Macarius is far from systematic in his teaching, yet is remarkably consistent in his language and imagery. 1 He has relatively few 'master themes', pursued with ever increasing ingenuity and virtuosity. The present chapter is a short outline of these central themes, given as a prelude to the investigation of the place of the Macarian writings within the wider Christian tradition.
No Christian author writes in isolation, and Macarius is no exception. He is reticent as to his sources but is by no means unusual in this. The only texts quoted are either biblical or apocryphal; the only non-scriptural characters mentioned are Aristotle, Plato, and Isocrates: great cities of knowledge laid waste because of the absence of the Spirit of God (ii 42.1). Macarius certainly draws much from the Syriac Christian tradition: the feminine quality ascribed to the Holy Spirit, the tradition of poetic symbolism, the extensive use of clothing metaphors and nuptial imagery, and the concept of the two souls. The Syriac background is, however, by no means the only thought-world to have influenced him. Macarius is often presented as an example of biblical or Semitic Christianity, over and against the Hellenizing current associated with Origen and Evagrius. The attempt to juxtapose and hold apart these 'currents' does not stand up to analysis in the case of Macarius. Much of his thought-world is fundamentally Hellenic in inspiration. He works within the type-antitype, noetic-sensible framework, more typical of the Hellenic than the pre-fifth-century Syriac tradition. His pattern of exegesis and Christology is that of