Yusab (1735-1826)

YUSAB (1735-1826)

A bishop of Jirja and Akhmim. Yusab was born in al-Nukhaylah (province of Asyut); his name was originally Yusuf. In 1760 he became a monk at the Monastery of Saint Antony on the Red Sea. In 1791, the 107th patriarch, JOHN XVIII (1769-1796), who belonged once to the Monastery of Saint Antony, consecrated him bishop for the double diocese of Jirja and Akhmim, with residence at Jirja. He was full of zeal for the moral and spiritual renewal of the faithful and for the struggle against the missionary propaganda campaign which was active at that period in his diocese. He died in 1826 at the age of ninety-one, and the SYNAXARION commemorates him on account of the sanctity of his life.

Yusab was the author of over thirty brief treatises on exegesis, moral theology, pastoral theology, and liturgy. They were collected, and usually appear in the manuscripts with the title Silah al- Mu’minin (The Weapon of the Faithful). In the two Paris manuscripts they appear under the title Kitab al-Maqalat (Book of Treatises). No particular system is evident in the order of these collections, and it may be purely chronological. This would mean Yusab added his treatises to a manuscript gradually, as he wrote them. These collections are usually preceded by a long preface, written after all the treatises were completed and absent in the oldest manuscript of all (National Library, Paris, Arabe 4711).

The most complete of these series contains thirty-one treatises. It is given in three manuscripts of the Coptic Patriarchate, Cairo (Theology 137, Theology 226, and Theology 316). The contains twenty-seven treatises, the first nineteen of which correspond to the first nineteen of other collections. It also includes one treatise (the twenty-second) not found elsewhere. Another manuscript in the Coptic Patriarchate (Theology 138) contains the first eighteen and also a new item (the thirty-third in our list). A second manuscript in Paris (Arabe 4790) contains only treatises 1, 13, and 17 in our list. Certain treatises attributed to YUSAB, bishop of Akhmim (fifteenth century), could simply be treatises 1, 2, and 13 by the present author.

The style of these treatises is very casual, both on account of the language, which is full of grammatical errors and vulgarisms, and on account of the redaction, which contains repetitions and sentences that are often incomprehensible.

An inventory of the treatises follows. The order comes from the most complete manuscript (Coptic Patriarchate, Cairo, Theology 137). The number of the treatise in the Paris Arabe 4711, when the order differs from the Cairo manuscript, is indicated in parentheses. Three treatises or contained in other manuscripts are listed at the end.

