Choosing and Judging: A Reading of the Gospel of John from 6:68 to 10:42

St. Isaac of Syria in Ascetical Homily 64 (Revised Edition, Miller, Holy Transfiguration Monastery [HTM], ©2011), alludes to John 8:44 in his discussion of the proper places of reading, standing prayers, psalmody, and bodily labor in the practice of hesychastic struggle. St. Isaac warns of the absolute necessity of trusting God to provide and care for all creation completely and at all times, and teaches that it is essential to guard against taking credit one's self for having provided anything for one's needs. Moreover, St. Isaac instructs those seeking spiritual progress that to credit one's self with providing for bodily needs is from the wiles of the devil, the man-slayer. As soon as you accept this thought, he provision of God will be withheld from you and at the same moment a vast number of temptations will break our against you... (op cite. p. 451). This passage links to John 8:44, which says You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. (NKJV-OSB). The salient question is what does it mean to act on the desire to do a father's will, to have absolute confidence in God's providential care, and to take no credit for having acted.

While St. Isaac's citation provides a Gospel source for calling the devil a murderer, as the characteristic method of Syriac theology goes beyond Latin rhetorical notions of authority, and uses poetic allusion to create contextual webs and layers of meaning. Methodologically, Syriac authors are read with careful attention to the semiotic use of scriptural passages. By clarifying the meaning of referenced Scriptural passage, the integrated the linguistic-mental domain of the author's spiritual experience presents itself as an authentic prophetic extention of the historical reality in Scripture.[1] This is especially important for St. Isaac's audience of ascetics seeking a guide in the Way. This particular allusion is no exception.

To access the meaning from the allusion of St. Isaac, the passage of John 8:44 must be located in context. Defining that context however is challenging as traditional chapter and verse citations, as well as modern study outlines, mask the rhetorical and narrative structure of Biblical texts, intended to illuminate Jesus as the Tabernacle of God.

The first challenge to discovering the context of the allusion is to identify the start of the episode. Examination of the dialogue surrounding John 8:44 that begins at John 8:21, and a continuation of a long exchange between the Master and the authorities and set in the Temple's Treasury (Jn. 8:20). In the immediately prior exchange, the Pharisees (Jn. 8:13) are trying to determine exactly who Jesus claims to be and what he is doing. Confused, they view it their responsibility adjudicate his standing, offering a number of alternately theories, for example, that he is insane, that he has a demon, that he may commit suicide (Jn. 8:22), and claim not understanding who Jesus means by the father (Jn. 8:27). Their effort to reach a judgment is rooted in their understanding of the priestly duty to diagnose diseases of the flesh (leprosy) (Lev. 13:1-45). Christ's response to these critics is to tell them he understands that they will crucify him and to reveal to them that the outcome of doing so sin itself will be expiated.

The exchange in the Temple's Treasury, however, is itself a continuation of a discussion that had started early in morning (Jn 8:12). That early morning debate started when Jesus had gone to the Temple from the Mount of Olives, to which he had retired the previous night (Jn 8:1-2). As such, both the early morning discussion and the Treasury discussion are continuations of the prior evening exchange, during which Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night), was asked by the Pharisees if he too was from Galilee (Jn. 7: 50). The questioning of the evening discussion with the Pharisees was the result of their having heard the crowd murmuring about Jesus (Jn. 7:32), who was teaching in the Temple, having gone up from Galilee (Jn. 7:1). The narrative explains that Jesus had going up to Jerusalem after having chosen to stop teaching there when many of his disciples found his doctrine difficult (Jn. 6:60). The difficult teachings of Jesus, challenging the disciples faith and loyalty, reached its climax when Peter confessed that Jesus as the Christ (Jn. 6:68). Responding to Peter's act of choosing Christ, the Master reminds him that it was He who first choose them for discipleship, not they him (Jn. 6:70-71).

The Gospel gives as the specific motivation for Christ's going up to Temple, albeit secretly, the celebration the feast of Tabernacles (Jn. 7:2-10).

The narrative's transitional context set, the rhetorical beginning of Christ's interaction with the Pharisees is announced with "Now" in John 7:14. The Pharisees sought to engage with the Master during the Feast as He was teaching openly doctrine that caused the crowd to murmur. The murmuring created a pretext for the authorities to determine how He knew his letters without having studied (Jn. 7:14), and to discover the source of his doctrine (7:16). The specific point of contention is the interpretation of the law concerning the Sabbath, defined in Exodus 20:8-11.[2] Christ defends His Sabbath activity is offered as parallel to the practice of performing circumcisions on the Sabbath so as to maintain the law of Moses (Jn. 7:21-23), and refines his teaching with respect to judging, that it be according to righteousness and not appearance (Jn. 7:24).

Both the duration of this episode in John and the topic of the Sabbath law are directly relevant to the Feast of Tabernacles. Celebrated for seven days, with a final, eight day of a leave-taking strict Sabbath rest, marking it as a type for new creation by God (Lev. 23: 33-43), Tabernacles calls to mind Israel's dependency on God's providence while wandering in the desert. The specific teaching judged by the crowd of disciples to be a hard saying that none could understand (Jn.6:60) was that to choose eternal life they must eating the body and drinking the blood sent by the living Father, not as manna, but as Son of Man who Himself is the bread of heaven(Jn. 6:53-59). Offering as the food upon which each is dependent the substance of the life-giver, the validity worldly beliefs of the disciples was existentially challenged.

The religious commitments of the crowd deeply unsettled by the necessity of choosing between dwelling the remembrance of the past (to worship in the Temple as the tabernacle of God) and falling into the hands of the living God who would dwell in them (to become living tabernacles of God), the rulers of the Temple, judged it necessary to seek to kill Jesus, who enriched his listeners from the Temple Treasury(Jn. 7:25). With Christ again in Jerusalem, the issue the authorities seek to address is the status and intentions of Jesus as the Christ (Jn. 7:35-53).

On the last day of Tabernacles, that is the leave-taking fast, the Master addresses the crowd again offering himself as the substance of life, the drink of living water (Jn. 7:37-39). The crowds' reaction to this offer is to ask whether this Jesus might not be the Christ, though they were conflicted over is apparent origin in Galilee rather than Bethlehem(Jn. 7:40-44, 52). Having brought religious uncertainty to Jerusalem, the Pharisees, confident that no prophet could come out of Galilee, sought to bring the matter to a close, and, at the insistence of Nicodemus, make a trial of it (Jn. 7:50-51). Unable to detain the Master, and hold trail on their own authority, resolving to hold press their inquiry the next, or ninth, day (Jn. 7:45-49, 53).

