Bar-Hebraeus and Nature of Jesus

· Christianity

According to Encyclopedia Britannica:

Motivated toward scholarly pursuits by his father, a Jewish convert to Christianity, Bar Hebraeus emigrated to Antioch (now Antakya, Turkey) and at the age of 17 became a hermit. He was made a bishop at 20 and an archbishop at 26, and by 1264 he was assistant patriarch (chief prelate) of the Eastern Jacobite church, a group named after its founder, Jacob Baradaeus. The Jacobites were members of a west Syrian church that refused to accept the decrees of the Council of Chalcedon concerning the nature of Christ.

“Bar Hebraeus.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2010. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 29 Jun. 2010>.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Bar-Hebraeus (1226 near Malatya, Sultanate of Rûm (modern Turkey) – 30 July 1286 in Maraga, Persia) was a catholicos (bishop) of the Syriac Orthodox Church in the 13th century. He is noted for his works addressing philosophy, poetry, language, history, and theology[1]; he has been called “one of the most learned and versatile men from the Syriac Orthodox Church” (Dr. William Wright).Bar-Hebraeus was born with the Arabic name Abū’l-Faraj bin Hārūn al-Malaṭī (Arabic: ابو الفرج بن هارون الملطي‎)[citation needed]. It appears that he took the Christian name Gregory (Syriac: ܓܪܝܓܘܪܝܘܣ Grigorios; Arabic: غريغوريوس‎, Ġrīġūriyūs) at his consecration as a bishop. Throughout his life, he was often referred to by the Syriac nickname Bar-‘Ebrāyā (Syriac: ܒܪ ܥܒܪܝܐ, which is pronounced and often transliterated as Bar-‘Ebroyo in the West Syriac dialect of the Syriac Orthodox Church), giving rise to the Latinised name Bar-Hebraeus. This nickname is often thought to imply a Jewish background (taken to mean ‘Son of the Hebrew’). However, the evidence for this once popular view is slim. It is more likely that the name refers to the place of his birth, ‘Ebrā, where the old road east of Malatya towards Kharput (modern Elazığ) and Amid (modern Diyarbakır) crossed the Euphrates.[2]

He collected in his numerous and elaborate treatises the results of such research in theology, philosophy, science and history as was in his time possible in Syria. Most of his works were written in Syriac. However he also wrote some in Arabic, which had become the common language in his day.




A Jacobite Syrian bishop, philosopher, poet, grammarian, physician, biblical commentator, historian, and theologian, he was the son of a physician, Aaron (Hārūn bin Tūmā al-Malaṭī, Arabic: هارون بن توما الملطي‎). Under the care of his father he began as a boy (a teneris unguiculis) the study of medicine and of many other branches of knowledge, which he pursued as a youth at Antioch and Tripoli, and which he never abandoned. In 1246 he was consecrated bishop of Gubos, by the Jacobite Patriarch Ignatius II, and in the following year was transferred to the see of Lacabene. He was placed over the diocese of Aleppo by Dionysius (1252) and finally was made primate, or maphrian, of the East by Ignatius III (1264). His episcopal duties did not interfere with his studies; he took advantage of the numerous visitations, which he had to make throughout his vast province, to consult the libraries and converse with the learned men whom he happened to meet. Thus he gradually accumulated an immense erudition, became familiar with almost all branches of secular and religious knowledge, and in many cases thoroughly mastered the bibliography of the various subjects which he undertook to treat. How he could have devoted so much time to such a systematic study, in spite of all the vicissitudes incident to the Mongol invasion, is almost beyond comprehension. The main claim of Bar Hebræus to our gratitude is not, however, in his original productions, but rather in his having preserved and systematized the work of his predecessors, either by way of condensation of by way of direct reproduction. Both on account of his virtues and of his science, Bar Hebræus was respected by all, and his death was mourned not only by men of his own faith, but also by the Nestorians and the Armenians. He was buried at the convent of Mar Matthew, near Mosul. He has left us an autobiography, to be found in Assemani, Biblioth. Orient., II, 248-263; the account of his death (ibid.) was written by his own brother, Bar Sauma.


Encyclopedic and philosophical

His great encyclopedic work is his Hewath Hekhmetha, “The Cream of Science”, which deals with almost every branch of human knowledge, and comprises the whole Aristotelian discipline, after Avicenna and other Arabian writers. This work, so far, has not been published, with the exception of one chapter, by Margoliouth, in Analecta Orientalia ad poeticam Aristoteleam (London, 1887), 114-139. The rest is to be found only in MSS., preserved at Florence, Oxford, London, and elsewhere. (2) Teghrath Teghratha, “Commerce of Commerces”, a résumé of the preceding, also unpublished. (3) Kethabha dhe-Bhabhatha, “Book of the Pupils of the Eyes”; compendium of logic and dialectics. (4) Kethabha dhe-Sewadh Sophia, “Book of Speech of Wisdom”; compendium of physics and metaphysics. To these should be added a few translations of Arabic works into Syriac, as well as some treatises written directly in Arabic.


The most important work of Bar Hebræus is Aucar Raze, “Storehouse of Secrets”, a commentary on the entire Bible, both doctrinal and critical. Before giving his doctrinal exposition of a passage, he first considers its critical state. Although he uses the Peshitta as a basis, he knows that it is not perfect, and therefore controls it by the Hebrew, the Septuagint, the Greek versions of Symmachus, Theodotion, Aquilla, by Oriental versions, Armenian and Coptic, and finally by the other Syriac translations, Heraclean, Philoxenian and especially the Syro-Hexapla. The work of Bar Hebræus is of prime importance for the recovery of these versions and more specially for the Hexapla of Origen, of which the Syro-Hexapla is a translation by Paul of Tella. His exegetical and doctrinal portions are taken from the Greek Fathers and previous Syrian Jacobite theologians. No complete edition of the work has yet been issued, but many individual books have been published at different times. (See bibliography at the end of article.)


