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The Lives of Simeon Stylites.

A collection of three different lives about one of the most well-known, controversial, and questionable ascetics of all times, the anchorite Simeon the Stylite (+459). The first was written by Theodoret of Cyrrhus in 444, while Simeon was still alive; the next by Simeon's disciple, Antonius (date unknown); and the third by an anonymous Syriac Christian in 473. Except for four episodes, the lives vary considerably, especially the Syriac version which is three times longer than the other two combined.

Besides presenting a very readable English translation of these texts, Doran helps the reader to understand why Simeon and other stylites attracted pilgrims from as far away as Britain and Persia. Since Simeon has left no explanation as to why he spent 30 years on a high platform exposed to all the elements, we are left to speculate about a life that doubtless strikes the reader today as puzzling, if not shockingly bizarre. D. belives that Simeon was looked upon as an alter Christus in whom and through whom God's power was at work or as an angel who had left this world. He stood as a living symbol set apart by God, whose disciplining of the body transformed it, making it truly human and able to fly heavenward.

D. brings out well that the purpose of Simeon's life was not merely to inform and edify but to challenge those coming to him to repentance and a greater personal and social commitment to God. These lives also provide a picture of how harsh and religious life in fifth-century Syria was.

Recommended for those interested in Syriac hagiography and asceticism.
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Author:McLeod, Frederick G.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 1993
Words:269
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