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Wed, November 22, 2023
Start: 01:00 PM
End: 01:50 PM

All are welcome to attend in Camelford Hall (room 226) at McMaster Divinity College at 1:00pm or via livestream at the link below:

Join the Livestream
Password: z00m (Note that the password has zeros rather than “o”)

At this week’s Theological Research Seminar, John Haitham Issak will be presenting, “The Interpretation of Amos 4:13 and 1 Timothy 5:21 in the letters of Athanasius to Serapion” Read the abstract and his bio below.


A Serapion, bishop of Thmuis, sought Athanasius’ help to deal with a group that denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit. Athanasius accepted Serapion’s request and eventually wrote three letters to him. The letters can be counted as the first essential documents regarding the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. The group who denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit is addressed in these letters as Τροπικοί (Tropici), which means specific way or method. This group relied on two passages from the Scriptures, Amos 4:13 and 1 Timothy 5:21, and they said that the Spirit is either a creature or one of the ministering angels. Athanasius objected to the meaning or the explanation that the Tropici gave to the two verses; Athanasius used specific principles in his argument with this group in his three letters. The paper will analyze the two verses and how Athanasius explained them in his letters to Serapion to defend the divinity of the Holy Spirit.



Dr. John Haitham Issak graduated with his Ph.D. from McMaster Divinity College. His doctoral thesis entailed a study of Athanasius’ pneumatology in the letters to Serapion. His ongoing research projects are focused on Syriac and the Syriac church fathers, Ephrem, Aphrahaat and Jacob of Serugh. Most recently, he has translated several letters of Timothy I of Baghdad from Syriac into English, along with an ongoing English translation of five books in the history of the Syriac church. Dr. Issak has taught Patristics, Syriac, and Greek in the Syriac Orthodox church seminaries in Mosul, Iraq, and Damascus. He has also served as a director in the Syriac Orthodox seminary in Mosul. He has presented papers at conferences related to Syriac studies, especially on Ephrem, and regularly participated in the programs of the Pappas Patristic Institute program at the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. Dr. Issak has published several articles and his first book on Athanasius’ pneumatology (The Spirit of Truth). He is offering a Syriac Language 1 course this Semester at MDC and a Syriac Language II course in the Winter Semester

About TRS

The MDC Theological Research Seminar (TRS) is a bimonthly gathering for all MDC students and faculty. TRS meets over the lunch hour on Wednesdays, and includes about thirty minutes for the paper presentation and twenty minutes for discussion.

All advanced degree students are invited to present a paper and share your research with your colleagues. TRS is an excellent opportunity to “test drive” a paper you will be presenting at an upcoming conference and receive helpful feedback on your current research projects. Thinking about submitting an article to a journal and want some interaction first? TRS will provide it. Just published an article or an essay and want to share it us? TRS is an excellent opportunity to broadcast it.

This year the organizing committee consists of Dr. Francis Pang, Dr. Phil Zylla, and Dr. Gord Heath. To submit a paper, contact a member of the organizing committee.