October 1, 2014

Abba Isaac the Syrian, the "Unjustly Accused" Saint (4 of 7)

Dr. Sebastian Brock

4. The Blasphemy of Pseudo-Isaac

After the pseudo-revelation that Saint Isaac was Nestorian, another "revelation" followed. A certain Dr. Sebastian Brock discovered in an Oxford library in 1983 a manuscript in the Syriac language of the tenth or eleventh century that contained a collection of ascetic discourses (41 Chapters) that bore the name of Isaac the Syrian. Most of the Discourses were published by Brock in an English translation in 1995.

Unfortunately the publisher "Thesvitis" of the Sacred Monastery of the Prophet Elias in Thera translated these Discourses in three volumes [in Greek]. It was assumed these were genuine documents of Abba Isaac. As Alfeyev writes concerning this collection: "It was not translated into Greek and the distribution was not accepted at first." Why? Was there a reason? Indeed. There are three very significant reasons.

A) Because according to Orthodox tradition, these texts do not belong to Saint Isaac.

Nowhere among Orthodox writings are these texts referenced. One is left to wonder at the certainty of Alfeyev and his teachers in Europe who give such regard to their authenticity, which he calls "Part II" of the works of Abba Isaac, while according to many researchers in the West, whom Alfeyev follows closely behind, say that during this period in the region of Syria and Mesopotamia there were many writers with the name Isaac. This fact raises doubts regarding the authorship of the texts that bear the name Isaac of Nineveh. Among these are Isaac of Antioch with texts against the Nestorians and Monophysites, Isaac of Amida and Isaac of Edessa who were both Monophysites, and a certain Orthodox named Isaac who was from Edessa. But Alfeyev proceeds to confuse by trying to purify the texts without, in my opinion, a good result. See what he writes: "Bedjan gives some extracts from Part III ["experts" even speak of a Part III!] as well, but these texts belong in fact to Dadisho' from Qatar (seventh century). Bedjan also mentions The Book of Grace, which is attributed to Isaac, but modern scholars question its authenticity. D. Miller claims that it is not by Isaac but belongs to the pen of Symeon d-Taibutheh." Even the authentic texts of the Saint does Alfeyev ascribe to heretics. Complete and universal confusion!

For us Orthodox, of course, who trust Tradition, things are simple. We do not accept, nor receive from other "sources", that is, from the thieves and robbers of our salvation, what is not given by our Holy Orthodox Church through the Holy Fathers. However let us look at the second essential reason for rejecting these texts.

B) Because in many parts of these texts they are full of Nestorian cacodoxies and reference heretics.

The heretic Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, believed that in Christ there are not only two natures but also two persons. Unable to accept the union of the Divine Nature in the person of Christ, and the recruitment of the human nature in the hypostasis of God the Word, he invented various kinds of unions, such as "according to value..., according to will, according to honor, according to good-pleasure, according to relations", while denying the union according to hypostasis which is the condition for the salvation of man. This delusion was anathematized by the Third Ecumenical Synod in Ephesus.

From the extracted writings of Pseudo-Isaac mentioned by Alfeyev, it becomes obvious that the author was a Nestorian.

Here are excerpts:

a) "I give praise to your holy Nature, Lord, for you have made my nature a sanctuary of your hiddenness and a tabernacle for your mysteries, a place where you can dwell, and a holy temple for your Divinity, namely, for him who holds the scepter of your kingdom, who governs all you have brought into being, the glorious Tabernacle of your eternal Being...Jesus Christ."

Here we see the separation of the Divine Nature from the human. Jesus Christ is a man who is simply "the glorious Tabernacle of your eternal Being". This is a Nestorian delusion.

b) "We do not hesitate to call the humanity of our Lord - he being truly man - 'God' and 'Creator' and 'Lord'; or to apply to him in divine fashion the statement that 'by his hand the worlds were established and everything was created'... He even bade the angels worship him... He granted to him to be worshipped with himself indistinguishably, with a single act of worship for the Man who became Lord and for the Divinity equally, while the two natures are preserved with their properties, without there being any difference in honor."

