Revista Studii Teologice


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"Scrierile Sfântului Isaac Sirul şi circulaţia lor în lumea creştină"

The Writings of St. Isaac the Syrian and Their Circu-lation Throughout the Christian World

Autor(i): Pr. Georgian PĂUNOIU

Summary: The Writings of St. Isaac the Syrian and Their Circu-lation Throughout the Christian World
The very rich tradition of manuscripts and text editions proves that the writings of St. Isaac the Syrian enjoyed widespread circulation, as they were read, translated and constantly re-published both in the East and West. Studied by the Church Fathers, Islam mystics, Christian writers, ascetics and contemporary scholars alike, St. Isaac has not remained an isolated, obscure author of a thriving age of Syriac literature, but he has enjoyed general appreciation since the 9th century to this day. Scholarly research into the writings of St. Isaac of Niniveh acknowledges three parts as authentic.
As early as the 9th century, Part I of St. Isaac’s writings was translated from Syriac into Arabian, Greek and Georgian language. The extant manuscripts were drafted in St. Sabbas Monastery, near Jerusalem. The Arabian translation dates from 885-886, whereas the Georgian one was produced two decades later (906). The Greek translation was made by Abraham and Patrick, two monks of St. Sabbas community. It was the basis for subsequent Greek versions.
Discovered in 1983 by Prof. Sebastian P. Brock in the Bodleian Library of Oxford University, Part II contains 41 Speeches. As it had not been translated into Greek, this part went unknown. The texts of this Part have already been translated into Italian, Catalan (partially), Russian (incompletely), French and Romanian.
Part III has been preserved in a Tehran manuscript and contains 17 Speeches. Employing a copy of this manuscript, Sabino Chialà, a monk in Bose community, produced in 2004 the Italian version of Part III. The texts in this collection have been so far published in Italian, Romanian and French.
More than two and a half centuries after the printing of St. Isaac’s texts in Latin, a new edition was issued in Greek, by hieromonk Nikeforos Theotokis (1731-1800), urged and supported by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Ephrem. The issue edited by Nikeforos Theotokis was printed at Leipzig, in 1770, then sent to monasteries of Palestine, Greece, Mount Athos and the Romanian Principalities. It was reprinted in Athens, in late 19th century, by hieromonk Joachim Spetsieris, whose edition faithfully maintained the contents of Theotokis’ version. Four out of the 86 Speeches certainly belong to another Syriac author, John Saba („the Elder”/of Dalyatha): 2, 7, 43 and 80. The Greek manuscripts contain a letter sent by Isaac to a certain Symeon, a wonder worker. The text actually belongs to Philoxenus, bishop of Mabboug/Hierapolis (†523), and is part of a letter addressed by Philoxenus to Patricius, an anchorite living near Edessa. The edition issued by Nikeforos Theotokis was a referential text for numerous 19th- and 20th- century translations all over the world.
Beside the „Syriac Isaac” and a „Greek” one, there is also an „Arabian” one. Numerous fragments of Isaac’s writings were translated from Syrian into Arabian in late 9th century by Ibn as-Salt, in an Anbar monastery, near Euphrates. Ibn as-Salt selected the most important excerpts of St. Isaac’s Speeches, while adapting the original text to provide a concentrated Arabian version. Another Arabian translator of St. Isaac’s works is deacon ‛Abdallah Ibn al-Fadl (9th century). Other old Arabian manuscripts indicate as translator a certain Ya’qub, of whom we have no information.
The extant Ethiopian manuscripts contain 33-35 Speeches, all included in Part I.
Starting from the Greek version, the Latin translation of St. Isaac’s writings was produced in the 13th century, although it did not contain the integral text. Isaac the Syrian (7th century) was mistaken for another Isaac of Syriac origin (6th century), who arrived at Monteluco, near Spoleto, and who is mentioned by Gregory the Great in the third volume of his Dialogues. The Greek-Latin translation was ascertained for the 13th century, according to the date of the oldest Latin manuscript, ascribed to the Franciscan Pietro da Fossombrone, also known as Angelo Clareno (1255/60-1337), a committed translator of many Patristic writings, among which the Ladder of St. John of Sinai. So far, 42 Latin manuscripts have been discovered, 4 of them in the Iberic Peninsula, beside the printed editions: Barcelona (1497), Venice (1506).
We mention the collection of Patristic works containing St. Isaac’s texts, edited by the Swiss reformed theologian Johann Jacob Grynaeus (Gryner), in 1569. The oldest translation of St. Isaac’s works in a Romanic language seems to be the French version (13th-14th century).
1364 is the year of the first Slavonic translation of St. Isaac’s Speeches. The text includes Part I Speeches. It is very likely that the one who prompted the translations of the writings of great hesychast Fathers was St. Gregory of Sinai (1255-1346).
Alongside other Church Fathers, St. Isaac the Syrian stirred the interest of Paisios Velicikovski. The latter’s manuscripts greatly influenced Russian spirituality. Resorting to older manuscripts, Paisios’ disciples printed in 1819, at Neamt Monastery, the Romanian translation of the Speeches of St. Isaac the Syrian.
Two Russian editions were issued in 1854: the one of Optina and the one edited by the Spiritual Academy of Moscow. Employing the Russian edition of Moscow’s Theological Academy, the Japanese translator Fuku Horie published the Japanese text of Part I of St. Isaac’s writings in 1909.
We mention the translation of Part I provided by Father Dumitru Stăniloae, published in 1981, as the tenth volume of the Philokalia. The tradition of Romanian manuscripts is extremely rich, demonstrating the wide circulation of St. Isaac the Syrian’s texts.

Pagini: pp. 31-62