The History of Mar Behnam and Sarah tells the story of two siblings who convert to Christianity under the tutelage of Mar Mattai, a monastic leader and wonderworker from the Roman Empire. After the children refuse to worship pagan gods, they are killed by their own father, the Persian king. Strangely, he is identified as Sennacherib the Assyrian, a pre-Christian ruler better known from the biblical Book of Kings. This is not the only chronological oddity with the text. Although Behnam and Sarah is set in the fourth century, during the golden age of martyrdom in the Sasanian Empire, the text was not composed until hundreds of years later. The composition of the narrative about the two martyrs seems to have coincided with the construction of a twelfth-century shrine that was built in their honor by Syrian Orthodox monks on the Nineveh Plain, near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. The beautiful martyrium, which housed intricate relief sculptures and inscriptions in several languages, was an important pilgrimage site for Christians, Muslims, and Yezidis until it was destroyed in 2015.
In this volume of the “Persian Martyr Acts in Syriac” series, Jeanne-Nicole Mellon Saint-Laurent and Kyle Smith provide the first critical edition and English translation of this fascinating martyrdom narrative, a text that was once widely popular among numerous communities throughout the Middle East.
P.H. Poirier & T. Pettipiece. 2018. Biblical and Manichaean citations in Titus of Bostra’s against the Manichaeans: An annotated inventory (Instrumenta Patristica et Mediaevalia 78). Turnhout: Brepols.
This volume is the third and final part of a trilogy devoted to Titus of Bostra’s Against the Manichaeans. The first part, the critical edition of the remains of the Greek text and of the complete Syriac version as well as of the excerpts from the Sacra Parallela attributed to John Damascene, appeared in 2013 as volume 82 in the Series Graeca of the Corpus Christianorum. The second part, a French synoptic translation of the Greek and the Syriac, was published in 2015 as volume 21 in the Corpus Christianorum in Translation series. The main objective of the present inventory is to make available to specialists and all those interested the rich Biblical and Manichaean documentation used by Titus of Bostra in his refutation. With the exception of the Contra Faustum of Augustine, Titus of Bostra’s Against the Manichaeans is indisputably the most extensive Christian refutation of Manichaeism. Titus’ work is also a goldmine of information on the Manichaean doctrine and a valuable source for the history of the text of the Old and New Testament in Greek and Syriac. The fact that the manuscript of the Syriac version is not only very ancient but also precisely dated (to November 411) adds to its value as a witness of the Syriac biblical text.
Müller-Kessler, Christa. 2017. A Trilingual Pharmaceutical Lexical List: Greek – Aramaic – Middle Persian. Le Muséon 130(1–2). 31–69.
This trilingual plant list in Greek, Aramaic, and Middle Persian (Pahlavi) is a late copy in the Aramaic square script from the Cairo Genizah of the ninth or tenth centuries with randomly applied Palestinian vocalisation (T-S K14.22). It is the second example of a trilingual lexical list, containing plant names after Barhebraeus’ plant list in the Menārath Kudhshē. The origin of the Vorlage speaks for Jundishapur as its place of completion, and Syriac used for the Aramaic glosses, since this fragment shows a number of Syriac calques, especially particles, which came in through the translation from one Aramaic dialect into another. This unique text source demonstrates again how closely interlinked Greek, Aramaic, and Middle Iranian were in Late Antiquity, despite the loss of most of the text material from this famous academy of medical studies. What this list makes also so valuable is the application of the grades of the plants’ effect that go back to Galen, as can be found in the remnant Syriac manuscript Mingana Syr. 661.
Amiri Bavandpour, Sajad. 2017. “A Review of Christian Arab sources for the Sasanian Period“, e-Sasanika 19.
This article in Persian reviews all the important Christian Arab sources for the study of Sasanian history. The author studies each of the Syriac and Arabic texts produced by the Christians from the third to the thirteenth century CE which provide important information on the Sasanian Empire.
Butts, Aaron Michael & Gross, Simcha. 2017. The History of the ‘Slave of Christ’: From Jewish Child to Christian Martyr. ( Persian Martyr Acts in Syriac: Text and Translation 6). New Jersey: Gorgias Press LLC .
The first critical editions and English translations of the two Syriac recensions of a fascinating text which narrates the story of a young Jewish child, Asher. After converting to Christianity and taking the name ʿAḇdā da-Mšiḥā (‘slave of Christ’), he is martyred by his father. In a detailed introduction, Butts and Gross challenge the use of this text by previous scholars as evidence for historical interactions between Jews and Christians, reevaluating its purpose and situating the story in its Late Antique Babylonian context.
