An Introduction to the History of the Assyrian Church








100-640 A.D.



Published 1909 A.D.

Assyrian International News Agency
Books Online









This essay is an attempt at the filling of what appeared to the
writer to be a distinct void in English ecclesiastical histories; and
to give some account of a branch of the Church unknown to all except a
very few students, during the most critical and important period of its

No one can be more conscious than the writer how much his work has
suffered and been handicapped from the circumstances of its
composition. The book was necessarily written away from any libraries
except what was contained in the author’s study; at a place where the
procuring of any pamphlet required might take any time from six to
twelve weeks; and where on one occasion the consultation of an
authority implied waiting till a chance offered of making a laborious
and dangerous journey of fourteen days’ duration.

If it gains anything in vividness, and in grasp of the difficulties
of those of whom it treats, from the fact that it was written among
their modern descendants, whose circumstances have changed but little
during the course of ages–this may be one compensation among many

The writer has throughout used for the Church in question the name
“Assyrian.” There is no historical authority for this name; but the
various appellations given to the body by various writers (“Easterns,”
Persians, Syrians, Chaldeans, Nestorians) are all, for various reasons,
misleading to the English reader.

To the ordinary English Churchman of today “the Eastern Church” is
the Church to the east of him-viz. the Greek Orthodox; the Church of
the old “Eastern Roman Empire,” of Constantinople, with her great
daughter, the Russian Church. The name “Eastern,” however, as applied
by those Greeks, meant the Church to the east of them-beyond the
oriental frontier of the Roman Empire.

To speak of “the Persian Church” is to do as much violence to
ancient facts, as to speak to-day of “the Turkish Church” (meaning
thereby some one Christian melet in the Ottoman Empire) is to
disregard modern facts.

“Syrian,” to an Englishman, does not mean “a Syriac-speaking man”;
but a man of that district between Antioch and the Euphrates where
Syriac was the vernacular once, but which is Arabic speaking to-day,
and which was never the country of the “Assyrian” Church. “Chaldaean”
would suit admirably; but it is put out of court by the fact that in
modern use it means only those members of the Church in question who
have abandoned their old fold for the Roman obedience: and “Nestorian”
has a theological significance which is not justified. Thus it seemed
better to discard all these, and to adopt a name which has at least the
merit of familiarity to most friends of the Church to-day.

The representation of the Syriac problem of men and places in
English, presents a problem almost as incapable of ideal solution as
that of finding a name for the Church; and we make no claim to
consistency in our practice. As a rule we have transliterated; marking
compounds by a hyphen which has no existence in Syriac (e.g.
Ishu-yahb). But where the name has a western version (Greek or
biblical), which for any reason is familiar to the western reader, we
have employed it.1
English readers would recognize in “Khizgi’il” the familiar “Ezekiel”;
and though most students of Church history have a bowing acquaintance
with Ibas of Edessa, how many would understand who was meant by
“Yahba”? Greek versions are usually barbarous etymologically; and their
historians are not even consistent-who without special study can
recognize Cyrus and Chosroes as the same name? But at least they are
familiar and are more euphonious than most Syriac names in English


Turkey in Asia, 1909.


















Date Assyrian Patriarch Persian
Roman Emperor
309 Papa Sapor II Constantine
328 Shimun bar Saba’i
337 Constantius
340 Shah-dolt
346 Bar B’ashmin
347 (vacancy)
361 Julian
363 Jovian
364 Valens
379 Ardashir II Theodosius 1
383 Tamuza Sapor II
388 Bahram IV
395 Qaiuma Arcadius
399 Isaac Yezdegerd I
408 Theodosius II
411 Akha
415 Yahb-Alaha I
420 M’ana Bahram V
421 Dad-Ishu
438 Yezdegerd II
451 Marcian
457 Babowai Piroz Leo
474 Zeno
485 Acacius Balas
488 Kubad (1st reign)
491 Anastasius
496 Babai Zamasp
498 Kobad (2nd reign)
505 Silas
518 Justin I
523 (“duality”)
527 Justinian
531 Chosroes I
539 Paul
540 Mar Aba
552 Joseph
565 Justin II
570 Ezekiel
578 Hormizd IV Tiberius
582 Ishu-yahb I Maurice
590 Chosroes II
596 Sabr-Ishu
602 Phocas
604 Gregory
608 (vacancy)
610 Heraclius
628 Ishu-yahb II (anarchy)
632 Yezdegerd III
640 Khalifate Constantine III
644 Mar Imeh


History of Mshikha-Zca (Sources syriaques, vol. i.,
Acta Sanctorum, 6 vols., ed. Bedjan. Bedj.
Histoire de
Jabalaha et de trois autres palriarches, etc.,
Synodicon Orientale, ed. Chabot. S. O.
Greg, Bar-Hebraei Chronicon Eccles. III. Primates
ed. Abbeloos and Lamy.
John of Ephesus, Ecclesiastical Hist., ed. Cureton.
of Ephesus.
Amir et Sliba De Patriarchus Nestorianorum. Liber Turris.
Die von Guidi hurausgegebene syrische Chronik, ed. Noldeke. Guidi
Chronicle of Zachariah of Mitylene, ed. Hamilton and
Zach., Mit.
Ecclesiastical Histories of Socrates.
” ” Sozomen.
” ” Theodoret.
” ” Evagarius.
Book of Governors (Thomas of Marga), ed. Budge. T. of M.
Mar Babai, “De unione” (MS. consulted). Babai
Ishu-yahb, “Letters” (ed. Duval, Corpus scriptorum syrorum). Ishu-yahb, Letters.
Tabari, Gesch. der Sassaniden (ed. Noldeke). Tabari.
Assemani, Bibliotheca Orientalis, 4 vols. Ass., B. O.

Among other books consulted, the following are the most important:

Labourt, Christianisme dans l’empire perse.
Chabot, kole de Nisibe, son hisloire et ses statuts.
Duval, Histoire d’Edesse.
Coussen, Martyrius-Sahdona: Leben and Werke.
Chabot, De S. Isaaco Ninevita.
Hoffmann, Syrische Martyrer.
Hefele, Councils.
Bethune-Baker, Nestorius and his Teaching.
Rawlinson, Seventh Oriental Monarchy.
Christiensen, L’Empire des Sassanides.
Bury, Later Roman Empire.
Ceiseler, Ecclesiastical Hist.



IN the year A.D. 225, when a revolution in Mesopotamia substituted
the Sassanids of Persia for the Arsacids of Parthia as the rulers of
what Roman writers called “the East” (meaning thereby all the countries
of which they had practical knowledge to the east of their own border),
dwellers in the country concerned regarded it as simply the rise of one
more in the series of empires that rose and passed away in those lands.
All the difference that it made to them, at the moment, was that the
local governor was called “Marzban” or Marquis, instead of “King.” From
long usage, they were accustomed to be regarded by their rulers much in
the same light as they themselves regarded their bees; and they took so
little interest in the matter that the wise men of the countryside
could see in the same event a warning of the downfall of a kingdom, and
of the production of a good crop of honey.

