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JACOB OF SERUGH

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Originally appearing in Volume V15, Page 115 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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JACOB OF SERUGH, one of the best Syriac authors, named by one of his biographers " the flute of the Holy Spirit and the harp of the believing church," was born in 451 at Kurtam, a village on the Euphrates to the west of Varian, and was probably educated at Edessa. At an early age he attracted the attention of his countrymen by his piety and his literary gifts, and entered on the composition of the long series of metrical homilies on religious themes which formed the great work of his life. Having been ordained to the priesthood, he became periodeutes or episcopal visitor of Ilaura, in Serugh, not far from his birthplace. His tenure of this office extended over a time of great trouble to the Christian population of Mesopotamia, due to the fierce war carried on by Kavadh II. of Persia within the Roman borders. When on the loth of January 503 Amid was captured by the Persians after a three months' siege and all its citizens put to the sword or carried captive, a panic seized the whole district, and the Christian inhabitants of many neighbouring cities planned 7 An affirmative answer is given by Wiseman (Horne syr. pp. 181-8) and Wright (Catalogue 1168; Fragm. of the Syriac Grammar of Jacob of Edessa, preface; Short Hist. p. 151 seq.). But Martin (in Jour. As. May–June 1869, pp. 456 sqq.), Duval (Grammaire syriaque, p. 71) and Merx (op. cit. p. 5o) are of theopposite opinion. The date of the introduction of the seven Nestorian vowel-signs is also uncertain. to leave their homes and flee to the west of the Euphrates. They were recalled to a more courageous frame of mind by the letters of Jacob.' In 519, at the age of 68, Jacob was made bishop of Batnan, another town in the district of Serugh, but only lived till November 521. From the various extant accounts of Jacob's life and from the number of his known works, we gather that his literary activity was unceasing. According to Barhebraeus (Chron. Eccles. i. 191) he employed 70 amanuenses and wrote in all 76o metrical homilies, besides expositions, letters and hymns of different sorts. Of his merits as a writer and poet we are now well able to judge from P. Bedjan's excellent edition of selected metrical homilies, of which four volumes have already appeared (Paris 1905—1908), containing 146 pieces.' They are written throughout in dodecasyllabic metre, and those published deal mainly with biblical themes, though there are also poems on such subjects as the deaths of Christian martyrs, the fall of the idols, the council of Nicaea, &c.3 Of Jacob's prose works, which are not nearly so numerous, the most interesting are his letters, which throw light upon some of the events of his time and reveal his attachment to the Monophysite doctrine which was then struggling for supremacy in the Syrian churches, and particularly at Edessa, over the opposite teaching of Nestorius.' (N. M.)
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