- Florence Jullien: “Les controverses entre chrétiens en milieu sassanide: un enjeu identitaire” [Polemics between Christians in Sasanian Milieu: an Identity Issue]
In Sasanian milieu, controversies among Christians have a strong identity dimension which explains the important involvement of Syriac communities in theological debates as a means of positioning strategy. The most significant disputes were organized in public at the court of Seleucia- Ctesiphon, in the sixth and early seventh centuries. These controversies were considered as a royal entertainment; but for the Christians, they involved a very real political issue, especially for the East-Syrians and the Syro-Orthodox, with regard to the consequences for the existence of their Churches. Heresiographical representation, using humour and derision, is part of the polemical discourse so as to deconstruct the image of the opponent. In the Syriac world, controversy was above all an affair of the cultural elite, trained in the ecclesiastical milieu to deal with confrontation—and monasticism played an important role in many respects.
- Richard Payne: “Les polémiques syro-orientales contre le zoroastrisme et leurs contextes politiques” [East Syriac Polemics Against Zoroastrianism and Their Political Contexts]
The paper provides an account of the evolution of East Syrian polemics against Zoroastrianism from their fitful origins in late fourth- and early fifth-century hagiography to the more complex works of the late Sasanian era. It argues that the chronological correspondence between the beginning of polemical production and the institutionalization of the Church of the East in the Iranian Empire is not accidental. The shift away from Judaism to Zoroastrianism as the primary polemical concern of ecclesiastical leaders took place just as they were becoming dependent on a Zoroastrian court for patronage. With the rise of the Church of the East, East Syrian secular elites and ecclesiastical leaders could participate in the institutions of a Zoroastrian Empire qua Christians, and polemical texts aimed to define relations between Christians and Zoroastrians in the overarching political context of increasing interreligious collaboration. The early East Syrian representation of Zoroastrianism as a peculiarly Iranian form of Greco- Roman polytheism gave way, by circa 500, to more nuanced accounts of Zoroastrian ritual and cosmology—notably in the Martyrdom of Pethion, Adurohrmazd, and Anahid and the History of Mar Qardagh—that outlined political space, practices, and identities that Christians and Zoroastrians could share. At the same time, the catholicos-patriarch Mar Aba attacked Christians for adopting Zoroastrian practices necessary for the political participation of would-be aristocrats and, in so doing, distinguished ascetic ecclesiastical leaders from secular elites through their wholesale rejection of the Good Religion. Polemics emerge from this paper as instruments for the creation of the boundaries required for workable cooperation between Christians and Zoroastrians, and their development provides an index of Christian assimilation and acculturation from the fourth through early seventh centuries.
This volume presents five vivid tales of Persian Christian martyrs from the fifth century. They provide important historical information on Christian society at this time, revealing its geographical and social divisions. Narseh is an itinerant monk from Bēth Raziqāyē who damages a fire temple that had formerly been a church. Tātāq is a high ranking courtier from Bēth Ḥadyab who abandons his position to become an ascetic. Mār ‘Abdā is a compliant bishop from Ḥuzestān drawn into conflict with the king by his confrontational and defiant priest, Hasho. Set in the Sasanian Empire in the reign of Yazdgird I (399-420 CE), these texts thematize the struggle between the martyrs’ identity as Persian subjects loyal to the king, often in the face of hostility by the Zoroastrian priesthood, and their devotion to their Christian faith.
About the Author:
Geoffrey Herman is a researcher at the Mandel Scholion Interdisciplinary Research Center in the Humanities and Jewish Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He has published extensively on the history of religious life in the Sasanian era.
Dickens, Mark. 2015. Le christianisme syriaque en Asie centrale. In Borbone, Pier Giorgio & Pierre Marsone (eds.), Le christianisme syriaque en Asie centrale et en Chine (Études Syriaques 12), 6–39. Geuthner.
Overview of the history of Christianity in Central Asia from the earliest reference in the works of Bardaisan to allusions in various sources to the final state of Christianity in the Timurid realm.
Issue 26 of the Bulletin of the Asia Institute will be published in December. The information on this issue is not yet available on the journal’s website, but the content has been circulated. We are publishing the table of content based on a request by the journal.
Bulletin of the Asia Institute 26
- Zsuzsanna Gulácsi and Jason BeDuhn, “The Religion of Wirkak and Wiyusi: The Zoroastrian Iconographic Program on a Sogdian Sarcophagus from Sixth-Century X’ian”
- Harry Falk, “’Buddhist’ Metalware from Gandhara”
- Dieter Weber, “Studies in Some Documents from the ‘Pahlavi Archive’”
- Martin Schwartz, “Pahlavi = Adiantum capillus-veneris L.: Ethnobotany, Etymology, and Iranian Cultural History”
- Ofir Haim, “An Early Judeo-Persian Letter Sent from Ghazna to Bāmiyān (Ms. Heb. 4°8333.29)”
- Siam Bhayro, “Sergius of Reš ʿAyna’s Syriac Translations of Galen: Their Scope, Motivation, and Influence”
- David Frendo, “Alexander’s Anti-Persian Rhetoric and the Destruction of the Achaemenid Empire: A Re-examination of the Sources”
- Michele Minardi, “New Data on the Central Monument of Akchakhan-kala”
- Ali Mousavi, ”Shahyar Adle (1944–2015)”
- CANTERA. Vers une édition de la liturgie longue zoroastrienne: Pensées et travaux préliminaires (Skjærvø)
- HILL. Through the Jade Gate—China to Rome. A Study of the Silk Routes 1st to 2nd Centuries CE (Dien)
- BAUMER. The History of Central Asia: The Age of the Silk Roads (Rose)
- WHITFIELD. Life along the Silk Road (Rose)
- FALK, ED. Kushan Histories: Literary Sources and Selected Papers from a Symposium at Berlin, December 5 to 7, 2013 (Bromberg)
- SHAYEGAN. Aspects of History and Epic in Ancient Iran: From Gaumāta to Wahnām (Brosius)
- JULLIEN, ED. Husraw Ier: Reconstructions d’un règne. Sources et documents (Choksy and Dubeansky)
198 + v. pp.
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Wilmshurst, David. 2016. Bar Hebraeus The Ecclesiastical Chronicle (Gorgias Eastern Christian Studies 40). New Jersey. Gorgias Press.
The Ecclesiastical Chronicle of the Syriac Orthodox polymath Bar Hebraeus (†1286), an important Syriac text written in the last quarter of the 13th century, has long been recognised as a key source for the history of the Syriac Orthodox Church and the Church of the East. Bar Hebraeus describes the eventful history of the “Jacobite” and “Nestorian” Churches, as they were then called, from their earliest beginnings down to his own time, against the background of christological controversies, Roman?Persian wars, the Arab Conquest, the Crusades and the 13th-century Mongol invasions. Two continuators bring the story down to the end of the 15th century, shedding valuable light on a relatively obscure period in the history of both Churches. The Ecclesiastical Chronicle was translated into Latin between 1872 and 1877, but has never before been fully translated into English. Gorgias Press is proud to publish the first complete English translation of this influential text, by respected Syriac scholar David Wilmshurst.
This elegant translation of the Ecclesiastical Chronicle captures the flavour of Bar Hebraeus’s style, and is complemented by a facing Syriac text. Wilmshurst also provides a detailed introduction, setting the chronicle in its historical and literary context. His translation is accompanied by five maps, showing the dioceses of the two Churches and the towns, villages and monasteries of Tur ‘Abdin and the Mosul Plain. A helpful bibliography and index are also provided.
David Wilmshurst was educated at Worcester College, Oxford, where he took a first-class BA degree in Classics (1979) and a D Phil degree in Oriental Studies (1998). He has spent much of his life in Hong Kong, and is one of the few modern scholars of the Church of the East who can read Syriac, Arabic and Chinese. He is the author of The Ecclesiastical Organisation of the Church of the East, 1318–1913 (Louvain, 2000), a study of the Christian topography of Iraq and Iran, and The Martyred Church (London, 2011), a general history of the Church of the East. Both books have been warmly praised by leading scholars.
Table of Contents
- Table of Contents (page 5)
- Introduction (page 7)
- Preliminary Remarks (page 7)
- The Career of Bar Hebraeus (page 9)
- The Literary Achievement of Bar Hebraeus (page 12)
- The Chronicle of Bar Hebraeus (page 16)
- The Ecclesiastical Chronicle as Literature (page 19)
- The Ecclesiastical Chronicle as History (page 27)
- Text and Translation (page 41)
- Section One (page 42)
- Section Two (page 350)
- Appendix One: The Patriarchs and Maphrians of the Jacobite Church (page 547)
- Appendix Two: The Patriarchs of the Church of the East (page 551)
- Select Bibliography (page 555)
- Index (page 559)
- Maps (page 589)