- Meet Saint Orsiesius.
Orsiesius was a monastic leader in the mid-300's in Egypt. He was an assistant of Saint Pachomius, the individual who developed the first cenobitic monastery, at Tabenna, Egypt. Pachomius appointed Orsiesius and another monk, Theodore, to be his assistants. Orsiesius oversaw a monastery at Khenoboski. When Pachomius died, he was briefly succeeded by Petronius, but Petronius himself died thirteen days later. Theodore was apprehensive about the lure of prideful ambition and thus declined the office, so in 346, Orsiesius took the position as monastery-leader, despite being younger than many other monks. After five years, during which some of the monks complained about the somewhat communistic way that young whippersnapper Orsiesius ran things, Orsiesius decided to resign, lacking administrative skills to match his piety. Theodore, reluctantly acquiescing to his destiny, became monastery-leader, but he constantly consulted Orsiesius, almost as if Orsiesius was still in charge. Theodore died in 368; Orsiesius became abbot again at that point, and held the office until his death in 380.
Gennadius, in his continuation of Jerome's "Illustrious Men," mentions Orsiesius as the ninth individual he describes: "ORESIESIS the monk, the colleague of both Pachomius and Theodorus, a man learned to perfection in Scripture, composed a book seasoned with divine salt and formed of the essentials of all monastic discipline and to speak moderately, in which almost the whole Old and New Testament is found set forth in compact dissertations all, at least, which relates to the special needs of monks. This he gave to his brethren almost on the day of his death leaving, as it were, a legacy." (Cited from p. 387 of Vol. 3 of Schaff-Wace's Nicene & Post-Nicene Fathers, 1892.) Athanasius wrote two brief letters to Orsiesius (#57 and #58), the second of which was sent to cheer him up after the death of Theodore.
Orsiesius' "Teachings on Monastic Life" (or, "Monastic Institutional Teachings") was translated into Greek. Jerome then translated that Greek text into Latin, and it is the Latin text which has survived, and which occupies columns 369-894 of Volume 40 of Migne's P.G. In "Teachings on Monastic Life," Orsiesius constantly quotes from, alludes to, and otherwise utilizes Scripture. From the New Testament, he uses Romans 11:21, I Cor. 10:11, I Cor. 5:5, Romans 7:12, I Peter 5:8, II Tim. 3:10, Mt. 7:2, Mt. 23:4, Mt. 6:12, II Cor. 5:10, Jn. 5:45, Jn. 5:46, Gal. 6:5, I Tim. 6:20, I Cor. 14:38, I Cor. 11:2, Acts 20:20, Acts 20:31, Jn. 17:12, Gal. 5:15, Mt. 24:50, Mt. 24:51, Mt. 25:21, Mt. 25:25, I Peter 3:15, Eph. 6:4, Lk. 12:48, Mt. 25:45, Lk. 2:8, Jn. 10:11-13, Lk. 2:8-12, Jn. 21:15-17, Jn. 17:24, Jn. 12:26, Lk. 12:35-37, Philippians 4:4, Eph. 6:16, Eph. 6:17, Mt. 10:16, Col. 3:20, Heb. 13:17, I Cor. 3:16, I Cor. 3:17, Eph. 4:30, I Jn. 3:9, I Jn. 2:14, I Cor. 15:55, Rom. 6:9, Rom. 8:4, Rom. 8:9, Mk. 4:25, Mt. 25:4ff., I Cor. 10:11, Eph. 2:20, Lk. 16:23, II Cor. 8:15, Jn. 13:34, Jn. 13:35, Mt. 18:6, Romo. 14:4, Jude v. 23 ["Et Judas in Epistola loquitur sua: Et hos quidem de igne rapientes, et odio habentes commaculatam tunicam."], Eph. 6:11-12, Gal. 5:13, Philippians 4:5-6, Acts 4:35, Gal. 6:8, Eph. 6:8, Rom. 2:6, Lk. 12:20, Mt. 19:21, Mt. 19:23, Mt. 6:24, Lk. 16:13, I Tim. 6:6-10, Jn. 2:14-15, Jn. 2:16, Mt. 21:13, Rom. 2:24, I Cor. 11:21-22, I Cor. 11:34, Gal. 3:3-4, Rom. 2:24, James 4:4, II Peter 2:21, Mt. 11:28-29, Rom. 2:4-6, II Tim. 2:4-6, Jn. 11:9-10, Heb. 10:39, I Thess. 