(οΕ῾᾿ρημίτης, the Ascetic, called also Μόναχος, Α᾿ββᾶς , and Α᾿σκητής, or Excercitator), a disciple of Chrysostom, and contemporary of Nilus and Isidore of Pelilsium, was a celebrated Egyptian hermit of the Scythian deserts, who lived at the close of the 4th and the beginning of the 5th century. From early manhood he was noted for his piety, meekness, and ascetic virtues, and for his exact acquaintance with the holy Scriptures, the whole of which he had committed to memory; and in his old age he enjoyed the repute of an especial sanctity and wonder-working power. Palladius, who visited him in person about A.D. 395, Sozomen, and the Greek menologies relate many of his miracles; but some of them are elsewhere attributed to Macarius (q.v.). Indeed, the writings of Palladius and the monkish traditions seem frequently to confound the names of Marcus and Macarius; and, as both names were common among monks, it is difficult to decide whether the scattered notices of a prominent saint of this name that have reached us refer to one person or to several. There are traces of a younger Marcus, living early in the 5th century, and of others living in the 9th and 10th centuries. Bellarmine attributes the nine or ten tracts of Marcus Eremita which still exist, and are classed among the most interesting relics of the mystico-ascetic literature of the Greek Church, to a monk of the 9th century; but trustworthy authorities assign to them a much earlier date. Photius (' 891) mentions nine tracts of Marcus (Bibl. cod. 200, p. 519, edit. Bekker), which are identical with ours. Maximus Confessor, in the 7th century, furnishes a work by Marcus (ed. of Combefis, 1:702 sq.); and Dorotheus cites expressions from him in the 6th century (comp. Tillemont, 10:801; Ceillier, 17:504). Besides, the contents of these tracts are so related to what is found in Chrysostom, Macarius, and to some extent in Jovinian (comp. Neander, Ch. Hist. 2:390), that we are compelled to recognize in their author a contemporary of Chrysostom. The only remaining question is, whether the author of the tracts be identical with the Marcus of Palladius and Sozomen, or a younger contemporary. The preponderance of authority points decidedly to the former (see Prolegomnena in Galland's Bibl. Patr. 8:3 sq.; and works on Church history and history of literature, especially Du Pin, Nouv. Bibl. 3:8, 2 sq.; Oudin, Comm. de scr. eccl. 1:902 sq.; Ceillier, Auteurs eccl. 17:300 sq.; Cave, Script. eccl. hist. bibl. 1:372 sq.; Tillemont, Memoires, vols. 8 and 10). The Roman Catholic Church historians generally ignore him. Marcus Eremita is said to have died about A.D. 410, aged more than a hundred years. The Greek Church surnamed him the wonder-worker, and commemorated him on the 25th of March; a day in October was formerly observed in his honor by a portion of the Latin Church.
The nine tracts of Marcus are, in brief, as follows:
1. Περὶ νόμου πνευματικοῦ, De lege spiritualis. de paradiso, "Profitable for those who have chosen an ascetic life." It comprises an introduction, which is followed by two hundred separate propositions designed to comment on the scriptural expression νόμος πνευματικός. The leading thoughts are: All good centers in God; without his aid men can neither believe nor do good. Hence humility is necessary to obedience, and its expression is to be found in restraining our passions rather than in an ascetic hatred of God's creatures.
2. Περὶ τῶν οἰομένων ἐξ ἔργων δικαιοῦσθαι, De his qui putant se ex operibus justficari, seems originally to have formed part of the first, and comprises two hundred and eleven capita or propositions, treating mainly of justification by faith. Saving faith must be accompanied by works of righteousness, but heaven cannot be earned. The kingdom of God is of grace, which God has provided for his faithful servants. Such as do good for a reward, serve not God, but their own will.
3. Περὶ μετανοίας τῆς πάντοτε πᾶσι προσηκούσης, De penitentia cunctis necessaria. Repentance consists of three parts: purification of our thoughts, persistent prayer, and patient endurance of tribulation. None can be saved except they continually repent, and none are damned except they despise repentance.
4. Of baptism; a series of questions and answers relating to the worth and effects of baptism. It is represented as the channel through which Christ imparts gracious aid, rather than as an agency that works perfection in its subject.
5. Salutary precepts, addressed to the monk Nicholas, and showing how to lead a Christian life, and especially how to restrain anger and fleshly lusts. Ascetic exercises are rejected as a means, and looking to Jesus is recommended as pre-eminently the way to virtue and true Christianity. Annexed is a reply from Nicholas, returning thanks for this counsel.
