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In this treatise, John the Solitary (ca. 390) enters into a dialogue with two disciples who have come past the beginning stage of the spiritual life and have brought him their struggle against the passions in the life of the inner person (barnâšâ gawwâyâ). John’s description of the life of the soul is outlined here in a framework of the stages of the spiritual life. Included is his analysis of the passions, showing very little if any Evagrian influence. The Dialogue on the Soul is a difficult text. It is hoped that this Syriac-English presentation will enable others to take the discussion forward. John’s genial thought merits this.
Publisher: Gorgias Press LLC
Availability: In stock
SKU (ISBN): 978-1-60724-044-0
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Publication Status: In Print

Publication Date: Mar 22,2013
Interior Color: Black
Trim Size: 6 x 9
Page Count: 236
Languages: English, Syriac
ISBN: 978-1-60724-044-0
$61.00
$42.70

This translation of John the Solitary is based on the Syriac text edited by S. Dedering. It is a description of the life of the soul; the framework, a tripartite schema rooted in St. Paul, traces progression through the stages in the life of the inner person. The soul’s adversaries along the way are the passions which John deals with in an original way, bearing little if any Evagrian influence. Some of the more important themes are hope, eschatology and love. Scripture seems to be the most consistent influence in John’s writings. I. Hausherr, who has written extensively on John, finds no patristic citation other than one reference to Ignatius of Antioch. And although on occasion there is a certain resonance with Greek ideas, Hausherr says that John, like Aphrahat, is driven by Scripture. John makes extensive use of medical imagery, perhaps derived originally from Galen but mediated through Nemesius of Emesa. The earlier dating now posited for his On the Nature of Man (ca 390) makes this influence more plausible. Part of the problem in coming to terms with influences on John’s work is the fact that so little is known about his person. The controversies concerning his identity are referenced in the Introduction. It has been suggested that John was influenced by Theodore of Mopsuestia, concerning hope and eschatology. This led to a consideration here of Theodore’s works, not his Christology or his exegesis but his anthropology, for example in the Catechetical Discourses, characterized by a discussion of Baptism. McLeod has suggested a connection between Theodore and Jewish exegesis. Based on this hypothesis, certain aspects of Jewish apocalyptic tradition have been examined as possible ways of also interpreting John’s eschatology and his understanding of ‘this world’ and ‘the world to come,’ a fundamental aspect of all his work.

This translation of John the Solitary is based on the Syriac text edited by S. Dedering. It is a description of the life of the soul; the framework, a tripartite schema rooted in St. Paul, traces progression through the stages in the life of the inner person. The soul’s adversaries along the way are the passions which John deals with in an original way, bearing little if any Evagrian influence. Some of the more important themes are hope, eschatology and love. Scripture seems to be the most consistent influence in John’s writings. I. Hausherr, who has written extensively on John, finds no patristic citation other than one reference to Ignatius of Antioch. And although on occasion there is a certain resonance with Greek ideas, Hausherr says that John, like Aphrahat, is driven by Scripture. John makes extensive use of medical imagery, perhaps derived originally from Galen but mediated through Nemesius of Emesa. The earlier dating now posited for his On the Nature of Man (ca 390) makes this influence more plausible. Part of the problem in coming to terms with influences on John’s work is the fact that so little is known about his person. The controversies concerning his identity are referenced in the Introduction. It has been suggested that John was influenced by Theodore of Mopsuestia, concerning hope and eschatology. This led to a consideration here of Theodore’s works, not his Christology or his exegesis but his anthropology, for example in the Catechetical Discourses, characterized by a discussion of Baptism. McLeod has suggested a connection between Theodore and Jewish exegesis. Based on this hypothesis, certain aspects of Jewish apocalyptic tradition have been examined as possible ways of also interpreting John’s eschatology and his understanding of ‘this world’ and ‘the world to come,’ a fundamental aspect of all his work.

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Contributor Biography

Mary Hansbury

Mary T. Hansbury, retired, has taught at La Salle University in Philadelphia and at Bethlehem University in Palestine. Her Ph.D. is from Temple University with additional work done in Jewish studies at Hebrew University and Syriac at Princeton University. She has previously published translations of St. Ephrem, Jacob of Serug, Isaac the Syrian, John of Dalyatha and is currently translating the CSCO edition (2011) of Isaac 3.

  • Table of Contents (page 5)
  • Introduction (page 7)
    • Dialogue on the Soul (page 10)
    • Stages of the Life of the Soul (page 11)
    • Passions (page 14)
    • Baptism (page 17)
    • Theodore of Mopsuestia (page 18)
    • Divinization (page 20)
    • Eschatology (page 22)
  • Introduction (page 7)
  • Abbreviations (page 27)
  • Text and Translation (page 29)
    • Other Observations on the Soul and on the Explanation of Human Passions: of the Body, of the Soul and of the Spirit (page 30)
    • Second Discourse: Concerning the Passions of the Soul, how they Differ and on the Cause of their Stirrings: What sort are those which are of its Nature and which are Outside of its Nature? (page 88)
    • Third Discourse (page 142)
    • Fourth Discourse (page 192)
  • Bibliography of Works Cited (page 227)
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