Severus Sabukht (d. 667) – BIOGRAPHIES OF SYRIAN SCHOLARS AND WRITERS – Mor Ignatius Aphram Barsoum – Translated : By Dr. Matti Moosa

Posted by on Sep 10, 2015 in Library | Comments Off on Severus Sabukht (d. 667) – BIOGRAPHIES OF SYRIAN SCHOLARS AND WRITERS – Mor Ignatius Aphram Barsoum – Translated : By Dr. Matti Moosa

Severus Sabukht
(d. 667)

Severus was a skillful and famous Doctor, a mathematician, a philosopher, nay the first scholar of the church who explored the obscurities of astronomical and natural sciences. He was born at Nisibin in the last quarter of the seventh century, became a monk and was educated in the Monastery of Qinnesrin, where he also acquired that knowledge of Greek and Syriac language and literature and of the Persian language, which made him the goal of seekers of knowledge. He was one of the prominent scholars who was graduated from this famous school, in which he also spent his life teaching philosophy, theology, and mathematics, besides the writings of all the Syrian scholars. He was most prominent in astronomy, and even excelled the Greeks in this field.318 Many pupils studied under him, the most famous of whom were the Patriarch Athanasius II, and Jacob of Edessa. In 638 Severus was ordained a bishop of the city of Qinnesrin, or, as it was said, of his monastery. He died in 667 at an advanced age. He was assigned the twentieth of July (or according to another calendar the eleventh of September) as the festival day of his commemoration. In the latter calendar he was called “Severus the Mathematician.”
From the writings of Severus, which cover the fields of theology, philosophy, and mathematics, very few have come down to us.
 Of his theological writings the following survive:
1) a treatise on the weeks of Daniel;
2) an extract on the date of the birth of Our Lord in flesh and in what Greek year he was born;

3) two letters in seven pages to Sergius, abbot of the Monastery of Khanushia in Sinjar, containing a commentary on the two discourses of Gregory Nazianzen on the Son and the Holy Spirit. In these letters, the name of the author (Severus) was ascribed to his native home Nisibin, which misled Chabot, who thought they belonged to a bishop of Nisibin who was Severus’ namesake.319
 His philosophical writings are:
4) a short treatise on the Analytica Posteriora of Aristotle written in 638 of which only three pages remain;320
5) extracts in three chapters from his treatise on Hermenuticis;
6) a letter to his friend Jonas the periodeutes (visiting cleric), explaining some points in the Rhetorica of Aristotle;321
7) a treatise he wrote for some of those who love knowledge, explaining some logical points which had been mentioned in his former letter to Jonas to whom he sent a copy of this treatise;
8) a letter on certain terms in the treatise to the priest Ithalaha, who became a bishop of Nineveh. He wrote in it, (De Interpretatione), on arithmetic, surveying, astronomy and music, making the remark that he had written to him a year ago, explaining some canons of the saintly Fathers and also praising him because he had sent him copies of the letters of Gregory and Basilius.322
 Of his astronomical works we have:
9) a magnificent treatise on the astrolabe in fifty-two pages, translated into French and published by Nau in 1899;323
10) a treatise on the signs of the Zodiac, which he wrote in the year 659 or 660, of which only eighteen chapters remain. These chapters were published by Sachau in 1870.324 A few samples of these works exist in a manuscript at the British Museum, such as the habitable and inhabitable portions of the earth, the condition of those living in all its sphere – above and below the measurement of the heaven and the earth and the space between them – and whether the sun moves under or over the earth in the celestial sphere. To this treatise he added in the year 665 from nineteen to twenty-seven answers to
astronomical, mathematical, and cosmographical questions at the request of the periodeutes Basil of Cyprus.325 This is probably the same treatise which Bar Hebraeus alluded to in his book Ascent of the Mind (p. 107);
11) a letter in eighteen pages addressed to the same Basil on the fourteenth of the lunar month of April, 556,326 about fixing the exact date of Easter;327
12) three letters, also to Basil, on the science of history, contained in the British Museum manuscript;328
13) he translated from the Persian into Syriac an abridged exposition of Aristotle’s Interpretation, which had been translated from the original Greek to Persian by Paul the Persian for King Khosrau I,329 to which the monk Severus added the fifth treatise of Aristotle on logic; 14) the translation of Ptolemy’s Tetrapillon on the composition of mathematical speech as is confirmed by an established historical tradition.330
Both Wright and Duval, quoting Assemani, who quoted al-Duwayhi, have erroneously ascribed to him a liturgy in the name of Severus of Qinnesrin, which, in fact, belongs to Severus, bishop of Samosata, and abbot of Qinnesrin as has been already mentioned.331