Jacob of Edessa

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Note: This article or section represents an Oriental Orthodox (Non-Chalcedonian) perspective, which may differ from an Eastern Orthodox (Chalcedonian) understanding.

St. Jacob of Edessa served as a metropolitan of the Syriac Orthodox Church in upper Mesopotamia (modern day Turkey) and is considered one of its great fathers, being renowned in his own lifetime for his great knowledge and writings. He is commemorated by the Syriac Orthodox Church on June 5.

Early life

St. Jacob was born in the village of Ayndaba in the region of Antioch around 633. He studied the Bible, sciences, and Fathers of the Church in his home area before moving on to the Monastery of Qinnashrin to embrace the monastic life and study the Greek language and Greek literature under St. Severus Sabukht. At Qinnashrin he became well versed in philosophy, theology, and the Greek language and also in the ascetic life. After going to Alexandria to further his philosophical studies St. Jacob returned to Syria to live in Edessa and study Hebrew. There he achieved great fame due to his knowledge and scholarship.

In 627 St. Jacob was ordained a deacon and subsequently a priest. A little over a decade later, in 684, the Saint was consecrated Metropolitan of Edessa by Patriarch Athanasius II of Antioch. Due to his strictness in his episcopal oversight of Edessa the patriarch called on St. Jacob to be more lenient, but in response he resigned as metropolitan in 688 and left Edessa, settling in the Monastery of St. Jacob in Kesum near Samosata. Not long after the Saint accepted an invitation from monks in the region of Antioch to dwell at their monastery. During the following eleven years he taught the Greek language and the Holy Scriptures, eventually moving on to teach and translate the Old Testament at a monastery in Talada.

In 707, following the death of St. Jacob's successor to the throne of Edessa, the faithful of the city called for the Saint's return as metropolitan. A year later he finally returned, spending four months in the city as its metropolitan before returning to Talada, where he died on June 5, 708. He is remembered as 'the man who preferred toil' and 'the translator of books' for his many labors and translations of books of the Bible and Greek-speaking Fathers into Syriac.

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