Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

A Nestorian bishop of that city in the latter half of the seventh century, being consecrated by the Nestorian Patriarch George (660-80). Originally a monk of the monastery of Bethabe in Kurdistan, he abdicated for unknown reasons after an episcopate of but five months, and retired to the monastery of Rabban Shapur, where he died at an advanced age, blind through study and austerity. Towards the end of his life he passed under a cloud as his Nestorian orthodoxy became suspected. He was author of three theses, which found but little acceptance amongst Nestorians. Daniel Bar Tubanita, Bishop of Beth Garmai (some 100 miles south-east of Mossul ), took umbrage at his teaching and became his ardent opponent. The precise contents of these theses are not known, but they were of too Catholic a character to be compatible with Nestorian heresy. From an extant prayer of his, addressed to Christ it is certainly difficult to realize that its author was a Nestorian. Eager to claim so great a writer, the monophysites falsified his biography, placing his life at the beginning of the seventh century, making him a monk of the Jacobite monastery of Mar Mattai, and stating that he retired to the desert of Scete in Egypt. Since the discovery of Ishodenah's "Book of Chastity" by Chabot in 1895 the above details of Isaac's life are beyond doubt, and all earlier accounts must be corrected accordingly.

Isaac was a fruitful ascetical writer and his works were for centuries the main food of Syrian piety. Only very little of the original Syriac has been published—two chapters on "Grades of Knowledge" and the "Essential Qualities of Virtues " by Zingerle ("Monum. Syriaca", I, 1869, pp. 97-101), and three dialogues by Chabot at the end of his treatise "De Isaaci vita" (see below). A German translation of some six chapters was made directly from the Syriac by Bickell ("Biblioth. der Kirchenvat.", Kempten, 1874). A complete list of Isaac's works is given by Chabot in "De Isaaci vita" and "Notes sur la litt. Syr." in the "Revue Semitique" (1896), p. 254. Isaac's works were early translated in Arabic, Ethiopic, and Greek. The Greek translation was made by two monks of St. Saba, Patrick and Abraham, and published by Nicephorus Theodoces under the title Tou hosiou patros memon Isaak . . . ta eurethenta asketika (Leipzig, 1870). This publication, however, does not represent any precise work of Isaac, but is rather a corpus asceticum , containing treatises, letters, colloquies, all in one. Two Latin recensions thereof have been published: the one entitled "Sermones beati Isaaci de Syria" (Venice, 1506) and the other in the "Max. biblioth. vet. Patrum", XIII (Lyons, 1677). This latter recension is reprinted an Gallandi, XII, and again in Migne, P.G., LXXXVI, 1, 811-86, and bears the title "De Contemptu Mundi". It is erroneously ascribed to Isaac of Antioch, with whom Isaac of Nineveh is often confounded. The Latin gives but half the contents of the Greek, which itself has undergone a number of manipulations. The long letter to Simeon of Caesarea published in Mai's "Nov. Patr. Biblioth.", VIII, 3, forms the last chapter of Theodorus's Greek. Marius Besson published apophthegmata of lsaac's in Greek in "Oriens Christ.", I (1901), 46-60. The Arabic translation of this corpus asceticum is much fuller than the Greek, and divided into four books. Isaac's writings possess passages of singular beauty and elevation, and remind the reader of Thomas à Kempis .

More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed between 1907 and 1912 in fifteen hard copy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 6:10-20
10 Finally, grow strong in the Lord, with the strength of his ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 144:1, 2, 9-10
1 [Of David] Blessed be Yahweh, my rock, who trains my hands for war and ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 13:31-35
31 Just at this time some Pharisees came up. 'Go away,' they said. 'Leave ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 27th, 2016 Image

St. Frumentius
October 27: Called "Abuna" or "the fa¬≠ther' of Ethiopia, ... Read More