From the first Council of Ephesus to the martyrdom of Philoxenus, AD 431 – 523.


Previous period




September 431 AD
(AG 742)

The first council of Ephesus, (also called the third ecumenical council).

Background: 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.

Nestorius patriarch of Constantinople was condemned as a heretic by Cyril, bishop of Alexandria and around 200 bishops, (including the bishop of Rome). They condemned Nestorius in absentia, (they did not listen to his defence because they did not wait for him to arrive!). Cyril also had his doctrine declaring Mary as 'Theotokos' or 'God-bearer' affirmed at the same time. After the Council of Ephesus the East Syrians separated themselves. The East Syrians, whilst they accepted the Nicaean Council and the creed continued in the Antiochene tradition they had inherited from Apostolic times, [7]. Even though the East Syrians continued in the Antiochene tradition, they remained administratively separated from Antioch, see under AD 424, [60]. Another reason for the separation of the East Syrian church at this time was political. The Christians in Persia were being severely persecuted because the kings of Persia suspected that the Christians were in league with their Byzantine enemies.

In a rival council attended by 34 bishops Cyril, bishop of Alexandria was condemned for propagating the errors of Apollinarius. The attack on Cyril was by Antiochene party led by John, Patriarch of Antioch. At this time, Rabbula bishop of Edessa was in the Antiochene party and he signed two letters denouncing Cyril, [38].

[7], pp. 50 – 51, 59
[38], volume 1, p. 67
[38], volume 2, p. 8
[60], p. 64

Winter 431 – 432 AD

Bishop Rabbula of Edessa switched his allegiance from Antioch to Alexandria and befriended Cyril, bishop of Alexandria; The was the same person that he and his colleagues from Antioch had condemned at the council of Ephesus a few months before in September AD 431. He became a close friend of Cyril and a vociferous opponent of the East Syrians. We even have documentary evidence that he resorted to persecuting the East Syrians who were living in Edessa.

[38], volume 1, pp. 67-68
[38], volume 2, p. 8

432 – 435 AD

Rabbula used the Old Syriac and not the Peshiṭta. In [38] Vööbus proves this by demonstrating how Rabbula inserted readings known from the Old Syriac Evangelion daMepharreshe four gospels into a translation he made of one of Cyril's Greek letters, where the underlying Greek of Cyril's letter cannot account for the biblical text Rabbula used. All this shows that the Evangelion daMepharreshe was in use by the sees of Antioch and Edessa in AD 431. This clarifies Rabbula's own rule, or canon which states, “Let the presbyters and deacons take care that in all the churches there should be the Evangelion daMepharreshe and it be read.” Vööbus shewed that;
1. The four gospels stipulated by Rabbula were the Old Syriac four gospels, not the Peshiṭta.
2. That Rabbula was suppressing the Diatessaron or 'mixed' gospel during his episcopate, at the same time as Theodoret was doing the same thing, (see under AD 425 above).

[38], pp. 46-47, 67, 69, 179-182

c. AD 432

At this time lived the early East Syrian writer Andrew bishop of Samosata because he wrote a letter to Rabbula, bishop of Edessa which survives, [46], column 1113. This letter was certainly written between AD 431 when Rabbula switched his allegiance from Antioch to Cyril patriarch of Alexandria, and AD 435 when Rabbula died. Rabbula wrote a reply to Andrew, which also survives in a London Syriac MS and Andrew wrote another letter to Alexander bishop of Mabbog dated AD 432, in which he mentions Rabbula's persecution of the East Syrians. Andrew was also denounced in a treatise written by Cyril patriarch of Alexandria, [46], column 639.

[24], p. 48
[46], volume 1, columns 639, 1113

433 to 436 AD

The Armenian historian Koriwn says that a second Armenian translation of the New Testament was created after the Council of Ephesus between AD 433 and 436, but this time the Armenian was translated from Greek text brought from Constantinople to Armenia. This second translation was again sponsored by the Armenian Catholicos Sahak and accomplished by the scholar Eznik of Kolb, (or Koghbatsi) who had previously created the first Armenian edition of the gospels from the Old Syriac, (see under AD 400 – 410). This report by Koriwn is supported by the evidence of a surviving letter written by Eznik from his residence in Constantinople to Mashtoc`. In his letter, Eznik mentions Maximianos who was bishop of Constantinople, (he died in AD 434).

We have some strong circumstantial evidence here.
1. The revision of the Armenian gospel translation using a Byzantine Greek text.
2. The actions of Rabbula bishop of Edessa and those of Theodoret bishop of Cyrrhus to suppress the Diatessaron and promote the four gospel format.

This evidence suggests that the revision of the Armenian gospel and the suppression of the Syriac Diatessaron became imperative following the first council of Ephesus. It shows that the first Council of Ephesus acted as a strong Hellenizing influence on the Oriental churches. So, this council would seem to have been a milestone in the history of the gospel text in both Armenian and in Syriac.

[43], p. 14
[44], p. 15

August 7th 435 AD

Bishop Rabbula of Edessa died. He was succeeded by Hiba (also known as Ibas). Rabbula had switched allegiance from Antioch to Alexandria. However, Hiba was an Antiochene bishop elected by the Antiochene clergy of Edessa. Hiba wrote a letter to Mari the Persian, extracts of which survive in Mingana 69, f. 14a [46], a MS of the 7th century.