  1. The existence of the Creator, and the Trinity, and His attributes.
  2. The incarnation of Christ.
  3. On Matthew 18:7: “Woe to the world on account of scandals!”
  4. On Matthew 18:9: “If your eye scandalizes you, tear it out.”
  5. On Romans 9:6: “This does not of course mean that the word of God has failed. For all the descendants of Israel are not Israel.”
  6. On 1 15:23ff: “Each according to his rank; at the head, Christ.”
  7. On 24:1-4: “I am the mother of pure love, of fear, of knowledge, and of worthy hope.”
  8. addressed to those Copts who have abandoned their church in order to follow that of the Franks, dealing in particular with the two natures in Christ, the sacraments, and liturgical innovations.
  9. On the last judgment.
  10. Against the who deny the resurrection of the just and their individual judgment.
  11. Against those who habitually commit, without being aware, the sins of pride, slander, and attachment to wealth.
  12. Against the Abyssinians who claim that the Holy Spirit anointed Christ (falsely interpreting the expression in the Creed “ by the Holy Spirit”), and go on to say that this is why Christ is called the “son of grace.”
  13. Account of a controversy between a Muslim sage and a bishop (namely, Yusab), on the occasion of a visit to a prominent Copt, on the Trinity and the Incarnation.
  14. Against the custom of celebrating martyrs by large banquets, for which musicians, singers, and poets are hired, out of vainglory, and to which the poor are not invited, thus leading to jealousy and base rivalries.
  15. Against abuses current in churches: games, chitchat, disputes, and tumults.
  16. Reproaches to the priests concerning the Wednesday and Friday fast and disputes that arise among them on account of confession.
  17. of John XVIII (1769-1796) for the day of his death, which occurred on 7 June 1796; and panegyric of Ibrahim al- Jawhari.
  18. On the sins that derive from pride and on the benefits of humility.
  19. On confession, and the dispositions of the confessor and the penitent, an interesting and very rich treatise.
  20. On medals (“icons”) struck in the image of the saints and the martyrs, and the respect they should be accorded for fear of scandal (this is a reply to a question posed by Yuwasaf ibn Ilyas al-Birmaw; Paris, Arabe 27).
  21. Concerning the scapegoat mentioned in Leviticus 16:5-10 (not in Paris manuscript).
  22. On Matthew 15:13: “Every plant not planted by my Father will be uprooted,” and on John 17:12b: “I have watched over them, and none of them has been lost, the son of perdition,” and on John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth and the life” (Paris, Arabe 20).
  23. Against the faithful who fast on their own authority, without the counsel of their ecclesiastical pastors (Paris, Arabe 21).
  24. On the of darkness (not in Paris).
  25. On the prayer of Christ in his agony: “Father, if it be possible, may this cup be taken away from me” (Mt. 26:39 and parallels; Paris, Arabe 24).
  26. How was it possible that the of the prophet Samuel appeared at the command of the prophetess before Saul? (not in Paris).
  27. On penance and the absolution of sins (probably Paris, Arabe 25: On the mercy of God toward sinners. Text taken from the Master of the Vineyard).
  28. On haughtiness, the love of dominion, and pride (not in Paris).
  29. On patience and perseverance in time of trials and tribulations (Paris, Arabe 26).
  30. On the resurrection, and against those Copts who have followed the Chalcedonians, who claim that the saints and the martyrs will be crowned already before the resurrection (Paris, Arabe 23).
  31. On the fall of Satan and the disobedience of Adam and Eve (not in Paris).
  32. On the unjust judge and the second coming of Christ, according to Luke 18:18 (not in the Cairo manuscript, but in Paris, Arabe 22).
  33. Letter of Father Bartholemew [Storz, O.F.M.] to the 107th patriarch, JOHN XVIII (1769-1796), suggesting he write to the pope of Rome, and the reply of Yusab to Bartholemew, in the name of the patriarch (this exchange is found in the Coptic Patriarchate, Theology 138, end of the eighteenth century; also in the Theology 125 of the Monastery of Saint Antony, copied in the year 1800.
  34. Letter to the 107th patriarch, John XVIII, concerning questions of discipline, and the patriarch’s reply. This exchange is found in two manuscripts of the Coptic Patriarchate: Theology 134 and Theology 113, and probably in Theology 54 of the Monastery of Saint Macarius).

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  • Amir Nasr. Al-Qiddis Anba Yusab al-Abahh Usquf Jirja wa- Akhmim. Cairo, 1985.
  • Graf, G. Catalogue de arabes chrétiens conservés au Caire. Vatican City, 1934.
  • Griveau, R. “Notices des arabes chrétiens entrés a la Bibliothèque Nationale depuis la publication du catalogue.” Revue de l’Orient chrétien 14 (1909):174-88, 276-81, 337-56.
  • Iris Habib el-Masri. Qissat al-Kanisah al-Qibtiyyah, Vol. 4: 1517-1870. Cairo, 1975.
  • Kamil Salih Naklah. Silsilat Tarikh al-Babawat Batarikat al-Kursi al-Iskandari, Vol. 5. Cairo, 1954.
  • Simaykah, M., and Y. ‘Abd al-Masih. Catalogue of the Coptic and Arabic Manuscripts in the Coptic Museum, the Patriarchate, and the Principal Churches of Cairo and Alexandria and the Monasteries of Egypt. Cairo, 1939-1942.

KHALIL SAMIR, S.J.