Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series II/Volume III/Lives of Illustrious Men/Gennadius/James, surnamed the Wise

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Chapter I.

James,[1] surnamed the Wise, was bishop of Nisibis the famous city of the Persians and one of the confessors under Maximinus the persecutor. He was also one of those who, in the Nicean council, by their opposition overthrew the Arian perversity of the Homoousia. That the blessed Jerome mentions this man in his Chronicle as a man of great virtues and yet does not place him in his catalogue of writers, will be easily explained if we note that of the three or four Syrians whom he mentions he says that he read them translated into the Greek. From this it is evident that, at that period, he did not know the Syriac language or literature and therefore he did not know a writer who had not yet been translated into another language. All his writings are contained in twenty-six books namely On faith, Against all heresies, On charity towards all, On fasting, On prayer, On particular affection towards our neighbor, On the resurrection, On the life after death, On humility, On penitence,[2] On satisfaction, On virginity, On the worth[3] of the soul, On circumcision, On the blessed grapes, On the saying in Isaiah, “the grape cluster shall not be destroyed,” That Christ is the son of God and consubstantial with the Father, On chastity, Against the Nations, On the construction of the tabernacle, On the conversation of the nations, On the Persian kingdom, On the persecution of the Christians. He composed also a Chronicle of little interest indeed to the Greeks, but of great reliability in that it is constructed only on the authority of the Divine Scriptures. It shuts the mouths of those who, on some daring guess, idly philosophize concerning the advent of Antichrist, or of our Lord. This man died in the time of Constantius and according to the direction of his father Constantine was buried within the walls of Nisibis, for the protection evidently of the city, and it turned out as Constantine had expected. For many years after, Julian having entered Nisibis and grudging either the glory of him who was buried there or the faith of Constantine, whose family he persecuted on account of this envy, ordered the remains of the saint to be carried out of the city, and a few months later, as a matter of public policy, the Emperor Jovian who succeeded Julian, gave over to the barbarians the city which, with the adjoining territory, is subject unto the Persian rule until this day.


  1. Became bishop before 325, died after 350.
  2. On penitence. A few mss. read “patience” for “penitence” but the only one which the translator has been able to find which gives both is one at Wolfenbüttel dated 1460, nor is it in the earliest editions (e.g.) Nürn. Koburger 1495, Paris 1512). But the later editions (Fabricius, Herding) have both.
  3. worth, mss. generally; feeling, editions generally.