Shenoute's Discourse of Monastic Power

Rebecca Krawiec

in Shenoute and the Women of the White Monastery

Published in print February 2002 | ISBN: 9780195129434
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199834396 | DOI:
Shenoute's Discourse of Monastic Power

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Shenoute's authority came from his position as head of the monastery, an authority he sought to expand to include the female community as it had not been included under his predecessors. Alongside that authority, then, Shenoute had to construct power and he did that through the discourse of his letters. Shenoute modeled himself as a prophet, like those in the Hebrew Bible, a spokesperson for God who had intimate knowledge of God's will and expectations. As such, Shenoute had correct knowledge of what was necessary for salvation, and this knowledge validated his position as a monastic leader and his actions, such as interpretation of Scripture and corporal punishment. A second theme of his discourse, that of suffering, balances the domineering tone of the first by presenting Shenoute as either a suffering servant or a suffering body who experiences the same pains as his followers. The humility of this discourse nevertheless also creates his power because, like knowledge, proper suffering leads to salvation.

Keywords: authority; God; power; prophet; salvation; Scripture; suffering body; suffering servant

Chapter.  12885 words. 

Subjects: History of Religion

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