Syriac Literature: An English Translation of La Littérature Syriaque 9781463234102

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Syriac Literature: An English Translation of La Littérature Syriaque

Table of contents :
Table of Contents
Foreword to the English Edition
Part I: Syriac Literature And Its Different Genres
I. The Origins of Syriac Literature
II. General Features of Syriac Literature. Poetry
III. The Ancient Versions of the Old and New Testaments
IV. The Syro-Palestinian Version of the Old and New Testament
V. The Later Versions of the Old and New Testament
VI. The Syrian Masoretic Text
VII. The Biblical Commentaries
VIII. The Apocrypha Concerning the Old and New Testament
IX. The Acts of the Martyrs and of the Saints
X. The Apologetic Texts
XI. Ecclesiastical Canons and Civil Law
XII. The Historiographers
XIII. Ascetic Literature
XIV. Philosophy
XV. The Sciences of the Syrians
XVI. Grammar, Lexicography, Rhetoric and Poetic
XVII. Syriac Translations
Part II: Notes On The Syriac Authors
I. Writers up to the 5th Century
II. Writers up Until the 7th Century
III. Writers under the Arabs
Index of Names

Citation preview

Syriac Literature

Gorgias Eastern Christian Studies

35 Series Editors George Anton Kiraz István Perczel Lorenzo Perrone Samuel Rubenson

Gorgias Eastern Christian Studies brings to the scholarly world the underrepresented field of Christianity as it developed in the Eastern hemisphere. This series consists of monographs, edited collections, texts and translations of the documents of Eastern Christianity, as well as studies of topics relevant to the world of historic Orthodoxy and early Christianity.

Syriac Literature

An English Translation of La Littérature Syriaque


Rubens Duval Translated by

Olivier Holmey


34 2013

Gorgias Press LLC, 954 River Road, Piscataway, NJ, 08854, USA Copyright © 2013 by Gorgias Press LLC

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning or otherwise without the prior written permission of Gorgias Press LLC. 2013



ISBN 978-1-61143-962-5

ISSN 1539-1507

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Duval, Rubens, 1839-1911. [Littérature syriaque. English] Syriac literature : an English translation of La littérature syriaque by Rubens Duval / by Olivier Holmey. p. cm. -- (Gorgias Eastern Christian Studies ; 35) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-1-61143-962-5 1. Syriac literature--History and criticism. I. Holmey, Olivier, translator. II. Title. PJ5601.D813 2014 892’.3--dc23 2013040787 Printed in the United States of America

TABLE OF CONTENTS Foreword to the English Edition ......................................................... vii PART I SYRIAC LITERATURE AND ITS DIFFERENT GENRES ....... 1 I. The Origins of Syriac Literature ......................................................... 3 II. General Features of Syriac Literature. Poetry................................. 7 §1. — Features of Syriac Literature .............................................. 7 §2. — Poetry .................................................................................... 9 III. The Ancient Versions of the Old and New Testaments........... 21 §1. — The so-called Peshitta version of the Old Testament . 21 §2. — The ancient versions of the New Testament ................ 31 IV. The Syro-Palestinian Version of the Old and New Testament ....................................................................................... 37 V. The Later Versions of the Old and New Testament................... 43 VI. The Syrian Masoretic Text ............................................................. 47 VII. The Biblical Commentaries .......................................................... 53 VIII. The Apocrypha Concerning the Old and New Testament ... 67 §1. — The apocrypha of the Old Testament ............................ 67 §2. — The apocrypha of the New Testament. ......................... 73 IX. The Acts of the Martyrs and of the Saints .................................. 97 §1. — The Acts of the Martyrs of Occidental Mesopotamia ......................................................................... 97 §2. — The Acts of the Martyrs of Persia.................................102 §3. — The Syriac texts on the martyrs outside Mesopotamia and Persia....................................................116 §4. — Lives of the saints and martyrs ......................................122 X. The Apologetic Texts .....................................................................133 XI. Ecclesiastical Canons and Civil Law...........................................137 §1. — Ecclesiastical canons translated from Greek ...............137 §2. — Syriac ecclesiastical canons. ............................................141 §3. — Civil law.............................................................................148




XII. The Historiographers ..................................................................153 §1. — General history.................................................................153 §2. — Particular histories. ..........................................................177 XIII. Ascetic Literature .......................................................................187 XIV. Philosophy ...................................................................................203 §1. — Syriac philosophy .............................................................203 §2. — Aristotelian philosophy...................................................212 §3. — Other Syriac versions of Greek philosophy ................223 XV. The Sciences of the Syrians ........................................................231 §1. — Medicine ............................................................................231 §2. — Natural history .................................................................236 §3. — Astronomy, cosmography and geography ...................238 §4. — Chemistry ..........................................................................242 §5. — Mathematics .....................................................................243 XVI. Grammar, Lexicography, Rhetoric and Poetic ......................245 §1. — Grammar...........................................................................245 §2. — Lexicography ....................................................................253 §3. — Rhetoric and poetic .........................................................258 XVII. Syriac Translations ....................................................................261 §1. — Translations of the works of the Greek Fathers ........262 §2. — Translations of the secular works .................................276 PART II NOTES ON THE SYRIAC AUTHORS ........................................281 I. Writers up to the 5th Century.........................................................285 II. Writers up Until the 7th Century..................................................293 §1. — The Orthodox ..................................................................293 §2. — The Nestorians.................................................................296 §3. — The Monophysites ...........................................................304 III. Writers under the Arabs ...............................................................321 §1. — The 7th century ................................................................321 §2. — The 8th century ................................................................331 §3. — The 9th century ................................................................337 §4. — The 10th century..............................................................343 §5. — The 11th century..............................................................345 §6. — The 12th century..............................................................348 §7. — The 13th century and the end of Syriac literature ......352 Index of Names ....................................................................................363


Despite having been written over a century ago, Rubens Duval’s La Littérature Syriaque remains one of the best — and most readable — introductions to Syriac literature. This edition provides the first English translation of the 1907 third edition of the work, translated by Olivier Holmey and benefiting from a comprehensive index of names compiled by Edward Chandler. We are grateful to both Olivier and Edward for their supurb work. Preparing a translation of such a classic work for publication is never without its perils and thanks are also due to James E. Walters for his invaluable advice throughout the course of this project. Gorgias Press September 2013





I. THE ORIGINS OF SYRIAC LITERATURE Syriac literature was formed and developed in Mesopotamia under the influence of Christianity, to which it owes its religious character. It is first and foremost an ecclesiastical literature. Indeed, the works that have come down to us were written virtually exclusively by clergymen and theologians. Be they doctors devoted to the study of Greek philosophy, such as the masters of the School of Edessa in the 5th century, or of natural and medical sciences, such as Sergius of Reshʿayna in the following century, or even the famous Syrian physicians of Baghdad in the time of the Abbasid caliphs, all were well-versed in matters of theology. In the Orient, sciences were branches of philosophy, and the most important of these branches was knowledge of God and religious dogma. This line of study had its roots in the religious spirit of the Semites, whether Syrian, Israelite or Arabic. The Jewish intellectual endeavour largely focused on the study of the Torah, that is, the religious law, and Muslim instruction was given at the madrassa attached to mosques and directed by oulemas (doctors of law). Likewise, the Christian Syrians studied in schools attached to monasteries. Pagan Mesopotamia is not to be counted among those nations of literary genius. It comes as no surprise that the works it produced, besides several inscriptions preserved on stone, vanished with the fall of paganism. Had there been a true national culture, its tradition would have been preserved or would at least have left its mark on the Christian era. Yet this is not so: Syriac literature was born out of the great Christian movement of the Orient, drawing Mesopotamia in at a remarkable pace. This area soon became a major centre of religious dispute, holding a prominent place in the history of the Church. Following Bardaisan, it was to become the last bastion of Gnosticism. While the Syrians of the Persian Empire were to greet the vanquished Nestorianism in the West, the Syrians




of the Roman Empire were to declare themselves partisans of the Monophysite heresy and form the Jacobite sect. We have noted that Mesopotamia was the cradle of Syriac literature. Syrians were, it is true, spread out across a vast expanse of land. Syria proper (cis-euphratic Syria), Mesopotamia, Babylonia, and the oriental provinces such as Adiabene, Garamee and Susiana, were largely inhabited by Arameans who, following the evangelisation of these lands, took the title “Syrians.”1 Yet Syria had been deeply hellenised following the Seleucid occupation. While Syriac was the vernacular, Greek was used in writing. The use of Greek was universal and survived long after the Roman conquest.2 Mesopotamian Syriac only became the literary and ecclesiastical language of Syria after the Monophysite schism occurred. Beforehand, the offices had been celebrated in Greek, and the Holy Scriptures were in all likelihood explained orally in the popular dialect, which differed significantly from spoken Aramaic in both Mesopotamia and Babylonia.3 The origins of Syriac literature are closely tied to the evangelisation of Mesopotamia, which, following a constant tradition, began at Edessa.

When the Jews, who had been taken to Babylonia, found themselves surrounded by Aramaic populations devoted to the cult of celestial bodies, the word “Aramaic” became a synonym of “pagan” in Jewish literature. The Christian Arameans adopted the Greek word Σύροι to differentiate themselves from the Arameans who had remained pagan. 2 BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. Syr., ed. BRUNS, Leipzig, 1789, p. 120, ed. BEDJAN, Paris, 1890, p. 115, remarks that Greek remained the language of literature until the 8th century AD, as for instance in Damascus, where Caliph Walid forbade its use for the writing of official edicts, replacing it with Arabic instead. 3 On these different dialects, see BAR HEBRÆUS, ed. Œuv. gramm., ed. MARTIN II, p. 5, and A Compendious History of Dynasties, ed. Pocock, Oxford, 1663, p. 16; ed. SALHANI, Beyrouth, 1890, p. 18. Western Syriac, a very corrupt form, is still spoken today in two villages in the vicinity of Damascus. 1



The positive influence of Christianity was soon felt in Mesopotamia. Longstanding relations were established first between Edessa and the Church of Jerusalem, and later with the Church of Antioch as well. These led to the birth of an intellectual movement that turned Edessa into a great centre of religious and scientific study. They would also lead Mesopotamian Syriac to become the literary language that was eventually adopted by all Syrians, from the shores of the Mediterranean to the Adiabene, and from the Taurus Mountains to the Persian Gulf. This literary language appears in its final form in the ancient Syriac versions of the Old and New Testament. It was to remain intact throughout the centuries and retain its status as a scholarly language until the Muslim conquest, when the Syrian people adopted Arabic as their vernacular tongue. It has been argued that the roots of Syriac literature go back even further, to the Chaldean civilisation, but only vague hypotheses have been put forward in support of this claim.

II. GENERAL FEATURES OF SYRIAC LITERATURE. POETRY §1. — FEATURES OF SYRIAC LITERATURE Syriac literature is not the masterly creation of a nation which progressively developed and possesses a longstanding tradition. As we have said, nothing ties this literature to an indigenous past. It grew as an offspring of the sacred literature of Palestine on which were grafted the branches of Greek culture. Likewise, its surviving monuments do not display an original quality characteristic of the work of those great writers who reflect the unique genius of their people. This literature bears primarily a historical value. The chronicles contain crucial documents for the history of Asia prior to their composition, under Roman, Persian, Arabic, Mongolian, and finally Turkish rule. Indeed, ecclesiastical historians laid claim to the bulk of this literature. Syria was affected by all the struggles that cast their shadow over the Christian world: heresies and schisms flourished in its fertile ground. Until the 7th century, dissensions, polemics and religious controversies were commonplace among the Syrians of the Roman and Persian empires. By reason of their antiquity, the biblical versions require the work of the exegete. Just as the Syriac Hexapla provides the basis for a useful examination of the Septuagint, so can the Peshitta be employed to critique the Hebrew text. Likewise, the New Testament versions, including the Harqlean, can prove useful, as can the commentaries of the Holy Scriptures written by the Fathers of the Syrian Churches. The apocryphal literature of Judas [Thomas] resonated in Syria, triggering new writings on the biblical Patriarchs, the life of




Our Lord, the Virgin Mary and the Apostles. The legends which were born there later thrived even in the West. Hagiography is as prominent in Syriac literature as it is in other Christian literatures. The Occidental Syrians wrote Acts of martyrs that differed from those composed by the Oriental Syrians. The latter’s works contain historical and geographical data that shed light on obscure points of the history of ancient times. We need not dwell now on those aspects that will be developed later in this book. Rather, we shall focus here on the value of the translations of Greek books, which form an important branch of Syriac literature. Pagan Mesopotamia had remained impermeable to Greek literature. By contrast, from as early as the 5th century BC, we see at the heart of Christian Mesopotamian thought a reliance on the writings of the Fathers of the Greek Church and of the hellenistic Church of Antioch. At that time, Greek was taught at the famous school of Edessa, which successively published translations of Theodore of Mopsuestia’s commentaries, treatises of St Cyril of Alexandria, the logic of Aristotle and other books of the Organon. From there the study of Greek spread across the whole of Mesopotamia, where it remained strongly established for centuries thereafter. Under Abbasid rule, Baghdad underwent a scientific renaissance sparked by the illustrious physicians of the caliphs’ court. Schools under the direction of famous masters revised and re-edited ancient translations of Aristotle and Galen and published in Syriac works of Dioscorides and Paul of Aegina. The Greeks also introduced the Syrians to grammar and lexicography. The Syriac language bears the mark of that culture. After having been the Greeks’ disciples, the Syrians were to become the Arabs’ masters, passing Greek works on to them. Few Arab versions of Greek writings lack a Syriac intermediary. By a remarkable turn of events, Greek philosophy returned from the Orient to Europe through the medium of Arabic books. These were to become the authoritative versions at home in the Middle Ages. We are also indebted to the Oriental Syrians for their Syriac versions of Pahlavi books: the book of Kalila and Dimna, the Alexander romance and in all likelihood also the book of Sindban or the Seven Sages.



These translations have preserved a number of works of which the originals are, in part or in full, lost. Owing to their great antiquity, certain versions of Greek writings are nearly as valuable as an original manuscript and deserve to be consulted for a critical edition.

§2. — POETRY A taste of the idiosyncratic nature of the Syrian literary mind is to be sought in their poetry. One should not expect their poetic productions to display a highly lyrical quality, or to possess that naïve charm inherent to heroic epics. The distinct character of this poetry does nonetheless make it a literary phenomenon whose features and history are worthy of study.1 Being a purely ecclesiastical genre, Syriac poetry was born, and later flourished, within the clergy. It served this body as the most effective instrument for spreading religious instruction among the people. Moreover, it endowed the cultic offices with the solemnity that befitted these positions. Once again no tradition linking Christian poetry to popular songs of pagan times is attested. Analogies can be sought in ancient Hebrew poetry: the Syriac lines grouped in pairs form a metric phrase, an edifice (‫ ) ܰܒܝܬܳܐ‬as the Syrians would say, mirroring rather closely the parallelism of Hebrew verses. There is no doubt that the use of acrostic stanzas, organised in alphabetical order, was introduced in Syriac poetry through the emulation of certain Psalms and the Lamentations of Jeremiah, which both present this structural arrangement.2

The following discussion of Syriac poetry was the object of a lecture given at the assembly of the Société asiatique in June 1897, and was printed in the Journal asiatique of July-August 1897. 2 The metric homilies of Narsai (5th century) contain a large number of “answers,” i.e. the reuse at the beginning of a stanza of a word or thought found in the preceding stanza. M. D. H. Müller has observed that this poetic form appears in Hebrew texts as well, as, for instance, in the Book of Prophets, the Psalms and various biblical poems. There is thus yet again a striking analogy between Hebrew and Syriac poetry. 1



However, the determined number of syllables per line, which is the fundamental principle of Syriac metre, is not found in Hebrew. One would be mistaken to look for its origin in ancient Greek and Latin poetry. Syrians did not distinguish long vowels from short vowels. Moreover, no evidence brought to light thus far suggests that, at the dawn of their literary age, they knew Western poetry. Syriac literature, rendered less sharp under the effect of prolonged usage, only very rarely maintains the short vowel in an open syllable. Consequently, the words are broken down into clearcut syllables of identical prosodic value. It is therefore natural that a rhythmic sentence contained a specific number of syllables. Similarly, in French lines, the length of vowel emissions is not taken into account. Were it not for the number of controversies this question has sparked, we would be tempted to admit a certain relationship between Syriac and Byzantine hymnology. This contentious point will not, however, be treated here. It is believed that the credit of creating Syriac poetry belongs to the famous Bardaisan of Edessa, who lived at the end of the 2nd century AD. In one of his hymns against the heretics,3 St Ephrem writes of Bardaisan: He created the hymns and wed them to musical airs. He composed canticles and arranged them metrically. In measure and in weight he divided the words.4 To healthy people he gave bitter poison concealed by sweetness. The sick had no access to a liberating remedy. He sought to imitate David, donning himself with his beauty. Aspiring to the same praises, he composed like him One hundred and fifty canticles.

S. Ephraemi syri opera syriace et latine, ed. STÉPH. ÉVOD. ASSÉMANI, Rome, 1737–1743, II, p. 554. 4 That is, he divided the lines into measures with both rhythm and accent. 3



According to St Ephrem, Bardaisan wrote these hymns in order to ingrain his religious teachings in the mind of the people. His invention was, it seems, a great success, and the ecclesiastical writers recount that his son Harmonius grew so excellent at this art that he even outdid his father. Unfortunately, with the exception of several lines of Bardaisan quoted in St Ephrem, nothing survives of his poems. The writings of the Gnostics and the theories they espoused have been permanently lost. Yet, although the writings disappeared, the mold in which they were fashioned did not. One and a half centuries later, St Ephrem adopted Bardaisan’s poetic armour to fight erroneous doctrines; through the use of hymns and metric homilies the illustrious father of the Syrian Church rebutted the heretics’ views and popularised orthodox doctrines. The wealth of St Ephrem’s literary production is remarkable. His many poetic works were scrupulously preserved and have now been published. However, it is true that, were the author to be consulted, he would deny having written many of the works attributed to him. Certain compositions of his school, including writings of Isaac the Doctor and even of the Nestorians, such as Narsai, have been attributed to him. In this art, Ephrem was a master often imitated but rarely equalled. Yet his prolixity and lack of warmth were criticised: the didactic and moralising genres are hardly prone to lyricism. The special character of the sacred hymn, which two choruses sang during the service, should not be disregarded. Indeed, in this type of poetry, the sentence is subject to the hymn from which its texture derives. As for St Ephrem’s prolixity, which is sometimes considered fastidious, it should not be condemned without prior awareness of the Syrians’ taste for repetitions and developments of the same thought, seeing qualities where we would discern flaws. These supposed flaws we encounter not only in the works of the most esteemed poets Isaac of Antioch, Narsai, and Jacob of Serug, but also in those of Aphrahat and Philoxenus of Mabbug, prose writers of that blessed age. Syriac poetry can be subdivided into two categories: metric homilies and hymns.




ܽ ‫ ) ܺܡܐܡܪ‬belong to The homilies or poetic discourse (‫ܐܳܕܡ ̈ܘܫܚܬܐ‬ the narrative and epic genre. They follow a regular pattern and are composed of lines of identical metre. In his homilies St Ephrem employed seven-syllable lines, most often divided into two rhythmic measures of three and four syllables respectively. After him, other metric patterns were also used for this poetic genre. Mar Balai composed homilies with five syllables per line organised in two measures of two and three syllables respectively. It is alleged that Narsai favoured the six-syllable metre but this claim has not yet been substantiated, as his known poems are organised in either seven or twelve-syllable lines. In his numerous homilies Jacob of Serug also employed the twelve-syllable line divided into three measures of four syllables each. Homilies were most often composed for, and recited during, Church celebrations and the commemoration of saints and martyrs. They were occasionally also meant as pious works designed for the enlightenment of believers, in which case they were of similar length to an extensive poem. Of the works of Isaac of Antioch only a homily on penitence of 1928 lines and another of 2136 lines about a parrot who sang the hymn of Trisagion to Antioch survive. Jacob of Serug is the author of a homily of 1400 lines on the chariot that appeared before Ezekiel and of another of 730 lines on the legends of Alexander the Great. Where a poem was too long to be read at one time, it was divided into several homilies. Hence, the poem on Joseph, son of Jacob, attributed to St Ephrem encompasses twelve homilies and hymns. Hymns form the second group of Syriac poetry. I retain the word “hymn” made congruous by common usage. Syrians, however, did not know this term; they called these poems “instructions” (‫ܫܐ‬ ܳ̈ܶ ‫) ܰܡܕܪ‬. Indeed, as already pointed out, it is through hymns that Bardaisan spread his doctrines among the people, a successful approach which was later emulated by St Ephrem. Bardaisan composed one hundred and fifty hymns; St Ephrem twice as many. Some are directed at heretics and sceptics, others are moralising, finally a number of them were meant to be sung after homilies at Church and on saints’ holidays. St Ephrem’s biographer relates that “when St Ephrem recognised the Edessians’ taste for songs, he established the



counterpart of the youths’ games and dances. He set up choruses of nuns and taught them hymns divided into stanzas with a refrain. In these hymns he introduced delicate thoughts and spiritual instructions on Nativity, baptism, Lent and the acts of Christ, the Passion, Resurrection and Ascension, as well as on confessors, penitence and the deceased. When the virgins congregated on Sundays, at great feasts and martyrs’ commemorations, he would stand among them as a father, accompanying them with his harp. He divided them into choruses for alternating hymns and taught them the different musical tunes so well that the whole town gathered around him and that his opponents were covered in shame and disappeared.” A legend, recovered by the historian Socrates (VI, 8) and adopted by Solomon of Basra (The Book of the Bee, 130, transl. 115) and Bar Hebræus (Chron. eccl., I, 41), attributes the institution of the antiphon in Syria to St Ignatius of Antioch, who is said to have been inspired by a vision: angels appeared before him singing the praises of the Trinity in hymns sung alternately.5 As opposed to homilies, hymns represent the lyrical genre. They enjoyed every form this genre can carry, from the foursyllable line to that which has ten, and were composed of a varying number of stanzas of different length. The first chorus sang the longest stanzas while the second chorus performed the refrain, which was made up of the shortest ones. The refrain consisted of a doxology or prayer; returning after every main stanza, it could either remain constant or be somewhat modified. It was sung to the same tune as the hymn’s other stanzas. The musical tunes were indicated by headings. These headings provided the first words of the hymn of which the known chant served as model; for instance, the rubric To the tune of “THAT DAY” indicated the chant of the hymn on the Nativity of Our Lord, of which the first words were THAT DAY. A similar According to BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., II, 33, the institution of choruses in Babylonia and in eastern Mesopotamia was the work of Simeon bar Sabbaʿe, who died in 341. 5



method is used to record musical tunes in our collections of canticles and popular songs. Tunes varied depending on the various types of hymns whose stanzas were either formed of identical or unequal metres. M. Lamy, who devoted a study to the poems of St Ephrem, recognised seventy-five types of hymns in this author’s work.6 St Ephrem produced a certain number of acrostic hymns in which stanzas were organised in alphabetical order, in the manner of several Hebrew poems of the Bible. Before him, Aphrahat had already made use of this numbering system. Each and every one of his prose homilies begins with a letter of the alphabet, which determines its place. Word acrostics are less common. St Ephrem signed some of his compositions with the acrostic formed by the letters of his own name. ܺ ‫) ܽܣ‬, A type of hymn, the canticle, known as a sougithâ (‫ܘܓܝܬܐ‬ contains a prayer, or praises, directed either at the Divinity or a saint. Narsai wrote some of his canticles in acrostic stanzas. These were then recited by choruses on religious holidays after the homilies with which they belonged.7 The distinct character of these canticles is the dialogue form. Following a short introduction, which varies in length between four and five stanzas, made up of four lines of seven syllables each, begins a dialogue between two characters or groups of characters. Thus, for instance, in the Nativity canticle, the dialogue takes place between the holy Virgin and the Wise Men, and between the archangel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary in the Annunciation canticle. Every character is successively attributed a stanza. The stanzas are organised in alphabetical order, with every letter of the alphabet being assigned two stanzas, thereby forming a dialogue of forty-four stanzas, the Syriac alphabet consisting of twenty-two letters. S. Ephraem syri Hymni et Sermones, t. IV, p. 486–494, Malines, 1902. SACHAU, Ueber die Poesie in der Volksprache der Nestorianer, in the Proceedings of the Academy of Berlin, 1896, p. 195–208; FELDMANN, Syrische Wechsellieder von Narses, Leipzig, 1896; MINGANA, Narsai Homiliae et carmina, Mosul, 1905. 6 7



These canticles are short and vivid dramas not devoid of a certain grace; they bring to mind the religious dramas of the Middle Ages in which were staged the main acts of Our Lord and the Virgin Mary. Syrians appear to have been very fond of this genre. Although composed by a Nestorian, the canticles concerning the Nativity, Annunciation and Epiphany were integrated in the Maronite breviary for festival services, but debaptised and placed under the authority of St Ephrem.8 Such is, broadly outlined, Syriac poetry at its literary peak between the 4th and 8th centuries AD. The decline began a century after the Arab conquest, when Syriac ceased to be spoken and became solely a literary language. Based on our current understanding, it appears that Arabic poetry did not exert any influence on Syriac poetry until the 9th century.9 Around this time a rhyme was introduced into Syriac poetry in imitation of Arabic poetry,10 a practice that would soon be

Although these canticles are part of the Nestorian breviary and appear after the homilies written by Narsai, MINGANA, l. c., t. I, p. 21, believes that Narsai was not their author. 9 P. CARDAHI’s Liber thesauri de arte poetica, Rome, 1875, includes rhyming poems attributed to former authors, but these claims are erroneous. The poem on p. 124, in which the acrostic is formed by the rhyme used in all of the stanza’s lines, can certainly not be the work of Ishoʿyahb of Adiabene. The dates of the authors’ deaths indicated at the end of each of the compilation’s sections are often inaccurate and cannot be adopted: 500 for John bar Khaldoun, p. 78; 600 for Baouth, p. 76; 793 for Israel of Alqosh, p. 96; and 700 for Adam of Akra, p. 102. Bar Khaldoun lived in the 10th century, cf. Vie du moine Rabban Youssef Bousnaya in the Revue de l’Orient chrétien, 1897 and 1898. 10 Around the year 820, Antony the Rhetor composed rhyming poems. For a specimen, see RŒDIGER’s Chrestom. syr., 2nd ed., Halle, 1868, p. 110, 111; see also the poems in the Liber thesauri: those of Saliba al-Mansouri, whom Cardahi mistakenly claims died in 900, p. 57; those of Elias of Anbar, around 922, p. 72; those of ʿAbdishoʿ bar Schahhare, around 963, p. 136. 8



generalised.11 The ancient Syrians did not know the art of separating lines with rhymes. The rare traces of rhymes found in the poems of St Ephrem and other contemporaneous poets indicate little more than the Orientals’ fondness for certain assonances. As opposed to rhymes, these assonances do not fix the lines’ configuration.12 As in the Arabic kasida, the same rhyme is sometimes used for every one of the poem’s lines.13 Yet, in most cases, only the stanza’s lines form rhymes with one another. The Syrians did not restrict themselves to the stringent rules of Arabic prosody; they created a new art comprising several types. The twelve-syllable metre, for instance, which is, as noted earlier, divided into three measures of four syllables, can receive the rhyme at the end of every measure. The two initial measures sometimes form their own rhyme, or form a rhyme with the corresponding measure in the stanza’s other lines. We find a type in which each stanza has its own rhyme, with the exception of the last line, which echoes in the manner of a refrain the rhyme of the first stanza.14 In the frequently-encountered case of acrostic stanzas, the corresponding letter of the alphabet can form the stanza’s rhyme.15 Supreme art

From then on, non-rhyming poems become rare. One such poem by Timothy of Karkar († 1169) does not differ from ancient homilies, Liber Thesauri, p. 145. 12 M. H. GRIMME’s objections, Zeit. f. Assyriologie, XVI, p. 276, do not strike us as being conclusive. 13 This is already the case in the 10th century in Elias of Anbar, Liber thesauri, p. 72, and in the following century in Elias bar Shinaya, ibid., p. 83; comp. with authors from subsequent centuries mentioned in this book: Al-Madjidi, p. 160; Ibrahim of Seleucia of Syria, p. 104; ʿAbdishoʿ, the Chaldean patriarch, p. 80; Gabriel the Chaldean, p. 120; Asko alSchabdani, p. 168. See also ʿAbdishoʿ’s Paradise of Eden, published by F. GARDAHI, Beyrouth, 1889, and The Life of Rabban Hormizd, by WALLIS BUDGE, Berlin, 1894. 14 See the 13th homily in ʿAbdishoʿ’s Paradise of Eden. 15 See the poems printed in the Liber thesauri, p. 124, 130, etc. 11



consists in the formation of a double acrostic, the line beginning with, and ending in, the same letter of the alphabet.16 We observe that the declining Syrians garnered the difficulties of versification and turned poetry into a mind game in which talent had but a little role to play. As such, the Syrians of this period can, more so than those of other times, be readily called versifiers rather than poets. The seven and twelve-syllable metres, the ordinary metres employed in ancient homilies, remained popular, this period seeing the introduction of only few new metric lines. Homily and hymn merged. The former adopted the latter’s properties, that is, the regular stanza configuration and the acrostic. Although this remained a rare occurrence, stanzas occasionally made use of varying metres. We encounter stanzas composed of seven and eight-syllable lines, as well as stanzas of one four-syllable line and three seven-syllable lines.17 The Syrians of the Late Period, who were in awe of the fertility of the Arabic language, sought to demonstrate that Syriac could rival its literary productions. Rare and artificial expressions were pursued and regarded as archaisms that would bring poetic images to life. Bar Bahlul’s compilation of such words served as a valuable mine of information for the metric compositions of the last centuries. The archetype of that genre is the Paradise of Eden, composed by ʿAbdishoʿ, citizen of Nisibis, in 1290. ʿAbdishoʿ’s model was the famous Arabic author Hariri, whose fifty Makamat or “Sessions” are remarkable displays of ingenuity. Hariri’s works, endowed with both the colour of Oriental irony and the intricacies of the vernacular tongue — reproduced with uncanny subtlety — captured the imagination of Arabs, Jews and Syrians alike. Judah Harizi, a Jewish poet of the late 12th century from Toledo, was so Besides the Paradise of Eden, see Israel of Alqosh’s poems in the Liber thesauri, p. 96, and those by Ibn al-Masibi, ibid., p. 105. 17 See Liber thesauri, p. 76, 126 and 128. Other types can be found in the Paradise of Eden. 16



captivated by the Makamat that he translated them into Hebrew and wrote the Sepher tahkemoni in imitation of a composition not devoid of a certain literary flavour, albeit of a far lesser quality. The author’s great intellectual ingenuity displayed in the Paradise of Eden is the text’s only noteworthy property. ʿAbdishoʿ worked with a dead language and in such cases talent is merely an artifice. Moreover, the fifty metric homilies which he wrote in imitation of the Makamat treat religious matters hardly prone to fantasies of the imagination. While the pleasure of a difficulty overcome can recompense the author’s toil, it does not compensate for the reader’s exhaustion in following the plot. Several examples will serve to clarify this pastiche. The third homily is composed of metric lines made up of sixteen syllables that can be read from right to left or from left to right indiscriminately, thus forming a double acrostic. In the fourth homily, every word ends with the letter olaf; the doubly acrostic stanzas have four lines of seven syllables each. In the opposite direction, there is not a single olaf in the fifteenth homily, also composed of doubly acrostic stanzas of four sevensyllable lines. In addition, there is a unique rhyme in an.18 The sixth homily is written in lines of seven syllables, reduced to six syllables when a word in red (i.e. a peg) can be taken out without altering the meaning; this is an acrostic poem with the same rhyme for every line. In the twenty-eighth homily, every line contains no less and no more than the twenty-two letters of the alphabet; these are twelvesyllable acrostic lines. ʿAbdishoʿ, after Hariri,19 added new subtleties Compare with a poem by Elias bar Shinaya, from which the letter olaf is also excluded and which includes the unique rhyme in an, with the Liber thesauri, p. 83. 19 We are referring to F. CARDAHI’s edition of the Paradise of Eden, Beyrouth, 1889, which only includes the twenty-five first homilies. Assemani reviewed this publication in B. O., III, part I, 325–332. F. CARDAHI printed in his Liber thesauri, p. 54, part of the thirteenth homily in response to Hariri’s eleventh Makama: in it we find, p. 36, l. 13– 18, six lines that were left out of the edition of the Paradise of Eden. F. GISMONDI published ten homilies with a Latin translation, Ebed–Jesu Sobensis carmina selecta, Beyrouth, 1888; in his Linguae syriacae grammatica, 2nd 18



to the numerous prosodic types he inherited from his predecessors. In order to facilitate the reading of this Paradise, the author deemed the addition of a commentary necessary in 1316. We conclude this review of the declining Syriac poetry with the mention of another work usually regarded as an oddity, although for different reasons altogether. I am referring to a poem about Rabban Hormizd, founder of the Nestorian monastery of Alqosh. The author, a monk of the said monastery named Sergis, can hardly have lived before the 17th century.20 The poem, organised in twelve-syllable lines, is a long acrostic divided into twenty-two hymns after the twenty-two letters of the Syriac alphabet, excluding the prologue and epilogue. The alphabetical letter to which the hymn corresponds provides the rhyme, identical in every line of each hymn. Yet its strange physiognomy lies in the language employed, not in the book’s poetic form. In a manner most astounding, the author seeks rare and obsolete words, coins remarkably audacious neologisms, turns expressions from their original meaning, eventually composing truly puzzling writings. Were there no explanatory lexical commentaries in the margin to ease the reader’s effort, these writings would no doubt require the accompanying use of Bar Ali and Bar Bahlul’s lexica. Let us also remind ourselves of the short poem on science and virtue published by M. Salomon Samuel,21 in which the author immoderately injected a number of Greek words as well as rare and artificial Syriac expressions. This work, accompanied by a commentary, also belongs to the last stage of the literature here under review. Although the editor attributes it to the hand of Bar Hebræus, this is most unlikely.

ed., Beyrouth, 1900, p. 159 in the Chrestomathy, he reproduced the thirtyseventh homily “on the dissolution of the universe”. 20 George of Alqosh, whom F. Cardahi claims died in 1700, is the author of a poem published in the Liber thesauri, p. 131, of which the style strikingly brings to mind the works of Sergis of Alqosh. Sergis’s poem was published in BUDGE, The Life of Rabban Hormizd, Berlin, 1894. 21 Das Gedicht (‫)ܬܐܩܦܳܐܠܪܣܛܘܛܐܠܝܣ‬, Halle, 1893.



The dim rays of light which the declining Syriac literature delivered chiefly illuminated Oriental Mesopotamia, where the Syrians closest to the seat of government led a more bearable life. The credit of producing most of the compositions through which we encounter Late Period Syriac poetry lies with the Nestorians.

III. THE ANCIENT VERSIONS OF THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT §1. — THE SO-CALLED PESHITTA VERSION OF THE OLD TESTAMENT Syriac writing is not the subject matter of this study, and we will not consider the ancient coinage and lapidary inscriptions of Edessa that, granted, carry historical and palaeographic value but have only a faint connection with Christian literature. The most ancient monument of this literature is without a doubt the Old Testament version known by the name Peshitta ܺ ), which tradition places as far back as the establishment of (‫ܦܫܝܛܬܐ‬ Christianity in Mesopotamia. In his Introduction à la critique textuelle du N.T. (I, p. 101), Abbot Martin reproduced a passage from the Hexameron by Moses bar Kepha († 913) which reads as follows: “One must realise that two versions of the Old Testament exist in our Syrian language: the one we read, termed Peshitta, translated into Syriac from the Hebrew original; the other, that of the Septuagint (i.e. the Syriac Hexapla), which is based on the Greek text. According to Mar Jacob of Edessa, the Peshitta, a translation from Hebrew, dates back to Abgar’s time. Indeed, Mar Jacob writes that the apostle Addai and his devoted follower Abgar sent men to Jerusalem and Palestine to translate the Old Testament from Hebrew into Syriac. It was Paul, bishop of Tella Mauzalat, who translated the Greek Septuagint into Syriac.” Although this tradition concerning the Peshitta’s origin derives directly from the legend of Abgar, it is not devoid of historical accuracy. This version, written in the Mesopotamian tongue, was no doubt composed for the Christians of Mesopotamia, while the hellenising Christians of Syria proper used the Septuagint. We can ascertain that a Christian community resided at Edessa around 150 AD. The first mention of the Christian communities of the Osrhoene παροικίαι we find in Eusebius (Hist. 21



eccl., V, 23) in relation to those discussions on the Easter holiday that emerged at the end of the 2nd century. Melito, bishop of Sardis around 170, appears to provide evidence for the dating of the Peshitta. Indeed, in a commentary of Genesis XXII: 13, he writes, concerning the ram sacrificed in place of Isaac: κατεχόμενος τῶν κεράτων, ὁ Σύρος καὶ ὁ Ἑβραῖος κρεμάμενός φασιν. In extant texts, the Syriac and Hebrew versions do not differ, and they have, like the Septuagint, the reading “held” by, rather than “hanging” from, the horns (κρεμάμενος, as Melito would have expressed it). This has led to the assumption that Melito’s use of the words ὁ Ἑβραῖος and ὁ Σύρος refers neither to the borrowed Hebrew text nor to the Peshitta. Rather, it is believed to allude to some Greek version wrought by the joint labour of a hellenising Jew and a Syrian.1 But another problem renders the issue even more complex. Origen’s Hexapla and the ancient studies of the Church’s founders list the variants in the Greek text under the headings ὁ Ἑβραῖος, ὁ Σύρος and τὸ Σαμαρειτικόν. At times these variants coincide with the Hebrew text, the Peshitta or the Samaritan (Samaritan Hebrew version, or Samaritan version), and at times they differ. Many inconceivable hypotheses have been advanced on the subject. In the introduction to his edition of Origen’s Hexapla, Field assumed that ὁ Ἑβραῖος referred to a Greek version of biblical books made by a Jew; ὁ Σύρος to another Greek version composed in Syria; finally τὸ Σαμαρειτικόν to a Greek version of the Samaritan Hebrew Pentateuch or the Samaritan version. “Yet,” observes Abbot Loisy,2 “it is most unlikely that all these versions actually existed. Why call versions Hebrew or Syriac when they are identical to the Greek ones? Would the Hebrew’s variants not have been borrowed from some Targum, the Syriac’s from the Peshitta, the Samaritan’s from the Samaritan books? These variants must have Eichhorn, de Wette, Field, and others. Renan, in his Histoire des langues sémitiques (4th ed., Paris, 1853, p. 263, note 4) accepts this theory. 2 Histoire critique du texte et des versions de la Bible in L’enseignement biblique, January-February 1893, p. 35. 1



belonged to the Greek texts but Origen was able to acquire them without the complete translation of the documents to which they belonged. Some citations of the Syriac version differ from the traditional text of the Peshitta. Others do, however, conform to it; hence, in order to discard the idea of a loan made to the Syriac version, the Peshitta would have had not to be revised after Origen’s time.” As we shall see later, this collation is attested in the early 4th century and was modelled on the Septuagint. This circumstance suffices to explain how Melito’s mention, under the heading ὁ Σύρος, of the explanatory note is absent from the current Syriac text, even though Melito knew of the Peshitta.3 Another argument in favour of an early date for the Old Testament Peshitta derives from the New Testament Peshitta’s biblical citations. As the work of Frederic Berg demonstrates,4 a large proportion of these citations concur with the OT Peshitta text, diverging from both the Hebrew and Greek versions. These cases occur in such great number that a later harmonising revision cannot be said to explain the concordance. It is more likely that the OT Peshitta predated the NT Peshitta. Thus Merx’s claim5 that Bardaisan, an author of the late 2nd century, already knew the OT Peshitta appears to be well founded. It might be worth mentioning here several legends concerning the Peshitta’s origins that were widespread among Syriac authors. Ishoʿdad, bishop of Haditha, relates6 that in Solomon’s time, and at the request of Hiram, the king of Tyre, the OT was translated into Syriac. The only books not included in that version were Chronicles and Prophets, which were translated only later, under As for PERLES, he has established in his Meletemata Peshittaniana, Breslau, 1859, p. 49, that ὁ Σύρος designates the Peshitta version in the Hexapla. This opinion is shared by WELLHAUSEN, Einleitung in das alte Testament by Bleek, 4th ed., Berlin, 1878, p. 604. 4 The Influence of the Septuagint upon the Peschitta Psalter, New York, 1895, p. 137–150. 5 Bardesanes von Edessa, Halle, 1863, p. 19. 6 See ASSEMANI, Bibliotheca orientalis, Rome, 1719–1728, III, part I, 42 ff. 3



Abgar, the king of Edessa. Others claim7 that the author of the Peshitta was the priest Asa, whom the Assyrian king had sent to Samaria to that effect. In the early 5th century, Theodore of Mopsuestia8 did not know the author of that version. ܺ ), lit. “the simple (translation)”, is The name Peshitta, (‫ܦܫܝܛܬܐ‬ itself not very ancient; it is first attested in MSS from the 9th and 10th century. Only one explanation of this name deserves to be retained: The word Peshitta was formed in imitation of Greek τὰ ἁπλά, which referred to MSS containing only the Septuagint text, as opposed to τὰ ἑξαπλᾶ, Origen’s great critical edition, which set out the different Greek versions alongside a transcription of the Hebrew text. Likewise, the Syriac version was named “the simple one” to distinguish it from the Hexapla, which was based on the Septuagint text of the Hexapla. Syriac authors certainly viewed these two versions as antithetical, as is obvious, for example, from the passage by Moses bar Kepha cited above. Perhaps the only delicate matter on which a consensus has been reached is in recognising that several authors contributed to the writing of the OT Peshitta. The Syriac exegetes also agreed on this point; in their commentaries on the Peshitta, St Ephrem and Jacob of Edessa speak of “the interpreters” (pl.) when referring to the authors of this translation. However, no agreement has been reached when it comes to these translators’ nationality and religion. Hirzel, Kirsch and Gesenius thought them to be Greek; others, such as Perles and Prager, believed they were Jews; finally Dathe, Nœldeke and Renan were of the opinion that they were Judeo-Christian. The last of these opinions is the most likely, if we rightly understand the word Judeo-Christian as referring to converted Jews rather than to Ebionites. Indeed, in Mesopotamia, where the Peshitta was composed, Christianity appears to have flourished among the See BAR HEBRÆUS’s preface to his commentary entitled The Storehouse of Mysteries and his History of Dynasties, ed. POCOCK, Oxford, 1663, p. 100; ed. SALHANI, Beyrouth, 1890, p. 100. 8 In his commentary on Sophonias, I, 6. 7



Jewish communities. According to the Legend of Abgar, Addai, the apostle of the Osrhoene, was from Paneas in Palestine. When in Edessa, he stayed with the Jew Tobit. On hearing his words, the Jews of Edessa converted just as readily as the Pagans had. On the other hand, the Peshitta most certainly derives from the Hebrew text, not from the Septuagint. Just like the Hebrew canon, the primitive Peshitta did not include the deuterocanonical books of the Septuagint. The Targum’s influence on the Syriac version, in particular on the Pentateuch, has been undeniably demonstrated by Perles,9 while its influence on Ezekiel and Chronicles has been proven by Cornill10 and Siegmund Fraenkel11 respectively. Although the Greek Christian translators hypothesis must be discarded, several passages display an undeniably Christian character, thereby suggesting that the authors of the Peshitta were converted Jews. In Isaiah, VII, 14, the Syriac version reads: “Behold, the Virgin shall conceive”, translating as virgin the Hebrew word that Jewish tradition takes to mean young woman. This change is all the more striking in that other passages preserve the same word as in Hebrew. In support of this opinion, other verses of Prophets and Psalms have also been put forward. Like the Septuagint, the Peshitta was not all composed at the same time. The books it comprises were translated at different points in time, starting with those that appear to have been required first, such as the Pentateuch, Prophets and Psalms. The early canon of the Syriac Church did not include Chronicles, Ezra with Nehemiah or Esther. In the ancient MSS, these books are distinct from the protocanonical ones.12 By the 4th century, the translation of biblical books was complete. Aphrahat and St Ephrem’s citations indicate that it even included some apocryphal books. Melelemata Peschittoniana, Breslau, 1859. Das Buch des Propheten Ezechiel, Leipzig, 1886, p. 154–155. 11 Die syrische Uebersetzung zu den Büchern er Chronik, in Jahrb. Für protest. Theologie, 1879. Cf. BARNES, Apparatus criticus to Chronicles in the Peschitto, Cambridge, 1897. 12 WRIGHT, Syriac literature, 2nd ed., London, 1894, p. 4–5. 9




Although the Peshitta derives from the Hebrew text and conforms to the Targumic tradition, the influence of the Septuagint is visible to varying degrees, depending on the biblical book considered. The Pentateuch and Joshua,13 but even more so the Psalms14 and Prophets,15 attest to this influence. In the case of the Psalms, as Nestle and Bæthgen have shown,16 the titles of Psalms cannot be invoked in support of that argument. In the centuries preceding the birth of Christ, the musical notes contained in these titles were not understood and were therefore discarded by the authors of the Peshitta. The credit of providing the Psalms with new titles — encountered in the Syriac MSS and editions — belongs to Theodore of Mopsuestia. Note also that these titles vary from MS to MS. The books least affected by this influence are: Job, which closely follows the Targum,17 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther, which were translated only later. Also included in this category is Proverbs, which displays, like the Peshitta, a striking resemblance with the Targum. Yet Pinkuss18 has argued in favour of a certain number of parallels between the Peshitta and the Septuagint. On the other hand, there can be little doubt today that PERLES, Melelemata Peschittoniana, Breslau, 1859; HOLZINGER, Das Buch Josue, Leipzig, 1901, p. XIV. 14 FREDERIC BERG, The Influence of the Septuagint upon the Peschitta Psalter, New York, 1895; compare with OPPENHEIM, Die syr. Uebersetzung des fuenften Buches der Psalmen, Leipzig, 1891; BAETHGEN, Untersuchungen über die Psalmen, Kiel, 1878, with Jahrbücher für protest. Theologie, VIII, 405 ff., 593 ff. 15 NESTLE for Isaiah and the Twelve Minor Prophets; CORNILL for Ezekiel; RYSSEL for Michee; SEBOEK, Die syrische Uebersetzung der zwölf kleinen Propheten, Breslau, 1887. 16 NESTLE, Theol. Literaturzeit., 1876, col. 283; BAETHGEN, Zeitschr. f. die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, 1885, p. 66 ff. 17 Comp. with STENIJ, De Syriaca libri Jobi interpretatione, Helsinki, 1887; MANDI., Die Peschitto zu Hiob, Leipzig, 1892. 18 Die syrische Uebersetzung der Proverbien, in the Zeitrschr. Für die alttest. Wissenschaft, t. XIV, 1894, p. 65–141 and 161–222. 13



the Targum of Proverbs depends on the Peshitta, the opinion according to which the Peshitta is derived from the Targum having been completely abandoned. How can we explain the influence of the Septuagint on the Peshitta? Some critics have advanced a double hypothesis without favouring one over the other: either the authors of the Peshitta were well versed in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, using the Targumim and Septuagint for their translations, or a revision of the Peshitta based on the Septuagint took place later on. The latter hypothesis is the only viable one. The Aramaic Jews of Mesopotamia — let us not forget that the authors of the Peshitta were converted Jews from this land — were a Judeo-Christian people with no knowledge of Greek. Had they been able to read Greek, they would not have used that version, since the Jewish schools of Palestine and Babylonia regarded it as a vile work that corrupted the sacred character of the Hebrew text. In reality, in Palestine and in Syria, only the Christians esteemed the Septuagint; yet, in its early days, the Church of Osrhoene leaned towards Judaism. A sudden shift occurred in the 3rd century: Palut, bishop of Edessa, received the blessing of Serapion, bishop of Antioch around the year 200. Thereafter, the Church of Edessa was bound to Antioch, the metropolis of the hellenising Christians of Syria. One can easily conceive a scenario in which the ancient Syriac version was later revised in order to agree with the Septuagint, a text in use among the hellenising Syrians. This revision must postdate Origen and the first Fathers of the Church, who cite lessons from the Syriac versions no longer included in the current text. It must have been complete by the early 4th century since Aphrahat (around 340) and St Ephrem († 373) had access to a Syriac version very similar to that which the MSS reproduce. At that time, Lucian of Antioch’s collation19 had spread far and wide across Syria, and it is worth considering

On this collation, see PAUL DE LAGARDE, Librorum Veteris Testamenti canonicorum pars prior græce, Gœttingen, 1883. 19



whether the revision of the Peshitta remained outside the boundaries of this collation.20 The Syriac version of the deuterocanonical books, which Aphrahat and St Ephrem’s citations place in the 4th century, goes back to around the time of the collation. With the exception of Ecclesiasticus, which derives directly from the Hebrew text, these books were translated from Greek.21 The Syriac Ecclesiasticus is riddled with lacunae, at times intentional, at times caused by the poor state of preservation of the manuscript used by the translator. Misinterpretations engendered errors in translation; the translation is not always literal, either abbreviating or lengthening and paraphrasing. The publication of recently discovered fragments of the Hebrew original22 has exposed these flaws. The Syriac part corresponding to these fragments appears to reveal several hands. Israël Levi23 observes that “up to chapter XLIII the translator follows the Hebrew original with a certain attention. All of a sudden the text stops, then comes a fragment of chapter XLIII, 1–10, a translation based on the Greek text. This is not the case of the version that begins in chapter XLIV, but it is strikingly unfaithful to the original. Another hand appears to have revised the entire text to have the Syriac and Greek In Notes on the Hebrew Text of the Books of Samuel, Oxford, 1890, p. LXXII, DRIVER noted that a number of passages from Samuel mirror Lucian and the Peshitta but differ from the Septuagint and the Hebrew text. Cf. STOCKMAYER, Zeitschr. für die alttestam. Wissenschaft, 1892, t. XII, p. 218; MERITAN, La version grecque des livres de Samuel, Paris, 1898, p. 96–113. 21 Distinct from the Ecclesiasticus of the Hexapla, which was translated from Greek, see p. 44. 22 The fragments were not discovered all at once and have been the object of several publications and numerous critical works. For further details, see NORBERT PETERS, Der jüngst wiederaufgefundene hebraïsche Text des Buches Ecclesiasticus, Friburg en Brisgau, 1902. 23 L’Ecclésiastique ou la sagesse de Jésus, fils de Sira, Paris, 1808, p. LII, 10th vol., fasc. I of the Bibliothèque des Hautes études, sections des Sciences religieuses. 20



versions converge: numerous translations differ from the Hebrew in order to conform to the Greek… Despite these all-too-natural flaws, Syriac is often favoured over Greek when it remains faithful to the original and is not overtly extravagant.”24 As for the Book of Tobit, it is worth bearing in mind that the Syriac version that has come down to us consists of two distinct fragments: one from the Hexapla (I–VII, 11), the other from an unknown source (VII, 12 – XIV, 15).25 By the late 5th century, when the Oriental Syrians turned Nestorian separated from the Occidental Syrians, the Peshitta text had reached its final form, since the versions of both groups presented only very slight variations. The critical studies on the Peshitta 26 are either based on Samuel Lee’s edition or on a combination of Ourmia’s edition and several specific MSS. Norbert Peters, op. cit., p. 61, §9, rejects Israël Levi’s view that there were several translators. 25 CERIANI, Le edizioni… del Vecchio Test., in the Memoirs of R. Istituto Lombardo, XXI, 2, p. 22; FIELD, Origenis Hex. Fragmenta, Oxford, 1875, I, p. LXVIII, note 3; NŒLDEKE, Monatsberichte der Berliner Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1879, p. 46. 26 We cannot here provide a comprehensive list of these studies; some of the most recent ones have been mentioned earlier, while the older ones only have a retrospective interest. Such a list can be found in NESTLE’s article, Syrische Uebersetzungen in the Real-Encyklopedie für protest. Theologie und Kïrche, 3rd ed.; consider also: SCHMIDT, Die beiden syrischen Uebersetzungen des I Maccabaeerbuches in Zeitschr. für die alttestam. Wissenschaft, 1897; TECHEN, Syrisch-Hebr. Glossar zu den Psalmen nach der Peschita, ibid., 1897; SCHWARTZ, Die syr. Uebersetzung des ersten B. Samuelis, Berlin, 1897; BAUMANN, Die Verwendbarkeit der Peschita zum Buch Ijob, in Zeitschr. f. alttest. Wissensch., XVIII, 305; XIX, 288; CHAJES, Etwas über die Peschita zu den Proverbien, in Jewish Quart. Review, XIII, 86; EURINGER, Die Bedeulung der Peschitto f. die Textkritik des Hohenliedes in Biblische Studien, VI, 417; LAZARUS, zur syr. Uebersetzung des Buches der Richter, Kirchhain, 1901; HOLTZMANN, Die Peschitta zu der Weisheit, Friburg en Brisgau, 1903; KAMENETZKY, Die Peschitta zu Koheleth, in Zeitschr. f. alttest. Wissensch., XXIV, 181; W. E. BARNES, The Peschitta version of 2 Kings, Journ. of theol. 24



Lee’s edition, prepared in 1823 for the English Biblical Society for the benefit of the Christians of Malabar, is the reproduction of a text printed in the Walton Polyglot, although Samuel Lee did consult several manuscripts. Walton had in fact only reprinted the text which Gabriel Sionita had published in the Paris Polyglot, and then added to it the deuterocanonical books. The text used by the Oriental Syrians was printed at Ourmia by the American mission in 1852. The Catholic Mission also prepared an edition at Mosul in 1887. Although the order of the biblical books differs in the Oriental and Occidental collations, the editions coincide. Ourmia’s edition has the advantage of providing an entirely vocalised text recreating Oriental pronunciation. Paul de Lagarde27 published the deuterocanonical books separately, based on the London Polyglot and MSS held in the British Museum.28 The absence of a critical edition of the Peshitta is regrettable and one can only hope that the task of producing such a useful tool

Studies, 1905, p. 220; G. DIETTRICH, Ein Apparatus criticus zur Peschitto zum Propheten Iesaias, Beihefte z. Zeitschr. f. alttest. Wissensch., VIII, Giessen, 1905. 27 Libri. Vet. Test. Apocryphi syriace, Leipzig, 1861. 28 Ceriani, whose studies of the Syriac versions of the Bible are hugely valuable, has published a photolithographic reproduction of the Cod. Ambrosianus (a Jacobite MS of the 6th century), which contains both the protocanonical and the deuterocanonical books: Translatio syra-pescitto vet. Testamenti…, vol. I, 4th part, Milan, 1877–1887. The British Museum holds a MS written at Amid in 464 and which contains all the books of the Pentateuch with the exception of Leviticus, as well as another MS dated to 532 and which contains the Book of Daniel.



for biblical exegesis will soon be undertaken.29 Barnes has recently published such an edition for the Psalms.30

§2. — THE ANCIENT VERSIONS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT Three different Syriac versions of the Gospels are known to have existed: (1) the Harmony, composed by Tatian under the name Diatessaron and sometimes known as the Gospel of the Mixed (texts) ̈ (‫ܐܘܢܓܠܝܘܢܳܕܡܚܠܛܐ‬ ); (2) the Gospel of the Separated (texts) (‫ܐܘܢܓܠܝܘܢ‬ ‫ ;)ܕܡܦܪܫܐ‬and (3) the Peshitta of the NT. Although much has been said about the respective dates of these three documents and the links that might have existed between them, no definitive conclusion has been reached. The hypotheses recently advanced by Burkitt in his book Evangelion da-Mepharreshé,31 Gospel of the Separated (texts) are summarised here. The Gospel of the Separated (texts) has come down to us in two MSS, C and S, initially believed to have contained two distinct versions: Cureton32 edited C, and Mrs Lewis found S in 1892 in a palimpsest of the St Catherine monastery on Mount Sinai. Burkitt, one of the editors of the latter version,33 has since then recognised NESTLE, in Syrische Uebersetzungen, in the Real-Encyklopedie für protestantische Theologie und Kirche, 3rd ed., gives a list of the editions of specific books of the Peshitta. See also his Syrische Grammatik, 2nd ed., Berlin, 1888, Litteratura, p. 17 ff. 30 W. E. BARNES, The Peschitta Psalter according to the West Syrian Text with an Apparitus criticus, Cambridge, 1904. 31 F. CRAWFORD BURKITT, Evangelion da-Mepharreshé.. The Curetonian Version of the four Gospels with the readings of the Sinai palimpsest and early Syriac patristic evidence, collected and arranged, 2 vol., Cambridge, 1904. 32 CURETON, Remains of a very ancient recension of the four Gospels in Syriac, London, 1858; Wright, Fragments of the Curetonian Gospels (for private circulation), London, 1872. 33 The Four Gospels in Syriac transcribed from the sinaitic Palimpsest by the late ROBERT L. BENSLY, RENDEL HARRIS and CRAWFORD BURKITT with an Introduction by AGNES SMITH LEWIS, Cambridge, 1894; AGNES SMITH LEWIS, Some pages of the four Gospels retranscribed from the sinaitic Palimpsest, London, 1896. Merx’s German translation of the 29



that both texts are collations of a single version. He re-edited that version with an English translation in the first volume of his Evangelion da-Mepharreshé, basing it primarily on Cureton’s text (C) while still pointing out as annotations the variants in the Sinaitic text (S), with passages of the Diatessaron included when deemed relevant. The second volume of the Evangelion exposes the fruits of Burkitt’s research on the ancient versions of the NT, which he describes as follows: “(1) The Peshitta is a revision of the Evangelion da-Mepharreshé, whose main goal is to bring the translation closer to the Greek text read at Antioch in the early 5th century. It was prepared by Rabbula, bishop of Edessa (411–435), and published under his authority as a substitute for the Diatessaron. (2) The Diatessaron is the most ancient manifestation of the Syriac Gospel. Most probably initially composed in Greek, in Rome, by Tatian, the disciple of Justin the Martyr, it was translated into Syriac during Tatian’s lifetime, around 170 AD. As is to be expected from a document produced in the West, the Gospel text of the Diatessaron is very closely related to the Codex Bezae (D) and to the various forms of the ancient Latin version. (3) The Evangelion da-Mepharreshé dates to around 200 AD. It was the first Syriac version of the four separated Gospels. The translator was familiar with the Diatessaron, often adopting its phraseology. Serapion, bishop of Antioch, whom the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius identifies as the one who deleted the apocryphal Gospel according to Peter, is in all likelihood responsible for the preparation of the Evangelion da-Mepharreshé. Some elements suggest that Palut, the third (known) bishop of Edessa, may have been its translator.

Syriac text is followed by a still incomplete critical commentary: ADALBERT MERX, Die vier Kanonischen Evangelien nach ihrem älttestten bekannten Texte, Uebersetzung und Erläuterung der syrischen im Sinaikloster gefundenen Palimpsesthandschrift; erster Teil: Uebeberzetzung, Berlin, 1897, zweiter Teil: Erläuterung; erste Hälfte, Das Evangelium Matthaeus, Berlin, 1902; zweite Hälfte, Das Evangelium Markus und Lukas, Berlin, 1905.



(4) The Evangelion da-Mepharreshé text, being a direct translation from Greek, provides us with the text in usage in Antioch in the late 2nd century, a text of great critical value rarely accounted for in the existing Greek manuscripts. The translator’s use of the Diatessaron introduced lessons that in reality belong to the texts commonly employed in the Western world. S and C, the two MSS of the Evangelion da-Mepharreshé, both contain readings which were made to conform to the Diatessaron by the copyists. Besides, C was fashioned on a text revised following later Greek MSS.” Little evidence has come to light in support of the claim that Palut translated, at the behest of Serapion, the Greek text in usage in Antioch in the late 2nd century, thereby composing the Evangelion da-Mepharreshé. As Burkitt has already suggested,34 it is more likely that the NT version attributed to Rabbula by the biographer of that Edessan bishop35 is the NT Peshitta, which became the Vulgate of the Syrians. C and S vary considerably. Burkitt notes that both of them were revised following the Diatessaron, yet we should not assume that differences with the Diatessaron indicate a passage that remained unchanged. The dissimilarity could be the result of a later collation made after the Greek MSS. Such a scenario applies to C, in which we find Western readings or interpolations. On the other hand, the text of S is virtually identical to the Evangelion daMepharreshé or the Diatessaron.36 S. Ephraim’s Quotations from the Gospel collected and arranged by F. CRAWFORD BURKITT, Texts and Studies, VII, n. 2, Cambridge 1901. 34 OVERBECK, Ephraemi syri. … opera selecta, Oxford, 1865, p. 220. 36 Is here given only a short list of those works devoted to the ancient versions of the NT published prior to Burkitt’s book: BICKELL, Conspectus rei Syrorum litterariae, Munster, 1871, p. 8; WILDEBOER, De Waarde de syr. Evangelien door Cureton ontdekt en witgegeven, Leiden, 1880; HARNACK, Die Ueberlieferung der griechischen Apologeten, Leipzig, 1882; ZAHN, Forschungen zur Geschichte des neatest. Kanons, I Teil, Leipzig, 1881; Geschichte des neut. Kanons, I Teil, 1, Leipzig, 1888, p. 405; Evangelien Harmonie in the Real-Encykl., 3rd ed., V, p. 657; BAETHGEN, Evangelien Fragmente. Der griech. Text des Cureton, Introd., Leipzig, 1885; 35



The original Diatessaron is now lost. St Ephrem’s commentary of the text does, however, survive in an Armenian translation, which Moesinger reproduced in Latin in 1876. In 1881, building on the work of Moesinger and on passages cited in Aphrahat and Ephrem, Zahn attempted a reconstruction of the Diatessaron.37 A. Ciasca38 published and translated into Latin the Arabic version of the Diatessaron attributed to Abu al-Faraj ibn atTayyib. Hill and Robinson39 gathered and translated into English the passages of the Diatessaron cited in St Ephrem’s commentaries. Finally, Harris and Goussen have published extracts from commentaries by Ishoʿdad and other authors.40

HILGENFELD, Zeitschr. f. wissenschaft. Theologie, 1889, p. 119; WOODS, Studia biblica, III, p. 105, Oxford, 1891; PARISOT, Patrologia syriaca (Graffin), t. I, p. XLVI, Paris, 1894; HARRIS, in the Contemporary Review, November 1894; Carl HOLZBONUS, Collatio codicis Lewisiani rescripti, Oxford, 1896; BEWER, The history of the New Testament canon in the syrian Church, Chicago, 1900; HJELT, Die altsyrische Evangelienübersetzung und Tatians Diatessaron, Leipzig, 1901; ADALBERT MERX, Die vier Kanonischen Evangelien; II Teil, Das Evangelium Matthaeus, p. XVI, Berlin, 1902; W. BAUER, Der Apostolos der Syrer…, Giessen, 1903. 37 ZAHN, Forschungen zur Geschichte des neutest. Kanons, I Teil, Tatians Diatessaron, Leipzig, 1881. 38 AUGUSTINUS CIASCA, Tatiani Evangeliorum Harmoniae arabice, Rome, 1888. The Arabic translation is not a copy of the original text, cf. E. SELLIN, Der Text des von Ciasca herausg. arab. Diatessaron untersucht in Forschungen zur Geschichte des neutest. Kanons, IV, p. 225; ZAHN, Geschichte des neutest. Kanons, II, 2, p. 530. According to F. CHEIKHO (Journ. asiat., sept.–oct., 1897, p. 301), and as suggest fragments discovered in the Orient, the Arabic translation was produced prior to the 11th century, that is, prior to the time of Ibn al-Tayyib. 39 HAMLY HILL and ARMITAGE ROBINSON, A Dissertation on the Gospel, commentaries of S. Ephrem the Syrian, Edinburgh, 1895. 40 HARRIS, Fragments of the commentary of S. Ephrem Syrus upon the Diatessaron, London, 1895; GOUSSEN, Apocalypsis S. Joh. Versio Sahidica, Leipzig, 1895. Cf. G DIETTRICH, Ischodad’s Stellung in der Auslegungsgeschichte des A. T. …, Giessen, 1902, p. 24.



The Diatessaron remained in use among the Syrians until Rabbula, bishop of Edessa († 435), forbade it in the churches and monasteries of his diocese. That bishop’s biographer informs us that Rabbula ordered the priests and deacons to ensure that every church held one exemplar of the separated Gospels.41 His contemporary Theodoret, bishop of Cyrus, had over two hundred copies of the Diatessaron destroyed. The definitive text of the NT Peshitta, like the OT Peshitta, had reached its final form by the end of the 5th century, when the schism of Occidental and Oriental Syrians took place. There is no difference between the texts of both communities.42 Apart from the four Gospels, the original Peshitta contained the Acts of the Apostles and three of the Catholic Epistles: St Peter’s 1st, St John’s 1st, St James’s, and finally St Paul’s Epistles. It did not contain St Peter’s 2nd Epistle, St John’s 2nd and 3rd, St Jude’s Epistle, nor did it contain the Apocalypse. Also missing were verses 17 and 18 in chapter XII of St Luke’s Gospel, verses 1–11 in chapter VIII of St John’s Gospel,43 and verse 7 in chapter V of St John’s 1st Epistle. In 1555, Widmanstadt printed in Vienna the NT Peshitta as found in a MS identical to the Vatican’s Tetraevangelium of 548.44 It was reprinted on several occasions between 1569 and 1621, as, for instance, in the Polyglot of Anvers. In 1627, Louis de Dieu edited in Leiden a text of the Apocalypse that appears to conform to the Harqlean. In 1630 Pocock published in Leiden the four Catholic Epistles, as found in a MS which might have been based on the Philoxenian, that were missing from the ancient canon. The Peshitta thereby completed was printed first in the London and Paris Polyglots, then by Gutbir, Schaaf, Lee, and in the Ourmia and Mosul Bibles. OVERBECK, Ephraemi syri…, opera selecta, Oxford, 1865, p. 220. Cf. GWILLIAM, Studia biblica, III, Oxford, 1891. 43 Verses on the adulterous woman; cf. Zachariah in LAND, Anecdota syriaca, III, p. 252. 44 Cf. ALBERT BONUS, Collatio codicis Lewisiani, Oxford, 1895. 41 42



There is no point in enumerating here the ancient MSS of the Peshitta and reminding the reader of the works of Wickelhaus, Adler, Jones, Cureton, Gwilliam, etc., based on these manuscripts. For a critical edition of the Gospels, one may consult Pusey and Gwilliam.45

Tetraevangelium sanctum, simplex Syrorum versio, P. E. PUSEY and G. H. GWILLIAM, Oxford, 1901. Cf. H. GRESSMANN, Studien zum syrischen Tetraevangelion in Zeitschr. f. neutest. Wissenschaft, 1905, p. 135. 45

IV. THE SYRO-PALESTINIAN VERSION OF THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT One of the Christian communities of Palestine is known to have had an ecclesiastical literature consistent with the Melkite rite and written in a dialect that was very similar to the Judeo-Aramaic language attested in the Palestinian Targumim and the Talmud of Jerusalem. The documents that have survived come from a translation and from lectionaries of the OT and NT, from homilies, hymns and Lives of saints. Both the lectionaries and a number of fragments of the OT are relatively well preserved but the rest is, unfortunately, very damaged. We know neither the origin of that community nor the extent of the territory it occupied. The texts we have do not go very far back: the oldest may date to the 6th or 7th century; the most recent date to the eleventh century or even later. The priest Elias of ʿAbud wrote the lectionary of the four Gospels, dated to 1030, in the monastery of Moses at Antioch of the Arabs. The other MSS and fragments are held in the monastery of St Catherine on Mount Sinai or were brought from Egypt and Damascus. Burkitt1 has established that by Antioch of the Arabs, Antioch of Syria is meant, and that Abud was a large village halfway between Jaffa and Caesarea. From this he inferred that part of that Christian community was well established in Antioch and at the confines of Judah and Samaria. As a number of Syro-Palestinian MSS and fragments held in that monastery suggest, the orthodox In Christian Palestinian Literature, Journal of Theological Studies, II, p. 174– 183; cf. Actes du XIIeme Congres des Orientalistes, Rome, 1899, t. III, 1st part, p. 119–126. Burkitt’s work has served as a guideline for the writing of this issue. We have not mentioned the older hypotheses, which Burkitt’s study has rendered obsolete. 1




monks from Palestine lived in the monastery of St Catherine in the Sinai. Besides, as is indicated in an Egyptian MS containing the rite of the annual benediction of the Nile, Syro-Palestinian Christians were also present in Egypt. The current state of our understanding does not enable us to say any more on the spatiotemporal context of that community. Here is the list of Syro-Palestinian MSS and fragments known to this day: (1) A lectionary of the four Gospels in Vatican Syr. MS n. 19, dated to August 1341 of the Seleucids (1030 AD).2 (2) Fragments acquired by Tischendorff and kept in St Petersburg, as well as fragments from the desert of Nitria now held in the collections of the British Museum;3 they contain parts of Deuteronomy, Isaiah, Psalms, Proverbs, Job and the four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, homilies, the Acts of St Philemon and probably also of the Acts of St Saba. (3) Two leaves of a MS from the monastery of St Catherine; these contain fragments of the Epistles to the Galatians.4 Mrs Lewis has added the content of the two following leaves to fragments of St Matthew, St John and a homily about St Peter and St Paul.5

Its existence was revealed by ASSEMANI’s catalogue; ADLER analysed it in his Novi Testamenti versiones syriacae, Copenhaguen, 1789. First edited by Count MINISCALCHI ERIZZO, Evangeliarium Hierosolymitanum…, 2 vol., Verona, 1861–1864, P. DE LAGARDE edited it more critically in Bibliothecae a Paulo de Lagarde collectae Gœttingen, 1892, p. 257– 404. 3 Published by LAND, Anecdota syriaca, IV, p. 103–224, Leiden, 1875. 4 Published by RENDEL HARRIS, Biblical fragments from Mount Sinai, London, 1890; reprinted by SCHWALLY in Idioticon des christlich palästinischen Aramäisch, Giessen, 1893, p. 131–134. 5 AGNES SMITH LEWIS, Catalogue of the syriac mss. of S. Catherine on Mount Sinai; Studia Sinaitica, n. 1, London, 1894, p. 99–102, with several emendations to the first two leaves. 2



(4) Seven fragments of palimpsests from the Genizah of the Cairo synagogue currently in the Bodleian; five6 of them contain part of Numbers and of the Epistles of Apostle Paul, the remaining two7 hold several verses from Exodus and the Book of Wisdom. (5) Fragments of homilies copied by Mrs Bensly at the monastery of St Catherine.8 (6) Other leaves of palimpsests also found in the Genizah of the Cairo synagogue and now in Cambridge. These are passages from the Pentateuch, Prophets and Paul’s Epistles; elements of theology and of the Life of St Anthony.9 (7) Readings for the rite of the benediction of the Nile, which M. G. Margoliouth found in a MS from the British Museum, Or. 4951, that contains a series of services of the Melkite rite.10 These readings come from Genesis, Kings, Amos and the Acts of the Apostles. (8) A lectionary containing readings from Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Prophets (the whole of

Edited by GWILLIAM, The Palestinian Version of the Holy Scriptures, Five more fragments… Anecdota Oxoniensia, Oxford, 1893. 7 Edited by GWILLIAM and STENNING, Biblical and patristic relics of the Palestinian Syriac Literature… Anecdota Oxoniensia, Oxford, 1896, with additions and emendations to the five first fragments. 8 Published by GWILLIAM and BURKITT in Anecdota Oxoniensia, Oxford, 1896, see the previous footnote. 9 Published by Mrs LEWIS and Mrs GIBSON, Palestinian Syriac texts from palimpsest Fragments in the Taylor-Schechter collection, London, 1900. 10 G. MARGOLIOUTH, The Liturgy of the Nile… in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, October 1896, p. 667–673. The following year, Margoliouth published a second edition with verses from Psalms and St Luke, photographic facsimiles, a transcription, a translation, an introduction, a vocabulary and notes: The Palestinian Syriac Version of the Holy Scriptures, Four recently discovered portions, privately printed by the Society of Biblical Archaeology, London, 1897. 6



Jonah), the Acts of the Apostles, Paul’s Epistles and St James’s Epistles; Mrs Lewis acquired it in Egypt in 1895.11 (9) Two NT lectionaries from the monastery of St Catherine.12 (10) Fragments, most of them palimpsests, which Bruno Violet found in 1900 at the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus; they contain passages from the OT (Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, I Kings, Psalm 16, Ecclesiastes, Ecclesiasticus); the NT (from the four Gospels, St Peter’s 2nd Epistle, St Paul’s Epistles); the Acts of Andrew and Matthias; the apocryphal Gospels; Lucian’s letter concerning the discovery of Stephen’s relics by Gamaliel, Nicodemus and Abib; the Acts of St Adrian; and finally from several hymns.13 (11) Two leaves containing fragments of patristic works translated from Greek. These are now in St Petersburg.14 Some of these fragments suggest a continuous text and prove that there existed a complete version of the OT and NT in the Palestinian dialect. The lectionaries, once believed to have been translated directly from Greek, in fact derive from that version. The translation and lectionaries differ widely throughout these texts. Burkitt no doubt underestimated the scope of their AGNES SMITH LEWIS, A Palestinian Syriac Lectionary… in Studia Sinaitica, n. VI, London, 1897, with notes by NESTLE and a glossary by Mrs GIBSON. 12 Mrs LEWIS and MRS GIBSON published one of the two texts and provided the variants of the second and of the Vatican MS, as found in Lagarde’s edition: The Palestinian Syriac Lectionary of the Gospels, re-edited from two Sinai ms. and from P. de Lagarde’s edition of the Evangeliarium Hierosolymitanum, London, 1899. 13 Published by SCHULTHESS, who had already used them for his Lexicon syropalaestinum: FRIEDRICH SCHULTHESS, christlich-palästinische Fragmente aus der Omajjaden-Moschee zu Damaskus, Berlin, 1905. Cf. the fragments published by SCHULTHESS in the Zeitschr. der deut. morgenl. Gesellschaft, LVI, p. 249. 14 Published by P. KOKOWZOFF, Nouveaux fragments syro-palestiniens, St Petersburg, 1906. 11



expansion. He writes:15 “The only place where this literature seems to have been the ecclesiastical language of the people is ‘Abûd, a place not far from the frontier between Judaea and Samaria. All this points to the age of Justinian and Heraclius, and the determined efforts made by these emperors to extirpate Judaism and other ancient faiths from Christian territory… No doubt some measure of success actually attended the persecuting zeal of the Byzantine Emperors, and so communities of Aramaic-speaking Christians were founded in Palestine. The converts and their descendants needed religious instruction in their own tongue, and the Bible (or great parts of it) was translated, together with certain Homilies and other ecclesiastical documents, the greater part of which have perished.” Burkitt adds that this presentation of the question is purely hypothetical: “I have chiefly wished to point out that there are no real signs in Christian Palestinian Literature of high antiquity or of any special connexion with the more ancient forms of Christianity. We can trace its existence almost to the time of Justinian, but an earlier date is not suggested either by the general course of history or by the character of the surviving documents.” However, it should be pointed out that the time of Justinian, during which Monophysitism expanded so greatly in Syria, goes against Burkitt’s thesis. Besides, how could the Christians of Palestine, entirely hellenised by the time of Justinian, have shaped an ecclesiastical literature in an Aramaic dialect? This ancient literature has, more likely, come down to us through relatively recent manuscripts. The texts of the OT and NT are translations from Greek. Those of the OT generally correspond to a version of the Septuagint that postdates Origen’s Hexapla. According to Theodotion, the Job fragment (ch. XXII) is included in the part that was originally absent from the Septuagint and was added by Origen. While no evidence that has come to light points to Lucian’s collation, the Peshitta appears to have been used on several 15

In the article cited earlier, Journal of Theological Studies, p. 181–182.



occasions, for instance in the passage on the benediction of the Nile. Besides, Mesopotamian Syriac influenced the Palestinian dialect displayed in these texts, thereby setting it apart from the Judeo-Aramaic tongue of Palestine.

V. THE LATER VERSIONS OF THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT The Western Syrians, having taken part in the Christological controversies that had affected the Church in the early 6th century, wished to acquire a version of the Bible that would be more faithful to the Septuagint than the Peshitta had been. The OT and NT were at the heart of every discussion, and misunderstandings inevitably arose from interpretations being based on different texts. In this climate, accusing one’s adversaries of falsification was commonplace. For the OT, the Septuagint version was the authoritative text in both the Greek Church and hellenised Syria. In these circumstances, Syrians of the Euphratic provinces and of Western Mesopotamia found themselves in need of a Syriac version of the Septuagint. The Syrian Church, turned Monophysite, had developed closer, stronger ties with the Church of Alexandria. Consequently, these Syrians were all the more aware of the resulting desideratum. As we have seen, the Septuagint served as the model for an emendation of the OT Peshitta, but that revision had only altered several words and phrases, leaving it for the greater part untouched. In either 505 or 508,1 Philoxenus, bishop of Mabbug, one of the most spirited proponents of the monophysitic heresy, ordered the chorepiscopus Polycarp to produce a literal translation of the OT and NT based on the Greek version. This new version appears to have enjoyed a certain standing during the 6th century: Moses of Aggel (around 570) mentions the Psalms and NT;2 but it fell into disuse when the OT Syriac Hexapla and the NT Hexapla were Cf. ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 23; IGNATIUS EPHRAEM II RAHMANI, Studia syriaca, Mount Lebanon, 1904, p. 54. 2 See ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 82. 1




produced. Of these, only fragments preserved on several manuscripts3 survive. Paul, bishop of Tella of Mauzalat (Constantina of Syria), composed the Syriac Hexapla a century later, 615–617, at the request of Athanasius I, Patriarch of Antioch. It is a Syriac version of the Septuagint based on Origen’s Hexapla, conscientiously reproducing the additions and variants marked by asterisks and daggers, as well as the notes in the margins referring to Greek versions other than the Septuagint.4 In reality, this version did not supercede the Peshitta, which remained the main Bible of the Syrians. Its downfall accompanied that of the religious quarrels in view of which it had been made, the Muslim conquest having led to a number of changes for the Syrian Church. It nonetheless remained an important work of sacred literature for biblical exegesis. Bar Hebræus, in his commentary entitled the Storehouse of Secrets, frequently refers to it simply as “the Greek.” That author held it in even higher esteem than he did the Peshitta. In his great grammar,5 he wrote an entire chapter to demonstrate how inferior the Peshitta was to the Hexapla. The Hexapla has not survived in its entirety. MSS in Milan, Paris and London preserve both complete and incomplete books of that version. The most famous of these MSS is the Ambrosianus, Fragments of Isaiah in a British Museum MS; comp. with GUIDI, Rendiconti della R. Academia dei Lincei, 1886, p. 404; see also HALL, Syriac ms., Gospels of a pre-Harkleian Version, Philadelphia, 1884. CERIANI published the fragments of Isaiah in Monumenta sacra et profana, Milan, 1873, t. V, fasc. I, p. 1–40. GWYNN, The Apocalypse of St John in a syriac version hitherto unknown, Dublin, 1897, has published an ancient Syriac version of the Apocalypse, which he believes to be Polycarp’s translation, whereas the version that Louis de Dieu edited in 1627 would belong to Thomas Harkel’s revision. Gwynn’s publication provides a restitution of the Greek text on which, in his opinion, the Syriac version was based. 4 FIELD used these notes for his publication entitled Origenis Hexaplorum fragmenta, Oxford, 1875. 5 Œuvres grammaticales d’Abou’lfaradj dit Bar Hebraeus, edited by Abbot MARTIN, Paris, 1872, I, p. 240. 3



which forms the second volume of a complete exemplar. The first volume contained the Pentateuch, Joshua, Judges, Kings, Ezra with Nehemiah, Judith and Tobit. It was lost after the death (1573) of Andreas Masius, to whom it belonged. Norberg published Jeremiah and Ezekiel (1787); Bugatus, Daniel (1788) and Psalms (1820). In 1835, Middeldorpf edited the fourth Book of Kings (Paris MS), Isaiah, the Minor Prophets, Proverbs, Job, the Song of Songs, Lamentations and Ecclesiastes (Milan MS). Ceriani has produced a photolithographic reproduction of Ambrosianus.6 Skat Rœrdam has published the book of Judges and Ruth, as found in a MS from the collections of the British Museum, in Copenhagen in 1859– 1861. Paul de Lagarde edited in Hebrew characters, in the Veteris T. ab Origen recensiti fragmenta (Göttingen, 1880), the fragments contained in the London and Paris MSS: fragments of Exodus, Numbers, Joshua and Kings. In his Bibliothecae syriacae (Göttingen, 1892), this professor reprinted in Syriac characters the same fragments with new additions, most notably fragments from Genesis. The Harqlean is the revision of the Philoxenian NT produced, in 616, by Thomas of Harkel (or of Heraclea), bishop of Mabbug. The bishop, after losing his office for having advocated monophysitic propaganda, withdrew to Alexandria where he worked on this revision in the monastery of St Anthony, in the village of Enaton. The Harqlean contains the same books as the Peshitta, as well as four Epistles: St Peter’s 2nd, St John’s 2nd and 3rd and finally St Jude’s. In the late 19th and early 20th century, J. White took on the task of editing it, using the Oxford MSS.7 CERIANI, Monumenta sacra et profana, vol. VII. Codex syro-hexaplaris Ambrosianus photolith., Milan, 1874. He had begun a critical study of that version in vol. I and II of the same work. 7 S. Evangeliorum versio syr. Philoxeniana, Oxford, 1778; Acluum Apost. et Epistol…, Oxford, 1799–1803. The lacuna in the Epistle to the Hebrews as edited by White was filled by BENSLY, using a MS from Cambridge, The Heraclean version of the Epistle to the Hebrews, Cambridge, 1889, chap. XI, 28 – XIII, 25. Among other writings, that Cambridge MS contains Clement’s two Epistles, placed between the Catholic Epistles and St Paul’s 6



The Philoxenian, Hexapla and Harqlean were the work of Jacobites. The Nestorians, who were less directly in contact with the West, primarily used the Peshitta.8 A version ordered by Mar Aba, patriarch of the Nestorians from 536 to 552, is there mentioned. Amr relates that Mar Aba “interpreted and explained the OT and NT; he wrote a book of commentaries.”9 In his catalogue,10 ʿAbdishoʿ writes: “Mar Aba the Great interpreted and translated from Greek into Syriac the entire OT.”11

Epistles. — BERNSTEIN in Leipzig, in 1853, has edited St John’s Gospel with the vowels and diacritic marks of the Masoretic text under the title Das heilige Evangelium des Johannes… That edition, at the time of its publication, represented a typographical feat. — In 1886, HALL reproduced by phototype the four Epistles missing from the Peshitta, as found in a MS dated to 1471, The Syrian Antilegomena Epistles, Baltimore, 1886. On the Apocalypse version, see above p. 44, n. 3. Cf. P. CORSSEN, Die Recension der Philoxeniana in the Zeitschr. f. die neutest. Wissenschaft, lahrg. II, Heft I, Darmstadt, 1901. 8 A letter from the Nestorian patriarch Timothy I († 823), published by BRAUN, Oriens christianus, Rome, 1902, informs us that this patriarch ordered that copies of the Syriac Hexapla be prepared for the Nestorians. Ishoʿdad, among the Nestorians (around 850), made use of that version in his biblical commentaries. 9 Maris, Amri et Slibæ commentaria, pars altera, ed. GISMONDI, Rome, 1896, p. 41. No such notice is to be found in Mari, who solely treats of a Syriac version of the works of Theodore of Mopsuestia, ibid., pars prior, p. 50. 10 ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, p. 75. 11 No other traces of that version of Mar Aba are known. Its mere existence remains a matter of debate, yet it is accepted both by BAUMSTARK in Oriens Christianus, II, p. 457, and by MARTIN LEWIN, Die Scholien des Theodor bar Koni, Berlin, 1905, p. XXIX.

VI. THE SYRIAN MASORETIC TEXT The corpus of works devoted to establishing the exact reading of the biblical text in the Syriac versions is known to the Jacobites as The Tradition, ‫ ܰܡܫܠ ܡ ܽܢܘܬܐ‬, in relation to the Jewish Masora; the Nestorians̈ܶ preferred the expression Book of the Masters of Reading, ܰ ‫ܟܬ ̈ܒ‬. We retain the term Masora, which is most common, ‫ܐܳܕܡܩܪܝ ܢܶ̈ܐ‬ and Masoretes for the authors of these works. The Peshitta was the first book which students encountered in school. In that version they would first read the Psalms, then they would move on to the NT and the other books of the OT, and only later would they consult the works of the Fathers of the Syriac and Greek Churches. Although the vowels were not written, the masters of reading would teach their disciples the correct pronunciation of these words, how to distinguish the propositions of the various sentences following Aristotle’s five categories, and how to raise and lower the voice in adopting the different intonations required by the sentence’s meaning. For this instruction, they would use dots or groups of dots called accents, subdivided into logical accents and rhetorical accents, written on the line above or under the words. The original Masoretic Text dates back to the School of Edessa in the early 5th century. Narsai, whose Nestorian views had led to his banishment from Edessa, entrusted it shortly after to the School of Nisibis. In the 6th century, Joseph of Ahwaz, professor at that school, modified the system devised by the masters of the School of Edessa,1 and invented nine accents, using Ibas’s version of Theodore of Mopsuestia’s commentaries for his readings.2 BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., II, p. 77, writes: “Joseph of Ahwaz held the office (of Narsai) at Nisibis. He replaced the Edessanian reading by the Oriental reading used by the Nestorians. They read, during the 1




Sabroy, the founder of a school at Beth Shahaq, near Nisibis, together with his sons Ram Yeshu and Gabriel, monks of the monastery of Mar Mattai, are responsible for the spread of the Nestorian system of dots, vowels and accents among the Oriental Monophysites in the 7th century.3 The Masoretic Text has produced three types of works: (1) examples of the Bible punctuated and annotated with explanations in the margin; (2) treatises of points and accents; (3) treatises of ambiguous words (De æquivocis). The treatises on accents and those on ambiguous words are part of the grammar and lexicography. These will be addressed in n. XVI. Only the Bible exemplars that contain the Masoretic Text will be treated here. The revision of the OT Peshitta produced in 705 by Jacob, bishop of Edessa, while in residence at the monastery of Talada, can be regarded as the first systematic work of the Jacobite Masoretic Text. Jacob divided the biblical books into chapters, the contents of which were summarised in their heading. Numerous explanatory notes in the margin accompanied the text. Of these notes, some record lessons from the Greek and Syriac versions, others give the words’ exact pronunciation. Several derive from the works of Severus of Antioch. Explanatory notes are also at times inserted in the text. This work by Jacob of Edessa has not come down to us in full. The Bibliothèque nationale holds two MSS containing the entire lifetime of Narsai, as we Occidentals do.” The modification did not concern the vowels. Rather, it focused on the dots that marked the different items of the sentence, cf. MERX, Historia artis grammaticae apud Syros, Leipzig, 1889, p. 28. 2 After a note in a MS held in the collections of the British Museum, WRIGHT, Catal. of the syr. ms., col. 107, n. V, 3. 3 See the letter of David, son of Paul, published by IGNATIUS EPHRAEM II RAHMANI in Studia syriaca, Mount Lebanon, 1904, chap. X, n. 3, and that chapter’s notes, p. 67–68. Cf. NOELDEKE, Zeitschr. der deut. morgenl. Gesell., LVIII, 1904, p. 495; WRIGHT, Catal. of the syr. ms., col. 105 b.



Pentateuch, with the exception of several missing verses, and the book of Daniel. The British Museum also has two MSS containing the two books of Samuel and the beginning of Kings and Isaiah, the first book of Samuel presenting several lacunae.4 These MSS are dated to 719 and 720, that is, about ten years after the death of Jacob of Edessa. Jacob had paved the way for the Syrians’ systematisation of the works of the Masoretic Text. He did not have to wait long to find worthy emulators among the monks who, in their retreat, dedicated their lives to the study of the Scriptures. In the monastery of Qarqaphto (“the skull”), situated near the town of Reshʿayna, the Jacobite Masoretic Text reached its apogee. The Jacobite Masoretes are known by the name Qarqaphians, ‫ ܰܩܪܩܦܝܶ̈ܐ‬, and their work is entitled The Qarqaphian Tradition, ‫ܰܡܫܠ ܡ ܽܢܘܬܐ‬ ‫ ܰܩܪܩܦܝܬܐ‬, in Bar Hebræus’s commentary The Storehouse of Secrets and in the MSS of the Jacobite Masoretic Text. The exact meaning of that title has long been misunderstood. Assemani translated it versio Karkaphensis hoc est Montana and described it as the version used by the mountain dwellers.5 Cardinal Wiseman discovered that pseudo-version in Vatican MS 152.6 Abbot Martin was the first to determine its true meaning and demonstrate that the words translated as Qarqaphian version in reality referred to the Qarqaphian tradition, that is, the Masoretic Text produced in the monastery of Qarqaphto.7 Yet Abbot Martin still ignored the actual location of that monastery; Georg Hoffmann Fragments of that revision were printed by BUGATUS, Daniel secundum editionem LXX Interpretum, Milan, 1788; and by GERIANI, Monumenta sacra et profana, t. II and V. — UGOLINI, in Oriens christianus, Rome, 1902, p. 409, has shown that MS Add. 14429 of London and MS 27 of Paris were two parts of one same copy of Jacob of Edessa’s revision. He believes that MS V of the Vatican, which contains fragments of Ezekiel, is a third fragment of this copy. 5 Bibl. Orient., II, p. 283. 6 Horæ syriacæ, Rome, 1828, p. 78 and 151. 7 Tradition karkaphienne ou la Massore chez les Syriens in the Journal asiatique, October–November 1869. 4



has since proved that it lay at Magdal on the Khabur River, not far from the town of Reshʿayna.8 In MSS of the Jacobite Masoretic Text, the explanatory notes in the margin, which clarify the teachings and pronunciationܽ of the text, are often indicated under the rubric toubana (‫ܛܘܒܢܐ‬, often abbreviated ‫)ܛܘ‬. Cardinal Wiseman believed that this word designated the Peshitta, while Abbot Martin saw in it an epithet of Rabban Theodosius, a Syriac author. Thanks to two explanatory notes from Bar Bahlul’s lexicon, we now know the following:9 “The two doctors Toubana and Saba. There were two illustrious doctors of the Masoretic Text (‫ ) ܰܡܫܠ ܡ ܽܢܘܬܐ‬of the Testaments at Reshʿayna. The first of these, Toubana Santa, resided in one of its monasteries; the other, named Saba, was respected and renowned for his chastity and the exactitude of his Masoretic Text. That is why, wherever there is a note in the margin surmounted by a semkat (the letter s), that letter indicates what Saba changed in Toubana’s reading, for these authors presented diverging teachings. This fact is here written in order to make it known.” This explanatory note in Bar Bahlul’s lexicon indicates what the words Toubana and Saba, found in the MSS of the Jacobite Masoretic Text, mean.10 Saba of Reshʿayna was an able copyist. Indeed, we have several MSS written by his hand at the end of which he prides himself on having never made a mess of the curl of a single tav (the letter t).11 These MSS, dated to 724 and 726, give a clearer idea of the time during which the Jacobite Masoretic Text flourished.

Zeitschr. der deut. morgenl. Gesellschaft, XXXII, p. 745. Lexicon syriacum, auctore Bar Bahlule, ed. R. DUVAL, Paris, 1888–1896, col. 1364, l. 6. GEORG HOFFMANN revealed the first of these explanatory notes, Zeitschr. f. die. Altt. Wissenschaft, 1881, p. 159; I added the second explanatory note, Journal asiatique, June 1884, p. 560. 10 Compare with WRIGHT, Catal. of the syr. ms., p. 100, col. 2. 11 WRIGHT, Catal. of the syr. ms., p. 9, col. 1; p. 16, col. 1; p. 25, col. 1. WRIGHT, ibid., p. 38, col. 1, believes that Saba himself composed the MS dated to 719 which contains the two books of Samuel in Jacob of Edessa’s revision. 8 9



The Masoretic Text does not provide a continuous biblical text. Rather, it reproduces the verses that require an explanation, that contain words of which the exact pronunciation must be established, or that differ from the Greek and Syriac versions.12 The number of omitted verses varies from MS to MS. The text is vocalised in the Jacobite Masoretic Text thanks to so-called Greek vowels, and in the Nestorian Masoretic Text thanks to vowel dots; the diacritic dots that indicate the aspiration or non-aspiration of certain consonants, and the dots marking punctuation or accentuation, are carefully inserted. Ten MSS of the Jacobite Masoretic Text are attested, the main ones being: Vatican MS 15213 dated to 980; two MSS of the British Museum, one, Add. 12178, from the 9th or 10th century, similar to the Vatican MS,14 and the other, Add. 7183, probably from the 12th century, containing fewer verses than the Vatican MS;15 the Barberini MS dated to 1089 or 1094 (the dating is uncertain);16 and a MS of the Bibliothèque nationale from the 11th century which is identical to the Vatican MS.17 According to Abbot Martin,18 there exists a further MS dated to 1015 in the Mosul cathedral. The Paris MS just cited and the London MS, Add. 14683, contain a section devoted to the Masoretic Text of the doctors’ works which were read in schools, that is, passages by pseudoDionysius the Areopagite, St Basil, St Gregory of Nazianzus, Severus of Antioch, and (in the London MS) from the Diætetes of John Philoponus. We call attention to the fact that the Nestorian Masoretic Text knows neither the Hexapla nor the Harqlean. 13 Described by WISEMAN, Horæ syriacæ, 149 ff.; comp. with Abbot MARTIN, Tradition karkaphienne, p. 245. 14 WRIGHT, Catal. of the syr. ms., p. 108, n. 162. 15 Catalogue Forshall et Rosen, p. 64, n. 42. 16 Also described by Card. WISEMAN. 17 Catalogue Zotenberg, n. 64. It has also been described by Wiseman, comp. with Abbot MARTIN, Tradition kark., p. 245 ff. 18 Introduction à la critique textuelle du N.T., partie théorique, Paris, 1882– 1883, p. 201. 12



The Nestorian Masoretic Text is preserved in an important MS in the British Museum, written in the monastery of Mar Gabriel near Harran in 899.19 Bar Hebræus made good use of both Masoretic Texts not only in his commentary The Storehouse of Secrets but also in his great grammar, The Book of Splendour.20

MS Add. 13138, Catalogue Wright, p. 101, n. 161. M. GUSTAV DIETTRICH published the Masoretic Text for Isaiah, Die Massorah der östlichen und westlichen Syrer…, London, 1899; and for the Song of Songs in the Zeitschr. f. die altt. Wissenschaft, 1902, p. 193. 19 20

VII. THE BIBLICAL COMMENTARIES Were it not for the loss of a great many biblical commentaries due to the passing of time, these texts, written by the Fathers of the Syrian Church, would form a complete library. The commentaries by St Ephrem († 373) on the OT and NT are the oldest attested. No doubt Ephrem wrote them in view of his teachings at the School of the Persians at Edessa. Only in the case of Genesis and much of Exodus, in MS 110 of the Vatican from the 6th century, has the commentary on the OT survived in its original form; for the other books, it exists in an abridged version in the Catena Patrum, which Severus, a monk of Antioch, compiled in 861.1 The abridged text of Severus, as compared with the Vatican MS 110, shows that St Ephrem’s commentary, which the monk of Antioch consulted for Genesis, differed from that MS.2 That commentary is based on the Peshitta yet has fallen victim to interpolations; we find citations from the Septuagint which St Ephrem, who did not know Greek, could not have used.3

See Catal. Wright, p. 108. POHLMANN, S. Ephræmi Syri commentariorum in S. Scripturam textus, Brunsberg, 1863–1864; BICKELL, Conspectus rei Syrorum litterariæ, Munster, 1871, p. 19. 3 Much of it is printed in the Roman edition, S. Ephræmi opera, t. I and II. M. LAMY has completed that edition in t. II of S. Ephræmi syri hymni et sermons, Malines, 1886, p. 105–310, after the British Museum MSS M. LAMY has published in the Revue biblique, 1897–1898, a translation of St Ephrem’s commentaries on Zachariah, of which two chapters were as yet unpublished. 1 2




As for the NT, St Ephrem’s commentary of the Diatessaron is only preserved in Armenian (see p. 34). Likewise, his commentary on St Paul’s Epistles only survives in Armenian.4 Apart from these commentaries, St Ephrem wrote exegetic ܽ homilies and interpretations, ‫ܬܘܪܓ ܶ̈ܡܐ‬, on various biblical verses.5 Mar Aba, one of St Ephrem’s disciples, wrote a commentary on the Gospels, a discourse on Job and an explanation of verse 9 of Psalm XLII.6 He should not be mistaken for the Nestorian patriarchs Mar Aba I and Mar Aba II, whom we shall consider shortly. Ishoʿdad cites Isaac, another disciple of St Ephrem, for Samuel.7 Two incomplete manuscripts in the British Museum (Wright, Catal., p. 526, n. 674 and 675) contain a commentary on the Gospels by Philoxenus, bishop of Mabbug († circa 523). The first of these MSS, dated to 511, contains fragments of a commentary on St Matthew and St Luke. The second, which belongs to the same period, contains a commentary on selected passages from the Gospels, and particularly verses 1–18 of the first chapter of St John’s Gospel. The author fights various heresies and especially that of the Nestorians, which he calls “heretics of the present time.”

Translated into Latin by the Mechitarist Fathers, S. Ephræmi commentarii in Epistolas D. Pauli…, Vienna, 1893. 5 Roman edition, II, 316–395; OVERBECK, S. Ephræmi syri… opera selecta, Oxford, 1865, p. 77–104. MŒSINGER published several scholia on S. Matthew, Isaiah, Osee and Proverbs in the 2nd vol. of Monumenta syriaca, Innsbruck, 1878, p. 33 ff. 6 He is cited in some MSS; WRIGHT, Catal., p. 831 and 1002. Fragments have been published in HARRIS, Fragm. of the comment. of Ephrem Syrus, London, 1895, p. 93. He is also the author of a poem of seven-syllable lines preserved in a MS from Mount Sinai, of which LAMY gives the four first lines in t. IV of S. Ephræmi syri hymni et sermons, Malines, 1902, p. 87–88. 7 G. DIETTRICH, Ischodâdh’s Stellung in der Austegungsgeschichte des A. T., Giessen, 1902, p. XXVII. 4



Daniel of Salah (a monastery in Tur Abdin) wrote commentaries of Psalms and Ecclesiastes. At the request of John, abbot at the monastery of Eusebius near Apamea, Daniel composed in 542 a commentary on Psalms, divided into three volumes of fifty psalms each.8 Only the extracts provided by Severus’s Catena shed light on the Ecclesiastes commentary.9 John, abbot of the monastery of Qenneshre (6th century), is the author of a commentary on the Song of Songs.10 Marutha, Jacobite metropolitan of Tagrit († 649), wrote a commentary on the Gospels which is cited in the Catena of monk Severus. Two ancient notes by Marutha on Exodus XVI, 1, and Matthew XXVI, 6–14, are printed in Mœsinger’s Monumenta syriaca, t. II, p. 32. Jacob, bishop of Edessa († 708), composed commentaries and scholia on the Scriptures. In several letters he also treats various biblical passages. The commentaries are cited in Severus’s Catena The first complete volume and the second incomplete volume survive in MSS now in the Vatican and the British Museum. (ASSEMANI, B. O., I, p. 495; WRIGHT, Catal., p. 605 and 606); the third part is preserved only in an Arabic version now in Berlin, Collection Sachau, n. 55. A summary of that commentary can be found in MS Add. 17125 (WRIGHT, Catal., p. 125). Daniel of Salah was a Monophysite, cf. IGNATIUS EPHRÆM II RAHMANI, Studia syriaca, Mont Liban, 1904, chap. VI et adnotatio in caput VI, p. 61; G. DIETTRICH, Eine jacobitische Einleitung in den Psalter…, Giessen, 1901; and Die Massorah der östl. und westl. Syrer, London, 1899. NESTLE has already provided extracts of the commentary on Psalms in his Brevis linguæ syr. Grammatica, Chrestomathia, VI, Karlsruhe and Leipzig, 1881. 9 Catal. Vat., III, 17; WRIGHT, Catal., p. 909. 10 ASSEMANI, B. O., II, p. 54. Extracts of that commentary are preserved in a chain of the fathers now in the British Museum (MS Add. 12168, f. 138 a). A commentary on the Gospels is attributed to Mara of Amid (ca. 519) by ASSEMANI, B. O., II, p. 52; but Wright’s study of Zachariah (in LAND, Anecdota syriaca, III, p. 245 and 250) has demonstrated that Mara only wrote a preface in Greek for a copy of the Gospels produced in Alexandria; WRIGHT, Syriac lit., 2nd ed., London, 1894, p. 83. 8



and in the writings of Dionysius bar Salibi and Bar Hebræus. Philipps, Wright, Schrœter and Nestle have published several ancient notes as found in MSS held in the British Museum;11 others, compounded in St Ephrem’s commentaries, were printed in the Roman edition of St Ephrem (t. I and II). George, bishop of the Arabic tribes of the Euphrates, a contemporary and a friend of Jacob of Edessa, wrote notes on the Scriptures. These are cited in the Catena of Severus, in the commentaries by Dionysius bar Salibi and in the Storehouse of Secrets by Bar Hebræus.12 A MS now in the collections of the Vatican 13 contains a commentary on St Matthew’s Gospel written by George, who was elected patriarch of Antioch in 758. In the late 8th century, Lazarus of Beth Qandasa compiled a commentary on the NT. Two manuscripts in the British Museum (Cat. Wright, p. 608–612, n. 713–714) contain the commentary on St Mark and St John and on some of St Paul’s Epistles. The commentary on the Epistles is an abridged version by St John Chrysostom. Moses Bar Kepha, who took the name Severus upon being appointed bishop of Beth Ramman and Mosul († 903), composed commentaries on the OT and NT. These are often cited by Bar Hebræus in his Storehouse of Secrets, which preserves, albeit in an

PHILIPPS, Scholia on some passages of the Old Testament by Mar Jacob, London, 1864; WRIGHT, Journal of sacred literature, vol. X, p. 430 ff.; SCHRŒTER, Zeitschr. der deut. morgen. Gesellschaft, 1870, t. XXIV, p. 261 ff.; NESTLE, ibid., 1878, t. XXXII, p. 465 ff., 735 ff.; compare also with ASSEMANI, B. O., I, p. 489–493; MAI, Script. vet. nova collectio, Rome, 1825–1838, t. V; WRIGHT, Catal., p. 591, 910 and 997. 12 ASSEMANI, B. O., I, 494; WRIGHT, Catal., p. 909, col. 2. V. RYSSEL translated these notes into German, Georgs des Araberbischofs Gedichte und Briefe, Leipzig, 1891. 13 Catal. Vat., III, 299. Cf. BAUMSTARK, Die Petrus und Paulus Akten, Leipzig, 1902, p. 12. 11



incomplete form, the commentary on Genesis, the Gospels and St Paul’s Epistles.14 Bar Hebræus also cites a commentary on the Book of Wisdom by John Maron, who died around 1017.15 The commentaries of this period are better preserved; because they were summaries of previous works, they exempted the theologian from consulting the original documents. Such are the commentaries of Jacob bar Salibi and Bar Hebræus. Jacob Bar Salibi, who took the name Dionysius upon his elevation as bishop of Marash († 1171), is the author of a richly documented commentary on the OT and NT, yet which is as much of a compilation as it is an original work.16 The entire commentary on the OT is preserved in its entirety in the Bibliothèque nationale MS n. 66;17 its composition is atypical: “The commentary on each book, writes Zotenberg (Catal., p. 33), is divided into two distinct parts: one material or corporal commentary, i.e. literal, and another spiritual or mystical commentary, i.e. symbolic. In the books of Job, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Psalms and Daniel, the first commentary is known by the word ‫( ܣܘܥܪܢܝܐ‬material) and the second by ‫( ܣܘܥܪܢܝܐ ܳܘܪܘܚܢܝܐ‬material and spiritual). The second commentary on Psalms contains, for most of the thirty first psalms, two commentaries: one by the author, Dionysius bar Salibi, the other attributed to Andrew, priest of Jerusalem; or both by Dionysius bar Salibi, but one based on the Peshitta version and the other on the Hexapla version… Such is also the case for Proverbs, WRIGHT, Catal., p. 620, n. 720; also several fragments at the Bodleian, Catal. Payne Smith, 410 and 418, and at the Bibliothèque nationale, Catal. Zotenberg, p. 156, n. 206; commentary on the Gospel of St John in MS Add. 1971 in Cambridge, Catal. by WRIGHT and COOK, p. 47. 15 ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 283. 16 Comp. with ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 157; Catal. Payne Smith, col. 414; G. DIETTRICH, Ischôdâdh’s Stellung in der Auslegungsgeschichte des A. T., Giessen, 1902, p. XXXIX. 17 The Cambridge Library contains an older MS but it only gives one choice of commentaries, Catal. of WRIGHT and COOK, p. 53. 14



Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs and Daniel, books for which the first commentary is based on the Peshitta and the second on the version established by Paul of Tella. There exist three commentaries for the Book of Jeremiah: one abridged commentary devoted to the Hexapla… a second abridged commentary… finally a third more extensive commentary.” The NT commentary, which is preserved in several MSS held in libraries throughout Europe,18 has the same characteristic. Bar Hebræus’s commentaries on the OT and NT, written in 1277–1278, form a large group of explanatory notes for biblical exegesis, the critique of the Peshitta, the Hexapla and the Harqlean, as well as on Syriac grammar and lexicography. Inܰ his ܰ ‫ܐ‬, the commentaries, which bear the title Storehouse of Secrets, ‫ܘܨܪܳܪܐܙܶ̈ ܐ‬ author cites, besides the Syriac versions, the Septuagint, Aquila, Symmachus and Theodotion; and, for Psalms, the Armenian and Coptic versions. He also cites the Hebrew text, albeit only secondhand. The Fathers of the Church mentioned in these works are: Athanasius, Basil, Cyril of Alexandria, Ephrem, Epiphanius, Eusebius, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory of Nazianzus, Hippolytus, Origen, Philoxenus, Severus of Antioch, Jacob of Edessa, Moses Bar Kepha and even Ishoʿdad of Merv, a Nestorian author. As for Cat. Vat., III, 296 and 298, comp. with ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 157; Cat. Zotenberg, n. 67 and 68; Cat. Forshall et Rosen, p. 71; Cat. Wright, p. 623; Cat. Payne Smith, col. 410–418; Catal. Sachau, p. 594. After a MS now held in Dublin and dated to 1197 (thirty-two years after the work was composed in 1165), DUDLEY LOFTUS made an English translation of part of the commentary of St Matthew and the beginning of the commentary of St Mark (The Exposition of Dionysius Syrus, Dublin, 1672; A clear and learned Explication…, Dublin, 1695). Extracts of the commentary on the Apocalypse have been published with notes and a translation by GWYNN in Hermathena, VI, 397; VII, 137. RENDEL HARRIS published extracts of the commentary on St John’s Gospel in Hermas in Arcadia, Cambridge, 1896, p. 58. The commentaries on the Gospels are in the process of being published by J. SEDLACEK and J.-B. CHABOT, Dionysius bar Salibi. Commentarii in Evangelia in the Corpus script. christ. orient., 2nd series, t. 98; the facsimile is available, I, Paris, 1906. 18



exegesis, the sagacious bishop stayed well clear of mystical allegory and built instead on the work of his predecessors to shed light on the literal meaning of the biblical verses. For his critique of the text of the Syriac versions, he plundered the Jacobite and Nestorian Masoretic Texts and gathered a great number of notes on the exact pronunciation of Syriac words, as well as on the differences between Nestorians and Jacobites on that matter. The explanatory lexicographical notes, borrowed from various sources, including Bar Ali and Bar Bahlul’s lexica, are most numerous for the books that were most read: the Pentateuch, Psalms and NT. The Storehouse of Secrets survives in several MSS held in various European libraries.19 A general edition has yet to be undertaken, but many partial publications, including several doctoral dissertations, have already appeared.20 Rome, Cod. Vat. 170 and 282; Florence, Palat. Med., 26; London, Catal. Rosen et Forshall, n. 45; Catal. Wright, n. 723 and 724; Oxford, Catal. Payne Smith, n. 122; Cambridge, Catal. Wright and Cook, p. 513; Berlin, Catal. Sachau; Göttingen, Bibl. de l’Université. 20 Card. WISEMAN has published the preface of the Storehouse of Secrets in his Horæ syriacæ, Rome, 1828. LARSOW has published a specimen of an edition, Leipzig, 1858. The other partial publications are: Le Pentateuque, WEINGARTEN, Halle, 1887. Cf. L. UHRY, Genèse, chap. XXII–L, Strasbourg, 1898; GÖTTSBERGER, Barhebraeus und seine Scholien, Freiburg im Breisgau, 1900; GLÜCK, Beiträge zur Geschichte der Bibelexegese. Die Scholien des Barhebræus zu Gen., XXI–L… Frankfort-sur-leMein, 1903. — Le Lévitique, KERBER, Leipzig, 1895. — Les fragments de l’Hexaplaire pour le Lévitique et le Deutéronome, in this commentary, KERBER, Zeitschr. f. die alttest. Wissen., 1876, p. 249. — Le Deutéronome, KERBER, The American Journal of Semitic languages and literature, 1867, p. 89. — Extraits de Genèse, Exode, Deut., chap. V des Juges, SCHRŒTER, Zeitschr. der deut. morgen. Gesell., XXIV, p. 495. — Job, BERNSTEIN, Chrestomathie de Kirsch, 2nd ed. (separately, Breslau, 1858). — Josué et les Juges, KRAUS, Kirchhain, 1894. — Samuel, SCHLESINGER, Leipzig, 1897. — Les fragments de l’Hexaplaire pour Samuel in this commentary, KERBER, Zeitschr. f. die altt. Wissen., 1898, p. 177. — Les Rois, MORGENSTERN, Berlin, 1895. — Les Psaumes, P. DE LAGARDE, Prætermissorum libri duo, 1879 (text in Hebrew characters); Ps. 5 and 18, RHODE, Breslau, 1832; spécimen 19



All of these commentaries were the work of Occidental Syrians. Considering how few Nestorian MSS have come down to us, it will come as no surprise to the reader that works of that genre, composed by Oriental Syrians, seldom survive. Our knowledge of the names of the commentators who wrote in Oriental Mesopotamia and in Babylonia chiefly derives from ʿAbdishoʿ’s catalogue published in the Bibliotheca orientalis of Assemani (t. III, part. I).21 They are: Patriarch Dadishoʿ (422–457): commentary on Daniel, Kings and Ecclesiastes. Ibas, bishop of Edessa († 457): commentary on Proverbs.22 Narsai, professor at the School of Nisibis († 507): commentary on the four first books of the Pentateuch, Joshua, Judges, Ecclesiastes, Isaiah, the Twelve Minor Prophets, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel.23

des Psaumes, TULLBERG, Upsal, 1842; Ps. 68, KNOBLOCH, Breslau, 1852; Ps. 8, 40, 41, 50, SCHRŒTER, Breslau, 1859; Ps. 3, 4, 6, 7, 9–15, 23, 53, and Préface du N.T., Zeitschr. der deut. morg. Gesell., XXIX, p. 247; Ps. 23, 29, E. FUCHS, Halle, 1871. — Les Proverbes, l’Ecclésiaste, le Cant. des Cant., la Sagesse, RAHLFS, Leipzig, 1887 (Anmerk. zu den Salomonischen Schriften). — Ruth et les additions apocryphes à Daniel, HEPPNER, Halle, 1888. — Isaïe, TULLBERG, Upsal, 1842. Jérémie, KORAEN and WENNBERG, Upsal, 1852. — Ezéchiel, GUGENHEIMER, Berlin, 1894. — Les douze petits Prophètes, MORITZ, Leipzig, 1882. — Daniel, FREIMANN, Brunn, 1892. — Ecclésiastique, KAATZ, Frankfort, 1892. — Saint Matthieu, SPANUTH, Göttingen, 1879. — Saint Luc, STEINHART, Leipzig, 1895. — Saint Jean, SCHWARTZ, Göttingen, 1878. — Les Actes des Apôtres et les Epîtres catholiques, KLAMROTH, Göttingen, 1878. — Les Epîtres paulines, LŒHR, Göttingen, 1889. 21 In this catalogue, the commentaries are designated by the word tradition, ‫ ܰܡܫܠ ܡ ܽܢܘܬ ܐ‬. 22 We here cite Ibas because, although he wrote at Edessa, he was a Nestorian. 23 He is cited by Ishoʿdad when referring to Leviticus and Samuel, see G. DIETTRICH, Ischôdadh’s Stellung in der Auslegungsgeschichte des A. T., Giessen, 1902, p. XXVII.



Elisha bar Quzbaye, successor of Narsai at the School of Nisibis, wrote a commentary on all the books of the OT, based on Barhadbshabba in MINGANA, Narsai, vol. I, p. 35, n. III, Mosul, 1905. Mari (same period): commentary on Daniel. Mika, the doctor: commentary on Kings. Cf. Addaï Scher, Revue de l’Orient Chrétien, 1906, p. 21, n. XXI. Abraham, the syncellus of Narsai: commentary on Joshua, Judges, Kings, Ecclesiastes, Isaiah, the Twelve Minor Prophets, Daniel and Song of Songs.24 John, colleague of Abraham at the School of Nisibis: commentaries on Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, Job, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Proverbs.25 Henana of Adiabene, professor at Nisibis (6th century): commentaries on Genesis, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, the Twelve Minor Prophets, the Gospel of St Mark and St Paul’s Epistles.26 Patriarch Elisha (around 523): commentary on Job and several Epistles of St Paul. Patriarch Mar Aba I (540–552):27 commentary on Genesis, Psalms, Proverbs, St Paul’s Epistles. A commentary on Daniel is

Barhadbshabba in MINGANA, Narsai, p. 36, says: commentary on Prophets, Bar Sira, Joshua and Judges. Cited by Ishoʿdad for the Leviticus, cf. G. DIETTRICH, op. cit., p. XXVIII 25 Cited by Ishoʿdad for Ezekiel, cf. G. DIETTRICH, op. cit., p. XXVIII. 26 Cited for Psalms, Isaiah and Ezekiel by Ishoʿyahb, G. DIETTRICH, op. cit., p. XXVIII; for Genesis, Gospel of St Matthew and St Paul’s Epistles, in a large chain of the fathers called The Garden of Earthly Delights, see J.-B. CHABOT in Orientalische Studien Theodor Nöldeke, Giessen, 1906, p. 495. 27 Maybe Mar Aba II or Mar Aba of Kashkar, who lived some two centuries († 751) after Mar Aba I, see J.-B. CHABOT, Le jardin des délices, same as previous citation [n. 26], p. 494. Mar Aba of Kashkar, or simply Mar Aba, is cited in this book for Genesis, Isaiah, the Gospels and the 24



attributed to his disciples. One of his disciples, Paul of Nisibis, is said to be the author of commentaries on the Scriptures. Theodore of Merv (around 540): commentary on Psalms. Sergius of Adiabene (around 550): commentaries on Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel. Elisha bar Saphanin (same period): commentary on Psalms. Gabriel Arya: commentary on various passages of the Scriptures. Cf. Addaï Scher, l. c., p. 17, n. XVII. Barhadbshabba (early 7th century): commentary on Psalms and the Gospel of St Mark. Quryaqos, bishop of Nisibis (around 630): commentary on St Paul’s Epistles. Babai, abbot of the monastery of Izla (569–628): commentary on the entire text of the Scriptures. Patriarch Ishoʿyahb II (628–644): commentary on Psalms.28 Theodore Bar Koni (early 7th century) is the author of a collection of notes divided into eleven books; the four first books treat the OT and the four subsequent ones are concerned with the NT.29 Elias, metropolitan of Merv (around 660): commentaries on Genesis, Isaiah, the Twelve Minor Prophets, Proverbs, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Ecclesiasticus and St Paul’s Epistles; as well as a chain of the fathers on the four Gospels. Nathaniel (late 6th century): commentary on Psalms. Cf. Addai Scher, l. c., p. 12, n. XIII. Jacob, bishop of Halat (8th century): commentary on Proverbs.

Epistle to the Romans. Ishoʿdad cites Mar Aba for Kings, G. DIETTRICH, opere supra cit., p. XXVIII. 28 Cited by Ishoʿdad, DIETTRICH, opere cit., p. XXVIII. 29 MARTIN LEWIN has published the notes on Genesis XII–L, Die Scholien des Theodor bar Kôni zur Patriarchengeschichte, Berlin, 1905. Lewin has established that Theodore bar Koni lived in the late 6th century or in the early 7th century. We shall come back to this author in the second part when considering the writers of the 7th century.



Ishoʿ bar Nun, Nestorian patriarch in 823: questions on the Scriptures in two volumes.30 Denha or Ibas (around 850):31 commentary on Psalms.32 Ishoʿdad of Merv, bishop of Haditha (around 850): commentary on the totality of the OT and NT.33 Houb or Ahob or Job of Qatar34 (around 900): commentary on the NT, on the Pentateuch, Judges and Prophets. Michael the interpreter:35 questions on the Scriptures in three volumes. Henanishoʿ bar Seroshway, bishop of Hira (around 900): questions on the Scriptures. ʿAbdishoʿ himself claims in his catalogue36 to be the author of a commentary on the OT and NT. A MS in Cambridge, of which RENDEL HARRIS has given several extracts, Fragments of the comm. of Ephrem Syrus, London, 1893, p. 96. 31 Assemani places him under patriarch Pethion, who died in 740, but John bar Zobi claims he was a disciple of patriarch Ishoʿ bar Nun; WRIGHT, Syriac liter., 2nd ed., p. 218. 32 An extract in the chrestomathy entitled The Little Book of Crumbs, ‫ ܟܬܒܘܢܐܳܕܦܪܬܘܬܐ‬, Ourmia, 1898, p. 309. 33 G. DIETTRICH, Ischo’dâdh’s Stellung in der Auslegungsgeschichte des Alten Testaments an seinen Commentaren zu Hosca, Joel, Jona, Sacharia 9–14, und einigen angehängten Psalmen (Syriac extracts with a German transl.), Giessen, 1902. Diettrich has established the importance of Ishoʿdad’s commentaries that form the bridge by which the commentaries of Theodore of Mopsuestia came to the Jacobites. For the NT, Ishoʿdad is often cited in The Garden of Earthly Delights, see J.-B. CHABOT, Orient. Studien Theodor Noeldeke, Giessen, 1906, p. 493. Cf. BAUMSTARK, Römische Quartalschrift, XV, p. 273–280. 34 The writing of the name varies; see R. DUVAL, Lexicon syr. Bar Bahlul, t. III, proœmium, p. XIX; VANDENHOFF, Exegesis Psalmorum apud Syros Nestorianos, Rheine, 1899; J.-B. CHABOT, Le jardin des délices, p. 495. Bar Bahlul’s lexicon cites this author for Daniel. 35 ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 147: comp. with The Book of the Bee, ed. BUDGE, Oxford, 1886, chap. LVII; G. HOFFMANN, Opuscula nestoriana, Kiel, 1889, p. XXI; Addai Scher, Revue de l’Orient chrétien, 1906, p. 16, v. XVI. 30



Later Nestorian compilations have come down to us in several MSS. The most extensive of these is The Garden of Earthly Delights mentioned above. In his Opuscula nestoriana M. G. Hoffmann edited a commentary, entitled Dirstarsinos, of the difficult passages of the OT, and another similar one for the OT and NT. Apart from these original works, the Syrians had translations of the Greek commentaries, which are partly preserved, either in their primitive form or in the chains of the fathers. These are: The commentaries of Hippolytus on Ezekiel, Psalms, Song of Songs, Daniel, St Matthew. In his Analecta syriaca, p. 79–91, Paul de Lagarde published passages from the commentary on Daniel, notes on Psalms, an extract from the commentary on Ezekiel, after MSS held in the collections of the British Museum. Abbot Martin reprinted these fragments with a Latin translation in the Analecta sacra of card. Pitra, t. IV, p. 36–64, in the following order: (1) a commentary on Song of Songs, IV, 15-VI, 7. Mœsinger had edited the entire commentary in the Monumenta syriaca, II, p. 9–31, as found in a Vatican MS; in this MS, the name of the author is not indicated; the title reads: “Explanation and illustration of Song of Songs gathered and abridged by an industrious man.” Mœsinger thought it to be St Ephrem’s commentary but Abbot Martin has observed that the biblical text reproduces the Septuagint, not the Peshitta; the commentary can therefore not be St Ephrem’s; it is also very unlikely that St Hippolytus was its author; (2) other small fragments of the same commentary; (3) extracts of the commentary on Ezekiel. Putting aside the two first pericopes and several other passages, argues Abbot Martin, all the rest coincides with the commentary published under Ephrem’s name; the text suggests a Syriac author; (4) extracts of the commentary on Daniel. Abbot Martin has established the concordance of these extracts together with the various published Greek fragments.37 The commentary on ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 325. Comp. with Die griechischen christl. Schriftsteller, Hippolytus by N. BONWETSCH and H. ACHELIS, Leipzig, 1897. That edition contains a translation of the Syriac fragments edited by P. de Lagarde and 36 37



Daniel is mentioned in the letter by George, bishop of the Arabs, concerning Aphrahat; (5) other extracts of the same commentary; (6) ancient notes on Psalms; (7) ancient notes on the names omitted from the genealogy of Jesus Christ. A passage of the commentary on St Matthew, I, 11, is cited in a chain (Catal. Wright, p. 910, col. 1). The commentary of Eustathius of Antioch on Psalms.38 The commentary of Eusebius of Caesarea on Psalms.39 The commentary of Gregory of Nyssa on Song of Songs.40 The commentary of St John Chrysostom on the NT.41 The commentary of Athanasius of Alexandria on Psalms.42 The commentaries of Theodore of Mopsuestia on the OT and NT. The works of Theodore were translated into Syriac by Ibas and his disciples at the School of Edessa in the first half of the 5th century, shortly after their author’s death. What remains of Theodore’s commentaries most likely comes from that version. They are fragments on Genesis, Psalms, the Minor Prophets, St

Abbot Martin and of those which Simone de Magistris had published last century in his Acta Martyrum, Rome, 1795, p. 274 ff. 38 Abbot Martin printed a fragment in the Analecta sacra of Card. PITRA, t. IV, p. 212, n. VII. 39 Catal. Wright, p. 35, col. 2; 36, 2; 125, 1. In a chain, Catal. Wright, p. 909, are cited the Ζητήματα of Eusebius on the Gospels. 40 Catal. Wright, p. 445, n. 565, 6th century MS; p. 905, col. 2; 906, 1. 41 Catal. Wright, p. 465–468, 6th century MS: Homil. I–XXXII on St Matthew; p. 469–474, 6th or 7th century MS: homil. on St John; p. 471–479: Homil. on St Paul’s Epistles; compare also with, ibid., p. 907, col. 2. The Bibliothèque nationale holds the comment. on the Epistle to the Ephesians, Cat. Zotenberg, n. 69. 42 Catal. Wright, p. 403, MS dated to 599; the Syriac text is often much shorter than the Greek; a summary in a chain, ibid., p. 906, col. 1. Abbot Simeon translated the letter of Athanasius to Marcellinus on the interpretation of Psalms into Syriac at the request of monk Barlaha, as shown by two letters published by GUIDI, Rendiconti della R. Academia dei Lincei, June 1886, p. 547 ff. There still exist several fragments of that translation, GUIDI, l. c., p. 553; WRIGHT, Catal., p. 36.



Matthew and the Epistle to the Hebrews;43 and the entire commentary on the Gospel of St John.44 The last commentary reproduces the text of the 4th Gospel and can be used as an ancient witness for the critique of both Greek and Syriac Gospels. The commentary of Theodoret on the Minor Prophets, cited in a chain.45 The commentary of Hesychius of Jerusalem on Psalms; extracts in the British Museum.46 The commentaries of Cyril of Alexandria on Genesis, Exodus, Isaiah, the Minor Prophets and the NT.47 The commentary of Olympiodorus, deacon of Alexandria, on Job and Ecclesiastes.48 The commentary of Œcumenius on the Apocalypse.49 ʿAbdishoʿ also cites, in the first part of his catalogue, other commentaries by Greek authors, which do not appear to have been preserved in Syriac. Published after MSS held in the British Museum (including one from the 6th century), by P. de Lagarde, Analecta syr., Leipzig, 1858, p. 107 and 108, and by SACHAU, with a Latin translation, Theodori Mopsuesteni fragmenta syriaca, Leipzig, 1869. — Cf. BAETHGEN, Der Psalmencommentar des Theodor Mopsuestis, Zeitschr. f. die alttest. Wissensch., V, 1885, p. 53; MERCATI, Un palimpsesto Ambrosiano dei Salmi esapli, Turin, 1896, p. 15. 44 Published by Abbot CHABOT, Commentarius Theodori Mopsuesteni in Evangelium Johannis, Paris, 1897, as found in a MS of the Bibliothèque nationale; comp. with Journal asiatique, July-August 1894, p. 188. 45 Catal. Wright, p. 917, col. 2. 46 Catal. Wright, p. 35, 2; 36, 2; 121, 1; 916, 2; 1002, 2. 47 Numerous fragments in the British Museum, Cat. Wright, General index under the name Cyril of Alexandria. That library is in possession of the commentary on St Luke, which is complete apart from several lacunae; it is published by PAYNE SMITH in S. Cyrilli commentarii in Lucæ Evangelium, Oxford, 1858; English translation, A commentary upon the Gospel according to S. Luke by S. Cyril, Oxford, 1859, 2 vol.; WRIGHT has edited several new fragments, Fragments of the Homilies of Cyril of Alexandria on the Gospel of S. Luke, London, 1874. 48 Catal. Wright, p. 904, col. 2; 906, 2. 49 Catal. Wright, p. 917, col. 1. 43

VIII. THE APOCRYPHA OF THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT §1. — THE APOCRYPHA OF THE OLD TESTAMENT There are Syriac versions of texts that the Septuagint version includes among the deuterocanonicals. Of these, Lagarde edited:1 The Epistle of Jeremiah, the two Epistles of Baruch, the Song of Ananias2 and his companions, and the story of Bel and the Dragon. Wright3 has edited five apocryphal psalms following a MS from Cambridge and one from the Vatican. The first, Psalm 151, is a translation of the Septuagint which is known from the Codex Ambrosianus. The second is a prayer that Hezekiah pronounced when surrounded by enemies. The third is a song by the Israelites whom Cyrus had authorised to return home. The fourth David sang while he was fighting the lion and the wolf that had taken a sheep from his herd. The fifth is a song of David following his victory against the lion and the wolf. The Syriac text of the Apocalypse of Baruch is preserved in the Codex Ambrosianus.4 That version, which is based on a Greek original now lost, is divided into two parts: one formed of chapters I–LXXVII and the other of chapters LXXVIII–LXXXVI (the latter is the first Epistle of Baruch in Lagarde’s edition of the Apocrypha, mentioned previously, p. 88–93). The first part only Libri Vet. Test. apocryphi syriace, Leipzig, 1881. In the Septuagint: Azarias. 3 In the Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archæology, t. IX, June 1887, p. 257–266. 4 Published in photolithography by CERIANI, Monumenta sacra et profana, t. VII, Milano, 1874. Ceriani translated that apocryphon into Latin in 1866 and prepared a first edition of the text in 1871, Monumenta sacra et profana, t. I, fasc. II, p. 73–98. 1 2




survives in the Codex Ambrosianus; the second part can still be found in other MSS. Charles has published a critical study of that apocrypha and an account of the previous studies which he has devoted to it; he has translated it into English and re-edited chap. LXXVIII–LXXXVI.5 Ceriani edited the fourth book of Ezra and the fourth book of the Maccabees as found in the Codex Ambrosianus.6 Barnes7 has published a new edition, begun by Bensly, of the fourth book of the Maccabees. It reproduces the Codex Ambrosianus with variants from other MSS. It further contains six Syriac texts concerning the martyr of the Maccabees. Of the Parva Genesis or the Book of Jubilees, only one section has been preserved in Syriac.8 Likewise, only fragments of the Christian and Oriental writings of the Testament of Adam survive.9 But the second and third parts of that last apocrypha are attested, with new legends, in the Cave of Treasures. The first part, The Conflict of Adam and Eve, is replaced in the Cave of Treasures by a description of

The Apocalypse of Baruch translated from the syriac, London, 1896. Monumenta sacra et profana, vol. V, fasc. I; in the first volume, fasc. II, Ceriani had made a Latin version of the Syriac apocrypha. In the Codex Ambrosianus, following the 4th book of Maccabees, we find a fifth book, which is the sixth book of the De bello judaico of Josephus, as established by KOTTEK, Das sechste Buch des Bellum judaicum, Berlin, 1886 (with the Syriac text of chapters I and II). 7 The fourth Book of Maccabees and kindred documents in syriac, Cambridge, 1895. 8 Edited by CERIANI, Monumenta sacra et profana, t. II, fasc. I, p. IX. — Cf. R.A. CHARLES, The ethiopic version of the hebrew Book of Jubilees…, Oxford, 1895. 9 Manuscripts in the Vatican 58 and 164, as well as several MSS in the British Museum, WRIGHT, Catal. General index, under the name Adam. RENAN published these fragments, Journal asiatique, Nov.-Dec. 1853, p. 427, and WRIGHT, Contributions to the aprocryphal Literature of the N.T., London, 1865, p. 61. — Cf. CARL BEZOLD, Orientalische Studien Theodor Noeldeke, Giessen, 1906, p. 893. 5 6



creation, which forms the basis of the Hexameron of pseudoEpiphanius. ̈ܶ ܰ ܰ ܰ The Cave of Treasures, ‫ܬܳܓ ̈ܙ ܐ‬ ‫ܡܥ ܪ‬, belongs to the literature of the Books of Jubilees, which recounts the fabulous history of the tribes of Israel. The full title of that apocrypha is: “Book of the lineage of the tribes or the cave of treasures, which St Ephrem composed.” The attribution to St Ephrem is incorrect, for the work postdates that Father and cannot be placed any earlier than the 6th century. It is nonetheless presumably a product of his school. In any case, the book was written in Mesopotamia; as the editor 10 points out, the Syrian language is there named the queen of all languages; it is the primitive language spoken by all people before the confusion of the Tower of Babel; the Syrians did not take part in the crucifixion of Christ, etc. In fact, the title Cave of Treasures only befits the part concerning the patriarchs. Driven out of Paradise, Adam withdraws to a neighbouring mountain and finds shelter in a cave. There he places the gold, myrrh and incense obtained from the land of delights. Adam and the patriarchs, his successors, then sanctify the cave through their offerings to God and use it as a resting place for their dead until the time of the Deluge. When it comes Noah transports into the ark Adam’s relics along with the gold, myrrh and incense. After the Deluge and the death of Noah, Shem and Melchizedek, led by an angel, place these relics at the centre of the earth “where the four parts of the Universe are gathered,” at Golgotha, which opens up in the shape of a cross to receive them. It is on Mount Golgotha that Adam was to be baptised with the blood and water from the Saviour’s wound; it is also where he was to receive his sin. After Shem, no mention is made of this cave.

CARL BEZOLD, Die Schatzhæhle aus dem syrischen Texte uebersetzt, Leipzig, 1883. BEZOLD has published the Syriac text and the Arabic version in Leipzig in 1888. Comp. with LAGARDE, Mittheilungen, III, 43; IV, 6. GIBSON has published a very different Arabic version: Apocrypha Arabica; Studia sinaitica, VIII, London, 1901. 10



Legends collected by Solomon, bishop of Basra around 1222, are included in this literature and set down in his Book of the Bee.11 Several of the legends found in this book coincide with those included in the Cave of Treasures; but the Book of the Bee contains many more documents of that type. The Cave ends after the Passion of Christ; but Solomon continues his story further; he adds: the missions of the Apostles; lists of Nestorian patriarchs, Achaemenid kings, Ptolemies, Roman emperors; a prediction of the Muslim conquest taken from the Revelation to Methodius in Prison; a tale on Gog and Magog and the bronze gates of Alexander, in imitation of pseudo-Callisthenes; another tale on the coming of the Antichrist; and finally, several chapters of theology with no link to historical events. The Encounter of Moses with God on Mount Sinai passed into Syriac and was published by Hall in Hebraica, VII, p. 161. Moses of Aggel translated the Story of Joseph and Aseneth from Greek into Syriac (around 570).12 The version Moses produced, although incomplete, coincides with the Greek text published by Abbot Batiffol; Greek is used where there are gaps in Syriac.13 G. Oppenheim has made a Latin translation from the Syriac, Fabula Josephi et Asenethæ apocrypha e libro syriaco latine versa, Berlin, 1886. Certain apocrypha in circulation bore the title Testaments and were attributed to biblical characters. Apart from the Testament of

BUDGE, The Book of the bee, with an English translation, Oxford, 1886. SCHŒNFELDER, Salomonis liber Apis, Bamberg, 1866. An analysis in ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, p. 309–324. 12 It was included in the compilation made by a Monophysite of the Histoire ecclésiastique of Zacharias Rhetor, and was published by LAND in the 3rd vol. of the Anecdota syriaca, p. 18 ff. We should not include in the apocrypha the Story of Joseph, son of Jacob, a poem of twelve songs attributed to St Ephrem and published by BEDJAN; for an Arabic version of that poem, see Catal. Zotenberg, n. 65, 5. 13 See F. BATIFFOL, Studia patristica, Paris, 1889; LAND, op. cit., p. XVII; SACHAU, Hermes, 1870, t. IV, p. 77. 11



Adam, we know the Testament of Levi14 and the Testament of Solomon addressed to his son Rehoboam.15 The Vitæ Prophetarum are attested in several Syriac and Greek collations. It used to be mistakenly believed that the Syriac texts corresponded to the original while the Greek texts were translations from Syriac.16 Various pseudepigraphic writings were attributed to Daniel and Ezra. An apocalypse is entitled: The young Daniel, concerning Our Lord and the end of the world.17 Another apocalypse relating to the kingdom of the Arabs bears the following title: Question which the scribe Ezra asked while in the desert with his disciple Karpos.18 The author of that late production — it postdates the Arab conquest19 — made use of the 4th Book of Ezra and borrowed its motifs from Daniel and the Apocalypse of St John. Iselin, in the study he devoted to that apocryphon,20 came to the conclusion “that the Apocalypse of Ezra is composed of elements borrowed from one An extract in the British Museum, Catal. Wright, p. 997, col. 1. In the Bibliothèque nationale in Karshuni (Arabic written in the Syriac alphabet), Catal. Zotenberg, n. 194, 23. 16 NESTLE has published a Syriac collation of the Vitæ Prophetarum, as found in MSS from the British Museum, in the Syrische Grammatik, 2nd ed., Berlin, 1888, n. III of the chrestomathy. Michael the Syrian included another collation in his History. HALL has also translated a collation in the Journ. of the exegetical Society, 1887, p. 28; comp. with ibid., 1887, p. 97; 1888, p. 63; NESTLE, Die dem Epiphanius zugeschriebenen Vitæ Prophetarum in Marginalien und Materialen, Tübingen, 1893. 17 Catal. Wright, p. 19, col. 1. 18 Published with a German translation by BÆTHGEN in the Zeitschr. für die alttest. Wissenschaft, 1886, 200–210; and with a French translation by CHABOT, Revue sémitique of Halévy, 1894, 242–250, and 333–346. English translation by HALL, Presbyterian Quarterly, 1886. 19 ASSEMANI, B. O., III, I, 282 ff., dated its composition to after the capture of Constantinople by the Turks. Chabot argues against such a late date; the events referred to in the tale correspond to the 1st century of the Hijra. 20 Apocalyptische Studien; die Apocalypse des Esra in syrischer Sprache von Prof. Bæthgen veröffentlicht in the Theol. Zeitschrift aus der Schweiz, 1887, p. 60–64. 14 15



or more Jewish apocalypses reworked by a Christian.” But Chabot rejects that conclusion, which is influenced by Fischer’s recent theories on the Apocalypse of St John, for he believes, rightly it seems, “that the Apocalypse of Ezra is merely a bizarre composition, a medley of badly combined biblical motifs, a compilation written by a Christian author of Syria based solely on his biblical memories and with no access to documents, which are in any case now lost.”21 Also written under the name of Ezra are a tale of the Nativity of Our Lord22 and a treatise on alchemy. Several chemical preparations attributed to that biblical character are preserved in a Cambridge MS entitled the Book of the Learned Scribe Ezra and translated in the Chimie au moyen âge by Berthelot (Paris, 1893, II, p. 294–296).23 There is in Arabic a History of the Deportation of the Israelites to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar at the time of Jeremiah, which, according to Zotenberg,24 is of Jewish origin but must have passed into Arabic via a Syriac intermediary. That very extensive history begins with the conflict between Jeremiah and Zedekiah and extends to the time of the Jews’ return and the rebuilding of the Temple. The Story of Ahiqar, the Scribe of the King of Assyria, Sennacherib, and of his nephew Nadan, was composed in Hebrew or in Aramaic prior to the Christian era, shortly before the Book of Tobit, with which it shares several elements. Several traces of that apocryphon can be found in the ancient Christian documents. The original is lost but we have several collations (in Syriac, Arabic, Ethiopic, Armenian, Greek and Slavonic) published with an English

Revue sémitique, 1894, p. 343. An extract in the British Museum, Cat. Wright, p. 352, col. 2. 23 It must be noted that in other MSS, the same preparations are part of book X of the treatise of pseudo-Democrite. The name Ezra (‫ )ܥܙܪܐ‬and the word ten in Syriac (‫ܥܣܪܐ‬, esra) are close enough to explain that confusion. 24 Catal. syr., n. 65, 3; n. 238, 8, contains the same apocryphon; as do n. 273, 4, and 276, 15. 21 22



translation by Rendel Harris, Conybeare and Lewis (with an introduction by Rendel Harris).25 The History of the Rechabites, as told by Zosimus, survives in several Syriac collations; it is of Jewish origin but Jacob of Edessa based his Syriac translation26 on a Greek version. The Legend of Bahira, of Christian origin, is composed of three distinct parts containing apocalyptic visions: the first part seems to date back to the late 11th or early 12th century; the second part, the true Legend of Bahira, could be much more ancient; the third part does not appear to have been composed at a much later date than the first. Gottheil has edited the Syriac and Arabic texts of the legend with an English translation.27

§2. — THE APOCRYPHA OF THE NEW TESTAMENT The Apocrypha of the NT are regularly attested in Syriac literature. Besides the Testament of Our Lord, which is the object of the first book of the Apostolic Constitutions attributed to St Clement, are also known a Testament of Our Lord Given to the Disciples on the Olive Tree Mound and a Testament of Our Lord addressed to St Peter.28 Lagarde’s edition (see below, p. 81) of the Testament of Our Lord, placed at the beginning of the Apostolic Constitutions, contains nothing but fragments. An edition of the entire text came with Rahmani’s publication of two MSS, from Mosul and the Borgia The Story of Ahikar by F. C. Conybeare, J. Rendel Harris and Agnes Smith Lewis, London, 1898; the Ethiopic text edited by CORNILL and the Slavonic text have not been reprinted. That edition has led to a new study of the Story: Cf. COSQUIN, L’histoire d’Ahikar in the Revue biblique, 1899, p. 50–52 and 510–531; THEODORE REINACH, Revue des études juives, 1899, p. 1; LIDZBARSKI, Deutsche Literaturzeitung, 1899; HALEVY, Revue sémitique, 1900, p. 23; MARC, Die Akhikarsagen, Berlin, 1902. 26 Edited with a French translation by NAU, Les fils de Jonadab, fils de Réchab et les îles Fortunées, Paris, 1899. The editor stresses its importance for apocryphal literature and for the geographical myth of the fortunate islands. 27 GOTTHEIL, A Christian Bahira Legend, New York, 1903. 28 Cat. Vat., t. III, p. 506 and 507; Catal. Zot., n. 194, 20; n. 232, 3. 25



Museum respectively.29 Following these MSS, Jacob (of Edessa) composed the Syriac version in 998 of the Seleucids (687 AD). The Gospel of Thomas the Hebrew or the Childhood of Our Lord has come down to us in a Syriac collation that differs from both the Greek and Latin collations. The Syriac MS in the British Museum on which it is written30 omits the first chapter of the Greek text. The Bibliothèque nationale holds an Arabic version on two MSS written in Syriac characters.31 Budge has published: (1) the Story of the Virgin Mary and of the life of Our Lord on earth, an apocryphon that gives a sufficiently complete summary of the Proto-Gospel of St James, the Gospel of pseudo-Matthew, the Gospel of Thomas the Hebrew, the Gospel of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary and the Transitus; (2) the Story of the Mocking Portrait which the Jews of Tiberias made of Jesus. In appendix, Budge reprinted the Syriac fragments of the Proto-Gospel of St James and the Gospel of Thomas the Hebrew edited by Wright.32 IGNATIUS EPHRAEM II RAHMANI, Testamentum D. N. Jesu Christi nune primum edidit, latine reddidit et illustravit, Mayence, 1899. That edition led to a great many critical studies, of which only several can be mentioned here: FUNK, Das Testament unseres Herrn und die verwandlen Schriften, Mayence, 1901; NAU, Fragment inédit d’une tradition jusqu’ici inconnue du Testamentum D. N. Jesu Christi, Journ. asiatique, March-April 1901, p. 233; BAUMSTARK, Ueberlieferung und Bezeugung der διαθήκη, Römische Quartalschr., XIV, p. 1; ARENDZEN, A new syriac Text of the apocalyptic part of the Test. of our Lord, Journ. of theol. Studies, II, 401; COOPER and MACLEAN, The Test. of our Lord translated…, London, 1902; GUERRIER, Le Test. de N.-S., essai sur la partie apocalyptique, Lyon, 1903. 30 Published by WRIGHT, Contributions to the apocryphal Literature of the N.T., London, 1865; comp. with TISCHENDORF, Apocalypses apocryphæ, Leipzig, 1866, p. LIII; COWPER, The apocryphal Gospels, London, 1867, p. LXXV and CX. 31 Catal. Zotenberg, n. 238, 7; n. 273, 3. 32 A. WALLIS BUDGE, The History of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the History of the Likeness of Christ, I, the syriac texts; II, English translations, London, 1899. Cf. WRIGHT, Contributions to the apocryphal Literature of the N.T., London, 1865. LEWIS has reprinted the Proto-Gospel of St James and the Transitus Beatae Mariae, as found in a palimpsest of the monastery of St 29



Wright has published with an English translation33 the Syriac version, in six books, of the Transitus Beatae Mariae, as found in the British Museum. Another apocryphon of the same type is Obsequies of the Holy Virgin, also published by Wright.34 A prayer is attributed to St John Baptist.35 The Apocalypse of St Paul is preserved in two Syriac MSS now in the Vatican.36 The Gospel of the Twelve Apostles, with the Revelations that were Made to Them, which dates to the 8th century, has been published by Harris.37 The library of the monastery of St Catherine on Mount Sinai holds the Syriac and Arabic texts of the Anaphora Pilati and of the Paradosis Pilati.38 What we know of the Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles we also owe to Wright, for he collected these from several Syriac MSS into Catherine on Mount Sinai, in Studia sinaitica, n. XI, London, 1902. On the Paris MSS of the Proto-Gospel of St James, see ZOTENBERG, Catal., n. 232, 8; n. 238, 170. 33 WRIGHT, Journal of sacred Liter., 4th series, vol. VI and VII, 1865. Cf. CURETON, Ancient syriac Documents, London, 1864, p. 110, n. 6; BICKELL, Theol. Quartalschr., 1866, p. 465. 34 In Contributions to the apocr. Liter. of the N.T., London, 1865. 35 Catal. Zotenberg, n. 12, 20. 36 Catal. Vat., 374 and 472. ZINGERLE has translated the Syriac version into German, Vierteljahrschrift, IV, p. 139; edited by PERKINS, Journal of American or. Society, VIII, 182; and reprinted in the Journ. of sacred Literature, 1865, p. 372. On the Apocalypse of St Peter, an 8th century Arabic apocryphon, see E. BRATKE, Handscr. Ueberlieferung und Bruchstücke des arab.-äthiop. Petrus-Apokr. in the Zeitschr. f. wissensch. Theologie, 1893, p. 454– 493. 37 RENDEL HARRIS, The Gospel of the twelve Apostles with the apocalypses of each one of them, Cambridge, 1900. 38 These texts have been published by Mrs GIBSON, Apocrypha sinaitica in Studia sinaitica, n. V, London, 1896. The Syriac text also contains the letters of Pilate and of Herod, edited by Wright after the British Museum MS Add. 14609 in his Contributions to the apocryphal literature of the N.T.



one compilation.39 The compilation includes: (1) ghe Story of St John of Ephesus, a story which, according to the title, Eusebius of Caesarea composed following a Greek book, and which was later translated into Syriac. The composition postdates the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius. The Syriac version has the advantage of reproducing a previously unknown original Greek text; (2) the Death of St John, translation of the last part (from ch. XV onwards) of the text published by Tischendorf; (3) a portion of the Περίοδοι of St Philip which is absent from the Greek text and contains the tale of the conversion of the Jew Ananias and of the city of Carthage; (4) the Acts of St Matthew and of St Andrew, translated from Greek;40 (5) the Story of St Thecla, disciple of Paul the Apostle, translated from Greek;41 (6) the Acts of St Thomas.42 As Wright notes, the Acts of St Thomas are the masterpiece of his collection. At the time of the collection’s birth, the Greek version of these Acts, which has since been entirely published by Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles, London, 1871; vol. I, the Syriac text; vol. II, the English translation. 40 There is a different Syriac document in the Bibliothèque nationale, Catal. Zotenberg, n. 234, 40. 41 The story is included in The Book of Women with the stories of Ruth, Esther, Judith and Susanna; comp. with Catal. Wright, p. 98, 651, 1042 and 1123. LEWIS has collated that edition of the Story of Thecla with a palimpsest of the Sinai, Studia sinaitica, n. IX, London, 1900, Appendix II; in Appendix I, she has published the Story of Susanna. 42 In the 3rd vol. of his Acta martyrum et sanctorum, Paris, 1892, F. Bedjan has provided an edition of the text, with the addition of the Syriac Acts of Thomas. That reedition reproduces the text of Wright with variants and the numerous additions of MSS from Berlin. WRIGHT’s text is divided into eight acts (πράξεις), as in Greek (ed. BONNET); the edition of BEDJAN contains sixteen acts but does not include the hymn on the soul, which is absent from both the Berlin and Cambridge MSS, see Catal. of the syriac ms. of Cambridge, p. 702. BURKITT has published fragments of the Acts of St Thomas, as found in a Sinai MS in Studia sinaitica, n. IX, London, 1900; LEWIS has edited other fragments, as found in a Sinai palimpsest, Acta mythologica Apostolorum in Horae semiticae, III (transl. IV), London, 1904. 39



Max Bonnet (Acta Thomæ, Leipzig, 1883), was not yet fully known. The Bonnet edition wholly coincides with the Syriac text.43 The Gnostic character of these Acts, more readily visible than in other such apocrypha, is, however, less conspicuous in the Syriac text, which was reworked to agree more closely with the Orthodox view. The Hymn on Wisdom, for instance, which St Thomas sang in the first of his Acts, became in Syriac a hymn on the Church. Yet, by a happy coincidence, the Syriac text has preserved a Gnostic hymn on the soul which is absent from the other collations.44 The Syriac origin of the hymn on the soul is not called into question. Indeed, the Acts were most likely composed in Syriac in the East and then travelled West through the medium of a Greek version. Macke45 has pronounced himself in favour of that view and Nœldeke’s cross-examination of the Wright and Bonnet editions has confirmed that opinion.46 Wright had already

NŒLDEKE was the first, in his review of WRIGHT’s publication, Zeitschr. der deut. morg. Gesell., 1870, t. XXV, p. 670, to recognise the Gnostic character of that passage. The critics have accepted his opinion, see: KARL MACKE, who translated that hymn in the Theologische Quartalschrift of Tübingen, 1874, p. 3–70; LIPSIUS, who has also made a German translation, Die apokr. Apostelg., t. I, p. 292–300; and BEVAN, who reedited the hymn with an English translation in the Texts and Studies of ARMITAGE ROBINSON, vol. V, n. 3, Cambridge, 1897. BONNET has found a Greek version of the text, Acta Apostolorum apocr., vol. II, pars 2, Leipzig, 1903, p. 109. G. HOFFMANN reprinted, translated, and provided a commentary of, the three hymns, Zwei Hymnen der Thomasakten in the Zeitschr. f. die neutest. Wissenschaft, 1903, p. 273–309. Cf. PREUSCHEN, Zwei gnotische Hymnen ausgelegt, mit Text und Uebersetzung, Giessen, 1904. 44 LIPSIUS, Die apokryphen Apostelgeschichten und Apostellegenden, Brunswick, 1883, t. I, p. 232. Cf. BONNET, Acta Apostolorum apocr., vol. II, pars 1, Leipzig, 1898; vol. II, pars 2, Leipzig, 1903. 45 See previous note. 46 In LIPSIUS, Die apocr. Apostelgesch., t. II, 2nd part, p. 423–425; comp. with HARNACK, Die Chronologie der altchrist. Litteratur bis Eusebius, Leipzig, 1893, I, 545–549; and BURKITT, The original language of the Acts of 43



commented on the archaic style of the Syriac composition. Since then it has been observed that the various hymns contained in that composition are organised in six-syllable lines. As for the irregularities in measure in some lines, they are due to the alterations of the Orthodox copyist. The author had a clear recollection of the dates and locations of the events he describes; the itinerary followed by the apostle journeying to India is that used by merchants at the beginning of the Christian era; indeed, the Kings Gondophares and Mazdai, who appear in the story, ruled at that time.47 Nœldeke deduced that these Acts were composed at Edessa in the school of Bardaisan. Lipsius further notes that their composition dates to 232, time of the victory of Alexander Severus over Artaxerxes and of the transfer of the apostle’s relics to Edessa. This transfer was the setting for the writing of the Acts of St Thomas. We would thereby have a document clearly demonstrating the continuing influence of Gnostic ideas on the Church of Edessa in the first half of the 3rd century AD. Both the veneration inspired by the tomb of the apostle at Edessa and the Syrian origin of the Acts serve to explain the degree of popularity the Acts of St Thomas enjoyed in Syria. Jacob of Serug composed a metric homily about the palace which the apostle Thomas had built for the king of India.48 Gewargis of Alqosh, a Nestorian author of the 18th century, put into verse the various acts of the apostle’s mission.49 Judas Thomas in Journal of theological studies, I, 2, 1900, p. 280–290. According to BURKITT, that hymn was composed by Bardaisan himself in the early 3rd century. 47 VON GUTSCHMID, Die Kœnigsnamen in den apocryphen Apostelgeschichten in the Rheinisches Museum für Philologie, 1864, 161–183, and 380–401, or Kleine Schriften, II, 332–394; SYLVAIN LEVI, Journal asiatique, Jan.-Feb. 1897, p. 27. 48 Edited by SCHRŒTER, Zeitschr. der deut. morg. Gesell., t. XXV, p. 321, and t. XXVIII, p. 584. 49 CARDAHI has published that little poem, Liber thesauri de arte poetica Syrorum, p. 130. Bar Hebræus summarised the Acts of St Thomas at the beginning of the second part of the ecclesiastical chronicle. In the Book of



Bedjan published in Syriac the Story of St Peter and the Story of St Paul in the first volume of the Acta martyrum et sanctorum.50 The second volume of that collection contains the Colloquium of St Peter with Emperor Nero. The legend of the Finding of the Head of St Paul is reproduced in several Syriac documents; it is at times included in the apocryphal letter of Dionysius the Areopagite to Timothy concerning the martyrdom of St Peter and St Paul.51 We also find it in the Book of the Bee and in a Syriac chronicle.52 In the Revue de l’Orient chrétien, 1898, Abbot Nau published a French translation of the Syriac version of the martyrdoms of St Peter, St Paul and St Luke, as found in British Museum MSS Add. 12172 and 14732, as well as the text on the martyrdom of St Luke. Nau established the links that exist between the Syriac texts and the Greek collations for St Peter and St Paul. The martyrdom of St Luke is not attested in Greek, only in Coptic and Ethiopic; it seems to be of Coptic origin; Nau nonetheless argues for a Greek original. Cureton53 published the Sermon of Simon Kepha in the Town of Rome after MSS held in the British Museum. the Bee, ed. BUDGE, p. 110 (transl., p. 105), merchant Habban is the one who brings the body of the apostle back to Edessa. 50 Cf. GUIDI, Zeitschr. der deut. morgenl. Gesellschaft, XLVI, p. 744; BAUMSTARK, Die Petrus und Paulusacten, Leipzig, 1902; EPHRAEM II RAHMANI, Studia syriaca, Mount Lebanon, 1904, chap. II, n. 2; LUIGI DE STEPHANI, Storia del beato apostolo S. Paolo, traduzione del siriaco, Giornale della Soc. asiat., t. XIX, p. 201. 51 Published in Syriac by Abbot PAUL MARTIN in the Analecta sacra of Card. Pitra, t. IV, p. 241–249. 52 The book of the bee, ed. BUDGE, Oxford, 1886, p. 122 (transl., p. 108); cf. Abbot NAU, Revue de l’Orient chrétien, 1896, p. 396 ff.; RAHMANI, Studia syriaca, cited above, chap. II, n.1. 53 CURETON, Ancient syriac documents, p. 35–41. LIPSIUS has briefly analysed the historical content of that document, Die apocr. Apostelgeschichten, II, 206. Cf. BAUMSTARK, Die Petrus und Paulusacten, cited above [in n. 50], p. 38.



The Sermon of St Peter, the Martyrdom of St James, the Sermon of Simon son of Cleophas and the Martyrdom of Simon son of Cleophas, as found in Arabic MSS from the monastery of St Catherine, were probably the work of medieval monks.54 Paul de Lagarde has published the Syriac version of part of these Homilies and Recognitions of pseudo-Clement in Clementis romani Recognitiones syriace, Leipzig, 1861.55 The extant Syriac documents contain most of the constitutions and canons attributed to the apostles.56 Paul de Lagarde has published the Didascalia apostolorum, lost in Greek but fortunately preserved in Syriac, as found in Syr. MS 62 of the Bibliothèque nationale, Didascalia apostolorum syriace (without the name of the editor), Leipzig, 1854.57 GIBSON published these apocrypha with an English translation, Apocrypha sinaitica in n. 5 of the Studia sinaitica, London, 1896. 55 Compare with BATTIFOL, La littérature grecque in that collection of the Anciennes littératures chrétiennes, p. 47. GIBSON edited in the Apocrypha sinaitica, n. V of the Studia sinaitica, two abridged Arabic versions of the Recognitions: one after a Sinai MS, the other after MS Add. 9965 in the British Museum. The second version is followed by the fabulous tale of the martyrdom of St Clement. 56 In the catalogue of the works of Dionysius bar Salibi is mentioned a Compendium Canonum Apostolicorum which has not yet been recovered; ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 210. 57 Lagarde’s edition served as the basis for the study of FUNK, Die apostolischen Konstitutionen, Rottenburg, 1891, and for the French translation by NAU: La Didascalie traduite du syriaque, Paris, 1902. GIBSON has reedited the Syriac text with an English translation: The Didascalia Apostolorum in Horae Semiticae, I and II, London, 1903. Cf. WELLHAUSEN, Göttingische Gelehrte Anzeigen, 1903, p. 258; HOLZHEY, Die Abhängigkeit der syr. Didascalia von der Didache in Compte rendu du IVe congrès scient. internat. des Catholiques, Freiburg, 1898; by the same author, Dionysius von Alexandrien und die Didascalia in Zeitschr. f. neutest. Wissenschaft, II, p. 151; FUNK, La date de la Didascalie des Apôtres in Revue d’histoire ecclés., II, p. 798; ACHELIS and FLEMMING, Die ältesten Quellen des oriental. Kirchenrechts, II Buch, Die syrische Didascalia übersetzt und erklärt, Leipzig, 1904. 54



The MS in the Bibliothèque nationale which contains the Didascalia apostolorum includes extracts from books I to VII and book VIII of the Apostolic Constitutions attributed to St Clement. Paul de Lagarde has also published these texts.58 Paul de Lagarde59 and Cureton60 published the Apostles’ Doctrine in Syriac. Cureton placed the Doctrine of St Peter61 after that apocryphon. The Syriac apocrypha we have mentioned so far are, for the most part, translations from Greek. The Doctrine of Addai is, on the other hand, an original document of Syriac literature. As such, it requires more than just a brief mention. Indeed, that apocryphal work is closely tied to, and thus sheds light on, the history of the first churches of Oriental Syria. Abgar Ukkama, the king of Edessa, who was suffering from a chronic, incurable disease, hears of the miracles and marvellous cures performed by Jesus in Palestine. He writes to the Saviour asking him to come to Edessa to heal him and be king by his side; Jesus would thereby be sheltered from the Jewish assassination plots against him. The Lord replies that he has a mission to accomplish on Earth and cannot accept Abgar’s invitation, but adds that before returning to heaven he shall designate one of his apostles to restore the king’s health. The task of evangelising Mesopotamia befalls the apostle Addai. After Pentecost, that apostle proceeds to Edessa, where he Reliquæ juris ecclesiastici antiquissimæ syriace, Leipzig, 1856, p. 2–32 and 44–60; the Greek edition by Paul de Lagarde came out the same year and bears the same title. There also is a Recueil de tous les canons des saints Apôtres et des synodes des saint Pères, containing one hundred and fifty one titles, Catal. Vat., III, n. CXXVII, p. 178; Catal. Zotenberg, n. 62, 4; cf. BAUMSTARK, Die nichtgriechischen Paralleltexte zum achten Buche der apostolischen Konstitution in Oriens Christianus, 1901, p. 98. 59 Reliquiæ, etc., p. 32–44, as found in the same Bibl. nat. MS, in which that apocryphon bears the title Doctrine of Addai. 60 Ancient syriac documents, London, 1864, p. 24–35, as found in the British Museum MS, Add. 14044. 61 Anc. syr. doc., 35–41, as found in two MSS from the British Museum. 58



heals King Abgar, as well as one of his courtiers who had also fallen victim to an incurable disease. Thereafter he gathers all the inhabitants on the town’s main square and, at the sound of his voice, all, be they pagan or Jewish, convert with equal haste. Addai has the idols’ temples destroyed; he builds the first church at Edessa and administers it up to his final hour. Before dying he designates Aggai, whom he had previously ordained, as his successor; after his death he is buried with all due honours in the sumptuous mausoleum of the kings of Edessa, and everyone mourns. That is, in essence, the nature of the apocryphon. Scholars62 agree that the Doctrine of Addai should be viewed as a legend. It is now known that the first Christian king of Edessa was Abgar IX, son of Manu, who reigned from 179 to 214, not Abgar V, or Abgar Ukkama, also son of Manu, who reigned in the early years of the Christian era. The princes who preceded Abgar IX at Edessa were pagan; on the coins from their respective reigns is depicted above the prince’s head a tiara bearing the emblem of the ancient sidereal cult: the moon crescent and three stars. Moreover, the Chronicle of Edessa provides us with a document from the archives of Edessa on the inundation of year 201. In this text the Christian church is referred to in a manner that suggests Christianity was not the state religion at that time. Only after his return from Rome, around 206, did Abgar IX become a Christian. The similarity in name and filiation readily explains the confusion between the two Abgars, yet this confusion was not wholly fortuitous; rather, it was deliberately sought after. Edessa, turned religious and literary centre of Oriental

As had done several scholars before him, RAHMANI in Acta s. Confessorum Guriae et Shamonae, Rome, 1899, has sought to establish the historicity of the evangelisation of Mesopotamia at the time of the apostles, basing his research on a list of bishops provided by the Chronique de Michel le Syrien (ed. CHABOT, p. 110; transl., I, p. 184), but BAUMSTARK in Oriens Christianus, 1901, p. 190, has established that the list is false; for the Church of Edessa, Michael relies on the Chronicle of Edessa. 62



Syria, placed the origin of its church in the time of the apostles. A claim which can be observed in many other churches as well. The legend surrounding the name of Abgar V must have emerged quite some time after the conversion of Abgar IX for it to carry any credibility at Edessa proper. In any case, it must have been accepted by the early 4th century since Eusebius records it as a historical fact. The two texts used for the critique of that legend are chapter XIII of the first book of the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius and the Syriac version of the Doctrine of Addai; all the other documents, be they Syriac, Greek, Latin, Armenian, Coptic, Arabic, etc. derive from these two sources.63 As Eusebius himself testifies, the tale he gave was based on a Syriac text, a copy of which he owned; before transcribing Abgar’s letter and Jesus’s reply into Greek, he writes: “You can find the written testimony of these events in the archives of the town of Edessa, which at that point was ruled by kings. The public documents which record the ancient events and facts concerning Abgar have survived and, therefore, preserved that testimony. Nothing can be better than to hear a selection of letters made by us (or for us, ἡμῖν ἀναληφθεισῶν) and translated literally into Syriac in the following way.” The note of the Edessa archives is drawn from the ending of the Syriac apocryphon, which will be discussed later. The Doctrine of Addai reproduces an extended version of the ancient document of Eusebius: several legends omitted from the original text were added. In its current form, it must date to the late 4th or early 5th century. Cureton recognised important extracts in two MSS from the 5th or 6th century now in the British Museum.64 Philipps has brought the complete text to light thanks to a MS in St TIXERONT made a list of the main documents among these in his work: Les origines de l’Eglise d’Edesse et la légende d’Abgar, Paris, 1888; compare also with MATTHES, Die Edessenische Abgarsage auf ihre Fortbildung untersucht, Leipzig, 1882. 64 Published in Ancient Syriac Documents, ed. CURETON, London, 1864, where the passage of the Eccl. History of Eusebius concerning the legend of Abgar precedes them. 63



Petersburg, probably dating to the 6th century, which he published in London in 1876 under the title The doctrine of Addai the Apostle. The Syriac text indicates October of year 343 of the Seleucid era, or 31 AD, for the departure of the deputees sent by Abgar to Palestine. That source agrees with the prevalent chronology, which places the Passion of Christ in year 32. However, the original followed by Eusebius gave year 340, as in the ancient computation which placed the Passion in year 29 of the Christian era.65 Eusebius replaced the name of the apostle Addai, which his copy presumably bore, with Thaddeus (Θαδδαῖος); he believed that the Syriac name Addai corresponded to the Greek name of the apostle Jacob Thaddeus. Lastly, Hannan (Greek Ananias), deputy of King Abgar, bears the title of courier (ταχυδρόμος) in Eusebius and that of secretary (tabularius) in the Doctrine. That variation is due to Eusebius reading tabellarius rather than tabularius, confusion brought about by the word’s transcription into Syriac letters.66 In these two documents, Abgar’s letter and Jesus’s response differ on several occasions. That is due to the nature of Syriac writing, which is prone to detailing or explaining facts through short additions. Jesus’s reply to Abgar’s letter is written in Eusebius but is spoken in Syriac, thereby invalidating the argument by which a letter of the Lord, were it authentic, would figure in the canonical books of the NT. The most substantial difference is the addition found at the end of Jesus’s reply in the Doctrine: “Your town shall be blessed and no enemy shall be able to overcome it.” That addendum corresponds to a new legend, unknown to Eusebius, which appears to have developed around the middle of the 4th century. St Ephrem alludes to it in his Testament; the Gallo-Roman pilgrim, whose travel tales Gamurrini67 found and published, also mentions A Greek MS, the Medicæus, adds in the margin before number 340 the word τρίτῳ, in order to harmonise the tale with the new chronology. 66 LIPSIUS, Die Edessen. Abgarsage, Brunswick, 1880, p. 22. 67 In the fourth volume of the Historical and Juridical Academy of Rome, 1887, under the title S. Hilarii tractatus… et sanctæ Silviæ Aquitaniæ 65



it. That pilgrim, a pious lady, received from the bishop of Edessa, whom unfortunately she does not name, a copy of both Abgar’s and Jesus’s letter. The latter contained the benediction, as the following passage demonstrates (p. 68): “Although I have copies of these letters in my country, I very much appreciated receiving these from the bishop, for the letters available here had been somewhat shortened; what I have received from his hands surely represents a more complete version (nam vere amplius est quod hic accepi).” Besides, the bishop refers to this benediction (two pages higher). To the traveller he relates the Persian siege of Edessa that took place a short time after Abgar received the Lord’s letter. Abgar, he claims, immediately made for the city gates and, holding the letter, he exclaimed: “Lord Jesus! You promised us no enemy would enter the city.” At once, an impenetrable gloom encircled the town and the Persians were made to depart. This tale differs little from that which we find in the chronicle attributed to Joshua the Stylite.68 In that chronicle we are told that, on Wednesday 17 September 503, the Persians lay siege to Edessa but were unable to defeat it: “All the city gates were open yet Christ’s benediction prevented the Persians from entering.” Further, both the Acts of Mari, discussed below, and a homily by Jacob of Serug69 mention this legend. Of interest are Procopius’s observations on the subject:70 “The authors of the history of that time ignored the end of the letter, which contained the benediction, but the Edessanians alleged that this benediction was part of the letter. Because of this belief, they placed the letter as a palladium before the city gates. In order to assess the validity of this belief, Khosro lay siege to Edessa. A sudden inflammation of his face forced him to withdraw in disgrace.” This note refers to the siege of year 544, an episode which Procopius has already related in depth. peregrinatio ad loca sancta; reedited for the Corpus scriptorum eccl. latinorum by PAUL GEYER, Silviæ peregrinatio in Itinera Hierosolymitana, Vienna, 1898. 68 See below p. 153. 69 CURETON, Anc. syr. documents, p. 107. 70 Book II, chap. XII, ed. DINDORF, p. 208–209.



Due to the weight that the benediction legend carried in the Orient, it came to overshadow the legend of the portrait of Jesus. Neither Eusebius, the Gallo-Roman pilgrim nor Procopius mention the latter tale. On the other hand, in the West, where the legend of the portrait was celebrated, it grew and changed through time. According to the Doctrine, Hannan, the archivist and painter of Abgar, after having completed the mission Jesus had assigned him, set out to execute a portrait of the divine Master using choice colours. Once complete, he brought it to King Abgar, who gave him a prime position in his palace. Later the legend was fundamentally changed: the portrait was no longer considered to be the work of a man, for how could a human creation produce miracles?71 It must therefore have been made by Jesus himself. The brilliance of the divine face, or the perpetual transformations it experiences, prevents Hannan the painter from fixing the traits of the Lord. Jesus takes the canvas from the hands of the painter and applies it on his face, thereby leaving its imprint; or Jesus washes then dries his face either with the painter’s canvas or with ordinary linen.72 The Syriac texts which mention the portrait of Jesus are, according to the Doctrine of Addai: the Acts of Mari (ed. Abbeloos, p. 13–15); the Story of Zachariah (Land, Anecdota syriaca, III, p. 324); cf. A Compendious History of Dynasties by Bar Hebræus (ed. Pocock, p. 71; ed. Salhani, p. 113).

In Evagrius, the siege of Edessa by Khosro in 544 did not fail, as Procopius claims, due to the benediction but rather because of the portrait of Jesus. 72 LIPSIUS, Die Edess, Abgarsage, p. 54 ff.; MATTHES, Die Edess. Abgarsage auf ihre Fortbildung untersucht, p. 42–43; TIXERONT, Les Origines de l’Eglise d’Edesse et la légende d’Abgar, p. 53 ff.; these works establish the links between the legend of the portrait and the Latin edition of St Veronica. Moreover, they relate the story of the various copies of the portrait, and of the transfer of the original from Edessa to Constantinople and later to Rome. 71



According to the original document (Eusebius and the Doctrine), the healing of Abgar and the evangelisation of Mesopotamia took place after the Ascension. Later apocrypha, such as the Transitus Beatæ Mariæ73 and the Story of the thirty denarii of Judas discussed below, place these events after the Passion. Another legend in the Doctrine of Addai concerns a first Finding of the Cross. That legend is unexpectedly inserted, in the manner of a hors d’oeuvre, at the heart of a sermon which Addai delivered to the Edessanians. “I shall relate to you, said the apostle, what occurred and took place before those who, as you do, believed that Christ was the Son of God.” Once Tiberius had delegated his powers to Emperor Claudius and had set out to battle the insurgent Spaniards, Protonike, Claudius’ wife, converted at the sight of the miracles performed by Simon Peter in Rome. The empress then proceeded to Jerusalem with her two sons and her daughter to visit the holy sights. She ordered the Jews to hand over to James, director of the Church of Jerusalem, Mount Golgotha, which was in their possession. On Golgotha, Protonike found three crosses and was unable to distinguish the Saviour’s from the other two, but a miracle relieved her of her misery. Her daughter died a sudden death; the two first crosses, placed in contact with the young girl’s body, yielded no result. The third cross, however, immediately resuscitated the princess, who arose unharmed. This legend echoes the story of the Finding of the Cross by St Helen, from which it derives and which it postdates, as Lipsius and Tixeront have established. The latter places the date of the Syriac legend circa 400 AD.74 It is around that time that the Greek and Latin tradition concerning the travels of Constantine’s mother to Jerusalem and the Finding of the Cross spread throughout the Orient. The Syriac text confused St Helen with Helen, Queen of Adiabene, whom Josephus tells us came to Jerusalem in the time of Claudius. There she settled and built a superb mausoleum.

73 74

CURETON, Anc. syr. documents, p. 111. Les Origines de l’Eglise d’Edesse, p. 190.



Owing to this confusion, the event that the Church tradition places in the 4th century was said to date back to the 1st century in the Oriental legend. Although this hypothesis is very plausible, the name of Protonike calls for an explanation that has failed to reach scholarly consensus. This name appers in Syriac in three different forms: ‫ܦܪܘܛܘܢܝܩܝ‬, ‫ ܦܛܪܘܢܝܩܝ‬and ‫ܦܪܘܛܢܝܩܐ‬. Nœldeke sees in it an allusion to the ἐν τούτῳ νίκα of Constantine’s Labarum; other scholars (Zahn and Nestle) view it as a compound word, Πετρονίκη “Peter’s victory”, or (Tixeront) πρωτονίκη “the first victory”, i.e. the first Finding. The word is Greek nonetheless and we must infer that the document was composed in Greek in Palestine, entering Mesopotamia only later in its Syriac form. The first Finding of the Cross was later reconciled with the second by relating that, following Trajan’s expedition to the Orient, the true Cross had fallen into the hands of the Jews, who had once again buried it with the crosses of thieves. There are several Syriac collations of the Finding of the Cross which follow either the Oriental tradition or the Occidental tradition.75 The Doctrine of Addai adds to these apocryphal documents: (1) a letter from Abgar to Narsai, king of Persia, in which the former informs the latter of the acts of the mission of Addai the apostle; (2) two letters from the correspondence between King Abgar and Emperor Tiberius. Abgar reports to the emperor that the Jews committed a crime by crucifying Christ, whom they should have adored. Tiberius replies that the war that opposed him to the Spaniards prevented him from dealing with this affair. Once NESTLE gathered the various Syriac texts in a work entitled De sancta cruce, Berlin, 1889. F. BEDJAN published the second tale of the Finding of the Cross in his first volume of the Acta martyrum et sanctorum; and the first tale in the third volume of the same collection. Cf. RYSSEL, Archiv f. das Studium der n. Sprachen und Litter., t. XCIII, 1894, p. 1–22 (German translation); Theol. Zeitschr. aus der Schweiz, 1896, 60–63; Zeitschr. f. Kirchengeschichte, XV, 222; NESTLE, Byzantinische Zeitschr., 1895, IV, 319– 345; PIZZI, Due Legende siriche intorno all’invenzione della Cruce, in Giornale arcadico, II, 346. 75



the war had come to an end, however, Tiberius puts several Jewish leaders of Palestine to death. Abgar rejoices at the decision. In Tiberius’s letter, the eparch of Syria is called Olbinus rather than Sabinus, name given at the beginning of the Doctrine. Gutschmid76 has convincingly argued that the Greek writing is responsible for that variant: CABINOC can easily have become OABINOC. That legend therefore originates in a Greek document. On the other hand, the mention of the Spanish War recalls the previous tale on the Finding of the Cross, of which the war against Spain is also part. Thus it is likely that the two legends of the Doctrine derive from the same Greek document, composed in Palestine in the early 4th century. The Doctrine has preserved the order of appearance of the two legends in the Greek original; which explains why the legend of the Finding of the Cross occupied such a strange place in the Doctrine, at the heart of the sermon of the apostle. The Syriac collation of the Transitus Mariæ gives a different and far more concise writing of Abgar’s letter to Tiberius. Lipsius believed the Transitus text to have been the most ancient. For rather unconvincing reasons, Matthes and Tixeront argue for the opposite hypothesis.77 The Letter of Jacob, Bishop of Jerusalem, to Quadratus in Italy, asks to be informed of the decision taken by Tiberius took concerning the Jews who crucified Jesus.78 The Doctrine does not end with the death of Addai the apostle, as the title suggests. Rather, it continues with the acts of Aggai, the successor of the apostle in the administration of the Church of Edessa. After Abgar’s death, one of his sons took over the throne Untersuchungen über die Geschichte des Kœnigreichs Osrhoene, St-Petersburg, 1887, p. 13. 77 LIPSIUS, Die Edessenische Abgarsage, p. 36, and Die apocr. Apostelgeschichten, II, 2nd part, p. 192; MATTHES, Die Edess. Abgarsage auf ihre Fortbildung untersucht, p. 52; TIXERONT, Les Origines de l’Eglise d’Edesse, p. 73. 78 Published by IGNATIUS EPHRAEM II RAHMANI in Studia syriaca, Mount Lebanon, 1904, chap. I. F. Daschian has edited an Armenian version of that letter. 76



of Edessa. The new prince, who was still pagan, had Aggai put to death and had his legs broken. That prince can be no other than Severus Abgar, the son and successor of Abgar IX, whom Dio Cassius says showed himself deeply cruel towards the inhabitants of Edessa, claiming his deeds were required for the introduction of Roman customs. His father had named him Severus in homage to the Emperor Septimius Severus. A Syriac fragment published by Cureton79 confirms that conjecture: “Addai evangelised Edessa and Mesopotamia. He was from Paneas and lived in the time of King Abgar. As he was in Sophene, Severus, son of Abgar, put him to death near the citadel of Aggel, together with a young man, his disciple.” As Gutschmid has already made clear,80 this text denotes an Armenian source. The Armenian Church believes it dates back to the time of the apostles and confuses Addai with his successor Aggai; it claims that the missionary responsible for evangelising Armenia passed away in that province. Although only a legend, it is nonetheless based on historical events. The Doctrine of Addai ends with the following tale: “Aggai, having passed away right after his legs had been broken, did not have the time to install Palut. Palut went to Antioch and was enthroned by Serapion, who was the bishop of that town. Serapion had been enthroned by Zephyrinus, bishop of Rome, who himself had been consecrated by Simon Peter. Our Lord had designated Simon Peter, who was bishop of Rome during twenty-five years in a time when Caesar reigned for thirteen years.” That tale contains obvious anachronisms: Serapion was bishop of Antioch from 190 to 210 and Zephyrinus was bishop of Rome from 198 or 199 to 217. In reality, Caesar did not reign for thirteen years, if we are to believe Augustus, who reigned for fortyAnc. syr. documents, p. 110, n. IV. Untersuch. Ueber die Geschichte des Kœnigreichs Osrhoene, p. 16. SOLOMON OF BASRA, in his Book of the Bee, ed. BUDGE, Oxford, 1886, p. 123, reproduces this fragment, but with the variant of Herode, ‫ܗܪܘܕܣ‬, not that of Severus, ‫ܣܘܪܘܣ‬, confusion brought about by the Syriac writing; but the confusion was intentional, the name of Herode fitting better the time period fixed by the legend (1st century). 79 80



five years; but that length of time fits Septimius Severus, who died in 211, if we are to start counting his regnal years from the death of his competitor Albinus. These anachronisms suggest that the legend grew out of historical facts. These are as follow: Addai the Palestinian evangelised Mesopotamia around the middle of the 2nd century AD. He founded the first church at Edessa and administered it up to his death. Aggai succeeded him, followed by Palut in the late 2nd century. Then comes the final clause of the official acts: “According to custom, in the kingdom of Abgar and in all kingdoms was written and archived all that was said before the king. Thus, Labubna, son of Senac, son of Ebedshaddai, the king’s scribe, put down in writing these Acts of the apostle Addai, from beginning to end. Hannan, the secretary-archivist of the king, added his testimony and placed it in the archives of the royal acts, where all the decrees, laws and sale contracts are conscientiously stored.” That final clause was also part of the Syriac text which Eusebius had access to, and that eminent historian indeed refers to it when he writes that the document was brought to him from the archives of Edessa. Several elements in the legend of Abgar bring to mind the legend of the thirty denarii of Judas, though the latter belongs to the literature of the Books of the Jubilees.81 The denarii handed over to Judas as the price of his treason had been forged by Tareh then given to his son Abraham; they later passed from the hands of Abraham to those of Isaac, then came under the possession of the Pharaohs of Egypt and the queen of Saba, who eventually left them to Solomon. Nebuchadnezzar, having taken them after seizing Jerusalem, gave them to the three Wise Men. On their way to Bethlehem, they misplaced the denarii by a fountain near Edessa. Merchants found them and used them to buy a seamless tunic from herdsmen who had received it from an angel. Abgar, the king of We find that legend in Prætermissorum libri duo, ed. LAGARDE, Göttingen, 1879, p. 94, and in the Book of the Bee, ed. BUDGE, p. 107–108 (transl., p. 95–96). 81



Edessa, having been made aware of these events, had the tunic and denarii brought to him and sent them to Jesus to show his gratefulness to Our Lord, who had restored his health. Jesus took care of the tunic for him and had the denarii taken to the temple; those very same coins that would later serve to buy the traitor. The Doctrine of Addai provided Jacob of Serug with the subject matter of one of his canticles.82 That apocryphon did not remain in Edessa. Rather, it spread East and West. We find it, with new developments, in Armenia, Persia and Babylonia. We shall here concentrate on the Syriac documents connected to that apocryphon and which continue its tradition in the Oriental countries. The main document, the Acts of Mar Mari (St Maris),83 concerns the evangelisation of Assyria, Babylonia and Persia. That apocryphon represents the Nestorian tradition; its goal was to profess that the church of Koke near Ctesiphon, where the seat of the Oriental patriarchs lay, had been founded in the time of the apostles. The Occidental Syrians did not know Mari and no mention was made of him before Bar Hebræus, who relates the Acts of Mari at the beginning of the second part of his ecclesiastical chronicle, following the Acts of Addai and Aggai; he borrowed his tale from the Nestorian books, probably from the Book of the Tower by Mari, son of Solomon. The composition of these Acts does not predate the 6th century. No clear recollection of pagan times is integrated in the fabric of the text; the apostle converted populations that adored demons living in trees or stones; the astral cult in Babylonia and the cult of fire in Persia are alluded to only in passing. The miracles which the apostle is said to have accomplished are in no Cureton published an extract of that canticle, Anc. syr. documents, p. 107; followed, p. 108–110, by a selection of extracts relevant to Abgar and Addai. 83 Acta sancti Maris syriace sive aramaice, ed. ABBELOOS, Brussels, 1885, with a Latin translation; reedited in the first vol. of the Acta martyrum et sanctorum by F. BEDJAN, Paris, 1890; German translation by RICHARD RAADE, Die Geschichte des Dom Mari, Leipzig, 1893. 82



way original: a series of known miracles listed is taken, for instance, from the Book of Daniel. The Acts of Mari are preceded by an introduction in which are mentioned: the bronze group of Paneas, representing the Lord and the hemorrhaging woman, after Eusebius; the correspondence between Abgar and Jesus, the portrait of the Lord, the healing of Abgar and the conversion of the inhabitants of Edessa by the apostle Addai, after the Doctrine of Addai. Following that introduction, the author addresses his subject matter. Mari, one of Addai’s disciples, is assigned by his master the task of evangelising the Orient. The missionary leaves Edessa, accompanied by the disciples Philip, Malkishoʿ and Adda; he reaches Arzen on the Armenian border and sends Philip to Gazarta (or Kardu); he then heads south, converts Assyria, the provinces of the Upper and Lower Zab, Garamea, and finally arrives in Babylonia. The inhabitants of Seleucia are debauched drunkards in whose orgies the apostle has to take part in order to influence them.84 Mari is better received in Ctesiphon, where the news of his Seleucian cures had already spread; King Artaban sends him to Dur Qunni, to his indisposed sister; after her cure she builds, at the saint’s request, the churches of Dur Qunni and Koke, that were to become renowned institutions. Kashkar (the center of one of the main Nestorian bishoprics) greets without resistance the Christian gospel, but the Maisan (partly occupied by the Mandeans) remains deaf to the apostle’s sermon. The apostle then goes to preach in Susiana and reaches its border with India, which the apostle Thomas is in the process of evangelising. On his return to Babylonia, Mari visits the churches and disciples of that region and proclaims that the director of the church of Koke will be superior to all the bishops of the East, for that church was founded before all the others. He asks Dur Qunni to send him his disciple Papa and, in the presence FRANZ CUMONT, Note sur un passage des Actes de saint Mari in the Revue de l’instruction publique en Belgique, t. XXXVI, sixth delivery, sees in these Seleucian feasts an institution analogous to the gerousia or colleges of elders established in certain Greek cities of Asia. 84



of the clergy, he appoints him as his successor. The apostle Mari then leaves this world for life everlasting and his body is placed in the church of Dur Qunni. Papa, referred to in the Acts as the successor of Mari, was elected primate of the Orient in 266.85 However, even if we allow that Addai lived in the second half of the 2nd century, as is widely believed, it would not suffice to make of Mari the disciple of Addai, for they would still be separated by a hundred year interval. According to the Book of the Tower,86 Mari died in the year 82. The gap in the text between the time of Mari and that of Papa is thereby significantly extended, since there is a discrepancy of 184 years between 82 and 266. Thanks to five intermediary patriarchs whose historical accuracy can be brought in question, the Book of the Tower and the chronicle of Bar Hebræus are able to fill that lacuna. If we are to believe the note written by Papa, the successor of Mari, the apostle of Oriental Mesopotamia and of Babylonia lived around the middle of the 3rd century. According to another tradition, found in the Doctrine of the Apostles,87 the Book of the Tower,88 the Story of the town of Beth Slok89 and Bar Hebræus,90 the apostle Addai himself, accompanied by his two disciples Aggai and Mari, was responsible for the evangelisation of these lands. The Book of the Tower goes as far as to describe Mari as a direct disciple of Jesus Christ: as a member of the delegation which Abgar sent to Palestine, he would no doubt have heard the word of Christ.

BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., II, p. 27. GISMONDI, Maris, Amri et Slibæ de patriarchis Nestorianorum commentaria, pars prior, p. 5; pars altera, p. 2, Rome, 1896–1899. 87 CURETON, Anc. syr. documents, p. 34. 88 GISMONDI, Maris, Amri et Slibæ, etc., p. 1; ASSEMANI, B. O., III, II, p. 18 ff. 89 HOFFMANN, Auszüge aus syrischen Akten pers. Märtyrer, Leipzig, 1880, p. 45; see the Syriac text in MŒSINGER, Monumenta syriaca, II, p. 65, and in BEDJAN, Acta martyrum et sanctorum, II, p. 512. 90 Chron. eccl., II, p. 14. 85 86



Among the later apocrypha, we have in Syriac: the Story of Arsenius, a king of Egypt whom Our Lord resurrected in order to turn into a Christian ascetic;91 the Letters of Our Lord descended from heaven in order to declare the sanctity of Sundays.92 The prediction of the coming of Christ, as announced to the pagans of Harran by their prophet Baba,93 was probably laid out in an apocryphon.

Published by HALL in Hebraica, V, p. 81–88. Comp. with SACHAU, Verzeichniss der syr. Handschriften, Berlin, 1899, p. 201 and 373. 92 MAXIMILIAN BITTNER, Der vom Himmel gefallene Brief in seinen morgenländischen Versionen und Recenzionen in the Denkschriften der Kaiserl. Akademie der Wissensch. in Wien, philosophisch-historische Klasse, L1, Vienna, 1905. Bittner has edited the Greek and Oriental texts of that apocryphon; he recognises that the original, in Greek, only comprised the first letter, and that letters II and III were produced only later, in Syria. There one will find the older publications concerning that legend. Cf. R. DUVAL, Journal asiatique, Jan.-Feb. 1906, p. 147. 93 IGNATIUS EPHRÆM II RAHMANI, Studia syriaca, Mount Lebanon, 1904, chap. XI. Cf. NŒLDEKE, Zeitschr. der deut. morgenl. Gesellschaft, LVIII, 1904, p. 495. 91

IX. THE ACTS OF THE MARTYRS AND SAINTS In Syriac literature, as in the other Christian literatures, these Acts were, for many years, the subject matter of a wealth of writings. The first ones preserve the names of the confessors who suffered martyrdom during the persecution of Christians. This persecution can be divided into two distinct phases: the first took place in the Eastern Roman Empire, the second occurred in the Persian Empire under the Sassanian dynasty. The Syriac Acts on the Roman persecution are limited to Occidental Mesopotamia, Greek being the literary language of cis-euphratic Syria at that time.

§1. — THE ACTS OF THE MARTYRS OF OCCIDENTAL MESOPOTAMIA The compilation in which these Acts are collected is short; it contains the tale of the martyrdoms of Sharbel, Barsamya, Gurya and Shamona, as well as that of Habib, which all occurred in Edessa at different times. That town was the seat of the government of Roman Mesopotamia and was under the direct control of the civil and military governor. Moreover, it was the Christian metropolis of that province. Nowhere else were Christians so heavily exposed to persecution. However, prosecutions were rare. The author of the Acts of Habib claims “many Christians were prosecuted but openly confessed to their faith, fearing not the potential consequences, since the persecuted outnumbered the persecutors.”1 These words are the words of an apologist, not of a historian.

CURETON, Anc. syr. documents, p. 73. In that work, p. 41 ff., were published, with an English translation, the Acts of Sharbel, Barsamya and 1




A few lines will here suffice to provide a brief analysis of the Acts of Sharbel and Barsamya. In the 15th year of Trajan, which, according to the synchronisms given in these Acts, corresponds to the third year of the reign of Abgar VII of Edessa and to year 416 of the Seleucid era (105 AD), the emperor decreed that sacrifices should be made to the gods and that those who refuse to comply should be executed. The emperor’s orders reached Edessa during the festival of Nisan (April), a celebration presided by the great priest Sharbel and which King Abgar attended. Barsamya, bishop of Edessa, secretly converted the great priest to the Christian faith, and he then refused to burn offerings to the false gods. This conversion led to that of the town’s leading figures. Lysanias, the Roman governor, after trying in vain to turn Sharbel back to his first beliefs, had him tortured and put into prison. Only on the following Aylul (September) 2nd was Sharbel put to death, along with his sister Babai. The Acts of Barsamya give the same synchronisms as the Acts of Sharbel, excluding the year of Abgar VII but adding a mention of the consulate of Commodus and Cerialis. On Elul 5th, someone denounces Barsamya to the governor Lysanius as being responsible for the conversion of Sharbel. The bishop is sent to prison. After many days, he is again brought before the judge and torture commences, when the “letters of Alusis the chief proconsul ὕπαρχος, father of emperors” arrive in Edessa, putting an end to the persecution. The clauses added at the end of the Acts of Sharbel and the Acts of Barsamya prove, through the anachronisms they contain, that these Acts belong to the same legendary cycle as the Doctrine of Addai, analysed in the previous section. The great figures of Edessa who converted to Christianity bear the same names in these documents. The persecution cannot date back to Trajan, for his conquest of Edessa was short-lived. Rather, these Acts postdate the Council of Nicaea, to which they clearly allude. Habib, reedited by BEDJAN in the first volume of his Acta martyrum et sanctorum, Paris, 1890.



The Acts of Gurya and Shamona,2 written by Theophilus, indicate dates for the passion of these confessors that do not all coincide: year 618 of the Seleucids; regnal year 14 of Diocletian, who reigned 19 years, and the 8th year of his consulate; the 6th year of Musionus (governor of Edessa), when Aba and Abgar, sons of Zeora, were strategists, and Kune was bishop of Edessa.3 Gurya, who had devoted his life to religion, and his friend Shamona are cited as fervent Christians before the provincial judge, who sends them to prison along with many other Christians. Musionus, the governor of Edessa, requests in vain that they should obey the emperor’s orders and make a sacrifice to Jupiter. At their refusal, he has them tortured and eventually put to death on December 15, 618 (306 AD). In it we are told that Theophilus wrote the Acts of Gurya and Shamona five days after their death. In the Acts also written by Theophilus, Habib’s martyrdom is said to date to year 620 of the Seleucids (309 AD), under the consulate of Licinius and Constantine, when Julius and Barak were strategists and Kune was bishop of Edessa. Habib is denounced and prosecuted on account of his active role in the Christian evangelization of the Edessan countryside. On Aylul (September) 2nd, that confessor is burnt at the stake. Immediately after, the Acts continue; the news of Constantine’s attack against Licinius turns minds away from the persecution of the Church, which therefore finds itself somewhat at peace for some time. The final clause concerning the writing of the Acts is as follows: “I, Rahmani has found the Syriac text in a MS from Jerusalem: IGNATIUS EPHRÆM II RAHMANI, Acta sanctorum confessorum Guriæ et Schamonæ, adjecta Latina versione, Rome, 1899. GALOUST MKERTCHIAN published the Armenian version in Ararat, August 1896, and translated into English by CONYBEARE in The Guardian, 10 February 1897. Cf. The Greek version in the Patrol. gr. by Migne, t. CXVI, p. 145, following the Acts of Sharbel and Barsamya; and the Latin version in SURIUS, De probatis sanctorum vitis, 15 Nov., p. 339 and 345; in the Bollandists, 15 Nov.; in CURETON, Anc. syr. documents, p. 113. 3 BAUMSTARK, Oriens christianus, 1901, p. 192, thinks the exact date of the martyrdom of Gurya and Shamona is 306 AD. 2



Theophilus, pagan by birth and converted to Christianity, I hastened to copy the Acts of Habib, just as I had formerly written the Acts of the martyrs Gurya and Shamona, his companions. He admired them for having been stabbed and in turn was himself burned alive. If I have mentioned the year, month and day of these confessors’ martyrdom, it is not for those who, like myself, have witnessed it. Rather, it is to let the future generations know when these confessors lived and what Acts the ancient martyrs performed in the time of Diocletian and the other emperors, etc.” The Acts of Sharbel, Barsamya, Gurya and Shamona, and of Habib form a whole and share a common origin. Habib’s martyrdom is a sort of appendix to the Acts of Gurya and Shamona, in the same way that Barsamya’s confession is attached to the Acts of Sharbel. The precise dates and names it contains aim to give the text a false air of historical accuracy. The writing is attributed to eyewitnesses based on archives from Edessa. The four legends are closely tied to one another and presumably share a single author, or at least a specific author for each group. In the latter case, the second author must have imitated his predecessor with remarkable accuracy, both in plot and in style. The Acts from the time of Diocletian would only just antedate the Acts from the time of Trajan. That literature is no earlier than 360 AD and could have been composed up to thirty years later. It contains only a few historical events: the deaths of Gurya and Shamona, as well as the death of Habib, which can all be dated to the time of Diocletian.4 These Acts display the whole apparatus of Roman administration, in all its skilful organisation, transferred to Mesopotamia with the technical terminology of the legal and official language. Hence the great many Greek and Latin words The conclusions summarised in the two previous paragraphs were taken from NŒLDEKE’s article, Ueber einige Edessenische Martyrerakten in Strassburger Festschrift zur XLVI Versammlung deutscher Philologen, Strasburg, 1901, p. 13–22. Cf. LIPSIUS, Die Edessenische Abgarsage, Brunswick, 1880, p. 51; and the short martyrology published by WRIGHT after a Syriac MS dated to 411 in the Journal of sacred literature, Oct. 1865 and Jan. 1866. 4



contained in these Acts, some of which survived in the vernacular. One would be mistaken to believe, based on these words, that these documents were originally composed in Greek: they are Syriac and were written in Edessa. Later literature alludes to these texts: in a homily5 St Ephrem mentions Gurya, Shamona and Habib, while Jacob of Serug composed homilies on Sharbel, Gurya and Shamona, and Habib.6 Religious persecution also took place in the town of Samosata. Several Christians of that town were allegedly killed in the third year of Maximian (308), on the occasion of sacrifices made to the temple of Fortune. Hipparchus and Philotheus keep well clear of these sacrifices; furthermore, they convert their noble patricians friends: Jacob, Paragrus, Habib, Romanus, and Lulianus. All are arrested, tortured and eventually crucified. The Acts of these martyrs were probably written down by eyewitnesses; they contain an interesting description of the town of Samosata. Ev. Assemani, who published them (Acta Mart., II, 123–147), linked that persecution to Maximian, but Schulthess believes, backed by more solid evidence, that these events are the doing of Galerius Maximianus, who violently persecuted Christians.7 We should also mention here the Story of St Azazail, son of a nobleman of Samosata, who was taken to Rome where he suffered martyrdom by the hands of Maximian Hercules in 304. As demonstrated by Macler, who published the Syriac text with a French translation,8 that legendary story is an imitation of the Greek Acts of S. Pancras.

S. Ephræmi carmina nisibena, ed. BICKELL, Leipzig, 1866, p. 53. MŒSINGER published the homily on Sharbel in the 2nd vol. of the Monumenta syriaca, p. 52–63; CURETON edited the homilies on Gurya and Schamouna, and on Habib, Anc. syr. documents, reprinted by F. BEDJAN in the first vol. of the Acta martyrum et sanctorum. 7 Zeitschr. der deut. morgenl. Gesell., t. LI, p. 379, note 2. 8 MACLER, Histoire de saint Azazaïl, Paris, 1902. 5 6



§2. — THE ACTS OF THE MARTYRS OF PERSIA The era of persecutions had only just come to an end in the West when it began in the East against the Christians of the Persian Empire. The first persecutions date to Shabur II, who reigned for seventy years, from year 309 to year 379; they were not as widespread, nor was their duration as clearly determined, as those in the West. Conceived by the Magi, these persecutions were decreed by the Persian kings, for they knew the sympathy which their Christian subjects held for the age-old enemies, the Romans. Even after Shabur promulgated the Edict against the Church in his ninth regnal year, the persecutions remained limited to several provinces of the empire. The Syriac Acts of the martyrs of Persia contain precious information concerning the history and geography of Persia at the time of the Sassanians.9 The first of these Acts relate the martyrdom of two brothers, Adarparwa and Mihrnarse, and of their sister Mahdukt, which took place on Mount Beryan, in the vicinity of Beth Slok (modern Karka), the capital of the Beth Garmai, in the 9th year of Shabur II (318 AD). Rabban Gabriel, a monk of the monastery of Beth ʿAbe who lived in the second half of the 7th century,10 composed these Acts; they relate numerous legends which cover the primitive tradition.11 In the eighteenth year of Shabur, in 327, the martyrdom of Zebina, Lazarus, Maruth, Narsai, Elia, Mahri, Habib, Saba, Shembayteh, Yonan and Brikishoʿ took place. According to the Greek and Latin authors, these confessors were killed during the thirty-first regnal year, after the promulgation of the edict against See G. HOFFMANN, Auszüge aus syrischen Akten persicher Märtyrer, Leipzig, 1880. 10 See Thomas of Marga, ed. BUDGE, London, 1893, t. II, p. 213. 11 HOFFMANN has analysed these Acts in his book cited above; BEDJAN has published the Syriac text at the beginning of the 2nd vol. of the Acta mart. et sanctorum; according to the editor, after a MS from Berlin and MSS from the Vatican. These Vatican MSS are nothing else than MS XVIII of the Borgia Museum (now in the Vatican), extracts of which can be found in KAYYATH, Syri orientales, Rome, 1870, p. 164 and 165. 9



the Church, not in the 18th year of Shabur. We should, it seems, rely on the date given in the Syriac Acts; the other date was born out of a later confusion that appeared later, when it was believed that all persecutions in Persia took place after that edict. Isaiah of Arzon, son of Hadabo, one of the knights of the country’s king and eyewitness of the events, is the author of these Acts.12 The scene is set in Arzanene, on the border between the two rival empires. That province is not named but its identification is made obvious by the context. The Acts of Shabur, bishop of Niqator, of Isaac, bishop of Beth Slok, of Mani, of Abraham and of Simon bring us back to the Beth Garmai.13 We are told that the torment of these confessors dates to the 30th year of Shabur, i.e. 339 AD. The extant Syriac composition appears to be a product of Edessa, for in it we read that the martyrs now lie in Edessa, in the new martyrium within the town. It is nonetheless probably based on ancient documents; the Christians are referred to as Nazareans, as they were once known in Persia. However, on comparing it with the Story of the town of Beth Slok,14 we find major contradictions. In that story, Bishop Isaac, who was made a martyr, is the predecessor of Yohannan, who attended the council of the 318 bishops, otherwise known as the Council of Nicaea, in 325; moreover, Mane, Abraham and Simon were confessors not under Shabur II but under Yazdgird II, in the eighth year of his reign (407 AD). The Story provides, for the time of the martyrs, precise details based on ancient sources. If the author of the Syriac Acts wrote in Edessa after the saints’ relics had been transfered there, he will have confused the dates of the events. The anachronism by which Bishop Isaac is made a EVODIO ASSEMANI published the Syriac Acts in the first vol. of the Acta sanctorum martyrum, Rome, 1748, and F. BEDJAN published them, after Assemani and a MS from Mosul, in the 2nd vol. of the Acta mart. et sanctorum, Paris, 1891, p. 39. 13 ASSEMANI and BEDJAN published these Acts in the collections cited above. 14 MŒSINGER, Monum. Syriaca, II, p. 66; HOFFMANN, Auszüge, p. 48; BEDJAN, Acta mart. et sanct., II, p. 513. 12



contemporary of Mane, Abraham and Simon, derives from the fact that a priest named Isaac died with these martyrs, as well as because the execution took place in the same location, in the town of Kenar in the district of Niqator. Other martyrs of that town are known to us from the Story of Beth Slok. Bishop Maʿna, Isaac’s predecessor, was the first to be persecuted at the Manicheans’ bidding and put to death with the town’s Christians. The church was destroyed and the persecution was even extended to the nuns, who were killed outside of the town, in a place called Hora. The story does not give the names of these holy women, but these names survive in another Syriac document;15 their names were: Thekla, Danaq, Taton, Mama, Mzakhya and Anna. The other persecutions mentioned in that story took place in the following century; we shall return to them later, but for now let us resume our catalogue of the documents dating to the 4th century. The great persecution of Shabur lasted, with short interruptions, thirty years, from 340 to 379. It properly started only one year after the promulgation of the edict of 340 against the Christians.16 The tale of that persecution has been attributed17 to Marutha, bishop of Maypherqat, who lived in the late 4th and early 5th century. That bishop was well-versed in literature and was a distinguished physician. On two occasions he was sent as an ambassador to Yazdgird I, first by Arcadius and later by Theodosius II. Thanks to him, peace was restored to the Church by the Persian king.18 While we can doubt that Marutha authored EVODIO ASSEMANI, Acta s. martyrum, I, p. 100; BEDJAN, Acta mart. et sanct., II, p. 288. 16 NŒLDEKE, Geschichte der Perser… aus Tabari, Leiden, 1879, p. 411. 17 Cf. J. LABOURT, who questions the veracity of this attribution, Le christianisme dans l’empire perse, in this collection of the Anciennes littératures chrétiennes, Paris, 1904, p. 52. ZINGERLE has translated the Syriac text into German, Echte Acten der heil. Märtyrer, Innsbruck, 1836. Cf. KMOSKO, Oriens christianus, 1903, p. 385. 18 BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., II, p. 45. A homily for the New Sunday, attributed to Marutha, is probably the work of Marutha of 15



the collection of writings on Shabur’s persecutions, it is even more unlikely that he would have written on the martyrs persecuted by Bahram V and Yazdgird II; the latter’s death had presumably been preceded by that of the bishop of Maipherkat. According to a notice by Amr,19 Ahai, who was patriarch in 418, would also be the author of a story on Shabur’s persecution. However, we do not know whether any part of that story has survived, or if all the Lives of the martyrs are the work of Marutha. First in the collection attributed to Marutha come two homilies on the martyrs of Persia. These are some of the best pieces of apologetic literature.20 Patriarch Simeon bar Sabbaʿe inaugurated the martyr series in the 32nd year of Shabur (341 AD).21 The persecutions were motivated by the patriarch’s refusal to levy the double poll-tax which the king had imposed by edict against the Christians, at the Maipherkat, argues KMOSKO, who published the text in Oriens christianus, 1903, p. 384–415. 19 Ed. GISMONDI, p. 26; comp. with ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part II, p. 369. 20 These two homilies can be found in BEDJAN, Acta mart., II, p. 57 ff.; ASSEMANI’s edition only includes the shorter one. 21 At that time, Simeon had been patriarch for thirteen years, according to BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., II, p. 35; for eighteen years according to Mari and Amr, ed. GISMONDI, pars prior, p. 18; pars altera, p. 19. Amr mistakenly places the date of Simeon’s death in year 655 of the Seleucids, or 344 AD. Simeon wrote, according to ʿAbdishoʿ’s catalogue, letters which have not survived. OVERBECK has published one of these hymns, S. Ephræmi… opera selecta, Oxford, 1865, p. 424. There is in Berlin, Coll. Sachau, n. 108, a MS containing the Book of the Fathers, attributed to Simeon bar Sabbaʿe, but that book is a treatise on the celestial and ecclesiastical hierarchies which Simeon of Shanklawa wrote in the 12th century, according to DOM PARISOT, La science catholique, May and June 1890. Cf. Catal. Sachau, p. 360; Catal. des ms. syr. of Cambridge, p. 1099. An extract of the Book of the Fathers is included in the chrestomathy entitled The little book of fragments, ‫ܟܬܒܘܢܐ ܳܕܦܪܬܘܬܐ‬. — MACLEAN translated a hymn attributed to Simeon bar Sabbaʿe into English in East Syrian Daily Offices, London, 1894, p. 221.



behest of the Jews, who were in favour with the queen mother. The author of the tale echoes an accusation made against the Jews, which was repeated in various Acts of the martyrs of Persia even though it might have been unfounded. As for the queen mother, Ephra Hormiz, she was indeed partial to the Jews and had the capacity to influence the king, her son, as we know from the Talmud.22 The churches were completely destroyed and Simeon was led, along with a few priests, to Karka of Ledan, in Susiana, where the king resided at that point in time. Several bishops were also brought before Shabur: Gadyahb and Sabina, bishops of Beth Lapat, Yohannan, of Homizd Ardashir, Bolida, bishop of Prat, Yohannan, bishop of Karka of Maishan, as well as ninety-seven priests and deacons. These numerous victims were decapitated;23 their death was preceded on the previous day (Nisan 13, Thursday of the Holy Week) by that of Guhshtazad, chief of the king’s eunuchs, who had converted and publically confessed to his Christian faith. The Christians of Karka of Ledan were not persecuted, for the newly-constructed town did not pay taxes. The writer declares that he composed these Acts based on the far more detailed accounts of previous authors. These Acts are followed by the tale of the execution of Posi — chief of the craftsmen, he had encouraged the confessors to remain steadfast in their beliefs — which took place the following day. Then comes the tale of the martyrdom of Possi’s daughter, who had also embraced a religious life; her martyrdom took place two days later, at Easter. The persecution did not end there. Instead, it raged on for several days. On these events we have the testimony of two documents that differ on several points but agree on the main

See NŒLDEKE, Geschichte der Perser… aus Tabari, Leiden, 1879, p. 52 and 68, notes. 23 According to the Breviarium Chaldaicum, ed. BEDJAN, Paris, 1886, t. III, p. 133, the relics of Simeon bar Sabbaʿe were deposited in Susa. 22



aspects.24 According to these documents, the massacre of the Christians that had been brought to Susiana lasted without interruption for ten days, from the Holy Thursday to the Sunday of the second week of Easter (Sunday of Quasimodo). The names of the victims have not survived, for they were brought from distant provinces and were unknown in Susiana; we cite: Amarya and Moqima, bishops of Beth Lapat, and the priest Hormizd, of Shustar. The commemorative festival of these confessors lasted three days, on Friday and Saturday of the first week of Easter and on Sunday of the second week of Easter. Among the victims of these killings was found the body of Azad, the king’s favourite eunuch, who, consumed by the zeal characteristic of proselytes, had placed himself before the executioners’ sword. The king, who was deeply moved by his servant’s death, ordered that more caution be used in future. First the names of the Christians, their parents and their addresses had to be written down. Only after were they to be interrogated. That order came out on Sunday of the second week of Easter: “Then, the first document adds, the carnage ceased and there was a short respite.” In the course of the following month of May are recorded the martyrdom of Simeon bar Sabbae’s two sisters, one of whom was named Tarbo, and of their maid; all three had devoted their lives to religion. The Acts of Tarbo and her companions were followed by those of Miles, bishop of Susa, crowned king on November 13 of that same year. The Acts of Miles are of interest for they contain an ancient tale on the dissensions between the patriarch Papa and his

Published in the Acta mart. of F. BEDJAN, t. II, p. 241 and 248; the Roman edition only contains the second document. The first document dates the persecution to year 31 of Shabur, the year of the promulgation of the edict against the Church; the second document gives the more accurate date of 32. The second document is mistaken in mentioning the Pentecostal week rather than the Easter week. 24



clergy, and in which the bishop of Susa played a part. That tale differs from Bar Hebræus’s25 on several key points. The second year of Shabur’s persecution began with the martyrdom of Shahdost, successor of Simeon bar Sabbaʿe on the patriarchal seat of Seleucia. The patriarch was arrested along with one hundred and twenty-eight clergymen, priests, deacons, monks and nuns. They were decapitated, as were most of the other prisoners, on February 20, 342.26 Barbaʿshmin, successor of Shahdost, suffered the same fate. He was killed along with seventeen priests, deacons and monks, on January 9, 346. Thereafter, the patriarchal seat of Seleucia and Ctesiphon remained vacant for twenty-two years.27 The collection attributed to Marutha also contains Acts of the martyrs of Susiana and of Fars during the years 342 and 344. The martyrdom of Narsai, bishop of Shahrgard, took place in Beth Garmai, the ancient metropolitan seat of the province. That bishop

Chron. eccl., II, p. 29–31: comp. with Mari, ed. GISMONDI, pars prior, p. 8; AMR, ibid., pars altera, p. 15 omits Mari’s tale. We have on that subject Papa’s correspondence (apocryphal) in a MS from the Borgia Museum, K. VI, vol. 4; compare with GERSOY, Les manuscrits orient. au Musée Borgias, in the Zeitschr. für Assyriologie, t. IX, p. 370. BRAUN has made a German translation of that correspondence in the Zeitschr. für Kathol. Theologie, 1894. GISMONDI has edited a letter, Linguæ syr. grammatical, 2nd ed., Beyrouth, 1904, p. 30; cf. ibid, p. 127, a letter from Jacob, bishop of Nisibis, to Papa. Following ʿAbdishoʿ’s catalogue, Miles wrote letters and sermons of which none have survived. Cf. J. LABOURT, Le christianisme dans l’empire perse, Paris, 1904, p. 22. 26 EV. ASSEMANI and F. BEDJAN published these Acts in the collections indicated above. Amr and Bar Hebræus relate this tale with several variations. Cf. DELEHAYE, Les versions grecques des Actes des martyrs persans sous Shabur II, Patrologia orientalis, t. II, fasc. 4, p. 445. 27 According to the Synodicon orientale published by J.-B. CHABOT, Paris, 1902, p. 48, l. 33 (transl., p. 292–293). According to the Acts of Barba’shmin published by ASSEMANI and BEDJAN, l. c., about twenty years. Amr, Elias of Nisibis and Bar Hebræus relate different tales on the vacancy of the patriarchal seat. 25



was crowned king, with his disciple Joseph, on November 10, 344, while King Shabur was in the town of Shahrgard. At that time, Erbil and Adiabene became the main theatre of persecutions against Christians. Persecutions lasted there for much of the period between 344 and 376: the Acts28 relate the persecution of John, bishop of Erbil, killed together with the priest Jacob on November 1, 344; of Abraham, John’s successor, who was decapitated on February 5, 345; of Hanania, a secular man, killed in Erbil on December 12, 346;29 of the priest Jacob and the nun Maryam, his sister, who were from the village of Tella Shlila, put to death on March 17, 347; of the nun Thekla and of four other nuns, her companions, executed on June 6, 347; of Barhadbshabba, deacon of Erbil, condemned on July 20, 355; and of Aitallaha and of Hofsay,30 killed on December 16, 355. Yet the most resounding event in that persecution was the conversion and martyrdom of Qardag, military governor of Adiabene, in the forty-ninth year of Shabur (358 AD). The many miracles, visions and allusions to later historical facts that the Acts of Qardag contain prove that these Acts were composed long after the saint’s martyrdom; they probably date to the 6th century.31 As has been suggested,32 it is possible that Qardag’s conversion was not purely disinterested. That governor of illustrious origin had revolted against Shabur II after having built a castle on the Malqi hill near Erbil; he probably believed his conversion to the Christian faith would win him the support of the Roman troops. If such was Published by F. BEDJAN in the 4th vol. of the Acta mart., p. 128. BEDJAN, ibid., p. 131. On April 6, 345, one hundred and eleven priests, deacons and monks, and nine nuns were executed in Seleucia. A lady of Erbil named Yazdandukt distinguished herself by taking great care of the prisoners. 30 BEDJAN, Acta mart., t. IV, p. 193. 31 ABBELOOS published them the same year, in 1899, as found in different MSS from Brussels, together with a Latin translation, and so did FEIGE in Kiel, with a German translation; BEDJAN reprinted them in the 2nd vol. of the Acta mart., p. 442. 32 NŒLDEKE, Zeitschr. der deut. morg. Gesell., t. XLIV, p. 530. 28 29



his hope, then it was short-lived. Indeed, no help came, the castle was taken and Qardag stoned. These Acts, despite the interpolation of heterogeneous anecdotes, contain precious information on the region’s geography and the political and social situation in Persia under the Sassanians. The saint was for a long time venerated in his land; a church was constructed under his patronage on the location where he was put to death. There a festival was celebrated in his honour over three days and the pilgrimage that led to this monument lasted six days. Here we must mention the Acts of the Gilani Martyrs, for they bear a certain historical interest.33 The Gilanis lived along the southwest coast of the Caspian Sea, in the (Gilan) plain, close to the Dailamites, who inhabited the mountains. From the Acts of these martyrs we learn that the Gilanis served as mercenaries in the Persian armies and that they had become Christian by the 4th century. The martyrdom of these soldiers took place in 351, on the banks of the Euphrates, during an expedition that Shabur led on Roman territory. The names of these confessors were: Brikishoʿ, ʿAbdishoʿ, Shabur, Santruq, Hormizd, Hadarshabur, Helpid, Aitallaha, Moqim, etc.; two women, Halmdor and Phoebe, were also executed with their children. The Gilanis had been evangelised at an early date.34 In the 53rd year of Shabur II, in 362, persecution was widespread in the Beth Zabdai, on the right bank of the Upper Tigris. That province formed the border between the Roman and Persian empires. The area’s stronghold was known by the name BEDJAN published these Acts in the 4th vol. of the Acta mart., p. 166; unfortunately, their ending is incomplete. 34 According to BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., II, p. 45, their evangelisation dated back to the time of Addai’s mission; it appears to date significantly later than LABOURT, Le Christianisme dans l’empire perse, p. 78, note 2, although this work is unable to put forward any conclusive evidence. MARQUART, Osteuropaïsche und ostasiatische Streifzüge, Leipzig, 1903, p. 282 and 284, has demonstrated that Christians are already being referred to in the Book of the laws of the lands by Bardaisan and in the Ancient syr. documents by Cureton. 33



Castra of Beth Zabdai, or Panak. On various occasions Shabur had attempted to conquer the Beth Zabdai and Nisibis, for control over these lands meant access to Armenia and Mesopotamia. He succeeded in seizing the stronghold of Panak in the course of the summer or autumn of 360.35 As was usual among the Persians, the town’s conquest was followed by both a mass deportation of its inhabitants to various Persian provinces and the execution of its principal ecclesiastics. We have on that subject several documents, the most important of which is the “Confession of the captives.”36 In that document, the deportation and persecution of the inhabitants of Beth Zabdai are said to date to the 53rd year of Shabur, i.e. 362 AD. Since that date is also used in several martyrs’ Acts, we must regard it as accurate and accept that the deportation took place two years after the capture of Panak, presumably following an uprising of the inhabitants, who were counting on the support of the Roman troops. Nine thousand men and women were taken captive. Among them was Bishop Heliodorus, together with his two vicars, priests, deacons, monks and nuns. The bishop died en route. Three hundred captives were selected to stay in the Dara province, on the condition that they would convert to the religion of the Magi; only twenty-five complied, the rest were massacred. The Acts of Saba Pirgushnasp,37 which contain useful historical and geographical notes on that province and the neighbouring province of the Beth Arabaya, relate the persecutions of the Beth Zabde. However, these Acts mistakenly place the conquest of Panak after the transfer of Nisibis to the Persians, an event that took place in 363. The anachronism is all the more striking that these Acts indicate exactly the 53rd year of Shabur.

AMMIEN MARCELLIN, XX, 7. Published by ASSEMANI, Acta sanct. mart., I, p. 134, and BEDJAN, Acta mart., II, p. 316. 37 G. HOFFMANN has analysed them, Auszüge aus syr. Akten pers. Märtyrer, p. 22; F. BEDJAN has edited the Syriac text in Acta mart., IV, p. 222. 35 36



The tradition concerning the massacre of the Beth Zabdai Christians is still alive among the country’s inhabitants, who know where Shabur put to death six thousand Christians owing to their religion and his son’s conversion.38 In the course of that persecution also occurred the martyrdom of Bassus, whose name spread among the Occidental Syrians thanks to the famous monastery of Apamea, which was named after that saint.39 Although the original Acts of Bassus have not been found, we are able to reconstruct the martyr’s story thanks to a metric homily40 based on these Acts. There must have existed a complete compilation of the Acts of the martyrs of the Beth Zabdai; yet only several of these Acts have survived. The homily mistakenly refers to the 76th year of Shabur’s reign instead of the 53rd year.41 There were two other monasteries under the patronage of Mar Bassus: one on the exact location where the saint was put to death, the other nearby, at Hdyl, in Tur Abdin. This persecution is also described in the Acts of Benham and of his sister Sara, which are closely linked to the history of the monasteries of Mar Mattai and Mar Behnam.42 These Acts give the correct date of 663 of the Seleucids, or 352 AD, but by a singular anachronism place the persecution after Julian’s expedition to Mesopotamia. The peace treaty concluded between Jovian and Shabur in 363, by which Nisibis was handed over to the Persians, was See the interesting tale of the traveller TAYLOR (Journal of the Geographical Society of London, 1865, vol. 35, p. 51), related in HOFFMANN, Auszüge, p. 27–28. 39 Abbot F. MARTIN published, in the Zeitschr. der deut. morgenl. Gesell., t. XXX, p. 217, the correspondence between the monks of that monastery and Jacob of Serug. Also of interest is a letter from Severus of Antioch to these monks. 40 Published by CHABOT, La légende de Mar Bassus, Paris, 1893; compare with Journal asiatique, Nov.-Dec. 1893, p. 537. 41 Shabur only reigned seventy years. 42 HOFFMANN has analysed these Acts, Auszüge, etc., p. 17; F. BEDJAN has published the text, Acta mart., II, p. 397. 38



followed by a momentary discontinuation of the persecution against Christians; but the respite was brief. Indeed, the year 376 was marked by the martyrdom of forty members of the clergy of the province of Kashkar, two of whom were bishops. The Acts of these martyrs belong to the collection attributed to Marutha. The same year saw the martyrdom of Badma, director of the monastery which he founded near Beth Lapat. The last Acts are those of ʿAqebshma, bishop of Hnayta, of priest Joseph and of deacon Aitallaha. At the end of his history of the martyrs of Persia, the author declares that he was himself aware of the latest events in the persecution. As for previous events, he based his tale on respectable and trustworthy elders who had witnessed the happenings. To complete that dark picture, a legendary document should be cited: the Acts of Gubralaha and of Qazo, the son and daughter of King Shabur. According to one version of these Acts,43 Dado instructed the king’s son in the Christian religion. Following Shabur’s orders, Dado was decapitated and the young prince beaten. The execution took place in the Medes’ province. A Syriac fragment that Hoffmann has analysed provides us with a different version of the text:44 in it Gubralaha dies after being severely tortured; his sister Qazo, whom he converted, is beaten and killed after having been baptised. Prior to the death of these confessors came that of a magus named Gargamush, whom Gubralaha had converted to the Christian faith. The location of the execution is, in that version, Karka of Ledan, while the date indicated is September 22 of the 23rd year of Shabur, i.e. 332 AD. It is difficult to to establish how much of this legend is true. According to Taylor’s account cited above, the local tradition is still alive and indicates that the conversion of King Shabur’s son was the principal reason

Published in the 4th vol. of the Acta mart. of F. BEDJAN, p. 141. Auszüge aus syr. Akten pers. Märtyrer, p. 33; the Syriac text is published in the 4th vol. of the Acta mart. of F. BEDJAN, p. 218. 43 44



for the persecution that took place in 352 in the province of Beth Zabdai. We shall not dwell on the long martyrology of the Christians of Persia. Persecutions persisted, with varying intensity, under the other Sassanian kings. The introduction of Nestorianism in Persia in the second half of the 5th century had the advantage of bringing down the number of persecutions by creating a divide between the Western and Eastern Syrians. What we have said on the Acts of the martyrs from the time of Shabur II suffice to make known that literary genre. To extend this analysis to the Acts of later martyrs would have only a very limited use that could not possibly compensate for the boredom born out of the resulting uniformity.45 We shall only signal several of the most important episodes of the following persecutions. The Story of the town of Beth Slok reports46 that Yazdgird II showed himself clement during the first seven years of his reign; but in the eighth year47 he put to death his daughter, who was also his wife,48 together with the great men of his kingdom.49 Yazdgird II’s persecution resulted in St Pethion’s martyrdom, which took place in the ninth year of that king’s reign. Several versions of that martyrdom have survived. F. Corluy published one of them in vol. VII of the Analecta Bollandiana, 1888, after a MS held in the British Museum of which Hoffmann has already given

One can find these Acts in the Acta sanctorum martyrum of EVODIO ASSEMANI and in the Acta martyrum et sanctorum of F. BEDJAN; HOFFMANN has analysed several of them in his Auszüge aus syrischen Akten pers. Märtyrer. 46 HOFFMANN, Auszüge, p. 50; the Syriac text in MŒSINGER, Monumenta syriaca, II, p. 68, and in BEDJAN, Acta mart., II, 518. 47 The eighth year of Yazdgird II corresponds to 446 AD. 48 Sassanian kings married within their own family, thus preventing the dilution of royal blood. 49 That harsh decision was provoked by a plot against the king. On the persecution of Yazdgird II, see LABOURT, Le christianisme dans l’empire perse, p. 126, §3. 45



an account.50 Another more extensive version was included in the second volume of the Acta martyrum of F. BEDJAN, p. 559–634. A Vatican manuscript, Syr. 184, contains a poem on St Pethion composed by the archdeacon Mara. The Acts of Jacob Intercisus date that saint’s martyrdom to 732 of the Seleucids (421 AD), in the course of the 1st or 2nd year of Bahram V.51 They were published by Evodio Assemani in Acta sanct. martyr., I, 242, and by F. BEDJAN in Acta mart., II, p. 539. Peroz put Patriarch Baboy to death in 481 based on the denunciation of Bar Sauma, who had chanced upon a letter from that patriarch in which he solicited Roman intervention. The Acts of that martyr contain a tale which matches both those of Amr and of Bar Hebræus.52 The 10th year of Khosro I, or Khosro Anoshirwan, allegedly saw Gregory’s execution. Gregory, whose real name was Pirnagushnasp, was originally from Rai and belonged to the Persian family of Mihran.53 The martyrdom of Yazdpaneh followed closely that of Gregory. Yazdpaneh, originally from the province of Karka of Ledan, was both a governor and a judge in his country.54

Auszüge, p. 61–68. To F. CORLUY we also owe our awareness of the Acts of Abdalmessih, a man of Jewish origin who was killed by his own father, on July 27, 390, for having converted to Christianity: Analecta Bollandiana, Brussels, 1886; BEDJAN reprinted the Syriac text in the Acta mart., I, p. 173. 51 The first year is indicated at the end of the Acts, and the second at the beginning, comp. with NŒLDEKE, Geschichte der Perser… aus Tabari, p. 120; Mari and Amr, ed. GISMONDI, pars I, 34; pars II, 28. 52 AMR, ed. GISMONDI, p. 30–31; BAR HEB., Chron. eccl., II, p. 61– 65. For the text of these Acts, see BEDJAN, Acta mart., II, 631. 53 HOFFMANN has analysed the Acts of these martyrs, Auszüge…, p. 78, and BEDJAN has published them in Histoire de Mar-Jabalaha, de trois autres patriarches…, Paris, 1895, p. 347–394. 54 HOFFMANN has analysed the Acts of that martyr, l. c., p. 87, and BEDJAN has published them, l. c., p. 394–415. 50



In the 25th year of Khosro II, or Khosro Peroz (615 AD), the priest George, of noble Persian stock and in reality named Mihrgushnasp, was executed after having been baptised by Simeon, bishop of Hira. His sister Hazaruy also converted to Christianity, changed her name to Mary and became a nun. Mar Babai, abbot of the monastery of Mount Izla, described the Acts of that saint.55 They contain information that sheds light on the history of the Nestorian Church in the late 6th century. In the 30th year of that same king, Ishoʿsabran, a Nestorian ascetic of Persian origin who had spent some years in prison, was executed. Ishoʿyahb III, who became patriarch of the Nestorians around 650, wrote down that martyr’s Acts several years after his death.56 After Ishoʿsabran, twelve other notable Christians perished. Ishoʿyahb notes that another author wrote down their story.

§3. — THE SYRIAC TEXTS ON THE MARTYRS OUTSIDE MESOPOTAMIA AND PERSIA According to the Church tradition, the legend of the Seven sleeping ones of Ephesus is connected to Decius’ persecution.57 It appears in Syriac literature primarily in two Syriac texts and in a metric homily by Jacob of Serug. One of these texts is included in the Syriac compilation entitled Story of Zachariah;58 the other is part of the chronicle of pseudo-Dionysius of Tel Mahre, probably based

Analysed by HOFFMANN, Auszüge…, p. 91 and published by BEDJAN, Histoire de Mar-Jabalaha, de trios autres patriarches…, p. 416. 56 CHABOT published them, together with an analysis, in the Archives des missions scient., VII, p. 486. 57 SURIUS, Vitæ sanct., July 27; the Bollandists, Acta sanct., VI. 375– 387; KOCH, Die Siebenschlæferlegende, Leipzig, 1883; V. RYSSEL, Theol. Zeitschr. aus der Schweiz, 1896, p. 48. 58 LAND, Anecdota syriaca, t. III, p. 87. Cf. Michel le Syrien, ed. CHABOT, II, p. 17 (text, p. 173). 55



on the story of John of Asia and on manuscripts now in London, Paris and Berlin.59 Jacob of Serug’s homily contains details that are absent from the translations and therefore may have been added by the author. Jacob, on the other hand, sometimes shortens the ancient texts. Guidi has edited two collations (of varying length) of that homily, as found in two MSS held in the Vatican.60 Bar Hebræus’s summary of the legend, which appears in his Ecclesiastical Chronicle, differs when it comes to proper names.61 The main document for the history of the persecutions which the country’s Jewish king ordered against the Yemenite Christians in the 6th century AD remains the letter Simeon, bishop of Beth Arsham, wrote to Simeon, abbot of the monastery of Gabbula. In that letter, the bishop of Beth Arsham records that, on January 20, 524, he left the town of Hira in the company of the priest Abraham. Justin I had had appointed Abraham as deputy in order to bring about a peace settlement with Mondhir, king of the Arabs. The travellers encountered Mondhir at Ramla. Immediately thereafter, the king of the Arabs received a letter from the Jewish king of the Himyarites (Homerites) in which were described a tale of the persecutions ordered by that king against the Yemenite TULLBERG published the first part of the second document, Dyonisii Tellmahharensis chronici liber primus, Upsal, 1851, p. 167; IGNAZIO GUIDI published the second part, Testi orientali inediti sopra isette dormienti di Efeso, in the memoirs of the Reale Academia dei Lincei, 1884, with the other Oriental texts (Coptic, Arabic, Ethiopic and Armenian) connected to that legend. The text is reprinted in BEDJAN’s Acta mart., I, 301. The MS in the Bibliothèque nationale, n. 235, fol. 326, contains a third text which includes relatively insignificant variations. Cf. MANNA, Morceaux choisis de littérature araméenne, Mosul, 1901, t. II, p. 110. NŒLDEKE, Götting. Gelehrte Anzeigen, 1886, n. 11, has shown that the second Syriac text is the original composition of the legend. V. RYSSEL has translated that legend into German, Archiv f. das studium der neueren Sprachen und Litt., XCIII, 241; XCIV, 369. 60 In the publication cited in the previous note. 61 Chron. eccl., I, p. 141 ff. 59



Christians. The purpose of that missive was to encourage Mondhir to act against his own Christian subjects. In the letter, the Christians of Najran, in Yemen, were said to have been massacred in the following situtation: following the death, over the winter, of the Christian king whom the Ethiopians had enthroned in that town, they had been unable to cross the sea and take care of the defunct king’s succession; the Jews had taken advantage of the situation to seize control of government; the Jewish king, whom they appointed treacherously, conquered the town of Najran after having massacred the two hundred and eighty Ethiopian men, both religious and secular, who had remained in Yemen. Once overrun, the town’s church was burnt down and its Christians, those who would not deny that Christ is God, were put to death by order of the Jewish king. The men were the first to be executed, although a number of them were able to escape through the mountains. The women’s faith too could not be shaken and they were eager to be put to death. A noble lady named Dauma (var. Rome) distinguished herself by her enthusiasm; she and her daughters asked to be killed, thereby insulting the king, who had been so struck by her beauty that he had wished to spare her life. “Thus was,” adds Simeon, “the content of the letter which Mondhir, King of Hira, received as priest Abraham (mentioned above), Sergis (var. George), bishop of Resafa, and myself arrived by his side.” Back in Hira, Simeon learnt of new episodes of that persecution which had not been mentioned in the Jewish king’s letter. Indeed, a messenger whom deputies of the old Himyarite king in Hira had ordered to collect information, reported news of the town of Najran. As soon as the town had been conquered, the three hundred and forty leading figures had been taken before the Jewish king; at their head was Harith (Aretas), who bravely confessed to being Christian and encouraged his fellow men to follow his example. Another event omitted in the Jewish king’s letter was the confession of a three-year-old child who would rather die with his mother than renounce Christ, as had also been the case with Dauma’s youngest daughter. Simeon, on completing his letter, encouraged the bishops of his confession (Monophysite) to pray for the Himyarite Christians



and expressed his hope that the bishops of the emperor’s confession may convince him to put an end to the Tiberian Jews’ scheming against Christians. Assemani62 was the first to publish the letter written by the bishop of Beth Arsham, as found in the section of the chronicle of pseudo-Dionysius of Tel Mahre which is taken from the story of John of Asia. That letter is also included in the Syriac compilation of the story of Zachariah and has been reprinted, based on that source, in vol. X of Mai’s Script. veterum nova collectio and in vol. III, p. 235, of Land’s Anecdota syriaca. The text of the chronicle of pseudo-Dionysius differs only slightly from the story of Zachariah; it is an abridged collation of the original document that should probably be attributed to John of Asia.63 Guidi, whose research in the field of Syriac studies has been so fruitful, has discovered, in a MS from the Borgia museum and in two MSS from the British Museum, the primitive, and rather more complete, text. He published it in the memoirs of the Reale Academia dei Lincei, in 1881, under the title of La lettera di Simeone vescovo di Beith-Arscham sopra i martiri Omeriti.64 The persecution of Dhou-Nowas and the martyrdom of Aretas form the first part of the Martyrium Aretæ, which is preserved in Greek.65 Guidi notes that the original text of Simeon’s letter confirms F. Carpentier’s conjectures on the age and composition of the Martyrium Aretæ. Sergis (or George?), bishop of Resafa, who had been with Simeon and Abraham by Mondhir’s side when he received Dhou-Nowas’s letter, composed the first part of that document. The Syriac text was then translated into Bibl. Orient., I, 364. MICHAELIS and ZINGERLE have reprinted this text in the chrestomathies, the former after Assemani, the latter after Card. Mai. KNŒS has also published it in his little chrestomathy, after a MS from Paris that poorly summarises the letter. Portuguese translation by ESTEVES PEREIRA, Historia dos Martyres de Nagran, Lisbon, 1899, p. 3. 64 Reprinted in the Acta mart. of F. BEDJAN, I, p. 372. 65 Published by BOISSONADE, Anecdota græca, t. V, p. 1; and by F. CARPENTIER, Acta sanct. of the Bollandists, Oct., X, p. 721. 62 63



Greek and the tale of Ella-Asbeha’s expedition was added to the Greek version. Much had been said of the letter of Simeon of Beth Arsham and its authenticity. The first works on the matter, by Blau, Prætorius and Mordtmann, appeared in the Zeitschr. der deut. morgenl. Gesellsch., t. XXIII, 560; XXIV, 624; XXV, 260; XXXI, 66 (comp. Nœldeke, Tabari, 185, note 1; Guidi, La lettera di Simeone). Halevy, in the Revue des Etudes juives, t. XVIII, 16–42 and 161–178, has again studied that letter and the related documents; he is able to bring forward convincing arguments in support of the view that Simeon’s letter is apocryphal and was composed at the end of Justinian’s reign. Besides, Halevy seeks to clear the Jews of the accusation of being responsible for the persecution, claiming instead that Arians are to blame. Duchesne (Revue des Etudes juives, t. XX, p. 220) does not object to Halevy’s thesis regarding the apocryphal nature of the letter, but he accepts the tradition according to which Jews were responsible for the massacre of the Christians of Najran; cf. Halevy, ibid., t. XXI, p. 73 ff.66 There are two other Syriac documents on the persecutions of the Himyarite Christians. The first is a condolence letter addressed to these Christians by Jacob of Serug and published by Schrœter.67 Jacob having passed away in 521, the editor dated the letter’s composition to 520, several years prior to the martyrdom of Aretas. However, Guidi rightly points out that a Christian king reigned over Najran in 520; Jacob’s letter relates the first persecution of Dhou-Nowas, which ended after his flight in 519. The second document is a hymn by John Psaltes, a monophysitic abbot of the monastery of Qenneshre who lived in the first half of the 6th century. That hymn is part of a collection of Greek hymns translated into Syriac by Paul of Edessa during his

See also: FELL, Zeitschr. der deut. morg. Gesell., t. XXXV, p. 1 ff.; ESTEVES PEREIRA, Historia dos Martyres de Nagran, Lisbon, 1899; HALEVY, Revue sémitique, Jan. 1900, p. 88. 67 Zeitschr. der deut. morg. Gesell., t. XXXI, p. 360 ff. 66



stay in Cyprus and later revised by Jacob of Edessa. It relates the persecution in the course of which Aretas perished.68 The other Syriac texts concerning different martyrs are of lesser interest; they are for the most part translations of Greek Acts. Evodio Assemani has published the Syriac translation by Eusebius of the story of the martyrs of Palestine in the second volume of the Acta sanct. martyrum. Cureton has edited in London in 1861 another collation, as found in a MS from the British Museum, later reprinted by F. Bedjan in the Acta martyrum, I, p. 202. Bruno Violet has made a German translation of that collation, complete with a study of the various texts which Eusebius devoted to the martyrs of Palestine, in the Texte und Untersuchungen of Gebhardt and Harnack, t. XIV, 4th edition; the second part of the work was printed separately as a doctoral dissertation, Ueber die Palæstinischen Märtyrer, Leipzig, 1896.69 The panegyric of Eusebius on the Christian martyrs, also part of the same Syriac manuscript of the British Museum, has been made available by Wright in the Journal of sacred literature, 4th series, t. V, p. 403; in the same periodical (t. VI, p. 129), one will find a translation of the text by Cowper. F. Bedjan has published the Syriac version of the Acts of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste in the third volume of the Acta martyrum, p. 355, and Jacob of Serug’s homily on these martyrs in the sixth volume, p. 662. Lamy has edited St Ephrem’s homily on the same subject, Sancti Ephræmi syri hymni et sermones, III, 936. The Acta martyrum of F. Bedjan also contain Syriac translations of various Greek Acts of martyrs. In vol. VI, p. 650, we find Jacob of Serug’s homily on the martyrs Sergius and Bacchus, whose Acts are printed in vol. III, p. 283.

Also published by SCHRŒTER, loc. cit. (in the previous note), p. 400. The inclusion of that hymn, which mentions the Ethiopian Masrouq rather than Dhou-Nowas, is a later addition, NŒLDEKE, Tabari, 185, note 1. 69 Cf. MERCATI, I martiri di palestina d’Eusebio di Cæsarea nel codice Sinaitico in the Rendiconti del R. Istituto Lombardo, 1897, XXX, 1060. 68



Among those documents that should be regarded as fictitious rather than historical are the Acts of St George, whom a Persian king named Dadian executed;70 of St Sophie (wisdom) and of her three daughters, Pistis, Elpis and Agape (faith, hope and charity), all put to death by Hadrian;71 of St Febronia in the time of Diocletian;72 of St Paphnutius and of his companions, also under Diocletian.73

§4. — LIVES OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS The oriental monks,74 who were cenobite and solitary, greatly admired the Fathers of the Scetan and Thebaid deserts, whose Lives they knew from Syriac translations; they visited the sites that the ascetics had sanctified and those who could afford to settle there did so. In the Scetis desert the Syrians founded a famous monastery named Our Lady Mary, mother of God. There must have existed from a very early date a Syriac translation of both the Lausiac History of Palladius and the Historia monachorum of Rufin. Dadishoʿ of Qatar, who lived in the late 7th century, translated the Paradise of Western Monks, presumably the name by which the Lausiac History was known at the time.75 The only Syriac collation we have of Palladius’s book was made by ʿEnanishoʿ, who

BEDJAN, Acta mart., I, 277. Ibid., VI, 32. Re-edition in LEWIS, Studia Sinaitica, IX, London, 1900, p. 218; and English translation, ibid., X, p. 168. 72 Ibid., V, 573. 73 Ibid., V, 514. 74 On the monastic institution in Mesopotamia and in Persia, and on the Acts of S. Eugene, see J. LABOURT, Le Christianisme dans l’empire perse, chap. XI, p. 392 ff. 75 ASSEMANI, B. O., t. III, part I, p. 98–99, believed the author of that translation to be Dadishoʿ, Abraham’s disciple, who lived during the previous century: see Notice sur la vie et les œuvres de Dadischo Qatraya by ADDAI SCHER in the Journal asiatique, Jan.-Feb. 1906, p. 103. That translation is cited in the Book of the Bee, ed. BUDGE, p. 57, l. 3 (transl., p. 55, l. 1). 70 71



undertook that project in the monastery of Beth ʿAbe at the request of Patriarch George (661–680). Thomas of Marga’s monastic story76 contains precious information on this two-volume work by ʿEnanishoʿ. The first volume contained the Lives of the holy Fathers, written by Palladius or attributed to St Jerome, the second volume contained the questions and tales of the Fathers. The work, which was entitled The Paradise, spread far and wide to the extent that all Oriental monasteries adopted it. The second volume comprised six hundred and fifteen numbered articles, divided into fourteen chapters; in addition, ʿEnanishoʿ had compiled in it four hundred and thirty articles concerning all sorts of virtues, as well as many others that were neither put into order nor given a number. The compiler added the discourse or Encomium of St John Chrysostom on the monks of Egypt (8th homily on St Matthew); the questions of Abraham of Nathpar (or Naphtar?) along with demonstrations and tales that he had taken from the Book of the Fathers. F. Bedjan has recently published an edition of the Paradise of ʿEnanishoʿ, based on an ancient and excellent MS in the Vatican and on other manuscripts in London, Berlin and Paris.77 That much-anticipated edition contains: (1) the Lives of the Fathers in three parts (the Lives written by Palladius in the first two parts and the Lives written by St Jerome78 in the third); (2) the Book II, chap. XV; ed. BUDGE, The book of governors, the historia monastica of Thomas of Marga, London, 1893, t. II, p. 189. 77 Paradisus Patrum, t. VII of the Acta mart. et sanct., Paris, 1897. Two students of Tullberg, Markstrœm and Lagerstrœm, have published as their theses, at Upsal in 1851, several Lives taken from this Paradise; compare also with BUDGE, The book of governors, t. II, p. 192. 78 Or, to be more exact, the Historia monachorum of RUFIN here attributed to St Jerome, see J.-B. CHABOT, Revue critique, September 19– 26, 1898, p. 168: BEDJAN, l. c., p. V; DOM CUTHBERT BUTLER, The lausiac history of Palladius, Cambridge, 1898, distinguishes two Syriac translations used by ʿEnanishoʿ for his collation. The most extensive translation contained the History of Monks, of which Rufin has made a Latin translation. There are, in the British Museum, MSS of three Syriac 76



Apophthegmata of the Fathers forming the first fourteen chapters of the third part, wrongly attributed to Palladius and comprising six hundred and twenty-seven numbers; (3) questions and answers on all kinds of virtues, chapter XV, each assigned a number; (4) the demonstrations for the indifferent who are not concerned with their own salvation, chap. XVI to XXIII; then comes a chap. XXIV. As an appendix, F. Bedjan has published the Encomium of St John Chrysostom and the discourse of Abraham of Nathpar, which Thomas of Marga referred to as being part of the collation of ʿEnanishoʿ (see previous page), after a MS from the British Museum (Add. 17174) which contains that collation. There is also a work entitled Illustrations from the Book of Paradise in another London MS, Add. 17264. Unfortunately, the author’s name has been erased in the original MS. From the following epithet we are nonetheless able to establish that the author is not ʿEnanishoʿ. F. Bedjan, in the fifth vol. of the Acta martyrum et sanct. printed the Lives of St Antony, Paul the hermit and St Pachomius, which are not included in Palladius’s book. According to Frederic Schulthess,79 the Syriac version of the Life of St Antony, of which the Greek text is attributed to St Athanasius of Alexandria, proves that there were at least two different Greek versions, for the Syriac composition suggests the existence of another Greek text. It also appears that these different Greek versions have been translated into Syriac; as F. Bedjan remarks,80 the Syriac manuscripts which relate the story of that Life differ considerably.

translations of the Monachorum History and of the fragments of a fourth version; Cf. PREUSCHEN, Palladius und Rufinus, Giessen, 1897. A. WALLIS BUDGE has reedited ʿEnanishoʿ’s collation for private circulation in The book of Paradise, London, 1904, vol. I, Syriac text; vol. II, English translation. 79 Probe einer syrischen Version der Vita S. Antonii, Leipzig, 1894. 80 The Acta mart. of F. BEDJAN also contain Syriac versions of several Lives of ascetic Egyptians which are not included in the Paradise of the Fathers.



The Eastern counterpart of Palladius’s Paradise, which contained the Lives of the Western ascetics, was the Orientals’ Paradise of Joseph Hazzaya (not Joseph Huzaya or of Ahwaz) and the Little Paradise of David, bishop of the Kartewaye (or of the Kurds), which contained the Lives of the Eastern ascetics. These works are known to us solely from the catalogue of ʿAbdishoʿ and the monastic history of Thomas of Marga.81 Dionysius bar Salibi is presented as the author of the Abridged History of the Fathers, Saints and Martyrs.82 The Life of Mar Benjamin, disciple of St Eugene, is a late composition, taken to a great extent from the Life of Mar Mika83 (Bedjan, Acta mart., III, 510). The Acta martyrum et sanctorum of F. Bedjan relate the lives of several other saints of the Oriental Syrians: Zaia, great saint of Kurdistan whose relics are in Djelou;84 Schalita, disciple (of Egyptian origin) of St Eugene, who went to mount Kardu (Ararat) with Jacob of Nisibis to found a monastery on the plot of land where Noah’s ark landed;85 Yonan, a disciple of St Eugene, who set out to the Orient with his master and led an ascetic life in the desert of Peroz-Shabur or Anbar;86 Jacob, bishop of Nisibis, who attended the Council of Nicaea and succeeded, with the help of the ASSEMANI, Bibl. orient., III, I, p. 102; THOMAS OF MARGA, ed. BUDGE, The book of governors, book II, chap. XXIV. 82 ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 210. 83 As shown by BROCKELMANN, Zeitschr. f. Assyriologie, 1897, t. XII, p. 270, after the publication of the Life of Mar Benjamin by F. SCHEIL, ibid., p. 62. F. Scheil has also edited, ibid., p. 162, the fabulous tale of the dialogue between Mar Serapion and Mar Marcos and of the death of Marcos. F. Scheil has made available, in the Revue de l’orient chrétien, 1897, p. 246–270, a French translation of these documents together with a note on the monastery of Hanina (now known as the monastery of Zaʿfaran, near Mardin). 84 Acta mart., I, 398. 85 Ibid., I, 124; that story is divided into seven acts. 86 Ibid., I, 466; story divided into nine acts and written by ZADOE; abbot of the monastery of St Thomas in India. 81



prayers of his disciple St Ephrem, in driving off the Persians who had laid siege to Nisibis in 338.87 The Acts of St Ephrem belong to that category. However, since that illustrious father will be discussed in part II, it is not worth focusing on his biography here. To St Ephrem is attributed the composition of the Acts of Abraham of Kidouna and the Acts of Julian Saba, two saints contemporaneous with that Father.88 St Ephrem does not appear to be the author of the Acts of Abraham; the Acts of Julian are translations of Philotheus or of the Historia religiosa of Theodoret, see Migne, Patrol. gr., t. LXXXII, p. 1306. The hymns which St Ephrem composed in honour of these ascetics are perhaps responsible for this attribution.89 Are the Acts of Eusebius, Bishop of Samosata,90 a Syriac original despite the Greek words they contain? The style is elegant and animated; the details are precise and denote the work of an author who lived in the time of the events which he describes. The text is a colourful portrayal of the prosecutions carried out by Valens, at the Arians’ instigation, against the orthodox; Eusebius of Caesarea is placed at the head of the Arian party. The Acts of Simeon the Stylite are a panegyric of the great saint of Syria. In them miracles hold a very prominent position. The Syriac text completes the saint’s biography, written by his contemporary Theodoret of Cyrus. According to a concluding clause, the authors of this text are Simeon, son of Apollo, and Bar Hatar, son of ʿUdan. It was composed on April 17 of year 521 during the reign of Antiochus (i.e. 472 AD), barely several years after the death of the founder of the order of the Stylites. As F. Ibid., IV, 262. LAMY, Acta beati Abrahæ Kidunaiæ in vol. X of the Analecta Bollandiana, 1891; and in S. Ephræmi syri hymni et sermones, t. IV, Malines, 1902, p. 1–83; reprinted in the Acta mart. of BEDJAN, t. VI, p. 465. BEDJAN edited the Acts of Julian Saba in the Acta mart., t. VI, p. 380. 89 LAMY has edited these hymns, S. Ephræmi syri hymni et sermones, t. III, p. 749 ff., 837 ff. 90 BEDJAN, Acta mart., t. VI, p. 335. 87 88



Bedjan remarks,91 that clause disproves the hypothesis of Giuseppe Simone Assemani and Evodio Assemani, who took priest Cosmas — we have a letter he addressed to Simeon the Stylite92 — for the author of the document. Thanks to Evodio Assemani,93 we know that Jacob of Serug composed a metric homily in honour of Simeon. The Life of Rabbula, Bishop of Edessa, one of the best surviving works of that genre,94 was composed by one of the clerks of the bishopric shortly after the death of the holy bishop. That life paints an accurate picture of his character, portraying him with traits deeply imbued with a sense of abnegation, charity and devotion. Rabbula had led a monastic and ascetic life before becoming a bishop. Upon being appointed director of the church of Edessa, he remained true to that existence of privation and mortification. We shall return to that Father in the second part, when we shall focus on the Syriac writers of the 4th century. The Syriac legend of The Man of God, a story which had an equally resounding impact in the West and the East, belongs to that In the preface to the fourth volume of the Acta mart.; F. Bedjan has given in that volume, p. 507 ff., an edition of the Acts of S. Simeon, as found in MS Add. 14484 from the British Museum. It is more complete and contains fewer inaccuracies than that of EVODIO ASSEMANI, Acta sanct. mart., II, 268 ff. ZINGERLE, Leben und Wirken des h. Simeon styl., Innsbruck, 1855, has made available a German translation of the Acts of Simeon the Stylite. 92 Published after the Acts of Simeon by J. ASSEMANI, Bibl. orient., I, 237; EV. ASSEMANI, Acta sanct. mart., II, p. 394; BEDJAN, Acta mart., IV, p. 644. 93 Acta sanct. mart., II, p. 230; reprinted in BEDJAN, Acta mart., IV, p. 650. As is often the case with homilies by Jacob of Serug, there is a second much more extensive collation in MS Add. 17159 of the British Museum, see BEDJAN, preface to vol. IV of his Acta mart., p. XIV. 94 Published by OVERBECK, S. Ephræmi syri, Rabulæ episcopi… opera selecta, p. 160; reprinted in BEDJAN, Acta mart., IV, 396; translated into German by BICKELL in the Bibliothek der Kirchenvæter of TALLHOFER, n. 102–104; comp. with LAGRANGE, La science catholique, 1888, p. 624. 91



period. That legend, born in Edessa shortly after the death of Rabbula,95 tells the story of a Roman patrician known as “The man of God,” who left Edessa for Rome on the evening of his wedding day, leaving behind wife and parents alike. There he lived off people’s charity and devoted his days and nights to praying; he was content with a little bread and some vegetables, giving to the other beggars whatever surplus food he had. That saint passed away in hospital. As soon as he had died, the sacristan of the cathedral of Edessa, who had witnessed his exemplary piety, reported to Rabbula the sayings and deeds of the man of God. The bishop wished to be given the saint’s body, yet it had already been buried. Once unearthed, all that remained in his tomb was the garb which he had worn therein. Such is the Syriac version of this legend. In a later composition, which became the story of St Alexis, the resurrected saint is back in Rome with his parents, where he lived with the slaves up until his second death. Only then did his peers honour him. According to Gildemeister,96 the Syriac Acts of St Pelagia, a female comedian of Antioch whom Nonnus (the second successor of Rabbula on the episcopal seat of Edessa) is said to have converted, are not an original document. In his opinion, they represent an extended version of the Greek Acts of the saint. The Lives of the saints of the Jacobite Church of the late 5th century and of the 6th century are one of the best sources of information on the introduction of Monophysitism in Syria and on the active commercial links that developed between Antioch and Alexandria during that period. The most important collection of these Lives is the one that John of Asia composed when he was a AMIAUD, La légende syriaque de saint Alexis, l’homme de Dieu, Paris, 1889, 79th part of the Bibliothèque de l’Ecole des Hautes Etudes. 96 Acta S. Pelagiæ syriace, ed. GILDEMEISTER, Bonn, 1879; reprinted in the Acta mart. of BEDJAN, VI, 616, and in the Studia Sinaitica of LEWIS, n. IX, London, 1900, among the Lives of the holy women, under the title Select narratives of holy Women: English translation, ibid., n. X. BEDJAN had already printed several of these Lives in vol. V of his Acta mart. 95



monk at the monastery of Mar Yohannan, at Amid, entitled Stories concerning the lives of the blessed Orientals. All of the male and female saints whose stories John wrote were Monophysites and his contemporaries. One can find the list of their names in the second volume of Land’s Anecdota syriaca, p. 32–34 of the introduction; the Syriac text is printed in the same volume, p. 2–288, as found in MS Add. 14647 of the British Museum.97 Among these names are: Simeon, bishop of Beth Arsham, whom we now know beyond doubt belonged to the Monophysite confession; Jacob Baradaeus, apostle of that religion in Syria after whom is named the Jacobite sect; John of Tella; the patriarchs in exile, Severus, Theodosius, Anthime, Sergius and Paul. That biographical work by John of Asia is followed, in Land’s edition, by several supplements taken from other MSS of the British Museum: from the story of the virgin Suzanne, of Mary, Malchus, and finally a Life of Jacob Baradaeus that is more extensive than that of his biography. That second Life of Jacob Baradaeus is also attributed to John of Asia. However, Kleyn, the author of an excellent study on Jacob Baradaeus and his apostolic productions,98 has demonstrated that it is the work of another author.99 We also owe to Kleyn100 what information we have on a Life of John of Tella written by Elias, one of the companions of the ardent Monophysite preacher, a text that is different from the one composed by John of Asia.

VAN DAUWEN and LAND translated it into Latin in the Verhandelingen of the Academy of Amsterdam, 1889. 98 Jacobus Baradæus, de Stichter der syrische Monophysictische Kerk, Leiden, 1882. 99 Ibid., Aanhangsel II, p. 105. Basing his argument on Berlin MS 26 (Sachau 321), KUGENER posits that this author is Mar Thidas, priest and Stylite of the monastery of Phesilta, Biblioth. hagiographique orientale, Paris, 1902, p. 23. 100 Het Leven van Johannes van Tella door Elias, Leiden, 1882. 97



The Life of Peter the Iberian, bishop of Mayouma near Gaza, preserved in the Syriac translation of a now lost Greek original,101 is interesting on several levels; it contains: new notes on the kings and queens of the Iberians and on their conversion to Christianity; precise data on various sites of Palestine and Transjordanian Arabia; and several glimpses of the history of the Church of Alexandria, Peter the Iberian having taken part in the consecration of the patriarch of Alexandria, Timothy Ælure. As various documents attest, the bishop of Mayouma’s reputation in the Orient derived from his remarkable piety rather than from the public functions he assumed. Land published in Syriac the Life of Isaiah the ascetic, written by Zachariah the Scholastic, at the end of the third volume of his Anecdota syriaca, p. 346 ff. AHRENS translated it into German in Die sogenannte Kirchengeschichte des Zacharius Rhetor, Leipzig, 1899, p. 263.102 Zachariah the Scholastic composed, in Greek, the Life of Severus, patriarch of Antioch, in 515 or 516 in Constanstinople. As he explains in the introduction, on writing the biography he had set out to refute the calumnies uttered by adversaries of the patriarch of Antioch, who accused him of having practised paganism in his youth. That document also contains an autobiography by Zachariah in which we learn that he was born near Gaza and that he studied grammar and rhetoric in Alexandria and law in Published by RICHARD RAADE, Petrus der Iberer, Leipzig, 1895, after two MSS. Marr published the Georgian version with a Russian translation, St-Petersburg, in 1896. On other Syriac texts in which Peter the Iberian is mentioned, see Raabe’s edition, p. 6, note. 102 Together with the Life of Isaiah, Zachariah had also written the Lives of Peter the Iberian and of Theodosius of Antinoe, which were translated neither into Greek nor into Syriac. He composed these Lives in Constantinople after the Life of Severus rather than before, as a passage by Zachariah in the Life of Severus had previously led us to believe; see KUGENER, Observations sur la vie de l’ascète Isaïe et sur les vies de Pierre l’Ibérien et de Théodose d’Antinoé par Zacharie le Scolastique in Byzant. Zeitschrift, IX, 464, Leipzig, 1900. 101



Beyrouth. He baptised Severus in Tripoli and actively participated in the prosecutions of pagans.103 The Life of Severus by Zachariah treats the hero’s youth and ends with his consecration as patriarch of Antioch. John, superior of the monastery of Beth Aphtonia, wrote in Greek a Life of Severus that details the patriarch’s struggles in the context of an Orient shaken by constant religious turmoil. The Greek original is lost but we do have a literal Syriac translation prepared by Abbot Sergius bar Karya.104 The Plerophories of John, bishop of Mayouma, constitute a compilation of anecdotic tales, divided into eighty-nine chapters. That work, composed in Greek around 515, is preserved in Syriac in the British Museum MS Add. 14650 and is inserted in an abridged form in the Chronicle of Michael the Syrian.105 It contains interesting tales on the Fathers of the Monophysite Church in the 5th century, especially on Peter the Iberian, and relates what these Fathers said against the Orthodox and the Council of Chalcedon. Other Lives of saints shall be discussed below: see ch. XII, §2, and ch. XIII of the part on ascetic literature.

NAU, Journal asiatique, 9th series, t. IX, p. 531, note 1. The Life of Severus by Zachariah, lost in Greek, has reached us in the form of an ancient Syriac version published first in SPANUTH, Zacharius Rhetor, das Leben des Severus von Antiochien in syr. Uebersetzung, Gœttingen, 1893; and later in Kugener, Vie de Sévère par Zacharie le Scholastique, with a French translation, in the Patrologia orientalis, t. II, fasc. 1, Paris, 1903. 104 Published with a French translation and with fragments concerning Severus by KUGENER, Vie de Sévère par Jean supérieur du monastère de BeithAphthonia in the Patrologia orientalis, t. II, fasc. 3. 105 Edition J.-B. CHABOT, p. 203 (transl., II, p. 69). Abbot NAU has read out a study on these Plerophories at the Congress of Orientalists in Paris, September 1897. He published a French translation of that study in Revue de l’Orient chrétien, 1898–1899; printed separately in Les Plérophories de Jean, évêque de Mayouma, Paris, 1899. 103

X. THE APOLOGETIC TEXTS Apologetic literature is originally Greek, yet a number of ancient texts of that genre survive only in the form of their Syriac translations. A few years back Rendel Harris brought to light a version of the Apology of Aristides held in a 7th century MS from the monastery of St Catherine in the Sinai.1 Thanks to this MS, Harris has established that the apology was addressed to Antoninus Pius, not to Hadrian, as Eusebius claims. As for Armitage Robinson, his study of the Syriac text has shown that the original text was inserted, with various modifications, in the story of Barlaam and Josaphat.2 Batiffol speaks in greater depth of the important publication by Harris and Robinson in his book, La littérature grecque, p. 86. The Syriac MS that contains the apology attributed to Melito presumably also dates to the 7th century. The title is: “Speech by Melito the philosopher (given) in the presence of Antoninus Caesar. He encouraged Caesar to recognise God, showing him the path of truth.” 3 The Syriac text does not include the apology of Melito, which Eusebius discusses in his Ecclesiastical History The Apology of Aristides by J. Rendel Harris with an appendix by J. Armitage Robinson, Cambridge, 1891. Richard Raabe published a German translation and commentary of the apology in Texte und Untersuchungen by GEBHARDT and HABNACH, t. IX, 1892, entitled Die Apologie des Aristides aus dem syrischen übersetzt. Schoenfelder has also translated it into German in Theol. Quartalschrift, 1892, p. 521. 2 That story has been attributed to John of Damascus, in whose works it appears. However, Zotenberg has shown that it dates to before the time of that author, Notice sur le livre de Barlaam et Joasaph, Paris, 1886. 3 CURETON, Spicilegium syriacum, p. 22 ff.; and PITRA, Spicilegium Solesmense, t. II, p. XXXVIII. German translation by WELTE, Theol. Quartalschrift, 1862. 1




(Book IV, ch. XXIV).4 It does, however, contain one of the many apologies that were available in the early centuries of the Christian era, a text attributed to the bishop of Sardis.5 We do not subscribe to the view, defended by some scholars, that the Syriac text is an original work and that the apology was addressed to Caracalla (211–217) by a Christian of Mabbug, or its surroundings, during his stay in Osrhoene. That conjecture is based on the following passage: “The Mesopotamians adored the Jewish lady Kutbi, who had rescued Bakru the abaya of Edessa from his enemies. Concerning Nebo, who is adored in Mabbug, why should I write to you that it is the image of Orphee, the magus of Thrace, when all the priests of Mabbug already know this to be true?” Yet that passage warrants a different conclusion altogether. The event alluded to with reference to Koutbi the Jew and Bakrou the king of Edessa is unknown, but the title of abaya given to that prince is unusual; it is an artificial word derived from aba “father” which literally renders the Greek πατρίκιος (Patrice). The kings of Edessa never bore the title of Patrice. Besides, the Mesopotamians knew that the god Nebo represented the planet Mercury, not Orpheus of Thrace. Other passages on the mythology suggest a Greek source. That apology expands on the common theme of that literary genre: the true God is the sole God, creator of heaven and earth; the gods of paganism are deified ancient kings or heros; the wooden or metallic idols are set apart from the material they are composed of only by the art of the sculptor or smith; God did not The Spicilegium of CURETON contains the Syriac version of that chapter by Eusebius as well as fragments of the works attributed to Melito; the second fragment on faith (Spicileg. of CURETON, p. 32, and Spicileg. of PITRA, II, p. LIX) belongs to St Justin, according to Abbot F. MARTIN in the Analecta sacra of PITRA, IV, p. 29, note. See also G. KRUEGER, Meliton von Sardes oder Alexander von Alexandrien, Zeitschr. f. wissenchaft, Theol., XXXI (1888), 431, ALBERT EHRHARD, Die altchristl. Litteratur, Friburg en Brisgau, 1900, p. 260. 5 GEBHARDT and HARNACK, Texte und Untersuchungen, I, 261; TIXERONT, Les origines de l’Eglise d’Edesse, 9, note 5. Cf. ALBERT EHRHARD, opere cit., p. 250 and 261. 4



reveal himself so clearly as to render impossible the existence of false religions, for he gave man free will and the ability to discern truth from falsehood. Also part of that literature are the Hypomnemata of philosopher Ambrosius, whose Syriac text Cureton published in his Spicilegium, p. 38 ff. The text is as follows: “Hypomnemata, composed by Ambrosius, a Greek chief who converted to Christianity. All the senators, his peers, rose up against him; he took leave of them and proved to them in writing their own silliness.” That text partially reproduces the Λόγος πρὸς Ἕλληνας6 mistakenly attributed to St Justin. The author brought to light the inanity of Greek mythology; he showed that the gods of Homer’s poems act in ways that are unworthy of truly divine beings, thereby proving the superiority of Christianity over paganism. The Syriac document is a translation of a reworked Greek text rather than of the extant Greek text.7 No ancient apology written by a Syrian has yet been recovered. One such text, the apology of the Nestorian patriarch Ishoʿyahb I mentioned by ʿAbdʿisho,8 was probably a defense of Nestorianism addressed to Emperor Maurice. The apology of Christianity, which the Nestorian patriarch Timothy I read out before the Muslims in the presence of Caliph al-Mahdi, is greatly expanded in one of the patriarch’s letters; cf. BRAUN, Oriens christianus, 1901, p. 150.

CURETON has reprinted the Λόγος πρὸς Ἕλληνας below the English translation of the Syriac text. Harnack has devoted a study to that work, of which he reprinted the Greek text with a German translation of the Syriac text by Baethgen, Die Pseudo-justinische “Rede an die Griechen” in the Sitzunsberichte der Berl. Akademie, 1896, p. 627; cf. EHRHARD, opere cit., p. 224. 7 Cf. HARNACK, loco supra cit. 8 ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 109. 6

XI. ECCLESIASTICAL CANONS AND CIVIL LAW §1. — ECCLESIASTICAL CANONS TRANSLATED FROM GREEK The canons of the ancient synods were recorded in Syriac compilations which have survived in MSS held in the Vatican, the Bibliothèque nationale and the British Museum.1 Following the generally accepted order of events, these synods are those of Nicaea, Ancyra, Neocesarea, Gangra, Antioch, Laodicea, Constantinople and Chalcedon. Several MSS also contain the canons of the synods of Ephesus, Carthage and Sardica. There are at least two Syriac translations of the canons of the synod of Nicaea: firstly a translation of the authentic canons by Marutha, bishop of Maipherkat, made at the request of Isaac; secondly a Syriac collation of the so-called arabici2 canons, reproduced in the British Museum MSS Add. 14526 and 14528 and in the Borgia Museum MS n. 4 (now in the Vatican, Cod. Borgiano siriaco 82).3 Abbot F. Martin published, in chronological order, the canons of the synods of Ancyra, Neocesarea and Nicaea in the

ASSEMANI, Cat. Vat., t. III, p. 180; Les manuscrits orientaux de M David au Musée Borgia (moved since to the Vatican), by Pierre CELSOY, in the Zeitschr. für Assyriologie, t. IX, 1894, p. 368; Catal. Zotenberg, p. 23, n. 62; Catal. Wright, p. 1030, Add. 14528 (perhaps dating to 501); p. 1033, Add. 14526 (dating to the 7th century). Cf. GELZER, HILGENFELD and CUNTZ, Patrum Nicænorum nomina…, Leipzig, 1898. 2 See J.-B. CHABOT, Synodicon orientale, Paris, 1902, p. 259, note 3. 3 F. MARTIN, 4th vol. of the Analecta sacra of Card. PITRA, p. XXVIII; F. Cersoy, l. c., p. 368; COWPER, Analecta Nicæna, London, 1857. 1





4th vol. of the Analecta sacra of card. Pitra, n. XXI–XXIII.4 The list of Fathers who attended these synods stands as a heading to the synods of Ancyra and Neocesarea. The canons of the synods of Nicaea are preceded: (1) by a chronological note; (2) by a letter from Constantine to the Fathers of the synod; (3) by the symbol of faith; (4) by a short dogmatic history of the synod’s acts; (5) by a note on the Easter celebration.5 That same volume of the Analecta sacra contains, n. XV, Syriac fragments of the synod of Antioch that condemned Paul of Samosata. Paul de Lagarde has edited the canons of the third synod of Carthage, as found in Paris MS n. 62, in his Reliquiæ juris ecclesiastici syriace, p. 62–88.6 The title of the Syriac version is as follows: “Synod of the eighty-seven bishops, which took place in the African city of Carthage in the time of St Cyprian, the bishop and confessor. Decision of the (eighty-seven) bishops, translated from Several of these canons were inserted in the Nomocanon of ʿABDISHOʿ and the Book of Directions of BAR HEBRÆUS, which we will consider later. 5 These five documents are included in Syr. MS 62 of the Bibliothèque nationale. The London MSS only contain the first three, while the Borgia Museum MS (now in the Vatican, Cod. Borgiano siriaco 82) has, beside the Syriac canons, the symbol of faith, Constantine’s letter and a collation of the seventy-three canones arabici of Nicaea. Cf. COWPER, Syriac Miscellanies or extracts relating to the first and second general concils, London, 1861; OSCAR BRAUN, De sancta Nicæna Synodo; syrische Texte des Marutha von Maipherkat, Munster, 1898; Die Abhaltung der Synode von Gangra in Histor. Jahrb. des Gorresges, XVI, 586; HARNACK, Der Ketzer-Katalog des Rischofs Marutha von Maipherkat in Texte und Untersuch. zur Gesch. der altchrist. Litteratur, n. Folge, IV, 1; RACKHAM, The texts of the canons of Ancyra, Studia biblica, III, Oxford, 1891, p. 195 ff. For the synods of Tyre and Sidon, see NŒLDEKE, Byzantinische Zeitschr., II, 333; OSKAR BRAUN, Syrische Texte über die erste allgemeine Synode von Konstantinopel, in Orientalische Studien Theodor Nöldeke, Giessen, 1906, p. 463. 6 In the Reliquiæ juris eccl. græce, p. 37–55, the Greek is more complete than the text in the Patrologia latina, t. III, col. 1079–1102. As does the Patr. lat., the Borgia Museum MS contains the shorter version under the title Canons of the eighty-four bishops…, F. CERSOY, l. c., p. 369. 4



the Roman language into Greek, regarding those who should be coined heretics.” That decision is followed by two letters from Cyprian addressed to Quintus and Fidus respectively, Reliq., p. 88– 98 (reprinted in the Analecta sacra of card. Pitra, IV, n. XI, p. 72– 77). According to a concluding clause (p. 98), the Syriac version was produced in year 998 of the Greeks, or 687 AD. Already in the first volume of his Monumenta syriaca, p. 1 and 2, Zingerle had made known two fragments of that synod respectively containing the suffrage of Cecilius, bishop of Dispolis,7 and the vow of Polycarp, bishop of Adrumette. These fragments were accompanied by two others concerned with the testimony of Pope Felix I, cited in the fourth session of the synod of Ephesus as well as in the Council of Chalcedon. For the most part these fragments can be found in the apocryphal letter which Pope Julius sent to Prosdocius, published by Paul de Lagarde in his Analecta syriaca, p. 70. The Acts of the second council of Ephesus, known by the name Ephesus Synod of Thieves, are preserved in Syriac in two MSS from the British Museum, Add. 12156 and 14530. The first of these MSS holds the section of the first session concerned with Flavien of Antioch and Eusebius of Dorylee. The second contains the second session dealing with Ibas, his nephew Daniel of Harran, Irenaeus of Tyre, Aquiline of Byblos, Sophronius of Tella, Theodoret of Cyrus and Domnus of Antioch. These documents have been translated into French by Abbot F. Martin (Actes du Brigandage d’Ephèse, Amiens, 1874, and Le Pseudo-Synode connu dans l’histoire sous le nom du Brigandage d’Ephèse, Paris, 1875); into German by Hoffmann (Verhandlungen der Kirchenversammlung zu Ephesus, 1873); and into English by Perry (An ancient syriac document… The second synod of Ephesus, Dartford, 1867). Besides, Perry has published the Syriac text of that synod (Secundam synodum Ephesinam… primus edidit Samuel G. F. Perry, Oxford, 1875). Bedjan has edited8 the Syriac version of a Latin epitome of eleven ecumenical synods based on an Arabic translation by Joseph 7 8

In the Reliquiæ juris eccl., syriace, p. 68, græce, p. 41. Compendium conciliorum œcumenicorum undecim, Paris, 1888.



of Diarbekir from 1693. These synods were: the two in Nicaea, the one in Ephesus, the one in Chalcedon, the four in Constantinople, the fourth in Latran, the second in Lyon and the one in Florence. It appears that the text contained many mistakes and that the editor found himself having to rework most of it. Bedjan has added a new Syriac translation of the twelve anathemas of Saint Cyril and of the second synod of Constantinople. Paris manuscript n. 62, which is so incredibly rich in such documents, also contains: (1) canons taken from a letter that the bishops gathered at Antioch sent from Italy to the bishops of the East;9 (2) rulings collected in the Epistles of St Ignatius which carry the weight of ecclesiastical canons (based on that MS by Cureton, Corpus Ignatianum, p. 192 ff.); (3) an extract from the instruction of Peter, bishop of Alexandria, concerning those who abjured their faith during the persecution (edited by Paul de Lagarde, Reliquiæ juris eccl., syriace, p. 99 to 117; græce, p. 63–73);10 (4) questions addressed to Timothy of Alexandria and the answers to those questions;11 (5) letters by Athanasius of Alexandria, St Basil, St Gregory of Nazianzus, St Damasus of Rome,12 St Gregory of Nyssa on various matters of canon law; (6) forty-five canons of the orthodox Fathers bearing the title “Definition concerned with certain chapters, addressed from the Orient in the form of questions to the Holy Fathers;”13 (7) seven questions and answers entitled “Ecclesiastical canons that the Holy Fathers Constantine, Antoninus, Thomas, Pelagius, Eustache, venerable bishops…, established in the time of the persecution;” 14 (8) seven decisions Compare with CERSOY, l. c., p. 370, 18°. Towards the end of the Syriac version there is a passage which is absent from the Greek original; Abbot F. MARTIN, Analecta sacra of Card. PITRA, IV, p. XXV, note 2. 11 Comp. with ASSEMANI, Catal. Vat., III, p. 181, n. XIII. 12 Comp. with, in CERSOY, l. c., p. 369, 10°, “Two synodicons of pope Damasus, the first directed at Apollinarius and his disciple Timothy, the second at various heresies”. 13 Comp. with Catal. Wright, p. 211 d, 1037, 6. 14 Comp. with Catal. Wright, p. 222 g, 1037, 7. 9




(the third is missing) taken from a letter addressed by the Holy Fathers to two priests named Paul from a town of Cilicia; (9) four decisions taken from a letter from Constantine, metropolitan of Laodicea, to Aba Mark Isaurios; (10) eleven decisions entitled “Extracts from a letter written by a bishop to one of his friends concerning several offences”; (11) five canons of Theodosius of Alexandria; (12) Definition of the penalties incurred by monks for various sins by St Basil (there are twelve canons in Syriac corresponding to the eleven canons in Greek). Manuscript n. 4 of the Borgia Museum, K. VI, vol. 4 (now in the Vatican, Cod. Borgiano sir. 82) contains the synodal letters of Pope Leo to Flavien, bishop of Constantinople, directed at Eutyches.15 The British Museum holds Syriac MSS containing canons of Eusebius, Timothy of Alexandria and Severus of Antioch.16 Texts translated from Greek only have a limited relevance to the history of the Oriental Church. More important for the study of that history are the original Syriac texts, especially those of the patriarchs of Seleucia and Ctesiphon.