With all the elements of the Passion present, though disordered, Christ proceeded unharmed, as no man ever spoke like this (Jn. 7:46) and the time had not yet come (Jn. 7:30). The unripeness of the situation is shown by the inverted contextual relationships in the contextual narrative when compared to the Passion itself. For example, Christ, not Judas, met with the Pharisees in the Temple treasury or Nicodemius being questioned about being a Galilean, not Peter (Jn. 7:52). As Christ chose the disciples, so too, he goes freely from the Mount of Olives to the Temple. (Jn. 8:1)

As rhetorically developed, the narrative framework of John 8:44 is that of a long debate, in lieu of a formal trail, between Christ and the Pharisees over the source of authority (Jn. 7:14-19, 25-29) and identity (Jn. 8:12-25). Specifically, the issue goes to the basis of valid authority to give an authentic interpretation of divinely revealed, prophetic, tradition in the light of a contemporary situation. The debate focuses on the question of patrimony and fidelity. The stage for a drama over these issues was set in the prior episode in which Christ gives the disciples a Passover sign, offering Himself as the show-bread from and of the Father (Jn. 6:4-59). The drama of the debate is intense. Christ argues that the father of the Pharisees is not Abraham, the Man of Faith, who choose obedience in ascending the Mount of the Lord in order to sacrifice is son (Gen. 22:10-14), but rather the devil, regardless of human lines of descent, who would have them adhere to the law of Moses with respect to circumcision, but not heal, in accordance with the mercy of God (Jn. 7:23-24).

The response of the Pharisees to Christ's criteria for patrimony and fidelity in John 8:44 is to question rhetorically both His identity as a Jew, asking if he is Samaritan (who rejected the legal and cultural traditions of Israel), and His sanity, does he have a demon (Jn. 8:48). Christ responds directly to these challenges by asserting that he has no demon, though claiming to be within the prophetic line of Wisdom, pointing out that life-giving judgment is from above in contrasts to the Pharisees death-imposing judgments (Jn. 8:49-50)[3]. This reply provokes a dramatic response from the Pharisees over the patrimony of Abraham, and Christ's own assertion of priority over even that authority, by passing through their attack hiding himself to pass through the crowd at the temple without harm (Jn. 8:52-59).

As this 'passing over' through the sea of people and authorities does not mark the contextual conclusion rhetorically as the narrative is grammatically continued with Now as Jesus passed by... (Jn. 9:1), a second challenge, that of determining the end of the narrative context, is created.

That to which the Master passes is the giving of sight to the man born blind (Jn. 9:1-41) on the Sabbath (Jn. 9:14). While necessarily the literal Sabbath, the meaning, in context of the Sabbath rest on the eighth day of Tabernacles, provides semantic ambiguity. Deepening St. Isaac's allusion, the blind man trusts in the goodness of God to provide for his physical needs as his means of finding and believing in the Christ (Jn. 9:17, 9:30-38).

Further exchange between Christ and the Pharisees results based on the question by some of them as to whether they are we blind also?" (Jn. 9:41). This rhetorical question arises from Christ's presentation of himself as judge (Jn. 9:38). The nature of Christ as judge, however, does not resides in the forensic activity of the trial by the Pharisees, but on the a royal, Davidic image of shepherd and door to the sheepfold(Jn. 10:1-6, 9). In both roles, the function kingly judge is protection against the thief, the murder, and wolf(Jn. 10:10, 12). By explaining the role of judge, as guardian of the flock, Christ explains that it is by exercising loving-care, self-giving dedication for them, that the Father loves Him and grants power to pick up that same life (Jn. 10:17).

Christ's challenge to the Pharisees over the scope of the prophetic-priestly role, revives their earlier questioning regarding demonic possession (Jn. 10:19-21). Christ's understanding of the role of judge in the licit application of love acting as the measure of all things is in striking contrast to the Pharisees' taking up stones against Christ following His declaration of priority through unity with the Father, before Abraham was, I AM" and unity of Christ with the God of Abraham (Jn. 8:58).

In John 8, the principles for discerning theosis and paternal identity constitute the foundation of authentic spiritual authority. In that discussion, the truth of the Pharisees' claim to occupy of the house (tabernacle) of Abraham, the man of faith is challenged by Christ, not as an issue of physical descent, but the necessary, second witness, the character of their behavior, which is filial duty of honoring their father. Christ's contention is that by not doing the work of faith, they show themselves slave children and not living the the tabernacle of Abraham but under the mastery of demons. (Jn. 8:31-52). Christ does offer to release them from slavery of sin, the opportunity to never see death, if they would believe (Jn. 8:36, 51). The Pharisees' grounds for not dedicating themselves anew is their belief that Jesus is seeking honor for himself (Jn. 8:53).

Christ makes His argument based on the evidence using the criteria that honoring one's father is doing that which one sees the Father doing (Jn. 8:38), and claims Himself to be honoring his Father, the one who seeks and judges (Jn. 8:49-50). The foundation for Christ's claim to be honoring his father was given earlier in the day and the immediate antecedent to this dramatic exchange one of the dramatic episodes in the Gospel, the trial of the adulterous woman (Jn. 8:1-11).

Rhetorically, the splitting of the Pharisees into factions over his possession (Jn. 10:19-21) marks the conclusion of contextual episode to which John 8:44 belongs, as John 10:22 clearly clearly announces a new topic: Christ as the dedicated, life-giving lover of all: Now it was the feast of Dedication.... Unlike the dialogical phrasings in previous paragraphs, the use of "now"; in this passage functions as an introductory declaration for the next episode, while creating a sequential link in the narrative. The technique of using linguistic operators to indicate a continuation in the narrative is a prominent feature in Greek composition in which paragraphs and sentences are conjoined to antecedent units to form a larger semantic unit.

Nevertheless, it is edifying to consider the place of these large episodes in terms of narrative structure of the Gospel. Having marked of the episode from John 6:68 through 10:21 as an anticipation of the Passion narrative, the subsequent episodes develop the themes of Dedication to God (Jn. 10:22-42), and the Resurrection through the Raising of Lazarus (11:1-44), which itself prefaces to the Passion narrative proper. Though these two narrative components are separated in time, the Dedication taking place in winter, again at the Temple in Jerusalem (Jn. 10:25), they clearly complete the overall compositional plan of the Gospel prior to the Passion itself. Though brief, the section on Dedication, focuses the issue presented by the Gospel, with Christ reproaching His judges Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me? (Jn. 10:31). The response, that they do not judge works but blasphemy against God (Jn. 10:33), is met rhetorically with instruction from the Mosaic Law on theosis Is it not written in your law, 'I said, "You are gods?"' (Jn. 10:34-35). The cold choice offered is to believe or to extend the domain of human judgment to include human judging of God. The consequence of this exchange was that many believed in Him, after which he went to the region beyond the Jordan where John had first baptized (Jn. 10:40-42), and gave prophetic witness that this Jesus is the Son of God (Jn. 1:29-34). In terms of narrative, the choice of dedication binds baptism to the Crucifixion, and repentance (Jn. 11:2) to hope of restoration to health (Jn. 11:20) for the glory of God (Jn 11:4).

From this broad examination of the context presents as ascetic effort the alignment of daily affairs with faith in God and as a trial by Christ. The rhetorical narrative of the Gospel presents this trial by Christ as a mirror of the Passion, grounding the silence-loving philosophy of St. Isaac with an inner logic of participation the transformation between death and life, the mystery of Cross.

A fuller appreciation for the trial of asceticism and the activity of Christ as judge is embedded in the narrative with the case of the women caught in adultery.[4]

In the trial of the adulterous woman (Jn. 8:1-11), Christ is challenged by the authorities to judge in accordance with the Mosaic law. This test is motivated by the authorities contempt for the crowd's knowledge of the law (Jn. 7:49) and to see how Jesus would manage the trial as a means of testing his faithfulness to the law and tradition. What Christ does, however, is shocking. He does not to assume a Mosaic role, but stoops and write on the ground, seemingly without hearing. The crowd has clear evidence of the woman's guilt and are, presumably along with her husband, demanding her immediate execution through stoning. The contrast to his own forthcoming trial notwithstanding, what is shocking is when put in the role of lawgiver, he acts not as Moses or a prophet, but as the God who descended to Moses, wrote the law in stone, and then abided in silent-stillness. Unsatisfied, the crowd continued its quest for blood, much as at Horeb and later on the pavement. The shocking response to the bloodthirsty is to judge for themselves, rooting out their own hypocrisy, whilst again Christ writes in the ground, as with the second set of law delivered to Moses.

After all have departed, he inquires of the woman who throughout has herself been standing silent. The crowd acts as a massive stone of her tomb, rolled away by Christ, leaving her uncondemned, as Mary Magdalene (Jn. 20:1). Christ then asks for her to testify to what he could see for himself, that all had left. In doing so, she is bearing witness against her accusers, that not one judged themselves righteous, that none remained to throw the first stone. Standing before God, who is Truth, all are sinners. Moreover, Christ, who did not leave, is able to act as the righteous judge, does not find blameworthy fault. Instead, she is instructed to commit herself to choose the way in which to go. Out of her shame and sorrow she is granted new life however, the Master directs her to dedicate herself to God and to live without sin (Jn. 8:11). She must choose the way of life. Then,/ after her departure, Jesus tells the Pharisees, the only remaining audience, I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life" (Jn. 8:12).

Deeper consideration of this trial is edifying.

First, the Master's response is to write in the dust, maintaining silence as if not hearing. In a human level, it is important to note that the authorities were testing his knowledge because all marveled that he was not illiterate, he knows letters, having never studied (Jn. 7:15).This knowledge was shown when he had gone "up to the temple and taught" (Jn. 7:14). Challenged about the source of his doctrine, Christ's response is My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority (Jn. 7:16-17). As a technical point in the law, the role of dust in this case belongs to the law of adultery and jealousy.[5] Of course, as the Master is also Lord Creator of the Universe, who fashioned Adam from the dust of the earth, the writing in the dust is not inattentive doodling: He is writing his doctrine in the dust of creation, by simile the adulterous woman herself.

Second, not paying attention to the crowd, the Master joined the fallen woman in keeping silent, not once, but, as later with Pilot, twice. These two periods of silence-keeping, which stand against the two disputes between Christ and the Pharisees in the broader narrative, expresses the standard of proof that testimony is confirmed by the agreement of two witnesses and to Christ's teaching on how to judge: Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment (Jn. 7:24). The antecedent to this teaching is the Pharisees choosing to perform circumcision on the Sabbath so the law of Moses not be broken and not choosing to completely heal someone on the Sabbath (Jn. 7:23). The reference to healing on the Sabbath is to the healing of the Paralytic (Jn. 5:1-9), which the Pharisees had declared both an unlawful healing and an unlawful carrying of a burden (Jn. 5:10 -17). Explicating the conversation with Nicodemus on rebirth in the Spirit (Jn. 3:1-21), the healing of the paralytic illuminates baptism of Christ as going beyond the preaching of John (Jn. 3:22-27) to a new worship of God. This new worship is presented to Samaritan woman as new choice the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father (Jn. 4:21) as the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth (Jn. 4:23-24). While the conversation with the Samaritan woman, whose lover was not her husband, took place at the sixth hour, the height of day, the conversation with the Adulterous woman, took place early in the morning. Seized in the act of her sin, it is easy to imaging her being beaten, humiliated, and naked. Discovered during the night, and facing the silence of death, she hears the voice of new life.

With Christ, judgment magnifies the mercy of God. Freed from slavery to death, the women must to choose to live a dedicated life: to go a sin no more. The distinction between choice and judgment is at the core of the pattern. Choice is an inward determination to dedicate or accept responsibility for the outcome; it is an act by the subject. Judging pronounces external determination, the judge, as Pilot, no part in the outcome; it is an application to an object. The Pharisees seeking to witness the execution of a notorious sinner are blind to the life-giving activity of Christ, they go away, one by one, unrightously releasing themselves from trial, guilty, they receive their own self as Barabbas.

The contrast in the function of those acting as judge in the Trial of Christ (the Pharisees) and the Trial of the adulterous woman (Christ), makes the crux of the dispute over patrimony the exercise of judgment based on human understanding and the activity of choosing to act consistent with God's nature by exercising mercy, healing, and providential care. Mercy demands that the righteousness heal human brokenness; whilst human understanding or precepts finds guilt demanding death to maintain objective appearances. Going to the Evangelists purposes: that believing, you may have life in His name" (Jn. 20: 31). Described in the Gospel (Jn. 10:22-42), choosing belief God entails existential dedication, expressed in Baptism (Jn. 40-42). Dedication through Christ leads to salvation from Death, and that Christ in fact has power over Death, is demonstrated with the death and raising of Lazarus and subsequent events leading to the Passion (Jn. 11:1-12:50).

An epitome of the Gospel, the inner logic of the trial of the adulterous woman illustrates the larger context alluded to by St. Isaac, and is deeply intertwined with the text of Homily 64 in its urging the labor of prayer and psalms, and instructing how to receive the gift of tears do not count the delight which you find in them as an interruption of your liturgy. For the fullness of prayer is the gift of tears. (HTM op. cite p 449) and the love stillness, which is the ascetical labor of the night (HTM op. cite pp. 450-451). The instructions for those laboring in asceticism are to guard against complete exhaustion of the body, to guard chastity, praying and earnestly show the Lord your weakness and your unskillfulness before the subtlety of conceit, lest you be given up to be tempted in shameful things. For fornication follows upon pride, and upon conceit delusion. (HTM op. cite p. 451). It is on the topic of the labor of working with ones hands, in which the reference to John 8:44 occurs. St. Isaac explains that working with one's hands is intended to bind oneself in stillness, it should not be understood as providing for ones needs. Stillness is achieved through trusting in God as the Provider. Taking credit for providing the self is to expose one's self to the man-slayer and cause God's providence to be withdrawn in a way that exposes one to a vast number of temptations. (p. 451). It is the independent choice to take upon oneself distracting activity that commits the will and makes him go beyond the bounds of his freedom (HTM op. citep.454), making it a necessity to struggle against thoughts and to exercise discernment through prayer (HTM op. cite p. 452).

St. Isaac, as in the trial of the adulterous woman, places calling upon God in the context of loving silence above all things, writing: Love silence above all things, because it brings you near to fruit that the tongue cannot express. First let us force ourselves to be silent, and then from out of this silence something is born that leads us into silence itself. May God grant you to perceive some part of that which is born in silence (p. 452). As ascetic praxis, silence requires death-facing hope in order to navigate between the stillness, in which God is encountered, and solitude, which drives the soul to despondency (HTM op. cite p. 455). In the death-facing hope for mercy that might, as in the Byzantine Bridegroom services, speak the mind of the adulterous women, St. Isaac offers prayer:

A Prayer for Mercy: St. Isaac of Syria

Deem me worthy, my Lord, to behold Thy mercy in my soul before I depart this world, and at the hour to sense comfort within me, along with those who in good hope have gone forth from this world. Open my heart, O my God, by Thy grace, and purify me from communion with sin. Make smooth in my heart the path of repentance, my God and my Lord, my hope and my boast, my strong refuge, by Whom mine eyes are illuminated, and give me understanding through Thy truth.

Deem me worthy, O my Lord, to taste the delight of the gift of repentance, whereby the soul is separated from the working of sin and the will of flesh and blood.

Deem me worthy, my Lord, to taste contrition, wherein the gift of pure prayer is laid up. May I attain, my Savior, to the wondrous crossing whereby the soul forsakes the visible world and there arises in her new thoughts for entrance into the spiritual world, and the experience of new perceptions!

Ascetical Homily 64 (Revised Edition, Holy Transfiguration Monastery, ©2011, pp. 454-455)

Spoken in the silence of the humiliated heart, such words could not be spoken without tears; St. Isaac comments: When you dwell in stillness and possess the work of humility, this will be a sign for you that your soul is night to emerging for darkness: your heart is aflame and hot like fire both day and night, such that all the world is for you refuse and ashes, and you have no desire even for food by reason the sweetness of the new and flaming thoughts constantly arising in your soul. Suddenly like a freely flowing torrent you are given fountain of tears mingled with all your works (HTM op. cite, Homily 6, p. 177). Therefore, some attention to the tears is warranted.

Tears are signs of broken existential boundaries as even rudimentary taxonomy some common types of tears mentioned in ascetic literature illustrates.

More specifically in ascetic praxis, the semiotic understanding of tears, rather than words, are understood as marking the transformational boundaries of, the content of spiritual experience.[6] As St. Isaac explains tears are established for the mind as a kind of boundary between what is bodily and what is spiritual, and between passionateness and purity...when a man begins to relinquish the corporeal things of the present age and crosses this boundary to that which likes inside of visible nature, then straightway he will attain to the grace of tears (HTM op. cite, Homily 37, p. 302). This boundary is the entrance into the passing away of transgressions; again, St. Isaac explains A man who offers a great gift to the king wins a cheerful countenance toward himself, so it is with the man whose prayer is accompanied by tears, for God the great King of the ages allows every degree of his sins and of all his transgressions to pass into oblivion and shows him a gracious countenanceHTM op. cite, Homily 74, p. 512). The nature of this graciousness goes beyond mercy to compassion He who takes compassion on the afflicted is alike a man who has an advocate in a court of justice. As a man who is in peril at sea amid the tempest casts his baggage overboard, so too does he who despises the obstacles on the path of God amid this worldHTMop. cite, Homily 74, p. 513).

In context of adulterous woman, facing death, hoping for mercy, she encounters something more, compassion, the spiritual content of salvation, through which she is restored to purity: The end of the entire course consists in these three things: in repentance, in purity, and in perfection. What is repentance? It is the abandoning of former deeds and grieving over them. What, succinctly, is purity? It is the heart that shows mercy to all created nature. And what is perfection? It is the profound humility, which is abandoning everything visible and invisible: by visible I mean that one abandons all things perceived by the senses, and by invisible I mean that one abandons all thought concerning them. (HTM op. cite. Homily 71, p. 491).

Rhetorically, in the Gospel of John, the interplay between silence and tears points to being lost in death. Death is the fullest expression of silence. Graceless, dying the greatest suffering, the soul is ripped from its home in the body. The silence of the Master in allowing Lazarus to repose (Jn. 11 5-8), and in greeting the women sharing in condolences, the crowd even following her to the tomb for this reason (Jn. 11:31), is striking Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, ‘Lord, if Thou had been here, my brother would not have died.’ Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. And He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to Him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ And Jesus wept. (Jn 11: 32-35). In this weeping, the grace is extended to all, as it is the action of a merciful heart: What is a merciful heart?'It is the heart's burning for the sake of the entire creation, for men, for birds, for animals, for demons, and for every created thing; and at the recollection and sight of them, the eyes of a merciful man pour forth abundant tears. From the strong and vehement mercy that grips his heart and from his great compassion, his heart is humbled and he cannot bear to hear or see any injury or slight sorrow in creation. For this reason he offers up prayers with tears continually even for irrational beasts, for the enemies of the truth, and for whose who harm him, that they be protected and receive mercy. And in like manner he even prays for the family of reptiles, because of the great compassion that burns without measure in his heart in the likeness of God (HTM op. cite. Homily 71, p. 491.

The warrant for reading St. Isaac's reference to John 8:44 as an allusion entailing a more fundamental reading of the Gospel text and not simply a (possibly semi-conscious) rhetorical flourish, is grounded in first paragraph of Homily 64, which includes a reference to the Master's conversation with Nicodemus at John 3.4, declaring that Repentance is the mother of life. It opens its door to us when we take flight from all thing she discerning knowledge that dawns within us (HTM op. cite p. 447). Repentance arises from contrition, which is received by divine mercy as compunction and the search for salvation. Citing Evagrius,Fervent compunction of the soul is the fire of a furnace that by Christ's grace comes upon the soul at the time of prayer and thereupon the faculty of recollection attains to divine vision. The lack of compunction, however, is cured by living water. The beginning of repentance is unfeigned humility. (HTM, op.citep. 448).

