Isidore of Pelusium: some more letters

Here are two more letters of this 5th century monastic:

311. TO THE EMPEROR THEODOSIUS
How to provide assurance to the synod

If you could personally take the time to join them in deliberating at Ephesus, I am sure that there will be no censure of you on their part. If you leave the voting to the crowd’s antipathies, who would free the synod from all of the mockery? You would also remedy the situation, if you would stop your servants from dogmatizing, since they stand uncertainly between a great chasm of serving the emperor and quarreling with God, for fear that they make waves for the empire, dashing against the rock of the Church the contrivances of their bad faith. That Church has been set up, and cannot be lorded over by the gates of Hell, as God announced when He was creating it.

322. TO THE READER TIMOTHEOS
On how you cannot argue with an ignorant person.

Just as it is not safe to travel through an uninhabited land with a belligerent person, so it is not very easy to have an educated conversation with an ignorant person. The former will unleash his full force on you when you are alone if something is said or done not to his liking, while the latter, unless everything said is dumbed down to his lack of education, will single out for disgrace and ridicule everyone intelligent in the world, including learned philosophers and virtue-loving men. Frequently, people’s lack of letters tends to spread and at the current time you will find it preeminent everywhere. Even the Church is not without its share of it as well as the State and even the empire itself cannot be governed without it. Because of this, our troubles grow and the spirit of slavery has taken hold through the empire. So be very patient with the unlearned person, because you gladly abstain from the mindless, being mindful of our Lord.

What a picture these give us of the conditions in the fifth century.  The emperor, drawn into pointless dogmatic quarrels, while the nation drifted towards ignorance and contempt for learning.

I’ve now obtained Pierre Evieux’s study of Isidore of Pelusium.  It’s entirely discussion; none of the letters are included. From it I learn that the letters have been highly regarded.  Mainly they deal with Old and New Testament exegesis.  In some cases they quote Demosthenes and are a source of readings for establishing his text.  Isidore was definitely in favour of using pagan learning, so long as it was baptised.

Interestingly many scholars have denied the authenticity of the letters.  They point to the fact that the collection of 2,000 letters emanates from the “Sleepless” monastery of Constantinople — so called because the monks took it in shifts to keep the services going 24 hrs — and suggest that it was forged by them.  We thus have the absurd situation where scholars demand that we call him “pseudo-Isidore” and claim that these letters are not by the otherwise unknown father of the 5th century, but by someone else of the same name!   Evieux remarks that the existence of additional letters in Syriac, outside the “Sleepless” collection, disproves the idea of a later forgery.

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