§2. — SYRIAC ECCLESIASTICAL CANONS Two Syriac manuscripts contain a collection of the Oriental or Nestorian17 synods: one in the Vatican, Cod. Borgiano siriaco 82 (the old K. VI, 4, of the Borgia Museum); the other in the Bibliothèque nationale, Syr. 332. These two MSS are copies of an original MS of the library of the monastery of Hormizd in Alqosh, near Mosul. According to a note, Elias I, patriarch of the Nestorians († 1049), was responsible for compiling these synods. On the other hand, Chabot argues18 that the suggested date is too late by two centuries: the collection dates back to the end of the 8th century, that is to V. CERSOY, l. c., p. 370, 17°. Catal. Wright, General index, p. 1253. 17 Published by J.-B. CHABOT, Synodicon orientale or Recueil des Synodes nestoriens publié, traduit et annoté, Paris, 1902. OSKAR BRAUN has translated it into German, Das Buch der Synhados, Stuttgart, 1900. 18 Synodicon orientale, p. 12. 15 16



the first years of Timothy I’s time as patriarch (780–823); the addition of the later synods’ decisions completed the collection. These synods are: (1) of Isaac in 410;19 (2) of Yahbalaha I in 420; (3) of Dadishoʿ in 424; (4) of Acacius in 486; (5) of Bar Sauma of Nisibis (in reality six letters from that metropolitan to Acacius);20 (6) of Babai in 497; (7) of Mar Aba I in 544;21 (8) of Joseph in 554; (9) of Ezechiel in 576; (10) of Ishoʿyahb I in 585 (follows: a disciplinary and dogmatic letter addressed to James, bishop of Deirin); (11) of Sabrishoʿ I in 596 (follows: a synodal letter addressed to monks of the monastery of Bar Qaiti); (12) of Gregory I in 605; (13) of George I in 676 (follows: a dogmatic letter addressed to Mina, chorepiscopus of Persia, in 660); (14) and finally of Henanishoʿ II22 in 775. The Paris MS does not contain Ishoʿyahb’s letter to Jacob of Deirin. The Paris MS contains the first synod of Timothy I, patriarch of the Nestorians, part of whose decisions are addressed in letter form to Ephrem, metropolitan of Elam.23

The synod of Isaac, inserted by the Jacobites, had previously been published after Paris MS 62 in LAMY, Concilium Seleuciæ et Ctesiphonti, Leuven, 1868. Lamy studied it once more using the Vatican MS Cod. Borgiano sir. 82, in the Compte rendu du IIIe congrès scientifique des catholiques, Brussels, 1894, 3rd part, p. 85. 20 Published by OSCAR BRAUN in the Actes du Xe Congrès des Orientalistes, Geneva, 1894; and by J.-B. CHABOT, Synodicon orient., p. 525. 21 Bedjan has published a letter by Mar Aba after a Life of that patriarch in his Histoire de Mar-Jabalaha, Paris, 1895. That letter has been translated into French by NAU, Le Canoniste contemporain, Paris, 1891, p. 20; and re-edited by CHABOT, Synodicon orient., p. 80; also comp. with the letter published by ASSEMANI in his Bibl. orient., t. III, part I, p. 76, n. 4. 22 The Vatican MS Cod. Borgiano sir. 82 also holds judicial rulings of that patriarch; F. CERSOY, l. c., p. 372, 31°. 23 J.-B. CHABOT has published that synod, Synodicon orientale, Appendice IV, p. 599. Chabot dates it to 799, following ʿAbdishoʿ, Collectio canonum, Treatise IX, chap. VI. OSCAR BRAUN, who has also published it in Oriens christianus, 1902, p. 283 ff., reckons that the synod dates even further back, to 782. Based on it Braun published a letter by Timothy, as 19



In the Zeitschr. der deut. morgenland. Gesellsch., t. XLIII, p. 388 ff., Guidi studied the two Arabic versions of that collection, respectively produced by Elias Jauhari, metropolitan of Damascus (893) and by Abu al-Faraj Ibn al-Tayyib († 1043). The latter added the last synods of Timothy, Ishoʿ bar Nun24 and Yohannan III. Guidi has compared these versions with the Syriac original contained in the Vatican MS cited above. He has also reproduced the subscriptions of the various synods, together with the names of the bishops mentioned in it. At the end of that study, the alphabetical list of the bishoprics constitutes a useful contribution to the geography of Oriental Mesopotamia and Persia. Gabriel, metropolitan of Basra (884–893), is the author of a bipartite compilation of canons.25 The Nestorian patriarch Elias I (1028–1049) gathered in a short volume the canons, constitutions and precepts on religion.26 Elias bar Shinaya, metropolitan of Nisibis and a contemporary of patriarch Elias, composed four volumes of ecclesiastical decisions.27 ʿAbdishoʿ, metropolitan of Nisibis († 1318), who was struck by the difficulties that the study of the rich judicial literature of the Nestorian Orient presented, resolved to codify the various documents of that literature in order to collect them into a uniform book that would become the reference work among those of his confession. Such is the origin of the Epitome of the Synodal Canons, found in the Vatican MS Cod. Borgiano sir. 82, which he considers to be a detached part of the first synod dated to 790 by ʿAbdishoʿ. 24 The Vatican MS Cod. Borgiano sir. 82 contains canons, laws and legal rulings of that patriarch, as well as questions by deacon Macarius and the patriarch’s answers to those questions, followed by other questions which were not asked by that patriarch; compare with F. CERSOY, l. c., p. 372, 33°–35°. 25 ʿAbdishoʿ’s catalogue in ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 202 and 209. 26 Cf. ibid., part II, p. 262; Vatican MS Cod. Borgiano sir. 82, p. 749–803. 27 ʿAbdishoʿ’s catal. in ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, p. 266. In his Collectio canonum or Nomocanon, Treatise III, ʿAbdishoʿ summarised the chapter On the sharing of heritage by Elias bar Shinaya.



known as the Nomocanon of ʿAbdishoʿ. That compilation is divided into two books, which deal with civil law and ecclesiastical law respectively. Assemani produced a detailed study of it in his Bibliotheca orientalis, t. III, part. I, p. 332 ff.;28 Card. Mai edited it together with a Latin translation by Aloysius Assemani in vol. X of his Scriptorum veterum nova collectio, Rome, 1838. ʿAbdishoʿ had written his Nomocanon while he was still a monk. As a bishop, he composed a treatise on canonical law entitled Rules of Ecclesiastical Judgements divided into two parts of five chapters each. A MS of the work belongs to Chabot, who has published it.29 From as early as the beginning of the 6th century, the Monophysite Syrians also had a collection of their synods.30 The codification work done for the Nestorians by ʿAbdishoʿ had already been undertaken by the Jacobites. In his collection ܽ ‫ܟܬܒ‬, Bar Hebræus gathered entitled the Book of Directions, ‫ܐܳܕܗ ̈ܘܕܝ ܶ̈ܐ‬ the legal texts of the Western Syrians, comprising the ecclesiastical canons and civil laws. That work has been translated into Arabic but it is also attested in Arabic and Syriac in manuscripts now held in the Vatican, the Laurentian of Florence, the Bibliothèque nationale, the Bodleian Library of Oxford, and the Royal Library of Berlin. In vol. X of the Script. vet. Nova collectio, Card. Mai reprinted Aloysius Assemani’s Latin translation of the text. F. Bedjan has edited the Syriac text, Nomocanon Gregorii Barhebræi, Paris, 1898. In terms of civil law,31 Bar Hebræus’s Nomocanon is more complete than ʿAbdishoʿ’s. We also have access to the Nomocanon of David, a Maronite metropolitan, which Thomas, bishop of Kaphartab, translated from Syriac into Arabic, with additions and corrections in Ibid., p. 52, Assemani reprinted the synodal letter of the Western patriarchs to the Orientals regarding the institution of the patriarchate of Seleucia. That letter is taken from book IX, chap. V, of the Nomocanon of ʿAbdishoʿ. 29 Synodicon orientale, p. 609. 30 Cf. WRIGHT, Catal., p. 1030; CHABOT, Synodicon orientale, p. 12. 31 MAI, op. cit., preface, p. XI. In the preface to his edition, p. VIII–X, Bedjan gives the list of subjects treated in each chapter. 28



accordance with the monothelite doctrine. That work is preceded by the letter which Joseph the monk addressed to Thomas, together with the latter’s reply.32 These collections refrained from using previous collections, which are less complete or less systematic, as well as special treatises of which they contained an epitome. It therefore comes as no surprise that a number of legal works from before these collections have been lost. Some have nonetheless survived. Rabbula, bishop of Edessa († 435), left us with three short treatises respectively entitled Canons, Warnings concerning Monks and Injunctions and Warnings Addressed to Priests and Regulars. Overbeck published them, following MSS from the British Museum, in his book, S. Ephræmi syri, Rabulæ, etc., p. 210–221. Abraham, the founder of the Great Monastery on Mount Izla (6th century), is considered to have been the reformer of the ways of the Nestorian monks, which had slackened with the introduction of monasticism in Mesopotamia. Abraham and Dadishoʿ, his successor at the head of the monastery of Izla, composed the canons that governed the monastery, in June 571 and January 588 respectively. Abbot Chabot published these canons with a Latin translation, following a MS from the Borgia Museum, in the report of the Academia dei Lincei entitled Regulæ monasticæ ab Abrahamo et Dadishoʿ conditæ, Rome, 1898. ʿAbdishoʿ had inserted them in his Nomocanon, published, as noted above, by Mai; he did, however, modify and alter them in several ways. Budge, after Mai’s edition, had done an English translation of the canons of Abraham in his edition of the Monastic History of Thomas of Marga, t. I, p. CXXXIV ff., and an analysis of the canons of Dadishoʿ, ibid., p. CXI. Dadishoʿ, a fervent Nestorian, required his monks to adhere wholeheartedly and without reservation to the doctrine preached by Nestorius. John bar Cursus, bishop of Tella of Mauzalat (or simply John of Tella, † 538), one of the ardent apostles of Monophysitism in ZOTENBERG, Catal. des ms. syriaques de la Bibl. nationale, n. 223; comp. with ASSEMANI, Catal. Vat., t. III, p. 202 ff. 32



Mesopotamia, composed Warnings and Precepts in the Form of Canons Addressed to Ecclesiastics and Questions Concerning Various Subjects Addressed by Priest Sergius to John of Tella, with the answers to those questions. These two works are in manuscripts of the British Museum and the Bibliothèque nationale;33 Carolus Kuberczyk edited the first of the two in Canones Johannis Bar Cursus, Leipzig, 1901; Lamy published the second (Dissertatio de Syrorum fide et disciplina in re Eucharistica, Leuven, 1859, p. 62). Extracts of ecclesiastical rulings made by Simeon, metropolitan of Rev Ardashir (7th century), have been preserved in the Vatican MS Cod. Borgiano sir. 82.34 The ascetic rules instituted by Rabbula in Edessa in the 5th century gradually fell into disuse. In the 7th century, Jacob, who had been appointed bishop of that town, attempted to reinstate the old ecclesiastical canons, to no avail. His efforts were opposed by the monks, backed by Julian, the patriarch of Antioch and successor of Athanasius. Faced with this resistance to his authority, Jacob abandoned the episcopal seat and proceeded to the monastery where the patriarch resided; before the monastery’s gate he set fire to an exemplar of the canons he had brought with him, crying out: “These canons upon which you tread and by which you do not abide I hereby burn as superfluous and worthless.”35 Among the many canons composed by Jacob of Edessa,36 several are written in the form of questions addressed to that bishop by the priest Addai, together with the answers to those questions. Paul de Lagarde published those canons, as found in the Paris MS 62, in Reliquæ juris eccl. syriace, p. 117–134, as did Lamy, Dissertatio de Syrorum fide, p. 98–171. Kayser has prepared a more complete

Catal. Wright, see General index, p. 1296, col. 2; Catal. Zotenberg, n. 62, 50° and 51°. 34 CERSOY, l. c., p. 365. To this Simeon is attributed the collection of canons in the Catalogue of ʿAbdishoʿ, B. O., III, part I, p. 279. 35 BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., I, p. 291. 36 See ASSEMANI, B. O., I, 477. 33



edition of it, along with a German translation.37 That edition is based on the two Paris MSS 62 and 111 and on three MSS held in the British Museum. Moreover, Kayser has taken from the Nomocanon of Bar Hebræus the canons of Jacob which are inserted within, albeit in an abridged form.38 Jacob is also the author of a treatise on the degrees of kinship for which marriage should be forbidden.39 George, bishop of the Arabs, a contemporary of Jacob of Edessa and a member of the Jacobite confession, wrote decisions known to us from the Nomocanon of Bar Hebræus (German transl. by Ryssel, Georgs des Arab. Gedichte, Leipzig, 1891, p. 145). Simeon of Taibuteh (around 690) wrote a book on monastic rules, following the catalogue of ʿAbdishoʿ.40 The ecclesiastical decisions of Ishoʿbokht, the metropolitan of Persia (around 800), are to be found in the Vatican MS Cod Borgiano sir. 82.41 Manuscripts from the Vatican, the British Museum and the Bibliothèque nationale contain canons of Quryaqos, the patriarch of Antioch († 817).42 The canons and warnings of John bar Abgar, the Nestorian patriarch († 905), which are cited in the catalogue of ʿAbdishoʿ, are in manuscripts from Rome that Assemani analysed in his Bibliotheca orientalis.43 ʿAbdishoʿ further attributed to that patriarch a series of Die Kanones Jacob’s von Edessa übersetzt und erläutert, Leipzig, 1886; comp. with WRIGHT, Notulæ syriacæ, London, 1887. 38 These same canons are also, with other canons by Jacob of Edessa, in a MS from Cambridge. WRIGHT has published extracts from that MS in his Notulæ syriacæ. 39 Cat. Vat., t. II, p. 244. 40 B. O., III, part I, 181. 41 F. CERSOY, l. c., p. 365, 3°; OSKAR BRAUN, Oriens christianus, 1901, p. 145; comp. with the Catal. of Ebedjésu in B. O., III, part I, p. 195. 42 ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 116 and 342; Catal. Wright, p. 222; Catal. Zotenberg, p. 28; n. 54. The catalogue of WRIGHT, p. 993, n. 47, also mentions the Canons on the clergy by Sergius, bishop of Amphiator (?). 43 B. O., II, 5 and 507; III, part I, 238 ff. 37



ecclesiastical questions, published by Assemani.44 The Vatican MS Cod. Borgiano sir. 82 contains ecclesiastical canons attributed to John, patriarch of the East. For lack of a more precise identification, Abbot Cersoy45 can only assume that John refers to John bar Abgar. However, when Cersoy compared that collection of canons with the works of John bar Abgar which Assemani has analysed, he was unable to find a parallel between the two. The canons of George, metropolitan of Erbil (around 945), are in the Vatican MS Cod. Borgiano sir. 82.46 Ishoʿ bar Shushan, who became patriarch of the Jacobites under the name John X († 1073), authored twenty-four canons for the clergy.47 None of these has come down to us. ʿAbdishoʿ, the metropolitan of Nisibis, composed decisions and canons that have not survived.48

§3. — CIVIL LAW We saw in the previous paragraph that the Syrians’ legal collections contained, besides ecclesiastical canons, civil laws employed in trials which had been referred to the Episcopal jurisdiction by Christians. These laws were based on Byzantine forerunners, which Syrians studied thanks to two collections, as ʿAbdishoʿ notes in the introduction to the third treatise of his Nomocanon. St Ambrose prepared one of these collections at the request of Emperor Valentinian; the other was the collection of laws of Constantine, Theodosius and Leo. The last of these was very widespread in the Middle Ages and was known by the names Statuta imperatorum, Libri basilicon or Leges Constantini, Theodosii et Leonis; there were several Syriac translations of it.

B. O., III, part I, 249. L. c., p. 364–365. 46 F. CERSOY, l. c., p. 398, 11°. An extract in the Linguæ syr. Grammatica by GISMONDI, 2nd ed., Beyrouth, 1900, p. 73 of the Chresth. 47 BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., I, p. 445. 48 ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 360. 44 45



Land was the first to edit the Syriac version contained in the British Museum MS Add. 14528 dating to the early 6th century (Anecdota syriaca, I, p. 30–64); and also made a Latin translation (ibid., p. 128) entitled Leges sæculares e sermone romano in aramæum translatæ. Yet the manuscript contains many mistakes and the translation too is imperfect. Sachau has undertaken, with the collaboration of Bruns, a professor of law in Berlin, a new critical edition of that version with a German translation of the texts (Syrisch-rœmisches Rechtsbuch aus dem fuenften Jahrhundert, Leipzig, 1880). That edition comprises the following texts: (1) the Syriac version, as found in MS Add. 14528; (2) a fragment of the same version contained in MS Add. 18295; that fragment has the two first paragraphs and an introduction lacking from MS 14528; (3) the Syriac version, as found in MS 112 of the Bibliothèque nationale; (4) the Arabic version; (5) the Armenian version. Judging by MS 14528, which is from the early 6th century, the ancient Syriac version must date to the 5th century. The Nestorian patriarch Elias and his contemporary, Elias of Nisibis, used these laws for their collections. As for ʿAbdishoʿ, he mentions the Laws of the Emperors in ten passages of his Nomocanon; in two other passages he attributes them to Ishoʿ bar Nun and Ishoʿbokht. The passages copied by Patriarch Elias and ʿAbdishoʿ differ from the texts in Sachau’s edition. Sachau therefore concludes that in the first half of the eleventh century there must have existed compilations of these laws that were significantly different from those that have survived to this day.49 This view is confirmed by Wright’s discovery of another Syriac version of that work in fragments of a Cambridge MS.50 It is further supported by Cersoy’s note51 on the Borgia Museum MS, K. VI, vol. 3 (now in the Vatican, Cod. Borgiano sir. 82), which reads as follows: “Three Syrisch-rœmisches Rechtsbuch, p. 177. In his Book of directions Bar Hebræus also cites The laws of the emperors, but following their meaning rather than their context. 50 Cf. WRIGHT, Notulæ syriacæ, p. 1–11; WRIGHT and COOK, Catal. of the syr. ms. of Cambridge, p. 600, Add. 2023. 51 Zeitschr. für Assyriologie, t. IX, p. 366, 4°. 49



collections of Roman law. The first is entitled: Laws and Rulings of the Christian Kings Constantine and Leo. The second is given as Another Version of those Same Laws, to which are Added Other Laws. The third bears the following name: Civil Laws of the Romans Made by the Confessor Ambrosius when Valentinian Ordered him to Codify them for the (Provincial) Prefects. That third collection is necessarily the one which ʿAbdishoʿ mentions in his catalogue when he says that Ambrose, bishop of Milan, collected rulings and rules for the provincial prefects at the request of Valentinien (Assemani, B. O., t. III, first part, p. 267 and 269). All three of these collections of Roman law present many differences with the Syriac documents of a similar variety published by Bruns and Sachau. They also seem to diverge significantly from the Syriac version, of which Wright has published fragments (Notulæ syriacæ).” The Vatican manuscript (Cod. Borgiano 82) preserves several treatises of civil law composed by Nestorians. These are: (1) the treatise of Patriarch Mar Aba on what might prevent a wedding from being allowed;52 (2) the rules of ecclesiastical rulings and inheritance composed by Patriarch Timothy I and made up of ninety-nine canons;53 (3) the treatise of the Nestorian patriarch Elias I on inheritance and his synodal rules on successions and causes for forbidding the celebration of a wedding;54 (4) the treatise on the sharing of inheritance compiled by Patriarch Elias I and abridged by Elias of Nisibis; probably an epitome of the treatise of number 3;55 (5) the Laws and Judicial Rulings of ʿAbdishoʿ bar Bahriz, metropolitan of Erbil and Mosul (around 1028). That collection’s BRAUN has published an extract of the said text in the Zeitschr. der deut. morgenl. Gesellschaft, LVII, 1903, p. 562. According to Braun, its author is patriarch Mar Aba I (540–552), although on the basis of the title Chabot attributes it to Mar Abba II, Synodicon orientale, p. 7, note 4. 53 LABOURT has translated these canons into Latin in his thesis De Timotheo I, Paris, 1904, p. 50. Cf. J.-B. CHABOT, Syndicon orientale, p. 10, note 2. The collection was completed in 805. 54 F. CERSOY, l. c., p. 368, 9° and 10°. 55 F. CERSOY, l. c., p. 368, 12°. ʿAbdishoʿ inserted it in his Nomocanon, as we noted above, p. 143, note 27. 52



subject matter is the sharing of inheritance; it is divided into two sections: the first gives the theory on the sharing of inheritance, the second details specific cases.56

F. CERSOY, l. c., p. 365, 1°; comp. with the Catalogue of Ebedjésu, B. O., III, part I, 267. 56

XII. THE HISTORIOGRAPHERS §1. — GENERAL HISTORY The 6th century, when Syriac literature reached its peak, saw the birth of the first historical works of the Syrians. In the early years of the century a chronicle was composed which relates the events that took place in Syria and Mesopotamia from 495 to the end of the year 506. It is the most complete and exact document that we have on the wars of Anastasius I and Kavadh. That history was written in Edessa around 518, for its author speaks of the end of the reign of Anastasius;1 it has survived in the form of a compilation attributed by Assemani to Patriarch Dionysius of Tel Mahre and which has been known to this day by the title Chronicle of Joshua the Stylite. It is under that name that it appeared in Assemani’s detailed analysis of the text, which he found in the compilation of the so-called Dionysius, in his Bibliotheca orientalis, I, p. 260–283. It is also under that name that Abbot F. Martin published for the first time the entire work, together with a French translation. Wright came later, publishing an English translation based on a collation of the editio princeps which Guidi based solely on that one MS.2 Nau has established that the author of that chronicle was unknown and that the text could therefore not be attributed to

Abbot NAU, Analyse des parties inédites de la chronique attribuée à Denys de Tellmahré, Paris, 1898, taken from the Supplément de l’Orient chrétien, 1897. 2 Chronique de Josué le stylite by Abbot PAULIN MARTIN, Leipzig, 1876, in the Abhandlungen für die Kunde des Morgenlandes, t. VI. The Chronicle of Joshua the Stylite, by WRIGHT, Cambridge, 1882. 1




Joshua the Stylite.3 All that can be said from this text is that the author taught in a school of Edessa; he was probably orthodox; he praises Flavian, who abandoned the Jacobites and seems to admonish Anastasius for having forced that patriarch into exile. Nau believes that chronicle was already included in the second part of the history of John of Asia and from there entered the compilation, sole surviving witness of the chronicle. The third part of that compilation is indeed a literal transcription of the second part of John of Asia, a transcription so literal in fact that the narrator (John of Asia) writes in the first person when referring to another passage of the book; the same is true of the little chronicle. Several years later an anonymous writer composed a Chronicle of Edessa, preserved in a Syr. MS in the Vatican (n. 163) but originally from the library of the Syrian monastery of Our Lady, in the desert of Nitria. That chronicle begins in year 180 of the Seleucids (132–131 BC) and ends in 540 AD, which is presumably when it was composed. Very concise when it comes to the first period, its account of events from the 3rd century AD onwards is more detailed. The historical data it contains, especially the exact dates it cites, make it a precious document for the history of both East and West. Assemani has published the entire Chronicle in his Bibliotheca orientalis, I, p 388–417.4 Ludwig Hallier5 published a second edition of the text, revised using Guidi’s manuscript, together with a full critical analysis and a German translation. According to research conducted by Hallier, the sources of the Chronicle of Edessa are Bulletin critique, January 25, 1897, p. 54; Analyse des parties inédites de la chronique attribuée à Denys de Tellmahré, 1898, p. 12; taken from the Supplément de l’Orient chrétien, 1897; comp. with NŒLDEKE, Lit. Centralblatt, February 12, 1898, p. 190. 4 Reprinted, after Assemani, by MICHAELIS in his Chrestomathie syriaque, 2nd ed., Gœttingen, 1786, p. 47 ff. 5 Untersuchungen über die Edessenische Chronik mit dem syrischen Texte und einer Uebersetzung, in the Texte und Untersuchungen by GEBHARDT and HARNACK, t. IX, fasc. 1, Leipzig, 1892. Hallier, p. 3, note 3, believes that the English translation cited in Wright does not exist. 3



documents from Antioch, where the New Year began on the first of September, and a history of the Persians which has not survived. The notes concerning Edessa, borrowed from the town’s archives, cannot be counted in. The author also made good use of the aforementioned Chronicle. Hallier has argued, unconvincingly in our opinion,6 that the author was writing in the late 6th century rather than around 540. That author belonged to the orthodox confession; he recognised the four first ecumenical synods but leaned markedly towards Nestorianism, his orthodoxy being the rather more lax orthodoxy of the Syrians of the early 6th century. Guidi has reprinted the Chronicle of Edessa with a Latin translation in the Corpus scriptorum christianorum orientalium.7 He faithfully reproduced the diacritic signs of that single manuscript. The first half of the 6th century probably also saw the birth of a historical novel by an unknown author who was presumably a monk of Edessa. That novel is divided into three parts: the first contains the story of Constantine and his sons; the second the story of Eusebius of Rome and the woes which Emperor Julian caused him to endure; and the third the story of Jovian (known among the Orientals by the name Jovinian) during the short reign of Julian. That work displays such obvious inaccuracies in both facts and dates, including with respect to Julian’s campaign in the East, that it is of no use to the historian. Yet it contains the best instance of Syriac rhetoric, in a pure and elegant hellenistic style, combined with letters and discourses that bring to mind the historical genre of Titus Livy. It was read far and wide in the East during the Middle Ages and regrettably influenced Syriac historians, such as Bar Hebræus, as well as Arabic historians. Wright8 points out that the said work is probably the one which is attributed to the historian Socrates in ʿAbdishoʿ’s catalogue, where he notes that Socrates composed “a history of the Emperors Constantine and Jovinian.” Revue critique d’histoire et de littérature, June 19, 1893, p. 481 ff. Chronica minora, pars prior, Paris, 1903. 8 Syriac Literature, 2nd ed., p. 100. 6 7



That historical novel is preserved with many lacunae in the British Museum MS Add. 14641, which dates to the 6th century AD. Nothing survives of the first part concerning Constantine and his sons but the final lines on a leaf. The second and third parts, which are mostly complete, are presented as a tale written by Aploris or Apoplaris (?), a close counsellor of Jovien, at the request of Abdel, Archimandrite of Sandrun Mahoze (?), to encourage the conversion of Christians. Nœldeke has produced a remarkable study of that Syriac composition in the Zeitschr. der deut. morgenl. Gesell., t. XXVIII, p. 263–292; he places the date of its composition between 502 and 532. Georg Hoffmann has published the text, as found in the British Museum MS, under the title Julian the Apostate (Iulianos der Abtrünnige, Leiden, 1880). Another manuscript from the British Museum, Add. 7192, dating to the 7th century, contains a fragment of a similar work on Julian’s apostasy. Nœldeke treats that fragment in the same journal, t. XXVIII, p. 660, and attributes it to an author different from the one who composed the previous work. Hoffmann edited that fragment after the first novel, p. 242–250.9 The oldest ecclesiastical history that has come down to us from the Jacobite Syrians was composed by the famous John of Asia (or John of Ephesus) in the second half of the 6th century. As he himself informs us, John divided his work into three parts: the first two, made up of six books each, extended from Julius Caesar to the 7th year of Justin II (572); the third part, also comprising six books, ended in year 585. The author cannot have lived long after that date for he was then already eighty years old. Unfortunately, the first part is entirely lost. Important fragments of the second part are preserved in two MSS from the British Museum, Add. 14647, dating to 688, and Add. 14650, dated to 875; Land published them in the second volume of his Anecdota syriaca, p. 289–329 and 385–391, with a short fragment, p. 363, taken from MS Add. 12154. On the other hand, the author of the On the historical worth of that fragment, see ERNEST MAASS, Analecta sacra et profana, Marburg, 1901. 9



Chronicle of pseudo-Dionysius of Tel Mahre claimed to have composed the third part of his work with the second part of the history of John of Asia. Yet it was believed that this later compilation would provide no information that had not already been gleaned from fragments preserved in London MSS, and hence that there would be no point in editing the third part of pseudoDionysius. Abbot Nau has demonstrated that it was not so, and he came to the conclusion that pseudo-Dionysius of Tel Mahre had literally transcribed in his compilation the entire second part of John of Asia, of which we had come to believe only fragments existed. Nau has indeed recognised that the fragments published by Land appear complete, and in a better condition, in that compilation; he suggests that the surplus of John’s second part is also integrally reproduced therein.10 The third part of the history of John of Asia survives, with numerous and important lacunae, in MS Add. 14640 (7th century), whose author probably also wrote MS Add. 14647, a document that contains fragments of the second part. Cureton published (Oxford, 1853) the third part under the title The third part of the ecclesiastical history of John Bishop of Ephesus. It was translated into English by Payne Smith in 1860, and into German by Schœnfelder in 1862. It begins in 571 in the time of Justin II’s persecution of the Monophysites. John, an ardent defender of the new Jacobite sect, was badly affected by that persecution; thrown into prison or forced into flight, he hastily composed and hid pages of his history; the confused nature of the composition, and presumably also a number of lacunae with which the text is riddled, derive from this imposed haste. The author apologises for these features in chapter Bulletin critique, August 25, 1896; Journal asiatique, 1896, 9th series, t. VIII, p. 346 ff.; Analyse des parties inédites de la chronique attribuée à Denys de Tellmahré, 1898, taken from the Supplément de l’Orient chrétien, 1897. In the latter work, p. 33 ff., NAU has analysed the second part of John of Asia. KUGENER nonetheless notes that the extracts of pseudo-Dionysius, which he published in the Vie de Sévère par Jean de Beith-Aphthonia in the Patrologia orientalis, t. II, fasc. 3, display a writing style which is unlike that of John of Asia, ibid., p. 299, note 2. 10



50 of the second book:11 “When learned people read these stories, they occasionally blame the author for the confused way in which an event is told, often muddled and dispersed across several chapters. However, with regard to the chapters to which this criticism applies, one should bear in mind that many articles were written in the time of the persecution, hence under very difficult circumstances. The manuscripts upon which these articles were written had to be concealed with other documents and books in a number of different locations, at times for up to two or three years. As the author did not readily have access to his earlier writings and did not always recall which events he had already described, he often related the same event in several different chapters. Later events rendered impossible the task of bringing together these notes into one coherent whole.” The troubled times in which John lived were also responsible for the flaws in his composition, the exuberance of his rather unpolished style, and the inclusion of many hellenisms and Greek words. We should add that the different books were not written in the chronological order of the events related; rather they were composed of detached fragments later brought together in a collection. The dates cited in that last part are12: 581 in ch. 39 of book I; 577 in ch. 15 of book II; 582 in ch. 22 of book III; 575, 576, 580 and 585 in ch. 13, 19, 53 and 61 of book IV; and 584 in ch. 25 of book VI. Among what remains of the works of John of Asia, historians will find precise information on the crises endured by the Monophysite Church in the course of the 6th century. John denies being biased: although it is true that he bitterly deplores the suffering endured by his religious companions while ignoring, or even approving of, the calamities which affected his adversaries, he is a genuine and truthful historian, so much so that his work far surpasses the historical compilations produced in Syria.

Ed. CURETON, p. 140. See LAND, Johannes Bischof von Ephesos, der erste syrische Kirchenhistoriker, Leiden, 1856, p. 82. 11 12



The Lives of the Blessed Orientals, which John of Asia composed and gathered in a collection around 565–566, complement, and are of near equal importance to, that author’s ecclesiastical history. For further information on that document the reader is referred to p. 128–129 of this study. During the same period a Jacobite Syrian composed a historical compilation in which he included a large part of the ecclesiastical history (the Greek version of which is now lost) written by Zacharias Rhetor in the late 5th century and comprising years 450–491.13 That compilation, divided into twelve books, has survived in a MS from the British Museum, Add. 17202, dating to the late 6th or early 7th century. In that MS the final chapters of book X as well as the whole of book XI are missing; besides, the beginning and end of book XII are incomplete. Land edited the Syriac text, as found in that MS, in the third volume of his Anecdota syriaca.14 In the Syriac compilation the history of Zachariah occupies books III–VI; the other books I–II and VII–XII come from different sources. In the introduction to the third volume of the Anecdota syriaca, p. XVII–XXIII, Land provides a brief analysis of the content of each of the book’s chapters. From his study we have selected several passages that will give the reader an idea of the type of composition under consideration: Book I, ch. VI, Story of Joseph and Aseneth (see above, p. 70). LAND, Anecdota syriaca, III, p. 5, l. penult.; the compiler says his history extends to year 880 (569 AD). The Syrians had described Zachariah as the bishop of Malatya, confusing him with Zachariah, bishop of Mitylene. On the other hand, as KUGENER demonstrated in La compilation historique de pseudo-Zacharie le Rhéteur, taken from the Revue de l’Orient chrétien, Paris, 1900, one should distinguish Zacharias Rhetor, author of the Ecclesiastical History, from Zacharias Scholasticus, who was appointed bishop of Mitylene. The Greek authors mistook them for one another. 14 AHRENS and KRUEGER have published a German translation of that compilation with critical notes, Die sogenante Kirchengeschichte von Zacharias Rhetor, Leipzig, 1899. HAMILTON and BROOKS have translated it into English, The syriac chronicle known as that of Zachariah of Mitylene, London, 1899. 13



Book I, ch. VII, the Acts of St Sylvester, an important document for the study of the legendary Acts of St Sylvester and the baptism of Constantine; the Greek and Latin MSS on which these Acts were written are not as ancient as the Syriac version. If the Syriac homily on the baptism of Constantine truly is the work of Jacob of Serug,15 then that version dates to at least the early 6th century. Book I, chap. VIII, The Discovery of the Relics of St Stephen.16 Book II, chap. I, The Seven Sleeping Ones of Ephesus (see above, p. 116). Book V, ch. VIII, the Syriac text of the Henotikon of Zeno. Book VIII, ch. III, Homerite martyrs (see above, p. 117). Book X, ch. IV, Letter from Rabbula to Gemelianus, Bishop of Perrhin, on the Misuse of Eucharistic Bread. Overbeck made a separate edition of that letter, which is also included in the Chronicle of pseudo-Dionysius of Tel Mahre (Assemani, B. O., I, 409) according to John of Asia, in S. Ephræmi syri et Rabbulæ… opera selecta, p. 231. Book X, ch. XVI, Description of the Monuments and Decorations of the City of Rome. This chapter follows the one that describes the capture of Rome by Totila, king of the Ostrogoths. In publishing that Description, Guidi stressed its importance for the archaeology of Italy’s capital city.17 Abbot DUCHESNE, Liber Pontificalis, Paris, 1884–1885; FROTHINGHAM, L’omelia di Giacomo di Sarug sul battesimo di Costantino imperator, Rome, 1882, in the memoirs of the Reale Academia dei Lincei, 1881–1882. The legend is also recounted in the Chronicle of pseudoDionysius of Tel Mahre, Dionysii Telmahharensis chronici liber primus, ed. TULLBERG, Upsal, 1848. A German translation, based on Land’s edition and including variants in the British Museum MS Add. 12174, can be found in RYSSEL, Archiv f. das studium der neueren Sprachen und Litter., 1895, 1–54. Some scholars believe in the legend’s Syriac origin, cf. RYSSEL, ibid. and Theol. Zeitschr. aus der Schweiz, 1896, p. 63. 16 BEDJAN has published the Syriac text, as found in a MS now held in Berlin, in Acta mart. et sanct., III, 188. RYSSEL translated it into German, Zeitschr. f. Kirchengeschichte, 1894, 233. 17 GUIDI’s publication (Il testo siriaco della descrizione di Roma nella storia attributa a Zaccaria Retore, Rome, 1885, taken from the Bulletino della 15



Book XII, ch. VII, The Description of the Universe by Ptolemy.18 The author inserted in the chapter a tale on the spread of Christianity beyond the Caspian Gates and on the writing adapted to the language of the Huns. This took place more than twenty years earlier. The books which contain the history of Zachariah, as well as the following books, recount the events that shook the Monophysite Churches of Egypt and of Syria in the 5th and 6th centuries. In that respect, the Syriac compilation of Zachariah is a useful complement to the history of John of Asia. At the end of the third volume (p. 341 ff.), Land printed the tale of the death of Theodosius, bishop of Jerusalem, and the history of Isaiah the ascetic,19 as found in the British Museum MS Add. 12174. The Vatican Syriac MS 145 contains a number of passages taken from the compilation of Zachariah. These extracts are presented as the continuation of the histories of Socrates and Theodoret, largely reproduced in that manuscript. Assemani (B. O., t. II, p. 54) was the first to bring attention to these extracts, which Mai published in tome X of his Script. veter. nova collectio, p. 332–338.

Commissione archeologica di Roma, 1884) is based on MS Vat. syr. 145 and MSS Add. 17202 and Add. 12154. MAI had already given the Syriac text with a Latin translation in his edition of MS Vat. 145, which we will consider later, while SACHAU had translated the text published by LAND in JORDAN’s Topograph. der Stadt Rom, II, 575. In the Bulletino, 1891, GUIDI reedited the Description, with several variants, following the Chronique de Michel le Syrien, ed. CHABOT, 309. Cf. BAUMSTARK, Oriens christianus, 1901, 382. 18 That Description is also included in the 9 th century British Museum MS Add. 14620, see WRIGHT, Catal., p. 803, col. 1. 19 The tale of the death of Theodosius is not the work of Zachariah, as Wright believed, see KRUEGER, Die sogenannte Kirchengeschichte von Zacharias Rhetor, p. XVI, and BROOKS, The syriac chronicle known as that of Zachariah, p. 3, note 4. It is doubtful that the compiler used the History of John of Asia, Krueger, ibid., p. XLI; BROOKS, p. 5.



They contain, among other documents, Simeon of Beth Arsham’s letter and the aforementioned description of Rome. Syriac authors of the 6th-century who wrote about the history of the Church already had access to versions of the Greek histories of Eusebius, Socrates and Theodoret; but the works of Sozomen were little known to the Syrians. The version of the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius is preserved, with lacunae, in two main MSS from the Syrians’ monastery in the desert of Nitria: one of them, which is currently in St Petersburg, dates to 462; it contains the ten books of Eusebius, with the exception of the sixth; moreover, of the fifth and seventh only fragments remain. The other MS, from the 6th century, is in the British Museum, Add. 14639; it only contains the five first books and the first has lacunae; parts of the index of chapters I, II and III are missing. Various fragments are also to be found in several manuscripts held in the collections of the British Museum; the most important ones (chap. XVI, XVII and XXV of book VI) are those of MS Add. 14620. The Armenian version, printed in 1876 following MSS from the Library of Mechitarists in Venice, is based on the Syriac version. It has the advantage of being ancient as well as accurate and virtually complete, and is of great use for the critique of the Syriac version.20 In his Armenian history, pseudo-Moses reports that Eusebius did the translation at the request of Mesrop († 441); we were led to believe that the Syriac version must have existed for about a century by the time it passed into Armenian; it would have been done in the lifetime of Eusebius or soon after his death. Yet now that we know that the history attributed to Moses of Chorene is a much later compilation, in which legend holds as prominent a place as history, that certainty has vanished. As Merx has also argued, we can nonetheless still adhere to the tradition, echoed by pseudo-Moses, on the age of the Armenian version. MERX, De Eusebianæ hist. eccl. versionibus syriaca et armeniaca in the acts of the fourth Congrès des Orientalistes, Florence, 1880, I, 199 ff., and Preface of the edition by NORMAN MAC LEAN, p. XIII–XVII, cited below. 20



The Syriac version was based on a Greek original which contained numerous, and at times superior, differences with the current Greek text. It is remarkably accurate and, despite the mistakes and omissions it contains, it provides a valuable document for a new critical edition of the History of Eusebius. Wright had taken upon himself to produce an edition of the Syriac version, but the death of the respected Orientalist brought that project to a halt. Norman MacLean, with Merx’s help for Armenian, resumed the work that Wright had begun. The completed edition was published in 1898 in Cambridge.21 A year earlier, Bedjan had published in Leipzig a first edition of the text based on the St Petersburg MS and the British Museum MS Add. 14639.22 MacLean’s publication, which is more complete, is based on the same MSS; it adds in an appendix the chapters preserved in MS Add. 14620; besides, it gives the variants contained in the Armenian version. ʿAbdishoʿ mentions in his catalogue23 a Syriac version of the Chronicle of Eusebius whose author was Simeon of Beth Garmai, a writer who lived in the 7th century AD. That version is now lost. Jacob of Edessa revised the Chronicle of Eusebius and extended it from the 20th year of Constantine to 692 (the date of Jacob’s revision).24 We know that Michael the Syrian used this

The ecclesiastical history of Eusebius in syriac by the late William Wright and Norman M. Lean, with a collation of the ancient armenian version by D r Adalbert Merx. EBERH. NESTLE translated it into German, Des Eusebius Kirchengeschichte aus dem Syrischen übersetzt, Leipzig, 1901, in the Texte und Untersuch… neue Folge, VI, 2; cf. Zeitschr. der deut. morgenl. Gesellschaft, 1902, p. 559. 22 Histoire ecclésiastique d’Eusèbe de Césarée. CURETON had previously published several passages of the Syriac version, Ancient syriac documents, p. 1 ff.; as had PAUL DE LAGARDE, Prætermissorum libri duo, p. 249. 23 ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 168. 24 See a note by Theodosius of Edessa in Michel le Syrien, ed. CHABOT, p. 122. On page 452, Michael says that the chronicle of Jacob went up to 1021 of the Seleucids, i.e. 710 AD. The period between 692 21



extended text to write his own Chronicle as he regularly cites it. Fragments of Jacob’s work are preserved in the British Museum MS Add. 14685.25 The first part of the compilation of pseudo-Dionysius of Tel Mahre (see below) contains an epitome of the Chronicle of Eusebius.26 The British Museum MS Add. 14643 (8th century) contains all but ten leaves of a chronicle. It is a compilation divided into four parts: the first part, which is also the longest, ends in year 641; the second in 570; the third in 636; and the fourth in 529. A brief history of synods up to the Council of Chalcedon and a catalogue of caliphs follow. The Chronicle of Eusebius was used in it.27

(date of the composition) and 710 may have been the result of an addition by a disciple of Jacob of Edessa. 25 Catal. Wright, p. 1062. E. W. BROOKS published the fragments with a Latin translation in the Corpus script. christian. orientalium; ser. III, t. IV, Chronica minora, Paris, 1905. Brooks had previously edited the chronological canons with an English translation in the Zeitschr. der deut. morgenl. Gesell., t. LIII, 1899, p. 261 and 550. 26 Published by TULLBERG, Dionysii Telmahharensis Chronici liber primus, Upsal, 1851; SIEGFRIED and GELZER have translated it into Latin, Eusebii Canonum epitome ex Dionysii Telmaharensis Chronica petita, Leipzig, 1884. ALFRED VON GUTSCHMID, in his collation of that translation, Untersuchungen über die syrische Epitome der Eusebischen canonen, Stuttgart, 1886, has brought attention to important documents for the study of the Chronicle of Eusebius and the Syriac epitome. 27 E. W. BROOKS has edited that chronicle, with a Latin translation by J.-B. CHABOT, in the Corpus script. christian. orientalium; ser. III, t. IV, Chronica minora, Paris, 1904. E. RŒDIGER gave passages from the text in the 2nd edition of his Chrestomathy, p. 105, and he printed the Latin translation after the Schœne edition of the Chronicle of Eusebius: A. SCHŒNE, Eusebii chronicon, Berlin, 1875–1876. LAND, who took the Jacobite priest Thomas for the author of that chronicle, published its third part under the title Liber Chalipharum in his Anecdota syriaca, t. I (text, p. 103–122; Latin translation, p. 2–24). B. H. COWPER, Notes and Queries, London, 1856, has translated the catalogue of caliphs into English.



The first leaf of the British Museum MS Add. 14461 contains a half-erased passage of a historical text which Wright reproduced in his catalogue of the Syr. MSS held in that museum, p. 65, n. 94. Nœldeke reedited the said passage in the Zeitschr. der deut. morgenl. Gesell., 1875, t. XXIX, p. 76 and following, and he stressed its importance for the history of the Arabs’ conquest of Syria; it gives the date of 20 August 636 for the battle of Yarmouk, after which the Romans abandoned Syria.28 The British Museum MS Add. 17216 contains fragments of a short Syriac chronicle composed by a Maronite in Palestine around the 8th century. The first part is of no interest. What survives of the second part contains dates as well as descriptions of the time of Muavia. These we find in a slightly modified form in the works of Theophanes and the later Syriac historiographers.29 A monk from the monastery of Qartamin wrote a chronicle ending in year 846. The tale is far more concise for the period up to 795 than for the subsequent years, which appear to have been added on at a later date. That chronicle is in the British Museum MS Add. 14642.30 The same manuscript contains fragments of an anonymous chronicle on years 754 to 813 which Brooks published with a Latin translation in the Corpus script. christian. orientalium: Chronica minora, Paris, 1905.31 Also included within that volume of the Chronica Reprinted by BROOKS, with a Latin translation by CHABOT, in the Corpus script. christian. orientalium: Chronica minora, Paris, 1904. 29 BROOKS published the second part with a Latin translation by CHABOT in the Corpus script. christian. orient.: Chronica minora, Paris, 1904. Cf. NŒLDEKE, Zeitschr. der deut. morgenl. Gesellschaft, XXIX, p. 82; NAU, Opuscules Maronites, taken from the Revue de l’Orient Chrétien, Paris, 1899 and 1900. 30 Edited by E.W. BROOKS, with a Latin translation by CHABOT, in the Corpus, cited above, t. IV, Chronica minora. He had already edited the last part in 1897 in the Zeitschr. der deut. morgenl. Gesellschaft, LI, 569. Cf. NAU, Revue de l’Orient chrétien, 1896, p. 396, and 1903, p. 630. 31 Brooks had previously edited them with an English translation in the Zeitschr. der deut. morgenl. Gesellsch., t. LIV, p. 195. 28



minora are: the fragments of the Chronicle of Jacob of Edessa, mentioned earlier; three tales from the Berlin MS Sachau 315, which Brooks edited with a Latin translation; a short chronicle from the British Museum MS Add. 14683 also published by Brooks; a description of the people and countries, which Brooks also published after the British Museum MS Add. 25875; an opuscule on language families which Brooks based on MS Add. 14541 of that same museum; a fragment of pseudo-Diocles published by Lagarde in his Analecta syriaca, p. 201, and reprinted by Guidi with a Latin translation after MS Add. 12152 from the British Museum and a MS belonging to Nœldeke; and a Nestorian document which Goeller included in Oriens christianus, 1901, p. 80, and which Chabot re-edited with a Latin translation. Far more important than these documents is the little Nestorian chronicle, which Guidi has edited and Nœldeke translated into German with critical notes.32 That chronicle is a mine of information on the final years of the Sassanian dynasty. According to Nœldeke it was written in Iraq or Khouzistan around 680, and indeed the last events it records date to that year. It is entitled: “Various tales of the ecclesiastical and secular histories since the death of Hormizd, son of Khosro, up to the end of the Persian kingdom.” The first chapters contain the ecclesiastical history of that period; the following chapters are made up of various notes which the author appears to have borrowed from several sources. Whether that history is complete is a matter of some debate, for it may in fact be the last part of a more extensive chronicle. Dionysius of Tel Mahre, patriarch of Antioch († 845), composed an as yet unrecovered history dedicated to John of Dara

GUIDI, Un nuovo testo siriaco sulla storia degli ultimi Sassanidi, Leiden, 1891; NŒLDEKE, Die von Guidi herausgegeben syrische Chronik übersetzt und commentirt, Vienna, 1893. Guidi reprinted that chronicle with a Latin translation in the Corpus script. christian. orientalium; Chronica minora, ser. III, t. IV, Paris, 1903. 32



entitled Annals; only a fragment survives in the Vatican Syr. MS 164, published by Assemani in his Bibliotheca orientalis, II, 72–77. It is worth mentioning here what Michael the Syrian says of that history, which he used for his Chronicle:33 “The wise Dionysius (dubbed Dionysius of Tel Mahre), a patriarch, had his Chronicle end here. He divided it into two parts and sixteen books, each part comprising eight books arranged into chapters. He composed it at the request of John, metropolitan of Dara. In that Chronicle is recorded a period of 260 years, from the beginning of Maurice’s reign (i.e. year 894 of the Greeks) to year 1154. That date was marked by the death of Theophilus, Emperor of the Romans, and Abu Ishaq, king of the Arabs. That year also saw the beginning of the rule of Harun, son of Abou Ishaq, over the Arabs, and of Michael, still but a young child, over the Romans (although his mother effectively governed the empire).” Long passages from the Chronicle of Dionysius were inserted into the Chronicle of Michael the Syrian. Likewise, extracts from Michael’s work were included in the Ecclesiastical Chronicle of Bar Hebræus. Assemani, who brought to light a Syriac chronicle in another Vatican MS, n. 162, believed that Patriarch Dionysius was also the author of that composition, an abridged chronicle of his Annals. It is a historical compilation divided into four parts that extends from the origin of the world to the year 775. The first part ends with Constantine the Great. The main source for that period is the Chronicle of Eusebius, summarised in an epitome (see above, p. 163–4). Besides, the compiler made use of the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius, of the Chronography of Julius Africanus,34 of a Chronicle of Edessa that enabled Gutschmid to establish the chronology of that town’s kings,35 of the Cave of Chronique de Michel le Syrien, ed. J.-B. CHABOT, p. 554 (transl. t. III, fasc. I, p. 111). Cf. NAU, Journal asiatique, 1896, 9th series, t. VIII, p. 526. 34 VON GUTSCHMID, Die syrische Epitome der Eusebischen Canones, p. 42. 35 VON GUTSCHMID, Untersuchungen ueber die Geschichte des Kœnigreichs Osrohëne, 1887, in the Memoirs of the Academy of St Petersburg, t. XXXV, n. 1. 33



Treasures (see above, p. 68–69), of the History of Alexander the Great,36 of the Story of the Seven Sleeping ones of Ephesus (see above, p. 116), and of the De bello judaico of Josephus. The first part was edited by Tullberg.37 The second part, which contains the period from Constantine to Theodosius the Younger, is virtually entirely taken from the history of Socrates; the author added several notes borrowed from Syriac documents. Although still unpublished, Abbot Nau has produced an analysis of this part.38 The third part, which ends in the time of Justin II, reproduces the second part of the history of John of Asia (see above, p. 156– 157). Among other texts, it contains the chronicle attributed to Joshua the Stylite (see p. 153) and Simeon of Beth Arsham’s letter (see p. 117). The fourth and final part is the author’s own work. Assemani published numerous extracts from this part in his Bibliotheca orient., II, p. 98–116, and Abbot Chabot published the entire text together with a French translation (Chronique de Denys de Tell Mahré, quatrième partie, Paris, 1895). Although very concise for previous periods, it does nonetheless provide a thorough history of the 8th century. It contains numerous historical notes, especially for the period of Arabic domination. The author unfortunately lacks method and historical perceptiveness; he confuses dates and events and describes situations that belong to previous centuries. It is nonetheless a valuable document for the historian, provided that it used with caution. As for the tales of the final years, they are rather more trustworthy. Besides, the style of its author was unsatisfactory; he was more preoccupied with lecturing his readers than with expressing his thoughts elegantly. Chabot writes (p. IV of


Edited by BUDGE, The history of Alexander the Great, Cambridge,

1889. Dionysii Telmahharensis chronici liber primus, Upsal, 1851. Analyse des parties inédites de la chronique attribuée à Denys de Tellmahré, in the Revue de l’Orient chrétien, 1897. 37 38



the preface to the Syriac text) that “it would be difficult to find a writer whose style is more incorrect and bizarre.” Chabot’s edition revealed to Nau and Nœldeke the mistake of Assemani, who saw in that work an abridged chronicle of Dionysius of Tel Mahre. Nau and Nœldeke recognised simultaneously and independently from one another 39 that the author of that work, which is dedicated to George, chorepiscopus of Amid, to Euthalius, archimandrite (of the monastery of Zuqnin), and to the periodeutic physician Lazarus, was a monk of the monastery of Zuqnin, who wrote around 775, before the time of Dionysius. Nau believes that monk was Joshua the Stylite (see above, p. 153–154). The Chronicle of Michael the Syrian, patriarch of the Jacobites of Antioch, has been found in a Syriac MS of the library of the Jacobite church of Urfa (Edessa) and is currently being published under the direction of Abbot Chabot.40 It is a general history extending from the origins of the world to the author’s time. It was composed in 1196 but ends in 1193 as the final passages are lost; it is made up of twenty-one books divided into chapters. Most of the chapters are divided into three columns: the middle one focuses on civil history; another is devoted to ecclesiastical history; finally the third gives as synchronisms various tales that do not appear in the middle column. The title and beginning were on a leaf that has not NAU, Bulletin critique, issue of June 15, 1896; Journal asiatique, 1896, series, t. VIII, p. 346 ff. NŒLDEKE, Wiener Zeitschrift, July 1896. 40 Chronique de Michel le Syrien, patriarche jacobite d’Antioche, 1166–1199, éditée pour la première fois et traduite en français, by J.-B. CHABOT, Paris, t. I, 1899–1900; t. II, 1901–1904; t. III, fascicule 1; fascicules 2 and 3 of t. III remain to be published. We previously knew that chronicle only from an abridged Armenian version, which LANGLOIS translated into French: Chronique de Michel le Grand, patriarche des Jacobites, Venice, 1868. The Armenian text has been edited in Jerusalem, first in 1870 and then in 1871. There is an Arabic translation of the Chronicle of Michael in the British Museum MS Orient. 4402. The Arabic version appears to have been based on the Syriac manuscript of Orfa, for it presents the same lacunae and mistakes as that manuscript. 39




yet been recovered, and the manuscript is riddled with other lacunae of varying degrees of importance. The part concerned with the time prior to Michael is nothing more than a compilation, yet it is a precious compilation which contains citations and texts taken from works that are now lost. As for the part concerned with events from the author’s lifetime, it is an important contribution to the history of the crusades. Michael cites his sources and includes in his work notes on otherwise unknown Syrian authors:41 Quros (Cyrus), a priest of Serug who wrote a chronicle extending from Justin II to Tiberus (565–588); John the Stylite, a monk of the monastery of Litarba (7th century) who composed a computation of years; Gurya, author of a chronicle stretching from Justinian to Heraclius; Ignatius of Malatya († 1094), who composed an abridged chronicle beginning with Constantin; John of Kaisoum († 1171), whose chronicle is cited by Michael. Bar Hebræus († 1286) is the author of two chronicles: the Chronicon syriacum and the Chronicon ecclesiasticum, in which he summarised the universal history from creation to his time. The first chronicle is devoted to secular history. In his preface the author warns us that he filled the lacunae of previous books, no one having written on the topic since Patriarch Michael, who had composed his chronicle eighty years earlier. In reality, the Chronicon syriacum is an abridged version of the Chronicle of Michael the The Syriac title, placed at the head of the Arabic version in the British Museum MS Orient. 4402, attributes the text to an unknown author named Maribas, see NAU, Journal asiatique, 9th series, t. VIII, p. 523 ff. That title is apocryphal according to Chabot, La chronique de Michel le Syrien in the Comptes rendus de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, proceedings of the session which took place on July 28, 1899, p. 479. The MS of the Bibliothèque nationale, Syr. 306, contains extracts from a chronicle in Garshuni by Maribas the Chaldean; Frédéric Macler, who published them in the Journal asiatique, May-June 1903, p. 491, saw in them fragments of an ancient chronicle, but Chabot has shown in the same Journal, March-April 1905, p. 251, that a modern compiler took these extracts from the MS in Karshuni held in London, Orient. 4402. 41



Syrian; for the part concerned with events that occurred after Michael’s time, Bar Hebræus brought together the Syriac, Arabic and Persian documents held in the library of Maraga, a town in Azerbaijan. In 1789, Bruns and Kirsch reprinted a first edition of the Chronicon syriacum together with a Latin translation; the text and the translation are equally incorrect.42 In 1890, Bedjan produced a far better second edition43 of the Syriac text. In the final years of his life Bar Hebræus did an Arabic collation of his first chronicle under the title Abridged History of the Dynasties, to which he added new notes borrowed from Muslim literature. Pocock was the first to publish that collation (Oxford, 1663), and included a Latin translation. Salhani published it a second time in Beyrouth in 1890, without any translation but with an index of proper names and a concordance of the Hijra and Christian dates. MS 167 of the Bodleian Library of Oxford contains the first part of the Chronicon syriacum. To complement that text it also includes three other historical documents: the first, entitled Expedition of the Huns, of the Persians and of the Mongols in the Province of Diarbekir, goes from 1394 to 1402; the second, entitled Devastation of Timour-Khan in Tur Abdin, comprises years 1395–1403; and the third, a chronical fragment, contains tales concerned with years 1394–1493. Bruns edited them under the title Appendix ad Chr. BarHebræi in the Repertorium für bibl. und morg. Litteratur of Paulus, Iena, 1790, I, p. 1–116. Behnsch reedited the third text in 1838.44 The Chronicon ecclesiasticum is divided into two parts. The first part, beginning with Aaron, gives a concise description of the period leading up to the Christian era. Bar Hebræus includes the Bar-Hebræi Chronicon syriacum, Leipzig, 1789 (Syriac text), and Gregorii sive Bar-Hebræi Chronicon syriacum, Leipzig, 1789 (translation). 43 Gregorii Barhebræi Chronicon syriacum, Paris, 1890. BEDJAN used the works that LORSBACH, ARNOLD, MAYER and BERNSTEIN published on the edition by BRUNS and KIRSCH. Bernstein had collated the Vatican and Bodleian MSS in view of a new edition. 44 Rerum sæculo quinto decimo in Mesopotamia gestarum librum e codice bibliothecæ Bodleianæ syriace edidit et interpretatione latina illustravit DrOttomar Behnsch, Breslau, 1838. 42



history of the Western Syrian Church and the patriarchs of Antioch until 1285; an anonymous author resumed his work and brought it up to year 1495. The second part, devoted to the Eastern Syrian Church, contains the history of the Jacobite maphrians 45 and Nestorian patriarchs. Bar Hebræus had completed it in 1286, the year of his death; Bar Sauma, Bar Hebræus’s brother, continued it until 1288 and an anonymous author until 1496. Abbeloos and Lamy46 produced an edition, with a Latin translation, of the Chronicon ecclesiasticum, to which Assemani often refers in his Bibliotheca orientalis. The editors checked the facts contained in Bar Hebræus against the chronicle of Elias of Nisibis, discussed below. One of Bar Hebræus’s sources used in the second part of the Chronicon ecclesiasticum is the Book of the Tower by Mari ibn Suleiman, a Nestorian author of the 12th century. Despite it being an Arabic text, it warrants a few lines here. The Book of the tower of Mari is preserved in two Arabic manuscripts from the Vatican, 108 and 109, and in a MS held in the Bibliothèque nationale, arabe 190. It is divided into two parts: one theological and dogmatic, the other theological and historical. The latter contains a concise history of the Nestorian patriarchs that ends with ʿAbdishoʿ bar Moqli of Mosul († 1147) but was continued until 1317. Saliba ibn Yohanna of Mosul and Amr ibn Matta al Tyrhani, who lived in the first half of the 14th century, each produced an abridged collation of the Book of the Tower. The text is identical in both works, with the exception of a few additions in Saliba’s edition. We do not know which of the two copied the other; it may have been Amr, if we are to believe that he subsequently deleted Saliba’s additions.

The bishops responsible for the Jacobites of the eastern provinces were known as maphrians. They first settled in Tagrit, south of Mosul, and later north of that town, in the monastery of Mar Matai. Bar Hebræus was himself a Maphrian of the East. 46 Gregorii Barhebræi Chronicon ecclesiasticum, I–III, Leuven, 1872–1877. OVERBECK had printed the beginning of the second part in S. Ephræmi syri… opera selecta, Oxford, 1865, p. 414–423. 45



Saliba’s collation is in the Vatican MS n. 41 (from the library of the Neophytes) and, in an incomplete form, in the MS K. VI, vol. 14, of the Borgia Museum (now in the Vatican). As for Amr’s, it has survived in the Vatican Arabic MS n. 110, which appears to have been written by the author himself.47 In 1896–1899, F. Gismondi published the section of the Book of the Tower relating to the Nestorian patriarchs. The collation of Amr and Saliba, which is is sometimes longer than the original work and displays a different writing style, has been published in extenso.48 The chronicle that Elias bar Shinaya, metropolitan of Nisibis, composed in 1008 has come down to us in a single document, the British Museum MS Add. 7197.49 That manuscript, described in the catalogue of Rosen, p. 86–90, dates to the time of the author. It was not, however, written by the hand of Elias himself, as was once believed. Elias probably only wrote the ancient part of the Arabic text.50 The pages are divided into two columns: the first contains the Syriac text, the second the Arabic version, which was largely written by Elias himself. It begins with several chronological tables, a list of the popes up to the Council of Chalcedon,51 a list of the patriarchs of Alexandria up to that same date, lists of the various dynasties,52 and the catalogue of Nestorian patriarchs up to the Vat. MS 687 contains part of the text, which is identical to MS 110. In the Paris Bibliothèque nationale MSS, see Catal. de Stane, n. 190, 191, 192; on an incomplete MS from Berlin, see Catal. Sachau, n. 116, p. 407; on another incomplete MS in Cambridge, see Catal. Wright and Cook, Add. 3293, p. 965. 48 Maris Amri et Slibæ de Patriarchis Nestorianum, commentaria, Rome; pars prior, Maris textus et versio latina, 1899; pars altera, Amri et Slibæ textus, 1896; versio latina, 1897. 49 Berlin MS 102 (Sachau 108), fol. 144–147, contains a passage taken from that chronicle, see Catal. Sachau, p. 359. 50 WRIGHT, Syriac Literature, 2nd ed., p. 236, note 6. 51 It was inserted in the ABBELOOS and LAMY ed. of the Chron. eccl. of BAR HEBRÆUS, t. I, p. 37–38. 52 LAMY published the list of Sassanian kings in Elie de Nisibe, sa chronologie, Brussels, 1888, p. 28 (Syr. text, p. 41). 47



time of John V († 905). The chronology proper comprises events in the East between 25 and 1018 AD. Unfortunately the manuscript is incomplete, especially for the period prior to the rise of Islam; for the following period years 169–264 and 361–384 of the Hijra are missing. That chronicle is especially precious in that it indicates under each paragraph the sources from which Elias took his notes; it informs us on the titles of a number of historical works that are now lost. As can happen with such compilations, the same event is occasionally related under several years and after different documents.53 Lamy published the portion that ends with the Muslim conquest.54 Bæthgen55 had previously edited the following passages. Rahmani has begun work on the edition of a chronicle divided into two parts: the first part extends from the origins of the world to Constantine; the second from Constantine to the early 13th century. The author composed it in Mesopotamia, possibly in Edessa. The recently published fascicule contains the period from the creation to the Muslim conquest.56 That fascicule holds an interesting description of the town of Edessa and its monuments. In Prætermissorum libri duo, p. 90–93, Paul de Lagarde printed extracts from a brief chronology of ʿAbdishoʿ, metropolitan of Nisibis († 1318). These passages end with the Nestorian patriarch Ishoʿ bar Nun († 827). Though not belonging to the history proper, the Chronology written by Simeon of Shanklawa at the end of the 12th century at the request of his student John bar Zobi should also be mentioned here. It consists of a calendar and an explanation of the different eras, organised in the form of questions and answers. Together with his analysis and partial translation of the treatise Friedrich NŒLDEKE, Litterarisches Centralblatt, July 12, 1884, p. 980. Elie de Nisibe, sa chronologie, Brussels, 1888, with a French translation. 55 Fragmente syrischer und arabischer Historiker, Leipzig, 1884, with a German translation. 56 Chronicon civile et ecclesiasticum anonymi auctoris quod ex unico codice Edesseno primo edidit IGNATIUS EPHRÆM II RAHMANI, Mount Lebanon, 1904. 53 54



Mueller printed several passages from the Syriac text.57 The British Museum MS Add. 17156 contains three letters on the chronology addressed by Severus Sebokht to the periodeut Basil in Cyprus. All of these chronicles testify to the prominent place occupied by ecclesiastical and secular history in Syriac literature. Had all the historical works of the Syrians survived, its place would be known to have been even more important than is believed; unfortunately a number have disappeared. Of these the title or name of the author are known to us only from citations in the work of later writers. Michael the Syrian, for instance, records several such names. Elias of Nisibis, in his chronicle mentioned above, cites: Alahazeka (7th century?); Mika (same time period); Barsahde (around 735); Cyprian of Nisibis (who died in 767); Pethion (8th century?);58 Daniel son of Moses (8th century?); Ishoʿdnah, bishop of Basra (late 8th century);59 Henanishoʿ, bishop of Hira (around 900); Aaron (same time period); Elias of Anbar (around 922); Simeon, Jacobite deacon (around 950); and anonymous chronicles by Jacobite patriarchs, Nestorian patriarchs and metropolitans of Nisibis. In his catalogue60 ʿAbdishoʿ also mentions the following Nestorians: Barhadbshabba, Henana’s disciple in the School of Nisibis who was later appointed bishop of Holwan (7th century);61 Ishoʿ Zeka, also known as Zeka Ishoʿ or Meshihazeka (same time

Die Chronologie des Simeon Schanqlâwâjâ, Leipzig, 1889. An extract can also be found in the chrestomathy entitled The Book of Crumbs,ܳ ‫ܟܬܒܘܢܐ‬ ‫ܕܦܪܬܘܬܐ‬, p. 225, Ourmia, 1898. 58 Bæthgen believed him to have been the Nestorian patriarch Pethion, who died in 740. However, as Wright points out, the notes attributed to Pethion are said to date from 765 and 768. 59 See the following section on Particular Histories. 60 ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 148–231. 61 A. MINGANA, Narsai doctoris syri Homiliæ et Carmina, I, p. 32–39, Mosul, 1905, published passages on the chronicle of Barhadbshabba relating to the Schools of Edessa, Nisibis and Seleucia, after a MS which was in his possession in Mosul and a MS from Siirt. Cf. J.-B. CHABOT, Journal asiatique, July-August, 1905, p. 157. 57



period);62 Daniel bar Maryam (around 650);63 John of Beth Garmai (around 660); Elias of Merv (same time period); Atken, monk of the monastery of Apnimaran (same time period);64 Theodore Bar Koni (early 7th century); Simeon of Kashkar (around 754); Solomon of Haditha (around 760); George of Shuster (around 770); Simeon of Karka (around 800).65 The Book of Chastity, which will be discussed in the next chapter, mentions the ecclesiastical history of Gregory, metropolitan of Nisibis (late 6th century). In his History of Dynasties, Bar Hebræus cites the history of the Maronite Theophilus of Edessa († 785). In his Syriac lexicon, Bar Bahlul repeatedly relies upon the chronicle of Hunayn († 873). The biographer of Moses Bar Kepha († 903) attributes an ecclesiastical history to that author.66

The chronicle of Meshihazeka, which Mingana dates to the 6th century, shortly before that of Barhadbshabba, was addressed to a certain Pinhes and focused exclusively on the history of Adiabene. Mingana was able to consult a MS of that chronicle: A. MINGANA, Réponse à M. l’abbé Chabot à propos de la Chronique de Barhadbshabba (brochure not currently for sale). 63 According to Amr, ed. GISMONDI, pars II, p. 26 (transl. p. 15), the ecclesiastical history of Daniel bar Maryam contained the Acts of the martyrs of Persia. That author and Rabban Gabriel, mentioned above, p. 106, cannot be one and the same person. 64 On that historian the Monastic History of Thomas of Marga, ed. BUDGE, II, p. 186, 207 and 234. 65 ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 230. But WRIGHT, Syriac liter., 2nd ed., p. 132, makes the connection with Simeon Barkaya, an author of the late 6th century to whom Elias of Nisibis attributes a chronicle. Both Simeons are probably one and the same person. 66 ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 218. On an ecclesiastical history attributed to the Nestorian patriarch Sabrishoʿ I, see GUIDI, Zeitschr. der deut. morg. Gesell., t. XI, 559. 62



§2. — PARTICULAR HISTORIES Virtually all of the Syriac compositions that focus on a specific point of history are religious in character. The Acts of the martyrs and the Lives of the saints were the subject matter of chapter IX, as was the History of the Town of Beth Slok. They therefore shall not figure here. A number of historical tales concentrate on the most famous Nestorian monasteries; Jacobite authors appear to be less preoccupied with the history of their own monasteries. Unfortunately, many Nestorian manuscripts containing monastic histories have not survived the test of time. Those of Ishoʿdnah and Thomas of Marga are the only ones that have as yet been brought to light. Abbot Chabot edited the Book of Chastity67 of Ishoʿdnah, bishop of Basra, who lived in the late 8th century. It consists of one hundred and forty notes on the founders of the Oriental monasteries; we shall return to it in the next chapter, which is devoted to Ascetic literature. As suggests a passage of Bar Bahlul on Sahdona,68 these notes were taken from the Orientals’ Paradise by Joseph Hazzaya (see above, p. 125); they comprise a useful collection for the study of the history of the Nestorian Church and the geography of Mesopotamia and Babylonia. The monastic history of Thomas of Marga, which is far longer, is entitled the Book of Governors. We know the text from Assemani’s Bibliotheca orientalis, in which he gave an analysis of it.69 Budge published it together with an English translation and a well documented introduction.70 Thomas was ordained monk of the Le livre de la Chasteté composé par Jésudenah, évêque de Baçrah, publié et traduit par J.-B. Chabot, Rome, 1896. F. BEDJAN reedited it under the title Historia fundatorum monasterium following the Liber superiorum seu historia monastica auctore Thoma, episcopo Margensi, Paris and Leipzig, 1901, p. 437 ff. 68 As M. H. GOUSSEN remarks, Martyrius-Sahdona’s Leben und Werke, Leipzig, 1897, p. 13, note 1. 69 T. III, part I, 464–501. 70 The book of governors: The historia monastica of Thomas bishop of Marga A. D. 840, London, 1893; vol. I, Syriac text and introduction; vol. II, English translation. The introduction contains passages taken from letters 67



monastery of Beth ʿAbe (near Marga) in 832 and soon became its director. Mar Abraham, who was patriarch of the Nestorians from 837 to 850, took him as secretary; he then appointed him bishop of Marga and several years later metropolitan of the province of Beth Garmai. At the request of the monk ʿAbdishoʿ and of other monks of the monastery of Beth ʿAbe, Thomas wrote in 840 the history of that monastery. This history is not only that of the monastery of Beth ʿAbe, for Thomas inserted in it the tale of the life of Maranammeh, bishop of Adiabene (with a long metric homily which he had composed in honor of that bishop), of Babai and of several famous monks of the Great Monastery of Mount Izla. That work, Budge writes,71 is “a history of Nestorian monasticism and asceticism in the countries east of the Tigris for nearly three hundred years, and which is also a most precious supplement to the history of the Nestorian Church during a period of its existence of which little is known. [Thomas] describes at some length the occasions upon which the Nestorian Church came into contact or conflict with the Persian kings, and he casts some new light upon events of contemporary history. The dispersion of the monks from Mount Izlâ, the mission of the Nestorian Patriarch to Heraclius, the apostasy of Sahdônâ, the stagnation of the Nestorian Church in the 7th century, the foundation of six schools and the introduction of church-music in Margâ, the conversion to Christianity of the peoples on the eastern and southern shores of the Caspian Sea, the missions of the Nestorian propaganda to southern Arabia, Persia and China, the decline of the Persian and the growth of the Arab power, etc., are set forth with much clearness.” The monastery of Rabban Hormizd, which is still standing today at Alqosh, north of Mosul, was one of the most famous Nestorian monasteries. The library of that monastery holds a prose of the Nestorian patriarch Ishoʿyahb III that are interesting for the history of the Nestorian Church in the 7th century. F. BEDJAN re-edited it under the title Liber superiorum seu historia monastica auctore Thoma episcopo Margensi, Paris and Leipzig, 1901. 71 Preface to his ed., t. I, p. XI.



history of its foundation.72 Its author, Simeon, was the disciple of Mar Yozadak, a friend of Rabban Hormizd. Rabban Hormizd, founder of the monastery that bears his name, was born in the first half of the 7th century. That same library also holds a poem taken from this prose history (discussed above, p. 19). Immanuel, bishop of Beth Garmai († 1080), composed another poem in honor of Rabban Hormizd, published by F. Cardahi (Liber thesauri de arte poetica Syrorum, p. 142) and translated into German by Hoffmann (Auszüge aus syr. Akten pers. Märtyrer, p. 19). It is a blatant falsification of the history of the foundation of Rabban Hormizd’s monastery (Hoffmann, l. c., p. 180). A certain Adam of Akra is the author of a late and insignifant panegyric of Rabban Hormizd. It has been edited by F. Cardahi (l. c., p. 102). Also worth mentioning here are the the Statuses of the School of Nisibis, which Guidi73 published and which enabled Chabot to write a very interesting chapter of the history of the intellectual culture and monastic life of the Nestorians in the 5th and 6th centuries AD.74

It was published by A. WALLIS BUDGE together with Rabban bar ʿEdta’s history, composed of verses of seven syllables each, in Luzac’s semitic text and translation series, vol. IX–XI, London, 1902: The Histories of Rabban Hormizd the persian and Rabban Bar-Edta, the syriac texts; II, part II, english translations. Ibid., II, part II, Budge has translated into English the verse Life of Hormizd, which he had published in the Semitische Studien: A. WALLIS BUDGE, The Life of Rabban Hormizd, Berlin, 1894. Cf. BAUMSTARK, Römische Quartalschrift, 1901, p. 115; GIAMIL, Oriens christianus, 1901, p. 62. 73 GUIDI, Gli statuti della scuola di Nisibe in the Giornale della Societa asiatica italiana, vol. IV, p. 165–195; German translation by NESTLE, Zeitschr. f. Kirchengeschichte, 1897, p. 211. English translation by FRANCIS ALBERT, Catholic University Bulletin, April 1906, p. 160 ff. 74 J.-B. CHABOT, L’école de Nisibe, son histoire, ses statuts, in the Journal de la Société asiatique, July-August 1896, 9th series, t. VIII, p. 43 ff. 72



Emile Goeller published a fabulous tale of the life of Nestorius, written by a Jacobite, in Oriens christianus, 1901, p. 276– 287. Abbot Nau published and translated into French, in the Journal asiatique, Jan.-Feb. 1903, p. 5 (Syriac text), and March-April 1903, p. 241 (translation), the History of Dioscorus, patriarch of Alexandria, written by his disciple Theopiste. That history has probably been translated from Greek into Syriac; it seems to belong to the group of publications on saints of the Monophysite Church (discussed above, p. 128–9). Bedjan published the Lives of the Nestorian patriarchs Mar Aba I, Sabrishoʿ, Denha and Yahbalaha III, in Histoire de MarJabalaha, de trois autres patriarches, etc., Paris, 1895. The patriarch Mar Aba I (540–552) was born into the Zoroastrian religion; he was baptised in Hira, studied at the School of Nisibis, then proceeded to Edessa, where his student Thomas taught him Greek. After having visited Constantinople, Mar Aba returned to Nisibis, where he became a distinguished professor. Elected patriarch in 540, he opened a school in Seleucia. His controversies with the magi made him the target of persecutions; he spent several years in prison and Khosro Anoshirwan even forced him into exile in Azerbaijan. According to his Acts published by Bedjan (Op. cit., p. 206), the patriarch was then released and died peacefully in his seat. Bar Hebræus’s account75 is somewhat different as he has Mar Aba die in prison, where he had been sent on his return to Seleucia. A version of the OT is attributed to Mar Aba (above, p. 46); he also wrote commentaries (above, p. 61–62), ecclesiastical canons and synodal letters (above, p. 142), a treatise on circumstances that may prevent a marriage from being pronounced (above, p. 150), hymns and homilies.76 He also translated the liturgy of Nestorius into Syriac. Chron. eccl., I, 95. Cf. J. LABOURT, Le christianisme dans l’empire perse, Paris, 1904, p. 190 and note 5 on page 190. 76 ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 75. A hymn is edited in the Breviarium Chaldaicum of Mosul, p. 46, see BICKELL, Conspectus rei Syrorum litt., p. 37, 75



Sabrishoʿ, whose Acts the monk Patros (Peter) wrote down, was bishop of Lashom in 596 at the time of his elevation as patriarch by Khosro II (Khosro Parvez), who held him in very high esteem. Patros’s work paints a vivid picture of the high virtues of the patriarch, who had initially led an ascetic life and whose marvellous cures earned him the appreciation of Romans and Persians alike. It stresses the important role played by Sabrishoʿ, bishop of Lashom, in the conversion, in Hira, of Numan ibn alMundhir, king of the Arabs. According to Bar Hebræus,77 Sabrishoʿ accompanied Khosro to Dara and there he passed away — the Acts make no mention of such an event. In fact the patriarch went with Khosro to Dara but returned to Nisibis, where he died.78 The history of Patriarch Denha (1265–1281), in rhyming verses, is the work of one of his contemporaries named John; note, however, that the author omitted several events of the patriarch’s life that did not show him to his advantage. Abbot Chabot was the first to publish that short poem (Journal asiatique, 9th series, t. V, p. 110 ff.); Bedjan reprinted it in the book cited above (Histoire de MarJabalaha, etc., p. 332 ff.). Bedjan’s publication79 (1888) of the history of Yahbalaha III and Rabban Sauma was of great interest to orientalists. Yahbalaha, known as Marcos until his appointment as patriarch, was originally from China and had led a religious life with his master Rabban Sauma in the vicinity of Beijing. The disciple and his master, wishing to visit the Holy sites of Jerusalem, headed west. They note 8; another is held in the British Museum, Add. 17219, fol. 165 b; comp. with MACLEAN, East Syrian Daily Offices, p. 98 and 105. 77 Chron. eccl., II, 107. 78 See the chronicle edited by GUIDI, Un nuovo testo siriaco…, translation by NŒLDEKE (Op. cit., above, p. 170, note 32), p. 16 and 18; THOMAS OF MARGA, Book I, chap. XXV; Elias of Nisibis in the Chron. eccl. of BAR HEBRÆUS, ed. ABBELOOS and LAMY, II, p. 108, note 2. 79 Histoire de Mar Jab-Alaha, patriarche, et de Raban Sauma, Paris, 1888; reprinted by F. Bedjan in 1895 in the work cited above, Histoire de MarJabalaha, de trois autres patriarches, etc.



arrived in Azerbaijan, where they remained for two years due to problems in the East. Marcos was then named metropolitan of China, while Sauma became general visitor. Upon the death of Patriarch Denha, and in order to be favoured by the Mongol princes, the clergy designated Marcos as Denha’s successor. Marcos occupied the patriarchal seat under the name Yahbalaha III from 1281 to 1317. He found himself involved in events that took place under seven Mongol kings. To take but one example, he took part in negotiations with the European sovereigns initiated by King Arghun in order to form an alliance against the Arabs. The tale of the travels of R. Sauma, who was sent on a mission to various Western courts, is edifying. Bedjan’s publication has been the object of several studies which stress its value to the historian.80 Abbot Chabot published a translation of the Life of Joseph Bosnaya by John bar Khaldoun81 after a Syr. MS from the monastery of the Chaldeans in Siirt. Bosnaya was a monk of the monastery of Rabban Hormizd; he died in 979. Bar Khaldoun’s very substantial book contains anecdotes on the ascetic life of Bosnaya and other monks of the Hormizd Monastery; it ends with a treatise on mysticism. See my detailed analysis of it in the Journal asiat., 1889, 8th series, t. XIII, p. 313 ff., comp. also with LAMY, Bulletin de l’Académie royale de Belgique, 3rd ser., XVII, 223; VAN HOONACKER, the Muséon, t. VIII, n. 2; NŒLDEKE, Litterar. Centralblatt, 1889, 842–844. In 1895, Abbot CHABOT published a French translation in the Revue de l’Orient latin, t. I and II, richly annotated and with two appendices. HEINRICH HILGENFELD proposed various amendments to the Syriac text, Textkritische Bemerkungen zur Teschita dmar Jabalaha…, Iena, 1894. RUDOLF HILGENFELD published the Arabic text of the Life of Yahbalaha III after Saliba’s collation of the Book of the tower, with a Latin translation and notes, Jabalahæ III vita ex Slivæ Mossulani libro, qui inscribitur Turris, desumpta, Leipzig, 1896. 81 Vie du moine Rabban Bousnaya, écrite par son disciple Jean Bar-Kaldoun, traduite du syriaque et annotée par J.-B. Chabot in the Revue de l’Orient chrétien, 1897–1899. Comp. with ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 265; CHABOT, Revue sémitique, 1896, p. 252. 80



Thomas of Marga in his History, and ʿAbdishoʿ in his Catalogue, cite works on monastic life that have not come down to us: Abraham of Kashkar82 (middle of the 6th century) is said to be the author of a treatise on monastic life, translated into Persian by his disciple, a monk named John.83 Mar Babai, abbot of the monastery of Izla (569–628), composed the Book of Abbot Mark and discourses on Matthew the hermit, Abraham of Nisibis and Gabriel of Qatar. His other works are: a biography of the martyr George (see above, p. 116); The Cause of the Hosannas; The Book of the union84 on Christ’s dual nature; a commentary on the Centuries of Evagrius; a history of the followers of Diodore; a book on the festival of the Holy Cross; hymns on the yearly festivals;85 rules for novices; canons for monks; a commentary on the Holy Scriptures (see above, p. 62); letters addressed to Joseph Hazzaya. Sahdona (early 7th century) wrote the biography and eulogy of Rabban Jacob, his master. The Life of Sahdona is preserved in the Book of Chastity, discussed in the following chapter. John the monk wrote the Life of Bar ʿEdta, founder of a monastery that was named after him. Bar ʿEdta came from Resapha on the Euphrates; he studied at Nisibis and died in 612. His biographer attributes to him an apology for King Khosro. He

This Abraham must be distinguished from Abraham, founder of the Great Monastery of Mount Izla, who was also from Kashkar and who wrote rules for monks, see above, p. 145. 83 Mistakenly called Job by Mari, ed. GISMONDI, part I, p. 52. 84 We are told that the Book of the union in the Corpus scriptorum christian. oriental will shortly be published by J. LABOURT. Extracts can already be found in the chrestomathy entitled The Little Book of Crumbs ‫ܟܬܒܘܢܐ‬ ‫ܕܦܪܬܘܬܐ‬, Ourmia, 1898, p. 32 and 102. That chrestomathy also gives, p. 316, an extract from the collation of the Book of the union made by a certain Simon. 85 MACLEAN has translated a hymn attributed to Mar Babai in East Syrian Daily Offices, p. 100 and 226. 82



should be distinguished from another Bar ʿEdta who was a contemporary of Sahdona.86 Rabban Sergius (early 7th century) wrote a history of the monks of the Beth Garmai at the request of Rabban Jacob; that history was entitled He Who Destroys the Mighty Ones. Rabban Sabrishoʿ, known by the name Rostam (around 650), composed biographies of Mar Ishoʿ Zeka of the monastery of Gassa, of Mar Ishoʿyahb, of Mar Abraham, abbot of the monastery of Beth ʿAbe, of Rabban Kam-Ishoʿ, of Abraham of Nathpar, of Mar Job the Persian, of Rabban Sabrishoʿ the elder, founder of the monastery of Beth Koke, of Rabban Joseph, abbot of the same monastery, and of his brother Abraham. His other books are: a voluminous tome directed against heretics but also treating of different subjects; a treatise made up of eight books on Our Lord and the Apostles’ missions; a book on chastity and ascetic life. Aphnimaran (around 660) also wrote the Lives of Rabban Joseph and his brother Abraham, as well as some Answers, treatises on perfection and other works. Apart from ecclestiastical histories (see above, p. 176), Atken (around 660) also composed a theological controversy, several letters and a treatise on monastic life. Rabban Gabriel, nicknamed Taureta, was abbot of the monastery of Beth ʿAbe in the time of the Nestorian patriarch Henanishoʿ I (686–701); besides the tale of the martyrs of Beryan mountain (see above, p. 102), he also wrote the history of Mar Narsai, abbot of the same monastery, and a homily on the day of Christ’s Passion. John the monk or John of Beth Garmai (same time period) handed down to us Lives of Abraham, founder of the Great

See HEINRICH GOUSSEN, Martyrius-Sahdona’s Leben und Werke, Leipzig, 1897, p. 13, note 1. Goussen points to the mistakes made by Assemani and Wright, who confused these two individuals. Abraham used the Life in prose by John the monk as the basis for his Life in verse, edited by BUDGE and mentioned above, p. 179, note 73. Cf. ADDAI SCHER, Revue de l’Orient chrétien, 1906, p. 13, n. XIV. 86



Monastery named after him, of Bar ʿEdta and of Mar Khodawai, founder of the monastery of Beth Hale near Mosul.87 Monk Solomon bar Garaph (7th century) is the author of a historical study of the anchorites who lived before his time. As for David, bishop of the Kartewaye (Kurds) who lived in the time of Patriarch Timothy (780–823), he composed the Little Paradise (see above, p. 125). In that book we find a history of the monks of the Beth ʿAbe monastery in the 7th century. The Story of Monk Bahira, the Syriac version of which Richard Gottheil published in the Zeitschr. für Assyriologie, 1899, XIII, 189– 242, is divided into three parts: the first relates Bahira’s encounter with the monk Ishoʿyahb, said to be the book’s author; the second describes Mahomet’s encounters with Bahira through which the Prophet learnt of the Christian religion; the third is composed of a series of apocalyptic visions on the future of the Arabic domination ending with the second coming of the Messiah. According to the editor, that legendary history was originally produced in a Syriac community of Persia; it was composed in the late 11th or early 12th century, except for the second part, which dates even further back. The following should also be mentioned: Histoire de Saint Marine, published by F. NAU, Revue de l’Orient chrétien, VI, p. 276– 290 and 354–378; Une version syriaque inédite de la vie de Schenoudi, by F. NAU, in the Revue sémitique, Paris, 1900; the Syriac text of Vie et récits de l’abbé Daniel le Scétiote, by F. NAU, in the Revue de l’Orient chrétien, Paris, 1891; Vie de Mar Bischoï in the Acta martyr. et sanct. by F. BEDJAN, III, p. 572, and the Recension de deux récits de cette vie in the Zeitschr. f. Assyriologie, XV, p. 103; finally the Texte grec et syriaque de la vie de saint Malchus dans saint Jérôme et la vie du moine Malchus le captif, by F. VAN DEN VEN in the Muséon, new series, I, 413; II, 208.

