Elders and Disciples

AIOCS’ founding director Doru Costache published a chapter, “Elders and Disciples in Egypt’s Early Monastic Literature.” The chapter features in a collective volume, Embracing Life and Gathering Wisdom: Theological, Pastoral and Clinical Insights into Human Flourishing at the End of Life, edited by Steven Smith, Edwina Blair, and and Catherine Kleeman (Occasional Series 2. Macquarie Park: SCD Press, 2020: 275-99).


This chapter examines the written records of the fourth- and fifth-century monastic wisdom produced in and about the ascetic milieus of Egypt. I focus on two aspects related to ageing in that literature. First, the perception of Christian discipleship as ongoing growth, which culminates in the wisdom of the ‘beautiful elder’. Motivated by this understanding, novices learn from the advanced by observing their behaviour, by listening to their wisdom, and by obeying their advice. Second, the understanding of Christian discipleship in terms of novices attending to the needs of the elders. Thus, the elders represent both role models and objects of care. In this light, discipleship, in desert literature, means learning wisdom from and taking care of the elders.

The whole text of the chapter is available for free here.