Two different anonymous biographies of Rabbula survive from about this time, one in Syriac and another which survives only in Greek translation from an original Syriac work. The one surviving in Syriac, provides us with a few gospel quotations. These quotations were definitely taken from the Peshiṭta. However the other biography preserved only in a Greek translation, contains Old Syriac gospel quotations taken from an Evangelion daMepharreshe.

[33], pp. 93, 183
[7], p. 71
[38], pp. 46, 69, 73
[42], pp. 14, 23 – 25
[46], volume 1, column 175

436 AD

Died Acacius bishop of Aleppo aged 110 years. This bishop is not to be confused with Acacius, bishop of Amid who was his contemporary.

[50], p. 255

437 AD

Died Qiyore or Kioré, the Head of the theological school at Edessa. According to an ancient history of the Syrians written by Barhadbeshabba, Qiyore began translating the works of Theodore of Mopsuestia into Syriac before 431 AD. According to Barhadbeshabba, Qiyore was succeeded as director (Syriac 'Rabban') by Mar Narsai, who was an exceptional poet and a founding father of the Church of the East, [54].

[38], volume 1, p. 81
[38], volume 2, p. 11
[54], p. ix

438 AD

Death of Sahak, Armenian Catholicos

[44], p. 8

438 or 440 AD

Died Barham V, king of Persia. He was succeeded by his son Yasdegerd II.

[37] p. xii
Hatch 'Album', p. 177

c. 440 AD

Theodoret bishop of Cyrrhus wrote his 'Historia Religiosa'.

[35], p. 104:note

443 AD

Church historian Sozomon was writing his church history.

[35], p. 96:note

444 AD

An Armenian church council was held at Shahapivan.

[44], p. 4

444 or 445 AD

Dioscurus became bishop of Alexandria.


448 AD

Massacres of Christians occurred in the year 448, in modern day Kirkuk. The Persian King, Yasdegerd II began persecuting Assyrians (and Armenians, in Azerbaijan) throughout Persia. Ten bishops and 153,000 clergy and laity were murdered.

(Greek historian Sozomen via Patriarch, Shah, and Caliph, pp. 25.) via [14].
[37] p. 559

449 AD

Second Council of Ephesus. The Miaphysite theology of Cyril bishop of Alexandria was approved in a motion proposed by his successor Dioscurus. However, bishops Flavianus of Constantinople, Domnus of Antioch, Irenaeus of Tyre, Hiba of Edessa, Eusebius of Dorylaeum, Daniel of Haran, Sophronius of Tela, and Theodoret of Cyrrhus were all anathematized and deposed! The acts of this synod are preserved in Syriac, (BL. Add. 14530, Mingana Syr 580). This Syriac text contains many gospel quotations which cannot be explained from the Greek original text and can only be explained from the Old Syriac gospel witnesses. Therefore, we have an official Syrian Orthodox church document which shows that an Old Syriac gospel text was the officially sanctioned gospel text in AD 449.

Syrian refugees in Sweden website
[38], p. 76
[7], p. 51
[42], pp. 29 – 44

449 AD

An Armenian church council was held at Artashat. Eznik of Kolb was present at this council in his capacity as bishop of Bagrewand.

[44], pp. 4, 15

449 AD

Barsauma, later East Syrian metropolitan of Nisibis was studying at the Persian school in Edessa.

[50], p. 308 note 1

450 AD

Died the Byzantine emperor, Theodosius II.

[50], p. 276

450 AD

Nonnus became bishop instead of Hiba who had been deposed by the second council of Ephesus. This was a very short episcopate, because after two years in exile, Hiba was reinstated and sat again until his death in AD 457.

[33], p. 95

450 AD

Simon of Arshem lived at this time.


451 AD

The battle of Avarayr was fought between the Persians and the Armenians. The Armenians won.

[44], p. 10

451 AD

Council of Chalcedon. At the start of the Council there were two major christological camps; one broadly Monophysite and the other broadly Diophysite. The Council further confused this situation by generating its own christology, essentially a fudge of the two original views backed by the Byzantine state that neither side going into the council was prepared to accept.

Prior to the council of Chalcedon there were two Syrian christological factions:
1. Some Syrian Christians believe in a broadly Diophysite, 'two-nature doctrine' believing that Jesus had two natures, (human and Divine) in one person. Diophysite beliefs ceased to be tolerated in the Roman empire after the Council of Chalcedon.
2. Dioscurus, bishop of Alexandria espoused the broadly Monophysite position that Jesus was entirely God in one nature, though incarnate, (in-flesh). Dioscurus was also deposed by this council.

The following fudged and self contradictory 'explanation' of a third christology was produced by the Council of Chalcedon: He (Christ) is one and the same Son, perfect in humanity, true Godhead and true manhood, confessed in two natures free of all separateness, inter mixture, confusion, mingling, change and transformation: the difference in natures is in no way abolished due to the unity. On the contrary, the typical characteristics of each nature are preserved and both are united in one person and in one figure (after Karlsson 1991:18).

