Interesting letters of Isidore of Pelusium

I’ve been reading the account of Isidore’s letters given by Quasten in volume 3 of his Patrology, pp.180-185.  Quasten is a treasure.  He tried very hard to give an interesting picture of each author, and also to find all the English translations for them all.  I have spent many happy hours reading and re-reading his pages, searching out translations that I could put online.

He discusses various letters.  Most of them sound as if a translation would be nice!  Here are some that he lists (after Migne, book. letter no):

  • 3.65 and 2.3 discuss and affirm the value of secular learning.
  • 5.133 discusses his “principle of unaffected elegance” in writing.
  • 2.25 and 1.174-5 are addressed to the Prefect Quirinius, on behalf of the city of Pelusium.
  • 1.35 and 1.311 are to the emperor Theodosius II (and translated elsewhere in these posts)
  • 4.99 refers to the Council of Nicaea.
  • 1.102 and 2.133 rebut the Manichaeans.

Isidore’s interpretation of the bible has earned high praise in the past:

  • 4.117 rejects allegorisation.
  • 2.195, 2.63, 3.339 condemn the practise of seeing the NT everywhere in the OT, as liable to bring genuine messianic passages under suspicion.
  • 2.63 and 4.203 tell us that the OT is a mixture of prophecy and history, and not to confuse the two.
  • 3.335, 1.353, 3.334, 3.31, 1.67, 3.166, 4.142, 1.139, 4.166 all deal with the literal meaning of scripture as it bears on the Arian dispute, following the Antiochene method of interpretation.  Indeed 1.389 tells us that he saw the Arians as a real danger.

He also gives spiritual advice:

  • 1.129 and 1.287 advocate voluntary poverty and abstinence, but only if all the commandments are practised.  Asceticism is not enough.
  • 1.162 reminds his reader that it isn’t enough to follow the lifestyle of John the baptist; you must have his spirit too.
  • 4.192 and 1.286 promote celibacy, but without humility, he says, it is meaningless.

One group of his letters are addressed to Cyril of Alexandria.  Another group outline the lamentable history of the wealthy man Cyrenios, who bought the governorate of Pelusium, banned anyone from seeking refuge in a church, and then set out to make money by taking bribes in lawsuits.


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