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The Book of Steps

(The Syriac Liber Graduum)

(ܟܬܒܐ ܕܡܣܩ̈ܬܐ)

Father dr. Khoshaba Gewargis (London)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a work with spiritual direction, consisting of 30 chapters. The author, who almost certainly lived in the Parsian Empire (there is a reference to the river Zab, a tributary of the river Tigris), (ܢܗܪܐ ܕܙܒܐ)  is unknown; probably he was writing in the late fourth century (or possible early fifth). Within the Christian community which the anonymous author is addressing a distinction is made between the “Upright”  ܟܐܢ̈ܐ)) and the “perfect” ܓܡܝܪܐ) ; the former observe the “lesser commandments” and live a lofe of active chariry, while the later follow the “greater commandments”, which involve a total renunciation of the belongings and a radical imitation of the life of Christ.

The Book of Steps was rarely copied as a whole, amd most of the (fairly numerous) manuscripts contain only a small number of Discourses (sometimes misatributed: e.g. 14 is wrongly atributed to Evagrius). The Book of Step’s two fold classification was taken up later by Philoxenus (see 22, below), where as most subsequent writers preferred the three fold modle developed by John the Solitary (see 16, below).

The 30 chapters have the following headings:

1. On the distinction between the major commandments, for the perfect, and the minor commandments for the upright.

2. On those who wish to be perfect.

3. The physical and spiritual ministry.

4. On vegetables for the sick (cp Rom 14:2).

5. On “milk” for infants (cp 1 Cor.3:1-2).

6. On the person who becomes perfect and continues to grow.

7. On the commamndments for the upright.

8. On the person who give all he has to the poor to eat.

9. On the uprightness and on the love of the upright and of the prophets.

10. On the advantage we have when we endure evil while performing good; and on fasting and humiliation of the body and soul.

11. On hearing of the Scriptures, and when the Law is read before us.

12. On the ministry of the hidden and the revealed church.

13. On the way of life of upright.

14. On the upright and perfect.

15. On the marriage instinct in Adam.

16. On how a person grows as a result of the major commandments.

17. On the sufferings of our Lord, by which an example is provided for us.

18. On the tears of prayer.

19. On the distinguishing characteristics of the way of perfection.

20. On the hard steps on this way.

21.On the tree of Adam.

22. On the judgements by which those who make them are not saved.

23. On Satan, Pharaoh, and the Children of Israel.

24. On repentance.

25. On the voice of God and that of Satan.

26. On the second law which the Lord laid down for Adam.

27. On the matter of the thief who was saved.

28. On the human soul not being blood.

29. On the subduing of the body.

30. On the commandments of faith and of love of the Solitaries.

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