From the Edict of Milan to the first Council of Ephesus, AD 313 - 431.

 

Previous period

Date

Description

Sources

June
313 AD

Edict of Milan: Constantinus Augustus and Lucinius Augustus decree freedom of religion and worship. Christianity tolerated by the Roman empire.

[2] Eusebius HE 10.5
[49], p. 234

313 AD

Lucinius Augustus attacks Maximinus Daia and defeats him, whereupon Maximinus commits suicide.

[49], p. 237

313 AD

Eusebius of Caesarea, the church historian became bishop of Caesarea. He (like the other Eusebius of Nicomedia) was Arian in theology; That is to say, he held a lower view of the divinity of Christ than the orthodox position. Arias of Alexandria had expressed his foolishness as follows, “There was a time when Christ was not.”

[39], p. 367

314 AD

Trdat, the Arsacid king of Armenia from AD 298 – 330 was baptized as a Christian by Gregory the Illuminator, (who lived c. AD 240 – 332). This event precipitated a new Armenian church hierarchy independent of the control previously exercised by the Syrian church. Accordingly, under the authority of the church at Caesarea, Gregory was ordained as bishop of Ashtishat in Taron. Gregory's son Aristakes was at the council of Nicea later in AD 325.

[44], pp. 1, 7

August
314 AD

Council of Arles.

[7], p. 37
[49], p. 238

314 AD

Council of Ancyra in Galatia.

[50], p. 278

318 or 319 AD

Earliest dated Christian inscription in Arabia is a Greek inscription at the Marcionite church of Dair 'Ali, situated southeast of Damascus.

[35], p. 54

c. 320 AD

Bishop Sha'ad of Edessa completes the cathedral church started by his predecessor, bishop Qona.

[33], p. 181

321 AD

Sunday declared a public holiday.

[7], p. 40
[49], p. 237

324 AD

Eusebius became (Arian) bishop of Caesarea Maritima

[7], p. 37

324 AD

(Another) Eusebius, (also an Arian) became bishop of Nicomedia, the Imperial capital.

[7], p. 37

323 or 324 AD

Aitalaha (succeeds Sha'ad? and) became bishop of Edessa. He built a cemetery on the eastern side of the church in 'the year before the great Synod at Nicea'. He died in AD 345 or 346. Aitalaha wrote a letter to the Christians in Persia which survives in an Armenian translation. In his letter Aitalaha says several times that his gospel quotations were made from the separate gospels. This comment is very important for the history of the Syriac text used in Edessa. It is the first direct evidence we have that the four gospel format was being used by the clergy in Edessa and it uses the 'separate gospel' terminology we encounter again in the canons of Rabbula, a bishop of Edessa later in the 5th century.

The Chronicle of Edessa [41] via [38], p. 40

324 AD

After a civil war between Constantine and Licinius, Constantine became the sole emperor.

[49], p. 237

325 AD

At this date the patriarchate of Antioch covered a vast area of the east, including Palestine, Phoenicia, Coele Syria, Arabia, Mesopotamia and Cilicia and included the sees of 66 bishops and 10 chorepiscopos, (=rural bishops). This means that Christianity at Edessa was under the control of the bishop of Antioch at this time. It is also worth noting that the Antiochene see is identical with the earlier Palmyrene sphere of power, suggesting why inscriptions in the Palmyrene script have been found in Osrhoene, Mesopotamia, [33], p. 29.

[35], p. 65
[33], p. 29

325 AD, c. 20th May
(636 AG)

Council of Nicaea with 318 bishops in attendance. Constantine arrives, (c. 19th June) burns controversial papers on the fire and begins to impose a rigid orthodoxy on the Christian Church, effectively abolishing the freedom to interpret that had existed until that time, [35]. Constantine smeared all dissidents as enemies of the state and ordered their books to be burned, [35].
The Nicaean creed was published 25th July AD 325 on Constantine's 20th anniversary of rule. The Nicaean creed was produced in Syriac as well as in Greek, because some of the bishops present, like Ya`qob of Nisibis, were native Syriac speakers. I translate a Syriac copy found in [50] which seems to me to preserve the original text of the creed:

'We believe;

In one God. The Father [who] holds all. Maker of heaven and of earth and of all things that are seen and are unseen.

And in one Lord Yeshu`a Christ the Son of God. The only child that was begotten from the Father. He is from the being of the Father. God that [is] from God and Light that [is] from Light, God truly, that [is] from God truly. That He was begotten and He was not made. Son of the being of the Father, that by his hand everything became that is in heaven and in the earth. He that because of us sons of men, and because of our salvation, came down from heaven and he was incarnate and he was a man. And he suffered and he rose on the third day and he ascended to heaven. And he will come to judge the living and the dead.

And in the Spirit of holiness.

To those that say there is [a time] when He was not and before He was begotten, He was not, or He was from nothing, or they say that He is from a person or from another being, or they reckon the Son of God to be changeable and mutable, these the catholic and apostolic church anathematizes.'

Comment: Although the Nicaean creed is trinitarian in structure, it is clear that Yeshu`a is still being proclaimed in the more ancient fashion as a real man, identical with the Creator as well as the Saviour and as someone who, as Paul testified, possesses the full measure of godhead, (Colossians 1v19). Embellishments of this creed added in later councils shift the emphasis towards a more trinitarian position, where the status of Christ is subtly diluted. The Nicaean creed also exhibits a tension between eastern and western culture: that is to say, the Greek philosophical obsession with how Christ's divinity subsists, in tension with the more direct and characteristically eastern assertion that His is God.

[2]
[5], p. 65
[35], p. 66
[41]
[50], p. 22, line 21 ff.

c. 325 AD

Audius, ('Awd) starts a Christian ascetic movement, (the Audiani movement) with enclaves in Chalcis, (Syria) and in Mesopotamia. The movement was a reaction against the intellectual and worldly attitudes of the post Nicaean church.

[35], p. 67

328 AD
=233 in the era of Bostra, (see under 106 AD).

Tomb inscription in Arabic of Mar' al-Qais = King of the Arabs at Namara in Arabia.

[35], p. 50, p97:map

329 AD

End of the see of Papa, bishop of Seleucia-Ctesiphon.

[60], p. 30

333 AD

Eusebius of Caesarea writes his 'Theophania'. This Greek work survives only in Syriac translation.

[38], p. 37

335 AD

Hilarion leaves his desert retreat to preach among Arab nomads in southern Palestine.

[35], p. 101

337 AD

Death of emperor Constantine who was only baptized on his death bed. He was succeeded by Constantius in the East. The empire was governed by eastern and western Caesars after his death. Eastern emperors were Arian and the western, anti-Arian in belief. The east was split again between the Antiochene, (who emphasized the humanity of Christ) and the Alexandrian, (who emphasized His Divinity).

[7], pp. 36, 48 – 49
[60], p. 13

337 AD

Aaron the Ascetic or the Monk, son of Yeni of Serug died at the great age of 118 years. His Syriac biography was written by his disciple Paul. This biography is preserved in only a few MSS; a complete copy dated AD 1197 can be found in BL Add. 12174 number 7, [48] and an imperfect copy dating from about AD 1630 can be found in Mingana Syr 252 A, [46].

[46], volume 1, column 507
[48], volume 3, p. 1124

337 - 338 AD

Died Jaqob of Nisibis, (his remains were later moved from Nisibis to Edessa). According to [58] based upon 'Carmina Nisibene' 1 – 26 by Ephrem of Nisibis, he was succeeded by Babu in AD 338. According to Mar Isho`dena, bishop of Basra who wrote in c. 790 AD, Mar Jacob was responsible for the building of the cathedral church at Nisibis, [77].

[33], p. 173
[41]
[58], p. 30
[77], p. 228

337 - 345 AD

Flourished Aphrahat (also called Aphraates) who lived in Nineveh, (Mosul) in Sassanid Persia where he produced his first ten 'Demonstrations' or homilies based upon, and quoting the Syriac Diatessaron in AD 337, (he gives the date in his text). Aphrahat used Jewish metaphors and seems to have known the Jewish Talmud.

At about this time or slightly later, Ephrem Syrus wrote hymns and a commentary on the whole Syriac bible, (OT and NT) in Nisibis, then controlled by the Romans. Note: The reference from 1885 expresses uncertainty about the exact gospel text quoted by Ephrem and Aphrahat but this was certainly the Diatessaron gospel harmony. Copyists altered some of the authors' quotations towards later versions of the Syriac gospel text. However, enough remains of the Diatessaron to be certain of that source.

[38], p. 42
[32]
Layard
[25]
[33], p. 100

338 AD

Nisibis was (unsuccessfully) besieged by Shabor II of Persia, (the first of three attempts).

[33], p. 111
[58], p. 30

338 AD

Eusebius bishop of Nicomedia moves to Constantinople as the new bishop, (another Eusebius, not the Caesarean).
Athanasius bishop of Alexandria.

[7], p. 37

c. 330 AD

Procopius a native of Aelia (otherwise known as Jerusalem) translated the Greek services for a congregation at Scythopolis, (Palestine II, south of Lake Galilee) into Syriac. Since this report was written by Eusebius of Caesarea, the event must have occurred prior to his death in AD 339. The need for this translation demonstrates that the ordinary people in central Palestine spoke only Syriac at this time.

Eusebius 'Martyrs of Palestine' via [35], p. 79

339 AD

Mar Shimun bar Sabba, succeeded Mar Papa and became catholicos metropolitan of Seleucia and Ctesiphon, the royal cities of Persia.

(Greek historian Sozomen via Patriarch, Shah, and Caliph, pp. 25.)
[50], p. 289 note 3

Good Friday, 339 AD
([7], [50] have the date as 341 AD.)

The persecution under king Shabor II (aided by Jews and Zoroastrian Magi) lasted for forty years, and it was very severe. Massacres took place on Good Friday, AD 339: Mar Shimun or Simon Bar Sabba was arrested at Seleucia, the Court being then at Karka d'Lidan (i.e., Susa) then he was killed with 100 other leaders of the Christian community. Miles bishop of Susa was martyred on 13th November AD 341, [50]. There are detailed Syriac accounts of these events recorded in reference [37]. Over the forty years one source estimates the killing of around 16,000 martyrs, [60]

(Greek historian Sozomen via Patriarch, Shah, and Caliph, pp. 25.) +SOC website.
[7], p152
[37]
[50], pp. 289 note 3, 290 note 1
[60], p. 31

340 AD

Gadiab (Syriac Bishop) and Sabina (Greek Bishop) both of Beth Laphat were martyred by king Shabor II. The dual language bishopric was a feature of Christian communities in Persia at this time and for a long time afterward. (See the synodal record dated AD 424 below.)

[38], p. 31

343 AD
(Year 390 in the era of Antioch)

Was held the council of Gangra.

[50], p. 278 note 4

344 - 345 AD
(AG 656)

Aphrahat also known as Mar Ya`qob the Persian Sage writes a Syriac treatise entitled "An argument of supplication" amongst a further twelve of his Demonstrations (XI to XXII) which were completed in this year. The following year in AD 345, Aphrahat produced his twenty-third and final 'Demonstration' called 'The Cluster'.

[31], p. vii

345 AD

The date of an inscription on an early church building at Umm al-Jamal, (possibly called Thantia in those days). This town was almost completely Christian and was a center of Christianity in the region. The remains of 15 church buildings have been discovered there.

[35], pp. 75-76, 76:note.

345 AD

Probably to save them from persecution, the catholicos of Babylon sent a Christian Armenian merchant banker, Thomas of Kana, (or Thomas of Jerusalem) together with a bishop, deacons and women and children. They arrived at Malankara on the Malabar coast, India in 345 AD.

[7], p. 155 (attested by Indian inscriptions)

345 or 346 AD

Death of Aitalaha bishop of Edessa who was succeeded by Abraham.

[33], p. 182
[38], p. 40
[41]

346 AD

Shabor or Shahpuhr II of Persia besieged Nisibis for the second time, again unsuccessfully.

[33], p. 111
[58], p. 30

c. 349 AD

Nabu, bishop of Nisibis was succeeded by Vologeses who sat until AD 361. This data is from [58] based upon 'Carmina Nisibene' 1 – 26 by Ephrem of Nisibis .

[58], p. 30

350 AD

Shabor or Shahpuhr II of Persia besieged Nisibis for the third time, again unsuccessfully. Ephrem of Nisibis then resident in that city wrote 'Carmina Nisibene' 1 – 3 during these events.

[58], p. 30

350 AD

Asterios a monk, founded a coenobium, (= monastery) in Gindaros, Syria, northeast of Antioch.

[35], pp. 101, 104

350 AD

Birth of Theodore, later bishop of Mopsuestia who wrote many theological books in Greek including a commentary on the Nicene creed, (this text survives in Syriac translation).

[36]

c. 350 AD

The Syriac translator of Eusebius' church history about this time, corrected the Greek version of H.E. 4.29 concerning the Diatessaron gospel harmony to say, “The Diatessaron is the Mehalete (='mixed'), the same that is in the hands of many unto this day.” This information added by the Syriac translator tells us that the Diatessaron was a very common gospel book in Edessa at this time.

Wright's edition of Eusebius' church history in Syriac via [38], p. 37

354 AD

Christians first recorded as celebrating Christmas on 25th December in the calendar of Philocalus.

'The Oxford Companion to the Year'
Ronald Hutton's 'Stations of the Sun'

354 AD

The Parthian (Persian) army invaded Osrhoene under the command of Nohodares.

[33], p. 19

354 AD

The Catholicos of the East consecrated John of Edessa as the third bishop of India.

[60], p. 42

355 or 356 AD

Abraham of Chidon, a recluse became bishop of Edessa.

[41]

357 AD

Hilarion, c. AD 291 - 391 returned to solitude in Egypt and then he travelled and preached in Aramaic in Libya, Sicily and Cyprus. Hilarion's views were different to, and opposed to the Greek ideas of monastic life. See also under 306 AD.

[35], p. 107

358 AD

The Romans created a new province called 'Palestinia Tertia' or 'Salutaris' using territory from southern Arabia and Palestine. The provincial capital was at Elousa.

[35], p. 51, p108:map.

359 AD

The Persians begin to wage war again, [58]. They captured Amida in northern Osrhoene and deported Christian captives back to Persia.

[33], p. 111
[38], p. 29
[58], p. 30

359 AD

Died Eusebius, bishop of Emesa (Homs) in Syria. This Eusebius was a graduate of the School of Edessa.

[35], p. 55

360 AD

Constantius eastern (Arian) Caesar stayed in Edessa and died whilst returning to Rome to oppose the revolt by Julian in November 361 AD. At this time, Abraham of Chidon bishop of Edessa died and he was replaced at the order of Constantius by Barse or Barsai who had previously been bishop of Harran, (see below under AD 361).

[7], p. 49
[33], p. 111
[41]

360 AD

The Persians capture Shigah and deport Christian captives back to Persia. A number of deportations also occurred both earlier, (see under AD 255 and 260) and later, (see AD 362).

[38], p. 29

c. 360 AD

Flourished Gregory Rish-dayra (i.e. the Abbot), also known as Gregory of Cyprus or Gregory the Ihidaiya, (= 'solitary monk'). Mar Isho`dena bishop of Basra wrote c. 790 AD that Mar Gregory was originally a Persian merchant who saw visions and became a monk. He went to the School at Edessa where he received instruction from Mar Moshe. From Edessa he went to Mount Izla where he lived in solitude for many years. Following his period in solitude, he travelled to Cyprus where he became a gardener and wrote a book on the monastic life, before returning to Mount Izla towards the end of his long life where he died, after the death of Mar Awgen, [77]. According to a more tentative and less detailed statement by Wright, Gregory was a monk from Palestine who was sent to Cyprus to be abbot of the Syriac speaking monks on that island, [24]. Also according to Wright, Mar Gregory was a teacher of Epiphanius, who was bishop of Salamis from 367 to 403 AD, [24].