The context of tears is the movement of the soul from repentance to authentic compunction, and marks a distinct change in the character of life in Christ outlined in the Beatitudes. Life for Christ is an internalization of the Beatitudes, which provide a framework for ascetic struggle. The basis for ascetic struggle is mourning over human death due to sin. Such mourning discloses the nakedness and poverty of the individual that is humiliating. To cope with humiliation, the acquisition of humility, and the suffering of subjugation to pain, the personality starts to seek God, as life-giver, and be moved to compassion towards others. One dimension of this coping process is the absorption into the heart the expressive outbursts of suffering, leading to the acquisition of meekness. Meekness produces a graceful demeanor that enables the self to struggle to present itself to God, so that the wounds may be cured. Wretched as it is, in order to be present before God, the personality desires cleansing, the acquisition of righteousness. This cleansing is not a passive process, rather it requires a struggle against the habits and ways of death that have been either learned from others or for which a taste has been acquired as self-satisfactory means of addressing inner urges. The means for conducting this struggle is the discipline of chastity, moving the soul toward virginity. Incompetent in itself, the person seeks mercy, which is the groundwork for tears. In searching for mercy, patient waiting is required, rooted in hope, the praxis of the silence that holds still the world in the presence of God. It on this foundation of silence, suffering, chastity, and obedience that God can build, granting life-expressing activity that makes peace in the world through witnessing to the love of God with us.

Using the beatitudes as an ascetic framework, St. Isaac, in Homily 64, explains The beginning of repentance is unfeigned humility. Elegance of clothing is the disruption of repentance...Gazing at God is silence of the thoughts. Stillness of thinking is the quietness of discernment...True mortification is the movement of life...The humility of discernment is true knowledge. True knowledge is the fountain of humility (op cite. p. 448). To enter this way of life, it is necessary to stop being a slave to the world, to disown, and stop grasping after things and becoming an object of reproach, for everyone who runs after honors is a slave of this world. (HTM op cite. p. 449). To reject slavery to the world it is necessary to acquire silence before God for while Many show an appearance of repentance, but no one truly possess it save the man who is pained in his heart. Many run to find pain of heart, but no one finds it in very truth save he who possesses unremitting silence. Every man who is a servant of God loves contrition. Know that every loquacious man, even though he relates amazing things, is empty within. Inward sorrow is a bridle for the senses. If you love the truth, love silence; it will make you illumined in God like the sun, and will deliver you from the illusions of ignorance. Silence unites you to God Himself. (HTM op. cite p. 449).

In general, the teaching in St. Isaac's homily is congruent with the rhetorical reading of the Gospel. Closer inspection of the context for the reference to John 8:44 provides insight into the meaning of "go and sin no more" and and of accurately "doing the will of the Father." At John 8:58-59, the Master defends His authority saying before Abraham was, I AM at which, they took up stones to throw at Him. The bases of the Pharisees action is Leviticus 24:10- 23. This law rests on the precept equality in adjudication of torts, explained as he has done, so shall it be done to him (Lev. 24:19). However, the standard of paternity used through out this long Gospel episode is imitation of the father by the son, hence it is not only licit to perform circumcision on the Sabbath in accordance with Moses, but to do works of mercy (Jn. 7:27). Simply put, to receive mercy is to be freed from judgment, to acquire mercifulness is to judge not, and thereby choose to align the self with God. Ascetic work can be understood precisely as cutting off choices that remove God from His temple in the soul.

The choices that causes the removal of God from us, St. Isaac explains, are not the experience of set-backs in the course of struggle, but making a judgment allowing them to enter into us, which is to be passionate about them: God does not turn away from us on account of the mere movement of a thought, but only when our mind persists in it. For God does not chastise and judge a man for an involuntary movement, not even if we agree with it for a moment. And if, at the very moment when we spur the passion on, compunction should overtake us, then the Lord will not call us to account for such negligence. Yet He does call us to account for that which our thinking has truly accepted, and looks upon shamelessly, and has accepted as fitting and profitable, not considering it a terrible thing to muse upon it. Let us always pray this prayer to the Lord: O Christ, the Fullness of truth, let Thy truth dawn in our hearts that we may know to walk in Thy way according to Thy will. (HTM op. citep. 452). Consistent with St. Isaac's understanding that virtue is a result, an outcome, of struggling with ascetic disciplines The fact that a man slips into accidental sins demonstrates the weakness of our nature to be susceptible to sinful occurrences. For He has not thought it good to make the soul superior to these occurrences before the second regeneration(HTM op. cite p. 169).

The necessity of choosing to struggle in the ascetic path established the path of pure life. For example, virginity is no longer a state of naiveté but the product of laboring with the discipline of chastity. A virgin is not merely one who keeps his body undefiled by intercourse, but one who feels shame before himself even when his is alone. If you love chastity, banish shameful thoughts by exercising yourself in reading and prolonged prayer; then you will be inwardly armed against their natural causes...If you wish to acquire mercifulness and alms giving, first accustom yourself to disdain all things, lest by their oppressiveness your mind be drawn away from its self-imposed aim. For the exactness of mercy is shown in patiently enduring injustice. The perfection of humility is to bear false accusations with joy (HTM op. cite p. 171), latter saying Rightly directed labors and humility make a man a god upon earth. Faith and mercy speed him on the way to limpid purity (HTM op. cite p. 178)[7]

. Moreover, Every virtue by which the body is not afflicted, consider it an abortion without soul. Sacrifices of the just are the tears of their eyes. And their acceptable offerings are the sighs of the vigils (St. Isaac of Nineveh: On Ascetical Life trans. Mary Hansbury, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, Sixth Discourse, ©1989, p. 112). [8]

The limpidity of mercy is known from patience in bearing injury, and the perfection of humility when it rejoices in gratuitous slander. If you are truly merciful, when you are wrongfully and cruelly deprived of what is yours, you will not be angry within or without, and will not show your forbearance to others. Rather the damages of your oppression will be absorbed by passions of mercy, as the sharpness of wine is tempered in much water. But show the sign of limpidity which comes for great mercy, with other things that you will add; and cheerfully do go to those who do you wrong just as blessed Elisha did to his enemies when they came to capture him. By praying and by blinding their eyes with phantoms, he showed the power that was in him; and if he so desired, they would have been as nothing before him. But by giving them food and drink and letting them go away, he made known the mercy he possessed within himself. If you are truly humble, do not be troubled when you are accused falsely. Do not waste your breath on the thing but actually take upon yourself the unjust word spoken against you, while not being concerned for yourself to persuade others that the matter is otherwise. Rather, as forgiveness. Others have taken on themselves of their own accord, the hateful reputation of fornication. Still others admitted to deed of adultery of which they were innocent. And the fruit of the sin which was not theirs, they increased with tears as if they were theirs. And with weeping they asked forgiveness of the false accuser for the sins not committed while their soul was crowned with all the perfect purity of chastity... (Hansbury, op. cite Homily 6, pp.104-105).

