In the table: 'Ancient Monasticism', there are * against some names, they represent books. These are some of the monastic rules; for the Rule of St Benedict is not the only rule. There were many rules in ancient monasticism. Not all of them have survived, we know about twenty-five of them. It is a good idea to see how the Rule of St Benedict is related to all these rules.



Some rules are what we could call 'Mother-Rules', because they were written before all the others and are independent of each other. The Rules written later are more or less inspired by them.

Among the latter, some are more important. In the first generation we find the influence of Cassian's Institutes; they are not a monastic rule, but they describe, for the cenobites of Gaul, the observances inspired both by Pachomius and by the hermits of the desert. In the second generation we find a very important rule from which St Benedict drew a lot of inspiration: it is written by an unknown person called 'the Master'.

After St Benedict, there are three more generations of rules which will be inspired by it. All of them are from Gaul or Italy.


These monastic rules are of different lengths. The longest is the Rule of the Master, if we take only that part of the Rule of Basil which Benedict knew (as we shall see in the chapter on Basil), the only part on our table. But if we take the rule of Basil in its totality, it is the longest by far. The rule of Benedict is the third longest.

All the others are shorter than the rule of Benedict and, with one exception, the longest of them are less than half its length. Among the others some are very short. In Table 5 in Book 2 (pink paper) the shortest rule is used as a unit of measurement.


The content of these rules is very variable. The three Mother-Rules afford a good example of their diversity.

Among the other rules, those of the Master and of Benedict resemble those of Basil and Augustine since they contain precise regulations but a theological and spiritual reflection show the reason for the regulations.


All deal with monks living in common. However some of them are marked by the eremitical ideal of Lower Egypt; what counts most of all is the master-disciple relationship, the relationship between brothers takes second place. One could say that they develop a vertical cenobitism. This is the case with the writings of Cassian and the Rule of the Master.

Others give first place to fraternal relationships, insisting on the life of the community, on the communion of persons according to the ideal outlined in the Acts of the Apostles 2:44: "All the believers lived together and had everything in common", and 4:32: "The group of believers had a single heart and soul and nobody called any of their possessions their own, but all things were held in common." These rules could be said to portray a horizontal cenobitism. Such are the rules of Basil and Augustine.

In Table 4 we can see how Benedict is specially andsimultaneously influenced by one rule of vertical cenobitism, that of the Master, and by another of horizontal cenobitism, that of Augustine. If we recall chapter 73 of his Rule, after he mentions the Lives of the Fathers he recommends that we read the Conferences and Institutes of Cassian (vertical cenobitism), and the Rule of Basil ( horizontal cenobitism). This feature is an indication of the balance which characterises his Rule, a mark of his discretion.

The BIBLIOGRAPHY will be given with each author studied.