After the council of Chalcedon, the Syrian orthodox church endured severe persecution from the Chalcedonian Byzantine Caesars for 200 years until the Muslim invasion.

The Armenian bishops decided to build alliances with the Miaphysites of Syria and Egypt and to reject the council of Chalcedon. They accepted instead the outcomes of the first council of Ephesus of AD 431 and the tome of Proclus.

[7], pp. 52, 194
Syrian refugees in Sweden website[22]
[44], p. 11

c. 452 AD

Simeon Stylites (d. AD 460, see below) writes a letter to John Patriarch of Antioch concerning Nestorius, showing that he did not accept the Council of Chalcedon.

CUL Add. 3280, [40], pp. 849 – 850

451 or 452 AD

Flourished Mar Isaac, a composer, an author and an abbot.


452 AD
[33] has 451 AD

Birth of Mar Ya`qob of Serug, the son of a priest. Ya`qob was a learned Syriac writer and poet. He wrote vast quantities of metrical works and around 40 of his letters also survive.

[17], p. 189
[33], p. 170

7th February
457 AD

Leo was proclaimed the Byzantine Roman emperor.

[70], p. 103, note 2

457 AD and
24th July 457 AD

Hormezed III became king of Persia in 457 AD and then Firuz son of Yazdgard II became king of Persia. [50] has that the 27th year of Firuz began on 24th July AD 483. This means that Firuz became king on the 24th July 457. ([37] has AD 457 to 459)

[37] p. xii
Hatch 'Album', p. 177
[50], p. 312 note 3

457 AD

Died Dadisho` catholicos of the east in his 35th year of office.

[50], p. 286 note 2

457 AD

The Byzantine Roman emperor Leo embraced the Chalcedonian creed. The date is given as AG 769 which began in October AD 457, [70]. Given the historical circumstances, this event probably occurred in October AD 457.

[70], p. 103

28th October
457 AD

Death of the Antiochene bishop Hiba (or Ibas) of Edessa, [70] who was succeeded (for a second time) by Nona or Nonnus a Chalcedonian catholic [33], who had been a monk [38]. At about this time there were three schools in Edessa; The Armenian, the Persian and the Syrian schools, [33] [38].

[33], pp. 95, 184
[38], pp. 72, 83, 146
[50], p. 300 note 4
[70], p. 114 note 9

October to December
457 AD

The allies if bishop Hiba were all expelled from the Persian school of Edessa, [54]. Those expelled included several very important founders of the Church of the East; Ma`na, who had translated some of Theodore of Mopsuestia's works, [50] and Diodore of Tarsus' works [70] and Barsauma, who later became metropolitan of Nisibis, [50] and Paul and Mar Narsai who by that time had been the director of the Persian School at Edessa for 20 years, [54]. Also expelled was Theodoret bishop of Qyrrus, [70]. According to the Nestorian Chronicle, this Ma`na became metropolitan of Persia, [70] but there was also another Ma`na who became bishop of Rew-Ardashir and who appears in the records of the synod held by Acacius, catholicos of the east in AD 486, [50]. Paul became bishop of Karka diLedan and is mentioned in a letter by Barsauma, [50]. Narsai went on to establish the School of Nisibis in Persia, (upon a small school founded earlier by Shem`on Gramqaya, [70]) where he became the director. This academy was to become very influential and historically significant. Many important clergymen and scholars of the East Syrian tradition would later receive their education at this school.

According to `Abdisho` Metropolitan of Nisibis, († AD 1318) and reported in the Nestorian Chronicle, [70] and in Siman 1984, Mar Narsai wrote 360 memre (metrical homilies) in Syriac, a liturgy, liturgical hymns, antiphons (called Sughyatha), an exposition of the liturgy and of baptism as well as commentaries on various books of the OT. It appears likely to the present author, that Narsai's liturgical works may be preserved within the East Syrian Hudhra and to a certain extent also, in the Beth Gazza. About 80 of Narsai's 360 memre survive. Forty-seven of these memre and nine Sughyatha were edited by Alphonse Mingana, (1905). Other memre have been edited for example, by Paul Bedjan (1901), Frederick McLeod (1979), Emmanuel Siman (1984), and Judith Frishmann (1992). A biography of Narsai was composed by Barḥadbeshabba`Arbaia. This biography survives in a unique 9th or 10th century East Syrian Ms: London, British Library Orient 6714 described by François Nau, (Nau 1913, p. 494), where Narsai's biography can be found edited and translated into French, (Ibidem pp. 588 – 615). Further helpful bibliographic information about manuscripts and editions of Narsai's works can be found in two guides to Narsai's homilies, one published by William Francis Macomber, (Macomber 1973) and another by Sebastian Brock, (Brock 2009) and in an on-line library.

Mar Narsai had two disciples; Abraham the Expositor who lived a long time and only died in AD 569 and Yohannan, [70]. Abraham was the second director of the School of Nisibis and seems to have been responsible for it's great enlargement in the first half of the 6th century AD and a great many literary works [70], (and see below under AD 496). Yohannan also authored a number of works including a discourse on the death of the Persian king Kusraw Qawad who died on 12th July
531 AD.