Gregory's memre and his letters to his friend Theodore the monk and some of his other writings can be found preserved in about a dozen London Syriac MSS plus, Mingana Syr 49 L, W, 86 M (13th century), 151 C, 348 D, 605 A, in Vatican Syriac MSS: Vat. Syr. 123 (8th century), Vat. Syr. 629 (12th century) and in Rylands Cod. Syr. 42, (transcribed from a 12th century east Syrian MS found in Kurdistan by A. Mingana in 1905).

According to Vööbus, [38] Old Syriac gospel quotations appear in an edition of Gregory's work by Hausherr, I. 'Gregorii monachi Cyprii - De theoria sancta,' Orientalia Christiana Analecta, tome 110, Rome 1937. The biblical texts used by Gregory have been analyzed by Harris, J. R., 'The biblical text used by Gregory of Cyprus' in Adler, C. and Ember, A. (eds), 'Oriental studies published in commemoration of the fortieth anniversary ... of Paul Haupt as director of the oriental seminary of the John Hopkins University,' Baltimore, 1926 pp. 410 – 424. The Mingana collection's Mss of Gregory's writings have been discussed by Mingana, A. 'A new document on Christian Monachism', in the 'Expositor' 1915, pp. 365 – 378.

[24], p. 42
[38], volume 2, p. 53
[46], volume 1, columns 139ff., 1162
[77], p. 232

AD 361, [58]
(360 or 361 AD in [41])

Vologesh or Vologeses bishop of Nisibis died. He was succeeded by Abraham. This data is from [58] based upon 'Carmina Nisibene' 1 – 26 by Ephrem of Nisibis.

[41]
[58], p. 30

361 AD
November

Julian the Apostate became eastern Caesar. During his reign, Christians were again persecuted.

As a result of this persecution, Mar Matta a native of Amida fled into Persian territory with three others. They became hermits on a mountain situated 20 miles north west of Mosul. Mar Matta formed a nucleus of ascetic life which grew. He thus became the founder of the Syrian Orthodox Monastery of Mar Matta which was eventually built there on the same mountain, [60]. This monastery became an important centre of learning from the sixth century onwards. According to several sources quoted in [60], in the early 13th century, there were over 1000 monks living at Mar Matta.

[7], p. 40
[33], p. 111
[49], p. 239
[60], pp. 14, 71

361 AD

Barse or Barsai became bishop of Edessa. He sat until AD 378. For the circumstances of his election, see above under AD 360.

[38], p. 40

c. 361 AD

Mashtoc, (also known as Mesrop and Mesrob) was born. He was an Armenian ascetic who invented a script for the Armenian language and became the first to write Christian literature in that language.

[44], p. 8

362 AD
March 5th

A dated inscription at 'Anza in the Hawran mountains records how emperor Julian the Apostate tried to revive pagan worship in the Roman empire. (He failed.)

[35], p. 81

362 - 363 AD
(AG 674)

Nisibis was invaded and fell to the Persian king Shabor II. Many people including Ephrem of Nisibis moved to Edessa. Roman Caesar Julian the Apostate leaves Antioch with 65,000 troops to fight the Persians but the Romans were defeated at Ctesiphon and Julian dies in Persia in June 363, (see [41]). Consequently, Mesopotamia became vulnerable to Persian attack. The new emperor Jovian cedes Nisibis and Singara to Persia as the price for rescuing the situation, (i.e. to allow the defeated Romans and anyone else who wanted to, to leave the area ceded to Persia). Reference [38] records that during his attack on Beth Zabhdai, Shapor II took 9,000 captives including a bishop, priests, benay qeyama (= Sons of the Covenant, monks who appear to have lived in the community) and barth qeyama (= Daughters of the Covenant). Reference [33] has the date as AD 350, but this would seem to be an error.

Mar Awgen or Eugene or Eugenius who had been settled near Nisibis since the time of the consecration of Jacob of Edessa, (before AD 325) remained in the new Persian territory near Nisibis throughout the Persian invasion but died shortly afterwards. Awgen was said to have been the first to introduce cenobitic monasticism into Persia from Egypt during the reign of Constantine, [48]. A more detailed account of Mar Awgen's life was written by Mar Isho`dena bishop of Basra in c. 790 AD, [77]. Isho`dena wrote that Mar Awgen was originally a pearl-fisher whose family was from the Island of Clysma (now Suez, or As Suways) in Egypt and that he became a monk at the monastery of Abba Pachomios (whose activities were centred near the Nile, somewhere near Qena in Upper Egypt) before travelling with at least 12 other monks and two of his natural sisters; Thecla and Stratonice (who Isho`dena tells us, later founded convents themselves) to Mount Izla to the north of Nisibis (now Nusaybin in Turkey) where they built the famous Mar Awgen Monastery during the episcopate of Mar Jacob of Nisibis, (that is to say, before 337 AD, see above). According to the Coptic tradition, Abba Pachomios of Egypt was the originator of the cenobitic monastic system who lived from 292 until May 348 AD. He seems to have founded monasteries from about 320 AD onwards, so it is likely that Mar Awgen left Egypt and came to Mount Izla after staying with Abba Pachomios a few years, say between 325 and 335 AD. Furthermore, Mar Isho`dena also records that Shabor II king of Persia went to visit Mar Awgen and that Mar Awgen worked several miraculous signs in the king's presence, [77]. This meeting could not have taken place before 363 AD, because until that date Mount Izla was within the Roman empire. All these details allow us to fix the lifespan of Mar Awgen to the period of approximately 290 to 363 AD and the founding of the Mar Awgen Monastery to approximately the decade 325 to 335 AD.

There is an interesting on-line article written by H. H. Mor Ignatius Zakka I. Iwas, who is the current Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East. His holiness describes the development of Syrian asceticism from its birth in the anchorite traditions of voluntary eremitic life practised in Judaism and by the early Christians. The Syrian Orthodox church is understood by the present author to be the only part of the Syriac Christian tradition which still has an active cenobitic ascetic tradition today.

Layard
[28], p. 7
[33], pp. 74-5, 87, 111
[38], p. 30
[41]
[48], volume 3, p. 1129 f.
[77], p. 228

c. 362 AD

Titus was bishop of Bostra in Arabia during Julian's reign, (d. 378 AD). He wrote a treatise against the Manicheans and participated in the Council of Antioch, (see under AD 363).

[35], p. 81

363 AD

Councils of Laodicea and Antioch. At Laodicea, the NT cannon was agreed, (every book was accepted except The Revelation). At Antioch an Arian interpretation of 'homoousiou' = 'same essence' (?) was agreed. (Chabot, [50] estimates the date of the council of Laodicea in Phrygia as AD 365.)

[4], p. 72
[50], p. 278 note 6

363 AD

Mar Tomarsa was elected patriarch of Seleucia Ctesiphon. He sat from AD 363 to 371. During his tenure, Mar `Awd-Isho` established a monastery 3 miles from Hira, the capital of the Lakhmid, Christian-Arab royal dynasty situated to the west of the Euphrates river, south of Babylon.

[35], p. 189

February 364 AD

Valentinian became emperor and Valens his brother became eastern (Arian) Caesar. He reigned until AD 378.

[7], p. 49
[41]

366 or 367 AD

Mar Julian Saba died. According to Philoxenus, in his Syriac letter to Patrick of Edessa, Julian Saba had a disciple called Adelph of Edessa who was the founder of the Messalian ascetic movement, (see reference opposite). The Syriac literature produced by this movement greatly influenced the development of asceticism in Mesopotamia over many centuries. For details of this literature, see below under AD 370 and under Gregory of Nyssa who used Messalian texts as a source for his own ascetic writings.

