Dr Jonathan Zecher

Senior Research Fellow
Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry

photo of Dr Jonathan Zecher

Areas of expertise: Patristics; Early Christianity; Ancient Medicine; History of Emotions; Byzantine Christianity; Medical humanities; Health humanities; Greek

Phone:+61 (03) 92 308 373

Email: jonathan.zecher@acu.edu.au

Location: ACU Melbourne Campus

ORCID ID: 0000-0002-8704-1221

I completed my BA in Liberal Arts at St. John's College (Santa Fe) in 2003, and then my MA and PhD at Durham University in Patristics and Historical Theology in 2012. From 2011 until joining ACU in 2017 I taught full-time in the Honors College at the University of Houston-Greek, Latin, 'Great Books,' Religious Studies, and ancient medicine.

My work embraces Christian asceticism, the medical cultures of late antiquity, and traditions of prayer and spiritual practice in Late antique, Byzantine, and Eastern Orthodox Christianity. My first book (2015) explored The Role of Death in the Ladder of Divine Ascent and the Greek Ascetic Tradition. My second, Spiritual Direction as a Medical Art in Early Christian Monasticism, exposes the medical logic of early monastic practices of confession, penance, and submission.

My interest in medicine extends to clinical practices in late antiquity and their applicability to questions of clinical relationship and care being explored in the health/medical humanities today. As part of this work, I serve as co-director of ReMeDHe, an international working group for scholars interested in "Religion, Medicine, Disability, and Health in Late Antiquity," and editor of the series, Religion, Medicine and Health in Late Antiquity (Routledge). I also work with the founders and directors of the new group, Religion, Health, and Humanities Researchers, to foster emerging conversations between religious scholars and medical humanists.

My next project interrogates Byzantine pretensions to "tradition" through the materiality of compilations (like florilegia), pseudepigrapha, and scholia. This project develops work on the history of "emotion-lists" and the reception of the Corpus Dionysiacum and the Ladder. It has also emerged from work I have been doing the past few years on a new translation with Rev. Prof. Andrew Louth, FBA, of many texts from the Philokalia of Nikodemos and Makarios, which will appear from Penguin Classics.

Select publications


  • 2022 Spiritual Direction as a Medical Art in Early Christian Monasticism. Oxford Early Christian Studies (Oxford University Press).
  • 2015 The Role of Death in the Ladder of Divine Ascent and the Greek Ascetic Tradition. Oxford Early Christian Studies (Oxford University Press).

[Edited Collections]

  • Susan Holman, Chris Len de Wet, and Jonathan L. Zecher (eds), Disability, Medicine, and Healing Discourse in Early Christianity: New Conversations for Narrative Health (Routledge, 2023)

[Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles since 2018]

  • "The Fate of the Dead between Origen(ism) and Orthodoxy in Gaza," Harvard Theological Review (accepted for publication)
  • "Medical Metaphors in Byzantine spiritual Direction", The Journal of Religion, 101.4 (2022):529-DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/721356
  • "Myths of Aerial Tollhouses and Their Tradition from George the Monk to the Life of Basil the Younger", Dumbarton Oaks Papers 75 (2021):297-DOI: https://www.jstor.org/stable/27107159
  • "Medical Art in Spiritual Direction: Basil, Barsanuphios, and John on Diagnosis and Meaning in Illness", Journal of Early Christian Studies 28.4 (2020):591-DOI: 10.1353/earl.2020.0044
  • "The Reception of Evagrian Psychology in the Ladder of Divine Ascent: Cassian and Nazianzen as Sources and Conversation Partners", Journal of Theological Studies, 69.2 (2018):674-713 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/jts/fly125
  • "The Meaning of ΚΛΥΣΤΑΣ and the Value of a MAXAIRION: Vita Dosithei (BHG 2117) and Healthcare in Gazan Monasteries", Analecta Bollandiana 136 (2018):43-55



  • University of Houston Teaching Excellence Award, 2015
  • Student Governing Board Outstanding Service Award, 2015


  • Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry
  • Co-Director, ReMeDHe: Working Group for Religion, Medicine, Disability, and Health in Late Antiquity

Editorial roles

Public engagement activities


  • "What makes a martyr? The proclamation of Patriarch Kirill and the question of sacred violence," ABC Religion & Ethics 17 October 2022 (available)
  • "How the Ukraine war is dividing Orthodox Christians," The Conversation, 8 March 2022 (available)
  • "Acedia: The Lost Name for the Emotion We're All Feeling Right Now," The Conversation 26 August 2020 (available)

[Public and Media Appearances]

  • Menil Collection Public Program. In Dialogue: On Acedia and "Specters of Noon," with Niki Kasumi Clements (Rice University) and artists Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla, 3 March 2021 (available)
  • "What Monks Knew about the Emotions of Isolation," Soul Search with Dr Meredith Lake, ABC Radio National, aired 4 October 2020 (available)
  • "Ukraine and Russia: religion and the politics of war," God Forbid, ABC Radio National, aired 21 Mar 2022 (available)
  • "The Different Dimensions of Loneliness," God Forbid, ABC Radio National, aired 16 Feb 2022 (available)

ACU Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry

Mailing address

C/- 115 Victoria Pde
Fitzroy, VIC, 3065.