We see here as well two separate persons "He" and "Him", the "Man" with a capital M and the "Divinity", and are given the same honor! It is for this reason that the holy Damascene calls Nestorius "a most deadly man worshipper", since he considers Christ a Man with a capital M and worships Him as God.

This delusion originated from the teacher of Nestorius, Theodore the bishop of Mopsuestia (392-428), and by Diodorus of Tarsus who taught Theodore. Theodore speaks of a "conjunction" or "union of two completely separate beings according to contact". He also believed that "before the Resurrection of Christ it was possible for him to sin; he could be captured by filthy thoughts". For his delusions he was posthumously condemned by the Fifth Ecumenical Synod (553). As we read in the Proceedings: 

"First, we considered Theodore of Mopsuestia. When all the blasphemies in his works were exposed, we were astonished at God's patience, that the tongue and mind which had formed such blasphemies were not straightaway burned up by divine fire. We would not even have allowed the official reader of these blasphemies to continue, such was our fear of the anger of God at even a rehearsal of them (since each blasphemy was worse than the one before in the extent of its heresy and shook to their foundation the minds of their listeners), if it had not been the case that those who reveled in these blasphemies seemed to us to require the humiliation which their exposure would bring upon them. All of us, angered by the blasphemies against God, burst into attacks and anathemas against Theodore, during and after the reading, as if he had been living and present there. We said: Lord, be favorable to us; not even the demons themselves have dared to speak such things against you."

Saint Cyril of Alexandria writes concerning Theodore and Diodorus in an epistle to Emperor Theodosius: "There was a certain Theodore and before him a Diodorus...they were fathers of the impiety of Nestorius. And in their books they composed exorbitant blasphemies against Christ the Savior of us all."

Yet these heresiarchs, in the texts of Pseudo-Isaac, are referred to as great teachers. "Anyone who likes can turn to the writings of the Blessed Interpreter", Pseudo-Isaac says of the writings of Theodore of Mopsuestia, "a man who had his sufficient fill of the gifts of grace, who was entrusted with the hidden mysteries of the Scriptures... For we are not rejecting his words - far from it! Rather, we accept him like one of the apostles, and anyone who opposes his words, introduces doubt into his interpretations, or shows hesitation at his words, such a person we hold to be alien to the community of the Church and someone who is erring from the truth." He calls Diodorus of Tarsus "the great teacher of the Church" and "sacred Diodorus", and he calls both Theodore and Diodorus "pillars of the Church".

C) Because the writings of Pseudo-Isaac affirm the Origenist cacodoxy about the apokatastasis of all things.

Pseudo-Isaac accepts the Origenist delusion of the apokatastasis (restoration) of all things. Origen believed, in opposition to the fearsome words of the Lord regarding eternal life and eternal hell, that at one point there will be an end to hell and everyone will enter Paradise! Pseudo-Isaac refers to the heretics Theodore and Diodorus who accepted these ideas to justify their cacodoxy regarding the end of Gehenna. He refers to Theodore who writes:

"Christ would never have said...'with much' and 'with few', if the penalties analogous to our sins would not receive an end at some point."

And referring to Diodorus he says:

"The torments awaiting the evil are not eternal...they may be tormented as they deserve but only for a short time...but then happiness and immortality await them that will be eternal."

Based on these heretical teachings Pseudo-Isaac leaps deeper into delusion when he says:

"It is clear that God does not abandon them the moment they fall, and that demons will not remain in their demonic state, and sinners will not remain in their sins; rather, he is going to bring them to a single equal state of perfection in relationship to his own Being - to a state in which holy angels now are, in perfection of love and passionless mind... Maybe they will be raised to a perfection even greater than that in which the angels now exist."

These are terrible blasphemies of the Pseudo-Saint! The demons become greater than the angels?! Pseudo-Isaac has set out to bring about the designs of Lucifer by placing him above all others.

Translated by John Sanidopoulos.