[41]
Lavenant, R., 'La lettre a Patricius de Philoxène de Mabboug', Patr. Orien. tome 30, fasc. 5, No. 147, Publ. Brepols, Paris 1963, p. 130 f.

367 until 403 AD

Epiphanius was bishop of Salamis or Constantia on the island of Cyprus

[24], p. 42

369 or 370 AD

Bishop Barsai of Edessa added a baptistry to a church building at Edessa.

[33], p. 182
[41]

c. 370 AD

Flourished one Simon of Mesopotamia who was mentioned by the 5th century historian, Theodoret. This man was one of the founders of the Messalian movement. The epithet, Messalian derives from the Syriac verb 'sla' meaning 'to pray'. This epithet was given to the Messalian ascetic movement because it regarded church liturgy and the sacraments as irrelevant to spiritual progress, emphasizing instead a living relationship with God and the achievement of inner purity. In other words, the Messalian movement was an early example of an orthodox Christian ascetic mysticism.

At about this time, Simon composed a very important ascetic work called the 'Epistula Magna' or The Great Letter. The Great Letter comprises fifty treatises and it was a foundational text which influenced the development of asceticism in the East for many centuries. In Syriac manuscripts, The Great Letter was transmitted and quoted by later writers under the names of 'Abba Macarius' or 'Macarius the Egyptian' and hence the author of this work is called 'Pseudo-Macarius'.

Simon is thought to have lived in Mesopotamia rather than in Egypt and he must have lived before the time of Gregory of Nyssa because Gregory adapted Simon's writings and used them in his own works; 'De instituto Christiano' and 'In suam ordinationem', [47]. We also know from Philoxenus' letter to Patrick of Edessa, (see reference opposite) that the Messalian movement began not before the death of Julian Saba in AD 366 or 367, (see above). Also, Kmosko has edited some quotations from Ephrem of Nisibis and Epiphanius of Salamis, see reference opposite. These men both wrote criticizing the Messalian movement. This evidences that Messalian literature must have been in circulation well before Ephrem's death in AD 373. Hence, we can be reasonably confident, and date the composition of the Great Letter to c. AD 370. The Great Letter was translated into Syriac at an early date between c. AD 370 when it was composed and AD 534, the date of the earliest surviving Syriac manuscript copy.

Editions and translations of the original Greek text of the Great Letter are available in many modern languages. A recent English translation with an edition of the Greek text is available edited by Maloney, see reference opposite. Very ancient Syriac and Arabic translations of The Great Letter have also been edited. A very thorough critical edition of the Syriac text has been edited by Werner Strothmann with a German translation, see reference opposite. His edition takes into account many very early MSS, for example; BL Add. 12175 dated AD 534, f. 215a onwards, BL Add. 17166 and 17173 of the 6th century, BL Add. 14612 of the 6th or 7th century, Cod. Vat. Syr. 122 dated AD 769, BL Add. 18814 of the 9th century and BL Add. 17183 of the 10th century, Mingana Syr 330 D, E & F dated around AD 1300 and Cod. Vat. Syr. 121 dated AD 1576. The gospel quotations within the Syriac translation show that an Old Syriac gospel text was familiar to the translator. The Syriac text type is similar to the Sinaitic and Curetonian gospels, i.e. an Old Syriac gospel text translated from the Greek.

[47], volume 3, p. 52 ff.

Lavenant, R., 'La lettre a Patricius de Philoxène de Mabboug', Patr. Orient. tome 30, fasc. 5, No. 147, Publ. Brepols, Paris 1963, p. 130 f.

'Liber Graduum' PS 3, Paris, 1926

Maloney, George A., 'The fifty spiritual homilies ; The great letter / Pseudo-Macarius', Publ. New York, Paulist Press, c1992.

Strothmann, W. 'Die Syrische überlieferung der schriften des Makarios herausgegeben von Werner Strothmann' Publ. Wiesbaden, Harrassowitz, 1981

c. 370 AD

Lucius was (Arian) bishop of Alexandria at this time. He sent 11 Egyptian bishops into exile and is reputed to have killed some of them.

[35], pp. 98 - 99

371 AD

End of the see of Mar Tomarsa, patriarch of Seleucia Ctesiphon.

[35], p. 189

372 AD

Emperor Valens visits Edessa and attempts to kill all non-Arian Christians but is dissuaded because of the large numbers of orthodox confessors. Barsai was bishop of Edessa at this time. During this time he murdered Eusebius bishop metropolitan of Samosata, [48].

[33], pp. 91, 175
[48], volume 3, p. 1127

Valens' reign, probably c 372 AD.

Protogenes of Edessa, (later bishop of Harran) sets up a boys school in Egypt whilst in exile there. This shows a link of learning between Edessa and Egypt at this time.

Theodoret, (see below under 423 AD) 'Ecclesiastical history' - via [33], p. 149

373 AD

An Egyptian monk, Ammonius from Canopus near Alexandria visited Sinai where, "he found many anchorites living there under a superior..". He relates their monastic lifestyle. John Chrysostom also reports the same kind of reclusive monks living in the vicinity of Antioch in Syria.

[35], p. 104

June 373 AD
([25] has 378 AD)

Death of Ephrem of Nisibis. Ephrem wrote a commentary upon the Syriac Diatessaron. Although Ephrem would have grown up with the Diatessaron in Nisibis. Ephrem's approach to the Diatessaron in his commentary is essentially critical; He often compares its readings with 'the Greek' which he considered a more orthodox text. Ephrem produced a vast quantity of Syriac literature, both prose and metrical works.

[7], p. 191
[25]
[33], p. 148
[41]

September 373 AD

The Christians departed from the church in Edessa which was taken over by the Arians. This situation lasted until December AD 377.

[41]

374 AD

The link between the Armenian church leadership and the church of Caesarea was broken and a new link was forged with Constantinople.

[44], p. 7

377 AD

Epiphanius bishop of Salamis on the island of Cyprus from 367 to 403 AD wrote his book called, 'Against Heresies' or 'Panarion' = 'medicine box' in Greek. In this book he refers several times to a gospel or gospels written in Syriac, (which he, and other ancient writers in the west used to call 'Hebrew'): He says, (haer. 29.9.4); that a gospel ‘According to the Ebionites’ was also called, ‘According to Matthew’ and that it was written ‘in Hebrew and with Hebrew letters‘. And again, (haer. 30.3.7, 30.13.2); that it was also called ‘According to the Hebrews’. And again, (haer. 46.1.8-9); ‘It is said the Diatessaron gospel was created by him [Tatian] which some call according to the Hebrews.

Epiphanius' defuse remarks show that he was a little confused himself about the nature of the Diatessaron.

Hill “Diatessaron”, p. 324
[35], p. 67
Petersen “Diatessaron”, pp. 31, 39 – 41
[24], p. 42

377 AD

Constantinople was (unsuccessfully) besieged by invading parties of Goths and Huns.

[35], p. 100

378 AD

Death of emperor Valens.

[33], p. 91

March 378 AD

Barse or Barsai, bishop of Edessa died.

[38], p. 40
[41]

378 AD

Sahak was ordained as the Armenian Catholicos. He sat until AD 438.

[44], p. 8

10th October
378 AD

Martyrdom of `Aqebshma and his companions by Shabor II the Persian king. These were the last martyrs murdered by Shabor II. Vööbus states that the gospel text used in this book of the martyrs, is Old Syriac in character.

Acta Mart. vol. II, p. 393 via [38], p. 42

379 AD

King Shabor II dies in AD 379, the persecutions, for the most part, died with him. Forty years of terror saw more than 16,000 and perhaps as many as 250,000 Christians killed. Shabor II was succeeded by his son Ardesher II.

