His Excellency Elias Zaidan, the Eparchial Bishop of The Maronite Eparchy of Los Angeles, has called for this conference aptly entitled The Year of Jacob of Serugh: An Online Series of Lectures on the Writings and Theology of the Bishop of Batnan to Celebrate the 1500th Anniversary of His Death to honor Jacob of Serugh whose theological and exegetical acumen has been influencing Christianity for over fifteen centuries.
Jacob of Serugh (♰ 521)
Jacob was miraculously born to pious Christian parents in Kurtam in AD 451. His father was a priest, and his mother was sterile when she conceived him. Jacob was a remarkable child, endowed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit since his childhood. One story tells how the Holy Spirit inspired the three-year-old Jacob to leave his mother’s lap, cut through the crowd, go to the altar of the Lord at the invocation of the Holy Spirit, and drink from the consecrated cup. Another story tells of Jacob’s extraordinary writing skills. At the age of twelve, he began composing twelve-syllable verse homilies, thus becoming the innovator of a new metrical structure named after him.
Jacob studied at the famed School of Edessa. His talent for explaining the Scriptures attracted many to him despite his young age of twenty-two. His fame drew the attention of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, and several bishops came to examine his orthodoxy. At their request, Jacob composed an impromptu commentary on the Chariot of Ezekiel.
The time and place Jacob was ordained as a priest and later elevated to the Order of Periodeutes are unknown, but it must have happened before AD 503. Toward the end of his life, the sixty-seven-year-old Jacob was ordained as the bishop of Batnan in Serugh. He remained in this office for two-and-a-half years until his death on November 29, 521.
Being a prolific writer, Jacob needed seventy amanuenses to write down his numerous works. The significance of his writings afforded him the honor to be among the most distinguished Syriac authors. His many compositions were due to how Jacob saw himself: a ten-stringed instrument. As such, he continually praised the Son of God before death would come, take it apart, and silence it. Jacob of Serugh was known as the “Harp of the Holy Spirit,” “Loyal Zither of the Church,” “Spiritual Pillar,” or just “Doctor.” His writings were translated early on into Coptic, Arabic, Ethiopian, Armenian, and Georgian.
The organizers are indebted to the twelve scholars who agreed to give papers in the Year of Jacob of Serugh. Throughout 2021, a different scholar will present on the third Wednesday of each month at 10:00 am (Washington, DC Time).
Further information is now available at these links: