Paul the Simple

Paul The Simple (Paulus Simplex), so called on account of the childlike simplicity of his character, was a disciple of St. Anthony, who flourished in the 4th century. His native country appears to have been Egypt, but the place of his residence is not described. He was a poor countryman, who, till the age of sixty, had served God in the married state. His retirement into the desert was occasioned by his surprising his wife, who was exceedingly beautiful, and must have been much younger than himself, in the act of adultery with a paramour, with whom she appears to have long carried on a criminal intercourse. Abandoning to the care of the adulterer, not only his guilty wife, but also his innocent children, according to Palladius and Socrates, he took his departure, after having, "with a placid smile," said to the adulterer, "Well, well; truly it matters not to me. By Jesus! I will not take her again. Go; you have her, and her children; for I am going away, and shall become a monk." The incident affords a curious illustration of the apathy which was cherished as a prime monastic virtue, and offers an instance of what was probably in that day still rarer, monastic swearing. A journey of eight days brought him to the cell of St. Anthony, then in the zenith of his reputation. "What do you want?" said the saint. "To be made a monk," was Paul's answer. "Monks are not made of old men of sixty," was the caustic rejoinder. The fervor of the candidate induced him to remain three days without food at the door of the hermit; and Anthony, won by his importunity and earnestness, at length admitted him as a disciple. After a long and rigorous practice of obedience, he was placed in a cell at three miles' distance from Anthony's, who came to regard Paul as the holiest among his followers. Paul is reputed to have possessed the gift of miracles in a far more eminent degree than his great master; and to him, it is said, St. Anthony was in the habit of sending such sick or possessed persons as he himself was unable to cure. The date of Paul's retirement and the time of his death are not known; but an anecdote recorded in the Eccles. Graec. Monumenta of Cotelerius (1:351) shows that he was living at the accession of the emperor Constantius II, A.D. 337. See Palladius, Hist. Lausiac. c. 28, in the Biblioth. Patrum (Paris, 1654, fol.), 13:941; Sozomen, Hist. Eccles. 1:13; Tillemont, Memoires, 6:144; Neale, Hist. of the Holy East. Church (Patriarchate of Alexandria), 1:152; Smith, Dict. of Gr. and Rom. Biog. and Mythol. 3:151.

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