(Greek historian Sozomen via Patriarch, Shah, and Caliph, pp. 25.)
[22]
[37] p. xi

379 AD

Theodosius the Great became emperor. In the same year; Mar Eulogius became bishop of Edessa and added a new church there. The same year, Aqaq or Acacius became bishop of Aleppo. He sat until his death aged 110 years in AD 436, [50]. This bishop is not to be confused with Acacius, bishop Amid who was his contemporary.

[7], p. 49
[41]
[50], p. 255

379 to 394 AD

Flourished Gregory bishop of Nyssa. Gregory wrote in Greek, but many of his works were translated into Syriac. Gregory wrote a redaction of an earlier Greek work of great importance for the history of Syrian mystic asceticism – the 'Epistula magna'. See further above under c. AD 370.

Date of Gregory: www.copac.ac.uk
[47], volume 3, p. 52 ff.

380 AD

Emperor Theodosius declares one interpretation of Christianity the official religion of the Roman empire.

This event marked a significant hardening in the attitude of the Byzantine state to the existence of various Christian movements and sects in the east.

[7], p. 41.
[35], p. 82

380 or 381 AD

Theodosius the Great rebuilt the city of Resaina in Osrhoene.

[41]

381 AD

Council of Constantinople, with 150 bishops in attendance was held in support of the emperor's edict. The see of Constantinople struggles to become second after Rome in an emerging hierarchy. Present at this council was an important Syriac author, Marutha bishop of Maiperkat or Martyropolis, [50]. He sat until his death a little before AD 420.

[7], p. 39
[35], p. 82
[41]
[50], p. 255 note 2

382 AD

Evagrius Ponticus a prolific writer in Greek abandoned his preaching ministry in Constantinople to become a monk in the Nitrian desert, Egypt. Evagrius was a key thinker in the emerging monasticism and was influenced by the writings of Origen. The Nitrian monastery was then led by Macarius the Great. Evagrius wrote in Greek and was responsible for the Hellenization of the monastic movement in Egypt.

[7], pp. 46, 72.

383 or 384 AD

Shabor III son of Shabor II became king of Persia.

[37] p. xi

384 AD

Pope Damascus instructs his secretary Jerome to revise the Latin OT and NT, to create the Latin Vulgate bible.

[4], p. 72

c. 385 AD

Egeria wrote in her travel diary, "In this province [Palestine] there are some people who know both Greek and Syriac, but others know only one or the other. The bishop may know Syriac, but never uses it. He always speaks in Greek, and has a presbyter beside him who translates the Greek into Syriac, so that everyone can understand what he means. Similarly, the lessons read in church have to be read in Greek, but there is always someone in attendance to translate into Syriac so that the people can understand."

Comment: This record shows that the language of the people of Palestine in general, and Antioch in particular, was still Syriac in the 4th century, just as it had been hundreds of years earlier at the time of Yeshu`a, (Jesus). Egeria's diary shows that there were two integrated, but linguistically distinct Christian groups worshipping in Antioch. We get the same data from earlier inscriptions and other sources, (see under AD 244, 255 and 260). Luke in his description of the church in Jerusalem found in his book of Acts also paints a similar picture. He talks about two linguistically distinct Christian groups; A Hellenistic group who spoke Greek and a Nazarene group who spoke Syriac, (Acts 1v19, 6vv1-6, 24v5).

From 'Egeria's travels' via [35], pp. 79 – 80

385 AD

Theophilus became bishop of Alexandria, (he was the uncle of bishop Cyril). He sat until AD 412.

[5], p. 81

386 AD

Flourished John Chrysostom a presbyter (elder) at Antioch for 12 years. Later he was elected bishop of Constantinople, (see under AD 398 below). John Chrysostom was a very influential and widely read Christian author. He records that the peasants living around Antioch could only understand Syriac. Theodoret also records that Syrian monks knew only Syriac at this time.

John Chrysostom, Homiliae via [35], p. 104n

April
387 AD

Mar Eulogius bishop of Edessa died. He was succeeded by Cyrus.

[41]

388 or 389 AD

Wuharen or Bahram IV son of Shabor III became king of Persia.

[37] p. xii

390 AD

Died Diodorus of Tarsus the leader of a monastic group at Antioch and the teacher of Theodore of Mopsuestia. This man was, and still is revered by the Church of the East as a doctor of the church. Rassam gives the date of his death as AD 407, but this is surely too late, [60].

[35], p. 55
[60], p. 58

c. 390 AD

Died Gregory of Cyprus, see above under AD 360.

[46], volume 1, column 1161

c. 390 AD

A council was convened at Side to oppose the Messalian movement. Present at this council was an important Syriac author, Marutha bishop of Maiperkat or Martyropolis.

[58], p. 34

391 AD
([35], [60] have 392 AD)

Religious intolerance extended: Pagan sacrifice banned throughout the Roman empire and Christianity becomes the official state religion of Rome.

[7], p. 41
[35], p. 102
[60], p. 14

391 AD

Death of Hilarion in Cyprus, see also under 306 and 357 AD. His body was returned to the Negev in Palestine for burial where Hesychius, one of Hilarion's disciples had re-founded the monastic 'laura' begun by Hilarion during his earlier residence. A 'laura' was a collection of ascetics living mostly in solitude and who associated only occasionally. The laura had one monk who was recognized by the others as the superior. The first laura we know about was built up in about 345 - 350 AD by Chariton, a hermit, who lived 8 miles NE of Jerusalem.

A biography of Hilarion was written by Jerome. About this time, Jerome made some very interesting remarks about the Syriac gospel in his Commentary upon Matthew: Mt12v3 and again at Mt23v35: ‘in the gospel which the Nazarenes and the Ebionites use’ [Latin 1] Jerome then says at Mt27v51 that he recently translated this gospel from ‘Hebrew to Greek’ and that many call it the ‘authentic text of Matthew’ and which he cites stating either that they were: ‘in the gospel called According [to] Hebrews’ [Latin 2] or: ‘in the gospel written in the Hebrew manner’ [Latin 3] - which probably means ‘written with Hebrew letters.’

[Latin 1]: ‘In euangelio quo utuntur Nazareni et Hebionitae’.
[Latin 2]: ‘in euangelio quod appellatur secundum Hebraeos’.
[Latin 3]: ‘in euangelio quod scribitur iuxta Hebraeos’

Jerome also comments on Syriac gospels in his 'Commentary upon Isaiah' at Is18, (prologue) that a certain variant reading was found at Lk24v39 ‘in the Hebrew gospel read by the Nazarenes’.

Elsewhere in his work 'Against Pelagius', Jerome expands on what he sometimes meant by the word ‘Hebrew’, he says (JerAdP III.2) ‘in the Chaldaic and Syriac language, but with Hebrew letters’, [Latin 4].

[Latin 4]: ‘Chaldaico quidem Syroque sermone, sed Hebraicis litteris scriptum est’.

Comment: This is the fourth time we read about Nazarenes explicitly in high quality sources, (see Acts 24v5 and under AD 244 and AD 260, as well as by Jerome). A fifth account in the Nestorian Chronicle [42], which on the basis of an inscription, (see under AD 260) certainly concerns the same sect, states that in AD 255, the deported Nazarene Christians spoke Syriac rather than Hebrew. Hence we can identify the Nazarene gospel as a very important and primitive Old Syriac gospel text type which originated from Jerusalem in the first century AD where the Nazarene Christian sect had begun and was then transmitted from Antioch with the Nazarene Christian communities deported to Persia in the third century AD. Of course, the Nazarene Christians encountered by Jerome most likely still lived near his own base in Bethlehem, Palestine.

