Human Weakness in Isaac of Nineveh and the Syriac Macarian Corpus: A First Investigation

In: Aramaic Studies
Valentina Duca University of Oxford

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This article explores some ideas of the Syriac Macarian corpus which influenced Isaac of Nineveh’s conception of what he calls ‘weakness’, a condition which, for him, indicates an original frailty inscribed in creaturality. Three concepts deriving from different Macarian writings are analysed and placed side-by-side with some reflections of Isaac: the idea of ‘weakness’ as something proper to the human condition; the relationship to negative experiences and to God in order to discover its reality; and the link between acknowledging it and humility. Through this comparison, Isaac’s debt to the ‘Syriac Macarius’ emerges. The fact that Isaac read texts coming from different authors and proper to the Syriac version—which is different from the Greek Pseudo-Macarian corpus—attributing them to the Egyptian ascetic ‘Macarius’, is underlined. This highlights Isaac’s distinctive approach to the texts and points to the necessity of studying the Syriac versions independently from their Greek originals.

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