[30], p. 20.
[33], p. 166
[42], p. 46
[50], pp. 300 note 4, 308 note 1, 538 note 3
[54], p. ix f.
[70], pp. 104, 114 – 116.

Bedjan, Paul 1901 ‘Liber superiorum seu Historia Monastica auctore Thoma, Episcopa Margensi’ Dicta de Sèvres, Harrassowitz, Lipsiae (Leipzig) & Paris. Two memre on Joseph are edited pp. 519 – 629.

Mingana, Alphonse 1905. ‘Narsai, doctoris Syri, homiliae et carmina’ 2 volumes. Mosul, Iraq.

Nau, François 1913 Patrologia Orientalis 9, 5, pp. 488-631, Paris.

Macomber, William Francis 1973 ‘The manuscripts of the metrical homilies of Narsai’ Orientalia Periodica 1973, vol. 39, pp. 275-306

Siman, Emmanuel Pataq 1984. ‘Narsaï, Cinq homélies sur les paraboles évangéliques’, Cariscript, Paris, p. 2.

Brock, Sebastian Paul 2009. ‘A guide to Narsai's homilies’ Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies, Vol. 12.1, 21-40

460 AD

Bishop Nona of Edessa founds an infirmary for lepers outside the south wall of the city.

[33], p. 148

2nd September
460 AD

Shem`on Estonaya, (Simon Stylites) a Syrian Orthodox ascetic of Qal'at-Sem'an died. His precepts and admonitions were edited by Bedjan from a 6th century manuscript, BL. Add. 14,484. These contain gospel quotations taken from an Old Syriac manuscript [38].

[24], pp. 55 – 56
[38], p. 155
Bedjan, “Acta sanctorum” vol. IV pp. 507ff.

464 AD

Peshiṭta Syriac MS of the Torah dated 464 AD preserved in the British Library - Add. 14,425

Wright, “Catalogue”

465 or 466 AD

Pope Leo built Callinicus in Osrhoene, and named it after himself, 'Leontopolis'.


469 - 473 AD

Ya`qob of Serug studies the scripture at a school in Edessa, (Ya`qob was a Syrian Orthodox Christian and a prolific Syriac author and poet who later became bishop of Serug).

Presumably, Ya`qob went to the Syrian School, rather than the Persian or Armenian schools which existed in Edessa at this time.

[33], p. 170
[42], p. 55

471 AD

Bishop Nona of Edessa was succeeded by bishop Cyrus.

[33], p. 95

471 AD
Layard has AD 474

The Byzantine emperor Leo died and Zeno or Zenon became emperor. He reigned for 17 years, [70]. According to Layard, Zeno reigned until AD 491, but both sources agree that he reigned 17 years.

[70], p. 105

480 AD

Taking advantage of the divided Syrian church, the Persian rulers attacked the Syrian Orthodox Church. In these campaigns hundreds of bishops and priests and thousands of Syrian lay people were massacred, including the catholicos Babaweih. According to the account, Babaweih was crucified, [37], [70].

For Barsauma, East Syrian metropolitan of Nisibis who lived at this time see [37] and below under AD 484.

[37] pp. 631-634
[70], p. 101

481 or 482 AD

During the 25th year of Firuz king of Persia which began on the 24th July AD 481 Baboui the catholicos of the east held a synod in which he outlawed marriage to one's mother or a brother's wife and polygamy.

[70], p. 100

483 AD

The Persians had a treaty obligation to return Edessa to Roman control, but of course they did not. This caused unrest during the reign of Roman emperor Zenon.

[7], p7.

484 AD
(Nisan, 27th year of Firuz, king of Persia)

Barsauma holds a synod of Beth Lapat or Laphat (the Persian Jundishapur) in opposition to Baboui the catholicos of the east. The East Syrian prelates under Barsauma's leadership, blessed the memory of Theodore of Mopsuestia (a theologian who wrote in Greek) and condemned all other doctrines, Monophysite and orthodox, of all churches under Roman rule. It is interesting to note that the same synod legalized the marriage of priests and bishops. Barsauma himself inaugurated this policy by marrying a nun. He missed becoming metropolitan of Persia with the death of his friend King Firuz and the accession of a more moderate King Balash or Walesh, son of Yazdgard on 23rd July AD 484, (he reigned until AD 488) [50]. Balash overlooked Barsauma for the post of catholicos and appointed Aqaq (also known as Acacius) in his stead, (see below).

[37] p. xii
[38], p. 128
[50], pp. 300 notes 1, 3, 5, p. 308 note 1, 475 note 3

23rd July
484 AD

Walesh or Balash son of Yazdgard became king of Persia. He succeeded Peroz or Firuz who had died in this year.

[50], p. 300 note 1, p. 308 note 1
[70], pp. 118, note 2, 122

485 AD
([25] says AD 488)

Petrus Fullo replaced the deposed Calandion as Patriarch of Antioch.

