Isidore of Pelusium, St.
ISIDORE OF PELUSIUM, ST.
Monk and theologian; b. probably Alexandria, c. 360; d. c. 435–49. Ephraem of Antioch cites Alexandria as the birthplace of Isidore (Patrologia Graeca, ed. J. P. Migne 103:964) and indicates that he received a solid theological formation. He became a monk, retiring to a monastery on a hill not far from Pelusium, Egypt. facundus of hermiane calls him a priest (Patrologia Latina, J. P. Migne 67:573–574; cf. Synodicon, Patrologia Graeca 84:587). Isidore took part in the ecclesiastical controversies of the early fifth century; he supported john chrysostom and insisted that his name be restored to the diptychs. He cautioned cyril of alex andria to moderation in dealing with Nestorius, telling him explicitly not to imitate the harsh example of his uncle Theophilus (Epist. 1.310).
Some 2,000 letters of Isidore have been preserved in five books. Usually brief but conforming to the epistolary fashion of the age, they reveal the author's literary formation and his ability to cite Homer, Demosthenes, plato, and aristotle, as well as the early Fathers of the Church, such as clement of alexandria. Of John Chrysostom he said, "If Saint Paul had desired to supply his own interpretation, he could not have done otherwise than this celebrated master of the Attic language" (Epist. 5.32). He cautioned against the abuses connected with the allegorical methods of Alexandrian exegesis and favored the Antiochene approach in theology. He refused to see a reference to Christ in every sentence of the Old Testament and maintained that while it was both historical and prophetic, it was necessary to distinguish carefully between the literal and the typical senses in interpreting that document (Epist. 2.95; 4.203).
Isidore followed the teaching of athanasius of al exandria in Christology and taught that Christ was "of two natures" in the Incarnation (Epist. 1.323). He repudiated a mixture or indwelling of one nature in the other (Epist. 4.99) and appears to have anticipated the terminology of chalcedon. He held that the Holy Spirit was consubstantial with the Father and the Son (Epist. 1.109). In the moral and ascetical sphere Isidore advised that entrance to the kingdom of God is based upon poverty and abstinence (Epist. 1.129), but that these virtues required the keeping of the Commandments (1.287) and the practice of a spiritual outlook on the things of the world (1.162). Virginity is better than marriage (4.192), but unavailing if practiced without humility (1.286). Among the recipients of his letters was the Emperor Theodosius II, whom he advised against allowing imperial officials to interfere in matters of faith (1.311).
The Migne edition of the letters in five books is arbitrary but based on an old tradition. Forty-nine of the letters were translated into Latin by the deacon Rusticus and appended to the acts of the Council of ephesus. Two lost works are mentioned: Against the Greeks and On the Non-Existence of Fate.
Feast: Feb. 4.
Bibliography: Lettres, ed. and tr. p. evieux (Paris 1997–) Patrologia Graeca, ed. j. p. migne (Paris 1857–66) v.78. c. h. turner, Journal of Theological Studies 6 (1905) 70–85. k. lake, ibid. 270–282. p. evieux, Isidore de Péluse (Paris 1995). a. morel, Synodicon adversus Tragoediam Irenaei, ed. r. aigrain (Paris 1911). e. schwartz, Acta conciliorum oecumenicorum (Berlin 1914–) 1.4:9–25. g. bareille, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant, 15 v. (Paris 1903–50; Tables Générales 1951–) 8.1:84–98. b. altaner, Patrology, tr. h. graef from the 5th German ed. (New York 1960) 308–309. j. quasten, Patrology, 3 v. (Westminster, MD 1950–) 3:180–185. a. schmid, Die Christologie Isidors von Pelusium (Fribourg 1948). p. t. camelot, Catholicisme 6:153–154. m. smith, Harvard Theological Review 47 (1954) 205–210, Manuscripts.
[f. x. murphy]
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