Hymns are attributed to John the monk. See MACLEAN, East Syrian Daily Office, London, 1894, p. 100 and 226. 87

XIII. ASCETIC LITERATURE The account of monastic histories given in the previous chapter brings us to the writings on religious life. The most ancient work of that genre, composed shortly after the introduction of monasticim in Mesopotamia, is that of Aphrahat, known as the Persian Sage. It it true that the twenty-three Demonstrations, which that author wrote between 337 and 345, deal with theological questions as much as they do monastic life; their subject is in turn faith, charity, lent, prayer, penitence, humility, trust, etc. Monastic life is the focus of the sixth demonstration; the seventh is devoted to the clergy; others to circumcision, Easter, resurrection and life in the future; among the last ones several are directed at the Jews; the twentythird Concerning the Grape Cluster, ‫ ܛܘܛܝܬܐ‬, by allusion to Isaiah, XLV, 8. The first twenty-two are organised following the order of the twenty-two letters of the Syriac alphabet; the author added the twenty-third later and divided his collection into two parts: the first part is comprised of ten demonstrations written in 337 and the second contains the other thirteen, written in 344 and 345. Aphrahat sometimes refers to these treatises as homilies, ‫ ;ܡܐܡܪܐ‬the Syriac authors called them epistles, for they were written as letters addressed to a correspondent. They have survived in three ancient manuscripts (5th and 6th centuries) now held in the British Museum.1 WRIGHT published the editio princeps after these MSS under the title The homilies of Aphraates, London, 1869. BICKELL translated eight of these treatises into German in the Bibliothek der Kirchenwæter of TALLHOFER, Kempten, 1874; BUDGE translated the first one into English in his edition of the Discourses of Philoxenus, The discourses of 1




Little is known of Aphrahat’s life; his own work suggests that he was born into paganism. After his conversion he became monk and was later elevated as bishop; it is in his capacity as bishop that he is cited in the encyclic letter addressed to the clergy of Seleucia and Ctesiphon, the subject matter of his 14th homily. In paragraph XXV of that homily, Aphrahat speaks of his enthronement of several individuals. We do not know where in Persia the author wrote; it was in the monastery of Mar Mattai, north of Mosul, if we are to believe a late MS (1364), but it is unlikely that the monastery had already been built by that date. Aphrahat appears to have taken the name Jacob upon his ordination; we find that name in a final clause of the British Museum MS dated to 512; it is probably responsible for the confusion we find in Gennadius and the Armenian version, for both take that author for Jacob, the bishop of Nisibis who died in 338, i.e. before the composition of the last homilies. Aphrahat reproduced his correspondent’s letter before his homilies, but the beginning of the letter is missing from the Syriac manuscripts.2 Philoxenus, London, 1894, t. II, p. CLXXV. BERT printed a German translation of the entire work in the Texte und Untersuchungen of GEBHARDT and HARNACK, III, Leipzig, 1888. GRAFFIN reedited Aphrahat in his Patrologia syriaca; the first volume of that patrology, the only one to have been published so far, contains these treatises with the exception of the final one; the Latin translation and the introduction are the work of DOM PARISOT, Patrologia syriaca, I, Paris, 1894. Cf. FORGET, De vita et scriptis Aphraatis, Leuven, 1882; SAL. FUNK, Die haggadischen Elemente in den Homelien des Aphraates, Vienna, 1891. There is an Armenian version for nineteen of Aphrahat’s homilies. ANTONELLI published it together with a Latin translation, Sancti Patris nostri Jacobi, episcopi Nisibeni, Sermones, etc., Rome, 1756; 2nd ed., Vienna, 1765. ANDRE GALLAND reprinted the Latin translation in his Bibliotheca veterum Patrum, V, Venice, 1788. 2 Dom Parisot filled that lacuna using the Armenian version in the Latin translation of the Patrologia syriaca. In the Armenian version, that correspondent is Gregory the Illuminator, bishop of Armenia; that note is



As is obvious from his last homilies, directed against Jews, Aphrahat owned a copy of all the Scriptures and was well versed in the Jewish and Christian exegesis of the OT. He lived in the time of Shabur II’s persecution and recorded specific dates for the history of that period. His style lacks the grace and elegance of Philoxenus’s homilies; the inclusion of biblical citations too often spoils the harmony of sentences. The lengthy, repetitive nature of this author’s work is tiresome and undermines the overall clarity of his thought. When he speaks of the difficult times in which he lived, one can tell that he is somewhat anxious that he might compromise those who shared his faith. However, his work is of interest for several reasons; it represents the most ancient form of Syriac homily,3 unhampered by any Greek influence; it is also a sure guide for the study of Aramaic syntax. Moreover, it provides us with valuable information on the early 4th-century controversies over metaphysics, the Easter problem, the computation of years from the time of creation, etc., dissensions at the heart of the Oriental Church, breaches of trust and simony among the high clergy. Under the influence of the Platonic ideas relative to the distinction between the animal or vegetative soul and the spiritual or intellectual soul, Aphrahat believed that the Holy Spirit dwells in every man from the time of his baptism to the sin of the guilty or the death of the innocent, to finally return to the divinity from which it emanates, as opposed to the animal spirit, which is recognized with the body. The famous ascetic Isaac of Nineveh obviously incorrect but we can infer from it that Gregory was the name of Aphrahat’s correspondent. 3 Syriac homilies are known by the name memra, “discourse”, and have a different meaning from both Greek and Latin homilies; they are compositions or short treatises on a specific subject. The divisions of an extensive work were also given that name, in which case it corresponds to our word book or chapter. Metric homilies formed a different genre (see above, p. 12 ff.). Despite being called discourses, Syriac homilies, be they in prose or in verse, do not belong to the oratory genre, which was not particularly prominent among the Syrians.



also accepts the distinction between soul and spirit in man;4 but George, Jacobite bishop of the Arabs, rose up against Aphrahat’s doctrine. In a letter he wrote in 714 in answer to various questions addressed to him by the recluse priest Ishoʿ concerning these homilies, George calls the doctrine crude and inept.5 According to the ancient tradition based on Psalm XC, 4, Aphrahat accepted that the earth was six thousand years old, thereby mirroring the six days of creation. His calculations of the number of years separating creation from his own time are contained in homilies II, XXI and XXIII. The figures of the 2nd homily do not always coincide with those of the 21st, presumably due to mistakes made by a copyist; Sasse has suggested corrections to reconcile these texts.6 In his letter, which we have already discussed, George of the Arabs, who was a Jacobite, disdainfully rejects Aphrahat’s calculations based on the Peshitta and turns to the data exposed in the Septuagint, which diverges from the account of the Hebrew text for the time of the biblical patriarchs. Elias of Nisibis, who was Nestorian and recognised no other text than the Peshitta, accepts the chronology of the 23rd homily of Aphrahat.7 George counted 4901 years from Adam to the Seleucid era. In accordance with Aphrahat, Elias of Nisibis admits to only 3468; he adds: “that number does not coincide with any of the previous calculations but comes close to the Jewish estimation, for See J.-B. CHABOT, De S. Isaaci Ninivitæ vita, Leuven, 1892, p. 76; BRAUN, Moses bar Kepha, Friburg en B., 1891, p. 42. 5 PAUL DE LAGARDE printed that letter of George in his Analecta syriaca, p. 108, and WRIGHT partly reedited it in The homilies of Aphraates, p. 19 ff. RYSSEL translated it into German, Ein Brief Georgs, Bischofs der Araber, Gotha, 1883, and so did GEORGE BERT, before his translations of Aphraate’s homilies, in the Texte und Untersuchungen of GEBHARDT and HARNACK, III, Leipzig, 1888. Partial English translation by COWPER, Syriac Miscellanies, London, 1861. Cf. also RYSSEL, Georg’s des Araberbischof Gedichte und Briefe, Leipzig, 891. 6 Prolegomena in Aphr. Sermones homelilieos, Leipzig, 1879. 7 See the passage of that author’s chronicle printed in WRIGHT, The homilies of Aphraates, p. 38. 4



it comes from their own book (the OT); but the Jewish book is inexact (i.e. was altered), as I have demonstrated elsewhere.” As opposed to Aphrahat’s homilies, the sole concern of Philoxenus of Mabbug’s thirteen homilies is the life of an ideal Christian; they constitute a treatise on religious morality and a set of rules on ascetism. They contain not a single allusion to dogmatic controversies, despite that bishop’s ardent involvement in them. The current title of the work is as follows: “Treatises on morality composed by the blessed Mar Philoxenus, bishop of Mabbug, who taught the entire course of the discipline; how one becomes one of Christ’s disciples; rules and conducts to follow in order to reach spiritual love; how the perfection by which we come close to Christ is born according to Apostle Paul.” Budge, to whom we owe the publication of these homilies,8 pointed out that the biblical citations are based on the Peshitta; he comes to the conclusion that Philoxenus composed that work before the edition of the Philoxenian version (508) and soon after he was appointed to the episcopal seat of Mabbug (485). The first homily acts as a prologue to the book; the twelve others expound on faith, simplicity, the fear of God, poverty, carnal desires, abstinence and fornication. On writing these treatises, the author was certainly inspired by Aphrahat’s homilies. As does Aphrahat, he first discusses the subject of faith, “the foundation of religion”; yet it is worth mentioning that he fails to mention prayers, which are the subject of Aphrahat’s fourth homily. The stylistic qualities of Philoxenus, so dear to Jacob of Edessa, are best displayed in that book; his sentences are long and harmonious, perhaps even too long in our opinion, but our literary taste differs significantly from the Orientals’. In the Book of Chastity, mentioned in the previous chapter, p. 177, Ishoʿdnah has preserved several notes on the ascetic authors of Mesopotamia. We here summarise these notes following the order in which they appear in the book: The Discourses of Philoxenus Bishop of Mabbogh, vol. I. The syriac text; vol. II, Introduction, translation, etc., London, 1894. 8



Mar Gregory, the Director, author of a book on monastic life. That Gregory was of Persian origin; after having experienced visions he embraced monastic life. He studied at Edessa under the supervision of the doctor Moses; he then proceeded to Mount Izla where he led a solitary life. Later, Gregory settled in Cyprus, only to come back to Mount Izla at the end of his life. From Assemani’s writings9 we know that this monk lived in the second half of the 4th century; he was in contact with Epiphanius, bishop of Salamis in Cyprus, and with the monk Theodore. To both he addressed several treatises and letters. These treatises were in all likelihood chapters of his work on monastic life, a text that has unfortunately not survived to this day.10 Mar Abraham the Great, prince of monks, founder of a monastery on Mount Izla in the vicinity of Nisibis. He established rules for monks (see above, p. 145). Mar Babai the Great, founder of a school and a famous monastery in the Beth Zabdai. He wrote many books and commentaries (see above, p. 183). Mar Yahb, the anchorite, who wrote on God and his creatures. To him are attributed numerous books; he lived in the late 6th and early 7th century, for he is placed right after Mar Babai. Mar Abraham of Nathpar,11 who wrote on monastic life. He lived around the middle of the 6th century. ʿAbdishoʿ mentions these works in his catalogue; Assemani gives the titles of eight short

B. O., III, part I, 170. Assemani’s tale differs from Ishoʿdnah’s on several points. 10 That work is mentioned in the Catalogue of Ebedjésu, B. O., III, part I, 191. 11 Alternatively written Naphtar, ASSEMANI, B. O., I, 463; III, part I, 191; IGNATIUS EPHRÆM II RAHMANI, Studia syriaca, Mount Lebanon, 1904, chap. VIII, n. 4, and adnotatio in cap. VIII, p. 66. Beth Nathpera or Naphteria is said to be the name of a town of Adiabene near Erbil. 9



treatises held in the collections of the Vatican.12 John the monk translated the books of Abraham of Nathpar into Persian; there is also an Arabic translation of these texts. Gregory, metropolitan of Nisibis, who wrote on the duties inherent to monastic life. That Gregory was from Kashkar; he taught in Erbil and later in his hometown, where he founded a school. Patriarch Sabrishoʿ (596–604) named him metropolitan of Nisibis, but he was made to leave that town because he had excommunicated Henana of Adiabene. He then returned to Kashkar, where he died. Ishoʿdnah adds that he wrote books and an ecclesiastical history. Mar George, monk and martyr, who founded a school in Babylon and wrote on monastic life and against heretics. On the Life of that Nestorian martyr, see above, p. 116. Mar Shoubhalmaran, metropolitan of Karka of Beth Slok, author of books on monastic life. “That blessed one lived at the time of the heretic Gabriel, physician of King Khosro (II),13 and was metropolitan of Karka in Beth Slok. There was no patriarch at that time.14 He composed numerous works on monastic life. Owing to the difficulties he experienced with the inhabitants of Sinjar, King Khosro forced him into a life-long exile.” Aba Zinai, author of books on monastic life and founder of a monastery in the Adiabene mountain. He lived in the time of Babai Bar Nesibnaye (early 7th century). Scribe Mar Babai, author of books on monastic life (6th century). On Babai, scribe of the caves, see Addaï Scher in the Revue de l’Orient chrétien, 1906, p. 19, n. XVIII. Mar Isaac, Bishop of Nineveh, who abdicated the episcopate and wrote books on monastic life. “Patriarch Mar George appointed him bishop B. O., I, 464; comp. with MAI, Script. veter. nova collectio, V, 65. A hymn attributed to Abraham of Nathpar is translated in MACLEAN, East Syrian Daily Offices, p. 100. 13 Gabriel was a Monophysite who encouraged the king of Persia to be firm against the Nestorians. 14 From 608 or 609, Khosro II forbade the Nestorians from electing a patriarch. BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., II, p. 109; NŒLDEKE, Tabari, p. 358, note; HOFFMANN, Auszüge aus syr. Akten, 116. 12



of Nineveh in the monastery of Beth ʿAbe. After having governed the diocese of Nineveh for five months as successor of Bishop Moses, he abdicated for reasons known only to God and withdrew into the mountain. The episcopal seat remained vacant for some time; Mar Sabrishoʿ then succeeded Isaac as bishop but likewise eventually abdicated, after which point he lived as an anchorite in the time of the catholicos Henanishoʿ, and finally passed away in the monastery of Mar Shahin, in the land of Kardu. After having left the seat of Nineveh, Isaac proceeded to the mountain of Matout, which surrounds the land of Beth Huzaye, and there led a solitary life in the company of anchorites. He then went to the monastery of Rabban Shabur. He studied the holy books with such great diligence that he became blind as a result of his assiduous reading and his abstinence. Isaac was very well versed in divine mysteries; he wrote texts on the monks’ spiritual life. He composed three propositions that were widely rejected. Daniel bar Toubanita, bishop of Beth Garmai, rose up against him because of these propositions. Isaac passed away at a very ripe age and his body was placed in the monastery of Shabur. He was from Beth Qatraya and jealousy probably turned the monks against him, as it did for Joseph Hazzaya, John of Apamea and John of Dalyatha before him.”15 As Chabot already noted,16 the detailed account of the illustrious ascetic writer given in that note challenges the blatantly inaccurate biography17 placed by a Monophysite author at the head of the Arabic version of Isaac of Nineveh’s works. That author tells us that Isaac lived six millennia after the creation of the world, i.e. in the early 6th century AD; Ishoʿdnah claims that Isaac lived in the late 7th century; Patriarch George (660–680) appointed him bishop. Instead of the Nestorian monastery of Beth ʿAbe, where Isaac was monk, the author of the Arabic biography designates the Cf. a similar note in IGNATIUS EPHRÆM II RAHMANI, Studia syriaca, chap. VIII, n. 1. 16 Notes sur la littérature syriaque in the Revue sémitique, 1896, p. 254. 17 Edited by ASSEMANI, B. O., I, 445. 15



Jacobite monastery of Mar Mattai. Similarly, instead of the mountain of Matout and the monastery of Rabban Shabur, he designates the Scetis desert of Egypt and the Jacobite monastery of Our Lady of the Syrians as Isaac’s retreat. Isaac of Nineveh was a Nestorian. The three controversial propositions that Ishoʿdnah describes most likely conformed to Henana of Adiabene’s doctrine, which was close to Catholicism. The works commonly attributed to that ascetic form a catalogue; according to ʿAbdishoʿ, they are made up of seven volumes.18 The Arabic version of these works is divided into four volumes; from it derives the Ethiopic version. ʿAbdishoʿ teaches us19 that Daniel Bar Toubanita, whom Ishoʿdnah claims to have been an ardent opponent of the doctrine of Isaac of Nineveh, wrote a work entitled Solution to the Questions Concerning the Fifth Volume of the Works of Isaac of Nineveh. The said Daniel was bishop of Tahal in the Beth Garmai, but we do not know in when he lived. Among the other works of Daniel Bar Toubanita, ʿAbdishoʿ cites eulogies, metric homilies, answers to biblical questions, enigmas and a Book of Flowers, which appears to be a poetic anthology. Aba Joseph Hazzaya, also known as ʿAbdishoʿ. Joseph Hazzaya lived in the early 7th century and was of Persian origin. He was made prisoner under Caliph Omar by the troops that had been sent against the town of Nimrud, and was sold as slave to an Arab of ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 104; five volumes, according to the note of the Studia syriaca mentioned previously, in note 15. For a list of these texts, see ASSEMANI, B. O., I, 446–460; Chabot’s list is more complete and enumerates the MSS in which they appear, De S. Isaaci Ninivitæ vita, scriptis et doctrina, Leuven, 1892, 27–53. At the end of that book Chabot published three discourses of Isaac of Nineveh together with a Latin translation. Zingerle has edited two other discourses in Monumenta syriaca, Innsbruck, 1869, I, p. 97–101. The chrestomathy entitled The Little Book of Crumbs, Ourmia, 1898, reproduces p. 155–167, under Isaac of Nineveh’s name, the homily on Isaac of Antioch’s passion for studies; and, p. 251, a homily on penitence which differs from that of Isaac of Antioch published by BICKELL. 19 ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 174. 18



Sinjar. He then passed into the hands of a Christian named Quryaqos, who converted him before setting him free, was made monk and eventually became the director first of the monastery of Mar Basima in the land of Kardu and later of the monastery of Rabban Bokhtishoʿ near the town of Zinai. Ishoʿdnah adds that “he was constantly writing books. He had a brother named ʿAbdishoʿ. He was from the town of Nimrud and became a monk after having been baptised. From then on, Joseph wrote all his books under the name of his brother ʿAbdishoʿ. Since four of the treatises he composed were condemned by the doctors of the Church, Mar Timothy held a synod and anathematised him in year 170 of the reign of Hischam’s sons. What had inspired Joseph Hazzaya’s doctrine? The answer lies in his biography, written by Mar Nestorius, bishop of Beth Nuhadra. I believe the patriarch acted thus out of jealousy; but only God can know.” That note by Ishoʿdnah refers to the schism provoked by Henana of Adiabene within the Nestorian Church, for he had preached a new doctrine close to Catholicism. Joseph Hazzaya had declared his support for Henana, hence Mar Babai fought him in his treatise De unione and in the letters he addressed to him.20 Ishoʿdnah seems to date the synod of Patriarch Timothy, which took place in 790 and condemned Henana’s partisans, to the time of Joseph. Owing to that confusion, he places Joseph Hazzaya after Isaac of Nineveh. Numerous treatises are attributed to Joseph Hazzaya. These include the Book of Treasures, devoted to obscure questions; books on misfortunes and punishments, on the Causes of the main Church festivals; the Orientals’ Paradise (see above, p. 125); commentaries on the book of the Merchant (Isaiah from the Scetis desert), on pseudoDionysius the Areopagite, on the Capita scientiæ of Evagrius; and epistles on monastic life. ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 95 and 97; HOFFMANN, Auszüge aus syr. Akten, p. 116–117; WRIGHT, Syriac literature, 2nd ed., 124–129. Ishoʿdnah’s note explains how ʿAbdishoʿ’s name was given to Joseph Hazzaya and discredits the hypothesis according to which the latter was a bishop. 20



Mar John, who founded a monastery in the land of Kardu and dwelt in the mountain of Beth Dalyatha.21 “He was from the land of Beth Nuhadre and read all the Scriptures in the schools. He became a monk in the monastery of Mar Yozadak and grew close to the blessed Stephen, disciple of Mar Jacob Hazzaya. John had two brothers, Sergius and Theodore, also monks. He left the monastery to go live in the mountain of Beth Dalyatha, where he fed himself on grapes of vine arbours rather than on bread. He composed many books on monastic life… the catholicos Timothy disapproved of these books to such an extent that he held a synod and anathematised him for having said that Our Lord’s humanity is united with his divinity.” Time and again, John of Dalyatha has been confused with John Saba, known simply as Saba (“the elder”) to distinguish him from his brother John, who had also embraced monastic life.22 John Saba (9th century) lived in the monastery of Dalyatha, whose founder was John of Dalyatha. This explains why these monks are often mistaken for one another. That confusion ceased in 1899 following the publication of the catalogue of MSS held in Berlin, in which it was revealed that John Saba was not John of Dalyatha but John bar Penkaye, thus named because his parents were from the town of Penek on the Upper Tigris, north of Mosul.23 Such is the exact pronunciation of that word, meaning the land of vine arbours, as we shall see later. The Studia syriaca of RAHMANI, chap. VIII, n. 2, contain a note that differs slightly from the following one. That note speaks of the visit paid by Bishop Solomon of Haditha (760–780) to John of Dalyatha. From this we know that John lived in the second half of the 8th century, as Rahmani points out, ibid., p. 65, Adnotatio in cap. VIII. 22 Cf. ASSEMANI, B. O., I, p. 433 ff. In the Cambridge MS, Add. 1999, f. 131 b, p. 469 of the WRIGHT and COOK catalogue, we read: “End of the book… of John of Dalyatha, known as Saba.” 23 SACHAU, Verzeichniss der syr. Handschriften, Berlin, 1899, p. 554–555. In 1904 IGNATIUS EPHRÆM II RAHMANI printed the extract published therein following another somewhat different MS, Studia syriaca, chap. VIII, n. 3; cf. another extract chap. IX, n. 2, and adnotatio in cap. VIII–IX, p. 65–66. 21



According to the passage published in Sachau and Rahmani and mentioned in the previous note, the works of John Saba or John bar Penkaye comprised: a book on the life of the perfect monk, anchorite and ascetic, with a preface by John Saba’s brother;24 five tomes on religious life; two tomes of complements; two volumes against the theories; a volume on singing;25 a volume on the education of children; a volume of seven homilies on (spiritual) trade; a great number of metric homilies and letters; a Book of ̈ Archæology, ‫ܟܬܒܐܳܕܪܝܫܳܡܐܠ‬ ; a treatise on lax morals; another on the perfection of the divine life of monks.26

Printed in chap. IX, n. 1, of the Studia syr. Read ‫ܕܙܡܪܐ‬, lesson from the Berlin MS. 26 According to the Catalogue of ʿAbdishoʿ in ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, p. 103, the treatises on monastic life were divided into two volumes. Most of the works listed above are in Syriac MSS in Europe and the Orient; the former are attributed to John Saba, the latter to John bar Penkaye. For John Saba, see ASSEMANI, B. O., I, p. 433 ff.; WRIGHT, Catalogue of the Syr. MSS held in the British Museum, General index, under John Saba; WRIGHT and COOK, Catalogue of the Syr. MSS in Cambridge, p. 445; Catalogue Zotenberg, n. 202, MS Karshuni. ZINGERLE has published a passage taken from a homily by John Saba in Monumenta syriaca, I, 102. Are attributed to John bar Penkaye: several books or ascetic ̈ poems, and especially The book of archæology, ‫ܟܬܒܐܳܕܪܝܫܳܡܐܠ‬ , entitled in full Book of archæology or History of the ephemeral world. It is divided into two tomes made up of nine and six chapters respectively. It ends in year 686 AD. Cf. ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, p. 189; ADDAI SCHER, Notice sur les ms. syr. du couvent de Notre-Dame des Semences, in the Journal asiatique, May-June 1906; the chrestomathy entitled The Little Book of Crumbs, Ourmia, 1898, which gives an extract, p. 204; GISMONDI, Linguæ syr. Grammatica, 2nd ed., Beyrouth, 1900, which gives another extract in the chrestomathy, p. 148; BAUMSTARK, Römische Quartalschrift, t. XV, and Actes du XIIe congrès des Orientalistes, Rome, 1899, III, 1st part, p. 117. A poem by John bar Penkaye is in the Directorium spirituale of ELIAS MILLOS, Rome, 1868; a passage taken from another poem in the Liber Thesauri of F. CARDAHI, p. 35. ADDAI SCHER, Revue de l’Orient chrétien, 1906, p. 23, connects John bar Penkaye with year 686. 24 25



Sahdona, Bishop of Mahoze of Arewan, whose name is Martyrius and who is also known by the name Barsahde. Ishoʿdnah’s extensive note about that bishop, made famous by his conversion to Catholicism, contains several new pieces of information. That note teaches us that after his conversion Sahdona was named bishop of Edessa by order of Heraclius. Yet Sahdona spent little time in that town, for its emperor soon had him expelled. Gabriel Taureta, abbot of the monastery of Beth ʿAbe, went to Edessa to converse with the renegade: that abbot writes that “after Sahdona had been driven out of the Church, I, Gabriel, driven by an ardent zeal, set out to Edessa, where I debated with him and proved him wrong.27” Apart from the biography and eulogy of Rabban Jacob (see above, p. 183), Sahdona also wrote a treatise on ascetism published by Jacob following a manuscript dating to the 7th or 8th century.28 The treatise is divided into two parts: the first comprises twenty-two chapters, of which the first sixteen were deleted, for Ishoʿyahb did not wish to see the volume published. Those removed chapters contained the author’s profession of Catholic faith concerning the dogma of Incarnation. The second part is made up of fourteen chapters. After this treatise we find five epistles addressed by Sahdona to monks, as well as short religious rulings. To these notes from the Book of Chastity should be added: Dadishoʿ of Qatar (late 7th century), whom ʿAbdishoʿ’s catalogue claims translated the Paradise of Western Monks (above, p. 122) and the Book of Isaiah the Ascetic, wrote a book on monastic

Comp. with HEINRICH GOUSSEN, Martyrius-Sahdona’s Leben und Werke, Leipzig, 1897. In that opus, GOUSSEN establishes that the name of Sahdona, mistakenly written Mar Touris, should be read Martyrius, and that the bishop had converted to Catholicism rather than to Monophysitism. Martyrius is the translation of Syriac bar shade “son of the martyrs”; compare with Abbot CHABOT, Revue critique, July 18, 1898, p. 43. 28 PAULUS BEDJAN, S. Martyrii, qui et Sahdona, quæ supersunt omnia, Paris and Leipzig, 1902. 27



life, treatises on the sanctification of the cell, eulogies, letters, and questions on the peace of body and mind.29 Simeon of Taibuteh, who, besides the monastic rules (see above, p. 147), composed an Exposition of the Cell’s Mysteries (Catal. of ʿAbdishoʿ, ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, p. 181). It is probably the book on the monastic institution which was attributed by Bar Hebraeus to Simeon and which we are told earned its author the epithet of Taibuteh, “His Grace” (Chron. eccl., II, p. 139). Beh Ishoʿ or Berkishoʿ, monk of the monastery of Kamul and a contemporary of Patriarch Timothy (late 8th century), author of a book on monastic life.30 A manuscript from the monastery of Our Lady of the Seeds contains, under the title of “Warnings for monks,” fifty-five treatises or letters on ascetic subjects by Abdmeshiha, an author who lived after the 10th century, see ADDAI SCHER, Notice sur les ms. syr. du couvent de Notre-Dame des Semences in the Journal asiatique, Jul.–Aug. 1906. In 1279, Bar Hebræus wrote to Maraga the Book of Ethics, ‫ܟܬܒܐܳܕܐܝܬܝܩܘܢ‬, divided into four parts. It treats of the spiritual and bodily exercises of the religious man. Assemani analysed it in his Bibl. Orient., II, 303 ff. The Book of the Dove, ‫ܟܬܒܐܳܕܝܰܘܢܐ‬, by the same author, is a similar work for use by ascetics and hermits; it is also divided into four parts. There are Arabic versions of both these works.31 ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, p. 99. The commentary on Isaiah of Scetis is cited in the Book of the Bee, ed. BUDGE, chap. XLIII. It is the only work of Dadishoʿ of Qatar that has survived; it is divided into fifteen treatises in a MS from Siirt, see ADDAI SCHER, Notice sur la vie et les œuvres de Dadischo Qatraya, in the Journal asiatique, Jan.-Feb. 1906, p. 103; and Revue de l’Orient chrétien, 1906, p. 25. 30 ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 275. 31 F. BEDJAN has published the Syriac text of these two books, Ethicon seu Moralia Gregorii Barhebræi, Paris and Leipzig, 1898. An appendix at the end of the volume reproduces a short composition by Bar Hebræus ܰ ‫ ܰܛܠ ܽܝܘܬܶ̈ܗ‬, which is of the in rhyming prose entitled The mind’s youth, ‫ܳܕܗܘܢܐ‬ same type. F. CARDAHI has also published also the Book of the dove under 29



For the other writings on monastic life, see chapters IX, §4; XII, §2.

the title Abulfaragii Gregorii Bar-Hebræi Kithâbhâ Dhijaunâ seu Liber columbæ, Rome, 1898. The mind’s youth is also included in that edition.

XIV. PHILOSOPHY §1. — SYRIAC PHILOSOPHY After the Syriac version of the Bible, the most ancient Syriac text is a dialogue on destiny between Bardaisan and his disciples. Bardaisan was born of rich and noble parents in Edessa on July 11, 154.1 Bar Hebræus tells us that Bardaisan’s father was called Nuhama and his mother Nahshiram.2 According to St Epiphanius, he was the childhood friend of Abgar, prince of Edessa and son of Manu, who reigned for thirty-five years from 179 to 214. He probably played a part in the prince’s conversion to Christianity around 206. According to the historian Bar Hebræus, Bardaisan died in 202 at the age of sixty-eight. He adds that “a priest of Mabbug had brought him up to be a pagan, but he was later baptised and raised following the doctrine of the Church of Edessa.3 He composed treatises against heresy and eventually embraced the theories of Marcion and Valentinus. He denied the resurrection; he considered carnal union to be an act of purity and This date appears in the Chronicle of Edessa and is confirmed by the Ecclesiastical Chronicle of BAR HEBRÆUS, I, 47. 2 Chron. eccl., I, 47. On these names, see HOFFMANN, Auszüge aus syr. Akten, p. 137, note 1162. 3 We are told that his master in the study of occult sciences was a certain Scuthinos, precursor of Mani and author of four books (EPIPHANIUS, THEODORET, etc.; comp. also with PAUL DE LAGARDE, Prætermissorum libri duo, Gœttingen, 1879, p. 96, l. ult.). Jesu bar Nun, appointed catholicos in 824, is the author of the most ancient note which attributes the invention of a mystical alphabet to Bardaisan; KHAYYATH, Syri orientales, Rome, 1870, p. 176, note 2. 1




claimed that “every month, the moon — mother of life — emits light and enters the sun — father of life — and thereby receives from it the instinct of self-preservation, which it then spreads throughout the entire universe.”4 That note is similar to Epiphanius’s account. According to Eusebius, however, Bardaisan was a supporter of Valentinus but towards the end of his life returned to orthodoxy, although he never fully expiated his past heresy. This last hypothesis, also defended by pseudo-Moses of Chorene, is further supported by a passage from the Book of Destiny, in which Bardaisan opposes astrology, a practice in which he claims to have previously been engaged. All in all, we know little of the life and writings of this renowned gnostic. In an attempt to fill the gaps in our knowledge, Pseudo-Moses describes Bardaisan as a fervent apostle who sought to evangelise Armenia and wrote the history of that land, as well as another book — which one might call a historical work or a memoir — on India, based on the information which he had obtained from the ambassadors of India to Emperor Heliogabalus.5 St Ephrem portrays Bardaisan as a mundane individual who indulged in luxury, in stark contrast with Marcion the ascetic, who was always poorly dressed. He mentions the one hundred and fifty hymns which the gnostic wrote in order to spread his doctrine among the people.6 These hymns are unfortunately now lost, as are the treatises or dialogues against heresies mentioned in Eusebius, the Philosophoumena and Bar Hebræus, and the astronomical treatise in which Bardaisan established, on the basis of his calculation of the length of planets’ revolutions, that the world would come to an

Bar Hebræus took this information from the Chronicle of Michael the Syrian, which gives further legendary details on the life of Bardaisan, ed. CHABOT, p. 110 (transl., I, p. 183). 5 RENAN, in his Marc Aurèle, Paris, 1882, p. 433, note 3, thought that the author of these works was another Bardaisan, originally from Babylonia. RENAN, ibid., p. 436–439, has drawn a delightful picture of Bardaisan of Edessa. 6 See above, p. 10. 4



end after 6000 years of existence.7 The Kitáb al-Fihrist (ed. Fluegel, Leipzig, 1871, p. 339) gives the title of other works by Bardaisan but we cannot rely on that author’s account since he lived in a much later time. For the study of this Syrian’s philosophical system we have at our disposal no more than the Book of Destiny and several scattered notes in St Ephrem’s collection of hymns against the heretics, for instance in hymns 53–55.8 Yet even these hymns should be used with great caution.9 To reconstruct the doctrine of Bardaisan on the basis of the theories of Valentinus and other gnostics, as attempted by Hahn, Merx and Hilgenfeld, is to rely on mere speculation.10 The book on destiny entitled Book of the Laws from Various Countries first surfaced in the form of two long extracts which Eusebius inserted in the Præparatio evangelica, VI, 9. A modified version of the second extract is also included in the 9th book of the Recognitions of pseudo-Clement. It is, however, absent from the Syriac version of the Recognitions published by Paul de Lagarde. The second dialogue attributed to Caesarius, the brother of St Gregory of Nazianzus, also contains a large part of that extract devoted to the laws enforced in various regions. Cureton recovered the Syriac original of the book on destiny in a manuscript held in the British Museum and dated to the 6th or 7th century. He published it, together with an English translation, in his Spicilegium syriacum, London, 1855. In his edition he also reproduced the references to that book found in Eusebius, the Recognitions and Caesarius.11 According to George, bishop of the Arabs; see CURETON, Spicilegium syriacum, London, 1855, p. 21; WRIGHT, The homelies of Aphraates, London, 1869, p. 27, l. 11; LAGARDE, Analecta syriaca, Leipzig, 1856, p. 114, l. 18. 8 In the Roman edition of St Ephrem, t. II, p. 553 ff. 9 See NAU, Une biographie inédite de Bardesane l’astrologue, Paris, 1897. 10 See HORT, article Bardesanes in the Dictionary of christian biography. 11 German translation by MERX, Bardesanes von Edessa, Halle, 1863. New edition by NAU, Bardesane l’astrologue. Le livre des lois des pays, Syriac text and French translation with an introduction and numerous notes, 7



The book on destiny is written as a dialogue between Bardaisan and his disciples, in imitation of the Socratic dialogues. Philip, one of the disciples of that master, wrote it down and introduced it with a text in the first person singular. There is no doubt that the Syriac text is an original. Not only are the proper names, such as Shamshegeram and Avida, Syriac but they also correspond to the ancient names of Edessa, which we already know from other documents. Several notes point to a Mesopotamian origin. One such note concerns Abgar’s decree forbidding the castration of the priests of the goddess Targata, a decree which led to the disappearance of that rite in Edessa. Another one relates the conquest of Arabia as if it were a recent event (“that took place yesterday,” says the text). It most likely refers to the conquest of Arabia by Septimus Severus in 195–196. Bardaisan demonstrates that man has free will and is responsible for his actions. For that reason he studied the organisation of heaven and earth, but it would be a mistake to look for gnostic theories in his work, as has previously been attempted. He professes the existence of God, creator of the universe, unique and indivisible, non-created. The other beings (itye) or elements (estoukse = στοιχεῖα) were created in a specific way and are subordinate; as such, they are necessarily subject to fixed laws and are not responsible for their actions. Yet some of these beings, man for instance, though constrained by necessities inherent to their nature, dispose of a freedom of action by which they can decide to do good or to do evil. Thus they are answerable for their actions. Bardaisan rejects the fatalistic system of the Chaldeans or astrologers as firmly as he does the opposite system defended by certain philosophers according to which man is entirely his own master, and affliction and disease are either mere accidents or divine retribution. According to Bardaisan, man is under the influence of three agents: nature, destiny and will. Destiny is the Paris, 1899; in appendix, a translation of two extracts relative to Bardaisan written by George, bishop of the Arabs, and Moses bar Kepha respectively.



God-given power of celestial bodies to alter the conditions of our existence following the pace and direction divinely imparted on them. Destiny influences one’s life at the time of one’s birth, when the intellectual soul descends into the vegetative soul, which in turn descends into the body. It is then that one’s fortune and misfortune, good health and poor health are decided, depending on the position of the celestial bodies in relation to the elements. Bardaisan’s philosophy makes no mention of the πλήρωμα, of the plurality of male and female principles, of the syzygies, of the eons and of other gnostic ideas. In the book on destiny, Bardaisan appears as genuine an orthodox Christian as were later Syrians such as Aphrahat. It is true that he believed in celestial spirits, yet Bar Hebræus (13th century) still accepted the influence which celestial bodies had on earth. It is therefore impossible to assertain what constituted Bardaisan’s heresy. However, the unanimous testimony of past Church Fathers and the publication of numerous refutations of Bardaisan’s work suggest that he did indeed hold heretical views.12 Two anonymous Greek dialogues written in the last years of Constantine were directed against Marcion, Valentinus and Bardaisan. The main protagonist in the first of these dialogues is Adamantius, whom we initially mistook for Origen. In the second, a certain Macrinus represents the doctrine of Bardaisan. Bardaisan’s supporters formed an important sect in Edessa and were members of a class of wealthy and learned individuals. In spite of St Ephrem’s best efforts, that sect endured until the reign

NAU, Une biographie inédite de Bardesane l’astrologue, sees in Bardaisan an astronomer whose cosmographic system was misinterpreted or misrepresented by St Ephrem, who goes as far as to call him a gnostic. Nau adds (p. 12) that the other authors who spoke of Bardaisan borrowed their ideas from St Ephrem. He develops this view in two other memoirs: Bardesane l’astrologue, in the Journal asiatique, Jul.-Aug. 1899, p. 12–19; and Bardesane l’astrologue. Le livre des lois des pays, texte syriaque et traduction française, Paris, 1899. 12



of Rabbula († 435), who led those who had strayed back into the Orthodox Church.13 Cureton’s Spicilegium syriacum contains, besides the treatise on destiny, a letter addressed by philosopher Mara, son of Serapion, to his young son Serapion. That philosopher was a Stoic;14 he advises his son to govern his passions, to remain indifferent to the ephemeral riches and honours of this world and to stay calm when faced with life’s vicissitudes. Wisdom alone is worthy of being sought and cultivated. Mara writes his letter from the prison where the Romans are holding him captive. If the Romans were to free him and return him to his country, then they will have proven to be just. If not, he calmly awaits his death. As the following passage suggests, he was originally from Samosata: “You have learnt that our companions complained and were distressed when they left Samosata: they said ‘We are far from our families and we shall never return to our town to see our parents and adore our gods…’ When we received the news of our old companions’ departure for Seleucia, we secretly set out to meet them and wed our misfortune to theirs…” That passage is too vague for the identification of the calamity described or the time period in which it took place. Ewald15 points to the Romans’ conquest of Samosata in 72 (Josephus, De bello judaico, VII, VII, 1–3). Schulthess argues convincingly against that interpretation; it should also be noted that the letter mentions the “dispersion of the Jews,” which occurred at a later date, after Titus’s victory over Jerusalem. On the other hand, we cannot reasonably date that document any later than the 4th century, when paganism was still alive in Samosata. That text therefore belongs to the most ancient period of Syriac literature.16 See that bishop’s biography in OVERBECK, S. Ephræmi syri… opera selecta, Oxford, 1865, 192. 14 Schulthess brought to light the Stoic doctrine of the author of that fine letter in the Zeitschr. der deut. morgenl. Gesell., t. LI, p. 365 ff., in which he gives a German translation and an analysis of the text. 15 Götting. Gelehrte Anzeigen, 1856, p. 661. 16 It is clearly an original text rather than a Greek translation, as Renan believed, Journal asiatique, 4th series, t. XIX, p. 32. 13



Even Mara, who believed in a unique God, was not a Christian. Indeed, his writings on Jesus Christ can leave no doubt as to the nature of his beliefs: “How did the Athenians benefit from the murder of Socrates, who was avenged by the famine and plague that befell them? How too did the people of Samos benefit from the death of Pythagoras, their country being covered in sand an hour only after he had passed away? Or the Jews from the loss of their wise king, for thenceforth power escaped them? It is quite clear that God avenged these three wise men, by the famine and death of the Athenians, by a sandstorm sent against Samos and by the devastation and exile of the Jews. Plato was in no way responsible for the death of Socrates, nor was the statue of Junon17 responsible for that of Pythagoras or the promulgation of new laws for the wise king’s demise.” A note added to that letter is a further witness to the Stoic nature of Mara’s philosophy. One of his friends, shackled by his side, asked him: “By your life, I beseech you to tell me the cause of your laughter!” To which Mara responded: “It is time that causes me to laugh, for it requites evil which I had never handed over to it.” Jacob, bishop of Edessa, is the author of a treatise entitled The First, Creative, Eternal, Omnipotent and Non-created Cause that is God, Who Preserves All Things. This we know from a note by George, bishop of the Arabs, who completed the Hexameron of Jacob of Edessa.18 That treatise, which was followed by the Hexameron, is now lost. We thought we had recovered it in a Syriac work entitled Causa causarum or in full the Book of Knowledge of the Truth or the Cause of All Causes.19 Yet Kayser’s publication20 of this text has shown Confusion with the sculptor Pythagoras, as Schulthess points out following Wilamowitz. 18 See RYSSEL, Georg’s des Araberbischofs Gedichte und Briefe aus dem Syrischen uebersetzt, Leipzig, 1891, p. 137 and 227. We follow the conventional spelling of Hexameron, although Hexaemeron would be more logical. 19 ASSEMANI, B. O., I, 461 ff.; POHLMANN, Zeitschr. der deut. morgenl. Gesell., XV, 648 ff. 17



that it was composed long after Jacob’s time: it cannot be dated any earlier than the 11th or 12th century.21 On p. 8 the author presents himself as bishop of Edessa who occupied the episcopal seat for thirty years before renouncing his position, made unbearable by the obstacles placed before him by his own clergy. He adopted a life of solitude, his sole companions being two or three ascetics, and there wrote his book for the good of mankind. If these lines were directed at Jacob, the famous bishop of Edessa, their goal was to place under his authority, by means of a lie, a book which claimed to bring to fruition a truly disappointing utopia. The author’s ambition was to bring together all men divided by their different dogmas, i.e. Christians, Jews and Muslims, into a single religious community. His work treats of divinity, its essence and attributes, but it omits the articles of faith that would not readily be accepted by all parties; although he does include a discussion of the Holy Trinity, it is deliberately vague and inoffensive to both Jews and Muslims. To him, as to the authors of the Hexamerons, Genesis is the basis for his reflections on the universe. These focus on heaven and earth, fauna, flora and minerals, and as such can be viewed as a genuine encyclopaedia of medieval sciences. At the beginning of the work we find a table of contents which enumerates the subject matter of each of the nine book’s chapters. However, the surviving manuscripts only preserve this list up to the middle of the second chapter of book VII. The author was aware of the mystical philosophy of the Arabs, for which he showed a certain predilection; his style is correct and clear yet is undermined by its excessive prolixity. Several manuscripts further contain, at the end of this book, a short poetic composition organised in seven-syllable lines devoted to elements and their union, following the description in the Causa causarum, after Aristotle, in chapter V of book IV. Das Buch von der Erkenntniss der Wahrheit oder der Ursache aller Ursachen, Leipzig, 1889. SIEGFRIED published under the same title KAYSER’s German translation after his death in Strasburg, 1893. 21 NŒLDEKE, Literar. Centralblatt, 1889, n. 30. 20



Moses bar Kepha is the author of a treatise on predestination and free will divided into four books. As does a similar chapter in Bar Hebræus’s Lamp of the Sanctuaries, that treatise, preserved in the British Museum MS Add. 14731, has a dogmatic and theological character. It is of far lesser interest than the dialogue on destiny attributed to Bardaisan. Although it was written in Arabic, we should also mention the dogmatic treatise of Elias bar Shinaya, metropolitan of Nisibis, entitled Book Demonstrating the Truth that Lies in Faith, which follows the viewpoint of the Nestorian doctrine. Assemani wrote of it that it was an anonymous work.22 Horst has published a German translation of it.23 ܽ ‫ܡܢ ܰܪ‬, is a ̈ܶ ‫ܬܳܩ ̈ܘ‬ Bar Hebræus’s book Lamp of the Sanctuaries, ‫ܕܫܐ‬ similar work, in which the Monophysite doctrine is exposed. It is divided into twelve bases or principles on which the Church is founded. These bases are: science in general, the nature of the universe, theology, Incarnation, knowledge of celestial substances (angels), the clergy, demons, the intellectual soul, free will and fatality, resurrection, the Last Judgment, and paradise.24 Bar ̈ܶ̈ ‫ܐܳܕܙ‬ ܰ ‫ܟܬܒ‬, divided into Hebræus also composed a Book of Rays, ‫ܠܓܐ‬ ten sections; that work can be viewed as an abridged version of the previous one.25 In 1298, ʿAbdishoʿ of Nisibis wrote a book of philosophy and Nestorian theology entitled The Pearl, ‫ ܰܡܪܓ ܺܢܝܬܐ‬, and divided into five sections on God, Creation, Christian life, Church sacraments B. O., III, part I, 303–306. Des Metropoliten Elias von Nisibis Buch vom Beweis der Wahrheit des Glaubens, Colmar, 1886. 24 ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 284. MSS containing that work are in the collections of libraries in Rome, Paris, Berlin and Cambridge. There is also an Arabic version of the text. GOTTHEIL has published passages from the Berlin MS, Coll. Sachau, n. 81, under the title A synopsis of greek philosophy by Bar Ebraya, in Hebraica, III, 249–254. Its preface was published by MANNA, Morceaux choisis de la littérature araméenne, t. II, p. 358. 25 ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 297; manuscripts in Rome, Paris, London, Oxford, Cambridge and Berlin. 22 23



and signs of the future world. Assemani gave an analysis of it in his Bibliotheca orientalis, vol. III, 1st part, 355–360, and Card. Mai made an edition of it together with a Latin translation in tome X of his Scriptorum veterum nova collectio.26 In 1312 ʿAbdishoʿ himself translated his work into Arabic, as Amr tells us in the Book of the Tower, where important passages are cited.27

§2. — ARISTOTELIAN PHILOSOPHY The Syrians’ works that are concerned with logic and metaphysics have caught the attention of eminent scholars. Their interest does not, however, reside in the originality they display, for they merely consist of translations or commentaries of Aristotle. Rather, it lies in the Syrians’ scientific knowledge, which they taught the Arabs, who then promptly overtook their masters and spread their philosophical ideas throughout medieval Europe. It was in the School of Persians, that illustrious institution in Edessa, that Syrians began to teach Aristotelian philosophy in the 5th century AD. The Isagoge of Porphyry28 has been translated into Syriac at least three times from the mid-5th to the mid-7th century. The ancient commentaries on the Isagoge are distinct from the Greek commentary of Ammonius; they belong to the first Badger gave an English translation of it in The Nestorians and their rituals, London, 1852, vol. II, p. 380 ff. 27 That translation may be the Arabic text entitled The king’s pearl, which ʿAbdishoʿ mentions in the list of his works, ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 360. 28 This paragraph follows A. BAUMSTARK, Aristoteles bei den Syrern vom V–VIII Iahrhundert, Leipzig, 1900. This volume, first in a series devoted to the Aristotelian literature of the Syrians, contains: a study of the Syriac and Arabic biographies of Aristotle; a study of the Syriac commentaries of the Isagoge, and the Syriac texts with a German translation of: (1) the Life of Aristotle; (2) the commentary of Isagoge by Probus; (3) the fragments of the commentary of the Isagoge after John Philoponus; (4) the fragments of the commentary of Stephen of Alexandria from the Dialogues of Severus bar Shakko; (5) the fragments of the Book of Definitions by Bazoud. 26



flowering of Graeco-Syriac studies, which came to an end with the Nestorian school of Edessa. Then followed a time when literal translations from Greek predominated. Studies of the Isagoge are based on the Greek commentaries of Ammonius; the Syrian Monophysites, Sergius of Reshʿayna, and the monks of the monastery of Qenneshre, associate themselves with John Philoponus and the later Neoplatonic Aristotlism. A third period began in the second half of the 7th century; it marked the decline of Graeco-Syriac studies; the Arabic civilisation set in motion the brilliant work of the translators of the 9th and 10th century; extracts and compilations flourished over the course of this period. Ibas, Koumi and Probus lived in the first period. All three, according to ʿAbdishoʿ’s catalogue,29 translated from Greek into Syriac the books of the Interpreter (Theodore of Mopsuestia) and the work of Aristotle. No translation of Aristotle by Ibas († 457) or by Koumi has of yet been recovered. To Ibas can be attributed the most ancient translation of the Isagoge.30 Probus lived in the middle of the 5th century; on one occasion he is referred to as “presbyter, archdeacon and archiater” of Antioch. Of that author we have: (1) the second part, paraphrased in a later extract, of a commentary on the Isagoge;31 (2) a commentary of the Περὶ ἑρμηνείας;32 a commentary on the First Analytics.33 Sergius of Reshʿayna († 536) returned to and completed the works on logic of the School of Edessa. In spite of being a Monophysite, the distinguished physician was equally famed among

ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 85. See BAUMSTARK, op. cit., p. 139–140. 31 Edited by BAUMSTARK, op. cit., text, p. 9; transl., p. 148. 32 Edited by G. HOFFMANN, De hermeneuticis apud Syros Aristoteleis, p. 62, Latin transl., p. 90. Ibid., p. 22–62, HOFFMANN edited the Syriac translation of the περὶ ἑρμηνείας with a fragment of the Arabic translation. 33 Edited with a French translation by A. VAN HOONACKER, Le traité du philosophe syrien Probus sur les Premiers analytiques d’Aristote in the Journal asiatique, July-August 1900, p. 70. 29 30



Western and Eastern Syrians.34 What remains of these philosophical works is virtually exclusively contained in the British Museum MS Add. 14658, which dates to the 7th century. That manuscipt contains the translation of the Isagoge by Porphyry along with the so-called Table of Porphyry,35 the Categories of Aristotle,36 the Περὶ κόσμου πρὸς Ἀλέξανδρον, and a treatise on the soul, divided into five sections and completely different from the Περὶ ψυχῆς. It also holds an original treatise on logic by Sergius, made up of seven (incomplete) books and addressed to Theodore of Merv; a treatise on negation and affirmation; another on the Causes of the Universe According to Aristotle’s Principles; a fourth on gender, species and the individual.37 MS Add. 14660, also from the British Museum, contains an ancient note by Sergius on the word σχῆμα, while in Berlin MS n. 88, fol. 83 b–104 a, we find a treatise on the Categories by Sergius addressed to Philotheus.38 In his Catalogue ʿAbdishoʿ places him among the Nestorian authors and mentions his commentaries on logic and dialectic, ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 87. 35 That table also appears in Berlin MS n. 90 (Sachau 116); GOTTHEIL reproduced it in Hebraica, IV, p. 207. 36 WRIGHT, Syriac literature, 2nd ed., p. 91, note 2, points out that, in the Vatican Syr. MS 158, this version is wrongly attributed to Jacob of Edessa, who was no more than a child when the British Museum MS was produced. Besides, it does not correspond to that author’s style. The Paris MS n. 248 repeats the same mistake. In the catalogue of the MSS of the Laurentian, Evodio Assemani mistakenly writes that Hunayn prepared that translation, RENAN, De philosophia peripatetica apud Syros, Paris, 1852, p. 34, note 3. SALOMON SCHUELER published the Syriac translation of the Categories, made after the Paris MS and the Berlin MS (Sachau 226) in Die Uebersetzung der Categorien des Aristoteles von Jacob von Edessa, Berlin, 1897 (the editor further attributes the Syriac translation to Jacob of Edessa); as did GOTTHEIL in The syriac versions of the Categories of Aristotle in Hebraica, IX, p. 166. 37 RENAN, l. c., p. 25–28; WRIGHT, Syr. literature, 2nd ed., p. 90–92. 38 The same MS, fol. 80 a, 83 b, contains an ancient note by philosopher Eusebius of Alexandria on the Categories. Cf. BAUMSTARK, op. cit., p. 137–138, on the Syriac MSS which include treatises of 34



Paul de Lagarde published the version of the Περὶ κόσμου39 in the Analecta syriaca, p. 134 ff. A detailed study of the text, complete with all the variants in the Greek version, has been produced by Victor Ryssel.40 Ryssel notes that Sergius’s translation belongs to a category of rare Syriac translations that are literal yet faithfully express the author’s thoughts. It is a masterpiece of translation, for Sergius was able to preserve the meaning and content of the Greek text in a clear and accurate version which closely kept to the original. It is far superior to the Latin version of Apuleius of Madaura, whose translation is excessively free. On comparing it with the different Greek manuscripts, one comes to the conclusion that the Syriac text does not correspond to a specific manuscript; rather, it reproduces lessons from a variety of manuscripts. We can surmise that Sergius, like Apulee, had access to an original which differed from, and was more ancient than, the known Greek manuscripts. Theodore, bishop of Merv, to whom Sergius dedicated a number of his treatises, devoted himself to the study of Aristotelian philosophy. From his works ʿAbdishoʿ mentions Solutions to Ten Questions of Sergius.41 The British Museum MS 14660, which contains the ancient note by Sergius on the word σχῆμα, preserves the treatise on logic by Paul the Persian addressed to King Khosro Anoshirwan. Paul the Persian lived in the middle of the 6th century.42 Bar Hebræus Aristotelian philosophy; in particular p. 172–173 on the Vatican Syr. MS 158. 39 That treatise has been attributed to Aristotle but it was most likely composed by a later philosopher. 40 Ueber den textkritischen Werth der syr. Uebersetzungen griechischer Klassiker, Leipzig, 1st part, 1880; 2nd part, 1881. 41 ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 147; RENAN, De philosophia peripatetica, p. 29. 42 Cf. LABOURT, Le christianisme dans l’empire perse, Paris, 1904, p. 166. Paul the Persian is probably also the author of the Instituta regularia divinæ legis edited by KIHN, see LABOURT, ibid., p. 167. Bedjan is in possession of a Syr. MS that contains a commentary on the περὶ ἑρμηνείας



writes43 that he excelled both in the fields of ecclesiastical sciences and secular philosophy, and adds that he composed an admirable introduction to logic. He had hoped to be appointed metropolitan of Persia but instead converted to the religion of the magi following his failure to gather his countrymen’s vote. His book is entitled Treatise on the Logic of the Philosopher Aristotle Addressed to King Khosro. A critical edition of the text, with a Latin translation, has been published by Land.44 The philosophy of Aristotle is probably also the subject matter of the Book of Greek Questions, which the periodeutic physician Buhd (whom we know for his translation of the tales of Kalila and Dimna) composed around the same time. That book bore the unusual title of Aleph Migin.45 Ahoudemmeh, Jacobite metropolitan of Tagrit (559), is the author of several philosophical works: the Book of Definitions of All Subjects of Logic; a treatise on free will, on the soul and on man regarded as a microcosm; a treatise on the composition of man’s body and soul.46 composed by Paul the Persian and translated from Persian into Syriac by Severus Sebokht, bishop of Qenneshre, see A. VAN HOONACKER in the Journal asiatique, July–August 1900, p. 73, 4°. 43 Chron. eccl., II, p. 97. 44 Anecdota syriaca, t. IV, text, p. 1–32; translation, p. 1–30; notes, p. 90–113. Renan edited and translated the first part of the Introduction, Journal asiatique, 4th series, t. XIX, 1852, p. 312–319; De philosophia peripatetica, p. 19–22. 45 ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 219. Several explanations for that title have been put forward; Steinschneider sees in it a corruption of Greek τὸ ἄλφα μέγαν, i.e. book A of Aristotle’s Metaphysics. 46 ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 192–193. Part of the last work is in the British Museum MS Add. 14620, WRIGHT, Catal., p. 802; NAU published it in the Patrologia orientalis, t. III, fasc. I, Histoires d’Ahoudemmeh et de Marouta suivies du traité d’Ahoudemmeh sur l’homme, Paris, 1906. In that treatise Ahoudemmeh mentions his previous work on the microcosm man. Another treatise on man regarded as a microcosm is attributed to Michael the interpreter in a MS from the monastery of Our Lady of Seeds, north



In the early 7th century the monastery of Qenneshre, on the left bank of the Euphrates,47 became famous for its Greek instruction. In that monastery, around 640, Bishop Severus Sebokht devoted himself to the study of philosophy, mathematics and theology. The British Museum MSS Add. 14660 and 17156 contain several of his philosophical works: a treatise on the syllogisms of Aristotle’s Analecta priora, a letter to the priest Aitilaha on different terms of the Περὶ ἑρμηνείας; fragments of a commentary on the Περὶ ἑρμηνείας; and a letter to the periodeut Jonah in which are explained several points of Aristotle’s Rhetoric.48 Jacob of Edessa and Athanasius of Balad, two disciples of Severus Sebokht, pursued their master’s tradition in the philosophical sciences. Jacob of Edessa is the author of an Enchiridion, or treatise on the terminology of philosophy, preserved in the British Museum MS Add. 12154. Wright49 thought that two metric compositions on philosophical subjects could be attributed to that author. These have survived in two MSS from the Vatican, n. 36 and 95, which give Jacob of Serug as the author. It was believed for some time that Jacob of Edessa had translated the Categories and the Περὶ ἑρμηνείας of Aristotle. Wright has established that the translation of the Categories was the work of Sergius of Reshʿayna (see above, p. 214, note 36); as for the translation of the Περὶ ἑρμηνείας, Hoffmann has demonstrated that it was by another author.50 Athanasius of Balad, who was named patriarch of the Jacobites in 684, retired to the monastery of Beth Malka in Tur Abdin, after having studied under Severus Sebokht in the of Mosul, see the Notice of ADDAI SCHER in the Journal asiatique, MayJune, 1906, p. 499. 47 The monastery of Kennesrin or Qenneshre was located opposite Europus (Djerabis of the Arabs) and had been founded by John bar Aphtonia, comp. with HOFFMANN, Auszüge, p. 162, note 1260. 48 RENAN, De philos. peripat., p. 29–30; WRIGHT, Catal., p. 1160– 1163. 49 Syriac literature, 2nd ed., p. 150. 50 De hermeneuticis apud Syros Aristoteleis, p. 17.



monastery of Qenneshre.51 There he translated in 645 the Isagoge of Porphyry. His translation is preserved in the Vatican MS 158 and in MSS held in the libraries of Florence, Paris and Berlin, all of which are copies of the Vatican MS.52 The British Museum MS Add. 14660 contains a translation, done by the same Athanasius, of another Isagoge written by an anonymous Greek author. According to Baumstark (op. cit., p. 223 ff.), the commentary of the Vatican Anonymous (cod. 158, f. 107a–129a), whose author may be a Jacobite monk of the monastery of Qenneshre, belongs to the second half of the 7th century or the first half of the 8th. That commentary is a compilation of extracts of ancient commentaries on the Isagoge. Baumstark published it with a translation, comparing it to the version of the Isagoge made by Athanasius of Balad for the passages which that version provided to the commentary of the Anonymous. George, a disciple of Athanasius who was named bishop of the Arabs in 686, is known from several works, the most important of which being the version of Aristotle’s Organon. The British Museum MS Add. 14659 has preserved part of that version: the Categories, the Περὶ ἑρμηνείας and the first book of the Analytics divided into two parts; each book is preceded by an introduction and followed by a commentary.53 Hoffmann published several extracts in his work entitled De hermeneuticis apud Syros Aristoteleis, p. 22. Renan54 writes that “its significance and the excactitude of its methodology are unparalleled among the whole corpus of Syriac commentaries; if some part of the Syrians’ philosophy were to be printed, scholars would do well to choose this text over any other.”

BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., I, p. 287. RENAN, De philosophia peripatetica, p. 30; ARON FREIMANN, Die Isagoge des Porphyrius in den syrischen Uebersetzungen, Berlin, 1897. Freimann has published in his work the Syriac text of the Isagoge. 53 RENAN, De phil. peripat., p. 33; HOFFMANN, De hermeneuticis apud Syros Aristoteleis, p. 148–151. 54 L. c., p. 33–34. 51 52



Bar Hebræus55 cites a commentary of Moses bar Kepha on Aristotle’s Rhetoric. The works on definitions and logical divisions, drawn from the commentary of John Philoponus on the Isagoge and inaugurated by Ahoudemmeh (see above, p. 216), entered the Nestorian monasteries. In the middle of the 7th century, ʿEnanishoʿ composed a lengthy commentary on the definitions and divisions, which he dedicated to his brother Ishoʿyahb.56 Abzoud, in the second half of the 9th century, wrote a poem in seven-syllable lines on philosophical divisions, addressed to his friend Qurta; it is preserved in the Berlin MS n. 92, fol. 120b to 124a.57 ʿAbdishoʿ further mentions in his catalogue: A commentary on the Analytics by Patriarch Henanishoʿ I, who was elected in 686, B. O., III, part I, 154. A commentary on the entire dialectic of Aba of Kashkar (Mar Aba II, elected patriarch in 741?), B. O., III, part I, 154 and 157.58 An introduction to logic by Ishoʿdnah, bishop of Basra in the late 8th century, B. O., III, part I, 195.59 A commentary on dialectic by Denha, also called Ibas, who lived around 850, B. O., III, part I, 175. Chron. eccl., II, 215. Cf. ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 144; Thomas of Maga, Historia monastica, ed. BUDGE, II, 11 (transl., I, 79); BAUMSTARK, op. cit., p. 212. Baumstark has published fragments of the Isagoge of John Philoponus taken from the Vatican MS n. 158. 57 Cf. ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, p. 189; BAUMSTARK, op. cit., p. 212. 58 In the first of these passages, Mar Aba is referred to by the name Aba of Kashkar, while in the second the name Aba ber Berik-Sebyaneh is used. Comp. with WRIGHT, Syriac literature, 2nd ed., p. 187. ADDAI SCHER, Revue de l’Orient chrétien, 1906, p. 9, n. IX, places Aba of Kashkar in the 6th century. 59 Contra Assemani, we consider that ʿAbdishoʿ’s note on Patriarch Sourin, B. O., III, part I, 169, does not prove that this patriarch wrote about Aristotle’s logic, comp. with RENAN, De philos. peripat., p. 37. 55 56



A manuscript from the monastery of Our Lady of Seeds, north of Mosul, contains The Ten Categories by Ishoʿbokht, metropolitan of Persia circa 800 AD.60 The Arabs derived their knowledge of Greek philosophy and of the other sciences from the Nestorians, and especially from the famous physicians who lived in Baghdad under the Abbasid caliphs of the 9th and 10th centuries. Hunayn, his son Ishaq and his nephew Hobeish prepared new Syriac and Arabic translations that included all Aristotelian philosophy rather than just the Organon,61 as previous Syrian works had done. Zachariah of Merv, or Abu Yahya al-Marwazi, wrote on logic.62 Bazoud presumably composed his large Book of Definitions, preserved in a MS from Berlin, around the middle of the 10th century. We should not mistake (as Hoffmann did) Bazoud for Abzoud, mentioned earlier. Nor should he be identified as Michael the Interpreter, to whom (as Hoffmann noted)63 is attributed the Book of Definitions in a MS held in the India Office of London. Bazoud’s book itself of little value: its interest lies in the lost works which it partly preserves. That opinion is shared by Baumstark, who published fragments of the commentary, a compilation made up of extracts of ancient commentaries of the See the Notice of ADDAI SCHER in the Journal asiatique, May–June 1906, p. 499, cod. 52. 61 RENAN, De philos. peripat., p. 62. According to Bar Hebræus, Hunayn translated Nicolas’s book — an outline of Aristotle’s philosophical compendium — from Greek into Syriac; ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 270–272. 62 Kitâb al-Fihrist, ed. FLUEGEL, Leipzig, 1871, p. 263; Ibn Abi Ouseibia, ed. MUELLER, Kœnigsberg, 1884, I, 234–235. 63 G. HOFFMANN, De hermeneuticis apud Syros Aristoteleis, p. 151; Opuscula nestoriana, p. XXI ff.; BAUMSTARK, op. cit., p. 213. The Book of definitions of Michael the Interpreter can be found in a MS from the monastery of the Chaldeans of Our Lady of Seeds, see the Notice of ADDAI SCHER in the Journal asiatique, May-June 1906, p. 499; and in Revue de l’Or. chr., 1906, p. 16, in which Michael is said to have lived in the late 6th century. 60



Isagoge, together with a translation. While editing the text, Baumstark checked passages of the commentary against Athanasius of Balad’s version of the Isagoge, from which they are taken. In 1148 Dionysius bar Salibi wrote a commentary on the Isagoge of Porphyry and on the Categories, as well as on the Περὶ ἑρμηνείας and Aristotle’s Analytics.64 The second book of the Dialogues of Jacob bar Shakko, who took the name Severus on being appointed bishop († 1241), focuses on philosophical questions. The first dialogue is devoted to logic, as summarised in fifty-two questions. The second dialogue is divided into five sections organised as follows: (1) definitions and divisions of philosophy; (2) ethics; (3) physics and physiology; (4) mathematics; (5) metaphysics and theology.65 Jacob Severus bar Shakko appeared at the end of the period of scientific decline and, as Bar Hebræus before him, sought to maintain past science in the Christian schools through the use of compilations. Severus did not directly borrow from Stephen of Alexandria’s commentary of the Isagoge; however, he did employ a Syriac compendium which had used that commentary.66 Bar Hebræus is the last of a series of Syrian Jacobites who wrote on the philosophy of Aristotle. He embraced all of this philosophy through the works of the Arabs.67 His Book of the Pupils of the Eye, ‫ܟܬܒܐ ܳܕܒ ܰܒ ̈ܘܬܐ‬, comprises an introduction on the usefulness of logic and seven chapters devoted to the Isagoge of Porphyry, to the Categories, to the Περὶ ἑρμηνείας, to the Analytica priora, to the Tropics, to the Analytica posteriora and to the Sophistics. A MS in Cambridge, Catal. of WRIGHT and COOK, p. 1009, I; cf. ASSEMANI, B. O., II, p. 210. 65 Manuscripts held in the British Museum, the Bodleian, Berlin and Gœttingen. 66 Cf. BAUMSTARK, op. cit., p. 182 ff. Baumstark published and translated several extracts of the Dialogues, including one from book II, section 4, already edited by RUSKA, see next chapter, §5, Mathematics. These extracts reproduce fragments found in the Dialogues of Stephen of Alexandria’s commentary. 67 RENAN, De philosophia peripat., p. 64 ff. 64




ܽ ‫ܐܳܕܣܘ‬ ܰ ‫ܟܬܒ‬, is an abridged The Book of Conversation of Wisdom, ‫ܕܳܣܘܦ ܰܝܐ‬ version of the dialectic, physics and metaphysics or theology. The ̈ܶ ‫ ܶ̈ܚ ܰܘ‬, is a vast encyclopedia book entitled The Finest Science,68 ‫ܬܳܚܟܡܬܐ‬ containing all Aristotelian philosophy. Renan tells us that nowadays the Syrians use it as a summary of philosophy. It is divided into three parts, the first of which is made up of nine books: the Isagoge, the Categories, the Περὶ ἑρμηνείας, the Analytica priora, the Analytica posteriora, the dialectic, the sophistic, the rhetoric and the poetic. The second part holds eight treatises on physics, the sky and the universe, meteors, the generation and the corruption, minerals, plants, animals and the soul. The third part is devoted to metaphysics and theology, ethics, economy and politics. An abridged of that great work is entitled The Trade of Trades, ̈ܶ ܰ version ̈ܶ ‫ܓܪܬܳܬܓܪܬܐ‬ ‫ܬ‬. Here as in most of his other scientific treatises, Bar Hebræus advances no new or original ideas; it is the work of an erudite that read extensively and amassed knowledge which he then methodically put in writing. According to Wright, such is also the case of his rhyming poem on The Soul as Viewed by the Aristotelians, in which the letter shin forms the rhyme, as well as his Syriac translation of the Theorems and Warnings of Avicenna and The Finest of Secrets of his contemporary Athir ad-Din Mofaddal.69 We must also add, as Renan points out,70 another rhyming poem by Bar Hebraeus on the judgment of Socrates: “Law is good but philosophy is better.” The rhyme is based on the σιν ending on Greek words. Among the Nestorians, philosophical studies end after ʿAbdishoʿ, who gives a list of his own works at the end of his catalogue. These works include a book on the mysteries of Greek In ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 270, that work is known by the title Book of the Science of Sciences. 69 WRIGHT, Syriac literature, 2nd ed., p. 270; comp. with ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 268. The philosophical works of Bar Hebræus are in manuscripts kept in the main libraries of Europe. Bar Hebræus also wrote in Arabic a treatise on the soul, which F. CHEIKHO edited in Al-Mahriq, Beyrouth, 1898, n. 16 ff. 70 De philosophia peripatetica, p. 67. 68



philosophers and twelve treatises on all sciences,71 which have not yet been recovered.

§3. — OTHER SYRIAC VERSIONS OF GREEK PHILOSOPHY In the previous section we considered the Syriac versions of Aristotle’s works. Syrians had in their possession translations of other works of Greek philosophy, most of which have survived in manuscripts now held in the British Museum. For an edition of these texts, see Land, Anecdota syriaca, I, p. 64 ff.; Paul de Lagarde, Analecta syriaca, and Sachau, Inedita syriaca.72 Gnomic literature was particularly appreciated among the Syrians, who gathered in various collections moral and philosophical precepts attributed to Pythagoras, Plato, Theano, Menander, Pope Sixtus, etc. Lagarde edited the precepts of Pythagoras, Anal. syr., p. 195–201; title: Traité de Pythagore; sentences que le philosophe Pythagore prononça sur la vertu et qui, par leur valeur, ont la beauté de l’or. Gildemeister has recognised that the Syriac collection of these precepts derives from the same composition as the Greek collection of Demophilius; he researched and reproduced the Greek equivalents to the Syriac precepts.73 The writings attributed to Plato comprise three short passages (Sachau, Inedita syriaca, p. 66–70). The first contains platonic definitions derived to a large extent from the Ὅροι, but in a different collation; these definitions are also linked to the Definitions of Secundus and of Epictitus in Orelli, Opuscula veterum Græcorum moralia et sententiosa, I, 227, 230.74 The second passage is entitled B. O., III, part I, p. 360. Renan was the first to bring attention to these translatons in his Lettre à M. Reinaud sur quelques ms. syr. du Musée britannique published in the Journal asiatique, 4th series, 1852, t. XIX, p. 293 ff. In that letter Renan also indicated the Syriac versions of Aristotelian philosophy, which he examined again in his Latin thesis De philosophia peripatetica apud Syros. 73 Comp. with RENAN, Lettre à M. Reinaud, p. 303; GILDEMEISTER, Hermes, 1869, t. IV, p. 81; WRIGHT, Journal of the royal asiatic society, New series, vol. VII, part I, 1874, Appendix, p. 5. 74 SACHAU, Inedita syriaca, p. IV; RENAN, Lettre à M. Reinaud, p. 307. 71 72



Precepts of Plato to his Disciple; it is written as a dialogue and is brimming with Christian ideas.75 The third one, of the same type, gives definitions of faith, God, charity, justice and virtue. Cowper has translated The Precepts of Plato into English (Syriac Miscellanies, London, 1861). Sachau hypothesised that Sergius of Reshʿayna is the author of a Syriac version of these texts;76 a critical edition, which remains to be produced, will establish whether that version truly follows the translations made by Sergius. Sachau has edited the short collection entitled Theano’s Advice, Pythagorean Philosophy (Inedita syr., p. 70). Only one of the precepts attributed to that female philosopher was included in the Greek writings published under Theano’s name. In Sachau’s edition, that collection is followed by the Philosophers’ precepts regarding the soul,77 the Philosophers’ advice and the Life of philosopher Secundus. The Life of Secundus is incomplete in the Syriac version; it ends after the definition of death; it is a collation that differs from the known Greek text. Lewis published in Studia Sinaitica, n. 1, London, 1894: Philosophers’ discourses on the soul, p. 19–26, and Philosophers’ precepts, p. 26–38, which, as V. Ryssel observed,78 both come from the λόγος περὶ ψυχῆς of Gregory Thaumaturgus (Patrol. gr., X, 1140). A manuscript held in the library of New College, Oxford, also contains maxims of Psellus, Theocritus, Anaxagoras, Protagoras, Theano and Timachus, several of which are in the Precepts Regarding

RENAN, Lettre à M. Reinaud, p. 308. RENAN adds: “The Vatican Syriac manuscript 159 also contains apocryphal precepts of Plato to his disciple, in Karshuni, that are different from these ones.” 76 Hermes, 1870, t. IV, p. 78. 77 Comp. with Hermes, 1869, t. IV, p. 72 and 78. These precepts have been translated into English by COWPER, Syriac Miscellanies, p. 43 ff., and into German by RYSSEL, Rheinisches Museum f. Philologie, neue Folge, 1895, LI, p. 532; cf. MAX IHM, ibid., LII, p. 143. 78 Rheinisches Museum f. Philologie, neue Folge, LI, p. 318; Theol. Litteraturzeitung, 1896, p. 60. RYSSEL has translated it into German, Rheinisches Museum, LI, p. 4 and p. 532. 75



the Soul.79 A manuscript of the Dublin library contains precepts of several Greek philosophers.80 The precepts of Menander are preserved in two British Museum MSS. These are the famous MS Add. 14658 (7th century), which contains much of Syriac logic and philosophy, and MS Add. 14614 (8th century). In the former are recorded one hundred and fifty-three maxims, which Land has published together with a Latin translation in a critical edition.81 The latter contains only eighteen, all but the first two of which also appear in the first collection. Short published that short collection in Inedita syriaca, p. 80. Baumstark, who studied the two collections published by Land and Sachau and who translated the Syriac text into German,82 is of the opinion that the Land compilation was modified and extended by an inexpert author who lived prior to the compiler of MS Add. 14658. These interpolations would originate from the document which supplied the Sachau collection. The first critics who dealt with that collection believed that it held extracts from Menander’s comedies, which are for the most part lost. Baumstark concedes that, as early as the middle of the 4th century, two collections of the precepts of Menander were in circulation. However, he does not indicate whether these collections were translations of Greek originals or whether they were taken from fables of a new comedy by Menander entirely translated into Syriac (!). But Frankenberg, who studied these precepts in Zeitschr. für die alttest. Wissenschaft, 1895, XV, p. 226, sees in them a product of Jewish literature. His thesis is based on the comparison of a number of these maxims with those contained in the Book of Sirach and the Book of Proverbs.

Published by SACHAU, Inedita syr., p. V–VIII, and translated into German by RYSSEL, Rheinisches Museum f. Philologie, n. Folge, LI, p. 549. 80 WRIGHT, The book of Kalilah and Dimnah, Oxford, 1884, Preface, p. IX. 81 Anecdota syriaca, t. I, text, p. 64; translation, p. 158; notes, p. 198. 82 Lucubrationes syro-græce, Leipzig, 1894, in Supplement XXI of the Annales philosophiques, p. 257–524. 79



The maxims attributed to Pope Sixtus correspond to the maxims of the philosopher Sextus, the Greek original of which A. Elter discovered and published in 1892. They were translated into Syriac in two distinct versions, gathered in a single compilation and divided into two collections, to which was added a third collection of maxims. Paul de Lagarde (Analecta syriaca, p. 2–31) has published the compilation, entitled Chosen Sayings of Mar Xysius, Bishop of Rome, while Gildemeister and Ryssel83 have translated it into German. Romanus, a physician and a monk of the monastery of Kartemin, who took the name Theodosius on being appointed patriarch in 887, is the author of a collection of one hundred and twelve pythagorean maxims. He translated most of these from Greek into Syriac and then added short explanations in Syriac and Arabic. Zotenberg has produced a good scholarly edition of these texts together with a French translation in the Journal asiatique, 1876, seventh series, t. VIII, p. 425 ff. The editor notes that “a literal translation of several of the Σύμβολα Πυθαγορικά, brought to our attention by the Greek authors, can be found in our Syriac text. A number of these maxims passed into Arabic from Syriac and are included in Scaliger, Erpenius and Freytag’s collections, as well as in The History of Physicians by Ibn Abi Ouseibia.”84 A small collection of maxims attributed to Greek philosophers is preserved in the Vatican Syr. MS 135. It bears the title “The discourse of philosophers for he who wishes to be patient.”85 In a way, the apology belongs to the body of gnomic literature. The Syriac version of a collation of Aesop’s fables, which Wright places between the 9th and 11th centuries, should also be GILDEMEISTER, Sexti sententiarum recensiones latinam, græcam, syriacam, conjunctim exhibuit…, Bonn, 1873; V. RYSSEL, Zeitschr. für wissenschaft, Theologie, 1895–1897; Rhein. Museum für Philologie, neue Folge, LI, 1895. The previous works on that subject are cited in Ryssel’s articles. 84 ZOTENBERG, op. cit., p. 433–434. 85 Edited by GUIDI, Rendiconti della R. Academia dei Lincei, June 1886, p. 554–556. Cf. Cambridge MS Add. 2012, Catal. Wright and Cook, p. 536, n. IX. 83



mentioned here.86 Landsberger has edited a text of that version, as reworked by a Jewish author, under the title Die Fabeln des Sophos, syrisches Original der griechischen Fabeln des Syntipas, Posen, 1859. The editor saw in that text a Greek original, but Geiger has established that the word Sophos was an alteration of Esophos, Aesop.87 Other manuscripts give Josiphos, “Joseph,” which is another corruption of the same name. Samson Hochfeld published a second, superior edition together with a critical introduction: Beiträge zur syrischen Fabellitteratur, Halle, 1893. Hochfeld dates the collation edited by Landsberger88 to the 7th century. The eight fables published by Rœdiger in his Chrestomathia syriaca, 2nd ed., Halle, 1868, p. 97, after a Berlin MS in which they are inserted in The Story of Joseph and king Nebuchadnezzar; and the three fables that Wright printed,89 are of a similar type to the work of Aesop mentioned in the previous paragraph. ܽ ܰ ‫ܟܬܒܐ ܳܕܬ ̈ܘܢ ܝܶ̈ܐ‬, by Bar The Book of Amusing Tales, ‫ܳܡܓ ̈ܚܟܢܶ̈ܐ‬ Hebræus, should also be mentioned, though that work does not derive from Greek and cannot claim to be a work of philosophy. The first chapters contain the precepts of Greek, Persian, Indian and Jewish philosophers, as well as of Christian and Muslim ascetics. Chapter X gives a selection of animal fables and it is followed by tales, several of which are particularly obscene for a bishop: the author apologises for including them but writes that he wanted his work to be complete. A collection of philosophers’ descriptions of physionomical traits makes up the twentieth and final chapter. Morales has published extracts of that work, together with a German translation, in the Zeitschr. der deut. morgenl. Syriac literature, 2nd ed., p. 241. In the Zeitschr. der deut. morgenl. Gesellschaft, 1850, t. XIV, p. 586 ff. 88 Cf. also GISMONDI, Linguæ syriacæ Grammatica, Beyrouth, 1900, Chrestom., p. 7–18. 89 WRIGHT, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1874, vol. VII, part I, Appendix, p. 4; The Book of Kalilah and Dimnah, Preface, p. IX–X; comp. with HOCHFELD, Beiträge zur syrischen Fabelliteratur, Halle, 1893; SACHAU, Verzeichniss der syr. Handschriften, Berlin, 1899, p. 266, 439, 725; WRIGHT and COOK, Catal. des ms. de Cambridge, Add. 2020, p. 585 and 586. 86 87



Gesellschaft, 1886, t. XL, p. 410 ff..90 Budge (London, 1897) produced a complete edition of the text with an English translation.91 The editor added several poems by Bar Hebræus on morals and an elegy on the death of Patriarch John bar Madani, one of the most beautiful pieces of late Syriac literature. An Arabic book entitled Distancing from concern has been mistakenly attributed to Bar Hebræus.92 As for the Syriac translations of Greek philosophy, we encounter: a dialogue on the soul between Socrates and Erostrophos (Analecta syr., p. 158); a treatise on the soul (Studia Sinaitica, I, p. 19); a speech by Isocrates addressed to Demonicus (Anal. syr., p. 167–177); a treatise entitled Περὶ ἀσκήσεως or De exercitatione, attributed to Plutarch (Anal. syr., p. 177–186); Plutarch’s treatise against anger, Περὶ ἀοργησίας (Anal. syr., p. 186–195); Lucian’s treatise against calumny, Περὶ τοῦ μὴ ῥᾳδίως πιστεύειν διαβολῇ (edited by Sachau, Inedita syriaca, p. 1–16); a treatise by Themistius, Περὶ ἀρετῆς, which has not come down to us in Greek (Ined. syr., p. 17–47); the treatise of Themistius entitled Περὶ φιλίας (Ined. syr., p. 48–65). The dialogue between Socrates and Erostrophos does not correspond to any known dialogue of Plato, but Renan argues that it quite obviously belongs to the family of alleged dialogues, which includes such texts as the Eryxias, the Axiochus, the Minos and the Hipparque.93

Several specimens can be found in the Chrestomathia syriaca by KIRCH and BERNSTEIN, 2nd ed., Leipzig, 1836, p. 1–4. ASSEMANI had already published the title of each chapter, B. O., II, p. 306. 91 The laughable stories collected by Mar Gregory John barHebræus. 92 ASSEMANI, B. O., II, p. 268 and 272. A MS in Berlin, Catal. Sachau, n. 195, p. 631, and in Paris, syr. 274; that text is the work of Elias of Nisibis, not of Bar Hebræus; it has nothing in common with The book of amusing tales. It is a book of morals consisting of twelve chapters; it teaches how to acquire peace of mind. 93 Lettre à M. Reinaud, p. 299. RYSSEL translated it into German in the Rheinsiches Museum f. Philologie, neue Folge, XLVIII. 185; cf. ibid., LI, 4. 90



Ryssel94 notes that the translations of Isocrates’s speech addressed to Demonicus and of Lucian’s treatise on calumny are free, not literal. Ryssel95 adds that “the many omissions (compared with the Greek MSS) in the translation of the speech of Isocrates are strong intimation that the Greek version, the authenticity of which has already been brought into question by several scholars, may be the result of a later collation. If so, this late collation differs from the discourses of Isocrates whose authenticity has been established, since the reviewer unashamedly disregarded the author’s style in a number of passages. Following that hypothesis, proof of which lies in the omission of unimportant and unnecessary sentences, the Syriac version would be a translation of an archaic form of the original text. Likewise, the translation of Lucian’s treatise is not literal: it paraphrases the original, omits words and sentences deemed unclear, and adds passages in order to preserve the meaning of sentences as a whole rather than of specific words. Such is also the case of the Syriac version of the Περὶ φιλίας, which is shorter than the Greek.”96 To the category of versions that are reworkings rather than literal translations of a Greek original also belong: the treatise of Plutarch entitled Περὶ ἀοργησίας and probably the treatise entitled Περὶ ἀσκήσεως, also attributed to Plutarch but which has not survived in its Greek form.97 The translator usually takes Plutarch’s thoughts as his starting point and then constructs a new work based on them; therefore, these versions are only marginally useful for the critique of the Greek text. Ueber den textkritischen Werth der syr. Uebersetzungen, Leipzig, 1880– 1881, I, p. 47. 95 Ibid., II, p. 44. 96 The Syriac text ends on p. 279 of the edition by PETAVIUS and on p. 328, l. 12, of the edition by W. DINDORF. 97 RYSSEL, Ueber den textkritischen Werth, etc., I, p. 4; II, p. 5. Comp. with GILDEMEISTER, Rheinisches Museum für Philologie, neue Folge, t. XXVII, p. 520 ff. Gildemeister and Buecheler published in that volume a German translation of a Syriac text of the Περὶ ἀσκήσεως and of the Περὶ ἀοργησίας. 94



Baumstark, who examined these versions after Gildemeister and Ryssel, comes to somewhat different conclusions.98 He sees in them the idiosyncratic translation style of Sergius of Reshʿayna, and therefore attributes them to that illustrious interpreter.99 To explain the differences between these versions and the mistakes and lacunae they contain, Baumstark allows for later revisions: shortly after the death of Sergius a first reviewer would have reworked the speech which Isocrates addressed to Demonicus; a second would have reworked the versions of Lucian and Themistius; a third would be responsible for the profound modifications observed in the Syriac version of Plutarch’s treatises. The critical apparatus on which this hypothesis is based seems sound, but in such cases one can hardly provide conclusive evidence. The version of Plutarch’s treatise on the advantages to be derived from one’s enemies (De capienda ex inimicis utilitate) belongs to the same category of Syriac translations. It appears with the versions of the Περὶ ἀσκήσεως and of the Περὶ ἀοργησίας in the Sinai MS which provided Rendel Harris with the Syriac text of the Apology of Aristides (see above, p. 133). Nestle published it with an English translation in the Studia Sinaitica, n. IV, under the title A tract of Plutarch on the advantage to be derived from ones enemies, London, 1894. Nestle suggests that it was produced by the same person who also translated the Περὶ ἀοργησίας and the Περὶ ἀρετῆς. Ryssel, who translated that version into German, does not see in it the style of Sergius’s translations, Rhein. Museum, neue Folge, LI, 1896, p. 1 ff. Comp. With NŒLDEKE, Zeitschr. der deut. morgenl. Gesell., XLIX, p. 324; FRANZ CUMONT, Revue de Philologie, 1895, p. 81. Gottheil published fragments of a Syriac version by Apollonius of Tyana, Zeitschr. der deut. morg. Gesell., 1892, XLVI, p. 466.

Lucubrationes syro-græcæ, Leipzig, 1894, in supplement XXI of the Annales philologiques, p. 405 ff. 99 Sachau, Hermes, 1870, vol. IV, p. 78, had already come to the same conclusion for most of the versions mentioned above. 98

XV. THE SCIENCES OF THE SYRIANS §1. — MEDICINE Medicine was particularly studied by the Syrians, and their knowledge in that science soon acquired a great reputation across the Orient. In his Syriac chronicle Bar Hebræus1 relates that, when Shabur founded the town of Gondeshabur, he had Greek physicians brought in and these introduced the medicine of Hippocrates into the Orient.2 He adds that “a number of Syrian physicians also became famous, such as Sergius of Reshʿayna, Atanos (?) of Amid,3 Philagrius, Simeon of Taibuteh, Bishop Gregory, Patriarch Theodosius, the illustrious Hunayn, son of Ishaq, and many more. They were all Syrian, with the exception of priest Aaron, whose book was translated from Greek into Syriac by Gosius of Alexandria.”

Ed. BRUNS and KIRSCH, p. 62; ed. BEDJAN, p. 57. Following Tabari (NŒLDEKE, Geschichte der Perser… Tabari, Leiden, 1872, p. 67), Shabur had a physician brought in from India and established in Susiana, at Karka of Beth Lapat (or Gondeshabur). He adds that the Susians derived their medical knowledge from that physician. 3 ‫ܐܛܢܘܣ ܳܐܡܝܕܝܐ‬, that spelling does not lend itself to the reading Athanasius of Amid. Athanasius, who was made Maphrian of Amid by Patriarch Theodosius in 887, is not known to have been a physician. Besides, the place that Bar Hebræus assigns to ‫ ܐܛܢܘܣ‬in his enumeration suggests that he was not a contemporary of Theodosius. Nor do we have any information on the physicians Philagrius and Gregory mention in the notice. Because of his position, Bishop Gregory cannot refer to Bar Hebræus, who was one of the physicians of the sultan in Aleppo in 1263, Chron. eccl., I, 747. 1 2




Sergius, the chief physician of Reshʿayna, translated several of Galen’s works. The British Museum MS Add. 14661 contains books VI–VIII of the Treatise on Simple Remedies, Περὶ κράσεών τε καὶ δυνάμεων τῶν ἁπλῶν φαρμάκων. Each book is preceded by a short introduction by Sergius, addressed to priest Theodore, and by a list of the names of the plants under consideration, with their Syriac equivalent. If the manuscript truly dates to the 6th or 7th century, as Wright believed,4 the explanatory notes in Arabic which it contains must have been added at a later date. Merx has published extracts of that version in the Zeitschrift der deut. morg. Gesellschaft, 1885, t. XXXIX, p. 237 ff. MS Add. 17156 contains fragments of Galen’s The Art of Medicine and Properties of food;5 Sachau has edited these fragments, Inedita syriaca, p. 88–97. The translations of Sergius were revised by Hunayn ibn Ishaq6 in the 9th century. That revision has not survived, but Bar Bahlul’s lexicon, which Sergius cites, includes several of Hunayn’s new explanations.7 The Gosius, which, according to the notice of Bar Hebræus, claims to be the Syriac translation of the medical Syntagma of the priest and physician Aaron of Alexandria, has been identified as Gesius Petæ, a contemporary of Emperor Zeno.8 In another passage (A Compendious History of Dynasties, ed. Pocock, p. 158; ed. Salhani, p. 157), Bar Hebræus adds that Aaron’s collection was made up of thirty books, to which Sergius added two more books. Steinschneider considers that claim to be incorrect; the author of

Catal., p. 1187. WRIGHT, Catal., p. 1188. 6 See IBN ABI OUSEIBIA, I, 204. 7 IMMANUEL LŒW, Aramæische Pflanzennamen, Leipzig, 1881, p. 18. GOTTHEIL has published and translated into English a short collection of remedies derived from Galen: Contributions to syriac Folk-medicine in the Journal of the American Oriental Society, XX, 1899, p. 145. 8 See BAUMSTARK, Lucubrationes syro-græcæ, note 60; but LECLERC, Histoire de la médecine arabe, Paris, 1876, I, p. 42, believes that Gesius lived a century before Gosius and therefore that the two individuals should not be confused. 4 5



the two additional books is the Arabic translator Massardjawihi or Masardjis.9 Pognon published and translated into French an anonymous Syriac version of the Aphorisms of Hippocrates (Leipzig, 1903). Apart from ascetic works, Simeon of Taibuteh, who wrote in the late 7th century, also composed a book on medicine.10 That book is cited in Bar Bahlul’s Syriac lexicon but it has unfortunately not survived. Nor has the medical collection of Romanus, who later was appointed patriarch and took the name Theodosius. Bar Hebræus informs us that this work was highly esteemed in its time.11 The long series of illustrious Nestorian physicians of Baghdad began with George Bokhtishoʿ. That scholar, who had already earned a reputation in GondeShabur, was summoned to the capital by caliph al-Mansur, the founder of Baghdad. The Bokhtishoʿ family distinguished itself under several successive generations of caliphs. Gabriel Bar Bokhtishoʿ, George’s grandson, is the author of an Arabic Compendium of the works of Dioscorides, Galen and Paul of Aegina, often cited in the lexicon of Bar Bahlul. The transcription of Greek words, into Arabic via Syriac, mutilated the plants’ names. Bar Bahlul committed these disfigured words to writing, recording them either as novel terms or as synonyms of the correct names.12 Mistakenly interpreting a passage from ʿAbdishoʿ’s catalogue,13 Assemani believed that Gabriel had composed a lexicon; he translates: “Bar Bahlul composuit lexicon ex multis collectum libris et Jesu Bar Ali medicus et Mazuraeus et Gabriel.” Yet what is meant is: “Bar Bahlul conscripsit lexicon, cujus magna

STEINSCHNEIDER, Al-Farabi in Mémoires de l’Académie des Sciences de Saint-Pétersbourg, 7th series, t. XIII, n. 4, p. 66; LECLERC, Histoire de la médecine arabe, I, p. 79–80. 10 Catal. ʿAbdishoʿ, B. O., III, part I, 184; BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., II, 139. 11 Chron. eccl., I, 391. 12 See IMMANUEL LŒW, Aramæische Pflanzennamen, p. 12–13. 13 B. O., III, part I, p. 257–258. 9



pars composita fuit e libris Jesu Bar Ali medici et Mazuræi et Gabrielis.” John bar Maswai, or Yahya ben Masawaih († 857), was the director of the most popular school of Baghdad. He wrote several books on medicine, either in Syriac or in Arabic, and his translations of Greek works also led to his reputation as a writer. The Book on Fever, which some Hebrew and Latin translations attribute to John bar Maswai, is an epitome of the medical knowledge of both Syrians and Arabs. Pagel has partly edited and analysed a MS held in Paris which contains the so-called ‘surgery’ of John bar Maswai.14 We are not yet able to make a catalogue of the works of that physician.15 After having studied in Baghdad, Hunayn († 87316), son of Ishaq and disciple of John bar Maswai, went to learn Greek in the West (at Alexandria). Once he had returned to Baghdad, he became known for his Syriac and Arabic translations of the works of Dioscorides, Hippocrates,17 Galen and Paul of Aegina, and for his collations of ancient versions made by Sergius of Reshʿayna. The explanatory notes of Dioscorides on plants, which Bar Bahlul borrowed from Hunayn, are far more accurate than those cited after Gabriel Bokhtishoʿ.18 Apart from his translations, Bar Hebræus also attributes to Hunayn twenty-five volumes of Die angelbliche Chirurgie des Joh. Masuë, Berlin, 1893. STEINSCHNEIDER, Zeitsch. Der deut. morg. Gesell., 1893, t. XLVII, 351–354. 16 On Safar 28 of year 260 of the Hijra and on Kanun 1 of year 1185 of the Greeks, according to the Kitab al-Fihrist, 294; mistakenly thought to be Safar 23 of year 264 of the Arabs and Kanoun 1 of year 1188 of the Greeks following Ibn Abi Ouseibia, I, 190. Bar Hebræus (Chron. syr., ed. BRUNS, 170: ed. BEDJAN, 162) confused the two dates by giving the synchronism 1188 of the Greeks and 260 of the Arabs; comp. with ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 164. 17 STEINSCHNEIDER, op. laud., 350, mentions the treatise of Hippocrates on severe diseases, together with Galen’s commentary which Hunayn translated (Paris MS, Arabic text in Hebrew characters). 18 IMMANUEL LŒW, Aram. Pflanzennamen, p. 13. 14 15



personal works.19 He adds that “Hunayn had two sons, one of whom — Isaac — made numerous translations. He also had a nephew named Hobeish, who followed in his footsteps by becoming a distinguished translator of medical books, though most of his work is now remembered as being Hunayn’s rather than his own.” Indeed, a great many Arabic treatises on medicine20 were in circulation under the name of Hunayn. Steinschneider21 writes that “the most famous and widespread work of that author is an Introduction to medical science that comes after Galen’s Ars parva, even though it is simply made up of a series of questions and answers. Hunayn’s project remained unfinished until his nephew Hobeisch resumed work on it.” John, son of Serapion, or Serapion the elder (late 9th or early 10th century), composed two collections or Pandectes in Syriac: the first one consisted of twelve books; the second, more widespread, was made up of seven books, the final one being a treatise on antidotes. Several authors (Mousa ben Ibrahim al-Hadith, Ibn Bahlul and perhaps Abu Bishr Mattai) have translated the second collection into Arabic. Two Latin translations have also been made: one by Gerard of Cremona, entitled Practiva sive Breviarium, and another by Abraham of Tortose.22 Other Syrians wrote on medicine, but in Arabic,23 hence they are not relevant for the present study. We shall therefore disregard them and focus instead on Bar Hebraeus. Chron. syr., ed. BRUNS, 170; ed. BEDJAN, 163. IBN ABI OUSEIBIA, I, 184, 200; Kitab al-Fihrist, 294; comp. with KLAMROTH, Zeitschr. der deut. morg. Gesell., 1886, t. L, 195 ff., 201, 621 ff. 21 Die hebräischen Uebersetzungen des Mittelalters, Berlin, 1893, p. 709, § 457. 22 See IBN ABI OUSEIBIA, I, 109; D r LECLERC, Histoire de la médecine arabe, Paris, 1876, I, 113–117; STEINSCHNEIDER, Die hebräischen Uebersetzungen, p. 736, § 474. 23 Apart from those of the physician Gabriel, from the 13th century, who composed in Syriac at Edessa numerous books on medicine and philosophy, according to BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. syr., ed. BRUNS, p. 485; ed. BEDJAN, p. 457. 19 20



Bar Hebræus, who was also a distinguished physician, composed several works on medicine: a version and an epitome of the Treatise on Simple Remedies by Dioscorides entitled Book of Dioscorides; a commentary in Arabic on the Aphorisms of Hippocrates; a commentary in Syriac on the Medical Questions of Hunayn, with a partial translation of these questions.24 These works do not appear to have survived the test of time. Gottheil has published the chapter of the Lamp of the Sanctuaries (see p. 211) containing a summary of the medical plants of Dioscorides.25

§2. — NATURAL HISTORY There are several Syriac collations of the history of animals entitled Physologius. Tychsen26 published the shorter composition, which consists of thirty-two small chapters. Land27 edited a longer text made up of eighty-one chapters, each one followed by a theory (or commentary) based on the Bible and on Christian dogmas; many passages taken from the homilies of St Basil on the hexameron. Land established a table of concordance of various Greek, Latin, Syriac (etc.) versions of that work. Apart from the usual sources, the author of a third collation, brought to our attention by Ahrens,28 also used Arabic documents. The book’s one hundred and twenty-five chapters are devoted to animals but also to trees and stones; geographical notes make up a separate section (chap. 80–89). That composition does not contain the theories of the Land edition. It is of Nestorian origin. It is the source of the Physiologus extracts found in Bar Bahlul’s lexicon. Syrians knew the fabulous stories on animals from Alexander’s Letter to Aristotle, written by pseudo-Callisthenes.29 Rœdiger BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., II, p. 479; ASSEMANI, B.O., II, 268. A list of plants and their properties (for private circulation), Berlin, 1886. 26 Physiologus syrus seu Historia animalium, Rostock, 1795. 27 Anecdota syriaca, IV, text, 1–99; Latin translation, 31–98; commentary, 115–176. 28 Das Buch der Naturgegenstände, Kiel, 1892. 29 On the Syriac version of the Alexander romance, see below, Ch. XVII, § 2 (p. 276). 24 25



published that letter separately in the Syriac chrestomathy, 2nd ed., p. 112–120. Dionysius bar Salibi composed a treatise on the structure of the human body, two short fragments of which are kept in the Bodleian Library.30 An incomplete treatise — the beginning is missing — in seven-syllable verses, contained in MS 116 of the Sachau Collection in Berlin, is of a similar type. It was published by Gottheil in Hebraica, IV, 206–215. Agriculture is treated in the Syriac language in a version of the Greek geoponics, contained in a British Museum MS of the 8th or 9th century published by Paul de Lagarde.31 The manuscript, the beginning and end of which are incomplete, bears neither its title nor the name of its author; it contains a distinctly ancient text which brings to mind the literal translations of the early centuries AD, such as those of Sergius of Reshʿayna. The Syriac geoponics are rightly attributed to him by Baumstark, who points out that the manuscript edited by Lagarde gives an epitome that was unskilfully abridged by a later Syrian.32 The Arabic version, mistakenly attributed to Qusta ibn Luqa and preserved in a MS now held in Leiden, presents a more accurate picture of the work of Sergius. The Syriac text’s main interest is lexicographical; it records a great number of words, including names of plants here given a very precise meaning. The original, which the translator put into Syriac, was the book of Anatolius Vindanius of Beyrouth (in Photius, cod. 163) or Ἀνατόλιος Οἰϊνδανιώνιος Βηρύτιος (in the Greek geoponics). That Greek work is preserved only in the compilation of Cassianus Catal. Payne Smith, col. 529. Geoponicon in sermonem syriacum versorum quæ supersunt, Leipzig, 1860; compare with De Geoponicon versione syriaca scripsit A. P. de Lagarde, Berlin, 1855, reprinted in the Gesammelte Abhandlungen of LAGARDE, Leipzig, 1866; and LAGARDE, Mittheilungen, I, 192. In his Litt. Centralblatt, 1876, p. 145, NŒLDEKE recognised a Syriac fragment of the Geoponics printed by LAND in his Anecdota syriaca, IV, 100, 32 Lucubrationes syro-græcæ, p. 390. Hadji Khalfa cites among the translators of the Book of agriculture a certain Sergius, son of Elias, who may correspond to Sergius of Reshʿayna, see BAUMSTARK, ibid., p. 379. 30 31



Bassus,33 but fortunately it is there found to be virtually complete. Bar Bahlul’s lexicon cites the Syriac geoponics under the title Book of Agriculture by Iaunios; Ibn al-Awam writes the name of the author in Arabic as Iounios; that name represents the final part of [Οἰϊνδαν]ιώνιος.34 We know from Photius that the Georgian eclogues of Anatolius Vindanius or Vindanionius comprised twelve books; the Syriac version was made up of at least two more books, for in the manuscript the lacuna starts after chapter IV of book XIV. The translator took those passages he added from various sources, particularly from the Hippatrics of Anatolius; the geoponics of Cassianus Bassus35 must also have provided material for his work.

§3. — ASTRONOMY, COSMOGRAPHY AND GEOGRAPHY Syriac astronomy appears to have disentangled itself from astrology at a very early date. Bardaisan, who in his youth had applied himself to the study of Chaldean astrology, later recognised the inanity of that science. That famous gnostic composed a treatise on astronomy which only survives in the form of extracts in the works of subsequent authors.36 Sergius of Reshʿayna was taught in the Greek school. His book on The Influence of the moon, addressed to Theodore, expands and explains the Περὶ κρισίμων ἡμερῶν of Galen. It is followed by an appendix entitled The Movement of the Sun, edited by Sachau, Inedita Four editions have been made, the last one by HENRI BECKH, Geoponica sive Cassiani Bassi… eclogæ, Leipzig, 1895, in Teubner’s collection. Beckh consulted the Syriac version but he would have benefited from using it even more thoroughly for the study of the Greek text. 34 See IMMANUEL LÖW, after ROSE, Aramæische Pflanzennamen, p. 19. 35 BAUMSTARK, op. cit., p. 396–400; comp. with J. SPRENGER, Geoponica, Leipzig, 1889. 36 George, bishop of the Arabs, presumably owes to that treatise the citation of Bardaisan contained in his letter on Aphrahat, CURETON, Spicilegium, p. 21; LAGARDE, Analecta syriaca, p. 114, l. 18; WRIGHT, The homilies of Aphraates, p. 27, l. 11. 33



syriaca, p. 101–126. It is doubtful that Sergius translated into Syriac the Μεγάλη σύνταξις of Ptolemy, of which an Arabic version exists in the Leiden MS 1034 (Warner 680).37 Severus Sebokht composed a book entitled The Signs of the Zodiac, of which several chapters preserved in the British Museum MS Add. 14538 have been edited in Sachau, Inedita syr., p. 127–134. These chapters are concerned with habitable and inhabitable lands, with the measurement of the sky and the earth, and finally with the movement of the sky and the earth. A MS in Berlin, n. 186, Catal. Sachau, p. 606, contains the following works of the same author: (1) a treatise on the astrolab, which is of some importance for the history of science in the East; published with a French translation by Nau;38 (2) and a letter on the 14th moon of the month of Nisan of year 976 of the Greeks (665 AD), addressed to the priest and periodeutic physician Basil of Cyprus. Patriarch Timothy I is the author of a treatise on astronomy entitled Book of Stars.39 The Syrians, inspired by the homilies of the Fathers of the Greek Church on the six days of Creation, also exposed their scientific knowledge in hexamerons. In the final years of his life, Jacob of Edessa composed one such work. He left it incomplete and the task of finishing it fell upon his friend George, bishop of the Arabs. The book is divided into seven treatises and begins with a dialogue between the author and one of his disciples, named Constantine; it is preserved in two manuscripts, one held in Leiden, the other in Lyon;40 Abbot F. Martin has analysed it and published

In favour of that opinion, V. BAUMSTARK, Lucubrationes syro-græcæ, p. 380; contra, WRIGHT, Syriac literature, 2nd ed., p. 93, note 7. 38 Le traité sur l’astrolabe plan de Sévère Sabokt in the Journal asiatique, January–February 1899, p. 56, and March–April 1899, p. 238. 39 ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, p. 160. 40 The Paris MS, syr. n. 240, is a partial copy of a MS in Leiden made by Gabriel Sionita, Catal. Zotenberg, p. 197. Another copy, which appears to have been used for the Paris MS, is kept in Glasgow, see WEIR, Journal asiatique, November-December 1898, p. 550. 37



several passages from it;41 Hjelt has edited with a Latin translation the third treatise, which is devoted to geography.42 The geography of Jacob is in no way original, as Abbot F. Martin believed, but it is in fact taken from Ptolemy.43 It is believed44 that David of Beth Rabban is the author of a treatise on geography entitled The Limits of Climates or Lands, and the Variations of Days and Nights. Assemani thought he recognised that work in poems dated by Wright to a much later period. F. Cardahi45 published one of these poems and Gottheil 46 reprinted it together with an English translation. Moses Bar Kepha also composed a hexameron consisting of five books, preserved in a MS from the Bibliothèque nationale, syr. 241. In it there is a geographical figure in the shape of a sphere on which are inscribed the names of Libya, the Adriatic Sea and Europe.47 The hexameron of Emmanuel Bar Shahhare is a long poem of twenty-eight hymns composed of lines of either seven or twelve syllables. That work is preserved in the Vatican, MS syr. 182; in the British Museum, Orient. 1300; in Berlin, n. 61 and 62, Catal. Sachau, p. 211 and 217; in Cambridge, Add. 1994; and in the Orient.48 Journal asiatique, 1888, 8th series, t. XI, p. 155–219 and 401–490. Etudes sur l’Hexaméron de Jacob d’Edesse, Helsinki, 1892. V. RYSSEL has translated George’s part into German, Georg’s des Araberbischofs Gedichte und Briefe, Leipzig, 1891. 43 NŒLDEKE, Litterar. Centralblatt, 1888, p. 1743; JAMES DARMESTETER, Revue des études grecques, 1889, p. 180–188; HJELT, op. laud., p. 30. 44 ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 255. 45 Liber thesauri de arte poetica Syrorum, Rome, 1875, 41–46. 46 Hebraica, vol. VIII, p. 65–78. 47 NAU translated a passage of the hexameron of Moses bar Kepha in Bardesane l’astrologue. Le livre des lois des pays, Paris, 1899, p. 59. 48 An extract in the Liber thesauri of F. CARDAHI, p. 68–71; another extract in the Chrestomathy of Urmia entitled The Little Look of Crumbs, p. 168; longer extracts in MANNA, Morceaux choisis de littérature araméenne, Mosul, 1900, II, p. 144–207. 41 42



None of the manuscripts which have so far been recovered preserve the second hymn; besides, the Vatican MS contains a homily on baptism also included in MS K. VI, 5, of the Borgia Museum (now in the Vatican). Apart from the treatises on the hexameron, several works were devoted to cosmography. ʿAbdishoʿ’s catalogue teaches us that Ishoʿbokht, metropolitan of Persia around 800, wrote a book on the universe and another book on the signs of the air;49 and that Solomon of Basra is the author of a treatise on the configuration of the sky and the earth.50 The Book of treasures, composed by Jacob or Severus Bar Shakko in 1231, is a theological compilation divided into four parts; for an analysis, see Assemani, B. O., II, p. 237.51 Nau studied the fourth part, concerned with cosmography and geography, and acknowledged its value for the study of the history of Syrian sciences.52 The fourth section of the second book of the Dialogues, by that same author, contains definitions of astronomy.53 The second part of the anonymous book Causa causarum (see above, p. 209), chap. IV–VII, is a sort of scientific encyclopaedia in which the author gathered, with several original and personal notions, the knowledge taught in Syria around the 12th century. Several figures are inserted to shed light on the text. A circle divided into five parts represents the earth: (1) the northern extremity, containing the regions that remain always in the dark; (2) below, the inhabitable land with the seven climates; the eastern and ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 194. ASSEMANI, ibid., 309. 51 MSS of that work are held in: the Vatican, n. 159, Catal., III, 307; the Borgia Museum, K series, VII, vol. 16 (now in the Vatican), CERSOY, Zeitschr. für Assyriologie, t. IX, p. 377; the British Museum, Add. 7193, Catal. Rosen, p. 84; Cambridge, Add. 1997, Catal. Wright and Cook, p. 425; the Bibliothèque nationale, n. 316 (new acquisitions). 52 Journal asiatique, 1896, 9th series, t. VII, p. 286–331. 53 See below, section §5 of this chapter, and above, p. 221. A treatise on cosmography attributed to pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite is in the British Museum MS Add. 7192, Catal. Rosen, p. 84, n. 51. 49 50



western extremities are impenetrable; the eastern because of the trees, the western because of the sea; (3) the center, uninhabitable because of the heat; (4) below, unknown and inaccessible land; (5) the southern extremity, regions that remain always in the dark. The Lamp of the Sanctuaries and the Book of Rays of Bar Hebræus (see above, p. 211) also contain a geographical section. It has been edited by Gottheil,54 who had previously published the map included in the first of these books.55 Maps were also drawn at the end of certain manuscripts to fill the pages that had been left blank. Such is the case of a manuscript of Bar Ali’s lexicon now held in the Bibliothèque nationale, n. 299. Chabot drew from it two geographical maps 56 and Nau a map of the mansions of the moon and of the main constellations.57 Yet the special work that treats cosmography ex professo is the book composed by Bar Hebræus in 1279 and entitled The Ascent of ܰ ‫ ܽܣܘܠܩ‬. Gottheil has published the first chapter of the Mind, ‫ܐܳܗܘܢ ܢ ܝܐ‬ the second part,58 and Abbot Nau59 has produced a complete edition of it. Bar Hebræus also made astronomical tables for students.

§4. — CHEMISTRY The practical mind of the Syrians, which the astrologers’ fatalism had discouraged, also distanced itself from the mysticism of ancient alchemy. In that respect the Christian religion had a beneficial influence, more so even than the Greek culture imported in the Orient, since the Muslims, who were taught at the same school, Hebraica, t. VIII, p. 39–55. Proceedings of the American Oriental Society, May 1888, p. 16 ff. That map, taken from the Berlin MS, can also be found in the Cambridge and Paris MSS, see GOTTHEIL, Hebraica, t. VII, p. 39, note 2, and Abbot NAU, Journal asiatique, 9th series, t. VIII, p. 155. 56 Bulletin de géographie historique et descriptive, 1897 and 1898. 57 Journal asiatique, 9th series, t. VIII, p. 155 ff. 58 Mittheilungen des Akad. Orient. Vereins zu Berlin, 1890, n. 3. 59 Le livre de l’ascension de l’esprit… cours d’astronomie… par Grégoire Aboulfarag, dit Bar Hebræus…, Paris, (text) 1899, (French translation) 1900. 54 55



developed a great taste for astrology and alchemy. Arabs in general and the caliphs in particular often had a blind faith in the influence of celestial bodies on their destiny. On the other hand, the Arabs’ treatises of chemistry differ greatly from those of the Syrians. We find a striking testimony to that divergence in Berthelot’s La chimie au moyen âge.60 The second volume of that work contains a series of texts on Syriac chemistry, of Greek origin, but reworked following the experimental method; they are true guides to metalworking in which are described alloys, the colour of metals and the transformation of bodies. By contrast, the chemistry of the Muslim Arabs, which is the subject of the third volume, only offers digressions that are mystical, intentionally obscure and presented as the legacy of the ancient occult sciences.

§5. — MATHEMATICS The ancient Syrians appear to have neglected the exact sciences. The few Syriac writings of that discipline which have come down to us were produced after the Hijra and are the product of Arabic culture as much as they are of Greek culture. The Dialogues of Jacob or Severus Bar Shakko have a section (fourth section of the second book) devoted to mathematics in which we find discussions of arithmetic, music, geometry and astronomy. Julius Ruska61 has edited that section together with a German translation. Ruska points out that the author had not set out to write a manual of mathematics but rather wished to reach theology, i.e. the highest level of philosophical reflection, through the study of abstract mathematical ideas. The introduction and the first two questions bring to mind the Εἱσαγωγὴ ἀριθμητική of Nicomachus, which was Paris, 1893, vol. I–III. Das Quadrivium aus Severus bar Schakku’s Buch der Dialoge, Leipzig, 1896. Among the Greeks, the union of these four sciences, known by the name Quadrivium, was brought about by Iamblichus, comp. with MERX, Historia artis grammaticæ apud Syros, p. 209. See also JULIUS RUSKA, Studien zu Severus bar Schakku’s “Buch der Dialoge” in the Zeitschr. für Assyriologie, XII, 1897, p. 8 and 145. 60 61



probably known to the Syrians or the Arabs from an extract of a neopythagorean author. The fourth question and part of the third derive from the Προλεγόμενα σὺν θεῷ τῆς φιλοσοφίας of an anonymous pythagorean of which Bar Shakko owned a Syriac version. However, the definitions and dissertations on arithmetic, music, geometry and astronomy coincide with those of the Arabic authors. Bar Hebræus, whose studies embraced all of human knowledge, taught Euclidian mathematics at Maragha in 126862 but did not leave us any writings on that subject.


ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 253.

XVI. GRAMMAR, LEXICOGRAPHY, RHETORIC AND POETICS §1. — GRAMMAR The Syrians also owe their first notions of grammar to the Greeks. In chapter VI we brought to the reader’s attention the ancient works of orthoepy applied to the texts read in schools. The system of points or accents, used to separate the clauses of a sentence and to note the syntactic value of each clause, was an integral part of Syriac grammar. The logic of Aristotle was at its heart: as pointed out by an anonymous Syriac author,1 five of these accents correspond to Aristotles’s five categories. The rules concerning phonetics and morphology came later and were established following the model of Greek grammar of Dionysius of Thrace and the canons of Theodosius. This legacy was brought to light by Merx, who published with a Latin translation the Syriac version of the grammar written by Dionysius.2 See PHILIPPS, A letter of Mar Jacob of Edessa on syriac orthography, London, 1869, Appendix, p. 68. 2 Historia artis grammaticæ apud Syros, Leipzig, 1889, in the Abhandlungen für die Kunde des Morgenlandes, IX, 2. The Syriac version is in the British Museum MSS Add. 14620 and (in an incomplete form) Add. 14658, as well as in the Berlin MS, Coll. Sachau, 226. In the latter MS, the work is attributed to Joseph of Ahwaz. ʿAbdishoʿ, B. O., III, part I, 103, corroborates that attribution for he claims that Joseph of Ahwaz is the author of an interpretation of Denys. It is anonymous in the Borgia Museum MSS, but since MS 14658 contains the works of Sergius of Reshʿayna, Wright believed that the version in question could also be attributed to him; that conjecture is unfounded, as MERX has demonstrated, op. cit., p. 1




The studies on Syriac accentuation particularly flourished among the Nestorians from the 6th to the 8th century. Of all the ancient Jacobite grammarians, Ahoudemmeh, who was appointed to the seat of Tagrit by Jacob Baradaeus in 559, is most worthy of being mentioned here. From a passage cited in Bar Zobi we can surmise that his grammar followed the principles of Greek grammar.3 Yet it is Jacob of Edessa who wrote the first systematic treatise on Syriac grammar, a text long regarded in Syria as the authoritative work on the matter. Bar Hebræus borrowed important passages from it for his grammar, and these passages serve as sole testimony to the scope of a text of which virtually nothing suvives. Only very few fragments have come down to us, preserved in the Oxford Bodleian Library and the British Museum of London.4 In the first of these fragments, Jacob brings attention to the flaws of the Syriac writing system, which indicates consonants but not vowels. When Paul of Antioch asked him to perfect this faulty system, his response read as follows: “I believe we could establish rules for the orthography of this language (Syriac), outside additional vowels for the vowels that are missing from the alphabet. Through the use of additional vowels we could show the object of these rules and the correct spelling of words and verbs attached to them. Torn between demand on one side and the fear of losing ancient books on the other, fear that had affected my predecessors, here is what I suggest: for intelligence and the confirmation of those rules exclusively, letters would be added that indicate the modifications and exact pronunciation of vowels, but the object of that addition would not be to complete or 7–8. Choerobocsus and the Etymologicum magnum cite a Sergius grammaticum, but that Sergius postdates Sergius of Reshʿayna, see BAUMSTARK, Lucubrationes syro-græcæ, p. 369. 3 MERX, Historia art. gramm., p. 33. 4 WRIGHT published the London fragments, MS Add. 17217 and 14665, in Catal., p. 1168–1173. Both WRIGHT and MERX reprinted them, together with the Oxford fragments, respectively in Fragments of the syriac Grammar of Jacob of Edessa, London, 1871, and Historia art. gramm., p. 73 of the Syriac texts.



correct the alphabet itself.5” Jacob distinguished eight vowels; he created seven letter-vowels in imitation of Greek vowels: the olaf represented the long a and the seven new letters the seven other vowels. He introduced these letter-vowels in words, but only in the words used as examples to explain the grammatical rules. However, that invention did not outlive its author. After Jacob of Edessa, the Jacobites adopted only five vowels represented by signs similar to Greek vowels. The Nestorians recognised seven vowels, represented by single or double dots,6 whose value depended on their position above or under the line. According to tradition, Theophilus of Edessa († 785) was the first to employ Jacobite vowels in his translation of Homer’s Iliad. The credit of inventing these vowels nonetheless belongs to the Qarqaphian masoretes, whom Bar Hebræus believes brought the number of Syriac vowels down to five.7 As for the Nestorians’ seven dot-vowels, they may have appeared no earlier than the second half of the 8th century.8 The growth of grammatical studies brought about by Jacob closely followed the Arabic conquest of Syria. The Syriac language, which was threatened by the conquerors’ vernacular, was from that time onwards somewhat stereotyped. Moreover, in his grammar, Jacob made full use of his ingenuity to meticulously fix the Compare with BAR HEBRÆUS, Œuvres grammaticales, ed. Abbot F. MARTIN, Paris, 1872, I, p. 196, l. 16–22. 6 These details are worth mentioning, since it has long been wrongly believed that the Nestorians’ vowel-dots existed at the time of Jacob of Edessa and that he was responsible for inventing the Jacobites’ vowels in order to simplify an overly complex system, WRIGHT, Catal., p. 1168; Fragm. of the syriac grammar of Jacob of Edessa, Preface; Syriac literature, 2nd ed., p. 151 and 152; for a different view, see Abbot F. MARTIN, Jacques d’Edesse et les voyelles syriennes, in the Journ. asiat., 1869, p. 456 ff.; La massore chez les syriens, ibid., 1875, p. 132; R. DUVAL, Traité de grammaire syriaque, p. 71; MERX, Historia art. gramm., p. 49–50. 7 BAR HEBRÆUS, Œuvres gramm., I, p. 3, l. 13. 8 Abbot F. MARTIN, La massore chez les Syriens, p. 149, comp. with p. 177 and 190. 5



pronunciation of letters and syllables and the accentuation of sentences following the Greek method, as also later did the Masoretes in their annotations of sacred texts.9 He introduced new diacritic dots and completed the system of accents, which rose to a total of thirty-six.10 Prior to these changes the number of accents had been far less great. Joseph of Ahwaz, for instance, only used nine11 (see above, p. 47); later, twenty-four were admitted, and these are enumerated in the list of Deacon Thomas, probably Thomas of Harkel, author of the Harqlean version. That list and several short treatises on grammar and accents are preserved in manuscripts of the Jacobite Masoretic Text, cited above p. 51. We owe to Abbot F. Martin and Philipps the edition of these short grammatical texts.12 The first is a letter of Jacob of Edessa addressed to George, bishop of Serug, on the spelling of various Syriac words and of Greek words transcribed into Syriac. That letter is followed by a treatise also by Jacob and divided into five chapters: on person, gender, tense, the form of words and accents. The list of Deacon Thomas forms no.

Comp. with MERX, Historia art. gramm., p. 50 ff. MERX, ibid., p. 89–101. 11 Or rather ten if we count the pasoqa or final dot; MERX, Historia artis. gramm., p. 99. 12 F. MARTIN, after the Vatican MS, the Barberini MS and the Paris MS, Jacobi Edesseni epistola ad Georgium episcopum Sarugensem de orthographia syriaca, Paris, 1869; PHILIPPS, after the London MSS, Add. 12178 and 7183, A letter of Mar Jacob of Edessa on syriac orthography, London, 1869. 9




III of the Martin edition,13 p. 13, and appendix II of the Philipps edition,14 p. 83. The manuscript of the Nestorian Masoretic Text, Add. 12138, also contains four short treatises written for school pupils.15 To the list of grammarians ʿAbdishoʿ further adds John the Stylite, probably the monk of the monastery of Litarba with whom Jacob of Edessa was corresponding.16 All that survives of his grammar is an extract cited in John bar Zobi.17 Hunayn († 873) wrote a grammatical opus entitled the Book of ܽ ‫ܟܬܒܐ‬, of which passages are quoted in both Bar Dots, ‫ܳܕܢ ̈ܘܩܙܶ̈ ܐ‬ Hebræus and Elias of Tirhan. According to Elias, Hunayn there discusses predicates, as well as protases and apodoses, i.e. the elements of syntax which ancient grammarians had omitted.18 Hunayn’s grammar has not survived but we do have that of Elias of Nisibis in manuscripts now held in Rome, Florence, In that edition the list is followed by a commentary divided into several sections and comprising more accents than announced at the beginning. That commentary postdates Thomas. Abbot Martin added: (1) an extract of the great grammar of Bar Hebræus corresponding, in the edition of the Œuvres grammaticales de Bar Hebræus, to p. 244 of t. I; (2) part of homily LXXXII of Severus of Antioch according to the translation of Jacob of Edessa; and (3) a specimen of the letter-vowels of Jacob of Edessa. 14 Philipps presented (p. 90) the arguments in favour of the identification of Deacon Thomas and Thomas of Harkel. The short treatise he published as appendix I, p. 68–83, does not date to the 7th century, as he thought, but to the 8th, see R. DUVAL, Traité de grammaire syriaque, p. 144, § 168. Philipps added the chapter on accents from the great grammar of Bar Hebræus. 15 MERX, Historia artis gramm., p. 31. G. DIETTRICH edited an abridged version of one of these treatises, Die Massorah der östlichen und westichen Syrer, London, 1899, Append. I, p. 98. 16 See SCHRŒTER, Zeitschr. der deut. morgenl. Gesell., t. XXIV, p. 262. 17 ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 256. 18 See Syrische Grammatik des Mar Elias von Tirhan, ed. BAETHGEN, Leipzig, 1880, chap. XVIII, p. 24, l. ult.; comp. with MERX, Historia artis gramm., p. 108. 13



London, Cambridge and Berlin. The sheer number of these manuscripts bears witness to its popularity in Syria. It was the most widespread manual of the time, and in it students could find summaries of the works of previous grammarians, including those of Jacob of Edessa, the scope of which would otherwise have been too great for beginners.19 In the second half of the 8th century, Paul’s son David composed a grammatical work of which several fragments survive in Syr. MS 9 of the India Office in London.20 Gottheil has published a short treatise on Syriac conjunctions taken from the grammar of Dionysius of Thrace in Hebraica, t. IV, p. 167, after a MS from Berlin, Coll. Sachau, n. 306, 1. That opus is also preserved in MSS held in the Vatican, at the Bibliothèque nationale and at the British Museum. It is difficult to date that composition; the British Museum MS is from the 9th or 10th century. It is also worth mentioning John bar Khamis, bishop of Thamanon and author of a grammar that is now lost.21 The Book of Punctuation, which ʿAbdishoʿ’s catalogue attributes to Andrew, not to be confused with Andrew of Samosata,22 was probably written in the late 10th century. Elias of Tirhan, who became patriarch of the Nestorians in 1028 and passed away in 1049, was the first to introduce the Arabic GOTTHEIL has published the grammar of Elias of Nisibis, A treatise on syriac grammar by Mar Elias of Sobha, Berlin, 1887. MERX analysed it in Historia artis gramm., p. 112 ff. 20 Published by GOTTHEIL, Proceedings of the American Or. Society, May 1891; cf. Hebraica, VIII, 65; and IGNATIUS EPHRÆM II RAHMANI, Studia syriaca, Mount Lebanon, 1904, X, n. 3. 21 ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, p. 256, places that author in the 12th century; further on, p. 708, he rectifies that dating and makes him the contemporary of Hunayn. That John bar Khamis should not be confused with Khamis bar Kardahe, the author of poems much appreciated by the Syrians. 22 Cf. ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 202; WRIGHT, Syriac literature, 2nd ed., p. 232. 19



method into Syriac grammar. In his youth, before being appointed bishop of Tirhan, he composed a grammar in which he unsatisfactorally applied the new method.23 Because he was unable to remove himself completely from the Syriac system, Merx has argued,24 he composed a work that was incomplete and confused. Elias is also the author of a treatise on accents which Bar Zobi inserted in his great grammar.25 John bar Zobi, a monk and Nestorian doctor who lived in the late 12th and early 13th century, did not follow in the footsteps of Elias of Nisibis; rather, he adopted the Syriac system in both his grammars. In his great grammar he gathered part of the works of his predecessors and added notions of Greek logic taken from the commentaries of Severus Sebokht and Rabban Denha.26 His short grammar, made up seven-syllable lines, is an epitome for young students. Syrians thought very highly of these two works. The Net of Points of Ishoʿyahb bar Malkon, bishop of Mardin, often coincides literally with the grammar of Elias. Joseph Bar Malkon seems to be the bishop of Nisibis who was consecrated in 1190 under the name Ishoʿyahb.27 The Net of Points treats the numerous dots used in the Syriac writings of that time to express vowels, indicate the exact pronunciation of consonants and mark BAETHGEN published that grammar, together with a German translation, after a MS held in Berlin, Syrische Grammatik des Elias von Tirhan, Leipzig, 1880. 24 Historia artis. gramm., p. 155. 25 PHILIPPS analysed that treatise in appendix III, p. 85, of his opus, A letter of Mar Jacob, bishop of Edessa on Syriac orthography. It was printed p. 19, l. 13 and following, in the edition of Bar Zobi’s treatise made by Abbot F. MARTIN after the British Museum MS Add. 25876 and the Vatican MS 450, Traité sur l’accentuation chez les Syriens occidentaux, Paris, 1877; and in G. DIETTRICH, Die Massorah der östl. und westl. Syrer, London, 1899, Append. II, p. 114. 26 MERX, Historia artis gramm., p. 167; see p. 158 ff. for MERX’s analysis of these two grammars. Abbot F. Martin published the part concerned with the section on accents; see previous footnote. 27 WRIGHT, Syriac literature, 2nd ed., p. 256. 23



the accentuation of sentences. Made up of lines of twelve syllables each, this work was to be committed to memory by students. In manuscripts it comes after the grammar of Elias of Nisibis and John bar Zobi.28 The first book of the Dialogues of Jacob or Severus Bar Shakko, disciple of Bar Zobi, begins with a grammatical discussion; follows a dissertation on accents based on Jacob of Edessa’s system. Merx edited that second part in his Historia artis grammaticæ apud Syros, following MSS held in Oxford, Gœttingen, Berlin and London.29 Jacob Bar Shakko also composed a metrical grammar in ܰ ܺ ܽ ܰ twelve-syllable lines entitled Harmony, ‫ܐܪܡܘܢ ܝܐ‬. From that work Merx published, after the dialogue on grammar, the fragments concerning questions left untreated in the dialogue.30 According to the knowledgeable editor,31 that grammarian makes good use of the books of Greek philosophers and Syrian school masters but does not follow his own master Bar Zobi, whose name he does not even pronounce. We conclude this historical overview of Syriac grammar with Bar Hebræus. In his grammatical works, as in most of his other writings, Bar Hebræus proved himself to be a learned, critical populariser. As noted above, we owe to him our understanding of the importance of Jacob of Edessa’s grammar. Bar Hebræus adapted the Arabic method to Jacob’s writings, a task which he undertook more skilfully than Elias of Tirhan had done before

See the Vatican MS 194 and the British Museum MS Add. 25876. Merx analysed that work and published extracts from it in his Historia artis gramm., p. 111 ff. Severus bar Shakko held Bar Malkon’s versification work in low esteem. Cf. PAULIN MARTIN, De la métrique chez les syriens, Leipzig, 1879, Appendix, p. 68–71; MERX, op. cit., p. 46, l. 15 of the text. 29 Abbot F. Martin published several passages from it in the Journal asiatique, April–May 1872. 30 In appendix to his opus De la métrique chez les Syriens, Leipzig, 1879, p. 68–71, Abbot F. MARTIN published with a French translation an extract relating to the MERX edition, p. 45, l. 15. 31 Historia artis grammaticæ, p. 215. 28



him.32 His great grammar, entitled Book of Splendor, ‫ܟܬܒܐܳܕܨܶ̈ ̈ܡ ܶ̈ܚܐ‬, is the most complete work of that type; in it he explains the particulars of the two Syrian dialects, the Western and the Eastern; he also reproduces the linguistic observations of the Jacobite and Nestorian Masoretes, as well as the orthoepic minutiae invented by grammarians in order to distinguish between similar forms of nouns and verbs. Bar Hebræus also wrote a short metric grammar, the Book of Grammar, ‫ܟܬܒܐܳܕܓܪܡܛܝܩܝ‬, followed by a treatise on ambiguous words with a commentary.33 He never completed another short grammatical treatise, the Book of the Spark, ܳ ‫ܟܬܒܐ‬ ‫ܕܒܠܨܘܨܝܬܐ‬.34 We omit from consideration the grammars of Maronites whose science they owe to Europe, as is the case of Amira, Abraham Ecchellensis, Isaac Sciadrensis and Joseph Acurensis. Merx discusses these in his Historia artis grammaticæ apud Syros, p. 272–273.

§2. — LEXICOGRAPHY The treatises on ambiguous words, or Libri canonum de æquilitteris, belong to the fields of exegesis and grammar as much as they do to the field of lexicography. Nonetheless, it is worth discussing them here since they are the earliest vocabularies, on which later Syriac lexica were based. These treatises, composed following the Greek model, are easily distinguishable; besides, Syrians did not borrow

Compare with MERX, op. cit., p. 231 ff. Abbot F. Martin edited these two grammars after a MS held in Paris, Œuvres grammaticales d’Aboul-Faradj dit Barhebræus, Paris, 1872. Merx analysed the great grammar in his Historia artis grammaticæ, p. 229 ff. In 1843 Bertheau edited the metric grammar in Gœttingen, excluding the commentary and treatise on ambiguous words, Gregorii Barhebræi qui et Abulfarag grammatica linguæ syriacæ in metro Ephræmo. In 1869, Philipps printed and translated into English the chapter on accents from the great grammar, A letter of Mar Jacob bishop of Edessa on syriac orthography, p. 34, text, p. 25. 34 See ASSEMANI, B. O., II, p. 272, n. 27. 32 33



explanatory notes for their lexica from the Greek lexica of Cyril of Alexandria, Hesychius and Suidas, as Larsow believed.35 As long as Syriac was in use, there was no need for dictionaries. That being said, the faulty writing system of the ancient Syrians did not represent vowels, thereby increasing the number of cases in which words with a different meaning bore the same form. The professors who taught sacred texts in school had to differentiate between these words using various dots. These were then gathered and organised with their distinctive signs in short collections to be used by students. Joseph Ahwaz wrote one such collection, thus creating the first system of dots; others were produced by Ishoʿ bar Nun, Hunayn, and Abdochos or Eudochus. Bar Hebræus, as he himself tells us, used these works to write the analogous treatise which he included in his grammatical studies.36 To these names should also be added that of Henanishoʿ, famous for his version of the Paradise of Palladius. His Liber canonum de æquilitteris is preserved, with the similar work by Hunayn, in a collection published by Hoffmann (Opuscula nestoriana, Kiel, 1880, p. 2–49) after a manuscript of the India Office in London. That MS contains an abridged collation; part of a more developed collation, which Gottheil published following his edition of the grammar of Elias of Nisibis, can be found in the Sachau MS 72 in Berlin. A MS of the Union Theological Seminary of New York, similar to the one held in Berlin, contains several of Hunayn’s explanatory notes that Elias of Tirhan inserted in his grammar but that are absent from Hoffmann’s edition. Noeldeke’s conjecture, according to which

De dialectorum reliquiis, Berlin, 1841. Abbot F. MARTIN, Œuvres grammaticales d’Aboul-Faradj, II, p. 77. The treatise of Ishoʿ bar Nun, which does not appear to have come down to us, is also cited in the explanatory notes of Bar Bahlul’s lexicon. As for the treatise of Abdochos, it is preserved in MSS now held in Rome, StPeter in Montorio (ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, p. 308); Paris, the Bibliothèque nationale; Berlin and Cambridge. 35 36



these explanatory notes belonged to the original work, is therefore confirmed.37 An anonymous author reworked and extended Hunayn’s book. The Berlin MS suggests that Bar Zobi completed the work done by Hunayn, and Wright thought that Bar Zobi was the anonymous author in question.38 The Opuscula nestoriana of Hoffmann also contain, p. 49–84, a metric treatise of ʿAbdishoʿ of Gazarta, who became patriarch of the Nestorians in 1552. That text, consisting of seven-syllable lines, is followed by a commentary; it is devoted to “those words that are written identically but whose meanings differ.”39 One should not confuse the Liber canonum de æquilitteris of ʿEnanishoʿ with a compilation of that author on the exact pronunciation of difficult words found in the Fathers’ writings.40 The Syriac lexica came soon after the revival of Greek studies among the Nestorians of Baghdad, where schools thrived in the time of the Abbasid caliphs. These lexica, written in alphabetical order, as were the collections of ambiguous words, were designed to explain difficult or unused terms, which constantly grew in NŒLDEKE, Zeitschr. der deut. morgenl. Gesell., XXXV, p. 94. On that subject, see GOTTHEIL, Hebraica, VI, p. 215 ff., in which that scholar gives variants of Hoffmann’s edition as found in the New York MS. 38 WRIGHT, Syriac literature, 2nd ed., p. 259. There exists a further anonymous treatise in MSS 194 and 450 syr. of the Vatican library and a dissertation on homonyms that lacks the author’s name and is incomplete, in MS 419 syr. of that same library, see HOFFMANN, Opuscula nestoriana, p. XVIII; comp. with ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 308, IX; another treatise in Berlin (Sachau 180). 39 Beside the MS held in the India Office, that work can also be found in the Vatican MS 419 syr. (see HOFFMANN, op. cit., p. XIX) and in the MS belonging to the Union Theological Seminary, see Proceedings of the American Oriental Society, XII, 134. The treatise of ʿAbdishoʿ of Gazarta is also in the Chrestomathy of Ourmia entitled The Little Book of Crumbs, p. 347. One of the author’s poems is in that same chrestomathy, p. 222, and another in the Liber thesauri of F. CARDAHI, p. 80. 40 ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 144. 37



number since Arabic had become the popular vernacular, and to give definitions of technical Greek expressions preserved in the Syriac versions. They cannot be regarded as true dictionaries of the language. Rather, they were compilations, of varying scope, recording Syriac explanatory notes, sometimes with an explanation in Arabic. The illustrious Hunayn, who translated a great many Greek books, composed the first Syriac lexicon. That work was praised for its exactitude and methodology; only when it passed into later 41 Its title, Explanation of compilations did it lose its unique character. ̈ܶ ܽ ̈ ̈ ܽ ̈ܶ ̈ܶ ܰ 42 Greek Words in Syriac, ‫ܦܘܫܩܳܫܡܗܐܳܝ ܘܢ ܝܐܳܒܣܘܪܝ ܝܐ‬, indicates that the main focus of Hunayn’s work was Greek words; he had already treated Syriac words in his De æquilitteris, discussed earlier. We noted above, p. 233–234, that a lexicon had been wrongly attributed to Gabriel Bokhtishoʿ. Zachariah of Merv,43 who lived in the late 9th century, completed Hunayn’s lexicographical work by adding many new elements, which are frequently cited by Bar Bahlul. These additions were apparently badly arranged and often contradicted Hunayn’s notes. In order to solve that problem and at the request of Deacon Abraham, the physician Jesu Bar Ali, a disciple of Hunayn, composed a new lexicon using the explanatory notes of Hunayn and Zachariah of Merv. In the preface to his glossary, he confesses that his book is still imperfect and asks that Abraham, or any other reader for that matter, fill whatever lacuna he may encounter. Abraham respected his wish; among the many manuscripts of Bar Ali held in European libraries, several include, after the preface, a In the preface to his lexicon, Bar Bahlul warns the reader that the explanatory notes, which he inserted without giving the author’s name, are taken from Hunayn’s lexicon. 42 See IMMANUEL LŒW, Zeitschr. der deut. morg. Gesell., XL, p. 764, and Aramæische Pflanzennamen, Leipzig, 1881, 17, note 2. 43 Probably corresponds to Abu Yahya al-Marwazi, an eminent physician of Baghdad who wrote in Syriac on logic and other subjects, WRIGHT, Syriac literature, 2nd ed., p. 215; comp. with above, p. 220. Bar Bahlul gives Zachariah’s name in the preface to his lexicon. 41



note entitled πληροφορία and devoted to these additions; others, however, do not contain such a note and present a text more faithful to the original. The manuscript of Gotha, the first part of which Hoffmann published, belongs to the latter category.44 One hopes that the edition will eventually be completed. Henanishoʿ bar Seroshway, bishop of Hira around 900, is the author of a fourth Syriac lexicon. Bar Bahlul, who gives explanatory notes from that lexicon on every page of his compilation, judges it to be very exact and refers to it as the complement of Hunayn. The lengthiest compilation of that sort is Bar Bahlul’s lexicon,45 a text of encyclopaedic proportions in which the author brought together the various works of lexicography, with numerous notes taken from Syriac studies on natural sciences, philosophy, theology and biblical exegesis. Bar Bahlul’s main merit is to have faithfully cited these authorities. It is true that his work has come down to us in a much interpolated form: in it we even occasionally encounter mentions of authors who belong to a much later period, such as Bar Hebræus (13th century). Bar Bahlul, in Arabic Abu al-Hasan ibn al-Bahlul,46 was from Awana, in the diocese of Tirhan.47 He lived in the mid-10th century; in 963, he acted in favour of the election of ʿAbdishoʿ I, patriarch of the

Syrisch-arabische Glossen, Kiel, 1874. Edited by R. DUVAL, Lexicon syriacum, auctore Hassano Bar Bahlule, Paris, 1888–1896. 46 The name of Isa or Jesu, which he is sometimes wrongly given (ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 257), derives from the confusion between the names Bar Bahlul and Bar Ali in the MSS in which the lexica of these two authors appear; but Bar Bahlul does not bear the name Jesu in the Oxford and Cambridge MSS, as GESENIUS remarks, Sacra Pentecostalia, Leipzig, 1834, p. 26, note 46. The name Bahlul, which means buffoon, is not uncommon among the Arabs; such was also the name of the buffoon of Harun al-Rashid. Nowadays it designates in popular tales from Kurdistan a type of Asmodai, capable of good as well as evil. 47 See Ibn Abi Usaibia, ed. A. MUELLER, Kœnigsberg, 1884, t. I, p. 109, where we should read al-Tirhâni, not al-Tabrehâni. 44 45



Nestorians.48 Several manuscripts stipulate that this author composed his lexicon in Baghdad, a city whose schools he taught ܺ ‫ ܶ̈ܣܦܪ‬. in;49 he was given the epithet of “able doctor,” ‫ܐܳܡܗܝܪ ܐ‬ Elias of Nisibis brings to a close the series of lexicographers50 with his Book of the Interpreter, which contrasts with the previous lexica both by its form and by the conciseness of its explanatory notes. It is an Arabo-Syriac vocabulary organized thematically and into chapters.51

§3. — RHETORIC AND POETICS The ancient Syrians regarded rhetoric and poetics as part of Aristotelian philosophy, and it is as such that these disciplines were taught in schools. Therefore, the writings devoted to them are of little interest for the study of Syriac literature per se. Hunayn translated (probably into Syriac) Aristotle’s text on rhetoric and poetics, which is mentioned in the works of several Arabic authors, and Abu Zacharia and Abu Bishr appear to have used that version as the basis for their Arabic translation.52 In the 9th century, Anthony of Tagrit composed an extensive treatise on rhetoric. This text was highly valued by the Syrians. It is divided into five books, the first of which is made up of thirty

Mari, ed. GISMONDI, pars I, p. 101. See GESENIUS, Sacra Pentecostalia, p. 27; PAYNE SMITH, Catalogue, col. 604. 50 The modern lexica of the Maronites, such as that of Karmsedinoyo, will not be adressed here. 51 PAUL DE LAGARDE published it at the beginning of his book Prætermissorum libri duo, Gœttingen, 1879. It provided THOMAS A NOVARIA with the materials for his Thesaurus arabico-syro-latinus, Rome, 1636. 52 See D. MARGOLIOUTH, Analecta orientalia ad poeticam Aristoteleam, London, 1887, p. 3 ff. In that work, Margoliouth edited the version of Abu Bishr’s poetics as well as Avicenna’s book on poetics. 48 49



chapters; it survives virtually complete in a MS now held in Mosul.53 Severus Bar Shakko discoursed on the subject of rhetoric and poetics in the first book of his Dialogues, following his discussion of grammar. The dialogue on poetics warrants a special mention. In it we find a fragment of the Syriac version of Aristotle’s poetics — where he gives his definition of tragedy — thanks to which we can verify the accuracy of part of Abu Bishr’s Arabic version.54 In addition, that dialogue contains a unique treatise on Syriac versification.55 Unfortunately, the rules there recorded are based on the declining poetry of the late period and teaches us nothing of the principles that governed ancient Syriac poetry. Bar Hebræus was not aiming to be original when he wrote his book The Finest Science: as we noted on p. 222, in it he included all Aristotelian philosophy, and rhetoric and poetics form the two final chapters of the first part. Margoliouth edited the poetics in his Analecta orientalia ad poeticam Aristoteleam, London, 1887, p. 114–139.

It will shortly be published by CHABOT in his Corpus scriptorum christianorum orientalium. Several extracts have already been given by MANNA, Morceaux choisis de la littérature araméenne, II, p. 95, Mosul, 1902. The British Museum MS Add. 17208 has fragments of the first chapter of book I. Cf. Orientalische Studien Theodor Nœldeke, Giessen, 1906, p. 479. 54 MARGOLIOUTH, op. cit., p. 6. That version comes after the version made by Abu Bishr. 55 For extracts and a French translation, see Abbot F. MARTIN, De la métrique chez les Syriens, in vol. VII, fasc. 2, of the Abhandlungen für die Kunde des Morgenlandes, Leipzig, 1879. Severus bar Shakko literally reproduces passages of the Rhetoric of Anthony of Tagrit, as suggests the Mosul MS, which will be edited shortly. 53

XVII. SYRIAC TRANSLATIONS Owing to the diversity of Syriac writings on theology, an entire chapter will not be devoted here to that discipline. Several of these writings have been mentioned in previous chapters; the rest, which are in greater number, will be discussed in the footnotes to the second part, which examine their authors in chronological order. Their character and subject matter will there perhaps receive the attention they deserve. We shall nonetheless briefly consider here the translations of those works of the Greek fathers that do not belong to the literary genres treated above. These translations testify to the influence of Greek theology on Syriac theology. That will be the object of the first section of this final chapter of part I; in the second section mention will be made of the translations of secular works. The first Syriac translations were born out of the scientific movement that emerged in Mesopotamia in the 5th and 6th centuries AD and whose center was initially at Edessa (compare with above, chapter XIV, § 2). These first translations are literal and down to earth; they clash with the literary genius of the Syrians and mistreat their language. The re-emergence of sciences in Mesopotamia, which began in the 9th century and was encouraged by the caliphs of Baghdad, marked the beginning of an era of progress: the translators set out to render both the spirit and the meaning of the translated works; they were familiar with the technical language and their style is of very high quality.




§1. — TRANSLATIONS OF WORKS BY THE GREEK FATHERS The most important works of the Greek Fathers were translated into Syriac.1 Several versions are very ancient, and they were sometimes produced only shortly after the original Greek texts which they were making available to the Syrians. Such is, for instance, the case of the version of Cyril’s treatise De recta fide, made by Rabbula, bishop of Edessa, after a copy sent to him by the author himself. Most of these versions are held in European libraries. Despite their value, few have been edited so far. We shall keep the present discussion succinct and refer the reader to La littérature grecque of Batiffol (4th ed.) for further information. Part I of ʿAbdishoʿ’s catalogue2 contains a list of the books of Greek patrology that have been translated into Syriac. That list is valuable, since it reveals the title of Greek works that are otherwise unknown, but here is not the place to reproduce it. Robert Kennett published the two epistles of St Clement of Rome to the Corinthians, contained in Syr. MS Add. 1700 of Cambridge, following the death of Bensly, who had prepared the edition.3 While there is no doubt as to the authenticity of the first epistle, the second is apocryphal. In 1856 Beelen gave a new edition of the two epistles on virginity, which are attributed to St Clement of Rome.4 On translations of the biblical commentaries of the Greek Fathers, see above p. 66. 2 ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 13 ff. 3 The Epistles of S. Clement to the Corinthians in Syriac by the late Bensly, Cambridge, 1899. In the 4th vol. of the Analecta sacra of Card. Pitra, Abbot Paulin Martin had already published a fragment of the second (apocryphal) letter of S. Clement. 4 S. Patris nostri Clementis Romani Epistolæ binæ de virginitate, Leuven, 1856. Beelen still argues that both epistles are authentic. The Syriac text and the Latin translation are an improved reproduction of the editio princeps, which Wetstein had published in Leiden in 1752. Galland had reedited the translation in the first volume of his Bibliotheca veterum Patrum. In a first appendix, Beelen reprinted Wetstein’s Latin translation and 1



In 1845 Cureton edited the ancient Syriac translation of the three Epistles of St Ignatius, to Polycarp, the Ephesians and the Romans respectively.5 Cureton believed that it was faithful to the original epistles, as opposed to the known Greek recension, in which we find alterations and interpolated passages — in his opinion, the other Greek epistles were apocryphal. That thesis caused a controversy which led to a new publication by the famous English Orientalist (Vindiciæ Ignatianæ, London, 1846), who later produced a second edition, complete with new texts, under the title Corpus Ignatianum (London, 1849). Cureton’s conclusions have since been definitively rejected: the Syriac version only represents one extract of a collection of the epistles, reworked and extended by a forger.6 In the first volume of the Monumenta syriaca (Innsbruck, 1869, p. 1), F. Zingerle published a Syriac extract of Polycarp’s letter, containing chapter VII and the end of chapter XII, which we do not have in Greek. Cureton printed several words of chapter XII in his Corpus Ignatianum, p. 212, l. 3, after a MS from the 6th century that contains the treatise of Timothy Aelurus of Alexandria against the Council of Chalcedon. Cureton has added (ibid., p. 204, l. 6) chapters IX and XIII from the Syriac version of the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius and (p. 214, l. 25 and 27) citations from chapter V borrowed from Severus of Antioch. F. Zingerle has translated these various fragments into Latin.7 In the fourth volume of the Analecta sacra of Card. Pitra, Abbot Paulin Martin published: a fragment of the treatise on Zingerle’s German translation (Die zwei Briefe des h. Klemens von Rom an die Jungfrauen, Vienna, 1827); a second appendix contains Fragmenta nonnulla exegetici argumenti anecdota. Cf. FUNK, Theol. Quartalschr., LIX, 2; HILGENFELD, Zeitschr. f. wissenschaft. Theologie, XX, 4; LAND, Syrische Bijdragen to de Patristik, Leiden, 1857. 5 The ancient syriac version of the epistles of S. Ignatius, London, 1845. 6 F. BATIFFOL, La littérature grecque, p. 14. 7 Op. cit., I, p. 2–5; comp. with F. BATIFFOL, La littérature grecque, p. 17. Abbot Paulin Martin gave a fragment of Polycarp’s letter in the 4th vol. of the Analecta sacra of Card. Pitra.



orthodox faith, wrongly attributed to St Justin;8 the known fragments of the Syriac and Armenian versions of St Irenaeus;9 a fragment of the (apocryphal) book of Clement of Alexandria against heresies. Of more importance, however, are the texts that represent the work of St Hippolytus in the publication of Abbot F. Martin. After the biblical commentaries (see above, p. 64) come: (1) fragments on Easter, which Lagarde had already published in his Analecta syriaca, p. 88 and 89; (2) a fragment of the homily on the Epiphany; (3) fragments of the discourse on resurrection addressed to Empress Mamaea, extracts from which had been published by Lagarde, Anal. syr., p. 87.10 In the British Museum Syr. MS Rich 7185, which contains part of the commentary of Bar Salibi on the NT, Gwynn found five fragments of the Capita Hippolyti adversus Caium, in which Hippolytus’s refutation of Caius follows a short index of the objections formulated by Caius against passages of the Apocalypse.11 From the works of Dionysius, bishop of Alexandria, Abbot F. Martin has edited the following Syiac fragments: (1) from the letter to Novatius; (2) from the letter to Dionysius and Stephen; (3) from the letter to Stephen of Rome; (4) from the letter to Pope Sixtus (Sixte); (5) from the tenth refutation of Paul of Samosata; (6) from the letter to Paul of Samosata.12

MŒSINGER published another fragment in Monumenta syr., II, p. 7. MŒSINGER, l. c., p. 8–9, had published three of these fragments after MSS from the Vatican; one was printed under the name of Melito, in the Spicilegium syriacum of CURETON, p. 32, and in the Spicilegium Solesmense of Card. PITRA, II, p. LIX; it also appears, in Arabic, under the name Hierotheus in the Spicileg. Rom. of Card. MAI, III, p. 704. 10 Cf. BONWETSCH and ACHELIS, Hippolytus in Die gr. christl. Schriftsteller, Leipzig, 1897; BATIFFOL, Hippolyte in the Revue biblique, 1898, p. 115–119. 11 GWYNN, Hippolytus and his heads against Caius, in Hermathena, VI, p. 397–418, Dublin, 1888. 12 Comp. with F. BATIFFOL, La littérature grecque, p. 131. 8 9



The works of Peter, bishop of Alexandria, appear in the same publication in the form of fragments of homilies on divinity, resurrection, and the non pre-existence of the soul.13 From the works of Alexander, Peter’s successor on the seat of Alexandria, Abbot F. Martin gathered fragments of the encyclical letter and of several homilies.14 The works of Apollinarius, the Greek originals of which are now lost because they were considered heretical, are in part preserved in translations of the Monophysite Syrians, who attributed them to Orthodox Fathers: Gregory Thaumaturgus, Julius and Felix of Rome, and Athanasius. It is a well-known fact that has become the object of new research by Lietzmann and Flemming. The two scholars have produced a new critical edition of the following Syriac texts15: the κατὰ μέρος πίστις of Gregory Thaumaturgus;16 most of the treatises of Julius of Rome;17 two Confessions of Athanasius; the Letter to Jovien and the Confession of the Fathers of Nicaea against Paul of Samosata;18 a fragment of Julius19 and a citation of Felix,20 with several new texts taken from the British Museum MSS.

Comp. with F. BATIFFOL, ibid., p. 127. On the letter of Peter concerning renegades, see above, p. 140. 14 Comp. with S. Alexandri… sermo in MAI, Nova Patrum Bibl., II, 531. 15 HANS LIETZMANN, Apollinaris von Laodicea und seine Schule, Tübingen, 1904. JOHANNES FLEMMING and HANS LIETZMANN, Apollinarische Schriften, Berlin, 1904, Cf. HUGO GRESSMANN, Zeitschr. der deut. morgenl. Gesell., LIX, 1905, p. 674. 16 Published by LAGARDE, Analecta syriaca, p. 31–67, and by F. MARTIN, Analecta sacra of Card. Pitra, IV. F. Lequien was the first to recognise that Apollinarius had written that treatise. 17 Edited by LAGARDE, op. cit., p. 67–79, and MŒSINGER, Monumenta syriaca, II, p. 1–5. 18 CASPARI, Alte und neue Quellen zur Geschichte des Taufsymbols, Christiana, 1866. 19 In MŒSINGER, see above, note 17. 20 ZINGERLE, Monumenta syriaca, I, p. 1. 13



Apart from the treatise entitled κατὰ μέρος πίστις, Lagarde published, in his Analecta syriaca, other works of Gregory Thaumaturgus, the authenticity of which has been brought into question: the speech pronounced before Theopompus on the passibility and impassibility of God; extracts from the treatise on resurrection and from the twelve chapters on faith. Abbot F. Martin reprinted these texts in the Analecta sacra of Card. Pitra, t. IV, as well as: the Revelation of St Gregory; the Discourse on the Annunciation of the Virgin; the Homily on the Baptism of Our Lord; and various pseudepigraphic fragments. F. Bedjan published in Syriac the Life of Gregory of Neocaesarea, also known as Gregory Thaumaturgus, in Acta mart. et sanctorum, VI, 83–106. It has been translated into German by Ryssel.21 The 4th vol. of the Analecta sacra, published by Abbot F. Martin, also contains Syriac fragments of writings by Methodius, Eustathius of Antioch, Serapion of Thmuis and pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. In 624, in Cyprus, where he had taken refuge from the Persian armies that had invaded Mesopotamia, Abbot Paul published a Syriac translation in two tomes of the works of Gregory of Nazianzus.22 Athanasius of Balad translated parts of the homilies,23 as well as the Συναγωγὴ καὶ ἑξήγησις ἱστοριῶν; the latter has come down to us in a MS held in the British Museum.24 As for the Nestorians, they had in their possession a version of the Theologian’s writings.25 Bar Hebræus cites Jacob of Edessa as being one of the translators of these writings.26 Shortly after his Theol. Zeitschr. aus der Schweiz, 1894, p. 228. Cf. VICTOR RYSSEL, Georgius Thaumaturgus sein Leben und seine Schriften, Leipzig, 1880. 22 ASSEMANI, B. O., I, 71; III, part I, 23. His version is preserved in the British Museum; WRIGHT, Catal., p. 423–435. 23 WRIGHT, Catal., p. 441. 24 WRIGHT, Catal., p. 425. 25 WRIGHT, Catal, p. 436–437. 26 ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 307; III, part I, 23. Wright believed the assertion of Bar Hebræus to be incorrect; in Syriac literature, 2nd ed., p. 21



death, F. Bollig edited the MS of the Vatican Syr. 105, which contains a translation of the iambic poems; his edition was completed by F. Gismondi.27 That ancient manuscript, which dates to the 5th or 6th century, does not contain the entire series of Gregory’s poems; the order differs from that of the Greek editions. Several poems are brought together into one text; by contrast, others are divided into several smaller units. F. Gismondi filled the lacunae thanks to MSS held in the British Museum; he even reproduced two different collations of the poem on virginity; another MS of the same museum contains a third one. One of these recensions comes from the Nestorian version, and another is borrowed from the translation of Abbot Paul. However, we do not know which version of Gregory’s poem the Vatican MS n. 105 and certain British Museum MSS represent. If the Vatican manuscript does indeed date to the 5th or 6th century, as Assemani claims, it can neither be the translation that Januaris Candidatus of Amid28 made in 665 nor the one which Theodosius29 produced in 805. It

119, he writes: “in our opinion, Jacob of Edessa simply reworked the version made by Abbot Paul, to which he probably added notes and explanatory extracts from Severus, as well as the recension of the Συναγωγὴ καὶ ἑξήγησις ἱστοριῶν by Athanasius, placed in appendix to the homily In sancta lumina” (Catalog. Wright, p. 423–427). 27 S. Gregorii Theologi liber carminum iambicorum versio syriaca, Pars prima, edidit P. J. BOLLIG, Pars altera, edidit II. GISMONDI, Beyrouth, 1895 and 1896. 28 Called Senorinus Chididatus by ASSEMANI, B. O., II, CXLIX, 502; III, part I, 23, note. On the exact name of that author, see GUIDI, Actes du Xe Congrès des Orientalistes de Genève, 1894, 3rd part, p. 75. The version by Candidatus consisted of seventeen chapters, according to a note in the Vatican MS 96, which is followed by a fragment of that version, lines 1– 82 of the poem περὶ τῶν καθ᾿ ἑαυτόν; GUIDI edited that fragment, which is perhaps unique, in l. c., p. 87. 29 BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., I, 363; ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 345. The British Museum MSS Add. 14547 and 18821 may contain the translation made by Candidatus or the one by Theodosius; WRIGHT, Catal., p. 433. Theodosius is also the author of a version of the homily of



cannot either be the Nestorian version of Rabban Gabriel, which had just been completed when Patriarch Timothy I (780–823) had a copy of it sent to Sergius.30 Rather, it presumably gives the ancient Nestorian version mentioned by Assemani.31 Patriarchs Mar Aba II32 and Timothy I33 commented on the Nestorian version; Denha or Ibas (around 850) and an anonymous author, whose work is preserved in the British Museum MS Add. 17197, commented on the Jacobite version of Abbot Paul; Wright34 believes that the author could be Elias, bishop of Sinjar around 750 (comp. with Assemani, B. O., II, 339). George, bishop of the Arabs, composed a collection of scolia on Gregory’s homilies which contains a great number of lessons; that compilation is preserved in the British Museum MS Add. 14725.35 In the ancient School of Persians in Edessa the version of the Theophania of Eusebius was produced which has come down to us only in Greek fragments. It has been edited by Samuel Lee36 after Gregory of Nazianzus on the miracles of the prophet Elijah, preserved in Syr. MS 96 of the Vatican, Catal. Vat., II, 521. 30 See Abbot CHABOT, Journal asiatique, May-June 1898, p. 544. 31 B. O., III, part I, 24, note 1. That version might also be that of the British Museum MS Add. 18815 (9th century), Catal. Wright, p. 436. 32 ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 157. 33 BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., II, 179. 34 WRIGHT, Syriac lit., 2nd ed., p. 157, note 2. Mari, ed. GISMONDI, part I, p. 21, cites Jesu bar Nun and Elias of Kashkar among the translators of Gregory of Nazianzus. 35 Several partial commentaries have also been produced. These will be mentioned in the second part under the name of their respective authors. 36 Eusebius on the Theophania, London, 1842, transl., Cambridge, 1843; comp. with F. BATIFFOL, La litt. Grecque, p. 209; HUGO GRESSMANN, Studien zu Eusebius’ Theophanie, in Texte und Untersuchungen, neue Folge, VIII, 3; XII, 154; Eusebius’ Werke, III Bd., 2 Hälfte, Die Theophanie die griech. Bruchstücke und Uebersetz. der syr. Ueberlieferung, Leipzig, 1904. On the versions of the Ecclesiastical History and the Chronicle of Eusebius, see above, p. 166ff. See also Eusebius of Cæsarea, on the star, ed. Wright, Journ. of sacred Lit., London, 1866; MAI, Nova patrum Bibl., IV, 281.



the famous British Museum MS Add. 12150, dated to 411, which also contains the Recognitions of Clement, the history of the martyrs of Eusebius37 and the Syriac version of the treatise against the Manicheans of Titus, bishop of Bostra († 375), made up of four books, of which only the first two and part of the third survive in Greek.38 Only fragments of the Syriac version of the Περὶ διαφονίας εὐαγγελίων of Eusebius have come down to us.39 The Syriac MSS contain translations of the works of John the monk, or John of Lycopolis, the Clairvoyant from the Thebaid region, whom Assemani had confused with John of Apamea. John the monk prospered in the second half of the 4th century.40 The British Museum MS Add. 14569 contains a collection of the first twenty Festal Letters of Athanasius of Alexandria; fragments are all that survive in Greek of the following series. In the Greek copy which the Syriac translator consulted, letters XV and XVI were missing, as we are told at the end of letter XIV. The introduction provides an analysis of all festal letters. Every one of them bears the date of the Easter holiday, on which occasion Athanasius wrote one of his letters every year. Cureton edited that manuscript as he found it, that is, without rearranging the order of the inverted pages; he added extracts of letters XXVII, XXIX and XLIV borrowed from the book of Severus of Antioch against John Grammaticus of Caesarea (preserved only in Syriac), and an extract of letter XXXIX on the canonical books of the OT and NT.41 Card. Mai restored the correct order in a new edition, accompanied

See above, p. 121. That version has been edited by PAUL DE LAGARDE, Titi Bostrensis contra Manichæos libri IV syriace, Berlin, 1859; comp. with F. BATIFFOL, La litt. Grecque, p. 288. 39 See BAUMSTARK, Oriens christianus, 1901, p. 378. 40 See CURETON, Corpus Ignatianum, Berlin, 1849, p. 351–352; cf. WRIGHT, Catal., p. 451, note. 41 CURETON, The festal letters of Athanasius, London, 1848; comp. with F. BATIFFOL, La litt. grecque, p. 272. 37 38



by a Latin translation, Script. vet. Nova collectio, t. VI. Larsow has translated it into German and Pusey into English.42 The canons attributed to Athanasius, written in Greek, have come down to us in a fragmentary form in a Coptic version, and complete in an Arabic version which Michael, bishop of Tinnis, made after the Coptic text around 1050. RIEDEL and CRUM published these two versions in the Text and Translation Society, London, 1904. These rules form a treatise on the clergy of Egypt, divided by the translator into 107 canons, each one preceded by a title announcing its subject matter. Riedel proved Renaudot wrong by showing that the attribution of the work to Athanasius is very solid.43 Paul de Lagarde44 published the Syriac version of the treatise of St Epiphanius Περὶ μέτρων καὶ σταθμῶν, the Greek text of which is incomplete. On the Lives of the Prophets wrongly attributed to Epiphanius, see above, p. 71. The Analecta syriaca of Lagarde contain, p. 91–100, a passage consisting of extracts from the writings of Diodore of Tarsus on the dual nature of Christ. The following passage, taken from the book of Theodore of Mopsuestia on the Incarnation, is of similar composition; title: “[Extracts] of the book on Incarnation, of the treatise that begins with these words: “Since many have misunderstood in a number of ways the meaning of the word incarnation, of chapter XI, etc.” They are extracts of chapters XI, XXXIII, XXXV–XXXVIII, L, LI, LVI, LIX, LX, LXIII, LXVI,

SCHWARTZ, Zur Geschichte des Athanasius, Gœttingen, 1905, and the previous citation, p. 65. 43 CASPARI published the Syriac text of the (apocryphal) Περὶ τῆς σαρκώσεως, Alte und neue Quellen zur Geschichte des Taufsymbols, Christiana, 1866. In that book is edited what remains in Syriac of the works of John, bishop of Jerusalem. 44 Veteris Testamenti ab Origene recensiti fragmenta apud Syros servata quinque. Præmittitur Epiphanii de mensuris et ponderibus liber nune primum integer et ipse syriacus, Gœttingen, 1880. 42



LXXIII and LXXIV,45 as well as an extract of the treatise on faith. In the 5th century at Edessa, Ibas and his disciples translated into Syriac the greater part of the works of Diodore and Theodore.46 As for Theodore’s homily on virtue,47 it was translated by Abraham, bishop of Basra, who lived around 990. Three homilies by Proclus, bishop of Constantinople (434– 446), on the Incarnation, the Nativity of Our Lord and Clement of Alexandria respectively, are preserved in Syriac in a MS held in the Vatican. They have been translated into Latin by Mai in the Spicilegium Romanum, t. IV, p. LXXXVIII–XCXVIII; Chabot has published the Syriac text in the proceedings of the Reale Accademia dei Lincei, vol. V, 1896. The ἀντηρρικός and the exegetic homilies of Andrew of Samosata (mid-5th century), which have not survived in Greek, are mentioned in Syriac in ʿAbdishoʿ’s catalogue (ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 202). Only fragments of Rabbula’s letter were known to us, from OVERBECK (S. Ephraemi syri… opera selecta, p. 223). Baumstark found a complete version of that letter in a MS originally held in the Borgia Museum and now in the collections of the Vatican, K. VI, 4 (see Oriens christianus, 1901, p. 179). The composition of the writings of pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite can quite securely be dated between 482 and 500.48 SACHAU, Theodori Mopsuesteni fragmenta syriaca, Leipzig, 1869, edited other fragments of the book of Incarnation with a translation of these fragments and of those of Lagarde. He added the morning hymn. 46 See above, p. 60 and below, p. 296. BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., I, 55, attributes to Mana, whom he calls Magna, Narsai, and Acacius, the translation of these commentaries of Theodore. In one of his letters (published by Abbot F. MARTIN, Zeitschr. der deut. morgenl. Gesellschaft, XXX, 220), Jacob of Serug claims to have studied in his youth in Edessa (around 470) the books of Diodore, which were in the process of being translated at the School of Persians. 47 ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 175. 48 See J. STIGLMAYR, Das Aufkommen der Pseudo-Dionysischen Schriften, Feldkrich, 1895, p. 63; comp. with F. BATIFFOL, La littérature grecque, p. 321. 45



Shortly after they appeared, Sergius of Reshʿayna († 536) translated them from Greek into Syriac and they spread throughout the whole of Syria, where they were read and analysed by the Monophysites. At the beginning of his translation, Sergius wrote an introduction which testifies to the high esteem in which he held the mystical, pantheist doctrine. That introduction is preserved, along with the commentary of Theodore Bar Zaraudi, a writer of the Late Period, in the British Museum MS Add. 22370.49 The version by Sergius is in MS Add. 12151, dated to 809, with the introduction and the scolia of Phocas bar Sergius of Edessa, who lived in the 8th century.50 The scolia of Phocas are largely translations of the Παραθέσεις of John the Scholastic of Scythopolis. To these Phocas added two long extracts of the prefaces of John of Scythopolis and of George, also from Scythopolis, written in defence of the authenticity of those books attributed to Dionysius the Areopagite, the Greek text of which figures under the name of Maximus in the Patrologia græca of Migne, IV, 15–21.51 The version made by Sergius brings together all the known works of pseudo-Dionysius, and there is no intimation that they were later extended or transformed.52 The letter of Dionysius to Timothy, in which he writes of the deaths of the apostles Peter and Paul, has already been mentioned (see above, p. 79). In the early 9th century, John of Dara wrote a commentary on the two books of pseudo-Dionysius, the Celestial Hierarchy and the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy.53 The Book of WRIGHT, Catal., p. 100. WRIGHT, Syriac literature, 2nd ed., p. 93, against ASSEMANI who mistakenly placed that author before Jacob of Edessa, B. O., I, 468. Several MSS held in the Vatican also contain the version of Sergius, Cat. Vat., III, 56, n. 107, and 542, n. 254. Extracts in the first book of the Chronique de Michel le Syrien, ed. Chabot, I, p. 3 and 4 (transl., p. 6 and 8). 51 WRIGHT, Catal., p. 500; comp. with Abbot F. MARTIN, Analecta sacra of PITRA, IV, Proleg. XXIII; STIGLMAYR, op. cit., p. 52–53. 52 See STIGLMAYR, op. cit., p. 88–90. 53 ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 120–121; the Vatican manuscripts 100, 363 and 411, Catal. Vat., II, 539, and MAI, Script. vet. Nova collectio, V; Bodleian MS n. 264. FROTHINGHAM, Stephen bar Sudaili, Leiden, 1886, p. 4, 49 50



Hierotheus, which bears the name of the supposed master of Dionysius, appears to be a Syriac original rather than a translation; we shall consider this work in Part II in the note devoted to Stephen Bar Sudaili, its alleged author. The Chronicle of Michael the Syrian (ed. CHABOT, p. 203; transl., t. II, p. 69) gives a summary of the Syriac translation of the Τμήματα of John Philoponus, a theological work which is now lost and was directed against the Council of Chalcedon. The works of Severus of Antioch, most of which have not been preserved in their Greek form, have survived in Syriac through Jacobite translations. In 528 in Edessa, where he had settled after retiring from his episcopal seat, Paul, bishop of Callinice, translated54 the following: the correspondence of Severus and Julian of Halicarnassus on the incorruptibility of Christ’s body, along with a speech by Severus against Julian;55 the treatise against the Additions or Appendices of Julian,56 and against his final

mistakenly cites Joseph of Ahwaz among the commentators of pseudoDionysius; the note in ʿAbdishoʿ’s Catalogue on which he bases that claim agrees with the grammar of Dionysius of Thrace; BÆTHGEN, Theol. Litteraturzeit., XII, 222, comp. with above, p. 245, note 2. 54 WRIGHT, Syriac lit, 2nd ed., p. 94, note 1, notes that Paul should not be confused with Paul, bishop of Edessa, who was exiled to Euchaita in 522, was re-appointed to his seat in 526, a year before he finally passed away. 55 The Vatican Syr. MS 140, Cat. Vat., III, p. 232; ASSEMANI, B. O., II, p. 46; the British Museum MS Add. 17200 from the 7th century, WRIGHT, Catal., p. 554. The correspondence between Severus of Antioch and Julian of Halicarnassus is inserted in the Syriac compilation of the History of Zachariah, book IX, chap. XIII (LAND, Anecd. syr., III, p. 363). According to BROOKS, The Syriac Chronicle of Zachariah of Mitylene, p. 234, note 1, the text is independent from the translation of Paul of Callinice. The letter of Severus to Justinian against Julian can be found in Zachariah, book IX, chap. 16 (LAND, Anecd. syr., III, p. 279); other letters, book IX, chap. 20 (LAND, ibid., p. 290). 56 The Vatican Syr. MS 140; MS Add. 12158, dated to 588, WRIGHT, Catal., p. 556. A Latin translation of the beginning of the treatise against



apology;57 the treatise against the Manicheans and the Philalethes.58 Wright59 adds that “he was presumably also the author of: the ancient version of the Homiliæ cathedrales;60 the version of the correspondence of Sergius Grammaticus and of Severus on the dogma of the dual nature of Jesus Christ;61 and perhaps also the version of the treatise of John Grammaticus of Caesarea 62 and several other versions that are known to us solely from their being mentioned in a number of works. ̈ܶ ܰ Theseܰ translations earned him the title of Interpreter of Books (‫ܐܳܕܟܬ ̈ܒܐ‬ ‫ )ܡܦܫܩܢ‬among the Jacobites.” During his stay in Cyprus around 624, Abbot Paul translated, besides the works of Gregory of Nazianzus (above, p. 266), the Octoechus of Severus, and a collection of hymns for the annual holidays. His version has come down to us, along with the version of the hymns of John bar Aphtonia, John Psaltes and several other authors, in the British Museum MS Add. 17134, where it was revised by Jacob Philoponus (Jacob of Edessa) in 675.63 In a note to that manuscript,64 Jacob informs us that he took great care in checking the Syriac translation against the Greek MSS and that he marked the additions which Paul made so that his poetic lines would be of the same length as in Greek. He explains that he wrote Julian and of the homily of Timothy of Alexandria is printed in the Spicilegium Romanum of MAI, t. X. 57 MS Add. 12158. 58 The Vatican MS 140. 59 Syriac literature, 2nd ed., p. 95. 60 MS Add. 14599, dated to 569; the Vatican MS 142, dated to 576; 143, dated to 563; and 256, not dated. 61 MS Add. 17154. 62 MSS Add. 12157, 17210, 17211. 63 WRIGHT, Catal., p. 330. In the manuscript, Abbot Paul is wrongly given the title of bishop. WRIGHT believed the reviewer to have been Jacob of Edessa and saw in the MS a text written by the hand of that famous bishop. Nau, Journal asiatique, September-October 1898, p. 346, was of the opinion that he should be distinguished from Jacob Philoponus. 64 Published by WRIGHT, Catal., p. 330, and translated in part by MERX, Historia artis grammaticae apud Syros, p. 38.



the Greek words in black and those that had been added in red; above the line he indicated his new interpretations. Jacob of Edessa inserted in that collection a hymn on the Holy Chrism and the Gloria in excelsis Deo. Merx published the Syriac text of the Gloria in excelsis, revised by Jacob, opposite the Greek text.65 Jacob of Edessa produced a new translation of the Homiliæ cathedrales, which was completed in 701; it survives in the Vatican MS 141 and the British Museum MS Add. 12159 (dated to 868). The latter manuscript counts one hundred and twenty-five homilies, divided into three tomes.66 Notes in the margin indicate that Jacob had some knowledge of Hebrew.67 When he was still only a priest in Nisibis in 669, i.e. before being appointed patriarch of Antioch in 684, Athanasius translated into Syriac selected letters by Severus of Antioch, several of which have survived. He did so at the request of Matthew, bishop of Aleppo, and of Daniel, bishop of Edessa.68 Historia artis gramm., p. 39. Another version of the Octoechus is preserved in the Vatican Syr. MS 94, written between 1010 and 1033, and in a more ancient but incomplete MS in the Bibliothèque nationale; cf. ASSEMANI, B. O., I, 487. 66 The edition of the version of Jacob of Edessa was begun in the Patrologia orientalis of GRAFFIN and NAU, including one fasc., Paris, 1906. That fascicule contains six homilies (LII–LVIII), with a French translation by R. Duval. Homily LII on the Maccabees, as found in the versions of Paul of Callinice and Jacob of Edessa, has appeared in The fourth book of Maccabees by BENSLY and BARNES, Cambridge, 1895. KUGENER published another homily in the Revue de l’Orient chrétien, 1898, p. 435; and, in Oriens christianus, 1902, p. 265, he printed with a French translation Severus’s address pronounced after his installation on the patriarchal throne of Antioch. Cf. PAULIN MARTIN, above p. 249, note 13; NESTLE, Grammatica syriaca, Karlsruhe and Leipzig, 1881, p. 79– 83. MAI translated four homilies in Scriptorum veterum nova collectio, IX, p. 725, and another in MAI, Spicilegium Romanum, X, p. 202. 67 WRIGHT, The Journal of sacred literature, 1867, 4th series, p. 430; NESTLE, Zeitschr. der deut. morgenl. Gesell., XXIV, p. 290–291. 68 WRIGHT, Catal., p. 558 and 565, MSS Add. 12181 and 14600 of the British Museum, which contain book VI of these letters. E. W. BROOKS 65



Our discussion of the translations of works of the Greek fathers ends here, leaving aside those of the works of St Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, St John Chrysostom, Evagrius Ponticus, etc., which have so far neither been edited nor studied. The list of these texts is in the catalogues of the public libraries of Europe.69 The vast majority of these versions are anonymous; those that are not will be mentioned in part II.

§2. — TRANSLATIONS OF SECULAR WORKS The Syrians showed only little interest in foreign literature that was neither religious nor scientific. Semites did not have a taste for the myths of India or Greece, as they contradicted their monotheistic ideas. The Iliad and the Odyssey were introduced into Syria but had a limited impact. By contrast, the Alexander romance was very well received in the Orient; the Orientals saw in it the true story of the hero on whom was impressed the seal of God. As for the tales of Kalila and Dimna, and of Sindban, they regarded them as books of morality. The fabulous story of Alexander the Great, attributed to Callisthenes, spread from its birthplace in Egypt to the other published and translated that book into English in The sixth book of the selected Letters of Severus patriarch of Antioch in the syriac version of Athanasius of Nisibis, vol. I, part 1 and 2 (text); vol. II, part 1 and 2 (translation), London, 1902–1904. 69 The History of Joseph, son of Jacob, which is preserved in Syriac in a Berlin MS (Sachau 9), has been attributed to St Basil. MAGNUS WEINBERG and SAMUEL WOLF LINK published a German translation of that History in Die Geschichte Josefs angeblich von Basilius dem Grossen, Berlin, 1893 and 1895. The beginning of the Explanation of the dominical prayer of Gregory of Nyssa is edited in the Monumenta syriaca of ZINGERLE, I, p. 111; and so is a homily by St John Chrysostom, ibid., p. 117. BÆTHGEN translated into German part of the great treatise of Evagrius, Ἀντιρρητικός or De octo vitiosis cogitationibus following the Berlin MS (Sachau 302), see: Biblische und kirchenhistorische Studien von Boeckler, IV Heft, Munich, 1893, — Anhang II, Evagrius grössere von den acht Lastergedanken…



countries that had fallen to the Macedonian conqueror. The ancient Syriac version of the romance of pseudo-Callisthenes70 does not directly derive from Greek; as Nœldeke demonstrated,71 it came via a Pahlavi intermediary and cannot be dated any later than the 7th century. The Greek recension of pseudo-Callisthenes on which it is based clearly dates further back. The two legends that were grafted onto the original romance — the legend of the source of life and the legend of the bronze door on the border between Gog and Magog — are not included in the Syriac text; rather, they are added at the end of the book and form a separate tale. It seems odd that they would have been inserted in certain Greek recensions,72 since the romance is pagan, whereas in both legends Alexander is portrayed as a Jewish or Christian king guided by God. The Ethiopic version merged all these distinct traditions; in it, the king of Macedonia speaks from beginning to end as a Christian king but also as a theologian well versed in matters of dogma.73 These legends date back to the beginning of the Christian era; Joseph and St Jerome knew the tale of Gog and Magog. Yet the Syriac version of these two legends points to a later date: Gog and Magog are there identified with the Huns, who invaded Syria in year 826 of the Seleucids (514–515 AD). The part on the Arabs reads as follows: “After 940 years, another king will come…”; that other

Published by A. WALLIS BUDGE, The history of Alexander the Great, Cambridge, 1889, with an introduction and an English translation; German translation by RYSSEL, Archiv f. neuere Sprachen, XC, 1893. 71 Beiträge zur Geschichte des Alexanderromans, Vienna, 1890, in vol. XXXVIII of the Proceedings of the Academy of Sciences of Vienna. 72 In the Greek edition of pseudo-Callisthenes printed by MÜLLER after the history of Arrian in the Didot collection (Arriani Anabasis et Indica, Paris, 1877), the legend of the source of life is in book II, chap. 37– 39, but only according to C: it is absent from A and B; the legend of the bronze door, book III, chap. 26 and 29, follows B and C; but is not included in A. 73 See A. WALLIS BUDGE, The life and exploits of Alexander the Great being a series of ethiopic texts, London, 1896. 70



king appears to be no other than Muhammad, since year 940 of the Seleucids corresponds to 628–629 AD.74 These two legends form the canvas of a short poem on Alexander the Great, composed in all likelihood by Jacob of Serug.75 The manuscripts in which we find it attribute the poem to that prolific writer,76 and nothing contradicts that claim. It is true that it is not one of Jacob’s best poetic compositions, but one should bear in mind that he was an old man when he wrote it. He speaks of the Huns’ invasion as if it were a recent event; the invasion took place in 514–515 according to the prose-legend; at that time Jacob had already reached the age of sixty-three. Besides, that poem was reworked at a later date, as were the various metric homilies of the bishop of Serug, and these changes far from improved the text. The author probably used a version of the legends that is very close to the one which Budge has published, with the exception of the passage concerning the Arabs and Muhammad. Paul de Lagarde has edited (Analecta syriaca, p. 205–208) the Syriac version of a short biography of Alexander taken from pseudo-Callisthenes. The Greek romance also provided Alexander’s letter to Aristotle, discussed earlier, p. 236–237. NŒLDEKE, Beiträge zur Geschichte des Alexanderromans, does not believe that the text refers to the Muslim Arabs but rather to the previous Arabs, who had fought in the Persian and Roman armies. Following that view, the author would simply have guessed the date of 940. That is most unlikely. 75 Published after a MS in Paris by KNÖS in his Chrestomathia syr., Gœttingen, 1807, p. 66. BUDGE gave a better, albeit still imperfect, edition based on the Paris MS and a MS held in London, Zeitschr. für Assyriologie, VI, 359–404; English translation by BUDGE in The history of Alexander the Great, Cambridge, 1889; German translation by A. WEBER, Des Mar Yakûb Gedicht über den gläubigen König Alexandrus, Berlin, 1852; by ZINGERLE, Ein altes syrisches Alexanderlied, Brünn, 1882; RYSSEL, Archiv f. neuere Sprachen, XC, 1893, p. 83. 76 KNÖS, op. cit., wrongly translates the title ‫ ܣܝܡܳܠܡܪܝܳܝܥܩܘܒ‬by metro Jacobitico instead of composed by Mar Jacob. 74



The Sanskrit Pantschatantra is the source of a collection of tales in which the characters are animals. It is known by the title Kalila and Dimna. That collection passed from Pahlavi into Syriac with the title Kalilag and Damnag,77 and into Arabic with the more modern title Kalilah and Dimnah.78 ʿAbdishoʿ’s catalogue79 brought attention to the author of the ancient Syriac version: he is the periodeut Buhd, who lived in the 6th century and whose Book of Greek Questions was considered earlier (see above, p. 216). The Arabic version, which Abdallah ibn al-Muqaffa wrote in the 8th century following the Pahlavi text, gave birth to later versions in Syriac, Greek, Hebrew and Spanish.80 Wright discovered the Syriac version in a manuscript in Dublin, which he published.81 Wright sees in it the work of a Syrian priest of the 10th or 11th century. Wright assigns to the same period the version of the book of Sindbân or Sindibâdh, in Syriac, the Story of Sindbân and the Bickell edited and translated into German the Syriac version, as found in a copy of a MS from the monastery of Zaʿfaran at Mardin, with an excellent introduction by Benfey, Das Buch von Kalilag und Damnag, alte syrische Uebersetzung, von Gust. Bickell mit einer Einleitung von Theod. Benfey, Leipzig, 1876. Blumenthal published corrections to the Syriac text after other copies acquired by Sachau, Zeitschr. der deut. morgenl. Gesell., XLIV, p. 267–320. 78 SILVESTRE DE SACY has edited the Arabic version, Calila et Dimna, Paris, 1816; new contributions by GUIDI, Studii sul testo Arabo del libro di Calila e Dimna, Rome, 1873, and by NŒLDEKE, Die Erzählung vom Mäusekönig, Gœttingen, 1879, in the 25th vol. of the Memoirs of the Academy of Gœttingen. New edition by F. CHEIKHO, Beyrouth, 1905; cf. NŒLDEKE, Zeitschr. der deut. morgenl. Gesell., LIX, 1905, p. 794. 79 ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 219. 80 These various translations are important for the reconstruction of the Arabic version, a critical edition of which remains to be published; comp. with J. DERENBOURG, Directorium vitæ humanæ, Paris, 1887, Foreword; KEITH FALCONER, Kalilah and Dimnah or the fables of Bidpai, London, 1885, Introduction. 81 The Book of Kalilah and Dimnah translated from Arabic into Syriac, Oxford, 1884; English translation by KEITH FALCONER, op. cit., see previous note. 77



Philosophers Who were With Him.82 The Syriac text derives from the Arabic version made by Mousa after the Pahlavi in the second half of the 8th century; he reproduced the shorter of the two collations known to us from the Arabic version.83 Michael Andropoulos then translated the Syriac composition into Greek for Gabriel (1086– 1100), prince of Malatya. In that version it bears the title Συντίπας. At the same period Simeon Seth produced, at the request of Emperor Alexios Komnenos, a Greek translation of the book of Kalila and Dimna.84 On the Syriac version of the fables of Aesop, see above, p. 226. It would have been amusing to find the Iliad or the Odyssey hidden under the Syriac disguise which Bar Hebræus tells us Theophilus of Edessa († 785) had given them.85 Theophilus’s translation is lost but Severus Bar Shakko preserved several lines of it.86

Text edited after a Berlin MS and translated into German by BÆTHGEN, Sindban oder die sieben Weisen syrisch und deutsch von Fried. Bæthgen, Leipzig, 1879. English translation by GOLLANCZ, Folklore, June 1897, p. 99. Rœdiger had printed a specimen of it in his Chestomathia syr., 2nd ed., Halle, 1868, p. 100. 83 NŒLDEKE, Zeitschr. der deut. morgenl. Gesell., XXXIII, 521. 84 COMPARETTI, Ricerche intorno al libro di Sindibâd, Milan, 1869; WRIGHT, Syriac liter., 2nd ed., p. 241. 85 A Compendious History of Dynasties, 40 and 228 (transl., 26 and 148), ed. POCOCK; p. 41 and 220, ed. SALHANI. 86 LAGARDE has brought together and published these lines, The Academy, 1st October 1871, p. 467; comp. with MERX, Historia artis gramm., p. 211, l. 2 and 10. F. CARDAHI cited another line in his Liber thesauri de arte poetica, p. 40. 82




The biographical notes on the Syriac writers complete our study of literature. Owing to the number of pages remaining, these notes will have to be brief; they cannot constitute a history of Syriac literature, since that would require an entire volume. Besides, the time is perhaps not yet ripe for the writing of a comprehensive history of that literature; we should wait for new publications that will fill the many remaining lacunae. Syriac authors can be divided into three periods of varying length: the first covers the period during which the Church Fathers consolidated the Christian faith and fought the gnostic doctrines — it ends in the 5th century; the second, from the 5th to the 7th century, is marked by the propagation of new heresies in Syria: Nestorianism in the East and Monophysitism in the West; the third begins with the Arabic conquest.


I. WRITERS UP UNTIL THE 5TH CENTURY What has already been said of Bardaisan (p. 207), Aphrahat (pp. 187–191), Simeon bar Sabbaʿe (p. 105), and Miles (p. 107) will not be repeated here. Instead we come immediately to St Ephrem. The biography of that illustrious Father was written shortly after his death on June 9, 373,1 since Gregory of Nyssa and Palladius already knew of it. We do not have the original composition, only later recensions in which were added a great number of miraculous anecdotes.2 St Ephrem lived in seclusion, which explains the paucity of historical data in his biography. An exceptionally prolific writer, Ephrem gave the poetic genre, created by Bardaisan, the character that was to define it for centuries thereafter. His hymns and metric homilies served as a model for later authors; they even became famous in the West, where they were translated into Greek at an early date. Some of On that date, see LAMY, Ephræmi syri hymni et sermones, Malines, 1882–1902, II, Proleg., p. VIII. 2 There are two recensions derived from a single original and these contain important variations: the first in a MS from the Vatican which has largely been published in G.-S. ASSEMANI, B. O., I, 26 ff., and in extenso by EVODIO ASSEMANI, S. Ephræmi opera syr.; the second, which is in generally of a higher standard, in a MS held in Paris and brought to our attention by BICKELL in Conspectus rei Syrorum litterariæ, p. 26, and Zeitschr. der deut. morg. Gesell., XXVII, 600–604; published by LAMY, S. Ephræmi syri hymni et sermones, II, 5–90; reprinted by BEDJAN, Acta martyr. et sanct., III, 621. Two short summaries of the Life of St. Ephrem: one in the Vatican, B. O., I, 25, and the other in Berlin, LAMY, op. cit., II, Prolegomena, VIII. In the Greek part of his edition, EVODIO ASSEMANI published S. Ephræmi opera græce et latine, I, XIX–XLIV, the texts of Greek authors concerning the Life of St Ephrem. Cf. also LAMY, S. Ephræmi syri hymni et sermones, IV, p. XL. 1




these poems were composed in order to oppose the various gnostic systems that had grown popular in Syria and in Mesopotamia. We can learn little from these texts, however, of the history of that period. Indeed, the poetical form does not lend itself to controversy, and St Ephrem was an ardent polemicist, not an impartial critic. Narrow-minded yet perfectly rigorous, he strove to instil a deeper faith in the minds of believers without ever acknowledging the qualities of his detractors. He composed other hymns and homilies in view of the main annual holidays, as well as for the virgin choruses who took part in the office celebrations under his supervision.3 As to his physical appearance, St Ephrem was not an attractive man: his autobiography relates4 that “from the moment the holy orders were conferred upon him until he died, he only ate barley bread and dried vegetables, occasionally fresh vegetables. He drank nothing but water; he was but shrivelled flesh on bone, so that he could be likened to a clay shard. His garb was a composite of various manure-coloured articles. He was short and his face was always severe; never did he laugh; he was bald and beardless.”5 He was often praised for his great charity, a moving example of which he demonstrated during a famine in Edessa. St Ephrem was born in Nisibis in the early 4th century, the son of a priest of the idol known as Abnil (var. Abizal). From birth, he believed himself predestined to serve the cult of the true God. He became a disciple of St Jacob, bishop of Nisibis, but it seems unlikely that he would have accompanied that bishop to the synod of Nicaea. He claims that his miracles forced Shabur in 338 to suspend the siege of Nisibis.6 When the town was handed over to See above, p. 12–13. In the recension of the Paris MS, see note 2 on the previous page. 5 The artist responsible for the portrait of St Ephrem carved at the beginning of the Roman edition did not draw his inspiration from that description; indeed, he depicted a tall character with a long beard and dressed in a long, immaculate gown. 6 THEODORET, Hist. eccl., II, 26; BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. syr., ed. BRUNS, p. 66; ed. Bedjan, p. 61. 3 4



the Persian king in 363, St Ephrem and the leading citizens departed; he retired to Edessa, after having been to Beth Garbaia and Amid; to the best of our knowledge he was then fifty-seven years of age.7 During his stay in Nisibis, Ephrem became known for his hymns on the sieges of the town and on its administrators Jacob, Babu and Vologese. These hymns are preserved in a collection entitled “Tome of the hymns of Nisibis composed by the Blessed Mar Ephrem.” The title is somewhat inexact, since only the first twenty-one hymns of the volume’s seventy-seven were written in Nisibis, while the others were written in Edessa.8 Ephrem composed most of his writings over the course of the ten years he spent in Edessa. The first works he wrote in the capital of the Osrhoene appear to have been biblical commentaries (see above, p. 53–54), which earned him a chair at the School of Persians, where he had many disciples, some of whom are now famous. The founders of the illustrious school of Edessa may in fact have been St Ephrem and the doctors who left Nisibis with him. The name by which that school is known (School of the Persians) supports that conjecture, for the Western Syrians referred to their fellow clergymen from the Sassanian Empire as Persians. Besides biblical exegesis, his teaching included the explanation of dogmas. It is through his teaching that he first made available his hymns against heretics and sceptics.9 In spite of the breadth and depth of St Ephrem’s intellectual activity, his works amply suffice to fill the ten years during which that prolific author lived in Edessa. His travels to Egypt, where he is said to have spent eight years, and to Caesarea of Cappadocia, The anecdote on St Ephrem arriving in Edessa and of the washerwomen on the bank of the Daican was in the early version of the Acts. Gregory of Nyssa, Sozomen and Metaphrastes copied it after these Acts. 8 An excellent edition of the collection has been made by BICKELL, S. Ephræmi syri carmina Nisibena, Leipzig, 1866. Hymns 22–24 are missing. 9 A collection of fifty-six hymns against heretics in the second volume of the Roman ed., p. 437–559; and eighty-seven hymns against heretics at the beginning of the third volume. 7



where he allegedly paid a visit to St Basil, should be regarded as mere fabrications. The legend of his preaching against Arians in Egypt may be a result of his being confused with Ephrem the Egyptian; as for the visit to St Basil, the explanation may lie in the passages from that Greek Father’s writings in which the Syrian is mentioned.10 The note in the Acts on Ephrem’s account of the Hun invasion,11 which took place in July of 396, twenty-three years after the death of that Father, is also incorrect. As is the attribution to Ephrem of a poem on the persecutions of Valens and the exile of Barses, bishop of Edessa: that exile occurred three months after Ephrem passed away.12 St Ephrem’s panegyric of St Basil is also apocryphal; his death preceded that of the bishop of Caesarea.13 St Ephrem seldom composed in prose: there are several exegetical discourses,14 apart from his biblical commentaries. His poems, however, are numerous and cover several different genres.

The passage of the Acts which is concerned with Doxology is in the De Spiritu sancto of Basil, XXXIX, 74; for Genesis, I, 2, where St Basil allegedly learnt from a Syrian to replace the word hovered by brooded, see the second homily of Basil’s Hexameron. Gregory of Nyssa, Sozomen and Metaphrastes recount Ephrem’s journey to Ceasarea. 11 The homily attributed to Ephrem on the end of time, and in which mention is made of the Huns, is published in the LAMY ed., III, 187; NŒLDEKE, Beiträge zur Geschichte des Alexanderromans, p. 31, has shown that the composition of that homily postdates the Arabic conquest. 12 Ephrem wrote hymns on the persecutions of Valens and of the Arians prior to the exile of Barses. These hymns have survived in the collection of the Carmena Nisibena, edited by BICKELL. On the tale which the poem refers to, see SOCRATES, IV, 18; SOZOMENE, VI, 18; THEODORET, IV, 14 and 15. Under the influence of the Novel of Julian the Apostate (see above, p. 155–156), the Vatican MS links the persecution to Julian rather than to Valens, and the poem is there cited along with numerous variants. 13 That panegyric can be found in Greek, Roman ed., Op. græce et latine, II, 289. 14 Published in the Rom. ed., t. II, following various metric homilies. 10



We outlined their main traits earlier (p. 12 ff).15 Yet not all homilies and hymns attributed to that famous author should be, for some could be the work of Isaac of Antioch and Narsai.