Again, according to Eusebius, the Christian Ebionite ascetic sect to which both Epiphanius and Jerome also refer had an enclave in the village of Khoba, which he said was situated, 'to the left of Damascus', [49]. The word 'Ebion' is Hebrew rather than Aramaic, it means, 'poor' or 'distressed', (see the definition in Jastrow's dictionary, p. 5 and a possible biblical reference to Jerusalem based 'Ebionites' in Galatians 2v10). The Ebionite sect worshipped on the Sabbath day (Saturday) and according to their detractors, they did not believe in the virgin birth. Essentially they saw Yeshu`a as only the Jewish messiah, they did not believe in His divinity. This sect was most likely still active in southern Syria and northern Palestine in Jerome's day, just as it had been earlier in Epiphanius' day and earlier still in Eusebius' day. A historically significant aspect of the Ebionite ascetic sect was that it held sway outside the cities, in rural areas. We notice that this tendency was shared with other nascent Christian ascetic movements present in the same geographic area of Syria and Palestine at roughly the same time. This raises interesting questions;
1. Was there interplay between the gospel texts used by Ebionites, Nazarenes and the Syriac speaking monks, (like Hilarion and Chariton) who lived in Palestine?
2. If so, over what period could this relationship have existed?

[35], p. 107
[38], p. 19
Petersen “Diatessaron”, pp. 40, 41, 229.4, 257, 258, 276
[42], p. 59
[49], p. 170

392 AD

Theodore who had been a priest at Antioch and who was trained in a monastery near Antioch by Diodore of Tarsus, (see under AD 390) was consecrated as bishop of Mopsuestia in Cilicia. He sat until he died in AD 428. Theodore was a very important Greek speaking theologian whose views were greatly admired in the Syriac speaking churches. After the christological schism of the 5th century AD, Theodore continued to be revered by the Church of the East, also known incorrectly as the Nestorian faction. His works were translated from Greek to Syriac in several stages beginning in his own lifetime.

[52], p. 59
[60], p. 22

August
394 AD

The body of Thomas the Apostle was relocated to Edessa and buried in a great church bearing his name. This was in the days of Mar Cyrus the bishop of Edessa.

[41]

17th January
395 AD

The Roman empire splits East-West after the death of emperor Theodosius I.

[41]

July
395 AD

The Huns invade and devastate Syria during the reigns of emperors Honorius and Arcadius sons of Theodosius I. Mass killing depopulates the area. The Hunnish raids are mentioned in a Syriac poem written by Cyrillona.

[28], p. 8
[33], p. 160
[41]

396 AD

Religious intolerance extended further: The privileges of pagan priests are removed in the Roman empire.

[35], p. 82

July
396 AD

Cyrus, bishop of Edessa died. Within one year he was succeeded by Sylvanus.

[41]

397 AD

Mar Shemuel and Mar Shem`un founded the Syrian Orthodox Convent of Mar Gabriel at Qartamin in the region of Tur `Abdin, [69]. An account of the foundation of this monastery can be found preserved in two MSS; BL Add. 17265 (dating from the 13th century) and in Berlin Sachau 221, (dating from the 16th century). This foundation account was written after AD 797 and contains a number of quotations from very ancient Syriac gospel, [38].

[38], p. 113 ff.
[69], p. 16, note 16

397 AD

Council of Cathage, The Revelation of John became an accepted book in the (Western) NT canon, but not in the East. This book was first translated into Syriac over 100 years later.

[4] p. 72

October
398 AD

Sylvanus, bishop of Edessa died. He was succeeded by Paqida one month later on 23rd November AD 398.

[41]
[50], p. 255 note 5

398 or 399 AD

Mar John Chrysostom became bishop of Constantinople.

Later on, John was deposed partly through the actions of Severianus of Gabala, who lived about this time. Some of the homilies of Severianus survive in Syriac catenae patria and others survive in an old Armenian translation. The text of the gospel quotations in the Armenian seems to have been the Diatessaron of Tatian. Ironically, his homily on the nativity of our Lord survives in Syriac attributed to Chrysostom. Apparently, it was attributed to Severianus by Theodoret, (Eranistes, III, in P.G., LXIII, 308).

[41]
[42], pp. 40, 41, 47

23rd November
398 AD

Paqida succeeded Silvanus and became bishop of Edessa, [50]. Paqida sat until his death on 1st August AD 409.

[50], p. 255 note 5

14th Ab AG 710
= 14th August
399 AD

Yezdegerd I son of Shabor III became the Sassanian emperor of Persia.

[27] part II/2 p. 40
[37] p. xii
Hatch 'Album', p. 171
[50], p. 254 note 2.

August to September
399 AD

King Yezdegerd I of Persia issues a decree of toleration which enables the Christians in Persia to recover strongly from years of severe persecution. This decree must have happened before Ishaq became catholicos and so would have been issued more or less immediately after he took the throne of Persia.

[7], p. 152 – 3.
[37] pp. 518-535, 559-560

c. August
399 AD

Mari tells us that Marutha of Maiperkat assisted during the election of Ishaq of Kashkar as the East Syrian catholicos. This happened within the first year of the reign of Yezdegerd I which began on the 14th August AD 399. Ishaq sat until his death which occurred in AD 411.

[50], p. 254
[53], p. 115

399 AD

Was born Mar Narsai the major Syriac speaking theologian of the Church of the East. This date is according to Barhadbeshabba `Arbaia from his history of the church. According to Barhadbeshabba of Halvan from his, 'Cause of the foundation of the schools', Narsai was born in `Ain Dulba near Ma`alta and Dehok in northern Iraq.

E. P. Siman, 'Narsai..' Cariscript, Paris 1984, pp. 1, 5

c. 400 AD

Marutha bishop of Maiperkat, (who died c. AD 420) was an important Syriac author. Between about AD 400 and 410 he wrote a Syriac history of the martyrs of Persia in which he quotes from an ancient Syriac gospel text which varies from the received text of the Peshita. Marutha's history of the martyrs of Persia has been edited by Paul Bedjan, in volume II of his 'Acta martyrum et sanctorum', Published in Paris 1891, (see [37] main text).

The city of Maiperkat was located in the border area between Syria and Armenia, [53] it was later called Martyropolis.

Marutha was a man of many talents. As well as a Syriac author and a mediator and reformer who assisted Ishaq of Kashkar the Catholicos of the East, Marutha was also a physician and an important political figure. He was appointed as an ambassador by the Byzantine Emperor Arcadius for his successful rapprochement with the Persian ruler Yazdgard I, [53].

[37]
[50], p. 255
[53], p. 115

402 or 403 AD

Flourished the great Greek exegete, Theodore, bishop of Mopsuestia.

[41]

403 AD

Died Flavian Patriarch of Antioch. He was succeeded by Porphyrius who sat until AD 413.

[50], p. 255

403 AD

A council was convened at Constantinople where the future of John Chrysostom bishop of Constantinople was threatened. Present at this council was an important Syriac author, Marutha bishop of Maiperkat or Martyropolis.

[58], p. 34

403 or 404 AD

`Absamia Qashisha (i.e. `Absamia the church elder) was the son of a sister of Ephrem of Nisibis. he composed some midrashe (i.e. hymns) and other discourses concerning the Hun's invasion of the Roman territory.

[41]

404 AD

Died John Chrysostom, bishop of Constantinople.

[60], p. 58

c. 404 AD
(400 – 410 AD)

In Edessa around AD 404 or 405 the Syrian professor Daniel co-operated with the Armenian ascetic and scholar Mashtoc` who was sponsored by Sahak the Armenian catholicos (AD 378 – 438) to invent a new script and translate the bible into Armenian for the first time. A life of Mashtoc` was written by his disciple Koriwn. Mashtoc` seems to have been aided in the work of translation by two other disciples of his; Eznik of Kolb and Hovsep.

At about this time the Persian school in Edessa was founded, probably by Qiyore. Another report in [38] mentions that the Georgian version of the gospel was translated in Edessa at the same time.

