Pictures:view from Mount Sinai
Anastasios of Sinai, also called Anastasius Sinaïta, was a monk and priest in the monastery at Mount Sinai during the second half of the seventh century.(1) Although Alexandria is traditionally given as his birthplace, it is more likely that he was born on Cyprus in the town of Amathos. He left before the Arabs invaded that island in 649, and after traveling from Cyprus to Palestine, he entered the monastery at Mount Sinai perhaps around 660.(2)
His written works were widely distributed and reveal many facets of this prolific and versatile author.(3) He was best known as the creator of the Hodegos (Latin: Viae Dux, “Leader of the Way”),(4) which was a collection of his own assorted writings assembled by him to support the Chalcedonian creed and to oppose various heresies. He was also known through his one hundred and three Erotapokriseis (Latin: Quaestiones et Responsiones, “Questions & Answers”),(5) which circulated in various florilegia and anthologies. These reveal Anastasios to have been interested not only in theological issues, but also in the daily life and spiritual wellbeing of the surrounding lay community.(6) In fact, the Questions have a tone of urgency and are especially important today because Muslim invaders had only recently occupied the Sinai Peninsula.(7) (The fortified monastery itself, built under the reign of Justinian and originally dedicated to the Theotokos,(8) remained intact and independent throughout the Muslim occupation, but became increasingly isolated from Constantinople.(9)) The Hodegos and Erotapokriseis also show that Anastasios was a frequent traveler, including trips to Alexandria and Babylon (present-day Cairo).(10) Several homilies have survived,(11) as well as short anecdotes (Narrationes) about pius people he had met or heard about. An extensive commentary on the beginning chapters of Genesis (Hexaemeron) has also been attributed to him. Anastasios died after the year 700.(12)
This information was published previously in C. Kuehn, “Anastasius of Sinai: Biblical Scholar,” BZ 103/1 (2010) 55-80.
(1) Much of the following biographical information was shared with me by Rev. Dr. Joseph Munitiz, S.J., and will be found in greater detail in the Introduction to his English translation of the Quaestiones et Responsiones in the Corpus Christianorum in Translation series (CCT 7), 2011. We in turn are indebted to André Binggeli, who conducted a careful study of the life of Anastasios for his dissertation on the Narrationes, soon to be published. See A. Binggeli, “Anastase le Sinaïte. Récits sur le Sinaï et Récits utiles à l’ âme. Édition, traduction, commentaire,” 2 vols., unpublished Ph.D. thesis for the Université Paris IV/Sorbonne 2001, 330-362. For published biographical information, see K.-H. Uthemann, “Anastasius the Sinaite,” in A. Di Berardino (ed.), Patrology: The Eastern Fathers from the Council of Chalcedon (451) to John of Damascus (✝750) (Cambridge 2006), 313-6; A. Kazhdan, “Anastasios of Sinai,” in A. Kazhdan (ed.), The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, vol. 1 (Oxford 1991), 87-88. Anastasios is venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches; in the latter he is deemed a Father of the Church. See T. Shahan, “St. Anastasius Sinaita,” in C. Herbermann et alii (eds.), The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 1 (New York 1907), 455.
(2) Narrationes II 28, 2-4 (Binggeli).
(3) For lists of genuine and spurious works and editions, see K.-H. Uthemann, “Anastasius the Sinaite” (as note 1 above) 315-6; updated by C. Kuehn, review of Berardino (as note 1 above), BZ 101/2 (2008), 813-5; C. Kuehn and J. Baggarly, S.J., (eds. and trans.), Anastasius of Sinai: Hexaemeron (OCA 278) (Rome 2007), lxviii-lxxii; M. Richard and J. Munitiz, S.J., (eds.), Anastasii Sinaitae Quaestiones et responsiones (CCSG 59) (Turnhout 2006), viii-ix; M. Geerard and J. Noret, Clavis Patrum Graecorum, vol. 3, second edition (Turnhout 2003), 7745-81. For a modern study of the works attributed to Anastasios of Sinai, see S. Sakkos, Περὶ Ἀναστασίων Σιναϊτῶν (Thessaloniki 1964). J.-P. Migne collected most of the works attributed to Anastasios of Sinai in PG 89 columns 35-1288, 1389-1397. See also PG 44 columns 1328-1345 and PG 55 columns 543-55.
(4) K.-H. Uthemann, Anastasii Sinaitae Viae dux (CCSG 8) (Turnhout 1981).
(5) Richard/Munitiz (as note 3 above). See also D. Sieswerda, Pseudo-Anastasius en Anastasius Sinaïta: Een vergelijking. De Pseudo-Anastasiaanse “Quaestiones et responsiones” in de ΣΩΤΗΡΙΟΣ. Prolegomena, tekst en commentaar, published Ph.D. thesis for the Universiteit van Amsterdam 2004.
(6) Richard/Munitiz (as note 3 above), l-lii; J. Haldon, “The Works of Anastasius of Sinai: A Key Source for the History of Seventh-Century East Mediterranean Society and Belief,” in A. Cameron and L. Conrad (eds.), The Byzantine and Early Islamic Near East, vol. I: Problems in the Literary Source Material (Princeton 1992), 107-147.
(7) For a concise and new perspective on the Muslim invasion of Egypt, see P. Sijpesteijn, “The Arab Conquest of Egypt and the Beginning of Muslim Rule,” in R. Bagnall (ed.), Egypt in the Byzantine World, 300-700 (Cambridge 2007), 437-459.
(8) See Procopius, De aedificiis 5.8; Eutychius, Annali 253.
(9) T. Wilfong, “The Sinai Peninsula,” in R. Bagnall (ed.), Egypt from Alexander to the Early Christians: An Archaeological and Historical Guide (Los Angeles 2004), 123-5. N. Tomadakis, “Historical Outline,” in K. Manafis (ed.), Sinai: Treasures of the Monastery of Saint Catherine (Athens 1990), 13-14. Cf. P. Grossmann, “Architecture,” in Manafis (ibid.), 29-30; P. Grossmann, “Early Christian Architecture in Egypt and its Relationship to the Architecture of the Byzantine World,” in R. Bagnall (as note 7 above), 127. Its central church is still called the Church of the Theotokos, but the monastery is now called St. Catherine’s.
(10) Hodegos (Uthemann) VI, 1, 111-4; X.1, 1, 23; X.1, 2, 36-37; XIV, 1, 37-39; XIV, 2, 65-67; Quaestiones et Responsiones (Richard/Munitiz) 28 (§16).
(11) K.-H. Uthemann, Anastasii Sinaitae Sermones duo in constitutionem hominis secundum imaginem Dei necnon opuscula adversus monotheletas (CCSG 12) (Turnhout 1985). His other homilies do not yet have a critical edition.
(12) Quaestiones et Responsiones 69 (§4). The Xth century Synaxarion of Constantinople says that Anastasios of Sinai died a very old man (col. 617, lines 26 ff.).