Book Reviews

Day Twenty-six: St. Athanasius: Life of Anthony: Chaps. 51-60

Who: Bishop of Alexandria; Confessor and Doctor of the Church; born c. 296; died 2 May, 373 AD. He was the main defender of orthodoxy in the 4th-century battle against the Arianism heresyCertain writers received the title “Doctor” on account of the great advantage their doctrine had on the whole Church, Athanasius especially for his doctrine on the incarnation.

What: The biography of Anthony the Great’s life, which helped to spread the concept of Christian monasticism, particularly in Western Europe.

Why: From the letter’s own prologue: “The life and conversation of our holy Father, Anthony: written and sent to the monks in foreign parts by our Father among the Saints, Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria.” They wanted an accurate account of his life so they imitate his life and teaching.


When: Somewhere between 356 and 362 AD

You can find today’s reading on page 131 here: lentfatherscomplete.pdf

Today we pick up at the start of a new chapter in Anthony’s life. He’s just relocated to a new mountain further in the Egyptian desert with the aid of the Saracens and with what is described as a ‘divine love’, Anthony was moved to love the area he found. But it soon became a small burden to him as people would seek him out and look to visit him, or to bring him bread. This area was a three day and night trek from where he previously lived, so the thought of other people taking this treacherous journey concerned him dearly. Eventually, after asking some to bring him corn and seeds, he managed to till the ground to be able to make his own bread and grow his own herbs to save others from needing to bring him food.

Sometimes the wild animals would ruin his garden looking for food and water, but at one point Anthony gently captured an animal and said to it, “Why do you hurt me, when I hurt none of you? Depart, and in the name of the Lord come not nigh this spot” and as though they could understand his words, no longer did the animals come back!

Not against flesh and blood


By this point in time, Anthony was an old man and some of the other believers who had served him, would bring olives and oil and other supplies once a month. Upon visiting him they would sometimes witness strange things going on as spiritual events formed against Anthony, as though soldiers and beasts were attacking him, but he would be seen praying against them and the demons fleeing.

They “heard tumults, many voices, and, as it were, the clash of arms … and [Anthony] also fighting as though against visible beings” since he wrestled not against ‘flesh and blood’ “but against opposing demons” as Athanasius learned from those who visited him during these times.

At other times, demons would make appearances to try and bring fear and to shake his trust in Christ, or they would cause all the hyenas nearby to come and surround Anthony. But, not fearing the Evil One and having his mind set on Christ, he rebuked them and commanded they leave in the name of the Lord if they were sent by demons, which they did and he was then left alone.

Anthony visits the other monks

Some time later, the other monks enquired of Anthony and wanted him to come and visit them, so he set off on the journey with those who came to him. On their way through the desert, their water ran out and they were still some way from any water source, and so the men despaired and let their camel go, and sat on the ground unable to move. Anthony, seeing the danger, went a short walk away to pray to the Lord for help, and immediately, water sprang up where he was standing! So they filled their bottles, found the camel and went on their way refreshed and restored.


On arriving at the the cells of the other monks, Anthony rejoiced in seeing their earnestness and was also happy to find that his sister had become the leader of the nuns in her old age.

During this time, Anthony gave some teaching to the monks and hermits who were living there which were his guidelines for his discipline:

Believe on the Lord and love Him; keep yourselves from filthy thoughts and fleshly pleasures, and as it is written in the Proverbs, be not deceived "by the fullness of the belly." Pray continually; avoid vainglory; sing psalms before sleep and on awaking; hold in your heart the commandments of Scripture; be mindful of the works of the saints that your souls being put in remembrance of the commandments may be brought into harmony with the zeal of the saints.