The choice of ascetic discipline is to forgo all judging, acquiring a merciful heart, and to struggle for purity of heart, adopting the ways of the Father in order to acquire righteousness, which is to go one's way, sinning no more. By their activity as judges, the Pharisees refuse to understand acts of mercy as inherently licit owing to their action as doing what God does as Father, and, as such, forgo their prophetic role. By contrast, the woman caught in adultery, is not only shown mercy and compassion, but is sent into the world, given an apostolic charge, having acquired life in Christ, she is to take up the Cross against worldly temptation, seeking perfection.

The prophetic standing of the Pharisees overthrown, their mockery of Nicodemus and judgment on the crowd's claim that This is truly the Christ is discredited (Jn 7:40-53). By contrast, the woman silently submits. By rejecting the opinion of the crowd, the Pharisees, steal hope, kill desire for life, the crowd is ambivalent, more testimony needed, no escape from despondency is offered. For the wretched woman, however, perhaps this untested judge in a mockery of a trial, by some remote chance, have mercy, after all, even the officers said No man ever spoke like this Man (Jn. 7.46), her virtue in contrition is hope, unable to witness to herself, she receives the light for Then Jesus spoke to them again,, saying, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." The Pharisees therefore said to Him; "You bear witness to Yourself, Your witness is not true." Jesus answered and said to them "Even if I bear witness to Myself, My witness is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going: but you do not know where I came from and hwere I am going. You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. And yet if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone, but am with the Father how sent Me" (Jn 8:12-16).

Silence-keeping necessitates discernment. Discernment is the product of prayer. This silence-loving prayer is deliberate behavior, which, with practice and tears, brings divine visitation, for a certain sweetness is perceived, sometimes with pain, sometimes with amazement. (HTM, op. cite p. 453). As St. Isaac relates O brother, I have found many fathers, great and wonderful men, who cared more for the good ordering of the senses and the behavior of the body than for labors. For out of this is born good order of thoughts (HTM, op. cite p. 454) in which state The heart's progress is reflection upon its hope. Progress in our discipline is release from all things. The remembrance of death is a good fetter for the outward members. A lure for our soul drawing her toward life is the joy that blossoms forth in the heart of hope...The budding of the heart is conviction in the resurrection through faith that hope receives inwardly (HTM, op. cite p. 454). Continuing,I advise you this also...let the scale of mercy always be preponderant within you, until you perceive in yourself that mercy which God has for the world. Let this our state become a mirror where we may see in ourselves that likeness and true image which naturally belong to the Divine Essence...If, however, the affair is placed directly into your hands and is within your power...then take heed to yourself lest you become partaker of the the blood of the iniquitous man by not taking pains to deliver him; but rather try with your whole soul to rescue him, even to the point of dying for his sake. At that hour you will be a martyr in very truth and will be like Him Who for the sake of sinners accepted death on the Cross (HTM, op. cite p. 456).

Early Syriac ascetic theology understands a two-level approach to a dedicated spiritual life dependent on repentance. The first level sometimes being known as uprightness, with a second level described as that of the perfect. Of these, the latter is a life lived according to a stricter rule of prayer, mercy, and non-possession (or major commandments), whilst the former, which admitted even married couples[9], were to live under a more modest rule emphasising a worldly ministry and a life of obedience (or minor commandments as suited to those needing vegetables and milk).[10] This way of life is understood as the discovery of love in repentance as repentance makes new that broken by sin following entry into the life of Christ through baptism: ...we are baptized for judgment and condemnation; we must be baptized and acquire love and truth and faith. Yet, if we should slip after we are baptized and repent, there is the love of Jesus, a living fire, that will purify our dirt and foulness. He will labor and give birth to us anew, and will mark us as at the beginning. Not even the seal that the priests gave us will pass away from us until our death.[11].

To choose a silence-loving life of asceticism and repentance, the choice given the adulterous woman, is far removed from the consequences of judgment, the punishment of the Cross. Rather, the choice if one presented beautifully in Ode of Solomon, 11

Ode of Solomon, XI

[1]For a discussion the use of allusion in Syriac poetical theology St. Ephrem the Syrian, see S. Brock The Luminous Eye: The Spiritual World Vision of Saint Ephrem the Syrian, Cistercian Publications, ©1992, and S.H. Griffith,Faith Adoring the Mystery: Reading the Bible with St. Ephraem the Syrian, Marquette University Press ©1997, more broadly, R. Murray Symbols of Church and Kingdom, Second Edition, T&T Clark, ©(Murry) 2005. The use of allusion and poetic construct as a foundational theological method is of profound importance to the development of Orthodox theology, forming, as it does, the basis for the greatest liturgical poets, who were bilingual in Syriac and Greek: St. Romanos the Melodist and St. John of Damascus, on this topic, see further S. Brock From Ephrem to Romanos: Interactions between Syriac and Greek in Late Antiquity, Ashgate, ©1999. Perhaps, one of the best know expressions of this method, however, is by the Antiochian-Jerusalemite Greek, St. Andrew of Crete, who betrays the influence of this method in both his Great Canon as well as many of his homilies. An even more sophisticated use of the method of allusion is found in Theodoret's History of the Monks of Syria, Cistercian Publications, trans. R.M. Price, ©1985. in which, as in St. Isaac, Biblical allusion and quotation is used and a rhetorical organizing principle. Each life illustrating a particular dimension of ascetic formation, with the entire work being a handbook in the Antiochian style for those who would seek a philosophical life. It is only when taken this literary context does the tension between Syriac-Antiochian and Hellenistic-Alexandrian approaches to Biblical typology gain its proper sense of urgency. The independent origins of Antiochian asceticism, with roots the Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians and 1 Peter, as well as the sever harmonization of the Gospels by Tatian, and differs in many respects from the monastic movement of the Egyptian desert; cf. R.A. Kitchen and M.F.G. Parmmentier The Book of Steps: the Syriac Liber Graduum, Cistercian Publications,©2004. Suggestive of the depth of Syriac focus on the singularity of Christ and union with Him are the texts of the Odes of Solomon, with their strong bridegroom imagery, especially when taken in context of G.P. Pagoulatos's study Tracing the Bridegroom in Dura, Tibris©2008. This ascetic movement had ties to Mesopotamian Jewish sects whose spiritual life differed from the Talmudic movement, whose roots in Palestine, that had migrated to Babylon during the century following the second destruction of Jerusalem; cf. S. AbouZayd, Ihidayutha: A Study of the Life of Singleness in the Syrian Orient from Ignatius of Antioch to Chalcedon 451 A.D. ARAM Society for Syro-Mesopotamian Studies, ©1993 and, recently, S.K Skoyles-Jarkins, Aphrahat the Persian Sage and the Temple of God: A Study of Early Syriac Theological Anthropology, Georgias Press©2008 and R. Murray "The Characteristics of the Earliest Syriac Christianity" East of Byzantium: Syria and Armenia in the Formative Period Dumbarton Oaks,©1982, and the still valuable A. Vööbus, History of Asceticism in the Syrian Orient: A Contribution to the History of the Culture in the Near East, Vol. 1 Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium, ©1958. For the Antiochians, allusions ground the spiritual in the context of lived human experience. Human experience itself is a semiotic reality that connecting the material to the spiritual affecting a transformation of life into prophetic expression, as underscored by the intense Syriac interest in the Old Testament prophets. A framework later Syriac ascetical theology, leading to St. Isaac, cf. M.T. Hansbury, John the Solitary on the Soul, Greogias Press, ©2013, and H. Alfeyev The Spiritual World of Isaac the Syrian, Cistercian Publications, ©2000. It is, perhaps, noteworthy that the tradition of Syriac poetic theology continued to find expression in later the later Persian poetry of Hafez and Jalala din Rumi, see further, "Introduction" E.D. Ross in The Hafez Poems of Gertrude BellIran Books,©1995.