As a matter of fact, the revolution of 225 was not merely the
exchange of one loose federation of kings, for another a little better
organized; it was the revival of a nation that had a great history
behind it, and the aspiration to make that history live again. The
Persian Empire had indeed fallen before Alexander in 300 B.C., and had
remained in more or less uneasy subjection to his Seleucid successors,
or to the semi-Hellenized Arsacids, who took their place. Still, the
national life of Persia had not passed away; and after 500 years the
opportunity came, and it rose again. Its ambition, however, was not to
form a new empire, but to revive an old one; and it claimed to be the
lawful heir, not of the Arsacid kingdom of modern Mesopotamia and
Persia, but of the Achaemenid Empire of Xerxes and Darius, stretching
from the Hindu-Kush to the Mediterranean. It was the dream of the
Sassanids to revive this empire; and the dream was so far a national
aspiration also, that a warlike king could always rouse the enthusiasm
of the nation by a challenge to the Roman Emperor to “withdraw from the
inheritance of the ancestors of the King of kings.”

The greatest of the Sassanid house, Chosroes II, actually realized
that dream for a moment, when in his great war against Phocas and
Heraclius he pushed back the limits of the Roman Empire till it hardly
extended beyond the walls of Constantinople; and the ruins of the
palace at Mashita,2
the land of Moab, are a testimony that this king did not intend his
occupation of Roman territory to be, as was the case on some other
occasions, a mere raid. During the years that the watchers at
Constantinople saw the lights of the Persian camp at Chalcedon,
practically the whole of the elder Persian Empire was actually subject
to the ruler of the newer one.

We are completely accustomed to look at this period from the Roman
standpoint, and to think of these wars as unimportant episodes in a
history of which the main interest lies elsewhere. But it may be useful
to remember for a moment how they appeared to an empire which was by no
means the barbarous power that we are accustomed to conceive.

It is obvious that, when such aspirations were entertained, the
relations between the Empire of Rome and that of the East must have
been normally hostile; and that only truces of more or less uncertainty
could break a perennial state of war. Lest, however, the imperial
aspirations of one of the two powers should be insufficient to provide
a proper amount of fighting, fate had also seen to it that there should
be two perpetually open questions, either of which could afford at any
time a decent casus belli. These were, the control of
Armenia, and the question of the frontier provinces. Armenia-that
unhappy territory whose office in history it has been to be “a strife
unto her neighbours” during such periods as she could claim some shadow
of independence, and a problem to her rulers during the periods when
she was avowedly subject to somebody–formed a “buffer state” between
the Romans and Persians for most of their joint frontiers. The
question, who was to control this kingdom, was one that constantly gave
rise to friction; and the Armenians, as a general rule, seem to have
employed themselves in intriguing against the suzerain of the moment
with the emissaries of the rival power.

Where the two empires “marched,” which was the case only in
the north-west of Mesopotamia, another question was open. Here, a
comparatively narrow belt of fertile territory intervenes between the
mountains of modern Kurdistan and the desert of Arabia, The power that
held this district, and with it the great fortress of Nisibis, was
somewhat in the position of the holder of Alsace-Lorraine. It had
control of a gate which might admit its armies into the territory of
the enemy, or which might be effectively shut in the face of an
invader. Hence both, parties claimed the five small, and otherwise not
very important, provinces into which this country was divided, and
neither could be content to see them in the hands of the other.

With all these causes for war ready to hand, it is not surprising
that only unusual combinations of circumstances, like the simultaneous
accession of two peace-loving monarchs, or simultaneous invasion of
both empires by the barbarians who threatened the northern frontiers of
either, could keep their relations friendly.

It was not only as an empire that Persia thus rose from the dead in
the third century; it rose also as a religion, of a definite and
militant type. The Persia of Achaemenid days had accepted Zoroaster’s
reforms of the ancient fire-worship as a national faith; and that
religion had been preserved by the nation as its heritage, and
treasured as only a subject nation can treasure its national faith (if,
indeed, it had not been, as is possible, the force that had kept the
nation alive) during the 5oo years of dependence. Now, when Persia rose
to power once more, their religion rose with them; and the Sassanian
Empire had a definitely established Magian Church, loyal membership of
which was the test and condition of loyalty to the empire.

This religion had its system of. theology and its sacred
books. It had its priestly caste, the Magians; who were at once one of
the seven great clans of the nation, and an organized hierarchy under
their “Mobeds” or prelates, with the “Mobed Mobedan” at the head of
all. The fire-temple stood in every village; the shrine in every
orthodox house. Education was in the hands of the priests, and
considerable temporal power and large endowments. The Shah-in-Shah
himself dared not offend them, lest mischief should befall him.

The Sassanian kingdom, then, was no mushroom growth, with much
magnificence but no strength. It was an empire, organized in an
efficient way; whose provincial governors (though, when of royal blood,
they might bear the honorary title of King) were kept well under the
control of the Shah-in-Shah.

The empire was inhabited by a tolerably homogeneous nation, as far
as its central provinces went; though a fringe of sub-kings (Armenian,
Arab, Turk) ruled districts round its borders. It had a national
religion, with an organized hierarchy, and it could fight at least on
even terms with the whole power of Rome. One Roman Emperor, Valerian,
died a captive at the Persian Court. Another, Julian, fell in battle
against it; and his successor could only purchase his release by an
ignominious peace. It endured for 400 years, and when it fell, its
organization and machinery were simply taken over by its successor, the
Khalifate of Baghdad.

In the following pages we propose to trace, not the history of the
kingdom, but the story of the Church of Christ within its borders; the
Church of Assyria, of the “Chaldaean Patriarchate,” or, as it was
usually called by Greek, or even by Syriac writers, “The Church of the
East.” Broadly speaking, the Christian Church, as it existed to the
east of the Eastern border of the Roman Empire.


The Christian Church was a thing that the Sassanids found
existing-when they established themselves in the country, and one that
was already widely spread, and organized on apostolic lines. This fact
was of considerable importance for the future relations of the two, for
the struggle would have been very hard before the Church could have
established herself, de novo, in a Zoroastrian kingdom. The
difficulty would have been comparable to that found in the spreading of
Christianity in Fez or Morocco at the present time. As it existed,
however, prior to the rise of the dynasty, it was, so to speak, taken
over by it, as a part of the new empire; and when the relations between
the two came to be formalized, it was on the assumption that
Christianity had as much a legal right to exist in the Sassanid Empire,
as it has in a Moslem kingdom like the Ottoman Empire of to-day. In
each case, this qualified toleration was accorded to it on the same
ground, viz. that the Christian religion was one that the dominant
faith found existing at the time when it conquered the country.