Syrian Orthodox Church website.
[33], p. 150
[38], pp. 47, 144, 151
[44], pp. 8, 13

c. 407 – c. 450 AD

Flourished Eznik of Kolb, or Koghbatsi bishop of Bagrewand. Eznik had been a pupil of Mashtoc` according to the life of Mashtoc` written by Koriwn. Kolb was a village in the Armenian province of Ayrarat. Eznik was a distinguished Armenian theologian and scholar. According to the Armenian historians Koriwn, and T'eodoros K'rt'enawor, (c. AD 600 – 675) and the Armenian textual evidence, the first Armenian New Testament was created from Syriac, not Greek and that a second translation was created after the Council of Ephesus between AD 433 and 436, (which see).

Textual Evidence: T'eodoros says in his 'Apology against Mayragometsi' written in AD 635 that the first Armenian translation from Syriac contained the passage about the 'bloody sweat', (Lk22v43-44). These verses are contained in the Diatessaron, the Curetonian and the Peshiṭta, but are omitted in the Sinaitic Old Syriac and Codex Alexandrinus in Greek. T'eodoros says that the second Armenian translation made from a Byzantine text did not include these verses. Therefore, the source of these verses is unlikely to be either Alexandria or Constantinople. Instead, these verses are found in Syriac, in the Old Latins and Codex Bezae, and so originate from the Syro-Latin (or 'western') text of the gospels. This result is typical of many other textual variants found in the Armenian, (for example see [43], p. 20) . Thus, the textual evidence suggests that the first Armenian translation was indeed made from a Syriac text, not a Greek text.

The historian Koriwn also says that between AD 407 and 412 Eznik and a colleague called Hovsep were sent to Edessa 'for the purpose of translating and writing down the holy books from Syriac into Armenian'. Thus, Eznik was one of the Armenians directly involved in the first translation of Syriac works into Armenian and perhaps the New Testament also, (although this exceeds the evidence just quoted). As well as translating, Eznik also wrote in his native Armenian. One of his original Armenian theological works was called, 'A treatise on God'.

[43], pp. 14, 16, 19, 20
[44], pp. 8, 9, 12

408 AD

Theodosius II became the Byzantine emperor. He reigned until AD 450.

[50], p. 276

1st August
409 AD

Paqida bishop of Edessa died, [41], [50] and he was succeeded by Diogenes, [41].

[41]
[50], p. 255

January
411 AD

East Syrian catholicos Ishaq of Kashkar held the very first East Syrian synod in Seleucia Ctesiphon, the capital city of Persia. This occurred in the month 'Later Kanun' = January in the eleventh year of the reign of Yezdegerd I, king of Persia which ended 31st July AD 411. Mentioned during this synod was the East Syrian Acacius, bishop of Amid, not to be confused with his contemporary, Acacius bishop of Alleppo. I translate the only NT quotation cited in this synod which was quoted from an Old Syriac copy of Philippians 2v3, 'With honour a man will reckon his companion as better than him', [50], p. 29, line 18, (cf. the Peshiṭta: 'Each man shall reckon his companion as better than him.').

Present at this council was Marutha bishop of Maiperkat or Martyropolis, [58].

[50], pp. 254, 257
[58], p. 34

January 411 AD to 31st July 411 AD

Died East Syrian catholicos Ishaq of Kashkar. He was succeeded by Ahai. Ishaq died after the synod, but within the same 11th year of the reign of Yezdegerd I, king of Persia.

[50], p. 254 note 1

411 AD

A manuscript from Edessa dated 411 AD (the earliest dated manuscript in Syriac) was written. It contains the Syriac version of Eusebius' history of the Church, the Clementine Recognitiones and a work by Titus of Bostra. According to [38] the 'Recognitiones' contains scripture readings in marked agreement with the Peshiṭta, (unlike the underlying Greek text which the translator used which has readings more akin to the Old Syriac). This dated manuscript is itself a copy of an earlier Syriac manuscript. This demonstrates that the Peshiṭta had been in existence for some time by the time our manuscript was copied in AD 411. This manuscript provides us with the earliest evidence for the use of the Peshiṭta New Testament.

Syrian Orthodox Church website.
[33], p. 165
[38], p. 52

411 AD

Died Diogenes bishop of Edessa, [53] and Rabbula became bishop of Edessa in his stead. Rabbula started out as an ally of the see of Antioch, but later changed his allegiance to that of Alexandria, (see under AD 432-435). During his tenure, Rabbula converted the synagogue in Edessa into a church. This very interesting detail from [41] shows that a strong Jewish community had once lived in Edessa.

[38], pp. 46-47, 179-182
[41]
[53], p. 24

412 AD

Cyril, (nephew of Theophilus the previous bishop) became bishop of Alexandria. [41] says this event occurred in AD 409 or 410, and says that the third flood of Edessa happened the following year.

[5], p. 81
[41]

March
413 AD

A third disastrous flood destroys the walls of Edessa and floods the city.

[33], pp. 124, 156
[41]

9th August
415AD to
8th August
416 AD

Mar Yahb-alaha I became catholicos of the east, succeeding Ahai in the 17th year of Yezdegerd I, king of Persia. He sat five years and died c. AD 420.

[50], p. 276

9th August
419 AD to
8th August
420 AD

An East Syrian synod was held by Yahb-alaha I, in the 17th year of the reign of Yezdegerd I, king of Persia and in the fifth year of catholicos Yahb-alaha.

[50], p. 276

August
420 AD, [50]

Died the Persian king Yezdegerd I. He was succeeded by his son Wurharen or Bahram V. There was a severe persecution of Christians at the end of Bahram's reign. Many Christians fled from Persia into Roman territory at that time, (see below).

[27], part II/2 p. 40
[35], p. 109
[37] pp. xii, 535-539
Hatch 'Album', p. 177
[50], pp. 276, 285

9th August
AD 419 to
8th August
AD 420

Died Mar Yahb-alaha I catholicos of the east. He was briefly succeeded by Ma`na, but Ma`na died before September AD 420. There then followed a period of uncertainty as the new Persian king tried to impose his nominee Marabokt or Pharabokt as catholicos of the east. This period lasted until the election of catholicos Dadisho` in AD 422.

[50], pp. 276, 286 note 2

c. 420 AD

Or a little before, died Marutha bishop of Maiperkat or Martyropolis. Marutha was a mediator between the churches in the Persian empire with those in the Byzantine west. His death began the isolation of the eastern churches who rapidly went their own way, [58]. This separation was exacerbated by frequent wars between the Byzantine and Persian empires. Further impetus was given to the separation of the eastern churches by the doctrinal decisions made at the Council of Ephesus in September AD 431, (which see).

Therefore, this date marks a very important break point between the history of the Syriac gospel texts used in the Syriac speaking areas of the Byzantine and Persian empires. At this date, both sides were using similar Old Syriac gospel texts of various kinds. However, the looming attempts by Rabbula and Theodoret to suppress the Diatessaron in the west, will have had little or no effect in the east due to the imperial wars which broke out in AD 421. Similarly, the Catholic Councils of AD 431, 449 and 451 which exerted a very strong Hellenizing influence upon the Syriac gospel texts used in the western areas, had no effect whatever on the Syriac gospel texts used by the churches in Persia. This historical scenario created a textual time-capsule for the Syriac gospel in Persian territory. This period of isolation lasted for centuries and it ended only gradually. After AD 420, the first significant contact occurred in c. AD 550 when the scholarly Catholicos, Mar Abha I visited the west and began to revise the scriptures, including the NT. However, for political reasons, the influence of western Hellenized gospel texts in eastern areas was limited until after the Islamic conquests of Persia and Syria between AD 642 and 645.

[50], p. 255 note 2
[58], p. 34

420 or 421 AD

The monk Eutychius arose who denied the incarnation.

[41]

420 or 421 AD

Jacob of Beth Laphat in Persia, also called 'Jacob the mutilated' was murdered by Bahram V, king of Persia. Jacob was martyred by being cut to pieces.

