what was meant. And it was written on the tablet: "A stranger of another monastery which has a different rule is not to eat with them, nor drink, nor enter ] into the monastery, unless he happens to be on a (genuine) journey."208 However, the man who has come to remain with them they do not allow to enter into the sanctuary for three years.209 But after a three years' probation and performance of the more toilsome labours, then he enters.  "As they eat let them cover their heads with their cowls lest one brother see another chewing. A monk is not allowed to talk at meals nor let his eye wander beyond his plate or the table." And he ordered them during the whole day to make twelve prayers, and twelve at the lamp-lighting, and twelve at the night-vigils, and three at the ninth hour. But when a group was about to eat he ordered a psalm to be sung before each prayer.210 |115  When Pachomius objected to the angel that the prayers were few, the angel said to him: "I gave this rule so as to make sure in advance that even the little ones keep the rule and are not afflicted.211 But the perfect have no need of legislation, for by themselves in their cells they have surrendered the whole of their life to the contemplation of God. But I have legislated for as many as have not a discerning mind, in order that they, like house-servants fulfilling the duties of their station, may live a life of freedom."Now there are a number of these monasteries which have observed this rule, amounting to 7000 men.212 But the first and great monastery is that where Pachomius himself dwelt, which itself also is the parent of the other monasteries; it has 1300 members.213
 Among them there was also the noble Aphthonius, who became my intimate friend, and is now second in the monastery. Him they send to Alexandria, since nothing can make him stumble, in order to sell their produce and buy necessaries.
 But there are also other monasteries two hundred or three hundred strong. One of these, with 300 monks, I found when I entered the city of Panopolis. [In the monastery I found fifteen tailors, seven smiths, four carpenters, twelve camel-drivers, and fifteen fullers.] 214 But they work at every kind of craft and with their surplus output they provide for the needs both of the women's convents and the prisons.
 [They keep pigs too, and when I blamed the practice, |116 they said: "In our tradition we have received this, that they are to be kept because of the chaff, and the refuse of the vegetables and other scraps that one throws away, lest they be wasted.215 And the pigs are to be killed and their meat sold, but the tit-bits are to be devoted to the sick and aged, because the neighbourhood is poor and populous; for the tribe of the Blemmyes live near.]
 But those who are to serve that day rise early and get to their work, some to the kitchen, others to the tables. They spend their time then until the meal-hour in arranging and preparing the tables, putting loaves on each, and charlock, preserved olives, cheese of cows' milk, [the tit-bits of the meat], and chopped herbs. Some come in at the sixth hour and eat, others at the seventh, others at the eighth, others at the ninth, others at the eleventh, others in the late evening, others every other day, so that each letter knows its own hour.216
 So also is it with their work. One works on the land as a labourer, another in the garden, another at the forge, another in the bakery, another in the carpenter's" shop, another in the fuller's shop, another weaving the big baskets, another in the tannery, another in the shoemaker's shop, another in the scriptorium, another weaving the young reeds. And they learn all the scriptures by heart.
198. 1 Near Denderah on the Nile. See Introduction, p. 23, and Ladeuze, Etude sur le Cénobitisme pakhomien, passim. The error that Tabennisi was an island goes back to some MSS. of Sozomen, III. 14, which have Tabe/nnh nh~soj. 199. 2 He was with Palaemon at the time. 200. 3 Ladeuze considers the Greek Vita Pachomii the source of the other versions, and the Rule in its various recensions to be inferior in authority to the Lives. The angel here seems to him legendary, since he is not mentioned in the Lives (p. 257). But cf. Gennadius, de vir. illus., 7. 201. 1 It is clear from the Lives that the brethren lived in houses, within which each had a separate cell: Ladeuze, p. 263 f. 202. 2 Pachomius himself observed neither the sleeping nor clothing regulations as given here, Ladeuze, p. 264. See Cassian, Inst. Book I. for the dress of the Egyptian monks. 203. 3 The lebitw&n was a sleeveless garment, akin to or identical with the kol&bion. 204. 4 mhlwth_n ai0gei/an ei0rgasme/nhn. 205. 5 koukou&lion. "Un très court mantelet " (Ladeuze). A hood was attached, for it was used to cover the head at meals: see below. 206. 6 ta&gmata.207. 7 Ladeuze, pp. 264 ff., throws doubt on this classification. It is derived from the Greek alphabet, of which Pachomius was probably ignorant. There is no trace of it in Jerome's Latin version of the Rules. Jerome indeed tells of a special alphabet used by Pachomius in his correspondence with the superiors of the monasteries; but these signs stood for other things besides the classes of monks. "Peut-être est-ce trompé par une mauvaise interpretation de ces lettres de Pakhôme et des supérieurs de ses couvents, que Pallade, superficiellement renseigné d'ailleurs sur les moines de Tabennisi, a inventé la règle que nous avons examinée." Butler is not convinced by Ladeuze's depreciation of Palladius' version of the Rules (II. 206), and in the Cambridge Medieval History, I. 524 (1911), speaks of it as "probably the most authentic epitome."
208. 1 To exclude professional wanderers, gyrovagi. In the Lives Pachomius receives visitors from other forms of monasticism freely, Ladeuze, p. 264. 209. 2 No trace of this in the Lives or Jerome: Ladeuze, p. 281. 210. 3 See Butler, II., p. 207 f., for a discussion of these prayers. Palladius' version conflicts with Cassian's. 211. 1 Cf. the Benedictine Rule, which was intended only to be "a little rule for beginners," minima inchoationis regula. 212. 2 Cassian, Inst., IV. I, says more than 5000; Jerome, in prologue to the Latin version of the Rule, 50,000. 213. 3 Cf. XVIII. 13, where the number is given as 1400. The monastery where Pachomius dwelt was Pabau, not Tabennisi; Palladius is in error. 214. 4 The passages in square brackets are apparently genuine, though omitted in some MSS. 215. 1 George Herbert's Country Parson keeps pigs for the same reason (Priest to the Temple, Ch. X.). 216. 2 In point of fact, says Ladeuze (p. 298 f.), they ate together twice a day at the same time.