He also encouraged them to live by the words of Paul in Ephesians 4:26, where he said not to let the sun go down on your anger. Anthony interpreted this further to mean not just anger, but any sin which was committed so that before the end of the day you have set things right with others or have prayed and repented to the Lord. Even further still, he would teach that in order to control our thoughts so that we let nothing sinful enter our mind (ie. “take every thought captive” – 2 Cor 10:5), that the monks should write down every thought they have as though they were to read them out loud to one another at the end of the day. Through seeing what we think and with the idea of others knowing it, the shame ought to keep us in check and help to strengthen our minds against evil thoughts, “thus fashioning ourselves we shall be able to keep the body in subjection, to please the Lord, and to trample on the devices of the enemy”.

Miracles of healing that the Lord did through Anthony


Anthony would spend a lot of his time praying with those who suffered, and sometimes those with illnesses would receive healing. But he taught not to boast if they were, and not to mutter if they weren’t, but to rejoice in all things and to be patient because “healing belonged neither to him nor to man at all, but only to the Lord” and God would do good to those he chose, when he chose to, and “those who were healed were taught not to give thanks to Anthony but to God alone”.

At one time, a man named Fronto, an Officer of the Court, came to Anthony with a terrible disease where he “used to bite his own tongue and was in danger of injury to his eyes” and sought prayer. On seeing him, Anthony sent him away saying that on his departure he would be healed. But the man remained for a few days, so Anthony went again to him and told him that he wouldn’t get what he wanted until he went on his way back to Egypt, so the man left and upon seeing Egypt, suddenly he received his healing as Anthony had said, “which the Saviour had revealed to him in prayer”.

Another time a woman from Busiris Tripolitania came to him who was paralysed and had strange fluid issues coming from her eyes, nose and ears. Her parents had heard of Anthony and because they had read the Gospels of when Jesus healed the woman who had been bleeding for many years, they took her to the monk seeking prayer for healing too. On arriving at the place where the monks were staying, some of Anthony’s companions went to find him and tell him about the girl, but on coming to him, he already knew about her and her condition. He told them to go back to the girl and they will find her healed, since “the accomplishment of this is not mine, that she should come to me, wretched man that I am, but her healing is the work of the Saviour”. Anthony always made sure to place the glory where it belonged and never to take any credit for himself in these things.

At another time, two monks were travelling through the desert, and their water supplies ran dry. One of them died and the other was on the brink of death when Anthony, during prayer, it was revealed to him that this was happening, so he sent two men to that location with water to save the monk.


One other time when Anthony was sitting and praying, he looked up and saw a man in a vision, being taken upwards towards many who were joyful at his arrival. Wondering what this was, he prayed and enquired of the Lord, who responded by telling him it was the soul of “Amun, the monk at Nitria” being taken up into the presence of the Father, for he had died. The companions of Anthony, seeing the amazed expression on his face, asked what he was seeing, and he explained that Amun had died. This monk lived about thirteen days travel away and was well known to the monks where Anthony was staying.

Amun had often stayed with them, and was known for the signs which the Lord had performed through him also. One of these which is recollected here was of a time when he had to cross the river Lycus with a companion of his. To avoid the shame of seeing the other naked while swimming, Amun went first while his friend Theodorus stayed a little distance away. But he became afraid of having to become naked, even of seeing himself that way, that while pondering on this and how he should approach the situation, he suddenly found himself on the other side of the river standing by Amun!

If that wasn’t surprising enough, he noticed that Amun wasn’t even wet and so he asked how it was possible, but Amun refused to tell him. Theodorus grabbed his feet and wouldn’t let him go until he explained it, so Amun swore him to secrecy until after his death and told him that he had not even touched the water as the Lord had carried him across the river in a similar way that Jesus allowed Peter to walk on water. Now that Amun had died, Theodorus recalled the story to the other monks.

About thirty days later, some men from Nitria arrived to tell the news of the death of Amun, and those who met them enquired of the time of death and saw that it was at the very moment when Anthony had seen the vision from the Lord, and they all marvelled and rejoiced at the things the Lord did through Anthony.


That’s all from today’s reading, but wow what a lot to take in! The Lord surely did some amazing things through his servant Anthony which in turn caused many to come to faith after hearing his reputation for his dedication to the Lord and the wonders worked through him.

