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Didymus the Blind (313 – 398)

Excerpts from
De Vitis Patrum, Book II
By Rufinus of Aquileia

Chapter XXIV

Among the seniors we also met a good man called Didymus in whom were many graces from God, as [the beauty of] his face showed. This man got rid of insects which lie on the earth in wait for the feet, such as scorpions, horned caterpillars (? cerastas quos cornutas vocant) and snakes which flourish in these places because of the heat of the sun, so that no one was ever stung by them.
Saint Didymus the Blind, lost his eyesight at the age of four, but due to his ardent desire for learning, invented the method of engraved writing for reading with his fingers, fifteen centuries before Braille. By this method, he learnt by heart the Holy Bible and the Church doctrines. He became dean of the School of Alexandria, and among his disciples were Saint Gregory of Nazienza, Saint Jerome, Rufinus and Palladius. In his dispute with the Arians, he conquered them. Saint Anthony said to Saint Didymus: "Do not be sad that you have no eyesight with which the animals, and even the insects, share, but remember that you have divine insight with which you can see the light of divinity"...Coptic Church
Didymus the Blind (c. 313 – 398) was a Coptic Church theologian of Alexandria, whose famous Catechetical School he led for about half a century. He became blind at a very young age, and therefore ignorant of the rudiments of learning. Yet, he displayed such a miracle of intelligence as to learn perfectly dialectics and even geometry, sciences which especially require sight.

Didymus wrote many works: Commentaries on all the Psalms, the Gospel of Matthew, the Gospel of John as Against the Arians, and On the Holy Spirit, which Jerome translated into Latin. He also wrote on Isaiah, Hosea, Zechariah, Job, and many other topics.

Didymus’ biblical commentaries (supposedly on nearly all the books of the Bible) survive in fragments only, and those on the Catholic Letters are of dubious authenticity. He is probably the author of a treatise on the Holy Spirit that is extant in Latin translation...Wikipedia
Didymus the Blind, of Alexandria, b. about 310 or 313; d. about 395 or 398, at the age of eighty-five. Didymus lost the use of his eyes when four years old, yet he became one of the most learned men of his period. He prayed earnestly in his youth, we are told by Rufinus, not for the sight of his bodily eyes, but for the illumination of the heart. He admitted to St. Anthony that the loss of his sight was a grief to him; the saint replied that he wondered how a wise man could regret the loss of that which he had in common with ants and flies and gnats, and not rather rejoice that he possessed a spiritual sight like that of the saints and Apostles. St. Jerome indeed habitually spoke of him not at "the blind" but as "the Seer". Didymus studied with ardor, and his vigils were long and frequent, not for reading but for listening, that he might gain by hearing what others obtained by seeing. When the reader fell asleep for weariness, Didymus did not repose, but as it were chewed the cud (says Rufinus) of what he had heard, until he seemed to have inscribed it on the pages of his mind. Thus in a short time he amassed a vast knowledge of grammar, rhetoric, logic, music, arithmetic, and geometry, and a perfect familiarity with Holy Scripture. He was early placed at the head of the famous catechetical school of Alexandria, over which he presided for about half a century. St. Athanasius highly esteemed him. The orator Libanius wrote to an official in Egypt: "You cannot surely be ignorant of Didymus, unless you are ignorant of the great city wherein he has been night and day pouring out his learning for the good of others. He is similarly extolled by his contemporaries and by the historians of the following century, Rufinus was six years his pupil. Palladius visited him four times in ten years (probably 388-398). Jerome came to him for a month in order to have his doubts resolved with regard to difficult passages of Scripture. Later ages have neglected this remarkable man. He was a follower of Origen, and adopted many of his errors. Consequently when St. Jerome quarrelled with Rufinus and made war on Origenism, he ceased to boast of being a disciple of Didymus and was ashamed of the praise he had formerly given to the "Seer". When Origen was condemned by Justinian and then by the Fifth General Council, Didymus was not mentioned. But he was anathematized together with Evagrius Ponticus in the edict by which the Patriarch Eutychus of Constantinople gave effect to the decree of the council; and he was (perhaps in consequence of this) included in the condemnation of the Origenists by the sixth and seventh councils. But this censure is to be taken as applying to his doctrine and not to his person. It has had the unfortunate effect of causing the loss to us of most of his very numerous writings, which, as the works of a supposed heretic, were not copied in the Middle Ages.

Didymus always remained a layman. The idea that he was married rests on a mistaken identification of him with a Didymus to whom one of the letters of St. Isadore of Pelusium is addressed. He seemed on the contrary to have lived the life of an ascetic, although in the city and not in the desert. A curious story was told by him to Palladius. One day, when dwelling on the thought of Julian as a persecutor, and on this account having taken no food, he fell asleep in his chair and saw white horses running in different directions, while the riders cried out, "Tell Didymus, today at the seventh hour Julian died; arise and eat, and inform Athanasius the bishop, that he may also know it." Didymus noted the hour and the month and the week, and it was even so...Didymus the Blind
Didymus the Blind (born ~313, died ~398 CE Alexandria)

Didymus the blind was a celebrated head of the catechetical school at Alexandria. Although he was a layman and had become blind at the age of 4, he memorized great sections of the scriptures and, by means of secretaries, dictated numerous exegetical works. Among those holding him in great esteem were Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, who made him head of the Alexandrian school; and Jerome, who acknowledged Didymus as his master. Jerome later retracted, however, when the issue of Origenism became the subject of a heated controversy that subsequently culminated in the second Council (553) of Constantinople, in which Didymus' works - but not his person - were condemned for teaching Origenist doctrine. Because of this condemnation, most of his works were not copied during the Middle Ages and thus were lost...The Development of the Canon of the New Testament
"Origen’s work in the fields of exegesis and mystical theology was continued by St. Didymus the Blind. According to Socrates, St. Didymus wrote a defense and exposition of Origen’s De Principiis, of which nothing is extant. He dared to defend Origen and his work as entirely orthodox. He endeavored to show that Origen had been misunderstood by simple people who could not grasp his ideas. St. Jerome reports that Didymus gave an orthodox interpretation of Origen’s Trinitarian doctrine but accepted without hesitation his other errors regarding the sin of the angels, the pre-existence of souls, the apokatastasis. No wonder then that in the sixth and following centuries he was condemned as a believer in the pre-existence of the soul and in the apokatastasis. In 553 A.D the Chalcedonians anathematized him together with Origen and Evagrius Ponticus for these doctrines in the Council of Constantinople.

St. Didymus taught St. Gregory of Nazianzen (329-389 A.D), Rufinus of Aquileia (c. 345-410 A.D), and St. Jerome (c. 342-420 A.D), three figures who spread Origen’s influence and preserved his works."...Origen and Origenism...Coptic Orthodox Church Network
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