Yoḥannan of Dalyatha (8th cent.) [Ch. of E.]
Commonly known as Yoḥannan Saba (‘Elder’). An E.-Syr. monk, author of a Syriac collection of mystical discourses, letters, and maxims (‘chapters of knowledge’). Born in Ardamut, a village northeast of Mosul, in northern Iraq. As a youth he regularly visited the monastery of Mar Aphnimaran to read ascetical literature and to practice fasts and vigils. Eventually he entered the coenobium of Mar Yozadaq in the Qardu mountains (in present-day Turkey). After seven years he adopted the eremitic life in the mountains of Beth Dalyatha (‘house of the vine-branches’), north of Qardu. In his old age he returned to Qardu, where a group of monks made him their abbot, until his death. His ascetic writings circulated anonymously (by ‘the spiritual elder’) and were translated into Arabic and Ethiopic. Some of his homilies slipped into the Greek collection of Isḥaq of Nineveh and thence into Latin and other languages of medieval Europe. His writings have survived only in W.-Syr. mss., presumably because his works were banned by Timotheos I, cath. of the Ch. of E., in 786/7. He prescribed a spiritual path beginning with repentance and ascetic exercises, progressing through purity and serenity, and culminating in perfection. His system was based on guidelines in the Sermon on the Mount: ‘Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Mt 5:48); ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God’ (Mt 5:8), ‘in their heart’, Yoḥannan mystically adds.
- R. Beulay, La collection des Lettres de Jean de Dalyatha (PO 39.3; 1978).
- R. Beulay, L’enseignement spirituel de Jean de Dalyatha, mystique syro-oriental du VIIIe siècle (1990).
- B. E. Colless, ‘The Biographies of John Saba’, ParOr 3 (1972), 45–63.
- B. E. Colless, The wisdom of the pearlers. An anthology of Syriac Christian mysticism (Cistercian Studies Series 216; 2008), 96–9, 149–170. (incl. ET)
- M. Hansbury, The Letters of John of Dalyatha (2006). (Syr. with ET)
- N. Khayyat, Jean de Dalyatha: Les Homélies I–XV (2007). (Syr. with FT)
How to Cite This Entry
Footnote Style Citation with Date:
Brian Edric Colless , “Yoḥannan of Dalyatha,” in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay (Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018), https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Yohannan-of-Dalyatha.
Bibliography Entry Citation:
Colless, Brian Edric. “Yoḥannan of Dalyatha.” In Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition. Edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay. Digital edition prepared by David Michelson, Ute Possekel, and Daniel L. Schwartz. Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018. https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Yohannan-of-Dalyatha.
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