Hatch 'Album', p. 177

420-438 AD

A severe persecution was instigated by Bahram king of Persia from AD 420-438, in which Simon son of Sabbagheen the bishop in AD 429, Bar Baashameen the bishop, Mar Behnam and his sister Sarah and the 40 cavalries, Yahanna son of Najjareen, St. James Muqatta and Mar Ahodemeh were all martyred.

[22]

421 AD

War between the Roman emperor Theodosius II and the Persian ruler Bahram V. Peace was re-established in 422 AD.

[35], p. 109

421 AD

Died Ya`qob the recluse of Salah in Tur `Abdin, [48]. Ya`qob's Syriac biography is preserved in only a few manuscripts; BL Add. 12174 number 71, [48] a fragment can also be found in Add. 14732 folio 1a and another copy in Mingana Syr 252 E. Both Mingana and Wright say that Ya`qob flourished at the time of Julian the Apostate which would date this part of the narrative to about AD 362.

[46], volume 1, p. 508
[48], volume 3, p. 1135

Between
420 and 422 AD

Dadisho` became east Syrian catholicos. According to Eliya who became metropolitan of Nisibis in AD 1008, Dadisho` sat for 35 years and died in AD 457.

[50], p. 286 note 2

423 AD
(Vööbus gives the date as 425)

Theodoret became (non-Arian) bishop of Cyrrhus on the Euphrates in upper Syria in AD 423 and he sat until AD 450. During his episcopacy, he sought out and found more than 200 copies of the Diatessaron, which he 'collected and put away, and introduced instead of them the Gospels of the four evangelists'. He also wrote a history of the church, which has survived, (see under 440 AD).

Theodoret tells us indirectly, that more than 200 copies of the Diatessaron were in use in his diocese at this time.

Now, during the first Council of Ephesus in AD 431 (i.e. only eight years after this date) we know that there were about 34 Syriac bishoprics. Thus, by simple multiplication we can estimate that within these Syriac speaking areas, at the very least, there were 6,800 copies of the Diatessaron in circulation around AD 423. This estimate is likely to be on the low side. It does not allow for the fact that copies kept further east, outside Roman territory would not have been destroyed beforehand as they may have been in Cyrrhus. Also, the estimate does not take into account copies owned by thousands of Syrian monks scattered all over the orient. However, this estimate does provide some quantitative idea of the popularity and dissemination of the Diatessaron single gospel text-type at about this time.

Secondly, how did all these Diatessarons get into the hands of Theodoret's parishoners in the first place? We get a clue from Theodoret's and Rabbula's actions. They considered the single gospel type, old hat. We can easily imagine that the clerics wanted to use the Greek four gospel format which they had begun to use much earlier in around AD 325. But, even though the clerics considered the Diatessaron obsolete, there were still many copies in circulation. The sheer numbers of Diatessaron codices extant around 423 AD indicate that there was an earlier time when the Diatessaron was used by the clerics also. This impression is born out by the number of Diatessaron gospel quotations still to be found within the traditional liturgical books of all the Syriac churches.

Thirdly, the evidence from Rabbula and Theodoret demonstrates that the Syrian clergy began to actively collect and destroy copies of the Diatessaron at this time. This suppression was a milestone in the history of the Syriac gospel text.

[35], p. 98:note
[38], p. 41
[42], p. 60

5th cent.

Isaac of Antioch described the horrific paganism practised in Beth Hur near Nisibis, (this included the sacrifice of virgins).

[29], p. 109

423 - 436 AD

Rabbula, who was bishop of Edessa from 411 AD to 435 AD (d. 436 AD) instructed his priests to 'Take care that in all the churches the four 'separated' gospels should be available and read.' This episcopal canon refers to the gospels as Euangelion daMepharreshe or 'the separated gospels'.

Generally at this time we see that the four gospel type was the rule in early Syrian Orthodox ecclesiastical circles. The Diatessaron, or single gospel type, is not even mentioned. Even so, judging by the writings of the clerics from this period and our two surviving manuscripts, many readings from the Diatessaron were preserved within the Old Syriac separate gospels. There is no evidence that any attempts were made to remove these older readings until much later.

Mentioned in an auction catalogue of Wm. H. Robinson Ltd, London (1934?) found in [20].
[33], p. 165
[42], p. 60

August
424 AD

Mar Dadisho` catholicos of the east, held a synod at 'Markabta of the Arabs', [50] which according to Rassam was also known as Al-Hira, [60]. At this synod, the East Syrians became administratively independent from the patriarchate of Antioch whilst they continued in the Antiochene theological tradition, [60].

Chabot, [50] took the trouble to account for all the bishops mentioned in this synodal record and he notices that a number of cities were represented by two bishops each. Based on other evidence uncovered here, (see under AD 244, 255, 260, 340 above) two bishops were required in certain places in Persia because there were two parallel Christian communities deported there by the Persian kings from Syria in the third century AD; One group spoke Greek where the services were in Greek, and another group spoke Syriac, where the services were in Syriac. At this synod, the diocese in Persia which had two parallel Christian communities served by two different bishops were; Beth Laphat, Shushterin, Pherat, Rima and Nehargour. These Christian exilic communities in Persia seem to have preserved the social structures they had when they left Syria in the third century AD.

[50], pp. 285, 617, 618 note 1
[60], pp. 43, 64

428 AD

Emperor Theodosius II appointed Nestorius, a monk from Antioch, to be the Patriarch of Constantinople. Nestorius added another twist to the christological tangle, maintaining that Mary was the 'bearer of Christ', not the 'bearer of God'.

Whilst western theologians were arguing about the nature of the divinity of Yeshu`a, several important factions within the Antiochene tradition were busy arguing about the nature of his humanity. One Antiochene faction thought that the whole nature of Yeshu`a was from heaven and that the virgin Mary merely bore him; Hence the virgin Mary was described as 'Theotokos' or the 'God bearer'. This faction later became known as the Syrian Orthodox faith. Another Antiochene faction believed that the humanity of Yeshu`a was from the virgin Mary and that the divinity of Yeshu`a was from heaven; Hence the virgin Mary was described as 'Christotokos' or the 'bearer of Christ'. Later, the faction believing in this two-nature christology became known as the Church of the East.

[7], p. 50

428 AD

Death of Theodore, bishop of Mopsuestia. Theodore wrote many commentaries on the NT, fragments of which survive in Greek and in Syriac translation. For this reason, in Syriac writings he is often called 'The Interpreter'. He also wrote a commentary on the Nicene creed which survives in Syriac. Theodore's Antiochene theology was highly influential during his own lifetime and it remains the ideological foundation of the Church of the East today.

[36]
[52], p. 59

428 AD

Ended the Arsacid dynasty of Armenian kings.

[44], p. 4

428 or 429 AD

Flourished Andrew bishop of Samosata. (See also under AD 432.)

The following year, either AD 429 or 430, the same source says that 'dust fell from heaven'.

[41]

Before the winter of 431 AD

The Greek works written by Diodorus of Tarsus and Theodore of Mopsuestia were translated into Syriac by one of the schools at Edessa before 435 AD, [33]. There is another record cited in [38] that Rabbula burnt the writings of Theodore of Mopsuestia. This must have happened after Rabbula switched sides from Antioch to Alexandria in the winter of AD 431, so the translations of Theodore and Diodore into Syriac must have existed before then, probably during the lifetime of Theodore, who died in AD 428. Another record in [38] again, states that Theodore was translated into Syriac by Qiyore or Kiyoré, the director of the theological school at Edessa who died in AD 437.

According to Barhadbashaba, 'Foundation of the schools' Qiyore was responsible for the translation of Theodore's works into Syriac and the same source says he died in AD 437, [38], p. 81 and [47].

[33], p. 166
[38], pp. 48, 81
[47] volume 3, p. 434

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