The Church was widely spread; it extended from the Mountains of
Kurdistan (for this last refuge of the descendants of these Christians
was apparently not then evangelized) to the Persian Gulf, and was
governed by “more than twenty bishops,”3
whose sees were distributed over all the country named. It is to
be noted., however, that though the bishoprics were thus widely
scattered, there was as yet no bishop in the capital city,
Seleucia-Ctesiphon, a fact that was to have some importance in the
history of the body. Nisibis, too (at this time a Roman city still),
had no bishop, a fact due probably to the circumstance that it was a
purely military station. It is, however, a curious coincidence that the
two most important thrones in the later history of “the East” should
both have been founded late in its development.

The question now arises, how and when did this Church come into

It has long been an admitted fact that the lands of Mesopotamia and
Adiabene, and in fact the whole of what we may call by anticipation the
Sassanid Persian Empire, received the gospel from teachers whose
head-quarters were at Edessa. The little kingdom of Osrhoene had but a
precarious independence during the brief period of its existence; still
that independence was sufficient to give, for as long as it lasted, a
distinctive character to the Christianity that existed in its capital,
and made it an appropriate “nursing mother” to the two national
Churches founded by teachers who came from thence, those, namely, of
Armenia and Persia.4
the Edessene Church vas merged in that ecclesiastical circle that
developed into the Patriarchate of Antioch, one at least of these
“daughters” was strong enough to stand alone; and the circumstances of
its infancy probably contributed to give it that instinct of
independence that was always so marked a feature of its life.

The “Church of the Easterns” was the daughter, not of Antioch, but
of Edessa, and was never included in the Patriarchate of the former

While, however, the Edessene origin of the Church of the East is
admitted (and indeed the laws of geography postulate it, for it is hard
to get from Antioch to Mesopotamia without passing through Edessa), the
date is a matter more open to dispute. Syriac tradition is clear enough
on the point, of course. According to this, Mar Adai (who is variously
described as either the Apostle Thaddeus, or as one of “the seventy”)
came during the first century to Edessa and planted Christianity there.
His disciple, Mari, starting from thence, became the true evangelist of
Persia; descending even into Fars, until he “smelt the smell of the
Apostle Thomas,”5
traditional evangelist of India. Modern writers, and particularly
Westphai and M. Labourt (to whom all students of Persian Church history
owe much for his painstaking work), treat these traditions very
cavalierly. While admitting the possibility of the real existence of
Adai and Mari, as evangelists of wholly uncertain date, they refuse to
admit the presence of any organized Christianity in Persia before
Sassanid days. They sweep out of existence the older Catholici (whose
names and biographies occur in the Chronicles of Bar-Hebraeus and Mari
Ibn Sulieman, of the thirteenth and twelfth centuries respectively),
and date the origin of the Church in the latter half of the third
century; making Papa,. Bishop of Seleucia about the year 3oo, its first
figure of any reality and weight.

With much of this criticism the writer fully agrees; the episcopate
of Papa is a definite and important turning-point in the history of the
Church, though not the starting-point which they incline to make it.
The portentous length of Episcopate assigned to him by both medieval
historians6 is
a sign of
confusion only, and most of his predecessors are as apocryphal as the
copes with which Mari Ibn Sulieman carefully endues each one. Moreover
such of them as had some real existence were not, as we shall see,
Catholici (i.e. archbishops) of Seleucia. Still, tradition in the East
has a way of justifying itself, at least as regards the main facts
which it asserts, as evidence accumulates; and a work has recently come
to light that goes far to combler la lacune between Mari and
Papa, which Al. Labourt laments. This is the History of the Bishops
of Adiabene
(Khaydab), a work composed in the sixth century by one
Mshikha-Zca (Christ conquers), a scholar of the great college of
Nisibis and a native of the province whose history he writes. The
author frankly declares himself to be only a compiler, and refers to
earlier and now lost authorities.7

Mshikha-Zca plainly acknowledges Adai as the apostle of Adiabene and
Assyria, and states that he ordained his disciple, Pqida, as first
bishop of that district, in the year A.D. 104.8
Pqida was by birth the slave of a Magian, and was of that faith. He had
apparently gained his personal freedom; and he had been converted by
the sight of a miracle wrought by Mar Adai, who was then travelling and
teaching in the land. He had to undergo some persecution from the
family (not from his owner), for his “apostasy”; but escaping from
them, remained the personal disciple of his master for five years; at
the end of which time he was consecrated as stated, apparently just
before the death of Ajar Adai.

In the face of this record, there seems no reasonable ground for
refusing to admit the absolutely historical character of Adai; or the
rank which ancient tradition accords to him of founder of the “Church
of the East,” and possibly of that of Edessa and Armenia also. If,
however, our author establishes the existence of Mar Adai as a real
fact and not as a figment only, he at the same time makes it almost
impossible to identify him with Thaddeus, the Apostle of Christ.
Traditionally, we regard the Twelve as all adult men, with one possible
exception, during the period of their association with the Redeemer. A
man full grown in the year, 30 could hardly have travelled about, as
Adai is represented as doing, in the years 100-104. That he should have
been one of the “seventy” is less impossible; and a tradition that has
justified itself in much has a right to a respectful hearing in its
other statements. If we may regard Mar Adai as a youth of sixteen or
seventeen when “sent out” as one of the seventy disciples, he would
have been hard on ninety (no impossible age) when called to his rest in

In the case of Mari the supposed disciple of Adai, and the
evangelist, not so much of Adiabene as of Khuzistan, and in a less
degree of Seleucia and the “Aramaean province,” we are at present on
less certain ground. The Acta S. Maris which we have to-day is
certainly not the contemporary document it professes to be; it is not
earlier than the sixth century, and possibly later still. Even if
contemporary with the History of the Bishops of Adiabene, it is
far inferior to it as an authority, the one being a history, and the
other a piece of hagiography.

Mshikha-Zca makes no reference whatever to Mari in his work, and his
editor is inclined, on that ground, to regard the saint as purely
legendary. This we consider too stern a judgment. Even if the Acta be
ruled out of court altogether as an authority, we have to account for
the fact that from the fifth century and before it (i. e. from before
the time of the composition of the Acta) this Church has looked back to
Adai and Atari as its founders.9

How came they, on the legendary hypothesis, to select an absolutely
unknown name as that of their founder, when such an one as St. Thomas,
who traditionally passed through the country on his way to India, was
ready to their hands?10
That the life contains much legend (even apart from some of the
miraculous episodes) need not be doubted. But it also contains matter
that a mere hagiographer would scarcely ascribe to his hero, unless he
were following some older tradition or authority. The saint’s
discouragement, and request to his Edessene senders for his recall; his
finding Christian traders in Khuzistan; his comparative failure in
Seleucia itself, where, as we now know, Christianity gained no strength
till late in the third century; and his peaceful death at the obscure
shrine of Dor Koni;–all these have the ring of truth rather than of
invention; and the most conspicuous “blunder” in the book, namely, the
fact that Papa, the fourth-century bishop, is declared to have been the
immediate successor of Mari as Bishop of Seleucia and Catholicos of the
Church of the Persian Empire,11
admits, as we shall see, of a natural explanation.

