Didymus the Blind

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Alexandrian theologian; b. c. 313; d. Alexandria, between 395 and 399. palladius states that Didymus was blind from the age of four or five and that he remained a layman whose considerable theological learning and asceticism amazed his contemporaries. athanasius entrusted him with the leadership of the Catechetical School, and his theological lectures were frequented by scholars such as jerome, who calls him his master (Epist. 50.1; 84.3); rufinus of aquileia (Apol. In hier. 2.25); and Palladius (Hist. Lausiac. 4). Many of Didymus's writings were inculpated with the condemnation of Origen as favoring the preexistence and apocatastasis of human souls at the Council of constantinople ii in 553 and consequently disappeared. Some of his works have been recovered, however, in the manuscripts discovered in the excavations at Tura in 1941, but questions regarding authenticity have proved most difficult.

His dogmatic writings include a tract against the Manichees, a treatise in three books on the Holy Spirit (used by St. Ambrose), which Jerome translated into Latin, and three books on the Trinity composed between 381 and 392 and considered orthodox by Jerome (Lib. 2 Adv. Rufin. 16). Extant in Greek are 18 chapters of a tract against the Manichees that is almost certainly authentic.

A commentary on the De Principiis of Origen, a Sectarum volumen, and a short work On the Death of Infants have been lost. Other works such as an Ad philosophum and a De Incorporeo have been attributed to him by john damascene; and modern scholars suggest that he is the author of the Adversus Arium et Sabellium found among the works of Gregory of Nyssa, of the seven Pseudo-Athanasian Dialogues, and of a treatise On the Vision of the Seraphim.

Didymus is credited with composing a commentary on almost every book of the Old and New Testaments; however, these commentaries are witnessed to only in fragments of the Biblical chains, or excerpts, found among the papyri at Toura. Jerome credits Didymus with commentaries on the Psalms, Job, Isaiah, Hosea, and Zechariah. Cassiodorus mentions a commentary on Proverbs (Inst. div. litt. 5), and among the papyri is evidence of commentaries on Genesis. Both the commentary on the Psalms and the one on Isaiahs were monumental works, the latter running to 18 books although it dealt only with chapters 40 to 66, which Didymus considered a book by itself (Jerome, De vir. ill. 109; Prolog. Comm. in Is. Proph.; Epist. 112.20).

Didymus provided commentaries on Matthew, John, the Acts of the Apostles, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and Ephesians as well as a Brevis enarratio in Epistolas canonicas. Jerome used the Commentary on Matthew as well as those on Galatians and Ephesians, and Theophylactus cites catenae from the Commentary on Acts; Epiphanius the Scholastic translated the Expositio septem canonicarum (Catholic Epistles ) into Latin for cassio dorus (Inst. div. litt. 8).

Didymus's Biblical thought is more extensive than profound, and is in keeping with the theological thinking of his age. Although he follows Nicene orthodoxy on the Trinity, he accepts origen's hypotheses regarding the preexistence of souls and the final apocatastasis. His scriptural works betray his addiction to a mystique in the Word of God. The reading of the Bible is a purificatory experience and should lead to an intimate comprehension of the Word, which is an introduction to contemplation. Thence, likewise, the Christian is inspired to spread the Word of God among his contemporaries.

Bibliography: Patrologia Graeca, ed. j. p. migne (Paris 185766) 39:1311818. l. doutreleau, ed. and tr., Sur Zacharie, 3 v. (Paris 1962). w. j. gauche, Didymus the Blind, an Educator of the 4th Century (Washington 1934). e. l. heston, The Spiritual Life in the Works of Didymus of Alexandria (St. Meinrad, Ind. 1938). w. c. linss, The Four Gospel Text of Didymus the Blind (Doctoral diss. microfilm; Boston U. 1955). t. barrosse, Theological Studies 15 (1954) 355388. a. gesche, La Christologie du "Commentaire sur les Psaumes" découvert à Toura (Gembloux 1962).

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