The works of St Ephrem cannot here be cited in detail; they were published at different times, and this footnote will only serve to point the reader to the relevant publications. The great edition of Rome, Ephræmus syrus, opera omnia, 1737–1743, consists of six volumes in which are printed the texts preserved in MSS held in the Vatican; three volumes are devoted to the Syriac texts, while the remaining three contain the texts translated into Greek. It was begun by PIERRE MOBARAK or BENEDICTUS and was completed by STEFANO EVODIO ASSEMANI of the Society of Jesus. In 1865, OVERBECK edited new texts in Oxford after MSS held in the British Museum, S. Ephræmi syri… opera selecta, Oxford, 1865. In 1866, BICKELL published the collection entitled Carmina Nisibena, mentioned above. LAMY completed the previous editions using the London, Oxford and Paris MSS, S. Ephræmi syri hymni et sermones, t. I–IV, Malines, 1882–1902, comp. with NŒLDEKE, Göttingische Gelehrte Anzeigen, 1882, n. 48; 1887, n. 3; Wiener Zeitschrift, 1891, p. 245. Several hymns and homilies were edited or reedited in the chrestomathy of HAHN and SIEFERT, in the chrestomathy of UHLEMANN, in tomes I and II of the Monumenta syriaca of F. ZINGERLE. Also by ZINGERLE, S. Ephræmi syri duo carmina, Brixen, 1867; Ephræmi syri sermones duo, Brixen, 1871; extracts in his Chrestomathy, Rome, 1871. Cf. also BEDJAN, S. Martyrii, qui et Sahdona, quæ supersunt omnia, Paris, 1902, p. 866–868. BEDJAN printed the collection of homilies for Rogation days at the end of the first volume of his Breviarium Chaldaicum, Paris, 1886–1887; reprinted in the third volume of the LAMY ed. and the Bessarione, ser. II, vol. 4, by IGNATIUS EPHRÆM II RAHMANI, who also published several extracts of poetry under the name Ephrem in his Studia syriaca, Mount Lebanon, 1904. Two poems in the Directorium spirituale of ELIAS MILLOS, Rome, 1868. A homily in the Journ. of theol. Studies, V, 546, published by DUNCAN JONES. HAFFNER reedited in 1896 the homily on exile, that is, about life on earth, in the Sitzungsberichte of the Academy of Sciences of Vienna, t. XXXV, n. IX, Die Homilie des heiligen Ephräm von Syrien über das Pilgerleben; it had already been printed in the 3rd vol. of the Roman ed. Special translations of several poems have been produced but there would be little point in listing them here. 15



The poem on Joseph, son of Jacob, most likely belongs to the School of Edessa rather than to St Ephrem himself.16 Much has been written about the authenticity of St Ephrem’s Testament. The critical edition edition made by the present author (Journal asiatique, September-October 1901, p. 234 ff.) established that the Testament, although largely the work of that illustrious Father, has come down to us in a much interpolated form. We refer the reader to that edition for a list of the previous studies on the Testament of Ephrem. The disciples of St Ephrem did not shine as brightly as their illustrious master. Of Mar Aba’s works should be cited biblical commentaries (see above, p. 54) and exhortations in lines of five syllables;17 of Zenobius, who was deacon of the church of Edessa, treatises against Marcion and Pamphylus, epistles and a life of Ephrem;18 of Paulonas or Paulinus, who is called a heretic in the Testament of St Ephrem, hymns and various writings against Marcion and the sceptics.19

SOLOMON OF BASRA, in his book of The Bee, ed. BUDGE, p. 47, attributes that poem to St Ephrem. A MS in the British Museum dated to the 6th century, which contains hymns I and VIII, edited by OVERBECK, S. Ephræmi… op. sel., p. 270–330, gives the name of Balai as author. That epic, one of the best compositions of its kind, comprises twelve hymns; it is followed by a homily on the transfer of Joseph’s relics to Constantinople, which was written by a certain Bani. For an edition, see BEDJAN, Histoire complète de Joseph, Paris, 1891. In 1887, BEDJAN had already produced a first edition based on another MS that only contained the first ten hymns; LAMY reprinted and translated these ten hymns, S. Ephræmi syri hymni et sermones, t. III. 17 See LAMY, S. Ephræmi syri hymni et sermones, IV, p. 87. 18 ASSEMANI, B. O., I, 163. It used to be believed that Zenobius was ܺ is attached to his name in the from Gazarta, since the epithet ‫ܓܙܝܪܝ ܐ‬ Testament of S. Ephrem. In reality, the Syriac word means “valiant” rather than “from Gazarta”. 19 ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 170. 16



Balai,20 who appears to have been chorepiscopus of the diocese of Aleppo, lived at the end of the 4th century. His hymns, written in the pentasyllabic metre, perpetuated his name.21 The life of Cyrillona is as little known as that of Balai, his contemporary. Cyrillona is the author of a poem on the calamities that occurred in his lifetime: the plague of locusts and the Hun invasion. In a passage from that poem we read: “One year has not yet gone by since the Huns ravaged Syria.” As the Syriac chronicles inform us, the heathen invasion took place in July 396 (not 395), hence that work was composed in 397. Several other poems by Cyrillona have survived. These poems, of varying metres, are concerned with crucifixion, Easter and wheat. Bickell published them in the Zeitschr. der deut. morgenl. Gesellschaft, XXVII, 566.22 Bickell identifies Cyrillona as Absamya, St Ephrem’s nephew, whom we know, from the Chronicle of Edessa and the Eccl. chron. of Bar Hebræus,23 composed hymns and homilies on the Hun invasion. A plausible hypothesis would be that Absamya took the name Cyrillona on joining the clergy.24 Comp. with a passage from BAR HEBRÆUS, B. O., I, 166, where Balai is placed after St Ephrem and before the synod of Ephesus. 21 ZETTERSTEIN has edited what survives, Beiträge zur Kenniniss der reliogiösen Dichtung Balai’s, Leipzig, 1902; previous editions: OVERBECK, S. Ephræmi… op. sel., p. 251–336; WENIG, Schola syriaca, chrestomathia, Innsbruck, 1866, p. 160–162; CARDAHI, Liber thesauri de arte poetica, p. 25. In his Conspectus rei litt., p. 46, note 5, BICKELL gave a translation of a hymn on the martyrdom of St Faustina, the text of which he published in the Zeitschr. der deut. morgenl. Gesell., XXVII, p. 599, n. III. 22 See also WRIGHT, Catal., p. 670–671; OVERBECK, op. cit., 379– 381; Cardahi, Liber thesauri di arte poetica, 27–29. BICKELL translated it into German in the Bibliothek der Kirchenväter of TALLHOFER. 23 Cf. Chronicle by Michael the Syrian, ed. CHABOT, II, p. 169 (transl., p. 9). 24 WRIGHT, Syriac liter., 2nd ed., p. 42, objects to that theory, noting that the Syriac chronicles that mention Absamya do not refer to him by the name Cyrillona. Cf. ADDAI SCHER, Revue de l’Orient chrét., 1906, p. 3–4. 20



Monk Gregory left the Orient (Palestine?) for Cyprus, where he came into contact with Saint Epiphanius, bishop of Salamis, and a monk named Theodore. To these two individuals are addressed several of his epistles; his main work is a treatise on ascetic life.25

ASSEMANI, B. O., I, 170–174, and III, part I, 191, published several letters and fragments from that treatise; compare with above, p. 192. 25

II. WRITERS UP UNTIL THE 7TH CENTURY That period of the literary history of the Syrians is the most remarkable; it counts numerous authors who made notable contributions in a variety of different genres. At first, the Syrians, though divided by the frontiers of the Roman and Persian Empires, still formed one great religious family. Antioch, Edessa, Nisibis and Seleucia on the Tigris were its main intellectual centers and formed a network of contact for its different members until schisms broke it into two branches.

§1. — THE ORTHODOX The poems of Isaac of Antioch or Isaac the Great (5th century) form a lengthy collection. In the 11th century, John bar Shushan had begun to bring them together in one work. The compiler’s death brought his labour to a sudden halt in 1073.1 These poems are not all the work of one author: several suggest the approach of an orthodox, others that of a Monophysite. In a note first published by F. Martin, Jacob of Edessa was able to distinguish three Isaacs who had previously proven difficult to differentiate: (1) Isaac of Amid, disciple of St Ephrem, who went to Rome in order to visit the Capitol; he was an Orthodox; (2) Isaac of Edessa, who prospered in the time of Zeno (late 5th century) and settled in Antioch; he was a Monophysite; and (3) Isaac, also from Edessa, who was a Monophysite in the days of Bishop Paul (512) and later converted to orthodoxy under Bishop Asclepius (522). Isaac of Amid appears to be the author of poems on secular games (404) and on the capture of Rome (410). Isaac of Antioch 1

See BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., I, 447.




may have composed a homily on the Antioch earthquake (459), as well as the long poem on the parrot that sang the Trisagion. On the other hand, Isaac of Antioch has repeatedly been mistaken for Isaac of Nineveh. The latter is in all likelihood responsible for the prose writings on ascetism attributed to the former. What information we have on the life of Isaac of Antioch is very vague. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that Isaac composed most of the homilies that are attributed to him: his great celebrity has caused us to forget his namesakes.2 Dâdâ, a monk of Amid and a contemporary of Isaac, was appointed by his fellow townsmen to be their envoy to Constantinople, charged with the mission of requesting that taxes be lowered owing to the terrible losses caused by famine and war. Although none of that author’s works have survived, three hundred treatises on various subjects, and a number of hymns, are attributed to him.3

This short note was taken from the Foreword of F. BEDJAN, Homiliæ S. Isaaci syri Antiocheni, t. I, Paris and Leipzig, 1903; we refer the reader to that foreword for sources relative to Isaac. In tome I, Bedjan edited sixtyseven homilies, of which only twenty-four had previously been published. BICKELL printed thirty-seven homilies in two volumes: Isaaci Antiocheni opera omnia, Giessen, I, 1873; II, 1877. Isaac’s homilies attributed to St Ephrem are in LAMY, S. Ephræmi syri hymni et sermones. Two homilies have been printed in the Chrestomathy of Ourmia (The Little Book of Crumbs), Ourmia, 1898; others in IGNATIUS EPHRÆM II RAHMANI, Studia syriaca, chap. V, cf. NŒLDEKE, Zeitschr. der deut. morgenl. Gesell., LVIII, p. 494. MARIUS BESSON published a collection of sentences attributed to Isaac in Oriens Christianus, I, p. 46–60; 228–298. For the partial editions prior to Bickell’s edition, see ASSEMANI, B. O., I, 207; ZINGERLE, Monumenta syriaca, I, p. 13; CARDAHI, Liber thesauri, p. 21; OVERBECK, S. Ephræmi… opera selecta, p. 379. German translations of various homilies by ZINGERLE, Theol. Quartalschrift, 1870; and BICKELL, Bibliothek der Kirchenväter, 44° issue, p. 111 and 191. 3 WRIGHT, Syriac lit., 2nd ed., p. 54; comp. with LAND, Anecd. syr., III, p. 84. 2



Rabbula, named bishop of Edessa in 412, is known as much for his ardent faith and tackling of heresies as he is for his literary works.4 He was born at Qenneshre (Chalcis), near Aleppo; his father, a Pagan priest, is said to have made a sacrifice in honour of Julian the Apostate during the expedition against the Persians; his mother, however, was a Christian. Rabbula was converted and baptised by Eusebius, bishop of Qenneshre, and Acacius, bishop of Aleppo. The proselyte devoted himself entirely to the religion which he had only just embraced; he sold his belongings and donated the money thus collected to the poor. First he retired to the monastery of Abraham and later to a more isolated location, so as to lead an ascetic life. Acacius fetched him there and placed him on the episcopal seat of Edessa, left vacant following the death of Diogenes. Now a bishop, Rabbula set out to uproot those ancient heresies, which, despite St Ephrem’s active resistance, still counted followers in Edessa. At first he appears to have hesitated on whether he should reject the doctrine of Theodore of Mopsuestia, of which Nestorius had just become the champion. His hesitation was, however, short-lived. Rabbula soon declared himself a partisan of Cyril of Alexandria, whom he then befriended and whose treatise De recta fide he eventually translated;5 he attacked Nestorius in Constantinople, where he delivered a lengthy speech before Theodosius II. His biographer, who translated the speech into Syriac,6 puts emphasis on the courage showed by the bishop of Edessa on that occasion, for the bishop of Constantinople was in the emperor’s good graces. The controversy continued in writing; the same biographer mentions “forty-six letters of Rabbula addressed to priests, emperors, important figures and monks, which we shall set out to translate, God willing, from Greek into

The document mentioned above, p. 127, tells his story. See the letter of Cyril to Rabbula, OVERBECK, op. cit., p. 228. Rabbula’s version can be found in the British Museum: F. BEDJAN edited it in tome V of the Acta martyrum et sanctorum, p. 628–696. 6 OVERBECK has published what survives of that version, op. cit., p. 239 ff. 4 5



Syriac, so that those who read them can learn of the ardent flame of his divine zeal.”7 During his episcopate, Rabbula’s way of life served as a model of humility and privations for his clergy. By way of a combination of canons and warnings8 he sought to make the clergy conform to ascetic practices. His charity was praised and testimonies of his devotion to the poor and the sick abound. Yet his tyrannical severity inspired fear rather than love to those around him. The saintly bishop died on August 7, 435.9 Overbeck has published what remains of his works in his book S. Ephræmi, etc., opera selecta, p. 210 ff., while Bickell translated it in the Bibliothek der Kirchenväter of Tallhofer, n. 103–104. An as yet unpublished discourse on the alms for the souls of the dead and on the defense of holidays on the occasion of funerary commemorations should also be mentioned; that discourse is in a MS held in the collections of the Laurentian in Florence.10

§2. — THE NESTORIANS The war declared on Nestorianism by Rabbula came to a sudden halt at Edessa following the death of that bishop. Ibas, who taught at the School of Persians and was a known partisan of Nestorius, succeeded Rabbula. As noted earlier,11 the Syrians owe their first translations of the works of Diodore of Tarsus and of Theodore of Several of these letters translated into Syriac have survived to this day, either in full or in part, and have been published in OVERBECK, S. Ephræmi, etc., opera selecta, after MSS held in the British Museum. Some belong to the extensive correspondence between Rabbula and St Cyril. GUIDI published, after the Vatican Syr. MS 107, a letter of St Cyril to Rabbula, which is not part of the Overbeck collection, Rendiconti della R. Academia dei Lincei, May-June 1886, 416–546. 8 See above, p. 145. 9 Date provided by the Biography; as indicated by the Chronicle of Edessa, the funeral tok place on August 8, 435. 10 EV. ASSEMANI, Cat. cod. ms. Orient. Bibl. Palat. Medic., p. 107. On the version of the NT by Rabbula, see above, p. 32–33. 11 See above, p. 271. 7



Mopsuestia to that doctor and his disciples. Rabbula had condemned these works, even ordering some copies to be burnt.12 Once Ibas had been appointed bishop, Nestorianism was free to spread across Mesopotamia. The famous letter which the new bishop addressed to the Persian Mari only further encouraged its propagation among the Oriental Syrians. Prosecuted because of that letter at the synods of Tyre and Beyrouth, Ibas was acquitted. However, in 449, at the second synod of Ephesus, he and his nephew Daniel, bishop of Harran, were condemned, along with Flavian of Constantinople, Domnus of Antioch, Irenaeus of Tyre, Eusebius of Dorylaeum, Sophronius of Tella and Theodoret of Cyrus. Ibas was forced into exile and replaced in Edessa by Nonnus.13 His exile lasted no more than two years; after the Council of Chalcedon, which was mainly directed against Eutyches and the Monophysites, Ibas returned to his episcopal seat where he lived peacefully until his death on October 28, 457. The Catalogue of ʿAbdishoʿ attributes to Ibas: a commentary on Proverbs (see above, p. 57), homilies, hymns and a controversy with a heretic.14 The death of Bishop Ibas led to the expulsion from Edessa of his followers, who taught or studied at the School of Persians. The school did, however, survive until 489, when Emperor Zeno ordered its destruction. The names of the exiles, together with the nicknames they had been given at the School, have come down to us in a letter by the Monophysite bishop Simeon of Beth Arsham, written around 510, and hence the most ancient document on the propagation of Nestorianism in Persia.15 Simeon was partial and unjust towards his adversaries. He was, however, well informed. Among the inhabitants of Edessa who retired to the Persian territory, where they won the favours of King Peroz, he cites: Acacius, Bar Sauma, Mana, Abshuta, John the Garameen, Mika, ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 86; part II, 73. Of that bishop’s works we have a letter addressed to Emperor Leo on the Council of Chalcedon, ASSEMANI, B. O., I, 257 and 403. 14 ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 86. 15 Published by ASSEMANI, B. O., I, 436, and reprinted in the Chrestomathy of Michaelis. 12 13



Paul son of Qaqi, Abraham the Mede, Narsai, and Ezalia. Virtually all of them were elevated to the rank of bishop in Persia; several came to be famous writers. Acacius was elected patriarch of Seleucia in 48416 and died in 496.17 Bar Hebræus mentions being charged by Peroz to remain by Emperor Zeno’s side.18 He composed homilies on fasting and faith, as well as treatises on the Monophysites. For King Kavadh he translated into Persian the treatise on the faith of Elisha or Hosea, successor of Bar Sauma on the seat of Nisibis.19 Patriarch Acacius should be distinguished from Acacius, bishop of Amid, whose epistles were commented by Mari of Beth Ardashir, one of the first apostles of Nestorianism in Persia. It is reported that Acacius of Amid sold (around 419) the sacred vases of the bishopric in order to buy back the individuals taken captive by the Romans in the Beth Arabaya.20 According to Simeon of Beth Arsham, before becoming professor at the School of Persians, Bar Sauma had been the slave of Mara of Beth Kardu (near Gazarta). He was one of the exiles of year 457, and indeed it is from that time onwards that he became famous for his despotism as bishop of Nisibis.21 He instituted the first statutes of the School of Nisibis22 and established the marriage of priests with the patriarch’s consent. Following the catalogue of BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., II, 72. AMR, ed. GISMONDI, p. 35. 18 BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., II, 75. 19 ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 69, 378 and 634; the Maronite scholar sought in vain to exonerate Acacius from the heresy of Nestorius; comp. with WRIGHT, Syriac lit., 2nd ed., p. 60. On the synod of Acacius, see above, p. 142. See also ADDAI SCHER, Rev. de l’Or. chrét., 1906, p. 5. 20 Comp. with MARI, ed. GISMONDI, part I, p. 31. 21 His permanent departure from Edessa therefore did not occur under Rabbula, as ASSEMANI claims, B. O., III; part II, 78, nor did it occur in 489, comp. with BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., t. II, p. 55, note 1. 22 These statutes have not survived, but we do have those of his successor Elisha or Hosea, published in 496, GUIDI, Gli Statuti della scuola di Nisibi, Rome, 1890. 16 17



ʿAbdishoʿ, his writings include exhortations, eulogies, hymns, letters and a liturgy.23 Narsai accompanied Bar Sauma to Nisibis, where he founded a school that was to become one of the most famous centers of instruction among the Oriental Syrians. Originally from Maalta, to the northeast of Mosul, he came to study under Ibas at the School of Persians. He spent all but several years of the second part of his life as director of the School of Nisibis, where he retired among the Kurds following an argument with Bar Sauma. According to Bar Hebræus, Narsai lived for another fifty years after leaving Edessa, where he had spent twenty years; his departure having taken place in 457, which would place the time of his death in 507.24 The Monophysites referred to him as “the Leper.” By contrast, the Nestorians called him “The Harp of the Holy Spirit,” for they were very fond of his poetry. Only one part has survived.25 It is said that Narsai had a liking for the ten-syllable metre, yet his poems that have been published ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 66. On the letters of Acacius, see above, p. 142. A hymn in the British Museum, Catal. Wright, p. 130; comp. with MACLEAN, East Syrian Daily Offices, London, 1894, p. 236. 24 BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., II, p. 77. Bar Hebræus confuses the date of the exile (457) with that of the destruction of the School of Persians (489). ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 402 and 407, note 2, mistakenly dates the exile to the time of Rabbula, around 431. The argument brought forward by BICKELL, Conspectus rei Syrorum litt., p. 37, and subsequently by FELDMANN, Syrische Wechsellieder von Narses, p. 3, according to which Narsai died in 496, rests on no solid evidence; according to Amr, that is the year of Acacius’s death. Following Barhadbshabba in MINGANA, Narsai, Mosul, 1905, Narsai spent forty-five years of his life at Nisibis and passed away in 502. 25 Manuscripts held in European collections: in the Vatican (previously K. VI, 5 of the Borgia Museum); in Berlin; in Cambridge; in the Orient: at the Orthodox patriarchate of Jersualem; at the Mosul patriarchate; at Ourmia; at the monastery of Hormizd, north of Mosul. The Vatican MS and Berlin MS 57 are identical to the Hormid MS, of which they are copies. The main edition of the works of Narsai is that of MINGANA, Narsai, homiliæ et carmina, vol. I–II; Mosul, 1905; it comprises forty-seven 23



thus far all exhibit metres of either seven or twelve syllables. The ʿAbdishoʿ Catalogue further attributes to Narsai: commentaries (see above, p. 60); a liturgy; explanations on the eucharistic communion and on baptism; and a book entitled On the corruption of morals. According to Barhadbshabba, Elisha bar Quzbaye wrote, besides his commentary on the OT (see above, p. 61), numerous treatises against the magi and heretics, see MINGANA, Narsai, t. I, p. 56. Mari of Beth Ardashir is chiefly known from the letter addressed to him by Ibas. In addition to his commentary on Daniel (see above, p. 61) and his book on the epistles of Acacius of Amid (above, p. 298), he also composed a controversial treatise against the magi of Nisibis.26 In Edessa, Mana translated a number of works by Theodore of Mopsuestia. According to Simeon of Beth Arsham, he and the Nestorians of the School of Persians were forced into exile at the death of Ibas in 457. He retired to Persia, was appointed metropolitan of Persia and eventually patriarch of the Oriental homilies and ten canticles taken from the editor’s MS, which he collated using the MSS held in Mosul and Ourmia; he did not include the homilies of a distinctly heretic character. Previous partial editions: HANEBERG, Zeitschr. der deut. morg. Gesellschaft, III, 325; CARDAHI, Liber thesauri, p. 47; BEDJAN, Breviarium chaldaicum, Paris, 1886, I, p. 468; GISMONDI, Linguæ syriacæ grammatica, Beyrouth, 1900, p. 108; FR. MARTIN, Journal asiatique, 1899–1900; SACHAU and FELDMANN, see above, p. 14, note 7; KHAYYAT, Syllabaire chaldaïque, Mosul, 1869, and Les prairies délicieuses ̈ (‫ܡܪܓܐܳܡܦܝܓܢܐ‬ ), Mosul, 1901; the Ourmia chestomathy (The Little Book of Crumbs), p. 98 and 235. Part of the poem of Joseph, son of Jacob, which has been attributed to Narsai and is different from the poem attributed to S. Ephrem (see above, p. 290), has been edited in GRABOWSKI, Die Geshichte Josephs von Mar Narsai, Berlin, 1889; as for the second hymn, it has been edited by MAX WEYL in Das 2 Joseph Gedicte von Mar Narses, Berlin, 1901; BEDJAN printed the entire poem, Liber superiorum, Paris and Leipzig, 1901, p. 521; MEIER ENGEL has published an anonymous poem on Joseph, Die Geschichte Josephs, I Teil, Belin, 1895. Comp. also with MACLEAN, East Syrian Daily Offices, p. 161–168. 26 ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 171.



Christians. He cannot therefore have succeeded Yaballa I in the last of these positions in 420 AD.27 We attribute to Mana Pahlavi versions of Syriac books, which he is believed to have produced once he had settled in Persia. Following his expulsion from Edessa, Mika was made bishop of Lashom. He must not be confused with Mika the physician (7th century), who composed a commentary on the Book of Kings (see above, p. 61); a panegyric of his predecessor Sabrishoʿ and of a certain Qantropos (?); a treatise on the Five Causes for Sessions and a chronicle; see ADDAI SCHER, Rev. de l’Or. chrét., 1906, p. 21–22. It is not known in which period lived Ara, who composed a treatise against magi and another against the disciples of Bardaisan. By the 5th century the propagandistic endeavour had yielded significant results: the vast majority of Christians in Persia now followed the dogma of the duality of nature and person. We shall only briefly touch on the Nestorian writers of that period, of which some already appeared in the first part of the present work and the others are little known. At Nisibis, the school founded by Narsai prospered under his successors: Abraham, John and Joseph of Ahwaz. The teachings of these masters gave birth to various works: Abraham and John published biblical commentaries (above, p. 61) and hymns.28 Joseph of Ahwaz is the first Syriac grammarian (above, p. 47 and 248).29 ʿAbdishoʿ attributes to a disciple of Abraham of Nisibis named Abraham Bar Kardahe, or Abraham “son of the blacksmiths,” homilies, consolatory discourses about the deceased, sermons and a letter against a certain Shisban, probably a magus. See J.-B. CHABOT, Synodicon orientale, Paris, 1902, p. 300, note 4; ADDA SCHER, Revue de l’Orient chrétien, 1906, p. 7. 28 ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, p. 72; comp. with p. 631 and 708. One of Abraham’s hymns is in the Nestorian Psalms, comp. with WRIGHT, Syr. lit., 2nd ed., p. 114, note 4; MACLEAN, East Syrian Daily Offices, p. 99. Barhadbshabba, in MINGANA, Narsai, I, 36, also attributes to John a treatise against Jews and a refutation of Eutyches. 29 See Part I for other authors: Patriarch Mar Aba I, p. 184; Abraham of Kashkar, Mar Babai, etc., p. 183; and the ascetics, p. 187 ff. 27



Another Abraham, Abraham Qatina (“the subtle”), who lived in the late 6th century, wrote maxims and questions.30 Paul, a disciple of Patriarch Mar Aba I who became bishop of Nisibis, composed a commentary on the Holy Scriptures (above, p. 62); letters; and a controversy most likely addressed to Justinian.31 Thomas of Edessa was probably also a disciple of Mar Aba. He is the author of: a treatise on the Nativity; a treatise on the Epiphany; a letter on Church hymns; an astrological problem; several homilies; and discussions against heretics.32 According to ʿAbdishoʿ,33 Theodore, appointed bishop of Merv in 540, composed a commentary on Psalms (above, p. 62), solutions to philosophical questions (above, p. 215), a poem on St Eugene, the alleged founder of monasticism in Mesopotamia, and his companions, and finally a book of miscellania.34 Gabriel, bishop of Hormizd Ardashir and the brother of Theodore, wrote books of controversy against the Manicheans and ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 223 and 225. ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 87. 32 ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, p. 86. The two treatises on Nativity and Epiphany are preserved in a MS from the monastery of St Jacob the Recluse of the diocese of Siirt, a copy of which is held in the monastery of the Mother of God at Alqosh. SIMON JOSEPH CARR published the first treatise, Thomæ Edesseni tractatus de Nativitate D. N. Christi, Rome, 1898. BAUMSTARK, Oriens christianus, 1901, p. 320, analysed these two treatises, which are part of the Collection on the Causes of Festivities, written for the School of Nisibis. Cyrus, a student of Thomas (middle of the 6th century) whose treatises appear in the same MS, continued that collection with other treatises by Henana of Adiabene (see following p.); by Isaiah, priest and professor at the School of Seleucia (treatises on martyrs and their confessors); by an anonymous author (on the Virgin Mary); by professor Posi (on the Lent fast); treatises that are important for the study of dogmas among the Nestorians. Cf. on a hymn attributed to Thomas of Edessa, MACLEAN, East Syrian Daily Offices, p. 98. 33 ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 147. 34 The poem attributed to Theodore appears to postdate the time of that author; G. HOFFMANN, Auszüge aus syr. Akten, p. 167, sees in it a composition of Gerwargis Warda (13th century). 30 31



Chaldeans as well as approximately three hundred chapters on difficulties encountered in the Scriptures.35 Joseph, who was elected patriarch in 552 and whose synodal canons we discussed (p. 142), first made use of his medical skills at Nisibis. Having been fortunate enough to heal Khosro Anoshirwan, he owed to that king his appointment to the patriarchal seat. According to Bar Hebræus,36 he showed himself hard and cruel towards his bishops, who obtained his deposition only three years after he had taken up that office. After his deposition, Joseph wrote a history of the Nestorian partriachs, his predecessors. Bar Hebræus accuses him of having fabricated consolatory letters addressed to Papa, which circulated under the name of Jacob of Nisibis and St Ephrem.37 Henana of Adiabene, the successor of Joseph of Ahwaz at the School of Nisibis, attracted numerous — 800, it is said — disciples to his side.38 He was responsible for a schism that shook the Nestorian Church for some time (see above, p. 196). His works include commentaries (above, p. 61), explanations on the Creed, the liturgy, Palm Sunday, Golden Friday (the first Friday after Pentecost), Rogation days, and the Finding of the Cross; and various treatises in which he followed the commentaries of St John Chrysostom and distanced himself from those of Theodore of Mopsuestia.39 Henana revised the statutes of the School of Nisibis and published

35 36

ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 147. Chron. eccl., II, 95–97; comp. with ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I,

432. Chron. eccl., II, p. 31; compare with above, p. 107–108. On the contemporary figures Paul the Persian and the periodeut Buhd, see above, p. 216 and 279. 38 ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, p. 81. 39 These treatises belong to the Causes of Festivities, which we discussed p. 302, note 32. BAUMSTARK, Oriens christianus, 1901, p. 330–331, has analysed the Cause of the Golden Friday and the Cause of Prayer, which are in the MS cited in the aforementioned note. 37



his revision in 590.40 Joseph Hazzaya was one of his partisans. The Book of Chastity contains a note, analysed on p. 195–196, on that individual. Ishoʿyahb I, patriarch of the Nestorians (582–595), owed his appointment to the episcopal seat to Hormizd IV, whose good graces he could depend on. He was originally from the Beth Arabaya (modern Tur Abdin); he studied at the School of Nisibis; at the time of his election to the office of patriarch, he was the bishop of Arzun. He died at the monastery of Hind at Hira during a visit to Numan ibn al-Mundhir, king of the Arabs and a recent convert to Christianity (comp. with above, p. 181). In his Catalogue,41 ʿAbdishoʿ cites the following works of Ishoʿyahb: a treatise against Eunomius; another against a Monophysite bishop with whom had been in a controversy over a matter of dogma; twenty-two questions on the Sacraments;42 canons and synodal letters (above, p. 142); and an apology (above, p. 135). Ishoʿ Zeka, or Zekaishoʿ, or even Meshihazeka,43 was a monk in the monastery of Mount Izla; he left the monastery in the company of monks whom Babi had driven out of it, and then retired to the diocese of Dasen, where he founded the monastery of Beth Rabban Zeka Ishoʿ or Beth Rabban in short; he is cited as the author of an ecclesiastical history (above, p. 175–176).44

§3. — THE MONOPHYSITES Nestorian literature is known to us only in its broad outline and it is difficult to to pass judgment on it based on the works it produced, since so few of them have survived. We can, nonetheless, establish that it did not shine as brightly as See GUIDI, Gli statuti della Scuola di Nisibi, Rome, 1890; Abbot CHABOT, Journal asiatique, July-August 1896, p. 62. On a hymn by Henana, see MACLEAN, East Syrian Daily Offices, p. 226. 41 ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 108. 42 There is a copy in the Vatican MS 150. 43 That is Jesus or Christ has triumphed. 44 On Abraham, abbot of the monastery of Mount Izla, see above, p. 145; on his successor Dadishoʿ, also see p. 145. 40



Monophysite literature and its writers never equalled such talented authors as Jacob of Serug, Philoxenus of Mabbug, Sergius of Reshʿayna or John of Asia. Just as Nestorianism spread across Persia, encouraged by the Sassanian kings, Monophysitism gradually grew among the Western Syrians, under the disguise of Zeno’s Henotikon. Archimandrite Bar Sauma, whose piety led him to be venerated as a saint, grew to become the main proponent of the heresy of Eutyches in Syria. He had attended the second synod of Ephesus; he was found guilty of heresy by the Council of Chalcedon; he died in 458.45 We have every right not to view Simeon the Stylite († September 2, 459) as a Syriac author. The Monophysites consider him to be one of their saints, a claim substantiated by the three letters written under his name, with the Precepts and Warnings addressed to the Brothers.46 Yet the question is whether these writings were authentic, for Simeon was illiterate; he presumably dictated his letters to one of his disciples.47 On that saint’s Syriac Acts, see above, p. 126. As has been demonstrated by the publication of the correpondence exchanged between Jacob of Serug and the monks of the monastery of Mar Bassus near Apamea,48 that bishop undoubtedly belonged to the Monophysite confession. In that BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., I, 161–165, 179, 181; ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 2–9. His Life, as written by his disciple Samuel, has survived in several British Museum MSS, WRIGHT, Catal., p. 1123; comp. with B. O., II, 296. One should not confuse that Monophysite with his Nestorian contemporary, Bar Sauma of Nisibis, whom we discussed in the previous section. 46 In the British Museum, Catal. of Wright, p. 951, n. 29; p. 986, n. 33; p. 1153, col. 1; in Cambridge, Catal. of Wright and Cook, p. 849. 4. 47 See NŒLDEKE, Orientalische Skizzen, Berlin, 1892, p. 233. TORREY published the three letters with an English translation, The Letters of Simeon the Stylite in the Journal of the American or. Society, vol. XX, 1899, p. 252. Torrey recognises that the letters are apocryphal. 48 Edited with a French translation by Abbot F. MARTIN, Zeitschr. der deut. morg. Gesell., XXX, p. 217 ff. 45



correspondence, Jacob, although still a youth, already shows himself to be hostile to the dyophysite doctrine taught at Edessa, where the future bishop of Serug was a student. In it we also learn that he first rallied Zeno’s Henotikon before embracing the Monophysite faith. Jacob was among the bishops who consecrated John of Tella, a fervent Monophysite, under Justin.49 We possess three biographies of that illustrious Syrian: one written by Jacob of Edessa;50 the second by an anonymous author; as for the third, it is a long versified panegyric attributed to one of his disciples named George.51 Jacob was born in Kurtam on the Euphrates, probably in the district of Serug. He became chorepiscopus of Haura, in the same district. It is there that he wrote consolation letters to the Christians of Najran and the inhabitants of the town of Edessa, which was under threat from the Persians,52 and presumably also the dogmatic letters addressed to the monks of the monastery of Mar Bassus.53 In 519 he was appointed bishop of Batnan, the most important town of the district of Serug; he was then sixty-eight years of age and died two years later, in 521. He devoted his life to studying, far from the christological polemics that agitated the Orient in his time. Hence, as opposed to Severus of Antioch, See KLEYN, Het Leven van Joh. van Tella, Leiden, 1882, VII and 31; ZINGERLE, Zeitschr. für Kathol. Theol., XI, 92–108; GUIDI, La lettera di Simeone vescovo di Beth-Arscham, Preface. 50 See Abbot F. MARTIN, l. c., p. 217, note 3. ASSEMANI has published the text of that biography in B. O., I, 286. 51 ABBELOOS edited all three biographies, De vita et scriptis S. Jacobi. F. CARDAHI printed extracts of the panegyric in his Liber thesauri, p. 37. BICKELL, Bibliothek der Kirchenväter, n. 58, provides convincing arguments against attributing that panegyric to a disciple of Jacob: he argues that it should in fact be attributed to George of Serug, an author of the 8th century. 52 WRIGHT, Catal., p. 520, n. 15 and 16; and above, p. 120. 53 Abbot F. MARTIN, l. c., p. 224, note 3, dates the correspondence between these monks and Jacob to the years 514 to 518, i.e. when he was chorepiscopus. 49



Philoxenus of Mabbug and Paul of Edessa, he was not troubled by the persecution of Monophysites decreed by Justin I following the abolition of Zeno’s Henotikon. The condolence letter which Jacob addressed to Paul of Edessa54 refers to Paul’s ill treatment in November 519, when he was taken captive and brought to Seleucia on the Orontes.55 The numerous letters of Jacob of Serug are mostly contained in the British Museum MSS Add. 14587 and 17163. We have just discussed his letters to the monks of the monastery of Mar Bassus, to the Christians of Najran, to the inhabitants of Edessa and to Paul of Edessa.56 Another letter to Stephen Bar Sudaili should also be mentioned in the note devoted to him. His prose works include: a liturgy;57 an order for baptism;58 six festal homilies;59 sermons on sins, on the Friday of the third week of Lent and on Easter; eulogies and a Life of Mar Hanina.60 Bar Hebræus attributes to that author a commentary of the Six centuries of Evagrius, which he allegedly wrote at the request of George, bishop of the Tribes, his disciple.61 As Wright notes,62 however, that epithet, which designates George of the Arabs, who lived in the 7th century, must be incorrect. It is primarily thanks to his poems that Jacob of Serug came to be admired by the Syrians, who gave him the title of “Flute of the Holy Spirit and Harp of the Orthodox Church.” He Published by Abbot F. MARTIN, l. c., p. 265. The final condemnation and Paul of Edessa’s exile took place on July 27, 522, by which point Jacob of Edessa had already passed away. 56 F. BEDJAN edited a dogmatic letter addressed to the inhabitants of Arzen in S. Martyrii, qui et Sahdona, quæ supersunt omnia, Paris and Leipzig, 1902, p. 605. 57 Translated by RENAUDOT, Liturg. orient. collectio, II, 356. 58 Edited by J. ALOYSIUS ASSEMANI, Cod. liturg. eccl. univers., Rome, 1749–1766, II, 309; III, 184. 59 Translated into German by ZINGERLE, Sechs Homilien des h. Jacob von Serug, Bonn, 1867. ZINGERLE edited one in the Monumenta syr., I, 91. 60 See WRIGHT, Catal., p. 364, 826, 844, 1113 and 1126. 61 BAR HEB., Chron. eccl., I, 191. 62 Syriac literature, 2nd ed., p. 70. 54 55



composed, as Bar Hebræus informs us,63 seven hundred and sixty metric homilies, which seventy scribes then copied. They were widely read and often reworked, to judge from the widely differing texts given for the same poem by its different MSS. Not even half of these homilies have survived. The first one of Jacob’s poetic compositions which caught the attention of connoisseurs was, according to Bar Hebræus,64 the homily on Ezechiel’s chariot, in which the author predicted the conquest of Amid. We cannot give an exhaustive list of his works here.65 Jacob of Serug, whose metric homilies met with resounding success, was often imitated in Syria. Simeon Koukaya, a humble potter from the village of Geshir, near the monastery of Mar Bassus, composed religious hymns while still practicing his main profession. The rumour of Simeon’s achievements having reached Jacob, he decided to pay him a visit and took with him several of his own hymns, in the hope that they might be published.66 Nine of Chron. eccl., I, p. 191. Chron. eccl., I, p. 190. 65 Comp. with ASSEMANI, B. O., I, 305–339; ABBELOOS, De vita et scriptis S. Jacobi, p. 106–113. The main edition is that of the seventy homilies published by F. BEDJAN, Homiliæ selectæ Mar Jacobi Sarugensis, I– II, Paris and Leipzig, 1905 and 1906. Prior to it, several editions of various homilies had been made by: F. BEDJAN in Acta Martyrum et Sanctorum, I, III, V and VI, and in S. Martyrii, qui et Sahdona, quæ supersunt omnia, see the Foreword of the Homiliæ selectæ, I, p. VIII; ZINGERLE, Zeitschr. der deut. morgenl. Gesell., t. XII, XIII, XIV, XV and XX; Chrestomathia syriaca, Rome, 1871, p. 360–386; Monumenta syriaca, I, p. 21: Sermo de Thamar, Innsbruck, 1871; MŒSINGER, Monumenta syriaca, II, p. 52 and 76; WENIG, Schola syriaca, Innsbruck, 1866; OVERBECK, S. Ephræmi syri… opera selecta, p. 382; Abbeloos, De vita et scriptis S. Jacobi, p. 203–301; PAULIN MARTIN, Zeitschr. der deut. morg. Gesellschaft, XXIX, 107; CURETON, Ancient syriac documents, p. 107; see also above, p. 159 ff. German translations of several homilies by ZINGERLE, Sechs Homilien des heil. Jacob von Sarug, Bonn, 1867; and by BICKELL in the Bibliothek der Kirchenväter of Tallhofer. 66 JACOB OF EDESSA in the Catal. of Wright, p. 602; BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., I, 191; ASSEMANI, B. O., I, 121, II, 322. Catal. Wright, p. 363. 63 64



his poems on the Nativity of Our Lord are preserved in the British Museum MS Add. 14520. Philoxenus, Aksenâyâ in Syriac, a contemporary of Jacob of Serug who outlived him by only two years, was born in Persia, at Tahal in the Beth Garmai. He studied at Edessa under Ibas, but, like Jacob, he rejected the dyophysite doctrine that he had learnt from the bishop of Edessa and became one of the most ardent apostles of the Monophysite confession. It is even allegedly at his instigation that Bishop Cyrus appealed to Zeno to destroy the School of Persians in 489.67 Appointed bishop of Mabbug (Manbidj in Arabic, near the Euphrates) in 485 by Peter the Fuller, patriarch of Antioch, Philoxenus, after the death of Zeno, sought to make the most of the Monophysites being in the good graces of Anastasius. He journeyed to Constantinople in 499 and in 506. In 512, after having succeeded, with the help of Soterichus, bishop of Caesarea of Cappadocia, in sending Flavian into exile, he presided over a synod in the course of which Severus was named bishop of Antioch. With Justin, the clergy underwent a sea change: the Monophysite bishops were driven out of their seats and replaced by Orthodox figures. Among the exiles was Philoxenus, who was first sent to Philippopolis of Thrace and from there to Gangres in the Paphlagonia. There he died by asphyxiation, circa 523 AD, having been locked up in a room filled with smoke. Such was the sad conclusion to the life of the spirited bishop, who spent his days fighting the Orthodox, whom he called the Nestorian heretics.68 His fighting ardour did not affect his literary genius; Syrians regarded him as one of their greatest writers. Philoxenus only rarely wrote poetry; the hymn on the Nativity of our Lord is his only known work of poetry and we are probably mistaken in attributing that text to him. His prose compositions are BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., II, 56; Cf. VASCHALDE, Three letters of Philoxenus, Rome, 1902, p. 3 ff.; NAU, Notice inéditre sur Philoxène de Mabboug, in the Revue de l’Orient chrétien, VIII, 630. 68 See the letter that he addressed in 512 to the monks of the monastery of Senun near Edessa, in ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 15. 67



important; in the first part of this book we mentioned the biblical version that bears his name; his commentary on the Gospels; thirteen homilies which he wrote on religious life;69 apart from these, he also wrote: three liturgies (two of which have been translated by Renaudot, Liturg. orient. collectio, II, 300–309); an order for baptism; eucharistic prayers; a demonstration on the parable of ten talents; treatises on the Trinity and on Incarnation;70 a treatise on various heresies followed by a profession of faith; twelve chapters against the Orthodox; twenty chapters against the Nestorians; seven further chapters against them; a variety of writings of the same type and several professions of faith; declarations and responses to adversaries; a parenetic discourse; a eulogy; prayers and monastic rules; numerous letters. These works are contained in MSS now held in libraries in Rome, Paris, London, Oxford and Cambridge.71

See above, p. 43, 54 and 191. These treatises will shortly be published by VASCHALDE in the Corpus scriptorum christianorum orientalium. 71 See BUDGE, The Discourses of Philoxenus, II, p. XLVIII ff. Beside the homilies which Budge has edited, only several of the letters written by Philoxenus have so far been published: ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 30–46, edited some extracts; Abbot F. MARTIN, the letter to Abu Nafir of Hira, Grammatica… linguæ syriacæ, Paris, 1874, p. 71 (on that letter, which may be apocryphal, see TIXERONT, Revue de l’Orient chrétien, VIII, 623; VASCHALDE, in the work cited below, p. 30); GUIDI, the letter to the monks of Telada, La lettera di Filosseno ai Monaci di Tell Adda, 1886, in the proceedings of the Accademia dei Lincei; FROTHINGHAM, the letter to the priests of Edessa, Abraham and Orestes, Stephen bar Sudaili, p. 28; A. VASCHALDE, Three letters of Philoxenus bishop of Mabbog, being the letter to the monks, the first letter to the monks of Beth-Gaugal and the letter to the emperor Zeno, Rone, 1902. In the Introduction to the second volumes of The Discourses of Philoxenus, BUDGE printed the following writings of Philoxenus: (1) an answer to the question: How should we believe?; (2) a profession of faith; (3) an article against those who divide Our Lord; (4) twelve chapters against those who believe that Christ is two natures and one person; (5) a treatise against the Nestorians; (6) another one against Nestorius; (7) a refutation of the 69 70



The pantheist Stephen Bar Sudaili, whose doctrine was refuted in two letters by his contemporaries Jacob of Serug and Philoxenus of Mabbug, was originally a Monophysite. That heretic, a perfectly pious monk, was born in Edessa in the second half of the 5th century. In his youth he spent some time in Egypt, where he was the disciple of a man named John, who appears to have taught him the pantheistic ideas he would later profess in Edessa. He initially denied the eternity of hell’s torments and claimed that the damned, after having been purified by fire, returned to God “so that God may be all in all” (I Cor., XV, 28). Jacob of Serug and Philoxenus of Mabbug criticised this opinion in their letters.72 Driven out of Edessa on account of being a heterodox, Bar Sudaili retired to Jerusalem, where were gathered Origenist monks who shared his views. From there he remained in touch with his disciples in Edessa. His writings, comprising letters, treatises, mystical commentaries on the Bible, including on the Psalms, are known to us exclusively from their mention in the letter which Philoxenus addressed to Abraham and Orestes of Edessa. The Book of Hierotheus has also been attributed to Bar Sudaili, written under the name of Hierotheus, the alleged master of Dionysius the Areopagite.73 That book, which had become so rare that Bar Hebræus found it extremely difficult to acquire a copy of it, survives in one manuscript only: the very one which Bar Hebraeus acquired. The MS contains, beside the text, a commentary by Theodosius.74 It had a considerable influence on pseudo-Dyonisiac literature in Syria, but it was not, as Frothingham believed, the first

heresies of Mani and of others. On a letter to Patricius of Edessa, see J.-B. CHABOT, De S. Isaaci Ninivitæ vita, Paris, 1892, p. 14. 72 Published by FROTHINGHAM in Stephen bar Sudaili, Leiden, 1886: Jacob’s letter to Bar Sudaili, p. 1; and the letter of Philoxenus to Abraham and Orestes, p. 28. 73 RYSSEL, Zeitschr. f. Kirchengeschichte, X, 156, brings into question that attribution proposed by Frothingham. 74 British Museum, Add. 7189, Catal. Rosen et Forshall, p. 74; comp. with Catal. Wright, III, suppl.



product of that literature, which was Greek in origin.75 Patriarch Theodosius (887–896) and Bar Hebræus commented on the Book of Hierotheus. Theodosius’s commentary is very detailed; it first reproduces every chapter of the text, and appropriate passages are then quoted again within the commentary proper; the work is preceded by a general introduction, and a specific introduction comes before each book. Bar Hebræus’s commentary is usually nothing more than a summary of the one made by Theodosius, to which are added extracts of the text, which are misused and distorted.76 Simeon, bishop of Beth Arsham, a town near Seleucia on the Tigris,77 brings us back to the subject of Persia. This fervent Monophysite was a skilful dialectician who was given the epithet ܽ ܰ “Persian sophist,” ‫ܕܪܘܫܐ ܳܦܪܣܝܐ‬. With the zeal of an apostle he fought various heresies, particularly Nestorianism, which had swept across Babylonia.78 The Life of Simeon was composed by John of Asia and was included in his History of the Blessed Orientals.79 He was elevated to the episcopal seat under Patriarch Babai (498–503). Simon died in Constantinople, where he was paying a visit to the Empress Theodora. He is known as a writer from his letters on the Yemenite Christian martyrs and on the propagation of Nestorianism throughout Persia (above, p. 117–120 and 297); he is also the author of a liturgy.80 See above, p. 276. On Bar Sudaili, comp. with BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., I, 221; ASSEMANI, B. O., I, 303, and II, 30; ABBELOOS, De vita et scriptis S. Jacobi, Leuven, 1867, and mainly FROTHINGHAM, Stephen bar Sudaili, Leiden, 1886. 76 See FROTHINGHAM, Stephen bar Sudaili, 86–88. MSS containing the commentary of Bar Hebræus are held in the Bibliothèque nationale, Catal. Zotenberg, p. 175–176; at the British Museum, Catal. Wright, p. 893– 895; and in Berlin, Catal. Sachau, n. 211, p. 680. 77 BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., II, 85. 78 BAR HEBRÆUS, ibid., I, 189; II, 85; ASSEMANI, B. O., I, 341; II, 409; III, part I, 403. 79 Comp. with above, p. 129. 80 ASSEMANI, B. O., I, 345. 75



John bar Cursus, bishop of Tella or Constantine, sought, even before Jacob Baradaeus, to convert Syria to Monophysitism. We have two biographies of that bishop.81 Born in Callinice into an aristocratic family, he joined the army but later left it to devote himself to God. Made bishop of Tella in 519, John was driven out of his seat in 521. On returning from a journey to Constantinople two years later, he was arrested and sent to prison. He died in Antioch in 538, at the age of fifty-five. His canons and Questions have already been mentioned, p. 145–146; the profession of faith which he addressed to the monasteries of his diocese is in the British Museum MS Add. 14549. He is also the author of a commentary on the hymn of the Trisagion.82 John bar Aphtonia and Mara of Amid, who declared themselves in favour of the Monophysites against the orthodox, were also persecuted by Justin. The former, driven out of the monastery of St Thomas (at Seleucia on the Orontes) of which he was the abbot, proceeded to found, on the left bank of the Euphrates opposite Europus the monastery of Qenneshre, which was to become famous for its school. He died in 538; his life, which was written by one of his disciples, is contained in the British Museum MS Add. 12174. John bar Aphtonia composed hymns in Greek.83 Mara, bishop of Amid, was driven out of his seat in 519 and sent into exile with Isidore, bishop of Qenneshre, to Petra of Arabia, where he remained for seven years. After Justin’s death and at Theodora’s request, Justinian sent his bishops to Alexandria in Egypt, where they spent their last days. Mara wrote little; Assemani attributes to him a commentary on the Gospels, see above, p. 55, note 10.

See above, p. 129. Cod. Vat. 159 in Rome; Cod. Marsh 101 at the Bodleian. 83 Cf. above, p. 274. John bar Aphtonia should be distinguished from John, superior at the monastery of Beth Aphtonia and the author of the Life of Severus, above, p. 131. 81 82



Paul, bishop of Callinice, also fell victim to the Orthodox and was ousted from his seat in 519. Paul retired to Edessa and devoted his free time to translating the works of Severus of Antioch into Syriac (see above, p. 273). Jacob Baradaeus,84 the founder of the Jacobite Church,85 devoted his life to rebuilding the Monophysite party, which had been deeply harmed under Justin and had become the target of persecution by the orthodox patriarchs of Antioch, Euphrasius and Ephrem.86 Jacob was born in Tella, the son of one of the town’s priests, Theophilus bar Manu. In time he became a monk at the monastery of Phesilta on Mount Izla. Around 528 he journeyed to Constantinople, in the company of a monk of Tella named Sergius, for he knew he would find in Empress Theodora a powerful ally of the Monophysite cause. He remained in that town for the following fifteen years. In 543 a lucky coincidence brought his efforts to fruition: the king of the Ghassanid Arabs, Harith ibn Jabalah, appealed to Theodora to send bishops to the provinces under his control. At the request of the empress, Theodosius, the patriarch sent into exile in Alexandria, appointed Theodore bishop of Bostra, with Arabia and Palestine within his jurisdiction, and Jacob of Baradaeus bishop of Edessa, with Syria and Asia Minor within his jurisdiction. Jacob did not exercise his functions at Edessa proper, which at that point had an Orthodox bishop, Amazonius; he preached in Syria, Mesopotamia, Cilicia, Capadoccia, Isauria and The nickname Baradaeus, ‫ ܽܒܘܪܕܥ ܢܐ‬in Syriac, derives from the coarse felt fabric his clothes were made of, a material more commonly used in saddle blankets. 85 The name Jacobite, Ἰακωβίτης, is Greek in origin; that is how the partisans of Jacob were dubbed by his adversaries; the Jacobites referred to themselves as The Orthodox. 86 KLEYN wrote the Life of Jacob Baradaeus, Jacobus Baradænus, de Stichter der syrische Monophysietische Kerk, Leiden, 1882, after the Eccl. History of John of Asia, ed. CURETON, and the Lives of the Blessed Orientals by the same author, Anecd. syr. of LAND, t. II; comp. with above, p. 128–129. ASSEMANI provided all the information he was able to collect on that figure in B. O. II, 62–69, 326 and 331. 84



the neighbouring regions. In order to carry out the administration of his Church in these provinces he appointed in Alexandria new bishops of his confession; among these we find John, the famous historian and bishop of Ephesus. The election of his old friend Sergius to the patriarchal seat of Antioch further fulfilled his wishes. Jacob did not, however, achieve his mission without a few glitches: he had to excommunicate Conon and Eugenius, whom he had appointed bishops, for being tritheists. Sergius passed away three years after his installation at Antioch. Paul, an Alexandrian abbot, took up the patriarchal seat after it had remained vacant for three years. Dissent soon arose among the victorious Monophysites. In 578 Jacob journeyed to Alexandria to discuss the excommunication of Paul with Damien, but died en route at the monastery of Mar Romanus or Casion. His corpse was stolen by the emissaries of Zachee, bishop of Tella, but was eventually returned to the monastery of Phesilta in 622.87 Only several of his works have survived: a liturgy (translated in Renaudot, Lit. orient. collectio, II, 333); letters (written in Greek and preserved in a Syriac translation);88 a profession of faith (preservd in Arabic and Ethiopic);89 a homily for the Annunciation holiday (preserved in Arabic at the Bodleian).

The tale of that event, related by Mar Quryaqos in Syriac, was published with a French translation by A. KUGENER, Comment le corps de Jacques Baradée fut enlevé du couvent de Casion par les moines de Phesilta, in the Bibliothèque hagiographique Orientale, Paris, 1902, p. 1–26; cf. Revue de l’Orient chrétien, VII, p. 196–217. 88 British Museum MS Add. 14602, Catal. Wright, p. 701; KLEYN, Jacobus Baradæus, p. 164–194. 89 KLEYN published the Arabic text, op. cit., p. 121; CORNILL the Ethiopic text, Zeitschr. der deut. morg. Gesell., XXX, p. 417; comp. with WRIGHT, Syriac liter., 2nd ed., 88; BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., I, 217. On a profession of faith of the monks who supported Jacob Baradaeus, see LAMY, Actes du XIe Congrès des Orientalistes, Paris, 1897, p. 117 of the Semitic section; cf. NŒLDEKE, Zeitschr. der deut. morgenl. Gesell., XXIX, p. 419. 87



John of Asia, one of the militant bishops of Jacob Baradaeus’s party, is the authoritative historian of those troubled times. We shall not here return to his Ecclesiastical History, the last part of which contains a very interesting autobiography of sorts (above, p. 156–158), nor shall we return to the collection of the Lives of the Blessed Orientals (above, p. 128–129). John was born at Amid in the early 6th century. He was named deacon of the monastery of St John in 529 but had to flee his home town to escape the persecutions which Ephrem, patriarch of Antioch (529–544), and Abraham bar Kili, bishop of Amid, had decreed against the Monophysites. In 535 he was in Constantinople and there met up with Jacob Baradaeus. Justinian greeted him warmly and appointed him administrator of the goods of the Monophysite congregation. Soon thereafter John left the capital city of the Greek empire and journeyed with his friend Deuterius to Asia Minor in order to convert the pagans there, as requested by the emperor. Once his work was deemed successful, John was called back to Constantinople to fight idolatry, which was still practised in and around that town. The good fortune of this ardent bishop vanished once his protector had passed away. Following the death of Justinian, John’s life became an uninterrupted series of tribulations, escapes and emprisonments, all of which he describes in his History.90 For an analysis of the literary works of John of Asia, see the above analysis of his Ecclesiastical History.91 In Part I we discussed the scientific work of Sergius of Reshʿayna, which is virtually exclusively made up of translations of Greek books.92 That distinguished bishop, who became chief physician (ἀρχίατρος) at Reshʿayna, was a Monophysite priest who grappled with matters of dogma. His questioning brought him See above, p. 157. See above, p. 157. Abbot Duchesne painted a brilliant, albeit slightly flattering, picture of that bishop, Mémoire lu à l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, October 25, 1892. 92 See above, p. 213–215, 217, 224, 230–232, 238–239, 245–246, 272. The historical collection of Zachariah attributes to Sergius a treatise on faith, see LAND, Anecdota syriaca, III, p. 289, l. 12. 90 91



closer to the Orthodox, and the Nestorians saw him as one of their own (ʿAbdishoʿ’s Catalogue). He had as disciple Theodore, the Nestorian bishop of Merv, to whom he dedicated several of his books. The Monophysites held him in low esteem as an individual and in the Syriac collection of Zachariah he is censored for his cupidity and depraved morals.93 The date and place of his birth is unknown, but we do know that he studied at Alexandria, where he learnt Greek. In 535 Sergius left Reshʿayna for Antioch, where he was received by the Orthodox patriarch Ephrem, to whom he complained about the ill treatment endured by his bishop Asylus.94 Ephrem was won over by his diplomatic approach and sent him on a mission to Pope Agapetus. The scheming physician, accompanied by a young architect named Eustathius, sailed off to Rome. He returned to Constantinople with Agapetus and with his help the pope obtained that all Monophysites be expulsed from that town. Severus of Antioch and Theodosius of Alexandria, who were both in exile, had retired there to be with Anthimus. Both he, and later Severus, were forced into exile. Sergius died in Constantinople in 536,95 only a few days before Agapetus. The compiler of Zachariah, who relates these events, sees in this double demise a miraculous event. Ahoudemmeh,96 whom ʿAbdishoʿ mistakenly labels as a Nestorian writer, was first bishop of the Beth Arabaya (or TurAbdin).97 His promotion to the metropolitan seat of Tagrit by Jacob Baradaeus in 559 leaves no doubt as to his Monophysite confession. That bishop converted a great many Persians, most LAND, Anecdota syr., III, 289; BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl. I, 207; on Sergius compare also with: ASSEMANI, B. O., II, p. 323; WRIGHT, Syriac lit., 2nd ed., p. 88; BAUMSTARK, Lucubrationes syro-græcæ, p. 358 ff. 94 Not Ascolius, see KLEYN, Het Leven van Johannes van Tella, p. 59. 95 On that date, see BAUMSTARK, Lucubrationes syro-græcæ, p. 365. 96 That name means “he who resembles his mother”. NAU published his Life in the Patrologia Orientalis, t. III, fasc. 1: Histoires d’Ahoudemmeh et de Maroula, Paris, 1906. 97 BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., II, 99; comp. with ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 414; III, part I, 192. 93



notably a young prince of the royal family whom he christened George. Khosro Anoshirwan, made furious by these conversions, put Ahoudemmeh in prison. There he passed away in 575.98 On his philosophical and grammatical writings, see above, p. 216. Moses of Aggel is known for his translation of the Story of Joseph and Aseneth (above, p. 70) and his version of the Glaphyra of Cyril of Alexandria, which he undertook at the request of the monk Paphnutius. We still have both his letter and Moses of Aggel’s reply, since they were placed at the head of the Glaphyra version, as well as several fragments of that version in the Vatican Syr. MS 107; a short fragment in the Vatican MS 96; and other fragments in the British Museum, Add. 14555.99 From the letter of Paphnutius we learn that the treatise of Cyril on the On Adoration in Spirit and in Truth had previously been translated into Syriac.100 We also know (see above, p. 295) that Rabbula translated the treatise De recta fide in Cyril’s lifetime. A passage from Moses of Aggel’s reply101 suggests that he was writing after the death of Philoxenus and Polykarp, for he cites the Philoxenian version of the OT and NT (see above, p. 43). Nothing is known of the life of Moses, which Wright102 dates to the beginning of the second half of the 6th century, between 550 and 570: “He cannot have lived much later, he adds, for his translation of the Story of Joseph and Aseneth found its way into the collection of Zachariah the Scholastic.”

He was not decapitated, as Bar Hebraeus claims; see NŒLDEKE, Litter. Centralblatt, 1890, n. 35, p. 1216; NAU, op. cit. 99 GUIDI published the letters of Paphnutius and of Moses, after the Vatican manuscript fragments, in the proceedings of the Academia dei Lincei, May-June 1886, p. 399 ff. Guidi has shown, following the description in Wright’s Catal., that the fragments in London and Rome are but disjecta membra of a single manuscipt. 100 The Syriac version is in the British Museum MS Add. 12166 of 553 AD; WRIGHT, Catal., p. 491. 101 That passage had already been printed in ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 82–83. 102 Syriac liter., 2nd ed., p. 112–113. 98



We conclude this chapter with Peter of Callinice or Petrus junior, who was appointed patriarch of Antioch in 578 and died in 591.103 That patriarch was famed for his Christological controversies with Damien, patriarch of Alexandria. The treatise which he composed against his adversary is divided into four books, each made up of twenty-five chapters, of which manuscripts are held in the Vatican, the British Museum and Berlin. Peter is also the author of a liturgy, a treatise against the Tritheists, several letters and a metric homily on Crucifixion.104

See ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 69 and 332; comp. with BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., I, 250. 104 ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 77 ff.; WRIGHT, Catal., p. 671, 951 and 1314; SACHAU, Catal., p. 2, col. 2. 103

III. WRITERS UNDER THE ARABS §1. — THE 7TH CENTURY The 7th century marked the start of a new era in Syriac literature. Following the Muslim conquest, the Sassanian Empire collapsed and vanished from the face of the earth. At the same time, the Roman domination over Syria and Mesopotamia came to an end, and its sphere of influence became restricted to Asia Minor alone. In 636 the battles of Yarmouk and Qadisiya secured Arabic control over Syria and Babylonia; the strongholds which had resisted opened their gates the following year. The early years of the century had not been favourable to studies. The accession of Phocas in 602 had sparked renewed hostility between Persians and Romans. For more than twenty years Khosro II laid waste to Western Asia. Edessa fell in 609, and as a result a great number of its inhabitants were deported to the Segestan and Chorasan.1 The capture of Damascus in 613, and of Jerusalem the following year, led to the Persian occupation of Egypt and Asia Minor. Only in 622 was Heraclius free to strike again. He went from victory to victory until he reached the heart of the Persian Empire, thus forcing the enemy to relinquish Roman territory. These successes did not bring peace to those ill-fated Syrians. Heraclius took advantage of being in the Orient to drive out the Jacobite bishops and monks and hand over to the Orthodox clergy their churches and monasteries. Once the Arab conquest had ended, peace was restored under the Umayyads. The great religious clashes ceased as the Christians BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., I, 264; comp. with R. DUVAL, Histoire d’Edesse, Paris, 1892 (Extract from the Journal asiatique, 1891), p. 223 ff. 1




put aside their dissensions and united to defend their faith and property against their new masters. Didactic books replaced dogmatic treatises: the exegesis of the Holy Scriptures lost the high view point it had gained from the study of dogma; its focus shifted towards the correct form and pronunciation of the biblical text, that is, towards grammar and philology. Because Arabic, the official language, was soon to acquire the status of vernacular tongue, and literary Syriac was exclusively taught in schools, this new method of instruction became very widespread. Nestorian writers outnumbered their Jacobite counterparts during that century. Many among them, completing the work of their predecessors, published the Lives of their Church’s saints, monastic histories and ascetic treatises. Brief notes were provided in Part I on the life and work of several of these authors. Theodore bar Koni, bishop of Kashkar, probably lived in the early 7th century.2 ʿAbdishoʿ’s Catalogue3 attributes to this author: a book of scholia, an ecclesiastical history, instructions and sermons. The Book of Scholia has survived in two manuscripts in the Orient — one in Urmia, the other in Alqosh — as well as in several copies held in Europe.4 The work is divided into eleven books that contain: books I–VIII, scholia on the OT and NT; book IX, a treatise against the Monophysites and the Orthodox and another against the Arians; book X, a discussion between a pagan and a Christian; and book XI, a treatise against heresies.5

Or Bar Kéwâni (son of Saturninus?) according to SACHAU; cf., MARTIN LEWIN, Die Scholien des Theodor bar Kôni, Berlin, 1905, p. XIV– XVI. 3 ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, p. 198. 4 In Berlin, as well as on several fragments in Cambridge. 5 Cf. BAUMSTARK, Oriens christianus, 1901, p. 173–178; SACHAU, Γενεθλίακον, 1899, p. 63. MARTIN LEWIS published several scholia from book I; and POGNON edited extracts from book XI, Inscriptions mandaïtes des coupes de Kouabir, Paris, 1899, Append. II. Further extracts can be found in the Chrestomathy of Ourmia (The Little Book of Crumbs), Ourmia, 1898. 2



Ishoʿyahb II, originally from Gedala (near Mosul), taught at the school of Nisibis; from bishop of Balad he was promoted to the patriarchal seat in 628, following the death of Khosro II. In 630, Boran, the daughter of Khosro, instructed him to hand over to Emperor Heraclius the wood from the Cross, taken by the Persians after the conquest of Jerusalem. When the Muslims invaded Babylonia, Ishoʿyahb was skilful enough to obtain from them a decree issued in favour of the Christians of his province. According to ʿAbdishoʿ,6 the patriarch’s writings include a commentary on the Psalms (above, p. 62), letters, histories and homilies. Of these writings we only have a hymn inserted in the Nestorian Psalms, British Museum MS Add. 14675, and a dogmatic letter in the Borgia Museum, K. VI, 4 (now held in the Vatican), p. 592. Ishoʿyahb of Gedala was accompanied on his diplomatic expedition to Heraclius by the famous Sahdona7 and by Ishoʿyahb of Adiabene, who became patriarch under the name Ishoʿyahb III following the death of Maremmeh in 650. Ishoʿyahb III was born at Adiabene into a wealthy family; he studied at Nisibis; before being appointed patriarch he was bishop of Mosul and later metropolitan of Erbil and Mosul. During his episcopate he developed a tense relationship with the Jacobites, who wished to build a church in Mosul, and was the adversary of Sahdona. As patriarch he found in Simeon, metropolitan of Rev Ardashir, a strong opponent. Indeed, Simeon, with whom Ishoʿyahb corresponded at length, would not pay obedience to him. His works mentioned in ʿAbdishoʿ’s Catalogue include: A Refutation of (Heretic) Opinions; controversial treatises; eulogies; discourses or

ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 105. Amr, ed. GISMONDI, part II, p. 53, attributes to Ishoʿyahb of Gedala: a treatise against the schismatics; a book on ambiguous words; and a book on the Sacraments divided into twenty-two questions and answers. 7 On this character, see above, p. 178 and 199. 6



homilies; hymns;8 an exhortation to novices; several liturgical compositions; letters; and the history of Ishoʿsabran published by Chabot (see above, p. 116). Ishoʿyahb also worked on a revision of the Hudra or Nestorian Breviary.9 His Letters, most of which have survived, are a mine of information on the religious history of his time.10 Ishoʿyahb of Adiabene’s fellow students at the School of Nisibis had been ʿEnanishoʿ and his brother, also named Ishoʿyahb, who were originally from Adiabene as well. The two brothers were ordained monk and entered the Great Monastery of Mount Izla; ʿEnanishoʿ, who longed to visit the Holy Sites, then left for Jerusalem and from there proceeded to the Scetis desert of Egypt, the great centre of ascetic and monastic life. On returning to Mesopotamia, the pious monk retired to the monastery of Beth ʿAbe, where he worked with Ishoʿyahb III on the Breviary revision. He later undertook, at the request of Patriarch George, the Syriac version of the Lausiac History of Palladius. He is also credited with the writing of a book of philosophy and treatises of lexicography; these works have been discussed above, p. 122–124, 219, 255. John of Beth Garmai, or John the elder, was abbot of the monastery of Beth ʿAbe but eventually left that institution and retired to a hill near Dakuka in the province of Beth Garmai. He spent his final days in the monastery built by Ezechiel on that location. Apart from the Chronicle and Lives of monks mentioned earlier (p. 178 and 184), ʿAbdishoʿ11 attributes to him a collection of scientific essays and maxims, as well as rules for beginners. As WRIGHT notes in Syriac liter., 2nd ed., p. 173, note 7, the poem attributed to him in the Liber thesauri of F. CARDHI, p. 124–125, belongs to a much later period; comp. with above, p. 15, note 9. 9 An edition of the Nestorian Breviary, reworked for the Chaldean catholics, was published by F. BEDJAN in Paris, 1886–1887, Breviarium Chaldaicum, I–III. 10 They were published with a Latin translation by RUBENS DUVAL, Isoyahb patriarche III liber epistularum, in the Corpus scriptorum christianorum orientalium, Paris, 1904–1905. 11 ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 204. 8



George, the successor of Ishoʿyahb III on the patriarchal seat of Seleucia (660–680), was born into a wealthy family in Kaphra in the Beth Garmai. He entered the monastery of Beth ʿAbe as amonk and was appointed metropolitan of Adiabene by Ishoʿyahb III.12 Of his works have survived synodal canons and a dogmatic letter (above, p. 142); he also composed homilies, hymns and prayers. George of Nisibis, whom Patriarch Ishoʿyahb III named metropolitan of Perat of Maisan (or Basra), was a contemporary of the aforementioned George. He is the author of a hymn for the Church inscription.13 Elias, the bishop of Merv who took part in the election of Patriarch George, wrote, besides commentaries and an ecclesiastical history (above, p. 62 and 176), letters and other works which have not survived. Henanishoʿ I was appointed patriarch in 686 and died in 701.14 John of Dasen, bishop of Nisibis known to some as “the Leper,” vehemently opposed him and succeeded in gaining the support of caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan. Henanishoʿ was deposed, thrown into prison, and later led up a mountain and pushed into a ravine, where he very nearly expired. He was rescued by shepherds but the fall left him with a limp which earned him the nickname “the Cripple.” He remained at the monastery of Yaunan near Mosul until the death of his enemy, at which point he reclaimed the patriarchal seat. His works comprise homilies, discourses, letters; a Life of his contemporary Sergius Dewada; a treatise On the Dual Role of the School as a place devoted to the

THOMAS OF MARGA, Histoire monastique, book II, chap. XII. THOMAS OF MARGA, l. c.; ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, p. 456. That hymn is edited in the Liber thesauri of F. CARDAHI, p. 71. It was translated into English by MACLEAN, East Syrian Daily Offices, London, 1894, p. 158. 14 According to Elias of Nisibis in the Fragmente syrischer und arabischer Historiker of BÆTHGEN, p. 38 and 120; comp. with WRIGHT, Syriac liter., 2nd ed., p. 182. 12 13



instruction of morals and religion as well as of literature; a commentary of the Analytics, mentioned above, p. 219.15 The works of the Jacobites of the 7th century, although fewer in number, are better known to us. On p. 44–45 we mentioned Paul of Tella’s version of the OT and Thomas of Harkel’s version of the NT. Thomas of Harkel is also the author of a liturgy.16 Several years later there appeared versions by Abbot Paul (above, p. 274) of the books of Gregory of Nazianzus and the Octoechus of Severus. After Ahoudemmeh, discussed at the end of the previous chapter, the best-known Jacobite metropolitan of Tagrit is Marutha. He does not appear to have born the title of maphrian,17 i.e. of propagator of the Monophysite confession in Persia. The number of Jacobites increased greatly in Iraq since the Sassanian kings deported into their empire the captives from Syria and Western Mesopotamia. Marutha was born in the Persian Empire at Beth Nuhadre; he led a monastic life in the monasteries of Zacchaeus at Callinicum and of Mar Mattai near Mosul, and studied for some time in Edessa. Thanks to the physician Gabriel, Marutha then resided at the Persian court, where the Monophysite party was well thought of. Following Gabriel’s death he retired to Akula (the Arabs’ al-Kufah); he was named metropolitan of Tagrit in 640 and expired in 649. His life was recorded by his successor On this patriarch and his writings, see BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., II, 133 ff.; ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 422; III, part I, 615; WRIGHT, Syriac lit., 2nd ed., 181; Amr, ed. GISMONDI, II, 58. 16 ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 92. Are also attributed to him versions of several Greek liturgies. 17 According to IGNATIUS EPHRÆM II RAHMANI, that title seems to date to after the time of Marutha of Tagrit, Studia Syriaca, Mount Lebanon, 1904, p. 62; and F. NAU, Histoires d’Ahoudemmeh et de Marouta, p. 12, note 3, in the Patrologia orientalis, t. III, fasc. 1, Paris, 1906. It was probably given to Denha, the successor of Marutha on the metropolitan seat of Tagrit. Marutha of Tagrit should not be mistaken for Marutha of Maipherkat, who preceded him by more than two centuries (see above, p. 104). 15



Denha.18 Apart from his commentary on the Gospels (above, p. 55), Marutha composed a liturgy,19 hymns and sedras (rhythmical prayers for the sacrifice of mass); a refutation of a Nestorian lampoon.20 Severus Sebokht is known for his scientific works (above, p. 239). His theological writings are made up of: a treatise on the weeks in Daniel; a liturgy; a letter to the periodeut Basil of Cyprus; and other letters to Sergius of Sinjar on two discourses by Gregory of Nazianzus.21 John I († 648), patriarch of Antioch in 631, composed numerous sedras or liturgical prayers, which owed him the name “John of the Sedre”; he is also the author of a liturgy.22 We now come to the second half of the century, during which period the eminent Jacob of Edessa towered above all other authors by the breadth and variety of his scientific knowledge and by the superiority of his literary talent. The bishop was born in 633 in the village of ʿEn Deba in the diocese of Antioch. He studied the Scriptures and Greek at the monastery of Qenneshre under Severus Sebokht and completed his education in Greek at Alexandria. Appointed bishop of Edessa by Patriarch Athanasius, his former schoolmate, Jacob did not succeed in imposing discipline on the monasteries of his diocese (see above, p. 146). Following this failure, he abandoned his episcopal seat and retired to the monastery of St Jacob at Kaisum; Habib, a placid old man, replaced him in Edessa. His stay in Edessa lasted four years. If, as seems probable, his appointment as bishop was announced in 684, the year that saw Athanasius become patriarch, he must certainly have Published by F. NAU, op. cit., see note 2 on previous p. Translated by RENAUDOT, Lit. orient., II, 261; cf. F. NAU, op. cit., p. 55, note 4. 20 Cf. F. NAU, op. cit., p. 55. On a homily for the New Sunday attributed to Marutha, see above, p. 104, note 18. 21 WRIGHT, Catal., p. 432 and 988; ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 463. 22 BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., I, 275; ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 335. According to Bar Hebræus, he translated the Gospels into Arabic at the instruction of the emir Amr ibn Saad; that note cannot be accurate. 18 19



left Edessa in 688. Soon thereafter he was made professor at the monastery of Eusebona, in the diocese of Antioch, where he taught the Scriptures based on the Greek version during eleven years; he renewed and perfected the monastery’s teaching of Greek. Owing to difficulties encountered with the other monks there, Jacob then moved to the monastery of Telada; his works on the OT kept him there for nine years (see above, p. 46). At the death of Habib he returned to his prior episcopal seat but occupied it for no more than four months. Having returned to the monastery of Telada in order to recover his books, Jacob died there on June 5, 708.23 Jacob was a distinguished polygraph: as a theologian, philosopher, historian, exegete and grammarian he renewed Syriac studies within the sciences. We have already discussed the most important of his prose works (see above, p. 48, 55, 73, 146–147, 163, 209, 217, 239, 246, 266, 275); here should also be mentioned several liturgical writings: a liturgy and a revision of the liturgy of St James, brother of Our Lord; the Book of Treasures, which contains the orders for baptism, the consecration of water and wedding celebrations; a translation of Severus’ order for baptism; a Horologium containing the services for the hours of the week and a calendar of the year’s holidays.24 The illustrious bishop is also the author of prose homilies, only several of which have come down to us are known to us: homilies on the sacrifice at mass, on the use of unleavened bread, against the Dyophysites, and against those who transgress the Church canons.25 There are only few metric homilies: one of them is devoted to the Trinity and Incarnation; another, on faith, is attributed to Jacob of Edessa but is the work According to Michael the Syrian, ed. CHABOT, 445 (transl. II, 471); BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., p. 293; and ELIAS OF NISIBIS in BÆTHGEN, Fragmente, etc., p. 40 and 121. According to Michael, Jacob lived in Edessa before his appointment as bishop of that town, cf. loc. cit. and ibid., p. 444 (transl., 468). 24 These works survive in several manuscripts held in European libraries. The various parts of the Book of Treasures are reproduced separately by WRIGHT, Syriac liter., 2nd ed., p. 145; Catal., p. 984 and 996 25 WRIGHT, Syriac liter., 2nd ed., p. 146; Catal., p. 984 and 996. 23



of Jacob of Serug.26 Jacob frequently corresponded with members of the clergy of his time. Several of his letters have already been considered: those to Paul of Antioch on the writing reform (p. 246); and to George of Serug on orthography (p. 248). Others were addressed to priest Addai, on baptism and on the consecration of water;27 to deacon Barhadbshabba, against the Council of Chalcedon; to John the Stylite of the monastery of Litarba near Aleppo; to Eustathius of Dara; to Kyrisona of Dara; to the priest Abraham; to the deacon George; and to the sculptor Thomas.28 Athanasius of Balad, to whom Jacob of Edessa owed his nomination to the bishopric of that town, had studied with him at the monastery of Qenneshre, then under the direction of Severus Sebokht. He spent some time at the monastery of Beth Malka, then served as priest at Nisibis and finally was elected patriarch of the Jacobites in 684; he died in 686 AD. Athanasius published several works of philosophy (above, p. 217–218) and translations of Gregory of Nazianzus and Severus of Antioch (above, p. 266 and 273). Further writings of this author include an encyclical letter on

F. CARDAHI printed extracts from it in the Thesaurus de acta poetica, p. 18–21; the complete text with a Latin translation by UGOLINI in the vol. Al sommo Pontifico Leone XIII, Ommagio Giubilare della Biblioteca Vaticana, Rome, 1888. It was published under Jacob of Serug’s name by ASSIBILANI, Beyrouth, 1900; cf. Le Machriq, IV, 228. MANNA, Morceaux choisis de littérature araméenne, Mosul, 1901, t. II, p. 25, edited a poem on the Darkness which is outside under the name of Jacob of Edessa. 27 Comp. with above, p. 146. 28 These letters are preserved in the British Museum MS Add. 12172. WRIGHT published two of these in the Journal of sacred liter., 4th series, X, 430; SCHRŒTER gave another, Zeitschr. der deut. morg. Gesell., XXIV, 261; a fragment in the Grammatica syr. of NESTLE. 1st ed., p. 83, on the Wise Men; three letters by NAU in the Revue de l’Orient chrétien, V, p. 581; VI, p. 115; IX, p. 512. 26



the relations between Christians and Muslims, as well as several liturgical prayers.29 George, a friend of Jacob of Edessa, was appointed bishop of the Arabic Monophysite tribes in 686, and his episcopal seat was at Akoula. The most important book by George is his translation of Aristotle’s Organon (above, p. 218); he composed scolia on the Scriptures (above, p. 56); he compiled scholia on the homilies of Gregory of Nazianzus (above, p. 268) and completed the Hexameron of Jacob of Edessa (p. 209). George is also the author of a commentary on the Sacraments of the Church,30 a metric homily on the Holy Chrism,31 another homily on hermits, and a treatise in twelve-syllable lines on the calendar.32 His correspondence with such figures as John the Stylite of Litarba and priests Jacob and Ishoʿ is preserved in part in MS Add. 12154, written from 714 to 718. One of the most interesting letters is addressed to priest Ishoʿ (above, p. 190); on his canons, see p. 147. George passed away in 724.33 We shall dwell neither on George, bishop of Maipherkat or Martyropolis and author of several epistles, nor on his two disciples ZOTENBERG, Catal. p. 28 and 47; WRIGHT, Catal., p. 218. On Januarius Candidatus of Amid, a contemporary of Athanasius, see above, p. 267. 30 WRIGHT, Catal., p. 985. 31 Catal. Vat., III, 162; WRIGHT, Catal., p. 848. Extracts in the Liber thesauri of F. CARDAHI, p. 30. 32 Catal. Vat., III, 532; ASSEMANI, B. O., I, 495. 33 RYSSEL edited both metric homilies in the Atti Della R. Accademia dei Lincei, 1891, vol. IX, parte II, p. 46 ff.; and he gave a German translation of the text in Georgs des Araberbischofs Gedichte und Briefe, Leipzig, 1891, p. 1–14; follows: the translation of the commentary on the sacraments of the Church, the letters of George, the end of the Hexameron of Jacob of Edessa and various citations. RYSSEL edited the letters addressed to John the Stylite on astronomy in the Zeitschr. f. Assyriologie, VIII, p. 1–55. In these letters George mentions his Chronicon (now lost). RYSSEL wrote a biography of George in the work cited above, Georgs des Araberbischofs Gedichte, p. XV. 29



Constantine and Leo, who both were bishops of Harran. Constantine, who believed in the dual nature of Christ, wrote treatises of controversy against the Monophysites. Of Leo’s work we only know a letter addressed to the Jacobite patriarch Elias.34 In this letter Leo asked Elias the reasons for his conversion. Elias had, it is true, belonged to the Dyophysite party but had then rallied the Monophysite doctrine after reading the works of Severus of Antioch. He had been a monk at the monastery of Gubba Barraya, then bishop of Apamee, and was finally elected patriarch of Antioch in 709; he died in 724. The apology which he wrote in response to Leo’s letter has come down to us.35 John Maron, patriarch of the Maronites, also belongs to that century. To him are attributed: a presentation of faith and two short treatises, one directed at the Jacobites and another at the Nestorians. The attribution of these works to John Maron has been contested, but it is defended by Nau, who published the Syriac texts with a translation, as an authography, after the Paris MS syr. 203.36

§2. — THE 8TH CENTURY The 8th century was brilliant neither for the eastern nor the western Syrians; in truth it marked the beginning of the decline of Syriac literature. According to the history of Thomas of Marga, Babai of Gebilta, who lived under the Nestorian patriarch Salib-zacha (714– ASSEMANI, B. O., I, 465 ff.; WRIGHT, Syriac lit., 2nd ed., p. 160. ASSEMANI placed George of Maipherkat around 580; WRIGHT argues in favour of the following century. 35 In two incomplete MSS, one in the Vatican, Cod. Vat. 145, the other in the British Museum, Add. 17187; see WRIGHT, Syriac lit., 2nd ed., p. 161. 36 NAU, Opuscules Maronites, Paris, 1899. That publication contains a dissertation on the Maronites and their orthodoxy. AL. ASSEMANI (cod. liturg., t. V) also edited under John Maron’s name a Presentation of liturgy, but LABOURT (Dionysius bar Salibi; Exposito liturgiæ) has shown that it is a reworking of the text by Bar Salibi. 34



728), devoted his time to reforming the music of the Nestorian Church. He founded several schools in the dioceses of Adiabene and of Marga, including at Kephar-Uzzel and Bashoush, for the teaching of his new method. At first he established his residence at Kephar-Uzzel, but he later left to spend his final days at Gebilta, in the diocese of Tirhan, where he was born. Babai composed eulogies, canticles, homilies, hymns and letters.37 Assemani dates Barsahde of the town of Karka of Beth Slok, author of an ecclesiastical history38 and a treatise against the religion of Zoroaster, to the time of Patriarch Pethion (731–740). Abraham bar Dashandad taught at the school of Bashoush, which, as noted earlier, had been founded by Babai de Gebilta. In spite of his puny nature, which owed him the nickname of “cripple,” Babai is said to have predicted to his mother early in life that he was destined to a brilliant future.39 In the preface to his lexicon, Bar Bahloul cites him as one of his authorities. ʿAbdishoʿ’s catalogue attributes to him the following works:40 a book of exhortations; homilies on penitence (var. on cupidity); letters; the Book of the King’s Way; a controversy with the Jews; and a commentary on the treatises of Mark the monk. Mar Aba II, or simply Aba (?), was named patriarch of the Nestorians in 741 and died in 751. He had previously been bishop of Kashkar, his birthplace. Bar Hebræus cites the following work as having been composed by that author: a commentary on the works

ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 117 ff. Several of these hymns are preserved in MSS held in the libraries of London, Paris and Munich, see WRIGHT, Syriac lit., 2nd ed., p. 185. A hymn has been translated into English by MACLEAN, East Syrian Daily Offices, p. 157. That Babai has been mistaken for Babai bar Nasibnaya, the author of hymns and ascetic books (end of VI˚ 1). See ADDAI SCHER, Rev. de l’Or. chrét., 1906, p. 18. 38 Comp. with above, p. 175. That Barsahde and Sahdona, who was also known as Barsahde, are not the same person, see above, p. 199. 39 See the Monastic History of THOMAS OF MARGA, book III, chap. III. 40 ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 194. 37



of Gregory of Nazianzus.41 ʿAbdishoʿ cites as that author’s work: demonstrations; letters; a commentary on Aristotle’s Rhetoric; and the Book of Strategists.42 Simeon of Kashkar or Simeon bar Tabbahe (“son of the butchers”), to whom ʿAbdishoʿ attributes an ecclesiastical history (above, p. 176), also lived during the 8th century. Surin was bishop first of Nisibis then of Houlvan or Halah. His troubled life was plagued by multiple intrigues. Named patriarch in 754 by the Arab emir of Al-Madain (Seleucia on the Tigris), he was immediately deposed, at the request of the bishops, by Caliph Abdallah. Sent in the capacity of bishop to Basra, Sourin was driven away by the town’s inhabitants and spent his final days in prison. He is cited as the author of a treatise against the heretics; demonstations and questions; and an Arabic translation of part of the Book of Elements, which is attributed to Aristotle.43 Cyprian, who was bishop of Nisibis in 741, built in 767 the first Nestorian church in Tagrit, seat of the Jacobite metropolitan of the East; several years earlier, in 758–759, he had erected a sumptuous church in Nisibis; he died in 767. He composed a commentary on the theological homilies of Gregory of Nazianzus and a treatise on ordination.44 Abu-Nuh of Anbar was the secretary of the Muslim governor of Mosul and a contemporary of Patriarch Timothy I, who speaks very highly of him in his encyclical letters of 790 and 805.45 He is Chron. eccl., II, p. 153; comp. with above, p. 268, and MARI, I, 66. ASSEMANI, B. O., III, 154 and 157, comp. with above, p. 219. Chabot published and translated one of his letters in the Actes du Congrès des Orientalistes de Paris, 1897, Sect. sémitique, p. 295 ff. 43 ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 169. Contra: ADDAI SCHER, l. c., p. 22. 44 Catal. d’Ebedjésu in ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 111–123. Wright (Syriac liter., 2nd ed., p. 191, note 1) writes that “when referring to the theological homilies of Gregory of Nazianzus, ʿAbdishoʿ probably means the homilies entitled Theologica Prima, etc.; see, for instance, WRIGHT, Catal., p. 425, n. 22–25.” 45 ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 82 and 164. 41 42



the author of: a refutation of the Quran; a refutation of heretics; and a Life of John of Daylam.46 Apart from the synod which bears his name (above, p. 142), Patriarch Henanishoʿ II (775–779) is the author of letters, hymns for the dead, five tomes of metric homilies and ten questions.47 Patriarch Timothy I,48 the successor of Henanisho II, had Abraham bar Dashandad as a teacher at the school of Baschousch. Prior to being elected patriarch, he had been bishop of Beth Bagash. His election, which was the result of intrigues, was vividly contested by several bishops; although appointed in 779, he was not installed before May of 780. Numerous Nestorian missions across central Asia were testimony to the zeal of his administration. He died on January 9, 823.49 Timothy was one of the most prolific writers of the century; his works include:50 the Book of Stars (239); a volume of questions; legal canons (above, p. 150); synodal canons (above, p. 142–143); homilies for all the annual dominical holidays; a commentary on the works of Gregory of Nazianzus (above, p. 268); around two hundred letters split into two tomes;51 one of these letters contains a long apology of the Christian religion, as pronounced by Timothy before Caliph Al-Mahdi. ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 212. ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 135. 48 On Timothy, see O. BRAUN, Oriens christianus, 1901, p. 138: J. LABOURT, De Thimotheo I nestoriorum patriarcha, Paris, 1904. Labourt doubts that Abraham, Timothy’s master, was the same person as Abraham bar Dashandad. 49 On that date see ʿAbdishoʿ in LAGARDE, Prætermissorum libri duo, p. 93, l. 1; comp. with Amr, ed. GISMONDI, p. 66. 50 See BRAUN, Oriens Christianus, 1901, p. 146–149; LABOURT, De Timotheo I, p. XIII–XV. 51 Fifty-nine of these letters are contained in the Vatican MS (old Borgia K. VI, 2). Several have been published in part or in full by: BRAUN, Oriens Christianus, 1901, p. 300; 1902, p. 1; 1903, p. 1; POGNON, Une version syriaque des Aphorismes d’Hippocrate, Leipzig, 1903, p. XII; MANNA, Morceaux choisis de littérature araméenne, Mosul, 1902, II, p. 32–53. 46 47



On Ishoʿdnah and his works, see above, p. 177. The Western Syrians had little to do with the literary production of that period. It is as if their intellect had been shrouded in fog for the first three quarters of the 8th century. Lazarus of Beth Qandasa is known exclusively from the commentary that he compiled on the NT.52 He lived around 775, as suggests a chronological list placed at the end of the third part of the Pauline epistles, which ends in that year with the name of Caliph Al-Mahdi.53 Daniel, the son of Moses the Jacobite, is cited by Elias of Nisibis as the author of a chronicle 54 and may have been a contemporary of Al-Mahdi. Theophilus of Edessa, son of Thomas, was remarkably famous among the Western Syrians of his time. The distinguished astronomer, who was held in high esteem by Caliph Al-Mahdi and belonged to the Maronite confession, died in 785. Besides treatises on astronomy, Theophilus’s works, which are now lost, included a history and a Syriac version of the Iliad and Odyssey; attributed to him is the invention of the vowel signs used by the Jacobites.55 George was elected patriarch of Antioch in 758 during a synod held at Mabbug. As for the minority opposition, it chose the Antipatriarch John of Callinice. John urged Caliph Al-Mansur to take action against George, who remained in prison for nine years. That patriarch died in 790 at the monastery of Bar Sauma near Malatya during an episcopal tour. Apart from a commentary on the Gospel of St Matthew (above, p. 56), George also wrote while in prison a number of treatises and metric homilies. These have unfortunately not survived. Quryaqos, the second successor of George on the seat of Antioch, was elected in 793 and died in 817. Both the liturgical See above, p. 56. The British Museum MS Add. 18295 also contains a scolion of Lazarus on a passage by pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. 53 WRIGHT, Syriac liter., 2nd ed., p. 162. 54 See above, p. 175. 55 See above, p. 248, 280. 52



reforms he intended to implement and the pact which he signed with Gabriel, patriarch of the Julianist Armenians, fell through due to the opposition of his adversaries. His late life was bitter and full of worries.56 The canons composed by Quryaqos at the synod which he had convened, to organise the reform of liturgy, at Beth Botin, a town of the Harran diocese, are preserved in several manuscripts.57 Besides these, that patriarch also wrote: a liturgy;58 a homily on the vine parable;59 a synodal epistle on the Trinity and Incarnation addressed to Marc, patriarch of Alexandria, and which exists in Arabic.60 In the second half of the 8th century lived David of BeitRabban, son of Paul, a Jacobite abbot born in Beth Shehak, in the region of Nineveh.61 The following works have been attributed to this author: a grammatical work (above, p. 250); letters;62 a commentary on chap. X of Genesis;63 a Dialogue between a Melkite and a Jacobite on the addition of qui crucifixus es pro nobis to the Trisagion.64 He is also credited with having written texts which

See BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., I, 329 ff. The union act, signed by Quryaqos, Gabriel and several bishops, can be found in the British Museum MS Add. 17145, WRIGHT, Syriac liter., p. 166. 57 Above, p. 147; comp. with BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., I, 331. 58 WRIGHT, Catal., p. 206 and 210. 59 WRIGHT, Catal., p. 887. 60 ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 117. Michael the Syrian, ed. CHABOT, III, p. 498 (transl., p. 35), attributes to Quryaqos: “a volume of his doctrine and another of remarkable letters”. 61 Cf. IGNATIUS EPHRÆM II RAHMANI, Studia syriaca, Mount Lebanon, 1904, Adnotatio in cap. X, p. 67. In his Storehouse of mysteries, Bar Hebræus gives him sometimes the title of monk, sometimes that of bishop. 62 Published by RAHMANI, opere cit., chap. X. 63 Published by LAGARDE, Prætermissorum libri duo, Gœttingen, 1879, p. 244. 64 Vatican MS syr. 146 and 208; at the Bibl. nationale, Catal. Zotenberg, p. 154; at the Bodleian (in Arabic), Catal. Payne Smith, col. 449 and 459; on the addition in question, see ASSEMANI, B. O., I, 518 ff.; II, 305 ff., and 56



appear to belong to a later period: a metric homily on climates (above, p. 240); twenty-two oddly-structured poems on the love of wisdom;65 a poem on the Syriac alphabet which brings to mind the alphabetical midrashim of the Jews,66 a note on the letters that permutate,67 which probably belongs to his grammatical work; a poem on morals in twelve-syllable lines;68 another poem on atonement.69

§3. — THE 9TH CENTURY The 9th century saw a resurgence of scientific and historical studies among the Syrians. Foremost among the Nestorian writers of that time were those physicians who were in the Abbasid caliphs’ good graces: Gabriel Bokhtishoʿ, John bar Maswai, Hunayn, John son of Serapion (see above, p. 233–235). Gabriel Bokhtishoʿ was a physician at the court in Baghdad under Haroun al-Raschid, Amin and al-Ma’mun; he died in 828. He had been, along with John bar Maswai, one of Hunayn’s masters.70 On his scientific work, see above, p. 233. John bar Maswai was born in the late 8th century in a village near Nineveh. He studied at Baghdad under the supervision of Ishoʿ bar Nun, who became patriarch following the death of Timothy I. John was the director of the most thriving school in the capital of the caliphs; he died in 857.71 the dissertation by BAR SHAKKO in his Book of Treasures, 2nd part, chap. 14. 65 Printed by ELIAS MILLOS, Directorium spirituale, Rome, 1868, p. 172–214. Several stanzas in CARDAHI, Liber thesauri, p. 138. 66 Vatican MS 207; 197 and 215 of the Bibl. nationale. It has been edited by R. GOTTHEIL in Zeitschr. f. Assyriologie, VIII, 86–99. 67 MS 276 of the Bibl. nationale. 68 Vatican MS 96. 69 In an Arabic version, Vatican MS 58. 70 BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. syriacum, ed. BRUNS, 139 and 170; ed. BEDJAN, 134 and 162. 71 IBN ABI OUSEIBIA, I, 175; the Kitâb al-Fihrist, 295; ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 501. Comp. with above, p. 234.