We incline then to admit, not only the traditional founding of this
Church by Mar Adai at the close of the first century, but also its
extension from Adiabene southwards by the teaching of Mari and his
companions, as well founded in fact, though embroidered by later

It remains to sketch the history of this Church as far as our
authorities admit, for the first 200 years of its existence, until it
emerges into clearer light at the beginning of the fourth century.



THE history of the Church from the time of Adai to that of Papa, or,
roughly, from the year l00 to 300, is, on the whole, one of quiet
progress, unmarked either by the quarrels or organized persecutions
that were to chequer its later history; and unmarked, too, by the rise
of any such striking personalities as we find, for instance, to the
story of the African’ Church, or, in a less degree, in our own. Adai is
too shadowy a person to have, for us at any rate, the charm of an
Aidan; and not even the inventiveness of his chronicler can give to
Mari’s life the romance that encircles Columba’s. The conditions of the
life of a subject melet12
in an oriental empire do not tend to produce very striking
characters in normal times.

At first, at any rate, the body was not formidable enough to excite
the State to persecute; and the rule of the Parthian kings was always
tolerant. They appear to have favoured a sort of religious eclecticism
themselves, and to have recognized all creeds among their subjects;
though there is some evidence that the political power of the Magian
clan won for their religion a favoured position. Still, the Government
was so far indifferent that about the year 160 Abraham, then Bishop of
Adiabene, had good hopes of procuring a formal edict of toleration from
the then King, Valges III; and apparently only failed in his object
because the outbreak of war with the Romans put such a trifling
circumstance out of the King’s mind. As things turned out, the Church
had much to suffer before obtaining her “Edict of Milan” from the
Shah-in-Shah 250 years later.

The faith of the people which the Christian teaching had to combat
(as far as it is shown by the chronicles of Syriac writers, and by the
collections of magical formulae and invocations which still survive)
seems to have been the old idolatry of Assyria and Babylon, “run to
seed” in a strange fashion, and sunk into the worship of sacred trees,
and a star worship which was no higher than a very debased astrology.13

Both in Mesopotamia and in Asia Minor, as probably in Egypt (thou h
not in Persia), the old faiths were outworn. Fence it was that nations
who, whatever their faults, do not lack the religious instinct, turned
so readily to the new light that came to them from. Judaea; and
embraced it with a readiness that makes the progress of Christianity in
these lands at once so startlingly rapid, and so undeniably sound.

Among the Zoroastrian fire-worshippers the advance of the Faith was
far less rapid than among the pagans, and it was here that the Church
found its most formidable opponents. Still, it could win converts here
also; and (as is often the case) men won from this most obstinate of
foes were the best worth winning, and included some of the Church’s
greatest and most saintly bishops and martyrs. In these early days,
however, at least in the north, this Zoroastrian hostility was that of
a powerful corporation, rather than of a national faith. Its stronghold
was in Persia proper, not in Mesopotamia, and there it was not, as yet,
directly attacked by Christianity. In its native land it has left
abundant traces of its former supremacy, and has not even yet wholly
passed away.

As a corporation, and one enjoying apparently a measure of royal
favour, it had enough power to persecute; and was, of course, specially
ready to seek as victims men who were converts from it to any other
faith, Thus Samson,14
successor of Pqida as Bishop of Arbela, died a martyr at the hands of
Magians in 123-the first man to die for the Christian faith in a land
that has supplied, probably, more members of candidatus exercitus than
any other country. A little later, Isaac,15
his successor, converted a Zoroastrian of the name of Raqbokt, who was
an “Agha” of some importance in Adiabene. The Mobeds at once sought to
kill the “apostate,” but when the men dispatched for the purpose of
assassinating him arrived at the house of their victim they found him
away from home, and had to turn their wrath on the bishop, whom they
captured and confined for some time “in a dark pit.” It would seem that
this was a usual way of punishing apostates from the worship of the
sun, for it was also employed in the case of Pqida by the family of
that convert.

It is specially stated,16
too, that during the episcopate of Noah (163-179) many Christians fell
away from the faith under pressure of a persecution of a singularly
dastardly kind–the kidnapping or “capture” of their daughters. This
consisted (and consists still in the same lands) in the carrying off of
Christian girls from their families as either concubines or slaves.
Then, once let some sort of confession of Zoroastrianism–or of
Islam–be procured from the victim, and how can the “convert” be
thereafter abandoned to “a false faith”? Few of such captives can find
the strength for a life-long confession of their Lord–a confession
none the less meritorious for being absolutely unknown. But some such
hidden saints have existed, and do still exist.

This, however, was not a State persecution, such as the Church in
the West had to endure repeatedly during the same period; it arose from
the weakness, not from the malevolence, of the Government, which would
not take trouble or run a risk for the sake of doing right by so
unimportant a person as a mere rayat. When the agent of
persecution is specified at all, it is always the Mobeds, or members of
the Magian clan.17
Persecution ordered by the Government, and carried out by its agents,
is not encountered till the days of the Sassanids; and even then, not
until the conversion of Constantine-and the adoption of Christianity as
the official faith of the Roman Empire-had made all Christians in the
rival kingdom politically suspect. Syrian historians state emphatically
that there was no formal persecution in the East until its day was over
in the West.18

Thus Adiabene became a haven of comparative safety for Christians
during persecutions over the border, and many took refuge there and
made it their home. The presence of these immigrants, and in later days
of large “captivities” brought from Western Syria by the Sassanid
kings, formed an important element in the life of the Church, breaking
its isolation, and keeping its thought more or less in touch with the
growth of theology in the West; though, as we shall see, this touch was
by no means always a close one.

Easterns, too, went westwards at times, for there was, of course, a
good deal of commercial intercourse between the two empires. One man in
particular, Noah, by birth a Jew of Anbar 1 (Piroz-Sapor),
was converted to Christianity while on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem with
his parents, and became the disciple and successor of the Bishop
Abraham. Abd-Mshikha,19
too (Bishop of Arbela 190-225), embraced Christianity when at Antioch
for purposes of education; and came back a Christian to his own
country, where his new faith apparently roused no resentment among his
own family.