[2]The statement of the Commandments concerning the Lord in Exodus 20:1-11 is directly relevant to St. Isaac of Syria and to the Sixth Century. The aim of ascetic labor is through the exclusive worship of God one passes from death to life, "is brought out of the Land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage." In so laboring, the ascetic enters into deepest humility, lest they create idols. In the case of idolatry, God offers recompense of the sins of fathers on their children or mercy to thousands to those who are faithful. While the Sixth Century saw the first stirring of iconoclasm, the issue split Alexandrian asceticism with the Anthropomorphite controversy, with which Evagrius and Origen are closely associated (cf. T. Vivian, "Introduction", Four Desert Fathers: Pambo, Evagrius, Macarius of Egypt and Marcarius of Alexandria, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press,©2004). In the Syriac historical tradition, such a principle would be less likely to give rise to speculative flights, and the continual labor calling on the Holy Name for mercy. It is this notion of mercy that Christ sets against the Pharisaical reading of the Sabbath law, the most detailed of all the commandments. The force of this commandment comes from the anthropomorphic attitude that would of have the self-rival the power of God, who made everything before resting. For St. Isaac, the notion of ascetic labor is stillness, an angelic foretaste and acceptance of everything and all suffering from as a direct manifestation of God's mercy, grace, and compassionate care. Through this realizing the presence of God in personal life, the principle of the Incarnation is directly presented "without hands," the icon-relic of Edessa, one of the centers of Syriac culture.

[3]The suggestion that Christ's lineage is from the Samaritans does not absolve Christ from liability for punishment by stoning for blasphemy as established by Moses in Lev. 24:10-23, in which the son of an Israelite women and Egyptian father is stoned for cursing outside the camp. There is but one judgment applicable to all, with punishment being equal and proportional to the offense. The logic for misappropriation of the Divine Name is that in cursing on is cursed. Who ever curses God shall bear his guilt. Let him who pronounces the Lord's name be surely put to death...Whoever strikes a man and he dies, let him surely be put to death. Let all the congregation of Israel stone him with stones, the resident alien as well as the native. Whoever strikes a man and he dies, let him surely be put to he has done so shall it be done to him -- fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth

[4] The textual history of the episode of the trial of the adulterous woman is unusual. Accepted as authentic, it is not contained in a significant minority of ancient manuscripts. It is not found in the commentaries of St. John Chrysostom, whose Bible belonged to a Byzantine text type family that influenced Sixth and Seventh Century editors of the Mesopotamian Peshetta. Therefore, it is a valid question as to whether St. Isaac would have known it in this particular context. St. Isaac lived in the Persian Gulf region. The distinctive Eastern Syriac Peshetta appears independently influenced by Alexandrian text traditions, with manuscripts divided, some incorporating this episode at this location, others not. Consequently, it is possible that St. Isaac's Bible would have included this text in this location. Moreover, the independent influence of Alexandrian Biblical manuscripts on the Eastern Peshetta is interesting in light of St. Isaac's knowledge of Evargius and of apparent influence of Syriac asceticism on Egyptian, and Palestinian practices. As with the 1 Peter 3 reference to the church in Babylon, the history of which seems to have been suppressed with the advent of Second Century expatriate Talmudic Judaism, the known existence of Christian ascetics on islands in the Red Sea and Christian communities in Yemen, and the complexity of textual and intellectual currents warrants a more complex picture of the history of Christianity and asceticism. Indeed, perpetuating the Imperial Roman conceit as being the center of the universe seems an unnatural historiographical constraint. Certainly, for those living to the East of the Mare Nostrum, certainly in the courts of Ctesiphon, or those living in Arabia, or the Turkic and Mongolic peoples of Central Asia, Roman Imperial boundaries were cultural margins.

[5]These laws are given in Numbers, with 5:11-28, reading in part The the priest shall bring her near and set her before the Lord. The priest shall take clean running water in an earthen vessel and take some of the dust on the floor of the tabernacle of testimony and throw it into the water. Then the priest shall stand the women before the Lord, uncover the women's head, and put the sacrifice for remembering in her hands, which is the grain offering of jealousy; and the priest shall have in his hand the water of conviction that brings a curse. Then the priest shall put her under oath, and say to the women, "If no man has lain with you, and if you have not committed transgression to be defiled while under your husband's jurisdiction, be innocent from this water of conviction that brings a cure. But if you committed transgression and defiled yourself under your husband's jurisdiction, and some other man than your husband had sexual relations with you then the priest shall put the women under oath by the words of this curse...Then the women shall say 'May it be so.' Then the priest shall write these curses in a book, and wipe them off into the water of conviction that brings the curse. Then he shall give the women a drink of this water of conviction that brings the curse, and it shall enter into her. Then the priest shall take the grain offering of jealousy from the women's hand, put the sacrifice before the Lord... and the priest shall take a handful of the sacrifice... and give the woman water to drink. So it shall be that if she is defile but kept it hidden... the water of conviction...will enter her, and her belly will swell...but if the woman is not defiled, but is clean, then she shall be innocent and may conceive children.