Hunayn, Abu Zayd Hunayn ibn Ishaq al-Ibadi in Arabic, was equally famous among Christians and Muslims for his Syriac and Arabic translations of Greek books. In part I72 we saw that, as a historian, philosopher, physician, grammarian and lexicographer, he worked on a wealth of different scientific subjects. ʿAbdishoʿ also attributes to him a Book on the Fear of God, which he wrote when he was a deacon.73 He wrote many of his works in Arabic, but these fall outside the scope of the present study. That eminent physician was born at Hira and belonged to the Nestorian community of the Ibâd.74 He first attended John bar Maswai’s classes in Baghdad; however, having displeased his master, he settled in the West and studied Greek there. When he returned to Baghdad, his medical knowledge impressed Gabriel Bokhtishoʿ, who reconciled him with his former master. He was appointed physician to Caliph al-Mutawakkil and died in 873.75 John, son of Serapion, lived around the end of the century. His father, originally from the Beth Garmai, was a physician. His two sons, John and David, also embarked on medical careers.76 Nothing certain is known of the life of Zachariah of Merv, author of a Syriac lexicon, and who should probably be identified with the physician Abu Yahya al-Marzawi, to whom are attributed writings on logic (see above, p. 220 and 256). That author probably lived in the second half of the 9th century. Ishoʿ bar Ali, a disciple of Hunayn and the author of another Syriac lexicon (above, p. 256), was a contemporary of Zachariah. A treatise on lexicography is attributed to Ishoʿ bar Nun (above, p. 254), but the Nestorian patriarch is mostly remembered for his theological writings. Ishoʿ bar Nun had Abraham bar Dashandad as a teacher and Timothy as fellow student. He Above, p. 176, 220, 234, 249, 254–256. ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 165. 74 Ibn Abi Ouseibia pronounces it Abâd but the form Ibâd is favoured by the other authors, see NŒLDEKE, Tabari, p. 24, note 4; AUGUST MUELLER, Lesarten, p. 24, at the beginning of Ibn Ouseibia’s edition. 75 Comp. with above, p. 234, note 16. 76 See above, p. 235, note 22. 72 73



succeeded the latter on the patriarchal seat. During his stay in the Great Monastery of Mount Izla, he set out to refute the doctrine of Timothy on the dogma of Incarnation. Subsequently, he directed a school in Baghdad, where he counted John bar Maswai among his students. Ishoʿ bar Nun had been at the monastery of Mar Elias in Mosul for about thirty years when he was named patriarch on June 18, 823.77 He died four years later at the age of eighty-four. According to ʿAbdishoʿ,78 he wrote: a theological treatise; questions on the Scriptures (above, p. 63); ecclesiastical canons and legal rulings (above, p. 149); eulogies;79 letters;80 a treatise on the division of Church services;81 interpretations; and a treatise on the efficiency of the hymns and antiphons.82 The exact dates of the life of Denha or Ibas are unknown, but Wright places him in the 9th century. According to ʿAbdishoʿ,83 he is the author of sermons, dissertations on ecclesiastical laws, commentaries on the Psalms, on the works of Gregory of Nazianzus as found in the version of Abbot Paul, and on Aristotle’s Rhetoric (compare with above, p. 63, 219 and 268). F. Cardahi mistakenly places in that century priest Saliba alMansuri, son of David, who lived in the 16th century. That priest composed several poems and hymns.84 On that date, see ʿAbdishoʿ in LAGARDE, Prætermissorum libri duo, p. 93, l. 3; Amr, ed. GISMONDI, p. 67, gives year 824. 78 ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 165. 79 Preserved in part in the British Museum MS Add. 17217, WRIGHT, Catal., p. 613. 80 GISMONDI published one of these letters after the Borgia Museum MS K., VI, 4 (now held in the Vatican), Linguæ syriacæ grammatica, 2nd ed., Beyrouth, 1900, Chrestom., p. 58. 81 According to Assemani, the Answers to the Questions of Monk Macarius were part of that treatise, see Catal. ms. Vat., II, 483; III, 281 and 405. 82 Mari, ed. GISMONDI, I, 20, attributes to the patriarch a version of the homilies of Gregory of Nazianzus; comp. with B. O., III, part I, 279. 83 ASSEMANI, B. O., part I, 175; WRIGHT, Syriac lit., 2nd ed., p. 218. 84 Liber thesauri, p. 59. An extract from one of his poems on penitence, ibid., p. 57. See ADDAI SCHER, Rev. de l’Or. Chrét., 1906, p. 30. 77



We shall not here return to Thomas of Marga, whom we considered earlier (p. 177–178), nor to Ishoʿdad of Merv, bishop of Haditha, known solely for his commentary of the Bible (above, p. 63).85 Dionysius of Tel Mahre, the author of a history that was held in high regard by the Syrians but is now lost,86 is the first of a long series of Jacobite writers who lived in that century. Dionysius was born at Tel Mahre, on the Balikh (a tributary of the Euphrates), near Callinice. He studied at the monastery of Qenneshre but left after it was destroyed by a fire in 815. He then passed by the monastery of Mar Yacoub at Kaisoum, and while there was elected patriarch of the Jacobites by the synod of bishops held at Callinice in 818 following the death of Patriarch Quryaqos. From then onwards his existence became as troubled as had been that of his predecessor; it is not worth dwelling here on the constant battles he fought against his adversaries and the Muslim governors, or on the continuous travels which took up all his energy. Michael the Syrian has provided us with a comprehensive biography of that unfortunate patriarch, who died on August 22, 845.87 Theodosius, the brother of Dionysius of Tel Mahre and the bishop of Edessa, translated iambic poems by Gregory of Nazianzus, as well as the Father’s homily on the miracles of the prophet Elijah (above, p. 267). That bishop fell victim to attacks from the governor of Edessa. Indeed, Muhammad ibn Tahir brought down the churches that had been rebuilt under the previous governor, his brother Abdallah ibn Tahir. Theodosius and Patriarch Dionysius went to Egypt, where Abdallah had been sent,

Kindi, who is cited by ʿAbdishoʿ in ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 213, presumably corresponds to the Arabic author Abd al-Masih ibn Ishaq al-Kindi, as argued by WRIGHT, Syriac lit., p. 221. 86 See above, p. 167. 87 Michael the Syrian, ed. CHABOT, book XII, ch. X and following; and Bar Hebræus, Chron. eccl., t. I, p. 343–386; WRIGHT, Syriac liter., 2nd ed., p. 196; J.-B. CHABOT, Chronique de Denys de Tellmahré, Paris, 1895, Introduction, §1. 85



to implore his assistance. Their move proved successful, and Muhammad became more conciliatory. Antony the Rhetor, whose treatise on rhetoric was mentioned above (p. 258–259), was a monk at the monastery of Tagrit and a contemporary of Patriarch Dionysius of Tel Mahre.88 He is the author of: a book in four parts on divine providence; panegyrics; letters of consolation; hymns and metric prayers.89 Lazarus bar Sobto, the bishop of Baghdad who was deposed by Tel Mahre in 829 AD,90 composed a liturgy and an order for baptism.91 John, bishop of Dara, was another contemporary of Dionysius of Tel Mahre. In fact, Dionysius even dedicated his History to him. That bishop is the author of treatises on theology: a treatise in four books on the clergy; another one, also in four books, on the resurrection of bodies; and an important work on the soul.92 As we saw (p. 272), John of Dara wrote a commentary BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., I, 363. His works are preserved in part in the British Museum MSS Add. 14276 and 17208. Rœdiger printed part of his hymn against calumny in the second edition of his Chrestomathia syriaca, p. 110. Antony was one of the first to use rhymes, see above, p. 15, note 10. 90 BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl. I, 365. He also received, as bishop, the names Philoxenus and Basil, see ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 123. 91 RENAUDOT translated the liturgy into Latin, Liturgiæ orient., II, 399. The order for baptism is in the Vatican, Cod. 147. 92 The treatise on the clergy survives in several manuscripts. ZINGERLE published an extract of book II in Monumenta syriaca, I, p. 105–110 (comp. with Theol. Quartalschrift, 1867, p. 183; 1868, p. 267). OVERBECK brought to our attention a passage from book IV on the marriage of priests, as found in a Bodleian MS, S. Ephræmi syri… opera selecta, p. 409–413. The treatise on resurrection is a work of high interest which displays great knowledge, says FROTHINGHAM in Stephen bar Sudaili, Leiden, 1886, p. 66; it is contained in the Vatican MSS 100 and 363. Extracts from MS 100 are printed in GISMONDI, Linguæ syriacæ grammatica, Beyrouth, 1900, p. 60–66 of the Chrestom.; cf. an extract in book II of the Chronicle of Michael, ed. CHABOT, I, p. 7 (transl., p. 14). The Vatican MS 147 contains extracts from the treatise on the soul. 88 89



on some of the works of pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite; he is also the author of a liturgy.93 The works of Nonnus, archdeacon of Nisibis, are contained in the British Museum MS Add. 14594. This single most important work of that author is a treatise on controversy against Thomas of Marga. Nonnus wrote it in prison, where he had been sent by the governor of Nisibis.94 His other writings consist of letters on matters of dogma. Above we discussed the main works of the physician Romanus. First a monk at the monastery of Kartemin, he was elected patriarch of the Jacobites in 887 under the name Theodosius, and died in 896. As previously mentioned, that author wrote: a collection of maxims (p. 226); a medical collection (p. 233); and a commentary on the Book of Hierotheus (p. 311). Added to that list should be: a synodal letter95 and a homily on Lent,96 both preserved in Arabic. However, the most prolific Jacobite writer of that century was Moses bar Kepha, whose Life was written by an anonymous Syriac author.97 Moses was born at Balad around 813 and died on February 12, 90398 at the age of ninety. After having entered a monastery, he was named bishop of the towns of Beth Ramman, Beth Kiyonaya and Mosul, and took the name Severus. He later was made periodeut or visitor of the diocese of Tagrit and served in that position for ten years. Moses authored numerous works; we ASSEMANI, B. O., I. WRIGHT, Catal., p. 618. According to Bar Hebræus, Chron. eccl., I, 363, Nonnus was one of those who had accused Philoxenus and thus caused his downfall, as noted above. Nonnus must therefore have lived in the first half of the 9th century. Cf. Michael the Syrian, ed. CHABOT, p. 496 (transl., t. III, p. 33, note 2). 95 ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 124. 96 British Museum, MS Add. 7206, Catal. Rosen, p. 103. 97 ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 218 ff.; comp. with BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., I, 393; II, 217. 98 On that date, see ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 218; BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., I, 394, note 1. 93 94



have already discussed his biblical commentaries (p. 56–57), his treatise on predestination (p. 211); his commentary on Aristotle’s Rhetoric (p. 219) and his Hexameron (p. 240). But he also wrote: a work on paradise, divided into three parts and dedicated to his friend Ignatius;99 a treatise on the soul in forty chapters with an additional chapter on the value of offerings made to the dead;100 Controversies Against Heresies;101 treatises on the sacraments; homilies;102 discourses on various subjects;103 liturgical writings, including two liturgies.104 His commentary on the works of Gregory of Nazianzus is now lost, as is the ecclesiastical history mentioned by his biographer.

§4. — THE 10TH CENTURY There were few writers during the 10th century. Among the Nestorians, the first (chronologically) appears to be Henanishoʿ bar Seroshway bishop of Hira, who composed questions on the Scriptures and a Syriac lexicon (see above, p. 63 and 257). His This work is known to us only from the Latin translation which Masius published in 1569, De paradiso commentarius, Anvers (Plantin); comp. with ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 128, n. 2; that translation was reprinted in MIGNE, Patrol. græca, CXI, p. 481. 100 That treatise is preserved in the Vatican Syr. MS 147. Extracts in GISMONDI, Linguæ syriacæ grammatica, 2nd ed., Beyrouth, 1900, Chrestom., p. 68–72. O. BRAUN gave a German translation of it in Moses bar Kepha und sein Buch von der Seele, Freiburg im Breisgau, 1891, with a biography of Moses bar Kepha. 101 ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 57; probably identical to the Book on the sects cited in ASSEMANI, ibid., p. 131. 102 Preserved in MSS now in the British Museum, Cambridge, the Bibliothèque nationale and the Vatican. According to BAUMSTARK, Oriens christianus, 1901, p. 320, the treatises on the sacraments are linked to the collection on the Causes for Festivities, discussed above, p. 303, note 39, in relation to Thomas of Edessa. ARENDZEN published in the Journal of Theol. Studies, II, 1901, p. 401–416 extracts of the Cambridge MS. 103 In the British Museum MSS Add. 17188 and 21210. 104 RENAUDOT translated one of these liturgies, Lit. Orient., II, 391. 99



works have not survived and we know nothing of his life. Bar Bahlul’s compilation somewhat compensates for the loss of his lexicon, since it is there reproduced virtually in full.105 Elias, bishop of Perozshabur or Anbar, lived around 922.106 He composed: a Book of Centuries; a treatise written in seven-syllable lines and in three volumes;107 an apology; letters and homilies. George, metropolitan of Erbil around 945, died in 987. He left us a description of the annual church services divided into seven sections, of which Assemani has given an analysis.108 Of his writings have also survived several hymns 109 and a collection of canons (above, p. 148). To that century belong the two brothers ʿAbdishoʿ bar Shahhare and Emmanuel bar Schahhare, who died in 971 and 980 respectively.110 ʿAbdishoʿ’s poems were less highly regarded than those of his brother. F. Cardahi printed a passage of that author’s poem on Michael, the disciple of St Eugene, as found in the Vatican MS n. 184.111 Emmanuel was a professor at the school of Mar Gabriel in the Superior Monastery at Mosul. He composed a verse Hexameron (above, p. 240) and several treatises of liturgical explanations. Andrew, the author of a treatise on punctuation, which Wright dates to the late 10th century (see above, p. 250), was the For further information on Bahlul, see p. 257. Elias of Nisibis in BÆTHGEN, Fragmente, p. 84; ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 258. 107 Preserved in the Vatican Syr. MS 183; also in Berlin and Cambridge. Extracts in CARDAHI, Liber thesauri, 72–76. MANNA, Morceaux choisis, p. 113–142; The Little Book of Crumbs (Chrestomathy of Ourmia), p. 258 and 336. 108 B. O., III, part I, 518–540. Extracts in The Little Book of Crumbs of Ourmia, p. 40, 187 and 274; and another in GISMONDI, Linguæ syr. gramm., Chrestom., p. 72. Cf. BAUMSTARK, Oriens christianus, 1901, p. 320. 109 Vat. MS 90 and 91. 110 According to CARDAHI, Liber thesauri, p. 71 and 138. 111 The subject of this poem appears to have been borrowed from the Acts of St Eugene, which were allegedly written by Michael. 105 106



last Nestorian writer of that ܽ time. He composed several hymns, known as tourgame, ‫ܬܘܪܓ ܶ̈ܡܐ‬. Among the Jacobites, Syriac literature seems to have been virtually entirely eclipsed: their works were mostly written in Arabic. The chronicle of Deacon Simeon, on whose life very little is known, has already been mentioned (p. 175).

§5. — THE 11TH CENTURY The 11th century was just as dry as the previous one, and only rarely do we see signs of literary merit in what was otherwise a period of great decline. There were long stretches of time without a learned scholar of some significance, and when one emerged to reignite the fading flame of erudition, it would usually benefit Arabic rather than Syriac science. Both quantitatively and qualitatively, the works written by Nestorian authors still come first in this period. Foremost among them was Elias I, who was elected patriarch in 1028 after having been bishop of Tirhan; he died in 1049. As bishop he devoted himself to works of grammar (above, p. 250); as patriarch he is said to have written a collection of Nestorian synods and treatises of civil law (above, p. 141 and 143). Amr ibn Matta112 attributes to him a Compilation in Twenty-two Chapters on the Principles of Religion, which may be identical, as Wright believes, to his legal treatises; as well as the composition of a liturgy.113 Another Elias, a contemporary of the patriarch Elias bar Shinaya, metropolitan of Nisibis, is the most remarkable writer of the century. He was a monk first at the monastery of Michael in Mosul and then at the monastery of Simeon on the Tigris; he was appointed bishop of Beth Nuhadre in 1002 and metropolitan of Nisibis in 1008. He outlived Patriarch Elias I114 and prepared a See Maris, Amri et Slibæ… commentaria, ed. GISMONDI, II, 98; ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 263. 113 Not “a form of consecration of the altar,” as WRIGHT translates, Syriac liter., 2nd ed., p. 233. 114 CARDAHI, Liber thesauri, p. 84, places his death in 1056 AD. 112



collection of ecclesiastical rulings and a summary of the treatise of Patriarch Elias on inheritance (above, p. 150). He is also the author of: a chronicle (above, p. 172); a Syriac grammar (above, p. 249– 251); an Arabo-Syriac vocabulary (above, p. 258); hymns and metric homilies, several of which are preserved in books of church services;115 letters.116 Elias bar Shinaya also wrote in Arabic; we mentioned earlier his Book Demonstrating the Truth that Lies in Faith (p. 211) and his Distancing from Concern (p. 228, note 92). In his Bibl. orientalis, t III, part I, 270–272, Assemani analysed six of his Arabic dissertations. Abu Zayd ʿAbdishoʿ bar Bahriz was abbot of the monastery of Mar Elias in Mosul; he stood for the patriarchal seat in 1028 but Elias I was chosen over him.117 He later became metropolitan of Erbil and of Mosul. He composed a collection of laws and legal rulings (above, p. 150) and an explanation of the Church services. Of all the Jacobite writers, special mention should be made of John of Maron, author of a commentary on the Book of Wisdom (above, p. 57); he died ca. 1017. Having studied at Edessa under Mar Mekim, he later was appointed professor first at the newlybuilt monastery of Gubos — on the Euphrates, near Malatya — and then at the monastery founded by the monk Elias bar Gagai near Malatya. He spent the final days of his life at the monastery of Aaron, near Edessa, where he had lived in his youth.118 Marcus bar Qiqi, archdeacon of the Jacobite church in Mosul, was made maphrian in 991 under the name Ignatius. His deplorable Vatican MS 90, 91 and 184; Berlin, Sachau 64, 10. CARDAHI has published a homily with the single rhyme an and with no olaf, Liber thesauri, p. 83, comp. with above, p. 18, note 18. 116 The Vat. Syr. MS 129 contains letters addressed to the bishops and population of Baghdad in which he protests against the election of Patriarch Ishoʿyahb bar Ezechiel. 117 Maris, Amri et Slibæ… commentaria, ed. GISMONDI, II, 98. 118 See BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., I, 403–407. The editors of that chronicle, p. 404, note 2, wonder whether Assemani did not in fact mistake him for John Maron, to whom he devoted a long article in his B.O., 496–520. 115



conduct lost him the respect of his peers; in 1016 he fled to Baghdad, where he converted to Islam. Now the object of universal contempt, he fell into poverty but eventually recovered his senses119 and composed a poem on his downfall. Several lines of it have come down to us in a copy made by Bar Hebræus.120 In 1058 Ishoʿ bar Shushan was elected patriarch of the Jacobites by the party which had refused to recognise the election of Athanasius Haye (Athanasius VI), and took the name John X. Confronted with the slander of his enemies, he abdicated and retired to a monastery. When Athanasius died in 1064, he was appointed patriarch yet again and remained in that position until his death in 1073.121 Ishoʿ bar Shushan composed: a liturgy; ecclesiastical canons (above, p. 148); a treatise on the oil, yeast and salt which the Jacobites added to their eucharistic bread;122 four poems on the looting of Malatya by the Turks in 1058;123 several letters, including several in Arabic.124 Bar Shushan set out to codify the works of Isaac of Antioch, but that project never came to fruition owing to his untimely death (see above, p. 293).

Cf. MICHAEL THE SYRIAN, Chron. book XIII, chap. V; BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., II, 257; 287–289; ELIAS OF NISIBIS, in BÆTHGEN, Fragmente, 105 (transl., 158). 120 Chron. eccl., II, 289. F. CARDAHI reprinted them in his Liber thesauri, p. 140; he dates the death of Marcus bar Qiqi to 1030 or 1040. 121 BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., I, 437–447. 122 It is contained in a MS held in the Bibliothèque nationale, Catal. Zotenberg, p. 71; a fragment, ibid., p. 54. That treatise was composed in the wake of a controversy opposing Bar Shushan and Christodoulos, patriarch of Alexandria, cf. ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 141, 356. 123 On that event, see BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. syr., ed. BRUNS, p. 252; ed. BEDJAN, p. 238; ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 317. 124 Letter to the patriarch of Armenia, ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 211, 383; Berlin, Sachau 60, 1; Arabic letters to Christodoulos, the patriarch of Alexandria, on the oil and salt used in the eucharistic bread, ASSEMANI, ibid., II, 508. 119



According to Bar Hebræus,125 Said bar Sabouni was a distinguished scholar who wrote both in Greek and in Syriac. Patriarch Athanasius VII placed him on the episcopal seat of Malatya in 1094, for which he took the name John. He entered Malatya on the very day that the city gates were closed to keep out the Turkish besiegers. He was among those killed in July 1095 by the commander Gabriel during the siege of that town.126 Bar Sabouni is the author of several hymns.127

§6. — THE 12TH CENTURY Most of the Nestorian works of that time were composed in Arabic; only those authors who wrote in Syriac will be discussed here. Elias III, or Abu Halim, born in Maipherkat in 1108, held the position of metropolitan of Nisibis before his appointment as patriarch of the Nestorians in 1176. He died in 1190. The majority of his works are in Arabic; in Syriac he wrote both prayers and letters.128 Joseph bar Malkon, who took the name Ishoʿyahb when he was elected metropolitan of Nisibis in 1190, died under Patriarch Sabrishoʿ V (1226–1256). Of the works of that author have 125 126

Chron. eccl., I, 463. BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. syr., ed. BRUNS, p. 278; ed. BEDJAN,

p. 262. An acrostic hymn for the service during which one is ordained monk is preserved in MSS now held in the Vatican, the Bibliothèque nationale, the British Museum and the Bodleian, WRIGHT, Syriac liter., 2nd ed., p. 227. ASSEMANI, B. O., II, p. CLI, attributes to Said’s brother, Abu Ghalib ibn Sabuni, three poems on the capture of Edessa by Zengi in 1144. However, since Abu Ghalib died in 1129, WRIGHT (Syriac liter., 2nd ed., p. 244) believes that these poems must have been composed by Basil bar Shumna (1143–1169), his successor on the episcopal seat of Edessa. 128 MANNA edited three of these prayers, Morceaux choisis de littérature araméenne, Mosul, 1901, II, 173–181. Cf. ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 291; SACHAU, Catal., p. 142 ff. 127



survived a grammatical treatise in Syriac verses entitled the Net of Points (above, p. 251); his other works, which include a treatise on faith, homilies and letters, were in Arabic.129 Monk Simeon of Shanklawa,130 the master of John bar Zobi, for whom he wrote his Chronology (see above, p. 174), belongs to the same period. Simeon also authored a poem in Syriac verses which is written in an enigmatic style that could not be understood without a commentary. ʿAbdishoʿ wrote a commentary of that poem at the request of his disciple Abraham. F. Cardahi published it in his Liber thesauri, p. 89. He did not, however, include ʿAbdishoʿ’s explanations and its meaning therefore remains obscure. Also attributed to him are questions on the Eucharist and baptism, which he published under the name of the apostle St Peter.131 John bar Zobi, a monk of the monastery of Sabrishoʿ at Beth Quqa in Adiabene and a disciple of Simeon of Shanklawa, is best known for his grammatical works (above, p. 251). He also composed metric homilies on faith132 and a poem in seven-syllable lines On the Four Problems of Philosophy.133 The Jacobites boasted several notable writers: John, bishop of Harran, Mardin and several other towns of Mesopotamia, had been appointed by Patriarch Athanasius VII in 1125; he died at the age of seventy after falling off a horse in 1165. ASSEMANI, B. O., II, part I, 295–306. Or: of Schanklabad. On that name, see G. HOFFMANN, Auszüge syr. Märtyrer aus pers. Akten, p. 231 and note 1847. 131 ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 502. Two homilies on faith and a homily on the explanation of mysteries have been published, under the name of Simeon of Shanklawa, in The Little Book of Crumbs (Chrestomathy of Ourmia), p. 118–123 and 150–154. That Simeon is probably the author of the Book of Fathers attributed to Simeon bar Sabbaʿe, see above, p. 105, note 21. 132 The British Museum MS Orient. 2305; Berlin, Sachau 8. One of these homilies has been translated by BADGER, The Nestorians, II, 151; comp. with ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 309. 133 Berlin, Sachau, 72, 15. 129 130



John set out to restore the ruined churches and monasteries of his diocese. He was a man of letters who set up a library and made several copies of the Gospels in letters of gold and silver. A number of captives taken away by Zengi after the capture of Edessa (1144) owed him the payment of their ransom.134 The fall of Edessa inspired him to write a poem in which he denied the role of Providence, a heretic declaration which infuriated the other bishops. He also left us a liturgy.135 Jacob bar Salibi was the most prolific Jacobite writer of that century. He adopted the name Dionysius upon his appointment as bishop of Marasch by Patriarch Athanasius VIII in 1154; the following year, the patriarch also placed him in charge of the diocese of Mabbug. In 1166, Michael the Great, the successor of Athanasius, transferred him to Amid, where he died in 1171.136 His works form a long list; Assemani reproduced the catalogue after the Vatican Syr. MS 32.137 The single most important one of his works was his commentary on the OT and NT (discussed above, p. 57); the others are: a commentary on the Centuries of Evagrius, with a Syriac translation of the text;138 a commentary on the writings of Doctors; commentaries on dialectic (above, p. 221); a book of letters; an abridged version of the Stories about Church Fathers, saints and martyrs; a collection of apostolic canons; several theological treatises;139 liturgical writings;140 two liturgies; a treatise

BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., I, 501, 525–527, 531; ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 216–226. 135 ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 230. 136 BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., I, 513–515 and 559; ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 156–211. 137 B. O., II, 210; comp. with Catal. Bibl. Laur. Et Palat. Med., p. 79; BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., I, p. 562, note. 138 It is preserved in a MS held in Berlin, Catal. Sachau, n. 186, p. 604. 139 Several of these treatises are contained in MSS now held in the Vatican, the Bibliothèque nationale and the Bodleian. 140 J. LABOURT published the exposition of the liturgy in the Corpus script. christ. orientalium: Dionysius bar Salibi, Expositio liturgiæ, Paris, 1903. 134



against heresies;141 a treatise on Providence against John, bishop of Mardin;142 a panegyric of Michael the Great; a treatise on the structure of the human body (above, p. 237); homilies; two poems on the capture of Edessa in 1144;143 three elegies on the fall of Marash to the Armenians in 1156;144 two poems on the attacks against the maphrian accused of having married a Muslim to a Christian in 1159.145 The main work by Michael the Great, or Michael the Syrian, is his Chronicle (above, p. 169–171). Michael was the son of a priest from Malatya named Elias; after having been abbot of the monastery of Bar Sauma, he was elected patriarch in 1166 and finally passed away in 1199.146 Apart from his Chronicle, his works include: a revision of the pontificate and of the Jacobite ritual;147 a liturgy;148 a treatise on the preparation for Communion, directed against the Copts;149 ecclesiastical canons cited by Bar Hebræus in his Nomocanon; a treatise on the sacerdotal institution, and a

Parts of that lengthy work are in the Vatican, the Bibliothèque nationale and the Bodleian. The treatise against the Jews has only recently been published by J. DE ZWAAN, The treatise of Dionysius bar Salibi against the Jews, Leiden, 1906. 142 See the note on that bishop above, p. 349–350. 143 BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. syr., ed. BRUNS, 328; ed. BEDJAN, 308. 144 The Armenians took Bar Salibi captive but he escaped and retired to the monastery of Kalisoura; BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. syr., ed. BRUNS, p. 346; ed. BEDJAN, p. 324. 145 BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., II, 351. 146 The biography of that patriarch is in BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., I, 535–605; comp. with ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 154 ff. 147 Vat. MS 51. 148 MSS in the Vatican, the Bibliothèque nationale and in Leiden; translated by RENAUDOT, Lit. orient., II, 437. 149 BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., I, 575. 141



profession of faith;150 a poem on the case brought against the maphrian in 1159.151 The story of the life of Theodore bar Wahbun, a disciple of Michael the Great, was closely tied to that of his master,152 whom he eventually rose up against. He appears to have rejected the Monophysite doctrine and grown closer to the orthodox;153 his partisans, who had convened in Amid in 1180, elected him patriarch under the name John. At that point, Michael occupied the seat of Antioch. However, Bar Wahbun’s fortune was short-lived: he was deposed and relegated to the monastery of Bar Sauma, from which he was able to escape. Eventually he retired to Armenia, where King Leo named him patriarch of the Jacobites who lived in his territory. He died in 1193. Bar Hebræus154 praises his science; Bar Wahboun, he writes, mastered four languages: Greek, Syriac, Armenian and Arabic. That author composed a liturgy,155 an explanation of mass and a book in Arabic directed against Patriarch Michael.156

§7. — THE 13TH CENTURY AND THE END OF SYRIAC LITERATURE The 13th century still produced several worthy writers: among the Nestorians we find Solomon, the metropolitan of Basra, along with several poets and ʿAbdishoʿ, the metropolitan of Nisibis. As for the These two compositions, in their Armenian version, were added to the abridged edition of the Chronicle of Michael (Jerusalem, 1870–1871). 151 Comp. with the note on Bar Salibi, above, p. 350. In 1185 Michael revised the Life of Abbai, bishop of Nicaea, cf. ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 505; WRIGHT, Catal., p. 1124; Syriac liter., 2nd ed., p. 251; BEDJAN, Acta martyr. et sanct., VI, p. 615; that revision was published in BEDJAN, ibid., p. 557–614. 152 It is told by Bar Hebræus, with the story of the Life of Michael; see Chron. eccl., I, 553–589. 153 See BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., I, 584, note 4. 154 Op. cit., I, p. 581. 155 Translated into Latin by RENAUDOT, Lit. Orient., II, 409. 156 BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., I, 581. 150



Jacobites, they boast Jacob bar Shakko, Aaron bar Madani and Bar Hebræus. Little is known of the life of Solomon. He was a native of Khalat or Ahlat, a town located on the western shore of Lake Van, who became metropolitan bishop of Basra; it is in that capacity that he attended the consecration of the Nestorian patriarch Sabrishoʿ in 1222.157 Above (p. 70) we discussed his main work entitled the Book of the Bee, a historical and theological collection in which were included numerous legends. ʿAbdishoʿ’s Catalogue158 further attributes to Solomon: a treatise on the configuration of heaven and earth; several short homilies; and prayers. Several Nestorians cultivated religious poetry with great success. George Warda of Erbil authored a series of hymns. These were included in the services of the Nestorian Church and form a collection known by the name Warda.159 The mention of calamities that occurred in years 1224–1228 and 1235 gives an indication of the date of their composition. Khamis bar Kardahe, also originally from Erbil, wrote another collection of hymns, on the life, parables and miracles of the Saviour; others treat penitence. His collection was likewise introduced into the Nestorian services and was known by the name Khamis.160 He lived in the time of Daniel bar Khattab, a young ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 453, n. 75. ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 309. 159 The main edition is by HEINRICH HILGENFELD, Ausgewählte Gesänge des Giwargis Warda von Arbel, Leipzig, 1904. It also contains a German translation of the text. It gives (p. 8–10) an extensive list of previous editions, which there is no point in repeating here. To that list should, however, be added: MANNA, Morceaux choisis de littérature araméenne, Mosul, 1901, II, p. 296–322 (three hymns); POGNON, Une version syriaque des Aphorismes d’Hippocrate, 2nd part, Lepzig, 1903, p. V–X (an extract). 160 Extracts in CARDAHI, Liber thesauri, p. 59; a hymn in the Chrestomathy of Ourmia, The Little Book of Crumbs, p. 94; four more in MANNA, Morceaux choisis de littérature araméenne, II, p. 324–330. 157 158



contemporary of Bar Hebræus to whom Khamis addressed several lines.161 Masoud ibn al-Kass, a contemporary of Warda, composed poems for the Epiphany holiday.162 He was a distinguished physician of Caliph Mostasem in Baghdad. After the death of the caliph he lived as a hermit;163 he passed away in 1280.164 We also have a long poem by Gabriel Kamsa, who was first a monk at the monastery of Beth Quqa and later became metropolitan of Mosul. It is in his capacity as metropolitan that he attended the consecration of the Nestorian patriarch Yahbalaha III in 1281. That poem treats Creation, Incarnation, etc., and ends with a panegyric by Sabrishoʿ, the founder of the monastery of Beth Quqa.165 John of Mosul, a monk at the monastery of St Michael, located near to that town, composed an edifying collection of ̈ܶ ܽ ‫ܐܳܕܫ ܺܦ‬ ܰ ‫ܟܬܒ‬. It poems entitled the Book of the Virtuous Man; ‫ܝܪܳܕܘܒܪ ܐ‬ was published, together with other Syriac poems,166 under the title Directorium spirituale,167 by Elias Millos, the archbishop of Akra, in These lines are preserved in a poem by Bar Hebræus, Catal. Vat., III, 358; Catal. Payne Smith, col. 377; comp. with ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 308; III, part I, 566; WRIGHT, Syriac liter., 2nd ed., p. 281 and 284. 162 One of these poems is preserved in the Vat. MS 184. F. CARDAHI printed passages from it in his Liber thesauri, p. 125. 163 BAR HEBRÆUS, Histoire des dynasties, ed. POCOCK, p. 522; ed. SALHANI, p. 478; ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 561. 164 According to CARDAHI, Liber thesauri, p. 126. 165 That poem is preserved in the Vatican MS 180; comp. with ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 566. F. CARDAHI published a long extract from it in Liber thesauri, p. 107. 166 Among these we find twenty-two poems by David of Beth Rabban (see above, p. 337, n. 65), three poems by ʿAbdishoʿ of Nisibis, two poems by St Ephrem, one poem by John bar Penkaye. In the Cambridge MS, Add. 2018, The Book of the Virtuous Man is entitled The Book of Fine Works, ‫ܟܬܒܐܳܕܫܦܝܪܘܬܳܕܘܒܪܐ‬. 167 F. Cardahi printed a passage of a poem by John of Mosul in his Liber thesauri, p. 119. It is unlikely that the author should be the Mosuli, a grammarian whom Bar Shakko held in low esteem, see De la métrique chez 161



1868 in Rome. According to Millos, that book was written in 1245. F. Cardahi168 places the death of John of Mosul in 1270. We now come to ʿAbdishoʿ, the metropolitan of Nisibis and the last Nestorian author worth mentioning. When he was elevated to the rank of metropolitan of Nisibis and Armenia by Patriarch Yahbalaha III ca. 1290, ʿAbdishoʿ bar Berika had already been bishop of Sinjar and of Beth Arabaya (or Tur Abdin) for about five years; he died in 1318.169 He himself listed his numerous works at the end of his precious Catalogue. That bibliography has provided us with the title of many Nestorian texts that have since been lost.170 The loss of several books by ʿAbdishoʿ is lamentable: his commentary on the OT and NT (above, p. 63); the book on the Life of Our Lord on earth; the book against heresies; the book on the mysteries of the Greek philosophers and twelve treatises on all sciences (above, p. 222–223); decisions and ecclesiastical canons. Nonetheless, these have survived: his Nomocanon (above, p. 144); his treatise on philosophy and theology entitled The Pearl (above, p. 211); his Paradise of Eden (above, p. 17); a collection of twenty-two poems on the love of wisdom and science.171

les syriens by Abbot F. MARTIN, Appendice, p. 68 and 70. The poems of John of Mosul are preserved in the British Museum Orient. MS 2450. 168 Op. cit., p. 120. 169 ASSEMANI, B. O., III, part I, 325 ff. 170 A first edition of that catalogue was made by Abraham Ecchellensis in Rome in 1653, under the title HʿAbdishoʿ, tractatus continens catalogum, etc.; Assemani gave a better edition of it in his Bibliotheca orientalis, t. III, part I; a new translation, based on a new MS, was published by Badger in The Nestorians, II, 361; Badger dates its composition to 1298 AD. 171 The Vatican MS 174 and MSS Marsh 201 and 361 of the Bodleian. The Bibliothèque nationale holds a poem attributed to ʿAbdishoʿ which gives an explanation of the calendar, Catal. Zotenberg, p. 128; in Berlin, Catal. Sachau, p. 158, and in Cambridge, Catal. Wright and Cook, p. 290, n. 10, hymns for church services attributed to ʿAbdishoʿ; another collection of hymns in Cambridge, Catal. Wright and Cook, p. 107, Add. 1977. On the commentary of the enigmatic poem by Simeon of Shanklawa, see above,



Timothy II, who succeeded Yahbalaha III as patriarch of the Nestorians in 1318, after having been metropolitan of Mosul and Erbil, is the author of canons, which he composed during the synod held the year of his election to the patriarchal seat, as well as of a book on the sacraments.172 We conclude with the Jacobite authors. Jacob bar Shakko,173 who took the name Severus upon being appointed bishop, was first a monk at the monastery of Mar Mattai near Mosul. He had studied grammar under Bar Zobi at the monastery of Beth Quqa in the Adiabene; Kamal al-Din ibn Yunus, a then-renowned Arabic philosopher of Mosul, had taught him dialectic and philosophy. Bar Shakko died in 1241 during a visit to Patriarch Ignatius II. After his death his many manuscripts were moved to the library of the governor of Mosul.174 We have repeatedly cited his Dialogues, an encyclopaedic work on the sciences taught to the Syrians. We have also cited his Book of Treasures, a theological compilation written in 1231 and which contains interesting scientific notes (see above, p. 241). The British Museum MS 7193 Rich contains two letters in seven-syllable lines by that author: the first, in which every line begins and ends with the letter fe, is addressed to Mark Fakhr ad-Daula, son of Thomas; the second, which likewise displays an artificial writing style — the only difference being that the initial and final letter is tav — is

p. 349. On a brief chronology composed by ʿAbdishoʿ, see above, p. 174; comp. with p. 354, note 166. 172 ASSEMANI has described and analysed his works, B. O., III, part I, 567–580. 173 Since the name is written with two kafs, we favour that pronunciation over the one suggested by Schakko. 174 BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., II, 409–411. Bar Hebræus writes: “He owned many books, all of which were placed in the demosion of the governor of Mosul.” In Syria the word δημόσιον referred to the “public baths”, the “Treasury”, and to the “public archives”. The last of these meanings was intended in this case.



addressed to his brother, Abu Tahir Zayd Taj ad-Daula.175 The other writings of Bar Shakko are: a profession of faith on the Trinity and Incarnation; an explanation of church services and prayers (these two works are cited in his Book of Treasures); an exhortation for the ordination of priests.176 Aaron bar Madani, who, upon being appointed bishop of Mardin, had taken the name John, was elevated to the dignity of Maphrian of the East by the Jacobite patriarch Ignatius II in 1232. His unflattering complexion and glaring ineloquence were disliked by the Christians of Mosul. After five years in that office he retired to Baghdad, where he benefited from being in the good graces of the three sons of Thomas, Shams ad-Daula, Fakhr ad-Daula and Tad ad-Daula, who were influential physicians at the court of Caliph Mostansir. In Baghdad, Bar Madani composed a panegyric of Mar Aaron in lines of twelve syllables and perfected his knowledge of Arabic literature. On returning to Mosul he was treated with the same consideration as in the capital of the caliphs. The death of Ignatius II in 1252 brought about a schism, which was only one of many in these troubled times for the Jacobite Church; several bishops elected as patriarch Aaron Angur, who adopted the name Dionysius, while the partisans of the maphrian chose Bar Madani. Harmony was restored only after Dionysius was murdered in the monastery of Bar Sauma near Malatya in 1261. Bar Madani governed the Jacobite Church unopposed until 1263.177 The works of that eminent prelate consist of a number of

The letter fe is the first letter in the name Fakhr; tav is the first letter in the name Tadj. In the Catalogue Rosen on that MS, p. 84, Bar Shakko is referred to as Jacob, bishop of Tagrit; in other manuscripts he is called Jacob of Maipherkat; these epithets are incorrect; that bishop resided at Mosul. On the sons of Thomas to whom these epistles were addressed, see the following note. 176 That exhortation is preserved under the name of Jacob of Maipherkat in MSS now held in the Vatican, the Laurentian and the Bibliothèque nationale. 177 Bar Hebræus, Chron. eccl., II, 407–416; comp. with I, 695–743. 175



poems.178 The most remarkable ones include a poem on the soul entitled The Bird;179 another one on the path to perfection;180 and one on the capture of Edessa and the capture of other towns by the Seljuq sultan Ala ad-Din Kaikobad in 1265. Bar Madani produced a liturgy181 and homilies in Arabic for the annual holidays.182 Bar Hebræus cites in year 1228 the physician Gabriel of Edessa, who composed books of medicine and philosophy in Syriac (above, p. 235, note 23). It is a pleasure to conclude these notes with Bar Hebræus, whose influence on Syriac literature cannot be overstated. His numerous works cover all fields of the sciences; one might even suggest that he sensed the imminent collapse of Syrian intellectual life and that he attempted to erect a monument that would summarise the past civilisation in its totality, rather than create new paths for the future. That observation suffices to explain the impersonal and unoriginal nature of his books. Bar Hebræus was first and foremost a populariser, yet he was also a man of encyclopaedic scholarship with a clear, precise methodology and an acute critical mind. He should nonetheless be recognised as a truly talented historian; his Syriac Chronicle and Ecclesiastical Chronicle no doubt rank among his best work. His elegant poems offer a welcome alternative to the laboured metre of his Nestorian contemporaries, who transformed the poetic art in such a pitiful The Bodleian MS, Hunt. I, contains sixty of them, Catal. Payne Smith, col. 379–382; others, in the Berlin MS, Sachau 207, 3, and in a MS of the Laurentian, Catal., p. 198. 179 The Vat. MS 204; Bodleian, Hunt. I and Poc. 200, Cat. Payne Smith, col. 382 and 641; Berlin, Sachau 61, 8; Cambridge, Add. 2819, Catal. p. 669. For an edition, see MANNA, Morceaux choisis de littérature araméenne, which also contains another poem on the nobility of the soul and its downfall, II, p. 332–345. 180 An extract in the Liber thesauri of F. CARDAHI, p. 66. It was published in MANNA, op. cit., II, 346–356. 181 See RENAUDOT, Lit. Orient., II, 512. 182 Vat. MSS 97 and 220. 178



way. One may even wonder how a period of such poor literary merit could have produced an author of the calibre of Bar Hebræus. Much is known of the life of Bar Hebræus from the information provided in his chronicles.183 Gregory Abu al-Faraj was his real name; he was named Gregory upon his consecration as bishop; his Christian name was John; he was usually referred to by the nickname Bar ʿEbroyo or Bar Hebræus, that is, the son of the Hebrew, since his father Aaron, a distinguished physician of Malatya, was a converted Jew. Bar Hebræus was born at Malatya in 1226; he spent his youth studying.184 When the Mongols attacked Malatya in the summer of 1243, Aaron, held back by the harvest season, was unable to escape into Syria; the following year he treated and healed the Mongol general, who had fallen ill; he then retired with his children to Antioch, which was still in the hands of the Franks. His eldest son, Bar Hebræus, was ordained monk and left for Tripoli, where he studied medicine and philosophy under a Nestorian master called Jacob. In September 1246, Bar Hebræus, now twenty years old, was appointed bishop of Goubos, near Malatya, by the Jacobite patriarch Ignatius II; the following year he was transferred to the episcopal seat of Lakabin, in the same province. When Ignatius died in 1252, he sided with Dionysius against Bar Madani (see previous note) and Dionysius moved him to Aleppo; however, since that town was under the control of the dissident faction of Bar Madani, Bar Hebræus was forced to join his patriarch at the monastery of Bar Sauma; he did not return to Aleppo before 1258. Six years later, in 1264, Bar Hebræus was elevated to the dignity of Maphrian of the Orient by Patriarch Chron. syr., ed. BRUNS, p. 503 ff.; ed. BEDJAN, p. 478; Hist. des Dynast., ed. POCOCK, p. 486; ed. SALHANI, p. 482 ff.; Chron. eccl., II, 431 ff.; comp. with ASSEMANI, B. O., II, 244 ff.; ABBELOOS and LAMY, Barhebræi chron. eccl., I, Preface; NŒLDEKE, Orientalische Skizzen, Berlin, 1892, p. 253–273; WRIGHT, Syriac liter., 2nd ed., p. 265–281; CHEIKHO, Barhebræus, l’homme et l’écrivain in Al-Machriq, 1898, n. 7 ff. 184 As demonstrated by NOELDEKE (l. c., p. 254), he studied neither Greek not Greek literature, as had previously been claimed. 183



Ignatius III, an office he kept until his death in 1286. From the moment the holy orders were conferred upon him until he died, Bar Hebræus lived a troubled life, torn between the intrigues of political and religious parties, the calamitous Mongol invasions and incessant travels across East and West required of him by his office. As a result of the high standard of his scientific work, as well as of his conciliatory and humble nature, that dignified prelate was esteemed and praised by all. His brother Bar Sauma, who resumed his Ecclesiastical Chronicle, painted a touching picture of the events that followed his death at Maraga: the entire clergy of the East was in mourning, with Jacobites, Nestorians and Armenians all equally affected by his passing. His body was later returned to the monastery of Mar Mattai, near Mosul, where the maphrian resided. To this day his tombstone is still visible there. Bar Sauma wrote a catalogue of his brother’s works.185 Part I of the present study contained a discussion of most of his works; here should also be mentioned: a book on the interpretation of dreams, which dates to the author’s youth; a liturgy, translated into Latin by Renaudot, Liturgiæ orient., II, 456; and numerous poems which were highly regarded by the Syrians.186 Here we come to our conclusion. The Tartars who came from the East brought iron and fire, rather than light, into Mesopotamia and Syria. The capture of Baghdad by Houlagou in 1258 led to the collapse of the Abbasid dynasty. The Mongols left in their trail

BAR HEBRÆUS, Chron. eccl., II, 475–481. Many of which were edited by LENGERKE, Kœnigsberg, 1836– 1838 (mediocre edition); by the Maronite AUGUSTIN SCEBABI, Rome, 1877. In 1880, YOHANNA NOTAYN DARAUNI published in Rome the poem on Divine wisdom. An extract in the Liber thesauri of F. CARDAHI, p. 63. BUDGE also gave several passages in his edition of the Book of Amusing Tales of BAR HEBRÆUS (above, p. 227). Other extracts in MANNA, Morceaux choisis de littérature araméenne, II, p. 372–395. J.-B. CHABOT published a poem in: Mélanges de Ch. de Harlez, Leiden, 1896; and a Lettre de Barhebræus au catholicos Denha I, in the Journ. asiatique, 9th series, t. XI, p. 75. 185 186



nothing but murder and devastation: a prolonged dark age was to descend upon Asia.

INDEX OF NAMES Aaron (historian) 175 Aaron Angur (Dionysius) 357, 359 Aaron bar Madani 353, 357– 358, 359 Aaron of Alexandria 231, 232 Aaron, father of Bar Hebræus 359 Aaron, Mar 357 Aba I, Mar, Nestorian patriarch 46, 54, 61–62, 150, 180, 301 Aba II, Mar 55, 61, 219, 268 Aba, Mar (disciple of St Ephrem) 54, 142, 290 Aba, Mar, of Kashkar 61 Aba, son of Zeora 99 Abba II, Mar 150, 332 Abbai of Nicaea, bishop 352 Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, caliph 325 Abd al-Masih ibn Ishaq al-Kindi 340 Abdalla ibn al-Muqaffa 279 Abdalla ibn-Tahir 340 Abdalla, caliph 333 Abdalmessih 115 Abdel, archimandrite of Sandrun Mahoze 156 ʿAbdishoʿ, brother of Joseph Hazzaya 196 ʿAbdishoʿ bar Bahriz, metropolitan of Erbil and Mosul 150, 346 ʿAbdishoʿ bar Moqli of Mosul 172 ʿAbdishoʿ of Gazarta 255

ʿAbdishoʿ bar Brikha of Nisibis

16, 17–19, 46, 60, 63, 66, 105, 108, 125, 135, 138, 142–144, 145, 147, 148, 149–150, 155, 163, 174, 175, 183, 192, 195, 198, 199, 211–212, 213, 214, 215, 219, 222, 233, 241, 245, 249, 250, 262, 271, 273, 279, 297, 298, 300, 301, 302, 304, 317, 322, 323, 324, 332, 333, 334, 338, 339, 340, 349, 352, 353. 354, 355, 356 ʿAbdishoʿ bar Schahhare 15, 344 ʿAbdishoʿ, Chaldean patriarch 16 ʿAbdishoʿ, monk 178 Abdmeshiha 200 Abdochos (Eudochus) 254 Abgar IX 82–83, 90 Abgar V (Ukkama) 21, 24, 25, 81–85, 86, 87–89, 91, 93, 94, 206 Abgar VII 98 Abgar VIII 203 Abgar, Severus 90 Abgar, son of Zeora 99 Abnil (Abizal) 286 Abraham (Beth Garmai) 103 Abraham (brother of Rabban Sabrishoʿ) 184 Abraham (of Kashkar), founder of monastery at Izla 145, 183, 192, 301, 304 Abraham (priest of Edessa) 311, 329




Abraham bar Dashandand 332, 334, 338 Abraham bar Kardahe 301 Abraham bar Kili, bishop of Amid 316 Abraham Ecchellensis 253, 355 Abraham of Beth Abe 184 Abraham of Nathpar 123–124, 184, 192–193 Abraham of Nisibis 183, 301 Abraham of Qatina 302 Abraham of Tortose 235 Abraham the Mede 298 Abraham, biblical patriarch 91 Abraham, bishop of Basra 271 Abraham, bishop of Erbil 109 Abraham, deacon (9th c.) 256 Abraham, Mar, patriarch of the Nestorians 178 Abraham, priest and companion of Simeon of Beth Arsham 117–119 Abraham, syncellus of Narsai 61, 301 Absamya see Cyrillona Abshuta 297 Abu al-Faraj ibn at-Tayyib 34, 143 Abu al-Hasan ibn al-Bahlul see Bar Bahlul Abu Bishr Mattai 235, 258, 259 Abu Ghalib ibn Sabuni 348 Abu Ishaq, king of the Arabs 167 Abu Nafir of Hira 310 Abu Nuh of Anbar 333 Abu Tahir Zayd Taj ad-Daula 357 Abu Yahya al-Marwazi see Zachariah of Merv Abu Zacharia 258 Abzoud 219, 220 Acacius, bishop of Aleppo 271, 295, 297

Acacius, bishop of Amid 298, 299 Acacius, patriarch 298 Adam of Akra 15, 179 Adam 69 Adamantius 207 Adarparwa, martyr 102 Adda, disciple of Addai 93 Addai, apostle 21, 25, 81–84, 87–91, 93, 94 Addai, priest 146, 329 Aesop 226–227, 280 Agapetus, pope 317 Aggai 82, 89–90, 94 Ahai, patriarch 105 Ahoudemmeh of Tagrit 216, 219, 246, 317–318, 326 Aitallah of Erbil 109, 113 Ala ad-Din Kaikobad 358 Alahazeka 175 Albinus 91 Alexander of Alexandria 265 Alexander Severus 78 Alexander the Great 70, 276– 277, 278 Alexios Komnenos 280 Al-Madjidi 16 Al-Mahdi, caliph 135, 334, 335 Al-Mansur, caliph 233, 335 Al-Mutawakkil, caliph338 Amarya, bishop of Beth Lapat 107 Amazonius, bishop of Edessa 314 Ambrose, St. 148, 150 Ambrosius, philosopher 135 Amira 253 Ammonius 212–213 Amr ibn Matta al Tyrhani172– 173, 345 Amr ibn Saad, emir 327 Amr, Mar 46, 105, 108, 115, 212, 299, 334 Ananias (Damascus) 76

INDEX OF NAMES Anastasius I 153–154, 309 Anatolius Vindanius (Vindanionius) of Beyrouth 237, 238 Anaxagoras 224 Andrew, grammarian 250, 344 Andrew of Samosata 271 Andrew, priest of Jerusalem 57 Anna, martyr 104 Anthime, patriarch 129 Anthimus I of Constantinople 317 Antiochus ? 126 Antoninus (“Holy Father”) 140 Antoninus Pius 133 Antony of Tagrit (the Rhetor) 15, 258–259, 341 Antony, St 124 Aphnimaran 184 Aphrahat 11, 14, 25, 27–28, 34, 65, 187–191, 207, 238, 285 Aploris/Apoplaris 156 Apollinarius 140, 265 Apollonius of Tyana 230 Apuleius of Madaura 215 ʿAqebshma, bishop of Hnayta 113 Aquiline of Byblos 139 Ara (composer of treatise contra magi and Bardaisan) 301 Arcadius 104 Aretas 119, 121 Arghun, king 182 Aristides 133 Aristotle 8, 210, 212–223, 258, 259, 330, 333, 339, 343 Arrian 277 Artaban 93 Artaxerxes I (Sassanid) 78 Asa, priest 24 Asko al-Schabdani 16 Asylus, bishop 317 Atanos (?) of Amid 231 Athanasius Haye (VI) 347


Athanasius I, patriarch of Antioch 44, 275, 327 Athanasius of Balad 217–218, 221, 266, 267, 329 Athanasius VII, patriarch 348, 349, 350 Athanasius, St. (of Alexandria) 58, 65, 124, 140, 265, 269, 270 Athir ad-Din Mofaddal 222 Atitilaha, priest 217 Atken of Apnimaran 176, 184 Augustus Caesar 90 Avicenne 222, 258 Azad, eunuch 107 Azazail, St 101 Baba, prophet of Harran 95 Babai bar Nasibnaya 193, 332 Babai of Gebilta 331–332 Babai, Mar, abbot of Izla 62, 116, 178, 183, 192, 196, 301 Babai, Mar, scribe 193 Babai, martyr 98 Babai, patriarch 312 Babi 304 Baboy, patriarch 115 Babu of Nisibis 287 Bacchus, martyr 121 Badma of Beth Lapat 113 Bahira 185 Bahram V 105, 115 Bakru, abaya of Edessa 134 Balai, Mar 12, 290, 291 Bani 290 Baouth 15 Bar ʿEdta (contemp. of Sahdona) 184 Bar ʿEdta 179, 183, 185 Bar Ali 19, 58, 242, 257 Bar Bahlul 17, 19, 50, 58, 63, 176, 177, 232, 233, 234, 236, 238, 254, 256, 257, 332, 344 Bar Hatar, son of ʿUdan 126



Bar Hebræus 4, 13, 19, 24, 44, 47, 48, 52, 56, 57, 58, 78, 86, 92, 94, 104, 105, 108, 110, 115, 116, 138, 144, 146–147, 148, 149, 155, 167, 170–172, 173, 176, 180, 181, 200, 203–204, 207, 211, 215–216, 219, 220, 221–222, 227–228, 231, 232, 233, 234, 235–236, 242, 244, 246, 247, 249, 252, 253, 257, 259, 266, 280, 291, 298, 299, 303, 307–308, 311, 312, 318, 327, 332, 336, 340, 342, 347, 348, 351, 352, 353, 354, 356, 357, 358–360 Bar Salibi 264, 331, 352 Bar Sauma (denouncer of Baboy) 115 Bar Sauma of Nisibis 142, 172, 297, 298, 299, 305 Bar Sauma, archimandrite 305 Bar Sauma, brother of Bar Hebræus 360 Bar Zobi see John bar Zobi Barak, strategist 99 Barbaʿshmin, martyr 108 Bardaisan 3, 10–11, 12, 23, 78, 110, 203–207, 238, 285 Barhadbshabba 61, 62, 175– 176, 299, 300, 301 Barhadbshabba, deacon of Erbil 109, 329 Barlaam and Josaphat 133 Barlaha 65 Barsahde 175, 332 Barsamya, martyr 97–98, 100– 101 Barses, bishop of Edessa 288 Basil bar Shumna 348 Basil of Cyprus 175, 327 Basil, St. 51, 58, 140, 141, 236, 276, 288 Bassus, Mar 112 Bazoud 212, 220

Beh Ishoʿ (Berkishoʿ) 200 Bolida, bishop of Prat106 Boran (daughter of Khosro) 323 Bosnaya, monk of Rabban Hormizd 182 Brikishoʿ, martyr 102 Buhd, physician 216, 279, 303 Caesarius 205 Callisthenes (pseudo-) 70, 236, 277, 278 Callisthenes 276 Cassianus Bassus 237–238 Cecilius, bishop of Dispolis 139 Cerialis, consul 98 Choeroboscus (George) 246 Christodoulos of Alexandria, patriarch 347 Claudius, emperor 87 Clement (pseudo-) 205, 264, 269 Clement of Rome 80, 262 Commodus, consul 98 Conon 315 Constantine (“Holy Father”) 140 Constantine, emperor 88, 138, 148, 155, 156, 160, 167–168, 170, 174, 207 Constantine, bishop of Harran 331 Constantine, consul 99 Constantine, disciple of Jacob of Edessa 239 Constantine, metropolitan of Laodicea 141 Cosmas, priest127 Cyprian of Nisibis175, 333 Cyprian 138–139 Cyril of Alexandria 8, 58, 66, 140, 254, 262, 295, 296, 318 Cyrillona 291 Cyrus (mid-6th century) 302 Cyrus, bishop 309

INDEX OF NAMES Cyrus, king 67 Dâdâ, monk of Amid 294 Dadishoʿ (of Izla; Abraham’s disciple) 122, 145, 304 Dadishoʿ of Qatar 122, 199– 200 Dadishoʿ, patriarch 60 Damasus, St, of Rome (pope) 140 Damien of Alexandria 315, 317 Danaq, martyr 104 Daniel bar Khattab 353 Daniel bar Maryam 176 Daniel bar Toubanita 194, 195 Daniel of Salah 55 Daniel, bishop of Harran 139, 297 Daniel, son of Moses 175, 335 Dauma 118 David bar John (Serapion), physician 338 David of Beth Rabban 48, 240, 250, 336, 354 David, bishop of Kartewaye 125, 185 David, Maronite metropolitan 144 Democrite (pseudo-) 72 Demonicus 228, 230 Demophilius 223 Denha I, patriarch of the East 180–182 Denha of Tagrit 326, 327 Denha (or Ibas) 63, 219, 251, 268, 339 Deuterius (friend of John of Asia) 316 Dhou-Nowas 119, 120, 121 Dio Cassius 90 Diocles (pseudo-) 166 Diocletian 99, 100, 122 Diodore of Tarsus 270, 271, 296


Diogenes of Edessa 295 Dionysius, bishop of Alexandria 264 Dionysius bar Salibi 56, 57, 80, 125, 221, 237, 350 Dionysius of Tel Mahre 153, 166–167, 168–169, 340, 341 Dionysius of Tel Mahre (pseudo-) 116, 119, 157, 160, 164 Dionysius of Thrace 245, 250, 273 Dionysius the Areopagite (pseudo-) 51, 79, 196, 241, 266, 271–273, 342 Dionysius the Areopagite 272, 311 Dioscorides 8, 233, 234, 235 Domnus of Antioch 139, 297 Ebedshaddai 91 Elia, martyr 102 Elias (bar Shinaya) of Nisibis 16, 18, 108, 143, 149, 150, 172, 173–174, 175, 176, 181, 190, 211, 228, 249–251, 252, 254, 258, 335, 344, 345, 346 Elias of Tella 129 Elias bar Gagai 346 Elias I, patriarch of the Nestorians 141, 143, 149, 150, 345, 346 Elias III, patriarch of the Nestorians 348 Elias Jauhari 143 Elias of Anbar15, 16, 175 Elias of Kashkar 268 Elias of Malatya, priest and father of Michael 351 Elias of Perozshabur, bishop 344 Elias of Sinjar 268 Elias of Tirhan 249, 250, 252, 254 Elias, Jacobite patriarch 331



Elias, metropolitan of Merv 62, 176, 325 Elisha (Hosea) of Nisibis 298, 325 Elisha bar Quzbaye 61, 300 Elisha bar Saphanin 62 Elisha, patriarch 61 Ella-Asbeha 120 Emmanuel bar Shahhare 240, 344 ʿEnanishoʿ 122–124, 219, 255, 324 Ephra Hormiz 106 Ephrem, patriarch of Antioch 314, 316, 317 Ephrem, St 10–11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 24, 25, 27–28, 34, 53, 54, 56, 58, 64, 69, 70, 84, 101, 121, 126, 145, 160, 172, 204–205, 207, 285–290, 291, 294, 295, 300, 303, 354 Epictitus 223 Epiphanius (pseudo-) 69 Epiphanius 58, 192, 203, 204, 270, 292 Erostrophos 228 Eugene, St 302 Eugenius, bishop 315 Eunomius 304 Euphrasius, patriarch of Antioch 314 Eusebius of Alexandria 214 Eusebius of Caesarea 21, 32, 58, 65, 76, 83–84, 86–87, 121, 125, 133–134, 162–163, 167, 204, 205, 263, 268, 269 Eusebius of Dorylaeum 139, 297 Eusebius of Rome 155 Eusebius, bishop of Qenneshre 295 Eustache (“Holy Father”) 140 Eustathius of Antioch 65, 266, 317

Eustathius of Dara 329 Euthalius, archimandrite 169 Eutyches 141, 297, 301, 305 Evagrius 86, 183, 196, 276, 307, 350 Ezalia 298 Ezechiel 324 Fakhr ad-Daula 357 Faustina, St 291 Febriona, St, fictitious martyr 122 Felix I, pope 139, 265 Fidus, bishop 139 Flavian of Constantinople 154, 297, 309 Flavien of Antioch 139 Gabriel (of Sinjar) the physician 193, 326 Gabriel Arya 62 Gabriel bar Bokhtishoʿ 233– 234, 256, 337, 338 Gabriel bar Sabroy 48 Gabriel Kamsa 354 Gabriel of Edessa, physician 235, 358 Gabriel of Qatar 183 Gabriel Taureta 199 Gabriel the Chaldean 16 Gabriel, bishop of Hormizd Ardashir 302 Gabriel, commander of siege of Malatya 280, 348 Gabriel, metropolitan of Basra 143 Gabriel, patriarch of Julianist Armenians 336 Gabriel, Rabban, of Beth ʿAbe 102, 176, 184, 268 Gadyahb, bishop of Beth Lapat 106 Galen 8, 232, 233, 234, 235, 238 Galerius Maximianus 101 Gallo-Roman pilgrim 84, 86

INDEX OF NAMES Gargamush, martyr 113 George I of Alexandria, patriarch 324 George I of Seleucia, patriarch 325 George Mihrgushnasp 116, 183 George of Alqosh 19 George of Antioch, patriarch 56, 335 George of Erbil, metropolitan 148, 344 George of Maipherkat 331 George of Nisibis 325 George of Scythopolis 272 George of Serug, bishop 248, 329 George of Shuster 176 George Warda of Erbil 353 George, bishop of the Arabic tribes of the Euphrates 65, 147, 190, 205–206, 209, 218, 238, 239–240, 268, 307, 330 George, chorepiscopus of Amid 169 George, deacon 329 George, disciple of Jacob of Edessa (=George of Serug?) 306 George, Nestorian patriarch (660–680) 194 George, prince of Persia, christened by Ahoudemmeh 318 George, St, fictitious martyr 122 Gerard of Cremona 235 Gesius Petae 232 Gewargis of Alqosh 78 Gewargis Warda 302 Gilani martyrs 110 Gondophares 78 Gosius of Alexandria 231


Gregory abu al-Faraj see Bar Hebræus Gregory of Nazianzus, St 51, 58, 140, 205, 266, 268, 274, 326, 327, 329, 330, 333, 334, 339, 340, 343 Gregory of Nisibis 176, 193 Gregory of Nyssa, St 58, 65, 140, 276, 285, 287, 288 Gregory Pirnagushnasp 115 Gregory Thaumaturgus 224, 265–267 Gregory the Illuminator 188– 189 Gregory, bishop and physician 231 Gregory, Mar, the Director 192 Gregory, monk 292 Gubralaha, martyr 113 Guhshtazad, eunuch 106 Gurya (chronicler) 170 Gurya, martyr 97, 99–101 Habban (merchant) 79 Habib of Edessa 327, 328 Habib, martyr (occidental Mesopotamia) 97, 99, 100– 101 Habib, martyr (Persia) 102 Hadji Khalfa 237 Hadrian 122, 133 Hanania of Erbil 109 Hanina, Mar 307 Hannan (Abgar’s deputy) 84, 86, 91 Hariri 17, 18 Harith ibn Jabalah 314 Harmonius 11 Harun al-Rashid 257 Harun, son of Abu Ishaq 167 Hazaruy (Mary), sister of George Mihrgushnasp 116 Helen, St 87 Heliodorus, bishop 111 Heliogabalus 204



Henana of Adiabene 61, 193, 195, 196, 302, 303–304 Henanishoʿ (monk; compiler of the Paradise) 254 Henanishoʿ bar Seroshway, bishop of Hira 63, 175, 257, 343 Henanishoʿ I 184, 194, 219, 325 Henanishoʿ II 142, 334 Heraclius, emperor 170, 178, 199, 321, 323 Herod 75 Hesychius of Jerusalem 66, 254 Hierotheus 264, 311 Hipparchus 101 Hippocrates 233, 234, 235 Hippolytus 58, 64, 264 Hobeish (nephew of Hunayn) 220, 235 Hofsay of Erbil 109 Homer135, 247 Hormizd IV 304 Hormizd, priest of Shustar 107 Hormizd, Rabban 19 Hormizd, son of Khosro 166 Houb (Ahob, Job) of Qatar 63 Houlagou 360 Hunayn ibn Ishaq 176, 214, 220, 231, 232, 234–235, 236, 249, 254, 255, 256, 257, 258, 337, 338 Iamblichus 243 Ibas 139 Ibas, bishop of Edessa 47, 60, 65, 213, 271, 296–297 Ibas, Rabban 299, 300, 309 Ibn Abi Ouseibia (Usaibia) 226, 234, 257 Ibn al-Awam 238 Ibn al-Masibi 17 Ibn Bahlul 235 Ibrahim of Seleucia of Syria 16

Ignatius (friend of Moses bar Kepha) 343 Ignatius II, Jacobite patriarch 357, 359 Ignatius III, patriarch 360 Ignatius of Antioch, Saint 13, 140, 263 Ignatius of Malatya 170 Immanuel, bishop of Beth Garmai 179 Irenaeus (of Lyons) 264 Irenaeus of Tyre 139, 297 Isaac (disciple of St Ephrem) 54 Isaac (Patriarch) 22, 91, 137 Isaac of Amid 293 Isaac of Antioch 11, 12, 195, 289, 293–294, 347 Isaac of Edessa (5th c.) 293 Isaac of Edessa (6th c.) 293 Isaac of Nineveh 189–190, 193–195, 196, 294 Isaac Sciadrensis 253 Isaac the Doctor 11 Isaac, bishop of Beth Slok 103 Isaiah (bar Hadabo) of Arzon 103 Isaiah of Scetis 200 Isaiah of the School of Seleucia 302 Isaiah the Ascetic 130, 161 Ishaq bar Hunayn 220, 235 Ishoʿ (Jesu) bar Ali 256, 338 Ishoʿ (Jesu) bar Nun 63, 143, 149, 174, 203, 254, 268, 337, 338–339 Ishoʿ bar Shushan (John X) 148, 347 Ishoʿ Zeka 175–176, 184, 304 Ishoʿ, priest 330 Ishoʿbokht, metropolitan of Persia 147, 149, 220, 241

INDEX OF NAMES Ishoʿdad (of Merv), bishop of Haditha 23, 34, 46, 54, 58, 60, 61–62, 63, 340 Ishoʿdnah, bishop of Basra 175, 177, 191, 192, 193, 194–196, 199, 219, 335 Ishoʿsabran 116, 324 Ishoʿyahb bar Ezechiel, patriarch 346 Ishoʿyahb bar Malkon 251, 252, 348 Ishoʿyahb I (of Arzun) 135, 304 Ishoʿyahb II, patriarch 62, 199, 323 Ishoʿyahb III, patriarch (of Adiabene) 15, 61, 116, 177– 178, 184, 323, 325 Ishoʿyahb, brother of Ishoʿyahb of Adiabene 324 Ishoʿyahb, monk 185 Isocrates 228–229, 230 Israel of Alqosh 15, 17 Jacob (administrator of Nisibis) 287 Jacob bar Salibi see Dionysius bar Salibi Jacob bar Shakko see Severus bar Shakko Jacob Baradaeus 129, 246, 313, 314–315, 316, 317 Jacob Intercisus 115 Jacob of Maipherkat (bishop of Tagrit) 357 Jacob of Serug11, 12, 78, 85, 92, 101, 112, 116–117, 120, 121, 127, 160, 217, 271, 278, 305–308, 309, 311, 329 Jacob Philoponus 274 Jacob, bishop of Halat 62 Jacob, St, bishop of Nisibis (d. 338) 125, 188, 286, 303 Jacob, Mar, of Beth Abe 183


Jacob, Mar, of Edessa 21, 24, 48, 49, 50, 55, 56, 58, 73, 74, 121, 146–147, 163, 164, 166, 191, 209–210, 214, 217, 239–240, 246–247, 248, 249, 250, 252, 266, 272, 274–275, 293, 306, 327–329, 328, 330 Jacob, master of Bar Hebræus 359 Jacob, patrician and martyr 101 Jacob, priest of Erbil 109 Jacob, priest of Tella Shliha 109 Jacob, priest (correspondent of George ca. 714–718) 330 James, St (of Jerusalem) 87 James, bishop of Deirin 142 Januaris Candidatus of Amid 267 Jeremiah, prophet 72 Jerome, St 123, 277 Jesu- see IshoʿJesus (“Our Lord”) 8, 15, 81– 85, 86, 90, 92, 93, 94 Jesus Bar Ali 233–234 Job the Persian, Mar 184 John (contemporary of patriarch Denha) 181 John (colleague of Abraham at the School of Nisibis) 61 John bar Abgar 147 John bar Aphtonia 55, 217, 274, 313 John bar Cursus (of Tella) 129, 145, 306, 313 John bar John (Serapion), physician 338 John bar Khaldoun 15, 182 John bar Khamis 250 John bar Madani 228 John bar Maswai 234, 337, 338, 339 John bar Penkaye (Saba) 197– 198, 354



John bar Serapion 235, 337, 338 John bar Shushan 293 John bar Zobi 63, 174, 246, 249, 251–252, 255, 349, 356 John Chrysostom, St 56, 65, 123–124, 276, 303 John Grammaticus 269, 274 John I of Antioch, patriarch 327 John Maron 57, 331, 346 John of Apamea 194, 269 John of Asia 119, 128–129, 154, 156–161, 168, 305, 312, 315, 316 John of Beth Garmai 176, 184– 185, 324 John of Beth Rabban 301 John of Callinice 335 John of Damascus 133 John of Dara 166–167, 272, 341 John of Dasen325 John of Daylam 334 John of Ephesus see John of Asia John of Harran, Mardin, etc. (Mesopotamia), bishop 347, 351 John of Kaisoum 170 John of Lycopolis 269 John of Mosul 354, 355 John Philoponus 51, 212, 213, 219, 273 John Psaltes 120 John the Garameen 297 John the monk (disciple of Abraham of Kashkar)183, 184–185, 193 John the Scholastic of Scythopolis 272 John the Stylite 170, 249, 329, 330 John V 174

John X, patriarch of the Jacobites see Ishoʿ bar Shushan John, abbot of Eusebius 55 John, bishop of Erbil 109 John, bishop of Jerusalem 270 John, bishop of Mayouma 131 John, Mar, of Beth Dalyatha 194, 197 John, master of Stephen bar Sudaili 311 John, patriarch of the East see John bar Abgar John, St 38 John, superior at the convent of Beth Aphtonia 131, 313 Jonah, periodeut 217 Joseph (biblical patriarch)290, 300 Joseph (monk) 145, 269 Joseph Acurensis 253 Joseph bar Malkon see Ishoʿyahb bar Malkon Joseph Hazzaya 125, 177, 194–196, 304 Joseph of Ahwaz 47, 245, 248, 254, 273, 301, 303 Joseph of Beth Koke, Rabban 184 Joseph of Diarbekir 139–140 Josephus 68, 87, 168, 208 Joseph, disciple of Narsai of Shahrgard 109 Joseph, patriarch (5th century) 142, 303 Joseph, priest (Persia) 113 Joshua the Stylite 85, 154, 169 Jovian, emperor 112, 155 Judah Harizi 17 Judas (Iscariot) 91 Judas Thomas 7 Julian of Halicarnassus 273 Julian the Apostate 112, 155, 156, 288, 295

INDEX OF NAMES Julian, patriarch of Antioch 146 Julius Africanus 167 Julius Caesar 156 Julius, pope 139, 265 Julius, strategist 99 Justin I117 Justin I, emperor 306, 307, 309, 313, 314 Justin II, emperor 157, 168, 170 Justin Martyr 32, 134, 135, 264 Justinian 120, 170, 302, 316 Kamal al-Din ibn Yunus 356 Kamis bar Qardahe 250, 353, 354 Kam-Ishoʿ, Rabban 184 Kavadh, king 153, 298 Khodawai, Mar 185 Khosro I Anoshirwan 85–86, 115,180, 215, 303, 318 Khosro II Peroz 115, 116, 181, 183, 297, 298, 321, 323 Koumi 213 K(o)utbi 134 Kune, bishop of Edessa 99 Kyrisona of Dara 329 Labubna, son of Senac 91 Lazarus bar Sobto 341, 342 Lazarus of Beth Qandasa 56, 335 Lazarus, martyr 102 Lazarus, physician 169 Leo II of Armenia 352 Leo of Harran 331 Leo, emperor 148, 297 Leo, pope 141 Licinius, consul 99 Livy 155 Lucian of Antioch 27–28 Lucian 228–230 Lulianus, patrician and martyr 101 Lysanias 98 Maʿna, bishop 104


Macarius, deacon 143 Mahdukt 102 Mahomet see Muhammad Mahri, martyr 102 Malchus 129 Malkishoʿ, disciple of Addai 93 Mama, martyr 104 Mamaea, empress 264 Mana Pahlavi 271, 297, 300– 301 Mane of Beth Garmai103–104 Mani 311 Manu (father of Abgar V) 82 Mara bar Serapion 208–209 Mara of Amid 55, 313 Mara of Beth Kardu 298 Mara, archdeacon 115 Maranammeh, bishop of Adiabene 178 Marc of Alexandria, patriarch 336 Marcellinus 65 Marcion 203, 207, 290 Marcos, Mar 125 Marcus bar QiQi (Ignatius) 346, 347 Maremmeh 323 Mari ibn Suleiman 172 Mari of Beth Ardashir 298, 300 Mari the Persian 297 Mari, Mar, disciple of Addai 46, 92–94, 115 Mari, son of Solomon92 Maribas the Chaldean 170 Mark Fakhr ad-Daula 356 Mark Isaurios, Aba 141 Mark, monk 332 Maruth, martyr 102 Marutha, bishop of Maipherkat 104–105, 108, 137, 326 Marutha, metropolitan of Tagrit 55, 326 Mary, Virgin 8, 14, 15



Maryam, nun of Tella Shliha 109 Masoud ibn al-Kass 354 Massardjawihi (Masardjis) 233 Matthew the hermit 183 Maurice, emperor 135, 167 Maximian, emperor 101 Maximus 272 Mazdai78 Mazuræi 233–234 Mekim, Mar 346 Melchizedek 69 Melito, bishop of Sardis 22–23, 133–134, 264 Menander 223, 225 Meshihazeka see Ishoʿ Zeka Mesrop 162 Metaphrastes 287, 288 Methodius 266 Michael Andropoulos 280 Michael the interpreter 63, 216, 220 Michael the Syrian (“the Great”) 71, 82, 131, 163, 167, 169– 171, 175, 204, 273, 291, 336, 340, 342, 350, 351, 352 Michael, bishop of Tinnis270 Michael, disciple of St. Eugene 344 Mihrnarse, martyr 102 Mika, bishop of Lashom (cited by Elias of Nisibis) 175, 297, 301 Mika, doctor 61, 301 Miles, bishop of Susa 107, 108 Mina, chorepiscopus of Persia 142 Mondhir, king of Arabs 117– 119 Moqima, bishop of Beth Lapat 107 Moses bar Kepha 21, 24, 56, 58, 176, 206, 211, 219, 240, 342 Moses of Aggel 43, 70, 318

Moses of Chorene (pseudo-) 162, 204 Moses, doctor 192 Mousa (Sindbân) 280 Mousa ben Ibrahim al-Hadith 235 Muhammad ibn-Tahir 340 Muhammad 185, 278 Musionus, governor of Edessa 99 Mzakhya, martyr 104 Narsai, Mar, of Beth ʿAbe 184 Narsai 9, 11, 12, 14, 15, 47–48, 60, 61, 271, 289, 298, 299– 300, 301 Narsai, bishop of Shahrgard 108 Narsai, king of Persia 88 Narsai, martyr 102 Nashiram, mother of Bardaisan 203 Nathaniel (late 6th c.) 62 Nebuchadnezzar 91 Nestorius 180, 295, 296, 298 Nestorius, Mar, bishop of Beth Nuhadra 196 Nicolas (outliner of Aristotle) 220 Nicomachus 243 Noah 69 Nonnus of Edessa (5th c.) 128, 97 Nonnus of Nisibis, archdeacon 342 Novatius 264 Nuhama, father of Bardaisan 203 Numan ibn al-Mundhir 181, 304 Œcumenicus 66 Olympiodorus, deacon of Alexandria 66 Omar, caliph 195 Orestes (priest of Edessa) 311 Origen 22–23, 27, 44, 58, 207

INDEX OF NAMES Pachomius, St 124 Palladius 122–125, 254, 285, 324 Palut, bishop of Edessa 27, 32–33, 90–91 Pamphylus 290 Papa, bishop 93–94, 303 Papa, patriarch 107 Paphnutius, monk 318 Paphnutius, St, fictitious martyr 122 Paragrus, patrician and martyr 101 Patricius of Edessa 311 Patros (Peter), monk 181 Paul of Aegina 8, 233, 234 Paul of Antioch 129, 246, 329 Paul of Edessa 120, 273, 307 Paul of Nisibis 62, 302 Paul of Samosata 138, 264 Paul the Hermit 124 Paul the Persian 215–216, 303 Paul, abbot 266, 267, 268, 274, 326, 339 Paul, apostle 191 Paul, bishop of Callinice 273– 274, 275, 314 Paul, bishop of Tella Mauzalat 21, 44, 58, 326 Paul, priest of Cilicia 140 Paul, son of Qaqi 298 Paulonas/Paulinas 290 Pelagia, St, of Antioch 128 Pelagius (“Holy Father”) 140 Peter (Simon), Apostle 87, 90 Peter of Callinice 319 Peter the Fuller, patriarch of Antioch 309 Peter the Iberian 130–131 Peter, bishop of Alexandria 140, 265 Pethion, patriarch 63, 175, 332 Pethion, St 114–115


Philagrius 231 Philip, disciple of Addai 93 Philip, disciple of Bardaisan 206 Philotheus 101, 214 Philoxenus bar Sobto see Lazarus bar Sobto Philoxenus of Mabbug 11, 43, 54, 58, 187–189, 191, 305, 307, 309–310, 311, 318 Phocus bar Sergius of Edessa 272 Phocus, emperor 321 Photius 237, 238 Pilate 75 Pinhes 176 Plato 209, 223–224, 228 Plutarch 228–230 Polycarp, bishop of Adrumette 139 Polycarp, chorepiscopus 43, 44 Porphyry 212, 214, 218, 221 Pos(s)I, professor 106, 302 Probus 212, 213 Proclus, bishop of Constantinople 271 Procopius 85–86 Prosdocius 139 Protagoras 224 Protonike 87–88 Psellus 224 Ptolemy 239, 240 Pythagoras209, 223 Qantropos 301 Qardag of Adiabene 109–110 Qazo, martyr 113 Quintus, bishop 139 Quros, priest of Serug 170 Quryaqos (converted Joseph Hazzaya) 196 Quryaqos of Antioch, patriarch 147, 335, 336, 340 Quryaqos of Nisibis, bishop 62 Quryaqos, Mar 315 Qusta ibn Luqa 237



Rabbula, bishop of Edessa 32– 33, 35, 127–128, 145, 146, 160, 208, 262, 271, 295–296, 298, 299, 318 Ram Yeshu (bar Sabroy) 48 Romanus of Kartemin 226, 233, 342 Romanus, patrician and martyr 101 Rufin 122, 123 Saba Pirgushnasp 102, 111 Saba, doctor 50 Sabina, bishop of Beth Lapat 106 Sabinus (=Olbinus) 89 Sabrishoʿ of Nineveh 194 Sabrishoʿ the elder, Rabban 184 Sabrishoʿ I 176, 180–181, 193, 301 Sabrishoʿ IV, patriarch 353 Sabrishoʿ V, patriarch 348 Sabrishoʿ, Rabban 184, 354 Sabroy 48 Sahdona 178, 183, 199, 323, 332 Said bar Sabouni 348 Saliba al-Mansouri 15, 339 Saliba ibn Yohanna of Mosul 172–173, 182 Salib-Zacha 331 Samuel (disciple of Arch. Bar Sauma) 305 Sauma, Rabban 181, 182 Schalita, disciple of St Eugene 125 Shisban 301 Scuthinos 203 Secundus 223, 224 Senorinus Chididatus see Januaris Candidatus of Amid Septimius Severus 90–91, 206 Serapion of Thmuis 266

Serapion the elder see John bar Serapion Serapion, bishop of Antioch 27, 32–33, 90 Serapion, Mar 125 Sergis (George?), bishop of Resafa 118–119 Sergis of Alqosh 19 Sergius bar Elias (=of Reshʿayna?) 237 Sergius Dewada 325 Sergius Grammaticus 274 Sergius of Adiabene 62 Sergius of Reshʿayna 3, 213– 215, 217, 224, 230, 231, 232, 234, 237, 238–239, 245–246, 272, 305, 316, 317 Sergius of Sinjar 327 Sergius, bishop of Amphiator 147 Sergius, brother of John of Dalyatha 197 Sergius, martyr 121 Sergius, monk of Tella 314 Sergius, patriarch of Antioch 129, 315 Sergius, Rabban 184 Severus bar Shakko 212, 221, 241, 243–244, 252, 259, 280, 337, 353, 354, 356 Severus of Antioch 48, 51, 53, 55, 56, 58, 112, 129–131, 141, 249, 263, 269, 273, 274, 275, 306, 309, 314, 317, 329, 331 Severus Sebokht of Nisibis 175, 216, 217, 239, 251, 267, 327, 328, 329 Sextus, philosopher 226 Shabur II 102, 103, 104–114, 189, 286 Shabur I 231 Shabur, bishop of Nicator 103 Shahdost, martyr 108

INDEX OF NAMES Shamona, martyr 97, 99–101 Shams ad-Daula 357 Sharbel, martyr 97–98, 100– 101 Shem 69 Shembayteh, martyr 102 Shoubhalmaran, Mar, metropolitan of Karka of Beth Slok 193 Simeon bar Sabbaʿe 13, 105– 108, 285, 349 Simeon Barkaya 176 Simeon Koubaya 308 Simeon of Beth Garmai 103, 163 Simeon of Karka 176 Simeon of Kashkar 176, 333 Simeon of Shanklawa 105, 174– 175, 349, 355 Simeon of Taibuteh 147, 200, 231, 233 Simeon Seth 280 Simeon the Stylite 126–127, 305 Simeon, abbot of Gabbula 117 Simeon, abbot 65 Simeon, bishop of Beth Arsham 117–120, 129, 162, 168, 297, 298, 300, 312 Simeon, bishop of Hira 116 Simeon, disciple of Mar Yozadak 179 Simeon, Jacobite deacon 175, 345 Simeon, metropolitan of Rev Ardashir 146, 323 Simeon, son of Apollo 126 Sixtus, pope 223, 226, 264 Socrates, historian 13, 155, 161–162, 168 Socrates 209, 222, 228 Solomon, king of Israel 23, 91 Solomon bar Garaph, monk 185 Solomon of Basra 13, 70, 241, 290, 352–353


Solomon of Haditha 176, 197 Sophie, St, fictitious martyr 122 Sophronius of Tella 139, 297 Soterichus, bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia 309 Sozomen 162, 287, 288 Stephen bar Sudaili 273, 307, 311 Stephen of Alexandria 212, 221 Stephen of Rome 264 Stephen, disciple of Jacob Hazzaya 197 Suidas 254 Surin, bishop of Halah and Houlvan 333 Suzanne, virgin 129 Sylvester, St 160 Tad ad-Daula 357 Tarbo, sister of Simeon bar Sabbaʿe 107 Tareh (=Terah) 91 Tatian 31, 32 Taton, martyr 104 Thaddeus (=Addai) 84 Theano 223, 224 Thekla, nun, martyr 104, 109 Themistius 228, 230 Theocritus 224 Theodora, empress 312, 314 Theodore bar Koni (bar Kéwâni) 62, 176, 322 Theodore bar Wahbun 352 Theodore bar Zaraudi 272 Theodore of Merv 62, 214. 215, 302, 317 Theodore of Mopsuestia 8, 24, 26, 46, 47, 63, 65, 213, 270, 271, 295, 296–297, 300, 303 Theodore, bishop of Bostra 314 Theodore, brother of John of Dalyatha 197 Theodore, monk 192, 292



Theodore, priest 232, 238 Theodoret of Cyrus 126, 139, 161–162, 297 Theodoret, Bishop of Edessa35, 66, 126 Theodosius I, emperor 148 Theodosius II (“the Younger”) 104, 168, 295 Theodosius of Alexandria 141, 245, 314, 317 Theodosius of Antinoe 130 Theodosius of Edessa 163, 267, 340 Theodosius of Kartemin see Romanus Theodosius, bishop of Jerusalem 161 Theodosius, patriarch of Antioch 129, 231, 311, 312 Theodosius, Rabban 50 Theophanes 165 Theophilus bar Manu 314 Theophilus of Edessa 99, 176, 247, 280, 335 Theophilus, emperor 167 Theopompus 266 Thidas, Mar 129 Thomas (“Holy Father”) 140 Thomas of Edessa 302, 343 Thomas of Harkel 44, 45, 326 Thomas of Marga 123–125, 145, 176, 177–178, 181, 183, 331, 340, 342 Thomas, apostle 77, 78, 93 Thomas, bishop of Kaphartab 144–145 Thomas, deacon (=Thomas of Harkel?) 248–249 Thomas, Jacobite priest 164 Thomas, sculptor 329 Tiberius Caesar 87, 88 Tiberus 170

Timachus 224 Timothy Aelurus of Alexandria 130, 263, 274 Timothy I, Nestorian patriarch 46, 135, 142–143, 150, 185, 197, 199, 239, 268, 333, 334, 338–339 Timothy II, Nestorian patriarch 356 Timothy of Alexandria 141 Timothy of Karkar 16 Timothy, disciple of Apollinarius 140 Timothy, elder (recipient of Dionysius’ letter) 79, 272 Titus of Bostra 269 Tobit 25 Totila, king of the Ostrogoths 160 Toubana Santa 50 Trajan 98, 100 Valens 126, 288 Valentinian, emperor 148, 150 Valentinus 203–204, 205, 207 Vatican Anonymous, the 218 Veronica, St 86 Vologese of Nisibis 287 Walid, caliph 4 Yaballa I 301 Yahb, Mar, the anchorite 192 Yahbalaha III 180, 181, 354, 355, 356 Yahya ben Masawaih see John bar Maswai Yazdandukt 109 Yazdgird I 104 Yazdgird II 103, 105, 114 Yazdpaneh, martyr 115 Yohannan III 143 Yohannan of Homizd Ardashir 106 Yohannan, bishop of Beth Slok 103

INDEX OF NAMES Yohannan, bishop of Karka of Maishan 106 Yonan, disciple of St Eugene 125 Yonan, martyr 102 Zachariah of Merv 220, 256, 338 Zacharias Rhetor (Scholasticus) 70, 130–131, 159, 161, 316, 317, 318 Zachee, bishop of Tella 315 Zaia of Kurdistan 125


Zebina, martyr 102 Zedekiah 72 Zekaishoʿ see Ishoʿ Zeka Zengi 348, 350 Zeno, emperor 160, 232, 297, 298, 305, 306, 307, 309 Zenobius 290 Zephyrinus, bishop of Rome 90 Zinai, Aba 193 Zoroaster 332 Zosimus 73