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Early Christian Communities: Ascetic, Encratic…Is this news?

by Stephen Hebert on Monday - 14 May 2007

in Biblical Studies, New Testament

So, currently I’m working on a collection of articles for François Bovon. My working title for this project (which I’m sure is different from his) is: François’s Greatest Hits.

Naturally, because Prof. Bovon is so interested in Luke/Acts and noncanonical literature, these topics consume most of this collection (by the way, I believe it’ll be available in Spring 2008). As I read through these articles, I began to think back to various times throughout my academic career when I studied noncanonical literature. A light bulb dimmed…

I am totally comfortable reading someone like Bovon refer to a “community” as a “ascetic” or “encratic.” However, this always seems to be done in a way that suggests that asceticism was not normative amongst early Christians.

OK, hang on…I know…I just said “normative.” Bad idea. But, when we talk about people in the first couple of centuries whom we might call “Christ-followers” or “Christians” (I think this would have to include groups that by later standards would be judged “not orthodox”…though, I fully realize that there is no orthodoxy at this time) who isn’t ascetic? What texts point us to a non-ascetic Christian community?

As I type this, it feels like such a base question. Perhaps it is. But, I really want to know.

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