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Rigorous self-denial of bodily pleasures and needs. This can be motivated either by a praiseworthy desire to dedicate oneself completely to God, or by an erroneous belief that the physical body is evil.

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Types of ascetic practice

The ascetic practice of fasting

Esther 4:15–16 ESV
Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.”
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The ascetic practice of wearing sackcloth and ashes

Daniel 9:3 ESV
Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.
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The ascetic practice of celibacy

1 Corinthians 7:1 ESV
Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.”
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People who practised asceticism

The Nazirites and asceticism

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John the Baptist and asceticism


John’s disciples, the Pharisees and asceticism


The Jews and the ascetic practice of regular fasting


Jesus Christ refuses to enforce ascetic practices

Mark 2:18–19 ESV
Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.

Ascetic practice symbolises separation from the world and dedication to God

Asceticism as a sign of repentance

Jonah 3:6–9 ESV
The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”
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Asceticism accompanying prayer

Ezra 8:23 ESV
So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.
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Ascetic dedication to God’s service

1 Corinthians 9:27 ESV
But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
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False asceticism opposed

Rejection of fasting without true repentance


Condemnation of ostentatious asceticism

Matthew 6:16–18 ESV
“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Asceticism not necessary for right worship and conduct

; Asceticism that is based on a negative view of the material world is rejected.
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