Philoxenus, (also called Xenaias in Greek and Aksanaya = 'Stranger' in Syriac writings) was consecrated bishop of Mabbug (now Membij) by Petrus Fullo patriarch of Antioch. He was born in the village of Tahal in the region of Beth Garmai in Persia. Afterward, his parents moved the family away due to persecution from the pagans and the family then settled in Tur `Abdin where Philoxenus became a monk of great learning and reputation. He went on to teach students in the Monasteries of Qartamin and Tell `Ada [53]. Another less detailed and less reliable book by the same author 12 years earlier says that he studied the scriptures at Edessa, [42]. Philoxenus wrote more than 80 Syriac works which survive today. He wrote with a polished literary style upon gospel topics and often quoted the gospels. We know that he used the separate gospels, because he wrote commentaries on Luke and John. Nevertheless, his gospel quotations show that the separate gospel codex he was using was an Old Syriac codex with some accommodations to the Peshiṭta, but certainly not the Peshiṭta itself. We also discover that his Old Syriac gospels differed significantly from the Curetonian and Sinaitic codices and we observe from his quotations of non-canonical material, that Philoxenus also knew the Diatessaron gospel.

According to tentative statements in [42] he was born around AD 430 and studied at Edessa during the episcopate of Hiba, (AD 435 – 457). However, this chronology may be about 30 years too early, as it would require that Philoxenus was about 93 years old when he was martyred in AD 523.

[42], pp. 45 – 46
[25], p. 167
[28], p. 21
[33], p. 165
[53], p. 51

485 AD

Mar Acacius or Aqaq succeeded Babai or Baboui as catholicos of the east in the month Ab in the second year of Walesh, king of kings = August 485 AD.

[50], p. 531

486 AD

Mar Acacius or Aqaq catholicos of the east held a synod at Seleucia-Ctesiphon in the month Shabat, in the second year of Walesh king of Persia, = February AD 486. This synod was important as the Church of the East formulated it's first Christological creed, [60]. About this time, Acacius was chosen by Balash the king as ambassador to the Byzantine emperor Zeno. Mar Acacius sat until his death in AG 807 = October AD 495 to September AD 496.

[38], p. 128
[50], pp. 300 f., 300 note 3, 301 note 1, 312
[60], pp. xxv, xxx, 36

488 AD

Died Abba Esha`ya also known as Isaiah of Scete. Isaiah of Scete wrote mystical works, including 'The book of the merchant', some of which can be found in a west Syrian MS; Mingana Syr 410 A, dated about AD 1300. Other earlier and important MSS containing works by Isaiah of Scete include; BL Add 12170 dated AD 604 and Cod. Vat. Syr. 122 dated AD 769. An edition may exist in print edited by R. Draguet, CSCO vols 293, 294, dated 1968.

This date for Isaiah of Scete = Abba Esha`ya seems to be very uncertain and far too late. He was quoted by John of Apamea in his 'Treatise on stillness' in the early 5th century and by Dadisho` Qatraya who wrote a commentary upon Abba Esha`ya's asceticon in c. AD 690. Dadisho` says that Esha`ya lived before Cyril bishop of Alexandria, [64] who became bishop in AD 412. This evidences suggest that Abba Esha`ya lived in the second half of the 4th century.

[64], translation p. 94
Date gleaned from:

22nd July
488 AD

Kawad I son of Firuz became king of Persia, [50]. ([50] records that the 4th year of Kawad began on 22nd July AD 491, hence he became king on 22nd July AD 488.)

His brother Zmasuf or Zamasp overthrew him a little later (in AD 496) and reigned 30 years in his place. Then Kawad killed Zamasp and returned to the kingdom.

[37] p. xii
[50], p. 312 note 5

489 AD

Bishop Cyrus persuaded the Byzantine emperor Zeno to order the closure of the Persian School at Edessa, [33].

[33], pp. 95, 166

c. 490 AD

Kawad king of Persia ordered every religion of his empire to prepare a written treatise explaining their beliefs for presentation to himself. The treatise on Christianity was written by Elisha who was then a doctor in the School of Nisibis and a colleague of Mar Narsai. This treatise was translated into Persian by Acacius and presented to Kawad and was preferred by him over the other submissions he received.

[70], pp. 126f.

491 AD

The Byzantine emperor Zeno died and Anastasius succeeded him. Anastasius was more sympathetic to the Syrian Orthodox cause and the teachings of Severus Patriarch of Antioch than Zeno had been.

[33], p. 98
[70], p. 118

494 AD

Pope Galasius officially rejects the authenticity of the correspondence between Abgar and Jesus.

[33], p. 75

496 AD
(544 of the era of Antioch)

Syriac dedication inscription of a church building in Basufan, Syria.

[30], p. 31

20th July
496 AD

Zamasp overthrew his brother Kawad and imprisoned him without killing him and became king of Persia in his place, (see above under AD 488). The second year of Zamasp began on the 20th July AD 497, which means that he became king 20th July AD 496. After 2 years Kawad escaped to the Turks and returned soon afterwards to overthrow his brother as resume his reign.

[50], p. 310, p. 312 note 5
[70], pp. 125 note 5, 127f.

AG 807 =
October AD 495 to
September AD 496

Died Mar Acacius catholicos of the east.

