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v2.1 Reference

Early Christian Biographies

By Pontius
Translated by Roy J. Defferari

Most readers are quite likely to have some basic information about St. Cyprian (d. 258), St. Ambrose (ca. 339-397) and St. Augustine (354-430). Fewer readers are likely to be equally informed about St. Anthony (251?-356), St. Paul the Hermit (d. ca.340), St. Hilarion (ca. 291-371) and St. Epiphanius (438/439-496/497). Perhaps hardly any reader is acquainted with the holy monk Malchus, presumably a contemporary of St. Jerome (ca. 342-420) and son of a tenant farmer near Nisbis.

Most of the saints' lives presented here, though the volume is entitled Early Christian Biographies, belong in reality to quite another category, hagiography. The primary requisite of this genre is to serve a religious purpose: edification. Herein hagiography differs considerably from a modern critical biography which demands historically verifiable events and accounts. Nevertheless the account of Malchus, as it is presented in this volume, is unique. St. Jerome writes: "Drawn by curiosity I approached the man and inquired with eager interest if there were any truth in what I had heard. He related the following story" (p. 288). If we may take St. Jerome at his word, the Life of Malchus could well be an autobiography. In any event, many generations have come to look upon these accounts as classics.

The Catholic University of America Press
Fathers of the Church Patristic Series

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