This book explores Cassian's use of scripture in the Conferences, especially its biblical models to convey his understanding of the desert ideal to the monastic communities of Gaul. Cassian intended the scriptures and, implicitly, the Conferences to be the voices of authority and orthodoxy in the Gallic environment. He interprets familiar biblical characters in unfamiliar ways that exemplify his ideal. By imitating their actions the monk enters a seamless lineage of authority stretching back to Abraham. This book demonstrates how the scriptures functioned as a dynamic force in the lives of Christian monks in the fourth and fifth centuries, emphasizes the importance of Cassian in the development of the western monastic tradition, and offers an alternative to the sometimes problematic descriptions of patristic exegesis as "allegory" or "typology". Cassian has been described as little more than a provider of information about Egyptian monasticism, but a careful reading of his work reveals a sophisticated agenda to define and institutionalize orthodox monasticism in the Latin West.
Christopher J. Kelly received his PhD in Religious Studies from the University of Iowa in 2007 and is currently Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield. His areas of interest include historical theology, the origins and development of Christian monasticism, religious mythology, and world religions.
'By using the example of the biblical exegesis in Cassian’s Conferences concerning Martha and Mary, Job, Abraham and Moses, as well as the Prophets, Psalms, and Proverbs, Kelly’s work is an excellent introduction to early Christian monasticism as well as to monastic exegesis. It would be a useful text to adopt in courses on monasticism on early Christian exegesis, and is written in a very accessible style... Kelly’s book is a marvellous introductory text.' Catholic Books Review 'Kelly has succeeded in his intention to demonstrate how Cassian used Scripture ’to propose an ideal for living the monastic life’ (p. ix). He writes in an accessible way which those wishing to use this work as an introduction to Cassian and early exegetical methods will welcome.' Journal of Theological Studies 'Christopher Kelly has provided a thought-provoking study... The strength of this thoughtful study is the way in which the author relates themes in monastic life to the text of the bible, which is indeed the basis for monastic life in Egypt.’ Journal of Ecclesiastical History ’Throughout this well-organised, easy-to-use, and structured work, Kelly is careful to contextualise Cassian’s exegesis within a broader patristic context, thereby helping the reader see the significance of mimesis.’ Expository Times