The Life of Severus of Antioch – part 11

Zacharias Rhetor is talking ca. 500 AD to Severus of Antioch, who is considering becoming a Christian.

Filled with joy, I replied, “I came to this town to study civil law, because I love the science of law.  But since you also care about your salvation, let me propose a project which, without harming the study of law or requiring much leisure, will give us a knowledge of rhetoric, philosophy, the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, and theology.

“What is this project?” he asked.  “Because you’re making a great big promise there, if it is possible, without neglecting the study of law, for us to also acquire such a lot of good things, especially the last one, which is the most important of all.”

Z: “We study law, according to what I have learned, all week except for Sunday and Saturday afternoon.”

S: “Indeed, on the other days of the week we attend the lectures which our masters give on the law, then we repeat them, for our own benefit at home, and we rest for half the day before Sunday, the day (Sunday) which even the civil law directs us to consecrate to God.”

Z: “Then if it suits you, we will reserve for that period the writings of the doctors of the church, i.e. those of Athanasius, Basil, Gregory, John, Cyril, etc.  Let our fellow-students do as they like, we shall revel in theology, and in the sentences and profound knowledge of ecclesiastical writings.”

S: “It is for this reason, my friend,” replied Severus, “that I asked you at the outset whether you had brought with you all these books.  However, now that, thanks to God, we have agreed on something, you will have to make us get the good things you mentioned, because I shall not leave you during the time in question.”

And off they went into the Fathers.

The dialogue sounds a little unreal to me; but this is, in the end, a hagiographical text, and probably the words are composed later.

Leave a Reply