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Athanasius: Life of Anthony Introduction

Who: Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria; Confessor1 and Doctor of the Church;2 born c. 296; died 2 May, 373 AD. He was the main defender of orthodoxy in the 4th-century battle against the Arianism heresy.3 Certain writers received the title “Doctor” on account of the great advantage their doctrine had on the whole Church, Athanasius especially for his doctrine on the incarnation.

What: The biography of Anthony the Great, the so-called Father of Monasticism, which helped to spread the concept of Christian monasticism, particularly in Western Europe.

Why: From the letter’s own prologue: “The life and conversation of our holy Father, Anthony: written and sent to the monks in foreign parts by our Father among the Saints, Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria”. The monks wanted an accurate account of Anthony's life so that they could better imitate his life and teachings.

When: Somewhere between 356 and 362 AD


1A title of honour to designate those brave champions of the Faith who had confessed Christ publicly during persecution and had suffered the consequences for doing so.

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2This was a title given to certain people on account of the great advantage the whole Church has obtained from their doctrine.

3Arianism: a doctrine about Christ which taught that Jesus was created by God and was not eternal like the Father. It was denounced as a heresy by the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD.

Keywords: Athanasius ante-nicene fathers introduction