Joshua SchachterleAug 30, 2023
John Cassian and the Creation of Monastic Subjectivity
Equinox Publishing 2023
In John Cassian and the Creation of Monastic Subjectivity (Equinox Books, 2023), a revision of his 2019 dissertation, Joshua Schachterle evaluates the Institutes and Conferences of John Cassian with a keen eye toward the possibility that he envisioned monasticism as a version of Christian piety distinct from that of the institutional church. Schachterle elaborates on comments from a variety of monastic writings indicating that monks should “flee” from bishops, who characteristically sought to ordain these famous ascetic figures for broader church service and to enlist them for support in theological disagreements against the mounting ideological challenges of so-called heretics. Furthermore, Schachterle observes that materials internal to monastic discourses, ranging from the various collections of sayings (“apophthegmata”) of the Desert Fathers and Mothers to the writings of Cassian himself, formed a closed discursive system that made no meaningful appeals to the more mainstream institutional church fathers, and he argues that Cassian pursues a separate monastic authority based not on apostolic succession but on apostolic praxis, the notion that monastic practices such as prayer and asceticism can be traced back to the primitive church without recourse to genealogical rhetoric privileging the identities of bishops as guarantors of the true faith. Finally, Schachterle leans on Michel Foucault’s analysis of the creation of subjects to examine Cassian’s formation of a specifically Egyptian form of monastic subjectivity for his new Western audience, the monks of Gaul. Schachterle joined the New Books Network recently to discuss these topics, the origins of Egyptian monasticism, and more from his engaging study of John Cassian’s primary works.
Joshua Schachterle (Ph.D., University of Denver, 2019) undertook his doctoral studies after a long career as a punk rock musician and an equally long and overlapping career as a high school English teacher. His research focuses on the origins of Christian monasticism and how early monastic texts contributed to the formation and development of both eastern and western Christianity in the Late Antique period. He currently writes articles on the New Testament and Early Christianity, with subjects ranging from The Didache to the Gospel of Matthew and John the Baptist, for Bart Ehrman’s website and Early Christian Texts, and he has a forthcoming article in Cistercian Studies Quarterly on monastic uses of Scripture.
Rob Heaton (Ph.D., University of Denver, 2019) hosts Biblical Studies conversations for New Books in Religion and teaches New Testament, Christian origins, and early Christianity at Anderson University in Indiana. He recently authored The Shepherd of Hermas as Scriptura Non Grata: From Popularity in Early Christianity to Exclusion from the New Testament Canon (Lexington Books, 2023). For more about Rob and his work, please see his website at https://www.robheaton.com.