[50], p. 300 note 3

21st October
AD 496

The 22 Syriac statutes of the School of Niibis were enacted on 21st of the month First Tishrin in the year AG 808 and in the 9th year of Kawad king of Persia under the authority of Hoshea metropolitan of Nisibis (Syriac: osh`e), who had succeeded Barsauma in that post, (for which see Assemani 1719, BO III part 2, p. 429).These statutes mention the three doctors and elders of the school; Mar Narsai, Mar Paulos and Mar Abraham the Expositor, (see pp. 55 – 56, 88 – 89) and Mar Yonan the scribe who wrote them down, (p. 60).

According to another ancient history, this Abraham the Expositor might also have been known as Abraham of Beth Rabban. This is suggested by a comment in the ‘Cause of the Foundation of the Schools’ by Barḥadbeshabba, bishop of Holwan which was written about AD 605, (Scher 1908, PO 4, p. 388, line 3). See also under AD 605 below. A biography of Mar Abraham composed by a different slightly earlier author with a similar name, Barḥadbeshabba `Arbaia survives in a unique 9th or 10th century East Syrian Ms: London, British Library Orient 6714 described by François Nau, (Nau 1913, p. 494), where Abraham's biography can be found edited and translated into French, (Ibidem pp. 616 – 631).

The Statutes of the School of Nisibis as edited on the CAL website.
François Nau 1913
Patrologia Orientalis 9, 5, pp. 488-631, Paris.

October to November
(AG 809)
([24] has 498 AD)

Babhai son of Hormizd became East Syrian catholicos and held a synod in November of the second year of the reign of Zamasp, king of Persia, (counted from 20th July AD 496) and in AG 809, [50], p. 311 note 2. This means he took office between October and November AD 497. He sat for 5 years, [24], [50], perhaps not quite until his death in AD 502 or 503 [50] or AD 503, [24]. Babhai was a married man and he remained married after his elevation. He was the secretary of the Marzban of Beyth Aramaye and had been a disciple of Mara of Tahal. After 5 years in office, (or so, see below under AD 505) Babhai was succeeded by Shila, [50]. (NB: When this Aramaic name is found in the Greek NT, it is written as 'Silas') .

[24], p. 80
[50], pp. 310, 311 note 2, 315 note 1

6th June
498 AD

Cyrus bishop of Edessa died. He was succeeded by Peter.


498 AD

Edessa, by then mostly pagan again, is preached to by Philoxenus bishop of Mabbug.

Philoxenus was the author of many very influential and historically important letters which were all written around this time.
Philoxenus corresponded with Patricius or Patrick of Edessa, (see the critical edition cited opposite). This letter has historically important references about the origins of the Messalian movement in the 4th century and it also includes many textually important quotations from an Old Syriac gospel.
Philoxenus wrote to the Monks of Amid, [53]. This letter still lies in the manuscripts; BL Add. 17193, f. 69b, Vatican Syriac 126, f. 392a, Cambridge Add. 2023 f. 237b This letter was so influential it was used as the basis for a monastic rule.
Philoxenus wrote to the Monks of Bet Gogal, [53]. This text can be found in Vatican Syriac 136, f. 53a. Apparently the text is only visible using ultra violet light.

[28], pp. 21-2
Hatch, “Album” p. 158
Lavenant, René s.j. ‘La lettre a Patricius de Philoxène de Mabboug’ Patrologia Orientalis Tome XXX, Fasc. 5, No 147, Publ.: Brepols, Turnhout, Belgium 2003.
[53], p. 52

498 AD

Byzantine emperor Anastasias remits the four-yearly tax normally paid in the empire, including Edessa, then part of the Byzantine empire. This was probably in response to a great earthquake that caused massive devastation and loss of life over a wide area, [41]. A great comet 'like a spear' was also seen form many days during January AD 499.

[28], p. 22

498 AD

After 2 years of imprisonment, Kawad escaped to the Turks and returned to Persia soon afterwards, overthrew his brother and resumed his reign as king of Persia.

[70], p. 127

9 am
2nd June
500 AD

Occurred an eclipse of the sun. According to the Nestorian Chronicle, the earthquake occurred after the eclipse not before, [70].

[70], p. 119

c 500 AD

Lived Mar Narsai, an important East Syrian theologian and writer and John of Bet-Rabban a teacher at the School of Nisibis.

[32], paras 30 - 31

502 AD
([52] has AD 503, but this may be a slight error.)

Died Mar Narsai, the first director of the School of Nisibis. According to the historian Barhadbeshabba, Narsai had been director of the School of Nisibis for 45 years and director of the Persian School at Edessa for 20 years before that. According to the same ancient source, Narsai was succeeded as director of the School of Nisibis by Elisha who held this office for 7 years. He died in AD 509, [70].

[52], p. 59
[54], p. x
[70], p. 127 note 2

5th October 502 AD

Amida was besieged by the Persian king Kawad in a siege lasting 97 days. At least 80,000 citizens of that city were slaughtered when the city fell. ([33] has AD 503 in error.)

[28], p. 38
[33], p. 112

503 AD

Ya`qob, (Later bishop of Serug) is mentioned by Joshua Stylite in his history as follows, 'The honoured Ya`qob, the periodeutes, who has composed many homilies on passages of the scriptures, and written various poems and hymns regarding the time of the locusts, was not neglectful at this time too of his duty, but wrote letters of admonition to all the cities, bidding them trust in the Divine deliverance, and exhorting them not to flee.'

