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DADISHO’ of Beth Qatraya

Native of the region of Qatar, which in antiquity extended along the entire northern coast of the Persian Gulf, Dadisho’ lived as a monk and then a recluse in two monasteries, those of Rab-Kennare and Holy Apostles; we have no further information regarding Holy Apostles Monastery, hypothesized to have been located in the mountains of Bet Huzaye Susania or Khuzistan, in modern S Iran. It is certain that Dadisho’ also lived for a period in the famous monastery of Rabban Shabur. His most important work a high point of Syriac literature for quality, erudition and writing style is a commentary on the discourses of Abba Isaiah. In it, the account Dadisho’ gives of various episodes of the life of Rabban Shabur suggests that he wrote it not long after the latter’s death, perhaps in the third quarter of the 7th c.

Like his contemporary and compatriot Isaac of Nineveh, Dadisho’ was a passionate defender of the solitary life in a strict sense, at a time when it seems to have been little appreciated. His description, in his Discourse on Solitude, of the various types of monks then present in the Eastern Church is interesting: he basically distinguishes between monks who live in monasteries near the large public streets and practice agriculture and hospitality, and hermits who live in or near more isolated monasteries. These latter are then divided into six categories, from novices who live permanently in community to hermits who live entirely by themselves. We also have two treatises On the Silence of the Seven Weeks, in which he speaks of the practice of the temporary reclusion of “advanced” monks in their cells during the three times of fasting of the Eastern Church’s liturgical year.

Dadisho’ is a sober writer, strongly influenced by Evagrius of Pontus. He defends a monastic, i.e., “spiritual,” reading of the Bible, decidedly different from Antiochene-style “historical” reading or from “homiletic” reading. He develops his vision of the spiritual life mainly as marginal notes to the writings of the monastic tradition. He also wrote a commentary almost entirely unpublished in this manner on the Paradise of the Fathers, which had just been published by Henanisho, but also seems to have been inspired by the apophthegmata, the Macarian homilies and Mark the Hermit.

Dadisho’s writings show him to have been a meticulous philologist, careful to note and discuss the textual variants attested by the various copies available to him, a balanced exegete, and a gifted and tested monk. Editions and translations: A. Mingana, Early Christian Mystics Woodbrooke Studies VII, Cambridge 1934, 201-247 tr. 76-143: Discorso sulla solitudine, followed by five other pamphlets or extracts from later writings; R. Draguet, Commentaire du livre d’Abba Isaïe par Dadisho’ Qatraya CSCO 326-327, Louvain 1972; A. Guillaumont – M. Albert, Lettre de Dadisho’ Qatraya à Abkosh sur l’hésychia, in Mémorial A.-J. Festugière. Antiquité païenne et chrétienne, Geneva 1984, 235-245 Fr. tr.; S. Brock, The Syriac Fathers on the Spiritual Life Cistercian Studies 101, Kalamazoo 1987, 306-310: tr. of one of the extracts published by Mingana. Baumstark, 226f.; BO III1, 98f.; Bettiolo, Lineamenti, 586-588; DSp 3, 2-3; P. Bettiolo, Esegesi e purezza di cuore. La testimonianze di Dadisho’ Qatraya VII sec., nestoriano e solitario: AnSE 3 1986 201-213; R. Beulay, La lumière sans forme. Introduction à l’étude de la mystique chrétienne syro-orientale, Chevetogne see index; N. Sims-Williams, Dadišo’ Qa?raya’s Commentary on the Paradise of the Fathers: AB 112 1994 33-64.

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