Jacob of Sarug (Serugh)
JACOB OF SARUG (SERUGH)
Bishop of the Syrian Church; b. c. 451; d. Nov. 29,521. James was born in the village of Kurtam on the Euphrates, probably in the district of Sarug. When he was about 15 to 22 years old he received his theological schooling at the Persian School of Edessa, then under the influence of the Nestorian doctors, diodore, theodore, and theodoret. In one of his letters, James avers that even as a student and on his own initiative he had denounced them as heretics. He lived most of his life in a monastery in Haura in Sarug where, at least by 502 or 503, he had been appointed periodeutes, or ecclesiastical visitator, of the district. In 519, then more than 67 years old, he was consecrated bishop of Batnan, an important commercial city and capital of the district of Serugh. He died at the age of 70 and is revered as a saint and doctor of the Syrian Church. The jacobites honor him on November 29, June 29, and July 29; the maronites, on January 27 and April 5; and the armenians, on September 25.
Writings. James was a very prolific poet, and while his compatriots honored him with the title "Flute of the Holy Spirit and Harp of the Orthodox Church," most Westerners find his style repetitious and tedious. He is primarily known for his metrical homilies (memre ), written in verses of two lines of 12 syllables each (4 + 4 +4). According to Bar Hebraeus, these numbered 760 (James of Edessa says 763), and more than 70 scribes worked for a year in transcribing them. About 300 homilies have survived. Between 1905 and 1910, Paul Bedjan edited and published in five volumes 195 of these homilies. Among his prose works are six homilies (turgame ) and 43 letters. The letters were edited and published by G. Olinder in 1937. Various liturgical works have been attributed to James (hymns, anaphoras, and an ordo for Baptism and Confirmation), but their authenticity is problematical.
Theology. Perhaps the most frequently studied aspect of James's thought has been his orthodoxy. In 1716,E. Renaudot, in his Liturgiarum orientalium collectio, accused James of being a Monophysite. Three years later, J. S. Assemani began publishing his monumental Bibliotheca orientalis in which he argues strongly for the orthodoxy of James. With the publication in 1876 of several key letters, P. Martin seemed to many to have settled the issue: James was a Monophysite. Subsequent defenders of his orthodoxy tend to take one of two approaches: (1) to admit that he was a Monophysite through most of his life but that he died reconciled with the orthodox Church (e.g., Matagne); or (2) to attack the authenticity of Martin's letters, adding arguments of a historical nature. P. Peeters is an impassioned protagonist of this position. P. Krüger has questioned James' orthodoxy; and T. Jansma, in three masterful articles, has proved conclusively that James was a Monophysite of the Severian school and remained so all his life.
James was not a controversialist and took virtually no part in the theological disputes of his day; the only polemic he shows is directed precisely against those who were engaged in heated theological polemics. In this he is very much in the tradition of ephrem, who argued so strongly adversus scrutatores and their "poison, Greek wisdom." Also like Ephrem, James presents his theology in and through his poetry. His thought circles around, looking first at one facet, then at another of the mystery he is contemplating. At times his symbols combine contradictory elements which suggest things that cannot be fully said and which cannot be neatly systematized in conceptual language.
The subjects treated by James cover a wide spectrum, with most of his themes being drawn from the Bible (e.g., Old Testament—the Hexaemeron, the Patriarchs, Moses, Elijah, and so on; New Testament—the Incarnation of Jesus, His parables and miracles, His Passion, death, Resurrection, Ascension, etc.). He discusses virtues and vices, the last things, the Sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist, consolation for the bereaved, etc. F. Graffin notes three themes especially frequent in James: (1) a delight in finding figures, "types," of Christ in the lives and deeds of the Patriarchs; (2) the theme of the Church as the Bride of Christ, a subject treated often and with great devotion and lyricism; and (3) the pressing invitation to his hearers to consider the Scriptures and the mysteries of the faith with great love and a true childlike spirit, as opposed to the so-called wise men who examine them minutely and argue about them. James' spirituality is animated by charity, simplicity and poverty, and his homilies bear eloquent testimony to their author's ardent pastoral zeal and dedication to the spiritual growth of his people.
Bibliography: a. baumstark, Geschichte der syrischen Literatur (Bonn 1922, repr. 1968) 148–158. f. graffin, "Recherches sur le thème de l'église-épouse dans les liturgies et la littérature patristique de langue syriaque," L'orient syrien 3 (1958) 315–336; "L'homélie de Jacques de Saroug: De visione Jacobi in Bethel," L'orient syrien 5 (1960) 225–246; "Thème de la perle dans un lettre de Jacques de Saroug," L'orient syrien 12 (1967) 355–370; "Jacques de Saroug," Dictionnaire de Spiritualite, T. 8 unbd. fascicle LII–LIII (Paris 1972) 56–60, with extensive bibliography. t. jansma, "L'Hexaemeron de Jacques de Saroug," L'orient syrien 4 (1959) 3–14, 129–162, 253–284; "The Credo of James of Sarug: A Return to Nicea and Constantinople," Nederlandsch Archief voor Kerkgeschiedenis 44 (1960) 18–36; "Die Christologie Jakobs von Serugh und ihre Abhängigkeit von der alexandrinischen Theologie und von der Frömmigkeit Ephraems des Syrers," Muséon 78 (1965) 5–46; "Encore le Crédo de Jacques de Saroug," L'orient syrien 10 (1965) 75–88, 193–236, 331–370, 474–510. e. khalifÉ-hachem, "Homélie métrique de Jacques de Saroug sur l'amour," Parole de l'orient 1 (1970) 281–299. h. matagne, Acta sanctorum Octobris Bollandiana 12 (Brussels 1884) 824–831, 927–929. j. van der ploeg, "Une homélie de Jacques de Saroug sur la reception de la sainte communion," Mélange Eugene Tisserant 3 (Studi e Testi 233) 395–418.