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Saint Anastasius of Sinai
St. Anastasius in his Monastery
Rembrandt, 1631
"The New Moses"
Born Alexandria
Died after 700
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church
Feast April 21

Saint Anastasius Sinaita or Anastasius of Sinai, born in Alexandria, was a prolific and important 7th century Greek ecclesiastical writer, priest, monk, and abbot of Saint Catherine's Monastery at Mt. Sinai.

The little that is known about the life of Anastasius of Sinai is gathered from his own works.[1] In antiquity, he was often confused with the presbyter and writer Anastasius I of Antioch (559 - 598),[2] and the authorship of various works attributed to Anastasius of Sinai has been vigorously disputed. A canon has been tentatively accepted by modern scholars, but even among these Anastasian works there are spurious sections.[3] His writings show an author skilled at a variety of styles popular during the Byzantine era, including questions and answers about issues of Christian dogma, ritual, and lifestyle (catechism); sermons; and exegesis. He was fond of tracing the etymologies of key Christian terms; he was erudite in the Bible and early Patristic literature; and he had a pervasive interest in the nature of God and man, especially in the person of Christ (Christology).[4] He was not reluctant to develop and express his own theories about key ecclesiastical issues, which led to later commentaries, emendations, and perhaps even censorship of parts of his works.[5]


Major works

His principal works include the Viae Dux, Qaestiones et Responsiones, Hexaemeron, Homilia i, ii, iii de creatione hominis, and the Narrationes. The Viae Dux - also called the Hodegos (Greek transliteration) and "Guide Along the Right Path" (English translation) - was written in defense of the Chalcedonian Creed. It was to serve as a guide in defense of the true faith and to counter the attacks of heretics, in particular the Monophysites.[6]

His Qaestiones et Responsiones ("Questions and Responses") was a popular genre[7] and falls under the category of pastoral theology. It offers advice, largely to the lay community, on spiritual and sacramental matters, charitable donations, marriage, among other subjects. Here Anastasius reveals a distinctly personal tone and offers a window into the day-to-day existence of ordinary people.[8] It is especially significant because it is an eyewitness account of the expansion of Islam into Sinai and Egypt, which were predominantly Christian, and of the effect that Moslem domination had on Christian life and beliefs.[9]

His Hexaemeron ("On the Six Day Creation"; pronounced hex AIM a ron) is one of the most extensive mystical allegories surviving from the Byzantine era.[10] It was written in response to a request for guidance by one Theophilus, and in many ways was a counterpoint to the popular Hexaemeron written by Basil the Great.[11] The author offers in twelve books an anagogical exegesis of the first three chapters of Genesis. Citing passages from the entire Bible, and especially from the Prophets and the Letters of Saint Paul, Anastasius warns against an exclusively literal reading of Scripture. He urges, rather, that one be open to the Spirit beyond the words: it is only then that one can receive the complete meaning and significance.[12]

Adam and Eve
Lucas Cranach, 1526

Anastasius insists that the prophet Moses, inspired by the Holy Spirit, was writing not only about the creation of the visible and transient world, but also about the New Creation through Christ.[13] Thus Adam represents the Savior, and Eve represents the Church, his eternal bride.[14] It is this allegory that earned Anastasius the pseudonym "The New Moses". The Hexaemeron is not unlike Gregory of Nyssa’s famous exegesis De vita Mosis ("About the Life of Moses"). But while Gregory focused on the personal soul mystically approaching the divinity of God, Anastasius describes the whole Church, as Bride of Christ, mystically approaching and joining the divinity of God. The individual soul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, becomes an inseparable part of this unity, which incorporates and transcends the human components. The spiritual integrity and the mystical transcendence of the Church, in fact, are two motifs in the Hexaemeron.[15]

To support his typological reading, the author refers to the early Fathers and exegetes of the Church, especially Clement of Alexandria, Gregory of Nyssa, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Ps.-Dionysius the Areopagite, and even Origen.[16] He condemns Origen, however, for ignoring the literal and seeing everything exclusively as symbolic.[17] The author has little patience for heresies, which he thinks arise largely from too literal a reading of Divine Scripture.[18] Although he alludes to Monophysitism, Monothelitism, and Monoenergism, Anastasius strives in the Hexaemeron to go beyond the contentious issues dividing the Church—as is appropriate for a mystical anagogy. The Hexaemeron reveals an early Byzantine view of the cosmos, a genuine affection for Egypt, and a strong love and devotion to Christ and the Church.

See also




  • Haldon, John. "The Works of Anastasius of Sinai : A Key Source for the History of Seventh-Century East Mediterranean Society and Belief." In The Byzantine and Early Islamic Near East, Volume I : Problems in the Literary Source Material, edited by A. Cameron and L. Conrad. Princeton: Darwin Press, 1992. Pp. 107-147.
  • Kuehn, Clement A., and John D. Baggarly. Anastasius of Sinai. Hexaemeron. (Orientalia Christiana Analecta 278). Rome: Pontificio Istituto Orientale, 2007.
  • Kuehn, Clement A. Review of Patrology: The Eastern Fathers from the Council of Chalcedon (451) to John of Damascus (†750), ed. by Angelo Di Berardino et al. In Byzantinische Zeitschrift 101/2 (2008): n.p.
  • Richard, Marcel, and Joseph Munitiz, eds. Anastasii Sinaïtae: Quaestiones et responsiones. CCSG 59. Turnhout: Brepols, 2006.
  • Uthemann, Karl-Heinz, ed. Anastasii Sinaïtae: Viae dux. CCSG 8. Turnhout: Brepols, 1981.
  • Uthemann, Karl-Heinz, ed. Anastasii Sinaïtae: Sermones duo in constitutionem hominis secundum imaginem Dei necnon opuscula adversus monotheletas. CCSG 12. Turnhout: Brepols, 1985.
  • Uthemann, Karl-Heinz. "Anastasius the Sinaite." In Patrology. The Eastern Fathers from the Council of Chalcedon (451) to John of Damascus (†750), edited by Angelo Di Berardino et al. Cambridge: James Clark, 2006. Pp. 313-331.
  • Weiss, Günter. Studien zum Leben, zu den Schriften und zur Theologie des Patriarchen Anastasius I. von Antiochien (559 - 598). Munich: Institut für Byzantinistik, 1965.


  1. ^ J. J. Munitiz, "Foreword," in Kuehn-Baggarly 2007, IX.
  2. ^ Weiss 1965, XX.
  3. ^ Kuehn-Baggarly 2007, XIII-XXIII.
  4. ^ Uthemann 2006, 326-330.
  5. ^ J. Munitiz, "Foreword," in Kuehn-Baggarly 2007, IX.
  6. ^ Uthemann 2006, 313-4.
  7. ^ Haldon 1992, 116-8.
  8. ^ Richard-Munitiz 2006, LI; Haldon 1992, 124-5.
  9. ^ Haldon 1992, 115-6, 130-2.
  10. ^ Kuehn-Baggarly 2007, XIII; Uthemann 1991, 69.
  11. ^ Kuehn-Baggarly 2007, XIII.
  12. ^ Kuehn 2008, n.p.
  13. ^ Kuehn-Baggarly 2007, 4-7.
  14. ^ Kuehn-Baggarly 2007, 10-11, 306-353.
  15. ^ Kuehn-Baggarly 2007, 474-487.
  16. ^ Kuehn-Baggarly 2007, 10-19, 256-7
  17. ^ Kuehn-Baggarly 2007, 268-9.
  18. ^ Kuehn-Baggarly 2007, 258-261.

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