SAINT SEVERIAN OF JABALAH or Severianus
One of the great orators of the fourth century (feast day: 7 Tut). Known for numerous homilies, he died after 408.
Severian had been invited to court at Constantinople, where he must have known Saint JOHN CHRYSOSTOM, with whom he did not sympathize. Indeed, the bishop of Jabalah was among Chrysostom’s opponents in the long affair of his lawsuit and exile. Ironically, many of Severian’s homilies later passed under the name of Chrysostom: about thirty out of thirty-five Greek texts counted in Clavis Patrum Graecorum (1974, pp. 468-482, nos. 4185-4272).
By identifying quotations in the CATENAE, and by comparisons with the five undoubted works, J. Zellinger (1974) was able to rediscover several of Severian’s works. The use of Armenian versions has also been of great help. Almost all of Severian’s sermons speak of the Trinity. Many turns of phrase in Greek are peculiarly his own.
In Coptic, there remains a eulogy of Saint Michael in Sahidic (Pierpont Morgan codex 602, preceding fol. 198), part of which is a fragment of another manuscript published by J. Leipoldt in 1904. Specialists do not acknowledge its authenticity (see Clavis Patrum Graecorum 4278). There is a homily on Matthew 25:13 (fols. 14-30), of which a Bohairic fragment was published by H. O. Burmester in 1932, according to fragments of homilies used for Holy Week (Clavis Patrum Graecorum 4279). Another homily, on Matthew 25:31, immediately follows (Clavis Patrum Graecorum 4280) in the same Hamuli codex, dating from the ninth century (fols. 31-52).
Besides these three texts, another codex from the Pierpont Morgan collection (M 606, pp. 1-56) has preserved a homily on the twelve apostles. Fifth, there is a homily on the Nativity, which exists in fragmentary form under the name of Proclus of Constantinople (Saint PROCLUS) in the Turin collection of papyri. The Paris fragments of this homily were identified and published by E. Lucchesi (1979). They correspond to those analyzed in 1933 by E. Porcher (1933; Clavis Patrum Graecorum 4282). Sixth, there is a homily on penitence, expressly attributed to Severian but found among the pseudo-Chrysostomica (PG 60, pp. 765-68). H. G. Evelyn-White (1926, pp. 178-180) found fragments from the same codex, Vatican Coptic 68, in Cairo, giving other passages from the homily.
Finally, in the theological texts on papyrus published by W. E. CRUM in 1913, G. Mercati (1916-1917) identified a passage from the same homily. But here again, the specialists in the style of Severian deny him the authorship of the pseudo-Chrysostomicum to which J. A. de Aldama (1965) gave the number 462. The seventh and only work that all regard as being authentic in both Coptic and Greek is the set of sermons on Genesis (Clavis Patrum Graecorum 4194). A series of Coptic fragments from these sermons, obtained from (DAYR ANBA SHINUDAH), Suhaj, is in Paris (MS Copte 129.13, fols. 96-103, and 131.6, fol. 46). Finally, there is an extract in the Coptic catena of Saint Matthew, published by P. de Lagarde (1886). This extract explains the meaning of the expression “Son of Man,” but it is not possible to state its origin precisely (Clavis Patrum Graecorum 4295).
Few works of Severian of Jabalah have come down to us in Arabic. The main details have been given by G. Graf (1944). There are, first, the homilies on Genesis (Clavis Patrum Graecorum 4194), which, in Paris Arabe 68 (1339), fols. 36-67, include one homily more than in the Greek version, although this homily, number 7, dealing with Adam’s expulsion from Paradise, exists in part in Greek (Clavis Patrum Graecorum 4217).
Second, there is a homily on the Annunciation preserved in the manuscript Sinai 423 (1626), fols. 353-58, and in Beirut manuscript 510, pp. 500-509. This homily corresponds with neither Clavis Patrum Graecorum 4204, although the Greek incipit appears at first sight to be somewhat similar, nor the Syriac homily on the Nativity published by C. Moss (1947-1948) (Clavis Patrum Graecorum 4260). According to the title, it was translated from Syriac into Arabic by Gregory of the Black Mountain. Its style corresponds perfectly with the rather prolix manner of Severian.
Third, there is a homily on the twelve apostles, preserved in the fifteenth-century manuscript Vatican Arabic 536, fols. 1-32, and Cairo, Graf 717, fols. 115-30 (1358).
Fourth, an Arabic translation of the extract from a homily already in existence in Coptic as a lectionary for Holy Week is preserved in Borgia Arabic 57, fols. 135-36; Cairo, Graf 170 fols., 53-54 (fifteenth century).
- Aldama, J. A. de. Repertorium Chrysostomicum. Paris, 1965. Burmester, O. H. E. “The Homilies or Exhortations of the Holy Week Lectionary.” Le Muséon 45 (1932):21-70.
- Evelyn-White, H. G. The Monasteries of the Wadi ‘n Natrun, pt. 1. New Coptic Texts from the Monastery of Saint Macarius. New York, 1926.
- Hyvernat, H. Bibliothecae Pierpont Morgan codices coptici photographice expressi . . . , 56 vols. in 63 facsimilies. Rome, 1922.
- Lagarde, P. de. Catenae in evangelia quae supersunt. Göttingen, 1886.
- Leipoldt, J. Ägyptische Urkunden aus den Königlichen Museen zu Berlin. Koptische Urkunden 1, 6. Bibliotheca Hagiographica Orientalis 761. Berlin, 1904.
- Lucchesi, E. “Proclus of Constantinople.” Analecta Bollandiana 97 (1979):111-27.
- Mercati, G. “A Parallel to a Coptic Sermon on the Nativity.” Journal of Theological Studies 18 (1917):315-17.
- Migne, J.-P. Patrologia Cursus Completus, Series Graeca, Vol. 60. Montrouge and Paris, 1859.
- Moss, C. “Homily on the Nativity of our Lord by Severian, Bishop of Gabala.” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies (1947-1948):555.
- Porcher, E. “Analyse des manuscrits coptes 1311-8 de la Bibliothèque Nationale, avec indication des textes bibliques.” Revue d’Egyptologie 1 (1933):124.
- Vis, H. de. Homélies coptes de la Vaticane. Copenhagen, 1922. Zellinger, J. Studien zu Severian von Gabala. Münsterische Beiträge zur Theologie 8, Münster, 1926.
MICHEL VAN ESBROECK