I hope this inspires you to seek the Lord more and to persevere more with your faith and the discipline of living as Jesus commanded us and as the Apostles taught us via their letters.


Contribute on Patreon

Enjoying this? Consider contributing regular gifts for this content on Patreon.
* Patreon is a way to join your favorite creator's community and pay them for making the stuff you love. You can simply pay a few pounds per month or per post that a creator makes, and in return receive some perks!

Subscribe to Updates
Order my new book today from Amazon or

Subscribe to:

Have something to say? Leave a comment below.

Leave a comment   Like   Back to Top   Seen 117 times   Liked 0 times

Subscribe to Updates

If you enjoyed this, why not subscribe to free email updates ?

Order my new book today from Amazon or

Subscribe to Blog updates

Enter your email address to be notified of new posts:

Subscribe to:

Alternatively, you can subscribe via RSS

‹ Return to Blog

We never share or sell your email address to anyone.

I've already subscribed / don't show me this again

Recent Posts

What did Jesus actually sacrifice?

| 5 days ago | Lent

Sometimes the question, or accusation/criticism maybe, is posed by atheists and critics of Christianity that Jesus didn’t really sacrifice anything because he is God and also because he got his life back three days later. So where’s the sacrifice if you know that what you give up will be given back, and given back even better than you previously had it? It’s an interesting question, and one that should cause us to stop and think about what we, as Christians, say to non-believers in case the question is ever given to us. Most people will say Jesus  gave up his life for us – but is that such a big deal if he knew he’d have it back in three days; and then to be taken up to heaven and resume his Godly-divine status he had before the incarnation? Well, yes. Obviously all the pain and suffering that Jesus had to endure before his death was a big deal, and it showed, as we can see from the Gospels when Jesus says to his disciples that he is “deeply grieved, even to death” (Matt 26:38). Luke 22:42-44‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.’ Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground. We can see from the quote above that Jesus really wasn’t looking forward to this, despite knowing its purpose. He even needed an angel to come to physically come to him to give him the strength to go on with this plan! Suggesting that this was a walk in the park for Jesus and making light of what he was about to go through is just ignorance of the reality of the situation. There’s also a significant detail in the Luke passage above which gives us a medical insight into what Jesus was going through in these moments: the sweat of blood. This is actually a rare condition known as Hematidrosis, and in certain conditions of extreme physical or emotional stress and/or mental anxiety, the blood vessels that feed the sweat glands break and result in actual blood seeping through. This in itself shows just how much stress Jesus was under in the lead up to his execution to cause such a thing to happen. Modern day research also shows that this condition still manifests in people awaiting execution today. So even if you knew that you would be resurrected in a few days time, I am sure that you wouldn’t really want to go through a Roman flogging and crucifixion –  some of the most brutal ways to be tortured and executed in human history! There’s lots of atheist memes on the internet making digs at this idea of what it means that Jesus sacrificed himself. “Jesus came back to life, so he basically sacrificed his weekend for you”, or similar types of jabs, totally missing the point. Typical atheist meme So what did Jesus sacrifice if he only lost his life temporarily? Everything about his pre-incarnate self. Where once a spirit, now a glorified body. Where once only divine, now fully God and fully man. The incarnation had eternal consequences for the Godhead. Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t just about dying, it was about taking on our humanity eternally. The eternal God now united forever with humanity. Jesus wasn’t only the “visible image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15) whilst on earth, no; he is forever that now. Like John says in his opening chapter about the coming of the Word into our world: he became flesh (John 1:14) and has stayed that way. This is the “mystery of godliness” (as some translations have it) that Paul talks about in 1 Tim 3:16, where he states that Jesus was “revealed” or “manifested in flesh” and later taken up in glory. Look at when Jesus was taken up into heaven in Acts 1:11, the angels say to the disciples watching that they will see Jesus “come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” – ie., bodily. But we know from the accounts in the Gospels that Jesus’ body was no lon...

