The Greek Version of Stephen of Thebes’ Ascetic Rules

The Rules (ʼΕντολαὶ) of Stephen of Thebes have survived in numerous Greek and Old Slavonic manuscripts. As Father Filotheus Bălan (Petru Vodă Monastery, Romania), with whom I often discuss about Patristics, shows in a forthcoming book, the Rules of Stephen are available also in old Romanian manuscripts.

The Greek text was published for the first time in 1913 by K. Dyobounites in the magazine ̔Ιερὸς Σύνδεσμος. However, Dyobounites wrongly attributed this and other texts to another Stephen, namely the Sabaite. It appears that the Greek scholar produced a single manuscript edition, based on a codex from Amorgos Monastery, dated to the 11th century.

This remained for a long time the only available edition of the Rules. However, William R. Veder has edited recently the Old Slavonic version, which features in the so-called Scete Paterikon.[1] This collection of ascetical texts is the translation into Slavonic of the Apophtegmata Patrum. Prof. Veder’s article should appear any moment now in Polata knigopisnaja. I am grateful to him for sharing with me his paper before publication. Veder edited together with the Slavonic version a Greek text different from that published by Dyobounites but, unfortunately, it is not clear to me which manuscripts have been used.

As the Greek original of the Rules of Stephen of Thebes is very difficult to find (Dyobounites’ article is extremely rare in Western libraries), I publish here a tentative edition and translation into English. My edition is partly based on Dyobounites and photographic reproductions of two manuscripts, kindly supplied to me by Father Filotheus Bălan:

Vatopedi 472, ff. 196v-197r (12th century)

Iviron 408, f. 277r-v (15th century)

I should like to make one final remark. It appeared to me a few days ago that rules 4-10 and 14 feature also in the long version of “De octo cogitationibus” attributed to Ephrem (CPG 3975), which was published by Assemani in illo tempore. I append the text of Ps.-Ephrem at the end of my translation. I think this textual witness is as important for establishing the text of Stephen’s Rules as the manuscripts used for the present edition. It is not clear yet what relationship exists between the Rules and Ps.-Ephrem but I find likely that the latter is a heavily interpolated version of a shorter text entitled “De octo cogitationibus” and attributed to the same author (CPG 3956).

N.B. The following numbering of the commands is my own. The two Greek manuscripts I checked do not number them, but give instead a continuous text. On the other hand, in the Slavonic and Romanian manuscripts the commands are numbered from 1 to 12.

Στεφάνου Θηβαίου ἐντολαὶ τοῖς ἀποτασσομένοις[1]

1) Πρῶτον μὲν μὴ ἔχε κοινωνίαν μετὰ γυναικῶν, ἵνα μὴ κατακαῇς εἰς τὸ πῦρ αὐτῶν,

2) μήτε μετὰ μικροῦ παιδίου, ἵνα μὴ ἐμπέσῃς εἰς τὴν παγίδα αὐτοῦ.[2]

3) Μὴ ἔχε κοινωνίαν μετὰ ἀρχόντων τοῦ τόπου.

4) Μὴ ἀγαπήσῃς ἀπέρχεσθαι εἰς τὰς πόλεις, ὅτι καθαρός ἐστιν ὁ ὀφθαλμός σου, ἐὰν μὴ ἴδῃ πονηρά.

5) Μὴ πίνε οἶνον εἰς μέθην, ἵνα μὴ ποιήσῃς τὴν καρδίαν σου μαινομένην εἰς τὴν πορνείαν.

6) Μὴ φάγῃς δεύτερον τῆς ἡμέρας χωρὶς ἀνάγκης, ἵνα μὴ παχυνθῇ σου τὸ σῶμα, καὶ παχυνθῶσι σου καὶ τὰ πάθη.

7) Μὴ κλείσῃς τὴν θύραν σου ἐπὶ ξένῳ, ἵνα μὴ ὁ Κύριος κλείσῃ τὴν θύραν αὐτοῦ ἐπί σοι, ὅτι ἐν ᾧ μέτρῳ μετρεῖς ἀντιμετρηθήσεταί σου.

8) ʼΕπισκέπου ἀρρώστους, ἵνα ὁ Θεὸς ἐπισκέψηταί σοι.

9) Μὴ πολλὰ κοιμηθῇς, ἀλλ’ αἴτει ἀδιαλείπτως τὴν βοήθειαν τοῦ Θεοῦ, ἵνα ῥυσθῇς ὥσπερ ὄρνεον ἐκ παγίδος.

10) Μὴ πολυλόγει, ἵνα μὴ ἐμπέσῃς εἰς ψεῦδος.

11) ʼΕπίμενε εἰς τὸν οἶκον τοῦ Θεοῦ, λέγει γὰρ τοὺς δοξάζοντάς με δοξάσω. ταῦτα γὰρ ποιῶν σεαυτὸν σώσεις καὶ τοὺς ἀκούοντάς σου.

12) Διάτριψον ἐν ἁγιασμῷ, μὴ ἐν κόποις πραγματείας, ἵνα πᾶν, ὃ αἰτήσεις, λάβῃς ταχύ.

13) Φεῦγε ὡς καθαρὸς ἀπὸ ἀναθέματος.

14) Μὴ κτήσῃς σεαυτῷ ὑπὲρ τὴν χρείαν σου, ἀλλὰ ζῆσον ἐν βίῳ μετρίῳ.