Persecution being thus local and sporadic, and partly personal at
times in its origin (arising out of such incidents as Magian resentment
at the “apostasy” of the Agha Raqbokt), it could often be checked by
personal influence. In at least one instance the reverence felt by all
creeds for the personality of the Bishop Abraham brought about a
cessation of persecution locally about the year 160; and another
bishop, Abel, was particularly famous as a reconciler of disputes
between heathens and Christians.

Occasionally Christians had to suffer, in common with all
inhabitants of the country, from wars and tumults. The Arsacid Empire
had never, it would seem, the strength and organization of the
Sassanid, and a weak central power meant, of course, a disturbed
kingdom. Roman invasions made apparently little mark, or perhaps are
regarded by our historians as part of the course of nature, like an
occasional flood; and are therefore received as sign-posts by which to
date a chronicle, rather than as causes for astonishment or complaint.
Less regular invasions, however, are noted. Thus, during the second
century, the descent of hordes of robbers “from the mountains of Kardu”20 is recorded, as
if to show us
that the Kurd of the period was still the turbulent fellow that
Xenophon found him to be, and that he is today. A royal army had to be
sent to put a stop to the inroad; and it was the good service rendered
during the campaign by the Christian, Agha Raqbokt, that rendered it
impossible for the Magians to proceed against him at the moment. It was
his local knowledge that enabled the royalist general to extricate his
army with credit from an awkward situation. Possibly the Magi might not
have forgotten their quarrel, but the Agha was killed in action before
the conclusion of the campaign.

A little later, about 190,21
a rebellion of Persians in Khorassan foreshadowed their return to power
a generation later. The rebellion was put down by Valges IV, not
without difficulty; and Narses, King of Adiabene, who was apparently a
Persian sympathizer, paid the penalty of his treason by being drowned
in the Zab. His country was plundered as punishment for the crime of
its king, and all creeds suffered alike.

These, however, are but the ordinary troubles of an oriental
kingdom; and on the whole it will be seen that under the Arsacids
Christianity had a fair field, and came as near to complete toleration
as was possible at the time. Hence it spread rapidly; particularly
during the long and peaceful episcopate of Abd-Mshikha (190-225). Many
churches were then built; and even we are told-monasteries founded,
though this must surely be an anticipation of later events.22 Bishoprics must
have multiplied steadily, though Mshikha-Zca, our sole reliable
authority for this period, gives only the history of Adiabene, and the
succession only of the Bishops of Arbela. The date of the foundation of
other sees outside the province does not concern him; and it is only
when he reaches the year 225 that he informs us that the Church, after
a century and a quarter of existence, had more than twenty bishops, and
gives us a list of eighteen sees. As none of these are bishoprics which
were afterwards included in the jurisdiction of Arbela, when the bishop
of that see was recognized as Metropolitan at a council held in 410,23 it is probable
that Arbela
was for these early centuries the only episcopal seat in Adiabene.

Thus the Church continued in peace, till, in the year 225,the rule
of the Parthians gave way to that of the Persians; a fact that
Mshikha-Zca mentions with somewhat less of interest than that shown by
the ordinary English writer in a general election.

The advent of the Sassanians produced no very conspicuous change, at
first, in the attitude of the governing body towards the Church. or
local appeared by the side of the governors, and these might, on
emergency, show themselves almost equal to the civil authority in
power. Fire-temples sprang up generally,24
perhaps in the place of idol fanes; but the fact that in Persia, for
instance, the “Zoroastrian mounds” which marls the sites of
fire-temples are conspicuous local features, while in Assyria they are
shows plainly
enough where the cult was national, and where it was exotic.

These were the only formal changes.; but in spirit things
were considerably altered, though this would, of course, only show
after the lapse of some years. Magianism, as a religion, now received
all the prestige that “establishment” could give it; and while
Christianity and paganism continued to be tolerated, proselytism from
them to the State faith was encouraged and facilitated, while then, or
soon after, it became recognized as a law of the State that to win a
convert from Zoroastrianism to Christianity was a crime punishable with
death for both teacher and disciple. Further, a Christian, though his
right to continue in the faith of his fathers was recognized, took, as
Christian, an inferior position; and every one knew that, under
ordinary circumstances, the abandonment of his religion meant the
greatest possible improvement in his worldly prospects. Christianity,
in short, was made to take the position which it occupies still in
those lands. It was recognized, but as the religion of an inferior
race: and that influence was set to work which has ever since continued
to act, in spite of many changes of rulers and of ruling faiths; and
which has always tended to draw, not indeed the highest or the lowest,
but, in a worldly sense, the most manly souls from the Church to
another faith.

A saintly soul’s service to his Master may be only the higher and
purer for the humiliation that the service imposes on him. A man of
inferior type may accept the position into which he has been born; and
by striving “to do the best for himself” in it, may develop in a few
generations into the supple and often cringing and deceitful person,
whom we know as the Levantine of to-day-an instrument, that is, whom
his soldier master of the ruling race uses for his convenience, and
whom he despises. a youth of fire and ambition, with no more than the
average young man’s realization of things unseen and spiritual, is
always tempted, under these circumstances, to find a career for himself
where he will not be exposed to the constant fret of knowing himself
undeservedly despised; and to find it either by abandoning the faith
which for him spells humiliation, or the land whose laws impose it on
the faith. Apostasy, indeed, except under actual stress of persecution,
was and is a great rarity. Hereditary attachment to the faith of his
fathers is an instinct rather than a habit with the oriental. And it is
no mean testimony to her power that the Christian Church should, on the
whole, be able to hold her own children under this constant temptation
to leave her. All the same, through the ages the tendency of the
dominant faith has been to draw away from Christianity, or from service
to their own Church, those best worth perfecting. Islam has in this
been only the heir of Zoroastrianism: both have taken throughout the
centuries a “Janissary-tribute,” not from the lives only, but also from
the souls and characters of the Christian races subject to them.



RAPID and strong. though the growth of the Church had been
elsewhere, there was one conspicuous exception to the rule of progress.
The capital city, Seleucia-Ctesiphon, for some reason difficult to
explain, was a spot where Christianity did not take root in early
centuries. The author of the Acta S. Maris shows that he was
aware of this, by his declaration that his hero was so discouraged by
the incurably vicious and frivolous character of the inhabitants of the
place, that he actually demanded his recall from his superiors at
Edessa; a statement that shows the saint as somewhat easily cast down
by one check following on a series of magnificent successes, and which
is probably more true to historic fact than the said successes.26 It is true that
he covers up
Mari’s defeat by assigning a whole series of miracles to the saint’s
later ministry in the neighbourhood; but in spite of this his account
gives a general impression of agreement with the express statement of
Christianity could not establish itself in any strength at the capital
for some considerable time.