The Temptations of Jesus: Complacency

| 11th March 2018 | Lent

So now we are at the end of the temptations that Jesus endured in the desert, and I wanted to look at what happens at the end. So often I think this aspect is overlooked when we read of this time in Scripture. Let’s take a look at the text: Matthew 4:11Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him. Luke 4:13When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time. The two Gospel accounts both give us a varying perspective with different details. Afterwards, the devil leaves and angels “suddenly” come. This is almost a temptation in itself; one to think we are all good and safe now we've won the battles. But look: the devil left him “until an opportune time”. We are never beyond being tempted, or far from that tempter who ‘prowls around like a roaring lion’ (1 Peter 5:8). Christ withstood his temptations, and as a model for us, so can we. But it's a constant battle. 1 Corinthians 10:12So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. As Paul writes in the quote above, we must watch ourselves and not get too confident that we think we're strong enough not to get tripped up. Temptation can strike at any time, and if we're not prepared it could lead us into sin (James 1:14-15). James 1:12A man who endures trials is blessed, because when he passes the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him. This is why we mustn't get complacent in our situations just when it seems, or feels, like we have it all together. We must always “put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11) and make as little “opportune” times as possible for the enemy to strike at us. Remember, Jesus lived as a human to know what it was like to be a human; he went through these temptations, and others no doubt, as he lived out his life. That is why the writer of Hebrews says that he is able to “sympathize with our weaknesses” and has “in every respect has been tested as we are” — yet Jesus didn't sin (Heb 4:15). When we do get get tempted, or if we do fall into sin, we can always turn to Jesus in our moments of weakness knowing that he understands what it's like. 1 Corinthians 10:13No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it. Everything we experience as humans, Jesus knows also. Although we don’t angels physically coming and waiting on us after we go through hard times, we have the Holy Spirit in us – the comforter! God’s very own Spirit is here with us through it all, helping us and convicting us to lead us back out of our complacency to the narrow path, focusing our minds back on Christ and his example. And while the devil may come and go, and wait on those “opportune times” to get at us, we shouldn’t fret or worry because God has said he will never leave nor abandon us – no matter what, God loves us and is daily conforming us into the image and mind of Christ (Rom 8:29; 12:2; Deut 31:6; Heb 13:5). Keep running the race, working out your salvation with fear and trembling and go with the love of God. Amen....

The Temptations of Jesus: Testing God

| 04th March 2018 | Lent

Here we are at the final temptation that the devil directly attacks Jesus with (I say directly, because next week I’m going to look at the more subtle attacks and temptations we can face). Let’s begin with the text: Matthew 4:5-7 Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’    and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (cf. Luke 4:9-12) There’s quite a few things wrapped up in these few short verses. For a start, the devil took Jesus to the “holy city” (ie. Jerusalem) – but whether this was in body or in spirit, we just don’t know and can’t say for certain; maybe it was in a similar way to how Philip was transported in Acts 8:39. Intrigued by this though, I decided to look up a few details to see just how far they travelled (however it happened). Jesus was baptised by John in the river Jordan, and according to Mark, the Spirit “immediately” drove Jesus into the wilderness from there (Mark 1:9, 12). According to Google maps (and more likely, Church tradition), the spot where he was baptised is close to Jericho. Directly next to this area is the Judaean Desert, which would be the wilderness where Jesus spent his time. On the other side of this desert is Jerusalem, which is about 27 miles away from the spot by the Jordan where the baptism took place. I’ve put together a quick map so you can get a better idea of locations: Approx. locations of events Anyway, I digress slightly. The point being, is that where Jesus was and where he was taken was not exactly just around the corner! Coupled with the fact that the devil took Jesus up to the pinnacle of the Temple, this was quite a journey. Now the other thing to pull out of this passage is that the word “pinnacle” here doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing as we might think of today: the top most point of something. Otherwise Jesus would be standing on the spikes of the roof! No, in this case the pinnacle means a specific wing on the top most side of the temple, most likely being Herod's royal portico which was overhanging the ravine of Kedron, at the valley of Hinnom. Now this point was so high up, and the drop below so deep, that even the first century historian Josephus makes mention of this. He wrote that, “if any one looked down from the top of the battlements, or down both those altitudes, he would be giddy”! Other commentaries say that this wing or porch was about 350 feet above the valley – so that ought to give some context about what the devil was asking of Jesus. So by this point, Satan has really amped up his game. Jesus has refuted him twice now with Scripture, and so instead, the devil takes him somewhere dangerous and then uses Scripture as part of his temptation as though to try and use Jesus’ weapon against him. This is similar to what Paul writes about the devil in 2 Cor 11:14 when he says that even Satan “disguises himself as an angel of light”. We must be ever vigilant and discerning so that we may not get tricked by misapplied and twisted Scripture. Paul again, in his wisdom, when writing to Timothy also instructed him in these things when he said to study and know the Word of God to “rightly [explain] the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). If we are immersed in the Scriptures and know them inside and out, then when things get misquoted or twisted to be applied in situations where the original context doesn’t allow, we will know it and not be led astray. This is exactly what the devil tries with Jesus. He may be quoting Scripture, but he’s using it wrong. In this passage we see that the devil quotes from Psalm 91:11-12 but with one main difference – he misses out...

