This is a work
with spiritual direction, consisting of 30 chapters. The author, who almost
certainly lived in the Parsian Empire (there is a reference to the river Zab, a
tributary of the river Tigris), (ܢܗܪܐ
is unknown; probably he was writing in the late fourth century (or possible
early fifth). Within the Christian community which the anonymous author is
addressing a distinction is made between the “Upright” ܟܐܢ̈ܐ))
and the “perfect”
; the former observe the “lesser commandments” and live a lofe of active chariry,
while the later follow the “greater commandments”, which involve a total
renunciation of the belongings and a radical imitation of the life of Christ.
The Book of Steps
was rarely copied as a whole, amd most of the (fairly numerous) manuscripts
contain only a small number of Discourses (sometimes misatributed: e.g. 14 is
wrongly atributed to Evagrius). The Book of Step’s two fold classification was
taken up later by Philoxenus (see 22, below), where as most subsequent writers
preferred the three fold modle developed by John the Solitary (see 16, below).
The 30 chapters
have the following headings:
1. On the
distinction between the major commandments, for the perfect, and the minor
commandments for the upright.
2. On those who
wish to be perfect.
3. The physical
and spiritual ministry.
4. On vegetables
for the sick (cp Rom 14:2).
5. On “milk” for
infants (cp 1 Cor.3:1-2).
6. On the person
who becomes perfect and continues to grow.
7. On the
commamndments for the upright.
8. On the person
who give all he has to the poor to eat.
9. On the
uprightness and on the love of the upright and of the prophets.
10. On the
advantage we have when we endure evil while performing good; and on fasting and
humiliation of the body and soul.
On hearing of the Scriptures, and
when the Law is read before us.
12. On the
ministry of the hidden and the revealed church.
13. On the way of
life of upright.
14. On the upright
15. On the
marriage instinct in Adam.
16. On how a
person grows as a result of the major commandments.
17. On the
sufferings of our Lord, by which an example is provided for us.
18. On the tears
19. On the
distinguishing characteristics of the way of perfection.
20. On the hard
steps on this way.
21.On the tree of
22. On the
judgements by which those who make them are not saved.
23. On Satan,
Pharaoh, and the Children of Israel.
24. On repentance.
25. On the voice
of God and that of Satan.
26. On the second
law which the Lord laid down for Adam.
27. On the matter
of the thief who was saved.
28. On the human
soul not being blood.
29. On the
subduing of the body.
30. On the commandments of faith
and of love of the Solitaries.