Bar Hebræus has left a large historical work called Makhtbhanuth Zabhne, Chronicon, in which he considers history from the Creation down to his own day. Bar Hebræus utilized almost all that had been written before him. The work is divided into two portions, which have been transmitted separately.

The first portion deals with political and civil history and is known as the Chronicon Syriacum. The standard edition of the Chronicon Syriacum is that of Bedjan, Gregorii Barhebraei Chronicon Syriacum (Paris, 1890). An unsatisfactory English translation by Wallis Budge exists.

The second portion is known as the Chronicon Ecclesiasticum and covers the religious history. It begins with Aaron and consists of a series of entries of important individuals. The first half covers the history of the West Syrian Church and the Patriarchs of Antioch, while the second half is devoted to the Eastern Church, the Nestorian Patriarchs, and the Jacobite Maphrians. The current edition of the Chronicon Ecclesiasticum is that of Abbeloos and Lamy (3 vols., Louvain, 1872-77), Syriac text, Latin translation. No English translation has ever been published, although an unpublished translation by Sebastian Brock of most of the first part exists.

The Chronicon Syriacum was rendered into Arabic by Bar Hebraeus himself under the title of Ta’rîkh Mukhtasar al-Duwal, A Compendious History of Dynasties, and reworked in the process for a readership not specifically Christian. The latest and the best edition of his work is that of Fr. Anton Salihani (Beirut, 1890). A Latin translation exists in the older edition of Edward Pococke, Historia Compendosia Dynastiarum (Oxford, 1663).


In theology Bar Hebræus was a Monophysite. He probably, however, thought that the differences between Catholics, Nestorians, and the rest were of a theological, but not of a dogmatical nature, and that they did not affect the common faith; hence, he did not consider others as heretics, and was not himself considered as such, at least by the Nestorians and the Armenians. In this field, we have from him Menarath Qudhshe, “Lamp of the Sanctuary”, and the Kethabha dhe-Zalge, “Book of Rays”, a summary of the first. These works have not been published, and exist in manuscript in Paris, Berlin, London, Oxford, and Rome. Ascetical and moral theology were also treated by Bar Hebræus, and we have from him Kethabha dhe-Ithiqon, “Book of Ethics”, and Kethabha dhe-Yauna, “Book of the Dove”, an ascetical guide. Both have been edited by Bedjan in “Ethicon seu Moralia Gregorii Barhebræi” (Paris and Leipzig, 1898). The “Book of the Dove” was issued simultaneously by Cardahi (Rome, 1898). Bar Hebræus codified the juridical texts of the Jacobites, in a collection called Kethabha dhe-Hudhaye, “Book of Directions”, edited by Bedjan, “Barhebræi Nomocanon” (Paris, 1898). A Latin translation is to be found in Angelo Mai, “Scriptorum Veter. Nova Collectio”, vol. x. Bar Hebræus has left besides many other works. On grammatical subjects we have the “Book of Splendours” and “Book of the Spark”, both edited by Martin, “Oeuvres grammaticales de Aboul Faradj dit Barhebræus” (2 vols., Paris, 1872); also works on mathematics, astronomy, cosmography, and medicine, some of which have been published, but others exist only in manuscript.

Other works

A full list of Bar Hebraeus’s other works, and of editions of such of them as have been published, will be found in W. Wright‘s Syriac Literature, pp. 268–281. The more important of them are:

  1. Kethabha dhe-Bhabhatha (Book of the Pupils of the Eyes), a treatise on logic or dialectics
  2. Hewath Hekmetha (Butter of Wisdom), an exposition of the whole philosophy of Aristotle
  3. Sullarat Haunãnãyã (Ascent of the Mind), a treatise on astronomy and cosmography, edited and translated by F. Nau (Paris, 1899)
  4. various medical works
  5. Kethabha dhe-Zalge (Book of Rays), a treatise on grammar
  6. ethical works
  7. poems
  8. Kethabha dhe-Thunnaye Mighaizjzikhanl (Book of Entertaining Stories), edited and translated by E. A. Wallis Budge (London, 1897).


He is regarded as a saint by the Syriac Orthodox Church, who hold his feast day on July 30.[3]


  1. ^ Chambers Biographical Dictionary, ISBN 0-550-18022-2, page 5
  2. ^ A few Syriac sources give Bar-Hebraeus’s full Arabic name as Jamāluddīn Abū’l-Faraj Ġrīġūriyūs bin Tājuddīn Hārūn bin Tūmā al-Malaṭī (Arabic: جمال الدين ابو الفرج غريغوريوس بن تاج الدين هارون بن توما الملطي‎). However, all references to this longer name are posthumous. The Syriac nickname Bar-‘Ebrāyā is sometimes arabised as Ibn al-‘Ibrī (Arabic: ابن العبري‎). Sometimes, Bar-Hebraeus is said to have been given the baptismal name John (Syriac: ܝܘܚܢܢ, Yōḥanan), but this appears to be a scribal error. As a Syriac bishop, Bar-Hebraeus is often given the honorific Mār (Syriac: ܡܪܝ, pronounced Mor in West Syriac dialect), and thus Mar/Mor Gregory.
  3. ^ Holweck, F. G., A Biographical Dictionary of the Saints. St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co. 1924.


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