15) ʼΕργάζου, ἵνα ἔχῃς δοῦναι τοῖς χρείαν ἔχουσιν ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ τῷ Κυρίῳ ἡμῶν, ᾧ ἡ δόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας ἀμήν.

Commands of Stephen of Thebes for those who have renounced (the world)

1) First of all, do not have friendship with women so that you do not burn in their fire,

2) nor with little child so that you do not fall in his snare.

3) Do not have friendships with the rulers of the place.

4) Do not be fond to leave for the towns because pure is your eye if you do not see the wicked.

5) Do not drink wine to get drunk (Tobit 4:15), so that you do not make your heart to be maddened by fornication (Revelation 14:8).

6) Do not eat the second time a day unless it is necessary, so that your body does not grow fat and your passions will also grow fat.

7) Do not shut your door to strangers, so that the Lord does not shut his door to you, because by the measure that you measure it will be measured back to you.

8) Take care of the sick so that God too should take care of you.

9) Do not sleep much but ask unceasingly for the help of God that you may be delivered like a bird from the snare.

10) Do not talk much not to fall unto falsehood.

11) Remain in the house of God, for it is said, “Those who honor me, I will honor” (1 Sam 2:30). “By doing these, you will save yourself and those that give heed to you” (1 Tim 4:16).

12) Spend time in holiness not in exhausting labors, so that everything that you ask you will receive right away.

13) Flee from the accursed as a pure one.

14) Do not gather for you more that you need, but live a moderate life.

15) Work, so that you have in order to give to those who need in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom is the glory to the ages, Amen.

 Ps.-Ephrem, De octo cogitationibus (CPG 3975) – Assemani G2, pp. 429-430.

4) Μὴ ἀγαπήσῃς ἀπέρχεσθαι εἰς τὰς πόλεις. Ἐὰν γὰρ μὴ ἴδῃς πονηρά, ἔση καθαρός.

5) Μὴ πίνε οἶνον εἰς μέθην, ἵνα μὴ ποιήσῃς τὴν καρδίαν σου μαίνεσθαι εἰς τὰς ἡδονάς.

6) Μὴ φάγῃς δεύτερον τῆς ἡμέρας, ἵνα μὴ παχυνθῇ σου τὸ σῶμα, καὶ σὺν αὐτῷ τὰ πάθη.

7) Μὴ κλῄσῃς τὴν θύραν σου ἐπὶ ξένῳ· ὅτι ἐν ᾧ μέτρῳ μετρήσεις, ἀντιμετρηθήσεταί σοι.

8) Ἐπισκέπτου τοὺς ἀρρώστους, ἵνα καὶ σὲ ἐπισκέψεται ὁ Θεός.

9) Μὴ πολλὰ κοιμῶ, ἀλλ ‘ αἴτει ἀδιαλείπτως τὴν βοήθειαν τοῦ Θεοῦ, ἵνα φύγῃς ὥσπερ ὄρνεον ἐκ παγίδος.

10) Μὴ πολυλόγει, ἵνα μὴ ἐμπέσῃς εἰς ψεῦδος.

14) Μὴ κτήσῃς ἑαυτῷ ὑπὲρ τὴν χρείαν σου, ἀλλὰ ζῆσον ἐν βίῳ μετρίῳ.


[1] Same title as Abba Isaiah’s Logos 9 (= Syriac 5).

[2] Cf. Abba Isaiah, Logos 9, 2.

[1] W.R. Veder, “The Works of Stephen of Thebes in Old Slavonic,” forthcoming in Polata knigopisnaja 39 (2013).


About Alin Suciu

I am a researcher at the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities. I write mostly on Coptic literature, Patristics, and apocryphal texts.
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7 Responses to The Greek Version of Stephen of Thebes’ Ascetic Rules

  1. Ἐντολαὶ 1 & 2 mean a contrario that dealings with women and a little child were a common practice in Stephen’s time… And the little child was a predator, with his snares in order to trouble old men…

    But… the same word, « κοινωνία », dealings, is used for women, the little child and…« the rulers of the place » !… So ? is sex everywhere, or nowhere ?!…

    [I’m not convinced by your translation of command #6 ; some ugly diacritics “and” an English typo in the first part of your paper, a strange diacritic in command #11.]

    • Alin Suciu says:

      Command 6, was a mess, I corrected it and gave a better reading from another manuscript. Anyway, Ps-Ephrem probably has an even better reading for this saying, ἵνα μὴ παχυνθῇ σου τὸ σῶμα, καὶ σὺν αὐτῷ τὰ πάθη.

      Also, I think “friendship” is better in this case than “dealings.”

      Please don’t ask me about diacritics. You simply have to accept them as they are, just as I do.

    • Alin Suciu says:

      Also, of course, ἀκούοντάς.

  2. Yavor Miltenov says:

    Great, I hope this would be helpful for Slavicists too, because as you point out published Greek text is not easy to obtain.

  3. Fr. George Maximov says:

    Yes, the Slavonic version has differences. For example:
    3) Do not have friendships with the ruler of the place. listen his words, but according to his works do you not.
    6) Do not eat the second time a day, so that your body does not grow fat and thoughts of fornication will not prevail you.
    8) Visit the sick so that God will visit you.
    (The manuscript КИР.-БЕЛ. 9/1086, page 4).

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