The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks

4.21 of 5 stars 4.21  ·  rating details  ·  170 ratings  ·  10 reviews
The Desert Fathers were the first Christian monks, living in solitude in the deserts of Egypt, Palestine, and Syria. In contrast to the formalized and official theology of the "founding fathers" of the Church, they were ordinary Christians who chose to renounce the world and live lives of celibacy, fasting, vigil, prayer, and poverty in direct and simple response to the go...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published July 29th 2003 by Penguin Classics (first published March 27th 2003)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 412)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
David Withun
Of course the sayings of the Desert Fathers are great. I couldn't have enjoyed reading them more and I certainly was edified along the way many times over. My reason for rating this book at 3 stars is the translation itself, with which I was very disappointed, and the introduction of the book, also written by the translator. The introduction of the book entirely ignores all Eastern monasticism; how you can write an introduction on the relevance of the Desert Fathers and skip over Mount Athos I'l...more
♥ Ibrahim ♥
Benedicta Ward is the nun scholar who wrote all kinds of medieval studies that often point to Jesus our Lord as the exalted King of Heaven. This book of hers is a real classic that you would want to read over and over again, and you might end up memorizing some of the sayings in it. This book shows you how there are people who sought the Lord's face for His own sake and enjoyed him enternally, regardless of what might come out of that. I think this book should be read at least once a year. I hav...more
This is a collection of, as the title suggestions, of sayings by early Christian monks, mostly from Egypt. This particular collection was transmitted in Latin and remained as part of the monastic toolbox in the West through the influence of figures like John Cassian. The sayings themselves are classic Desert Fathers: frequently cryptic, sometimes deeply insightful, but sometimes completely opaque or outrageous. Like any literature of 'wise' people, the insights are very culturally bound, so ther...more
I don't come from a religious background, and I stumbled upon this book rather by accident; but I found parts of it sagacious and insightful. As a collection of aphorisms from many different authors, it is often repetitive or contradictory. Yet I can't help but think that if contemporary Christians acted—in any small degree—like the desert fathers (and mothers), the world would be changed for the better.

In our present times, there is a baffling overlap between Christianity and capitalism. Maybe...more
Nicholas Whyte[return][return]Simply gives the complete text of the Sayings of the Desert Fathers compiled by Pelagius in the early fourth century. There is an uneasy and sometimes consciously very funny tension running through the writings, between on the one hand being deeply devout and determined, and pulling up the other monks who are not trying hard enough; and on the other hand not showing off one's own piety. But at the same time you can't help but be impressed wit...more
In any collection of sayings like this, one will discover a great variety. Some of the sayings are strange, others extremely ascetic in their application, while still others beautifully incisive in their wisdom. It's that last group that makes this book such a treasure.

What comes across most strongly to me is the patience and trust exhibited in the stories of these men. They were willing to allow themselves to be put upon by those with evil intentions, yet they did not complain. Instead, they en...more
The Desert Fathers, often called the Desert Fathers and Mothers (108 fathers and 3 mothers quoted in this book), started the first major Christian ascetic movement in 4th century Egypt. They lived in an inhospitable wilderness; they isolated themselves in monastic cells; they fasted; they prayed; they fought the demons of temptation. They essentially died both to human civilization and to their own bodily needs. Their monastic cells functioned as premature graves.

I feel kind of guilty for not th...more
Thomas Irby
I like a lot of what the sayings in this book have to tell us. However, I don't like that it is organized by topic. I feel like the collection cherry picks quotes that are out of context to serve a purpose that they may not have originally meant.
However, there is good diversity here and a lot of good information.
Mark Payne
Not a bad thing to have this on your bookshelf at all times. I haven't read every single page yet though, it's not that kind of book really.
James Chafin
crazy good!
Michael Hermann
Michael Hermann marked it as to-read
Jul 14, 2014
Brendan marked it as to-read
Jul 07, 2014
Laura Martin
Laura Martin marked it as to-read
Jun 29, 2014
Nick Dolan
Nick Dolan marked it as to-read
Jun 27, 2014
Saju marked it as to-read
Jun 25, 2014
Christi marked it as to-read
Jun 17, 2014
Nicole marked it as to-read
Jun 13, 2014
Jeff Reding
Jeff Reding marked it as to-read
Jun 07, 2014
Abby Squire
Abby Squire marked it as to-read
Jun 06, 2014
Ben Atkins
Ben Atkins marked it as to-read
Jun 02, 2014
Billy Candelaria
Billy Candelaria marked it as to-read
May 28, 2014
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 13 14 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism
  • The Philokalia, Volume 1: The Complete Text; Compiled by St. Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain & St. Markarios of Corinth
  • The Way of a Pilgrim and the Pilgrim Continues His Way
  • The Life of Moses
  • John Climacus: The Ladder of Divine Ascent (The Classics of Western Spirituality)
  • The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of God
  • Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers
  • Revelations of Divine Love
  • The Orthodox Church
  • The Major Works (World's Classics)
  • Early Christian Doctrines
  • Beginning to Pray
  • On the Apostolic Preaching
  • Shorter Summa: Saint Thomas's Own Concise Version of His Summa Theologica
  • The Rule of Benedict: Insights for the Ages
  • The Cloud of Unknowing: and The Book of Privy Counseling
  • Abandonment to Divine Providence
  • The Spiritual Exercises
The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: The Alphabetical Collection (Cistercian studies 59) Harlots Of The Desert: A Study of Repentance in Early Monastic Sources The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers (Lion Wisdom) The Venerable Bede Daily Readings with the Desert Fathers

Share This Book

“Macarius said also, ‘If you are stirred to anger when you want to reprove someone, you are gratifying your own passions. Do not lose yourself in order to save another.” 1 likes
“They did not talk, not because they hated conversation, but because they wanted to listen intently to the voice of God in silence; they did not dislike eating, but were feeding on the Word of God so that they did not have room for earthly food or time to bother with it; they did not avoid company because it bored them, but, as one of them said, ‘I cannot be with you and with God.’34 It was not a dislike of sleep that made them keep vigil, but an eager and longing attitude of waiting for the coming of Christ:” 0 likes
More quotes…