As late as 270 Shakhlupa of Arbela, visiting the place, found only
“a few Christians” there, worshipping probably in the Church which Mari
is represented as establishing in a ruined temple; and he ordained a
priest for them, staying for a year ill the city. This example was
followed, a few years later, by his successor, Akha d’abuh’.28 It was probably
a vague
recollection of indebtedness to these two bishops that led to the
inclusion of their names in the lists made by mediaeval chroniclers in
later days, when it was judged necessary to discover predecessors to
Papa, who should fill the gap between him and Mari.

Later historians made Akha d’abuh’ the hero of an episode of which
writers nearer the time are conspicuously ignorant. Mari Ibn Sulieman,
for instance (Bar-Hebraeus giving the same story in a shorter form),
states that when Jacob, fourth Catholicos, was dying in the year 190,
he specially ordered the sending of two of his disciples, Akha d’abuh’
and Qam-Ishu, to Antioch, in order that one of them might be
consecrated Catholicos by the patriarch there. On arrival, however, the
unlucky Qam-Ishu was seized as a Persian spy and crucified; Sliba,
Bishop of Antioch, sharing his fate. His companion was smuggled out of
the city and sent to Jerusalem for consecration, whence he returned to
the East with a letter from all four Western patriarchs declaring that
(to avoid a recurrence of such misfortune) the Church of the East
should in future elect its own patriarch without reference to Antioch,
and that that prelate should take rank with the other four great sees
of Christendom. Once elected, he was to be superior to all judgment of
his suffragans, or of any human power except the King, when God should
grant a Christian King in the East. Even if he should fall into open
vice no bishops could pass sentence on him, but “differatur judicium
ejus ad adventum Christi Domini nostri.”29
The story is clearly fictitious, considered as evidence of the
origin of the independence of the Eastern patriarchate. The absolute
ignorance of it shown not only by the biographer of Akha d’abuh’ and
the contemporaries of Papa, but also by the bishops assembled in
council at the time of Dad-Ishu30
(when its production would have been eminently ad -rem), are
enough to condemn it, even if the anachronisms31
of the Liber Turris did not betray a later hand. Of course it is
possible that Akha d’abuh’ may have had some personal adventures in
Antioch., when he visited the place as a Persian soldier; but the whole
Qam-Ishu episode belongs to the realm of romance, whither we
unhesitatingly but regretfully dismiss it.

So far from Seleucia being recognized at this time as the
seat of a patriarch equal in dignity to Rome or Antioch, it had not
even a bishop of its own and was dependent on the ministrations of
chance visitors. It was in no diocese, but was res nullius; and
apparently any bishop available, or who happened to be in the capital
on business of his own, performed any episcopal act that the small body
of Christians there present required. We have record of such good
offices being rendered by visiting prelates from Arbela and Susa–sees
each of them at least ten days’ journey away–and we may infer that
similar visits were paid by bishops known to have been existing in the
much nearer province of Garmistan.

Akha d’abuh’ paid one of these visits during32
his episcopate of eighteen years, but was obliged to stay
considerably longer than he had intended, as he seemingly felt bound in
honour to remain in what became a post of considerable danger until the
excitement produced by an episcopal indiscretion had fairly subsided.
The Bishop of Arbela had been accompanied to Seleucia by two
colleagues, Shabta of Bait Zabdai and Zca-Ishu of Kharbeth-Gelal.
During their stay in the capital the former of these preached an
unfortunately vivid sermon, which being reported to the Shah-in-shall
by a non-Christian auditor very nearly produced a general persecution.

The worthy bishop, falling into the preacher’s error of thinking
that every one must take his statements in the sense that he intends,
waxed eloquent over the victories–greater than any of those won by the
“Great King”–that Christians could gain; and called on his hearers not
to envy the Shah-in-Shah, seeing that in days to come he would be
burning for ever with Satan while good Christians would be ruling in
heaven. The sermon was no doubt stimulating for the congregation, but
as reported to the King (probably Bahram III) it had a very different
effect. He and his took it (to quote a modern parallel from a land
where little changes, except the uniforms of the soldiers) much as
Ottoman officials took an unfortunately literal translation of “Onward,
Christian Soldiers,” while the preacher on his part was as genuinely
astonished at the misunderstanding, as were the American translators of
the hymn.

It was no doubt startling for the “King. of kings” to
hear that his subjects were preparing great victories independently of
him, and that a fiery furnace was in readiness to consume his own
“divine” person! The only interpretation that suggested itself to him
was that of a conspiracy of all Christians. And for a time it seemed
more than likely that he would anticipate its outbreak by ordering a
massacre of the “conspirators.” The king was fairly frightened; and
an oriental in such a case is apt to “take precautions” of a grim kind,
for nobody can be so utterly merciless as an Eastern ruler in a panic.
The danger could not be considered over for two years, and at the end
of that time Akha d’abuh’, naturally anxious to return to his own
diocese, joined with the Bishop of Susa in giving a responsible head to
the Church in the capital.33
They chose and consecrated a man named Papa, who thus became the first
bishop of Seleucia-Ctesiphon after the legendary Mari, and began a
series of prelates whose representatives to this day continue to the
same land.

It was in all probability this position of his, as first bishop
after the traditional founder, that made the biographer of Mari assert34–with a gay
defiance of
possible chronology-that the “Apostle” himself selected and consecrated
Papa for Seleucia, and decreed that that see should ever hold the
primacy in the Church of the East.

The date of the consecration of Papa was probably about 280.35 Accordingly,
we can
hardly conclude that a picturesque incident related by Mari Ibn
Sulieman actually happened in his day, though it is by no means an
impossible thing in itself. The writer states that Demetrius, Bishop of
Antioch, formed one of the immense horde of captives carried off by
Sapor I when he raided Roman Asia in 258-259, after his capture of the
Emperor Valerian. The bishop, with the other captives, was settled in
Gondisapor; the great cite into which Sapor transformed the little
village of Bait Lapat in Khuzistan. Here, refusing the office of
Catholicos, which the chronicler declares that Papa offered to yield to
him, he remained as pastor and bishop of his fellows of the captivity;
and in compliment to the rank that he had held in the West, his new see
was granted the position of first among the Metropolitans subject to

As Seleucia had no bishop at the time of the raid, and the
metropolitical provinces of the East were not organized for 150 years
after this date, the tradition must not be taken au pied de
la lettre
. Antioch, however, was almost depopulated by Sapor,36 and thus it is
likely enough
that the bishop was among the captives; while the presence of many
Christians among them, and the fact that they became an important
element in the Church of the East, is amply attested by the Acta
Demetrius, however (if the name given in the Liber
be correct), must have been comfortably established as
bishop in his new see, long before Papa was even consecrated.

