ISIDORE OF PELUSIUM: Egyptian abbot; b. at Alexandria probably before 370; d. near Pelusium (135 m. e. of Alexandria) about 440. He was presbyter and abbot in a cloister at the east mouth of the Nile, not far from Pelusium. It can not be proved that he was a pupil of John Chrysostom; but he was spiritually akin to him, and highly valued his writings. There are preserved more than 2,000 of his letters, mostly brief notes, but frequently of great length, which show him to have been a highly esteemed spiritual counselor, thoroughly aglow with holy earnestness; a very shepherd of souls, and a teacher versed in Scripture.
Isidore was an example of Greek monasticism in its noblest form. For him the practical philosophy of the disciples of Christ (i. 63 and elsewhere) throve only in withdrawal from the world, in voluntary poverty and abstinence. The soul could not discern God (i. 402) in the bustle of everyday life; only in the utmost emancipation from worldly wants did it approach divine freedom (ii. 19). Yet asceticism and flight from the world did not alone suffice: the garland of all virtues must be woven in monasticism, the peculiar dangers of which, however, did not escape Isidore. But though retired from the world, he still took part in the need and perils of Christianity, supporting, exhorting, wherever he could reach with his written message. He appeared to great advantage in his attitude toward Cyril of Alexandria. While at one with him in dogmatic opposition to Nestorius, he still perceived Cyrils intriguing spirit, and warned him against blind passion (i. 310); frankly warning the emperor, too, against the disorder provoked by the interference of his courtiers in dogmatic affairs (i. 311). But when Cyril, content with the fact that Nestorius had been dropped by the Antiochians, allowed some dogmatic concessions to his opponents, he had to hear the admonition from Isidore that he should stand fast, and not himself become a heretic (i. 324). Isidore took to heart the dignity of the priesthood, and with great earnestness did he remind negligent ecclesiastics of their serious accountability. He thus very persistently rebuked Bishop Eusebius of Pelusium and his clergy, because they trafficked in priestly offices, suffered their congregations to decay, chose rather to build sumptuous churches than to care for the poor, and caused offense by their scandalous behavior. In patriarchal fashion, moreover, he concerned himself with all manner of human needs, nor feared, in so doing, the great of this earth. He fervently exhorted the emperor to mildness and liberality (i. 35). For the weal of the town, he addressed himself to the civil authorities (ii. 25), and interceded with their masters in behalf of slaves who fled to him for protection. Of literary training himself, he granted that the Christian, like the bee, might suck honey from the teachings of the philosophers (ii. 3).
Dogmatically orthodox, and a zealous opponent of all heresies, he directed his attention especially toward the doctrinal questions of weight for practical Christianity (sin, freedom, grace). He was of greater significance, however, as an exegete. For him the Scriptural truth was the heavenly treasure in earthen vessels. The expositor should approach his task with devout conviction; dwelling not upon separate words, but on the entire connection. Still he was given to many an arbitrary allegory: particularly in his Christological views of passages in the Old Testament. At the same time, in the exposition of the Old Testament he would not have the historical sense annulled by the mystical and prophetic; and he made attempts besides at explanations of points of grammar and subject matter.