This book is the first publication of a very early set of Christian monastic rules from Roman Egypt, accompanied by four preliminary chapters discussing their historical and social context and their character as rules. These rules were found quoted in the writings of the great Egyptian monastic leader Shenoute. Designed for a federation of monks and nuns who banded together about 360 CE-forming the so-called "White Monastery Federation"-the rules date back to the
fourth and fifth centuries. New historical evidence is presented for the founding of the Federation.
Providing almost the earliest evidence for Christian communal (cenobitic) monasticism, the rules depict many intimate aspects of ascetic practice. Details of monastic daily life are mentioned in passing in the rules, and the author uses these details to describe their picture of monastic life under five general topics: the monastery as a physical plant, the human makeup of the community, ascetic observances, the hierarchy of authority, and the daily liturgy. The book includes a clear English
translation of the rules accompanied by the original Coptic text, amounting to five hundred and ninety-five entries.
Bentley Layton was educated at Harvard University and taught for five years in Jerusalem at the Ecole biblique et archeologique francaise. He worked in Cairo with UNESCO Technical Subcommittee to reconstruct the Coptic Gnostic manuscripts of Nag Hammadi and then taught at Yale University, where he was appointed to the Goff Professorship of Religious Studies. He is the recipient of fellowships from American Council of Learned Societies, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Guggenheim Foundation and past President of the International Association of Coptic Studies.
I: THE NATURE OF THE RULES; II: CORPUS OF MONASTIC RULES