Of the Blessed Man Paul the Simple


Now there was a certain husbandman whose name was Paul, who was more simple and innocent in nature than are usually the children of men; and he had a wife who was beautiful in her appearance, and wicked in her deeds and actions.

Now there was a certain husbandman whose name was Paul, who was more simple and innocent in nature than are usually the children of men; and he had a wife who was beautiful in her appearance, and wicked in her deeds and actions, and she had wandered from him and had been committing adultery for a long time. And one day, suddenly Paul went into his house from the field, and he found her and another working impurity together; now this took place so that Divine Grace might incite Paul to follow that which was more excellent. And having gone in and seen them, he laughed chastely, and answered and said, "It is good, it is good, truly she is not accounted mine by me. By Jesus, henceforth I will not take her again. Get thee gone, and behold she is thine, she and her children: and as for me, I will go and become a monk."

And saying nothing to any man he went away a journey of eight stages, and he arrived at the cell of Mar Anthony the Great. And having knocked at the door, the blessed man Mar Anthony went out, and he said unto Paul, "What dost thou seek?" Paul said unto him, "I seek to become a monk." Mar Anthony answered and said unto him, "Thou art an old man eighty years old, and it is impossible for thee to become a monk here; but depart to the village, and work in the fields for thy living, and give thanks unto God at the same time that thou art not able to endure the afflictions of the desert." And again Paul answered and said unto him, Whatsoever thou wilt teach me, that will I do." Anthony said unto him, "I have told thee that thou art an old man, and thou canst not do it; but if thou wishest to become a monk, get thee gone to some monastic house and abide where the brethren are many, and where they will be able to bear with thy sickness. As for me, I live by myself alone here, and I only eat once in five days, and even then I do not eat a full meal." With these and suchlike words did Anthony frighten Paul. And as he would not be persuaded to depart, Anthony went into his cell, and shut the door upon himself for three days, and because of him he did not go outside his cell for three whole days, not even for his need's sake. Nevertheless Paul did not go away; and on the fourth day, when his need compelled him, Anthony opened the door and went forth. And again he said unto Paul, "Get thee gone, O old man, why dost thou trouble me? It is impossible for thee to stay here." Paul said unto him, "It is impossible for me to die in any other place except this."

And the blessed Anthony, having looked carefully and seen that he was carrying no food with him, and no bread and no water, and that he had fasted during the four days which he had remained, said within himself, "Peradventure he will escape and die, and will plunge my soul into tribulation": so he accepted him and brought him into his cell. And because of Paul during those days Anthony performed exceedingly severe ascetic labours, the like of which, even in his early manhood, he had never performed. And he soaked palm leaves in water, and gave them unto Paul, and said unto him, "Take these palm leaves, and weave a mat therefrom even as I do myself." And the old man Paul took them, and wove them into a mat fifteen cubits long, until at the ninth hour he was exhausted. And Anthony, seeing what he had woven, was angry with him, and said unto him, "Thou hast woven the leaves loosely, unweave them, and weave them over again neatly and closely." And Paul unwove what he had woven, and wove the leaves over again, but still he wove too loosely, because the leaves had become twisted through the former weaving and unweaving. Meanwhile Paul was fasting all these days, and Anthony laid these hard labours upon him while his soul was vexed with hunger, so that he might become disgusted and depart from him.

Now when Anthony saw that Paul was neither angry nor wrathful, and that he made no complaint, his mercy made itself manifest; and behold when Paul had lived there another day, he said unto him, "Dost thou wish to eat a piece of bread?" The old man Paul said unto him, "As it pleaseth thee, father." And this also especially shamed Mar Anthony, that he did not hasten in his desire to the promise of food, but that he cast all his desire upon him. Thereupon Anthony said unto him, "Set the table and bring bread." And Anthony placed on the table four loaves, each of which was of the weight of about six ounces, and he dipped them in water because they were dry, and he placed one before himself and three before Paul. And having placed them there he sang a psalm which he knew twelve times, and he recited twelve prayers that he might try Paul, but Paul prayed with him in gladness; and after the twelve prayers they sat down to eat in the late evening. Having eaten one loaf Anthony did not touch another, but the old man Paul ate slowly, and when Anthony had finished he had still some of his loaf to eat, and Anthony was waiting for him to finish it. And having finished it, he answered and said unto him, "Little father, wilt thou eat another loaf?" And Paul said unto him, "If thou wilt eat another I will also; but if thou wilt not, I will not." Anthony saith unto him, "I have had enough, for I am a monk." And Paul said unto him, "I also have had enough, for I also seek to become a monk." And after these things Anthony again stood up, and made twelve prayers, and when they had said together the psalms twelve times they slept for a little during the night, and then they sang and prayed until the morning.

And when Anthony saw that the old man was carrying out with gladness a rule of life similar unto his own in every respect, he said unto him, "If thou art able to bear every day passed in this wise, then stay with me." Paul said unto him, "Although I know nothing else, yet the things which I do know I can perform easily"; and on another day Anthony said unto him, "Behold, thou hast become a monk." And a few months afterward when Anthony saw that his soul was perfect before God, and that he was simple beyond measure, and that Divine Grace was helping him, he built him a cell at a distance of about three or four miles away, and said unto him, "Behold, thou art a monk, and henceforth thou must live by thyself so that thou mayest receive the temptation of devils." Now when Paul had lived by himself a year, the gift of healing and of casting out devils was given unto him.

And in those times they brought unto Anthony a certain man who was vexed by a fierce devil, and that devil was one of the princes of the devils, and he was so fierce that he would even revile and blaspheme the heavens. And when Anthony saw the man he said, "I cannot heal this man, for over this race of princes neither the gift nor the power of healing hath been given unto me; unto Paul it belongeth to heal this man."


Unknown. "Of the Blessed Man Paul the Simple." from The Paradise or Garden of the Fathers. (London: Chatto and Windus, 1927).

The Paradise or Garden of the Fathers is an absorbing series of stories about saints, edited from Coptic manuscripts by Ernest A. Wallis Budge.

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