The Temptations of Jesus: Worship and Glory

| 25th February 2018 | Lent

Here we are on the second Sunday of Lent, and this week I am looking at the next temptation Jesus faced in the desert against the devil, the one of worship and glory. Let's take a look at the text: Luke 4:5-8 Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”  Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God,    and serve only him.’” (cf. Matthew 4:8-10) Last week we saw how Satan tempts Jesus through his hunger and used his physical weakness as a way in to try and trip him up. This week we are looking at misplaced worship and the temptation to look to things other than God. As we begin to look through these temptations of Jesus, we begin to see that they weren't entirely random but are in fact another way in which Jesus reverses the sin that first began in the Garden. It is yet another proof that Jesus is the second Adam who has overcome sin! Let’s go back to the Garden of Eden for a moment: Genesis 3:6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Contrast that with what John writes in his first epistle: 1 John 2:15-16 The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride of life (or in riches) comes not from the Father but from the world.   The sin that separated Adam and Eve from God in the beginning is the same in essence as what John says comes from the world and not the Father. These are the same areas of sin and temptation that the devil was using on Jesus in the desert too — and no wonder since Satan is the god/prince of this world, that he would use the same tricks and things that are of this world against us. In the passage from Luke which details the temptation Jesus faced, we get another glimpse of this power over the world that Satan had when he says that authority “has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please”. Here he tries to use this authority to give Jesus anything he wants – with one small catch: he must bow and worship Satan! This is another example of how focusing on this life and our own power and influence can take our eyes off God and place worship and glory elsewhere — either on ourselves or on other people/things. In this case the devil tried to get Jesus to worship him in exchange for the glory of all the nations of the earth, but once again Jesus lays the smackdown on the devil with the written word of God. Worship God. Serve only Him. What can we learn from this? To keep our focus on God, no matter the cost. Don’t exchange your integrity and morals for the fleeting and temporary power of this world. Like Jesus said to Peter when he rebuked him, “ are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things”; we also much fight daily to keep our minds focused on God so that we may stay humble and remember where the glory belongs. “He must increase, but I must decrease” as John the Baptist said (John 3:30). The devil offered Jesus the world (as if he needed it given to him), hoping to get him to compromise and place his devotion elsewhere. Jesus obviously knew better, but we sometimes need to be reminded. “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” as Paul wrote to the Colossians (3:1-4). That still rings true for us today. If you are tempted by this world and its fleeting glory, and you start to place your worship in places other than God, just remember the words of Jesus: Mark 8:34-36 If any want to become my followers, let...