[28], p. 43
[42], p. 54

503 AD

Anastasius the Byzantine Emperor sends three generals to Mesopotamia. Areobindus who encamped at the Persian border near Dara, Patricius and Hypatius who led a counter attack on the Persian garrison at Amid.

[28], p. 44

24th September 503 AD

Edessa is besieged by Kawad king of Persia and was repulsed, but there were severe losses inside the city.
By 505 AD the Byzantines had recaptured Amida from the Persians.

[28], p. 53
[33], pp. 112, 157

July to October
505 AD

Died Babhai catholicos. He was succeeded by Shila.

[50], p. 324 note 1

505 or 506 AD

An synod of the Armenian clergy was held at Dwin (or Dvin) under the Armenian Catholicos Babgen. The Armenian bishops formally rejected both Nestorius and the Council of Chalcedon.

Armenian sources say that the Syrian monks came to this synod and related their sufferings and persecutions at the hands of the East Syrian clergy. This and many other sources from the time, confirm that the East Syrian clergy were persecuting the monks. This persecution was probably because the clergy envied the esteem in which the monks were held by the laity and their reputation for spiritual gifts, particularly healing, (see also under AD 554 below).

[38], pp. 124, 128
[44], p. 11

506 AD

The Byzantines and Persians agree a peace treaty.

[33], p. 112

508 AD

Mar Philoxenus (also known as Aksenaya or Xenaias), Syrian Orthodox theologian and bishop of Mabbûg who had studied theology at the Syrian School in Edessa was responsible for the Philoxenian recension of the ancient Syriac Old Testament and New Testament. The actual work was done by Polycarp a chorepiscopus of the church. Apparently, this version appeared in 507-508 AD. The version was designed as a revision of the Syriac and intended to render the Greek OT and NT more precisely as well as supplying the missing five books (and, perhaps, John 7:53-8:11 also).

Comment: Rather that just adopt the Peshiṭta NT, Philoxenus went to considerable trouble to produce a new Syriac revision of the NT. He probably made this effort because the Peshiṭta Syriac NT was based on a Byzantine (Catholic) Greek text, and therefore it was based on a NT text being pushed by his theological opponents. Very regrettably, no MSS of the Philoxean gospels survives, but this revision would have been based upon an Antiochene gospel text, since the origin of the Syrian Orthodox faith was in Antioch.

[25], p. 167
[33], pp. 95, 98

509 AD

Died Elisha, the second director of the School of Nisibis. He was succeeded by Mar Abraham who was present and mentioned in the Statutes of the School of Nisibis dated AD 496 (see above) and who held this office for sixty years. Abraham was assisted by John of Bet Rabban.

[54], p. ix

510 AD

Peter bishop of Edessa died. He was succeeded by Paul.

[33], p. 96 has AD 501

512 AD

Severus of Antioch became patriarch of Antioch. He was Syrian Orthodox by belief. Soon after this time, the Chalcedonian persecution of the Syrian Orthodox Church became fiercer, (in 518 AD, see below).

[33], p. 96
[7], p. 71

513 - 515 AD

Synod of Tyre. Influenced by Severus of Antioch, the synod rejected the Chalcedonian two-nature view of Jesus Christ and the interpretation of Christianity that went with it.

[35], p. 84

512 - 513 AD
(= 407 of the Bostran era)

A cathedral was completed at Bostra in Roman Arabia, (building work began in 488 AD). The building was dedicated by Archbishop Julian the Chalcedonian adversary of Severus of Antioch. Julian left his see and was quickly replaced by the Syrian Orthodox bishop, Cassian.

[35], p. 77

9th July
518 AD

Death of the Byzantine emperor Anastasias. The new Byzantine emperor Justin started a severe persecution of Syrian Orthodox believers.

[35], p. 78

518 AD

Council of Constantinople. Bishop Severus of Antioch was anathematized and deposed as patriarch of Antioch; he fled to Egypt on 25th September AD 518, [46]. Similarly Philoxenus bishop of Mabbug (the following year) and Cassian bishop of Bostra in Arabia were deposed.

[25], p. 167
[35], pp. 78, 84
[41] which has AD 518 or 519.
[46], volume 1, column 727

November, 519 AD

Early in the sixth century a young Jewish king rose to power in the Kingdom of Himyar (present day Yemen). This king, Yusuf As'ar, began a brutal massacre of the Assyrians who were living in that kingdom. These massacres did not escape the attention of the rest of the Assyrians; the martyrdoms in one town, Najran, where the church was burnt with worshipers inside particularly caught the attention of the public.


519 AD

Mar Ya`qob of Serug was consecrated by Severus and Philoxenus, [70] as bishop of Serug or Batnae. He corresponded with Paul of Edessa and Eutychian of Dara. He wrote many homilies. Including one on the fall of the idols where he condemns the worship of Nabu (the planet Mercury) and Bel (the planet Jupiter) and other idols at Edessa. Ya`qob also says that the pagans practised human sacrifice on a large scale, slaughtering young boys and girls to pagan deities. These homilies show that Ya`qob used the Diatessaron as his gospel text. His use of the Diatessaron must reflect its earlier acceptability at the Syrian School of Edessa which he attended between about AD 469 and AD 473.