[6]Though limited to compunction I. Hausherr's Pethos: The Doctrine of Compunction in the Christian East, Cistercian Publications, ©1982, is a useful introduction to the topic of tears. An appreciation of the meaning and interpretation of signs, semiotics, is fundamental in approaching both Syriac and Byzantine theology. The central notion is that of the doublet 'image and likeness.' In Byzantine theology semiotic theory is grounded in the iconodule synthesis of the Sixth and Seven Ecumenical Councils, one of the champions of which is the Syriac-Greek speaking St. John of Damascus, and hold the icon or image to be a bridge between the material and spiritual world as such, The icon is one of the manifestations of the holy Tradition of the Church, similar to the written and oral traditionswrites L. Ouspensky (Theology of the Icon, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, ©1992, p. 8) and again, Symbolism expresses indirectly, through images, tht which cannot be expressed directly in material or verbal forms...Everyday language frequently confuses the ideas of "sign" and "symbol," as if they were identical. In fact, there is a necessary spiritual distinction between them. A sign only portrays reality; a symbol always qualifies it in a certain way, bringing forth a superior re laity. To understand a symbol is to participate in the presence; to understand a sign is to translate an indication (ibid. p. 17). In Orthodox understanding, there are two moments that yield...two types of imagery: the moment of ascent into the heavenly realm, and the moment of descent into the earthly world, At the crossing of the boundary into the upper world, the soul sheds...the images of our everyday emptiness...At the point of descent and re-entry... the images are experiences of mystical life crystallized out on the boundary of the two worlds (Pavel Florensky, Iconostasis St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, ©1996, p. 44). Far from the Hellenistic abstractionism associated with the Alexandrian Christianity associated with Origen, this notion is driven by semiotic construction rooted in Syriac theology and Jewish tradition(cf. Stephanie K Skoyles-Jarkins, Aphrahat the Persian Sage and the Temple of God Gorgias Press,©2008, pp.12-16, and S. Brock, The Luminous Eye Cistercian Publications ©1992; p. 20). One aspect of this influence is a methodological resistance to a dogmatizing theology rooted in definitions To Ephrem, theological definitions are not only potentially dangerous because, by providing 'boundaries' they are likely to have a deadening and fossilizing effect on people's conception of the subject of enquiry, which is, after all, none other than the human experience of God. Dogmatic 'definitions' can moreover, in Ephrem's eyes, be actually blasphemous when these definitions touch upon some aspect of God's Being: for by trying to 'define' God one is in effect attempting to contain the Uncontainable, to limit the Limitless...The search for theological definitions, a heritage from Greek philosophy, is of course by no means the only way of conducting theological inquiry. Ephrem's radically different approach is by way of paradox and symbolism, and for this purpose poetry proves a far more subtle vehicle than prose. seeing that poetry is much better capable of sustaining the essential dynamism and fluidity that is characteristic of this sort of approach to theology. (ibid. p.23-24). The precise character of the Judaism acting on the development of Syriac Christian authors is a subject of debate, as it appears that the nature Mesopotamian and Persia Judaism was complex, with history of Babylonian Talmudic Orthodoxy in the region unclear but includes the possibility that it may have involved the active attempts to suppress both the various sects and the record of their existence. The legacy of a synthetic approach to theology organized around semiotics, however, has profound importance, though largely unappreciated in Western intellectual discourse; neither Latin sacramental theology nor relatively modern methodologies (with the possible exception of Lesniewski's ontology), such as Cajetan's theory of analogy or the very contemporary George Lakoff (famously in Metaphors We Live By seem its equal, starting, as they do, from intellective-linguistic analytic relationships rather than using an ontological attitude as descriptive groundwork (a hermeneutic framing of cognitive content vs. synthetic representation of experience).

[8]The starkness of Hansbury's translation is refreshing. The intervening passage of the Sixth Homily, articulate clearly the character of Syriac asceticism. These instances are well known from the lives of the saints, some of which can be found in Paladius's Lausiac History, whilst the logic is that especially well developed by those saints known as fools for Christ. Judith Perkins The Suffering Self: Pain and Narrative Representation in the Early Christian Era, Routledge, ©Perkins, 1995, provides an insightful study of the role of ascetic logic in relationship to social context. For a more Syriac focus, see Theodoret of Cyrrhus A History of the Monks of Syria trans. R. M. Price, Cistercian Publications, ©1985; S.P. Brock and S.A. Harvey Holy Women of the Syrian Orient University of California Press, ©1987. For additional commentary, Robert Murray The Characteristics of the Earliest Syriac Christiantiy in East of Byzantium: Syria and Armenia in the Formative Period, Dumbarton Oaks, ©1982 and The Features of the Earliest Christian Asceticism in P. Brooks (ed.) Christian Spirituality: Essays in Honour of Gordon Rupp SCM Press,© 1975.

[7]cf., S.K Skoyles-Jarkins, Aphrahat the Persian Sage and the Temple of God: A Study of Early Syriac Theological Anthropology, Georgias Press ©2008, cf. S. AbouZayd, Ihidayutha: A Study of the Life of Singleness in the Syrian Orient from Ignatius of Antioch to Chalcedon 451 A.D. ARAM Society for Syro-Mesopotamian Studies, ©1993. For a slightly different view, compare to St. John Climacus' teaching in Step 15 of the Ladder of Divine Ascent, Purity and chastity, notably paragraphs 25 and 26, He who has resolved to contend with his flesh and conquer it himself struggles in vain. For unless the Lord destroys the house of the flesh and builds the house of the soul, the person who wants to destroy it watches and fasts in vain. Offer to the Lord the weakness of your nature, fully acknowledging your own powerlessness, and imperceptibly you will receive the gift of chastity trans. Moore, Ladder of Divine Ascent, Holy Transfiguration, ©1979, revised edition, p. 142.)

[9]The spiritual dimension of marriage is a complex topic for Syriac asceticism, which understands baptism as entering into a singular relationship with Christ as Bridegroom. cf. R. Murray The Exhortation to Candidates for Ascetical Vows at Baptism in the Ancient Syriac Church, New Testament Studies, vol. 21. pp.59-80; S. AbouZayd, Ihidayutha: A Study of the Life of Singleness in the Syrian Orient. From Ignatius of Antioch to Chalcedon 451 A.D> ARAM Society for Syro-Mesopotamian Studies, ©1993. See also, K. Valavanolickal, Aphrahat Demonstrations Volume 1, Demonstration VI: Demonstration on the Sons of the Covenant (pp. 121-160) and Demonstration VII: Demonstration on Penitents (pp.161-182). Geogias Press, ©2011.

[10] R.A. Kitchen and M.F.G. Parmentier The Book of Steps: The Syriac Liber Graduum, Cistercian Publications, Memra 2 through 7. Controversial in certain respects, this work is a set of Memra from the elder of a community within the broader Syriac movement known as the Sons and Daughters of the Covenant.

[11]cf., R.A. Kitchen and M.F.G. Parmentier ibid.p. 285

[12]J.A. Charlesworth The Odes of Solomon Scholars Press, p.52. ©J.A. Charlesworth, 1977