Jacob of Nisibis

FOURTH century. Jacob (or James), a solitary ascetic, was made bishop of Nisibis by popular acclaim. A confessor in the persecution of Maximus, he later took a leading part at the Council of Nicea and was classed favorably by Athanasius with Hosius of Cordova and Alexander of Alexandria. Apparently he subscribed to the decrees of the Dedication Council of Antioch (341). He baptized and befriended Ephraem the Syrian,* with whom tradition sometimes confused him. Theodoret and Gennadius record legends of his austerity and wonder-working. Nicknamed “the Moses of Mesopotamia,” he organized a week of public prayer which was answered by the death of Arius, and he so defended Nisibis against the Persian Sapor II in 338, 346, and 350 that after he died, his bones were treated as guarantees of civic protection. Christians removed them when Nisibis fell in 363. The Chronicle of Edessa dates his death in 338, but the legendary defense of Nisibis in 350 rules this out. Modern scholars reject the claim that eighteen tracts discovered in Venice and published by Antonelli in 1756 are part of twenty-six Syriac treatises on faith and practice attributed to Jacob by Gennadius. The Roman, Syrian, Greek, Mennonite, and Coptic churches commemorate him.