John Climacus: The Ladder of Divine Ascent (The Classics of Western Spirituality)
The Ladder of Divine Ascent was the most widely used handbook of the ascetic life in the ancient Greek Church. Popular among both lay and monastics, it was translated into Latin, Syriac, Arabic, Armenian, Old Slavonic, and many modern languages. It was written while the author (who received his surname from this book) was abbot of the monastery of Catherine on Mount Sinai. As reflected in the title, the ascetical life is portrayed as a ladder which each aspirant must ascend, each step being a virtue to be acquired, or a vice to be surrendered. Its thirty steps reflect the hidden life of Christ himself. This work had a fundamental influence in the particularly the Hesychastic, Jesus Prayer, or Prayer of the Heart movement. Pierre Pourrat in his History of Christian Spirituality calls John Climacus the "most important ascetical theologian of the East, at this epoch, who enjoyed a great reputation and exercised and important influence on future centuries."
Buy and study the book . Which version is not that important
By Michael M. Nash - March 11, 2004
I have read both versions of John Climacus' book and have compared the two books line by line on some subjects. I vote for the Paulist edition.For example on gluttony the Paulist Press has it "a stuffed belly produces fornication, while a mortified stomach leads to purity". Meanwhile the Transfiguration version is "Satiety in food is the father of fornication; but affliction of the stomach is the agent of purity". For me the Paulist reads like the NIV version of the Bible while the Transfiguration version reads like King James. Earth shaking? Not according to the Transfiguration introduction itself. It states very clearly that it too relies on Mignes' Patrologica Graeca (like the Pauline). Moreover it goes on to say "Since no critical text of The Ladder exists to date, the various editions that have been published present us with variant readings. Though significant, none of these descrepancies are of a dogmatic nature." (p.xxx)The... read more
Scholarly paperback with a lamentably ugly cover.
By tepi "tepi" - June 16, 2005
I now have a small collection of books from the Paulist Press Classics of Western Spirituality series. All are well-edited and well-translated, and all come as standard glued paperbacks with that lamentably ugly Paulist cover 'art' (which here lost them one star).
The Paulist edition of 'John Climacus: The Ladder of Divine Ascent' is certainly scholarly and reads well enough, but I became intrigued by the comparisons other reviewers were making between it and the Holy Transfiguration Monastery translation. And so I decided to obtain a copy of the HTM edition (ISBN 0943405033) since it is once more in print at a remarkably modest price and can be ordered through their web site.
As others have pointed out, the two translations, though equally scholarly, are in very different styles. As physical products the books are very different too, and I'm overwhelmed at the superb quality of the HTM edition -- hard bound in full gilt-blocked cloth and with a durable... read more
Not so bad...
By Wyote - May 24, 2003
I haven't read Holy Transfiguration Monastery's translation of this, but I do notice that one of the people who recommended that one over this one (by Paulist Press) credited the Ladder to Maximus. That's a pretty shocking mistake for someone claiming insight into the nuances of translation.Perhaps HTM's is better, but unfortunately it's really hard to find and expensive when you do. Also, I am familiar with Catholic--Orthodox polemics; and I believe I would have noticed a bias if it were evident. Actually I suspect the reviewers, rather than the translator of this edition, had a distorting bias.Please let's leave behind those reviewers and consider the text.The Ladder is certainly a classic of Christian spirituality, especially important in the Greek and Slavic traditions. It was meant to be read by prayerful monks; naturally it is dense compared to the literature we're used to, naturally it's sometimes hard for us to read or understand. The monks' culture and concerns were... read more
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