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Counseling Through Enigmas: Monastic Leadership And Linguistic Techniques In Sixth-Century Gaza

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Chapter Summary

One of the most surprising aspects of the monastic leadership in the sixth-century ascetic community of Gaza is the obvious absence of miracles and exorcism as means of channeling power and establishing and maintaining the role of the holy person in his society. In this chapter, the author discusses one extraordinary linguistic technique, termed in the sources "counseling through enigmas," by which Barsanuphius exercised his authority. First, Barsanuphius's technique of speculation on the letter ἦτα (eta) as exemplified in Letter 137b is examined. Second, Barsanuphiusʾ use of cryptic language as a mode of communication that enhanced the intimacy of the relationship between master and disciple is discussed. Then, the author seeks to understand how by using these linguistic techniques Barsanuphius was constructing his quasi-divine authority and empowering his ascetic leadership.

Keywords: Barsanuphiusʾ; cryptic language; letter 137b; linguistic techniques; monastic leadership; sixth-century Gaza



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