[17], p. 189.
[29], p. 108
[33], p. 170
[42], p. 55
[70], p. 121

519 AD

Johannan bar Qursos became Syrian Orthodox bishop of Tella de-Mauselat. a town en route between Edessa and Mardin. This person is also known as John of Tella. Johannan was from a prominent family, a native of Callinicus who, prior to becoming bishop, had been a monk in the Monastery of Mar Zakkai near Callinicus. This man served bravely during a time of acute danger during the persecution of the Emperor Justinian. He was eventually arrested, taken to Antioch and martyred for his faith in AD 538.

[53], p. 55 f.

519 AD

Philoxenus bishop of Mabbug was deposed and exiled by order of the Emperor first to Thracia and then to Gangra in Paphlagonia.

[53], p. 51

519 AD

Paul ar-Rakkah Syrian Orthodox bishop of Callinicus was expelled from his office. Afterward, he travelled to Edessa where he devoted himself to translating the voluminous letters and works of Severus Patriarch of Antioch from Greek into Syriac. This work of scholarship lasted at least from AD 519 to 528 when Paul completed a translation of Severus' correspondence with Julian of Halicarnassus (see for example a copy in CBL MS 709) and a discourse of Severus against Julian. Also likely translated by Paul for the first time were the Homiliae Cathedrales of Severus. Another translation of the Homiliae Cathedrales was made later by Jacob of Edessa who flourished AD 684 – 708. The second translation has been published, but Paul's version is still mostly unpublished and resides in early manuscripts, see opposite. Paul's version of the Homiliae Cathedrales features gospel readings influenced by an Old Syriac gospel text.

[24], p. 94
Vatican Syr. 143 dated AD 563*
BL Add. 14599 dated AD 569**
Vatican Syr. 142 dated AD 576***
Vatican Syr. 256

*See Hatch, 'Album' plate XXV
**Ibid. plate XXIX
***Excerpts have been published by Mar Ignatios Ephrem II Rahmani Patriarch of Antioch, in 'Studia Syriaca' vol. III, Lebanon 1908.

c. 520 AD

The Syriac 'History of Paul the bishop' was written in Edessa. Reference [42] says that it was written in Edessa when the episcopate of Rabbula, (d. AD 435) was a recent memory. The title indicates that the work was written about Syrian Orthodox bishop Paul (who sat April AD 510 – July AD 521 and March until October AD 526). The gospels are quoted in this history from the Old Syriac Evangelion daMepharreshe. The work survives in three MSS, A, B and C of which A has preserved the best text.

[42], p. 27
A: BL. Add. 12160 (6th cent.)
B: BL. Add. 14646 (6th cent.)
C: Paris Syr. 235 (13th cent.)

July 521 AD

In this year, all monks and clergy who would not accept the official Chalcedonian interpretation of Christianity were expelled by the emperor Justin from their churches and monasteries, (they were essentially made penniless and homeless). Death of Mar Ya`qob, bishop of Serug. The list of those banished is very long. Fifty-four bishops were deposed around this time including Severus, patriarch of Antioch, Philoxenus of Mabbug, Peter of Apamea, John of Tella, [53] Julian of Halicarnassus, Mara III of Amid and Isidore of Kenneshrin.

[17], p. 189
[24], pp. 73, 83
[33], p. 170
[35], p. 85
[53], p. 55

27th July
522 AD

Syrian Orthodox bishop Paul of Edessa was deposed by Justin the Emperor and banished to Euchata because he would not accept the council of Chalcedon. On the 23rd of October following Paul's banishment he was replaced by Asclepius as (Chalcedonian catholic) bishop of Edessa.


24th December
522 AD

Asclepius (Chalcedonian catholic) bishop of Edessa doubtless as a Christmas gesture of goodwill, expelled all the monks in the area of Edessa who would not accept the council of Chalcedon.


c. 523 AD

Died Shila, (Silas) catholicos of the east. There was a dispute about the succession between Mar Narsa a scholar from the School of Nisibis, (not the same name as Narsai the famous scholar who lived earlier) and Mar Elisha a physician who were both elected catholicoi of the east in mutual opposition.

[50], pp. 324 note 1, 339 note 3

523 AD

Martyrdom of Mar Philoxenus of Mabbug. Philoxenus was persecuted by Chalcedonian Catholics because of his Miaphysite beliefs and died a martyr in prison during his second exile in Gangra in Paphlagonia. One source says that he was suffocated, allegedly by smoke from a kitchen beneath his cell, but another, more reliable source says that he died a violent death, [53]. In the year of his death he wrote to the monks of the Monastery of Senun, mentioning Ephrem of Nisibis as he did so. Van Rompay points out that Philoxenus was respectfully critical of Ephrem's theology in his letter. He also observes that Syrian Orthodox authors seldom quoted Ephrem in the 6th century [32].

[32] para 10
[33], p. 96
[38], p. 88
[53], p. 51

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