Jacob of Nisibis

Saint Jacob of Nisibis
Jacob's tomb in the crypt of his church in Nisibis.
Born 3rd century
Nisibis (Antiochia Mygdoniae)
Died c. 338[1][2][3] or c. 350[4][5][6]
Venerated in

Eastern Orthodox Church
Syriac Orthodox Church
Coptic Orthodox Church
Armenian Apostolic Church
Eastern Catholic Churches

Roman Catholic Church

Jacob of Nisibis (Syriac: ܝܥܩܘܒ ܢܨܝܒܢܝܐ, Yaʿqôḇ Nṣîḇnāyâ; died c.AD 338 or 350), was a Syriac bishop still venerated as a saint. He was the second bishop of Nisibis after Babu (d. 309)[9] and he was called the "Moses of Mesopotamia" for his wisdom and wonderworking abilities.[2][4] He was also the spiritual father of the renowned Assyrian saint Ephrem the Syrian, a celebrated ascetic and one of the 318 fathers of the First Ecumenical Council at Nicaea.

Jacob was appointed bishop, in 309, of the Christian community of Nisibis in Mesopotamia (modern Nusaybin, located near the Turkey/Syria border).[1] Jacob of Nisibis, also known as James of Nisibis and as Jacob of Nusaybin, is recorded as a signatory at the First Council of Nicaea in 325. He was the first Christian to search for the Ark of Noah, which he claimed to find a piece of on a mountain, Mount Judi (Turkish Cudi Dağı), 70 miles (110 km) from Nisibis.

He founded the basilica and theological School of Nisibis after the model of the school of Diodorus of Tarsus in Antioch. It was not until the 10th century that the "Persian Sage" who had been incorrectly identified with Jacob of Nisibis was finally identified with Aphrahat. Jacob was the teacher and spiritual director of Saint Ephrem the Syrian, a great ascetic, teacher and hymn writer who combatted Arianism.[1]

Much of Jacob's public ministry, like that of other Aramean ascetics, can be seen as socially cohesive in the context of the Late Roman East. In the face of the withdrawal of wealthy landowners to the large cities, holy men such as Jacob acted as impartial and necessary arbiters in disputes between peasant farmers and within the smaller towns.[10]

Jacob of Nisibis died peacefully in Nisibis, according to some in A.D. 338,[1][2][3] and according to others in A.D. 350.[4][5][6] When Nisibis was yielded to the Persian monarch in 363, the Christian inhabitants carried his sacred relics with them,[4] which according to the Menologion of the Armenians at Venice, were brought to Constantinople about the year 970.

He is commemorated in the Eastern Orthodox Church on January 13[7] and on October 31.[8] He is commemorated in the Coptic Synaxarion on the 18th day of Month of Tobi (usually 26 January). In the Armenian Apostolic Church he is commemorated together with his companion Mar Awgin on the fourth Saturday of Advent. In the Roman Catholic Church he is commemorated on 11 May.[11]

The Mor Yakup Church, also known as the Church of Saint Jacob in Nisibis, built between 313-320 by himself, is on the UNESCO World Heritage site Tentative List.[12]


  1. 1 2 3 4 St. Jacob of Nisibis. Antiochian Syriac Orthodox Church.
  2. 1 2 3 Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch: Archdiocese of the Western U.S. St. James (Jacob) bishop of Nisibis, July 15.
  3. 1 2 Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL). JACOB (JAMES) OF NISIBIS.
  4. 1 2 3 4 Sir William Smith. "JACOBUS (4) or JAMES bishop of Nisibis in Mesopotamia". In: Volume 3 of A Dictionary of Christian Biography, Literature, Sects and Doctrines: Being a Continuation of 'The Dictionary of the Bible'. J. Murray, 1882. p.326.
  5. 1 2 St. James, Bishop of Nisibis, Confessor at Bartleby.com.
  6. 1 2 W. H. C. Frend. The Monks and the Survival of the East Roman Empire in the Fifth Century. Past & Present. No. 54 (Feb., 1972), pp. 3-24. Page 8.
  7. 1 2 Great Synaxaristes: (in Greek) Ὁ Ὅσιος Ἰάκωβος. 13 Ιανουαρίου. ΜΕΓΑΣ ΣΥΝΑΞΑΡΙΣΤΗΣ.
  8. 1 2 Great Synaxaristes: (in Greek) Ὁ Ἅγιος Ἰάκωβος Ἐπίσκοπος Μυγδονίας. 13 Ιανουαρίου. ΜΕΓΑΣ ΣΥΝΑΞΑΡΙΣΤΗΣ.
  9. Vailhé, Siméon. "Nisibis". Original Catholic Encyclopedia. El Cajon, California: Catholic Answers. Archived from the original on 2011-07-25. Retrieved 2010-12-10. The See of Nisibis was founded in 300 by Babu (died 309). His successor, the celebrated St. James, defended the city by his prayers during the siege of Sapor II.
  10. Peter Brown, “The Rise and Function of the Holy Man in Late Antiquity” Journal of Roman Studies, 61 (1971) pp 80–101
  11. "St. Jacob of Nisibis". Catholic Online. Retrieved 2007-07-06.
  12. "Zeynel Abidin Mosque Complex and Mor Yakup (Saint Jacob) Church". UNESCO Wğrld Heritage Convention. Retrieved 27 July 2018.
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