The First Friday Night

From Questions and Answers of Isho bar Nun, an answer that I found particularly charming:

Question: Did God create the primordial Natures in the night or in the day-time?

Answer: He created both in the night and in the day-time; and in these at their beginning… But there are [expositors] who have said that He created the wild beasts, the cattle and the creeping things of the earth at the beginning of Friday night. And they have presented a plausible argument, [based] on the fact that the wild beasts and the creeping things of the earth see better at night. However, everyone agrees that man was created at the beginning of the daytime of the Friday.’

From The Selected Questions of Isho bar Nun on the Pentateuch, ed. and trans. by Ernest G Clarke (Leiden: Brill, 1962).

Hardcore Scholarliness

I have to apologize for so little writing- the last weeks of the semester (plus the end of Lent and the marathon of Holy Week and Pascha which are so close) leave little time for blogging, I’m afraid. However, my study habits are certainly nowhere near those described by Barhadbeshabba (‘son of Sunday’) in his Eclessiastical History, in which he described the scholastic-monastic life of Narsai, the apparent founder and first head of the School of Nisibis, who would have loved coffee:

‘Now he would take a simple nourishment regularly of one meal, and again he would do this at evening time, or once every two days. His bed was a mat of reed and palm, his bedding a patched cloak. He would work wholly in meditation upon the liturgy and meditation on the scriptures, not giving place for sleep to fall upon himself, but upon a common seat he would drive sleep from his brow, and if it happened that he was conquered to slumber from his vigil, either he would stand and walk or he would place in his nostrils materials which would excite and awake, like spicy and sour things, or hot and pleasing things, or he would lay a tome upon his face and in this way he would sleep upon his seat. Often the tome would be the cause of waking him, since it would tip from its weight and fall from his face to his hands. The holy one demonstrated all this diligence so that while he was fleshly and mortal he emulated the way of the angels.’

From Sources for the Study of the School of Nisibis, translated and with an introduction by Adam H. Becker (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2008). Becker’s reassasment and interpretation of the School of Nisibis and its ‘scholastic’ culture, which this collection of sources supplements, is excellent and comes much recommended if you’re at all interested in the Church of the East, though the price tag is unfortunately rather steep…