Dr Jonathan L. Zecher

Research Fellow
Biblical and Early Christian Studies


Areas of expertise: early Christianity; late antique cultures; late antique history; ancient medicine; early monasticism; patristics; Byzantine theology; eastern Orthodox spirituality; medical humanities; health humanities; Greek

HDR Supervisor accreditation status: Provisional

ORCID ID : 0000-0002-8704-1221

Phone: +61 3 9230 8373

Email: jonathan.zecher@acu.edu.au

Location: ACU Melbourne Campus

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, Christianity, ‘Great Books,’ and ancient medicine. 

I study early Christian asceticism, the medical cultures of late antiquity, and traditions of prayer and spiritual practice in Byzantium and Eastern Orthodox Christianity. My first book (2015) explored the monastic engagement with death and judgment, focusing especially on the masterpiece of Byzantine monastic literature, the Ladder of Divine Ascent. My current monograph (under contract with Oxford University Press), part of the Modes of Knowing Project at ACU, explores the medical context and logic of early monastic practices of spiritual direction. 

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. I am pursuing this interest through research in the discursive histories of pain and emotion from Hellenistic philosophy through Byzantium.  In context of this work, I serve on the board of ReMeDHe, an international working group for scholars interested in “Religion, Medicine, Disability, and Health in Late Antiquity.”

I am pursuing this interest through research in the discursive histories of pain and emotion. My next major project will trace emotional regimes from Hellenistic philosophy through the Byzantine Empire via their “emotion-lists.”

Meanwhile, I maintain an abiding interest in the Byzantine imagination of death, judgment, and tradition. Part of this has meant that for the past several years I have been engaged in a new translation with Rev. Prof. Andrew Louth, FBA, of many texts from the Philokalia of Nicodemus and Macarius, which will appear from Penguin Classics.

Select publications


  • (forthcoming) Spiritual Direction as a Medical Art in Early Christian Monasticism. Oxford Early Christian Studies (Oxford University Press).
  • (forthcoming) Disability, Medicine, and Healing Discourse in Early Christianity: New Conversations for Narrative Health , (eds) Susan Holman and Chris Len de Wet, (Routledge).
  • (2015) The Role of Death in the Ladder of Divine Ascent and the Greek Ascetic Tradition.  Oxford Early Christian Studies (Oxford University Press).

Edited books

  • (forthcoming) 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).

Journal articles

  • (forthcoming) “Medical Metaphors in Byzantine spiritual Direction”,  The Journal of Religion, 101.3.
  • (2021) “Myths of Aerial Tollhouses and Their Tradition from George the Monk to the Life of Basil the Younger,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 75: 1-22.
  • (2020) “Medical Art in Spiritual Direction: Basil, Barsanuphios, and John on Diagnosis and Meaning in Illness”, Journal of Early Christian Studies, 28.4, 591-623.
  • (2018) “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, 674-713.
  • (2018) “The Meaning of ΚΛΥΣΤΑΣ and the Value of a MAXAIRION:  Vita Dosithei (BHG 2117)and Healthcare in Gazan Monasteries”, Analecta Bollandiana 136, 43-55.
  • (2014) “Antony’s Vision of Death?  Athanasius of Alexandria, Palladius of Helenopolis, and Egyptian Mortuary Religion”, Journal of Late Antiquity 7.1, 159-176.


  • (Forthcoming) “The Organization of Mental Pain among Christian Ascetics”, in Crawford, Matthew R.; Champion, Michael W.; Ayres, Lewis; et al. (eds), The Intellectual World of Christian Late Antiquity: Reshaping Classical Traditions (Cambridge University Press).
  • (2022) “Maximus the Confessor” in Mark DelCogliano (ed), The Cambridge Editions of Early Christian Writings, vol. 4, Christ: Chalcedon and Beyond (Cambridge University Press), 472—517.
  • (2012) “Tradition and Creativity in the Construction and Reading of the Philokalia”, in Brock Bingaman and Bradley Nassif (eds.), The Philokalia: Exploring the Classic Text of Orthodox Spirituality (Oxford University Press).


Accolades and awards

  • The University of Houston Teaching Excellence Award (2015)
  • The Student Governing Board Outstanding Achievement Award (2015)

Appointments and affiliations

  • Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry at the Australian Catholic University, 2020—
  • Research Fellow, Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry at the Australian Catholic University, 2017—2020
  • Visiting Assistant Professor in the Honors College at the University of Houston, and in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages, 2011—2017

Professional societies

  • Co-Director, Religion, Medicine, Disability, and Healthcare in Late Antiquity Working Group (ReMeDHe), 2022—
  • Member, Board of Directors, ReMeDHe, 2018—2022
  • Member, Awards and Prizes Committee, North American Patristics Society, 2018—2022
  • Member, North American Patristics Society (NAPS)
  • Member, Association International des Études Patristiques / International Association of Patristic Studies (AIEP-IAPS)
  • Member, Society of Biblical Literature (SBL)
  • Member, Byzantine Studies Association of North America (BSANA)

Editorial roles

  • Religion, Medicine and Health in Late Antiquity, (Routledge)

International journal review panel

  • Reviewer for the Journal of Early Christian Studies (2014-present), the Journal of Religion (2015-present), Religions (2016-present).
  • Ancient Philosophy (2019-present), Journal of the American Academy of Religion (2020)

Public engagement

ACU Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry

Mailing address

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