6. Brief reflections of a pious and mystical character, generally bearing on some passage or expression of the Scriptures, treated in the freest style of allegorical interpretation. A state of mystical ecstasy, in which the soul is lost to all created things, and in an ecstasy of love is wholly absorbed in God, is characterized as the most exalted spiritual condition, and ascetic duties are accorded only a secondary value. Another tract, upon the subject of fasting, is wanting in the older editions, and was first published in 1748 by Remondini. It possibly formed a part of 6, which closes abruptly.
7. General questions of Christian morality; a disputation with a jurist as to the possibility of reconciling capital punishment with Christian principles, and a discussion of the nature and use of prayer, of the various ways to honor God, of the desire to please men, etc.
8. A mystical dialogue between the soul and spirit concerning sin and grace, chiefly remarkable because of its decided rejection of the doctrine of original sin, and of its clear and pointed statement of the doctrines of the Greek fathers respecting sin and human freedom. We are to seek the source of our sinfulness neither in Satan, Adam, nor other men. No power can compel us to good or evil, but rather the condition of every person is that which he has chosen from the time of his baptism. The same passions which seduced Adam and Eve still exist in human nature, and produce a like result in every soul that, in the exercise of its freedom, submits to their control. The conflict with sin is therefore a struggle against our own will, in which Christ aids us when we keep his commandments to the extent of our power.
9. Christ's relation to Melchisedek. This tract is directed against a class who regarded Melchisedek as a divine being; probably the Origenistic sect founded in Egypt by Hieracas, who were said to regard Melchisedek as the holy Spirit or an incarnation of the Spirit. While combating such views, the tract reveals a tendency to Monophysitism, in ascribing to the human nature of Jesus all the attributes of the Godhead. These tracts of Marcus Eremita reveal to us the memorials of a partly ascetic, partly ecstatic mysticism, which was especially cultivated among the Egyptian monks, and which aimed to spiritualize the practices of Monachism. In its excess of pious feeling over dogmatic conceptions, it contained the seeds of many diverse systems of dogmatics and ethics. Monophysitism had essentially its root in the mysticism of the Egyptian monks; and in these writings are found, in curious juxtaposition, Pelagianism and Augustinism, the strongest assertion of human freedom and of the sole efficiency of grace in the work of salvation, the evangelical view of justification by faith and the Roman Catholic doctrine of works. Hence Bellarmine and other Roman Catholics supposed that modern heretics had forged these writings, while Protestant writers have remarked their Pelagian cast. The tracts of Marcus were in the 17th century placed in the Index, as "caute legenda." They are chiefly important as a connecting link between the mysticism of Macarius and that of the Areopagite and Maximus Confessor.
Eight of the above mystical treatises are (λόγοι ὀκτά, "equal to the number of the universal passions." A Latin version of all together was prepared by Joannes Picus (Paris, 1563, 8vo; later editions in Bibl. Patr.); a Greek version by Guillaume Morel, with the Antirrhetica of Hesychius of Jerusalem (Par. 1563, 8vo). Both versions were reprinted in the first volume of the Auctarium of Ducxeus (Paris, 1624, folio), in the eleventh volume of Bibl. Patrum (Paris, 1654, folio), and in the eighth volume of the Bibl. Patrum of Galland. Marcus Eremita was probably the author also of the tract Περὶ νηστείας, De Jejunio; Latin version by Zinus (Venice, 1574, 8vo). Two of Marcus's tracts — the first and second, viz. Περὶ νόμου πνευματικοῦ,, De Lege Spirituali, and Περὶ τῶν οἰομένων ἐξ ἔργων δικαιοῦσθαι, Dejus quiputant se Operibusjustificari, were published together by Vincentius Opsopeous, with a Latin version (Haguenau, 1531, 8vo). The first was reprinted in the Alicro presbyticon (Basle, 1550), and in the Orthodoxographa (Basle, 1555). The tract De Jejunio. and another, De Alelchizedek, were first published by B. M. Remondinus (Rome, 1748). See Fabricius, Biblioth. Grceca, 9:267; Cave, Histor. Litt. ad ann. 401, 1:372; Oudin, De Scriptor. Eccles. i, col. 902 sq.; Tillemont, Memoires, 10:8)01; Galland, Biblioth. Patrum, Proleg. ad viii, c. 1; Smith, Dict. of Gr. and Rom. Biog. and Mythol. s.v.; and especially Wagenmann, in Herzog, Real-Encyk. 20:85-91. (G. M.)