One effect of the presence of this “captivity” must, of course, have
been a strengthening of the bonds that united the Church of Persia to
that of the Roman Empire: and some time after, and within Papa’s
episcopate (297), another political event repeated the process. After
the defeat of parses by Galerius, the “Caesar” of the Emperor
Diocletian, five “trans-Tigrene” provinces, of which Cordyene,
Zabdicene and Arzenene were the chief,37
were ceded to Rome by Persia; and the frontier of the empire was thus
pushed forward, till it rested on both of the rivers called Khabor.
These provinces contained many Christians, and at least two bishops (B.
Zabdai and Arzun), who were thus made Roman subjects and brought more
or less under the control of the patriarch of Antioch. On the
retrocession of these provinces sixty-five years later, the returning
bishops brought with them knowledge of such events as the council of
Nicaea, of which (startling as the statement is) the Church of Persia
seems to have been, in great measure, ignorant.

By the same peace Armenia was recognized as within the Roman “sphere
of influence.” This fact must have had important effects on the coming
national conversion of that kingdom, which was brought about soon after
the peace by that same Tiridates, King of Armenia, who had been the
comrade of Galerius (afterwards the persecutor) in the war with Persia.

Papa was in many ways a remarkable character. A man of considerable
learning both in Persian and Syriac literature, and of some power of
he was
able to see that it was time for the unorganized episcopacy,
that had hitherto been the government of the Church of the East, to
give place to an ordered subordination of all the bishops to one
archbishop or catholicos; and he apparently bent all his energies to
securing the acceptance of this change by his colleagues. Though
temporarily defeated, he succeeded in his aim. The catholicate was
established. The man who did most to hinder it in Papa’s day succeeded
unchallenged to the primacy whose establishment he had endeavoured to
defeat; and the fact that Papa’s work has existed ever since in Papa’s
Church, shows how thoroughly lie gauged the disposition and needs of
his people.

If, however, his aims were lofty and statesmanlike, it appears that
he lacked tact in executing them. The facts of history show him to have
been ambitious, if not personally, at least for his see; probably
overbearing and oppressive as a ruler, and certainly of a passionate
and hot-tempered disposition.

All the circumstances in his day, in the West as well as in the
East, were promoting the growth of metropolitical and patriarchal
jurisdictions. Rome, Antioch, Alexandria, were each of them drawing the
provinces round them under their sway; and the “customs,” growing up
thus informally, were to be regularized at Nima. A little later,
Constantinople was also to show that the bishop of the capital of an
empire must inevitably develop into a chief of bishops, if only from
his position as the standing host of a stream of episcopal visitors. No
historical insignificance in his see, no memories of apostolic
preaching or residence in other centres, could prevent their mutual
relations becoming those of patriarch and suffragan. Ecclesiastical
convenience is apt to be stronger than ecclesiastical tradition.

All the facts that produced patriarchal jurisdiction elsewhere,
tended to produce it also in the Church of the East; and another
important fact, peculiar to its position, probably did as much as any
one cause to elevate the Bishop of Seleucia into a Catholicos.

As bishop of the capital, in touch with the King, and (an even more
important thing in the East) with the King’s ministers, Papa was almost
bound to become chief of those bishops who came to him for assistance
in their business. They “had need of him, ad externa” as the
chronicler puts it.39
patriarchal jurisdiction, here as at Constantinople, was a frank
development, and could never claim apostolic origin or sanction with
any seriousness.40
thus one throne acquired supremacy over others, it was simply because
that arrangement was found to work best practically.

Further, Christians in Persia were a subject melet in an
oriental empire; and such a melet always develops some one
head. The ruler is usually willing enough to recognize a division, or
several divisions, of his subjects; but he always demands some one
responsible melet-bashi through whom he can deal with them,
and they with him. The phenomenon is universal in both the Arab and
Ottoman Empires. In the Sassanian Sapor II deals with the Bishop of
Seleucia as the responsible head of his melet; and
Isaac is put by Yezdegerd I in a position exactly parallel to that of
the patriarch of any one of the many Christian Churches of today. We
have no positive evidence that Papa had any dealings with the kings of
his time; but it is at least probable that the influence that did so
much to confirm the position of the Catholicos, helped also to
establish it.41

Had Papa then held his hand, and allowed circumstances to work for
him, it is probable that before the end of his life-especially as that
life was destined to be a long one–he would have seen himself
Catholicos, in fact if not in name, without friction. This, however, he
could not do; on the contrary, he claimed supremacy, apparently in
right of his position as bishop of the capital, and by so doing
naturally roused odium.42
Further, as Catholicos, lie claimed to use discipline on certain bishops,
who may or may not have deserved it,43
and so made them his enemies. He was also accused of
oppression and tyranny in his own diocese; and the truth of this charge
is rendered probable by the fact that his own clergy, under his
Archdeacon Shimun bar Saba’i,44
were among the principal opponents both of him and of his policy.45 One suspects
that there must
have been good reason for opposition on their part to a line of action
that tended so directly to their own exaltation in the Church. Charges
of personal misconduct were also made, but these are simply “common
form.” One remembers how easily such charges were trumped up against an
Athanastus; and in the East they are an ordinary feature of
controversy. The opposition soon found episcopal leaders, and the first
council in the history of the Church of the East met at Seleucia about
31546 to
investigate the

The two leaders of the accusers in the council were Aqib-Alaha,
Bishop of Karka d’Baith Slok, and Miles, the non-resident Bishop of
Susa. Of the former we know little, save that on conversion he showed
such zeal that he gave all his father’s goods to feed the poor (a
socialistic form of charity, of which there is more than one instance
in the history of Eastern ascetics, and which always seems to have been
regarded as an indubitable act of virtue); and that later he was a
zealous and successful evangelist. The career of Miles is sufficiently
characteristic to be worth sketching. Born in the land of Raziqai, the
modern Teheran, lie was apparently a Zoroastrian by birth; but was
converted while staying in Khuzistan, and was “led by the Spirit to the
ascetic life.” He became Bishop of Susa, and there began to show that
combination of devotion, zeal, quarrelsomeness and restlessness, which
make him so typical a son of his nation.

It did not take him long to quarrel with his diocese–“because they
were utterly. given to idolatry and Magianism,” says his biographer,
though one would like to hear their side of the case also. Whatever the
cause, he was stoned in the streets, and left the city in a rage,
solemnly cursing it as he did so. The biographer is at some pains to
tell us how destruction fell on the city, in accordance with the word
of the holy man. After this, lie went wandering “to countries,” much in
the fashion that men of his race still do, equipped with the clothes he
stood up in and a copy of the Gospels in a satchel. Neither traveller
nor beggar ever starves in the East, and Miles arrived safely in
Jerusalem; whence, “drawn by the fame of Ammonius,”47 he descended to Egypt. Here
a hermit, unnamed, received the wanderer; but very soon found, as his
flock had done before, that the saint was no comfortable man to live
with. In this case the casus belli was a tame snake of huge
size that lived with the hermit (who apparently had not warned his
guest of the fact), and that came in and disturbed the saint at
prayers. Miles promptly destroyed it-miraculously, says his biographer
and when the hermit not unnaturally protested at this treatment of his
dumb friend, rebuked him severely for un-Christian conduct in making a
pet of a creature between which and mankind Heaven had established
enmity. The hermit left his rather difficult guest in sole possession
of the cell, and went to seek another. Miles, however, soon abandoned
it, and returned to the East by way of Nisibis; where he scented the
quarrel with Papa from afar, and hastened to join in the fray. Though
he had abandoned his own diocese he had this much of sympathy with
it-that he would not see it made subordinate to another see that had
once been more or less under its authority.