5:5, Rom. 11:21, Rom. 13:11-12, Jn. 14:27, Mt. 22:40, Acts 20:28, Rom. 15:1-3, I Cor. 10:33, Rom. 15:4, Jn. 15:18, James 4:4, Jn. 16:33, Mt. 5:5-6, Mt. 5:10, Lk. 6:24-25, Jn. 14:21, Jn. 14:23, Jn. 15:14, Rom. 8:15, I Cor. 8:8, Rom. 14:17, Heb. 13:16, Acts 4:32-33, James 1:12, Rom. 8:17-18, Mt. 10:22, Jn. 21:5-6, Lk. 2:23, Lk. 2:52, II Tim. 3:15, Eph. 4:14, I Thess. 5:19, I Thess. 5:20, Eph. 4:26, Mt. 18:21ff., Mt. 5:24, Mt. 6:12/Lk. 11:4, Col. 3:13, Mt. 5:4, Eph. 5:1, Mt. 5:48, II Cor. 6:2, Rom. 13:10, I Jn. 4:7, I Jn. 4:21, I Jn. 3:12-14, Acts 20:32, and II Tim. 4:6-8. (In a short composition on columns 895-896 of P.G. 40, "The Six Thoughts of the Saints," he also utilizes Mt. 10:26.)
At least, those are the references given in the lower margin in Migne. But in 1932, within the pages of "Pachomiana Latina," Dom Amand Boon prepared a critical edition of Jerome's Latin translation of Orsiesius' work and on pages 109-147, quite a few additional references are provided in the lower margin. This book is equipped with a Scripture-index (showing the page and line where each passage is used), so whoever wants to see Boon's list of passages that Orsiesius utilizes, in the order in which they appear in the NT, can read the index and look for the references to pages 109-147.
("Pachomiana Latina" = Fascicule 7, Bibliotheque de la Revue d'Histoire Ecclesiastique. Alin Suciu provided a download-link last month at http://alinsuciu.com/2012/08/30/pachomian-bibliography-5-boon-pachomiana-latina/ .)
W. E. Crum is supposed to have published a Coptic text that relates in some way to Orsiesius, along with a German translation; in the 1921 Harvard Theological Review it is mentioned on pages 367-368, but without a lot of detail. Crum's 1915 book is "Der codex saec. VI-VII der Phillippsbibliothek zu Cheltenham." God willing, it will be in the public domain in just a few years. In his 1913 "Coptic Texts" there are some Coptic texts that mention Pachomius and Theodore.
I daresay that if no one had ever heard of Orsiesius, and tomorrow someone found a stash of papyrus fragments from the year 380, containing all the New Testament passages quoted by Orsiesius in "Teachings on Monastic Life," it would be heralded as a significant discovery. But hardly anyone, it seems, /has/ heard of him! (Even the spelling of his name is in doubt; he is Horsiesius and Orsiesius and Oresiesis.)
Ezra Abbot heard of him, and in Abbot's lengthy article on Acts 20:28 on pages 313-352 in Bibliotheca Sacra, Volume 33 (1876), he mentions Orsiesius on page 325: "The earliest writer not Greek who seems to have quoted this verse with the reading "God" is the Egyptian monk ORSIESIUS or Oresiesis (fl. A.D. 435), De Ist. Monach. C. 40 (Migne, Patrol. Gr. XL. 886c): "scientes vos reddituros rationem pro omni grege, super quem vos Spiritus sanctus constituit inspicere et pascere ecclesiam Dei, quam acquisivit proprio sanguine." But we have him only at third hand. This treatise was written in Coptic, then translated into Greek, from which version Jerome, as he tells us, dictated to a notarius his Latin translation, in which alone it has come down to us."
Probably more attention should be paid to writers such as Pachomius and Orsiesius; the possibility might exist that further analysis of their quotations could perhaps provoke a nomenclature-shift, so that instead of referring to the "Secondary Alexandrian Text" one might refer instead to the "Pachomian Text" or "Tabennite Text."
Yours in Christ,
James Snapp, Jr.