The meanings of this word are rich and distinctive.
The word comes from the Greek: Monakos, already used by Plato to mean something unique or solitary. For Plotinus, The One who is at the summit of his ladder of beings is monakos: God is 'Monk'. The word has an equivalent in the Bible as we shall find.
Monasticism, which came to birth particularly in a Greek environment, very soon used the word monakos, 'monk', to designate the ascetic who lived alone, apart from the world, even if these solitaries were sometimes grouped togetherin small communities. On the other hand, the first three cenobitic monasticrules, those of Pachomius, Basil and Augustine did not use the word: the cenobite lived with others, he was not alone, he was not solitary, he was not a monk. Basil, who was fiercely anti-eremitical, went so far as to say in his rule: "Man is not a monastic animal". In none of these rules do we find the word: 'monk', they speak of 'brothers'. It is only later that the word 'monk' designates the cenobite. This came about slowly, so that the frequency of theword enables us to estimate the age of a monastic Rule. At the time of St Benedict it had already become a term which was used regularly: "Then are they truly monks when they live by the labour of their hands".
However, though the word is absent from the Rule of St Augustine, he wrote such a vast amount and lived at a time when the word 'monk' was becoming common and when the Donatists had their monks, he attempted to justify the word in his Ennaratio on Psalm 132: "How good and how pleasant it is, brothers dwelling 'in unum'". He referred here to the passage in Acts: "the community of believers had but one heart and one soul". This "one" heart and soul are characteristic of community life. It is the community which is 'Monk', and not the one who is living in community. How then, do we arrive at: "they are truly monks"of St Benedict?
The connection was admirably formulated in the twelfth century by a Cistercian, Geoffrey of Auxerre who said: "A community is only united if the monks who compose it first seek their own interior unity". The condition for a community to be one, is that the monks be 'one' interiorly. The monk then isnot one who is alone exteriorly, but one who is interiorly one. We have then moved from exterior unity to interior unity. To account for this passage, we must take another line of enquiry and look at the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek word monakos:jahid.
This Hebrew term caused a lot of trouble to the Greek translators. Let us take an example from Psalm 68:7: "Elohim makes the jahadim dwell in his house". It can be translated as "God gives the lonely a home to dwell in". Here we have the term Monakos which we have met. But this translation has not satisfied some translators, which is understandable, for if God has created human beings to live in society: "He created them man and woman", and has given them the command: "Increase and multiply", why is it that he has given the lonely a dwelling? So others have translated it by monozonous, "those who only have one belt". Here we have the idea of renunciation and poverty. Others have gone deeper: Aquila, who was a Jew influenced by Christianity, translated it by monogenesis, the only-begotten, assimilating the lonely to the Only Son of God (elsewhere he rendered the same word by agapetos,'well-beloved').
Finally the Septuagint gives another translation which was to bear fruit in the Fathers: monotropous: "those who have only one direction". God makes those who have only one direction, one aim, dwell in his house. We can see the phrase of Geoffrey of Auxerre behind this translation. It is in fact the meaning retained by posterity.
Origen was the first to give this meaning when he commented on the verse from the book of Samuel: "There was one man". He said: "This 'one' man is he who has dominated the passions which distract him, who is not divided, no longer pulled this way and that, who has achieved equanimity, who has become the imitator of God, the Immutable. Man is 'one' when he is united toGod in such a way that he has realised unity within himself. Origen was not a monk; he wrote for Christians. But what he says is very true when he deals with with men and women consecrated to God. We shall find the same idea throughout the monastic tradition, in Pseudo-Macarius and in Gregory the Great: "We are called 'monks'. The Greek word is translated into Latin by unus and means 'one'. Let yourselves be marked by this word".
You will remember perhaps this well-known passage from Theodore Studite: "He is a monk who looks only to God, desires God alone, labours for God alone, and who, wanting to serve God alone becomes a source of peace forothers". The monk is a man with a single gaze, a single desire, a man with tremendous love which influences others!
This word 'monk' then conceals within it our whole future: our divinisationalready begun here below. In heaven we shall be "truly monks": one with the One, united to Jesus our Head who will bring us into the unity of the Trinity.




1) What is a 'mother-rule' and a 'daughter-rule'?

2) What differences do we find in their content?

3) And in their emphases?

4) Where does the Rule of St Benedict belong in the classification 'mother-rule' and 'daughter-rule'? In length? In its content? In its emphasis?

5)What is the origin of the word 'Monk'? In what sense is it used at the beginning of monasticism? What is its deepest meaning?





1) What is a 'mother-rule' and a 'daughter-rule'?

The Mother-rules are the source of the others. They are independent from each other, and the rules which came later were inspired by them.

 2) What differences do we find in their content?

Differences may be in the compilation of commandments to do or not to do certain things, with very little spiritual content (Pachomius); or on the contrary a spiritual reflection on the Gospel as found in St Basil.

 3)And in their emphases?

Some of them are influenced by the eremitical life of Lower Egypt, and insist on the relationship of master-disciple (vertical cenobitism); others are strongly cenobitic, with emphasis on the community, the communion of persons (horizontal cenobitism).

 4)Where does the Rule of St Benedict belong in the classification 'mother-rule' and

'daughter-rule'? In length? In its content? In its emphasis?

The Rule of St Benedict is among the daughter-rules; there were other daughter-rules before it and afterwards. In length, there are two which are longer, those of Basil and the Master, but it is longer than all the rest. In content, it unites precise regulations with spiritual theology. In emphasis, it is remarkably balanced, inspired both by vertical and horizontal cenobitism.

 5)What is the origin of the word 'Monk'? In what sense is it used at the beginning of monasticism? What is its deepest meaning?

The word 'monk' comes from the greek 'Monakos' which means 'alone'. In the beginning it stood for the ascetic who was not married and lived alone. Cenobites did not use this word.However it quickly acquird a deeper meaning: a person who is 'one' in his inmost being. It means a person united within himself, a person with a single gaze, a single desire.