Feeling ran very high when the council met. Papa absolutely refused
to submit to its authority, “exalting himself above the bishops who
were assembled to judge him,” though it is not clear on what he based
this claim to supremacy. Perhaps he simply “would not receive” the
council; much as a modern Assyrian often will declare, when angry, “I
do not receive X. as my patriarch,” and considers himself thereby freed
from all obligation or obedience to the man named. Old Syrian writers
reveal a state of mind, if not of circumstance, so exactly similar to
that of their modern descendants, that one is often tempted to “fill up
gaps” from modern knowledge.

Miles called the angry bishop to order. “Is it not written, lie that
is chief among you, let him be a servant?” “You fool, don’t I know
that?” replied the Catholicos. “Then be judged by the Gospel, if you
will not be judged by man,” retorted Miles, and drawing his copy of the
Gospel from his satchel lie placed it on a cushion in the midst. Papa,
who was obviously in a furious rage, struck the book with his hand,
exclaiming, “Then speak, Gospel, speak !”48
This sacrilege roused the horror of friends and foes alike; but
the fury of the old man then overcame him-struck with paralysis or
apoplexy, he fell senseless in the council chamber, and we cannot
wonder that all present felt that they had seen judgment fall on him
from Heaven for his impiety. After such a portent the condemnation of
the Catholicos followed as a matter of course. He was deposed from his
rank; and his archdeacon, Shimun, consecrated in his room, unwilling
though he apparently was to accept the honour. All accusations against
Papa were taken as proved, and published as such. The supremacy of
Seleucia over the Church of Persia seemed to have been strangled at
birth. Papa, however, though defeated, was by no means a broken man.
His stroke, whatever its nature, must have passed soon, at least as far
as his mental powers were concerned, though apparently he never
recovered the use of one arm.49
He was resolved to recover his position, and with that object he laid
his case before the “Western bishops.” An Assyrian’s ordinary course in
such a case is to appeal to the Government, St. Paul’s dictum about
going to law with unbelievers being held in scant respect practically
among them; and it is to Papa’s credit that he refrained from this, and
took a course more ecclesiastically correct. Possibly, too, the appeal
to secular authority was barred to him, on account of the fact that the
family interest of his archdeacon and rival, Shimun, stood very high
with the guardian of the boy king, Sapor II.50

The appeal of the Catholicos to the Western bishops was made, not to
the Patriarch of Antioch, but to the Bishop of Edessa, S’ada.51 Neither then nor
at any other
time did the Church of the East regard Antioch as its mother or
superior. Later tradition asserted, and in this case probably with
truth, that the appeal went also to the famous James of Nisibis.52 It appears that
the matter
was put before the nearest Western bishops of eminence. The answer,
whoever gave it, was definite enough, at least as quoted in a council
held a century later. All the proceedings against Papa were annulled,
the accusers were deposed from their orders, and only such members of
the council as had acted in “their simplicity” were allowed to retain
their rank. Shimun, as having been consecrated against his will, was to
remain as archdeacon, “cum jure successionis.”

According to another historian, however, the judgment of the Western
fathers was not nearly so trenchant, and simply recommended a general
reconciliation, on the ground that- submission to a patriarch was for
the common advantage.53
Certainly the decision, even if given as quoted, was not carried out.
The only protagonists in the dispute of whom we know anything were not
degraded. Miles and Aqib-Alaha retained their rank; and the only reason
why the former did not resume his see was that lie preferred the work
of wandering evangelist to that of diocesan bishop. Shimun was
specially marked for promotion as a result of what he had done. The
most probable explanation is, that all parties were a little ashamed of
themselves and their actions, and were glad of a reconciliation on any,
and preferably on indefinite, terms. It is with some regret that we
find that the one man who resisted the reconciliation was Shimun. He
refused to accept the advice of the Western bishops; was anxious to
appeal to the Regent of the kingdom; and was only withheld from doing
so by the flat refusal of his father, on whom his political power
depended, to stir in the matter.

Ultimately all consented to let the matter drop, without attempting
to reach too formal a settlement. Possibly it was expected that tension
would soon be eased automatically, by the death of Papa; though, as a
matter of fact, he seems to have lived for twelve years after this
time. Shimun was reconciled by the prospect of the succession, and what
else we know of his story gives us ground for hoping that higher
motives also may have influenced him. Practically, the victory rested
with Papa, who regained his see, and whose primacy among the bishops
came to be accepted as a thing too practically useful to resist. All
recognized that it was useless to argue against the law of gravitation,
which had decreed that Seleucia should be the primary, round which all
the planets of the system must revolve. Papa’s ambition, says
Mshikha-Zca, worked out to the advantage of the Church.

What remained of his long episcopate was peaceful, and about 327 he
having held his
office for hard on fifty years-a length sufficient to be remarkable,
even if it be less than the seventy or eighty which later historians
assigned him. Shimun bar Saba’i took his place peacefully. By
the irony of fate the man who had strained every nerve to prevent the
establishment of the Catholicate of Seleucia, was destined, by his
glorious death, to establish its prestige on an unshakable foundation.



PAPA died about 328; and Shimun bar Saba’i succeeded him peacefully,
and ruled, at all events for some years, with the prosperity that came
from the royal favour. He was a persona grata at Court, and
the young King Sapor (whose coming of age had approximately coincided
with the accession of Shimun) apparently had a real personal liking for
the bishop.55

The great ecclesiastical events that were passing in the West no
doubt excited interest in the Church of the East, as far as they were
known; but though destined to affect its history most profoundly in
time, they had little effect at the moment. The news of the conversion
of the Roman Emperor, and of the Edict at Milan, would reach the East,
probably, about the time of the council held against Papa. During his
later years, and the earlier portion of his successor’s episcopate,
rumours of the gradual establishment of Christianity as the State
religion, of the rise of the Arian heresy, and the assembly,
of the Great Council of Nicaea, must gradually have filtered through to
the Christians of Persia.

That portion of the Church, however, had this piece of exceptional
good fortune allowed it-that it (and it only, of all portions of the
Church Catholic of the day) was absolutely untroubled by the Arian
controversy. None of its bishops were present at Nicaea; and the
doctrine of Arius was known to it only as an accursed thing to be

This fact, the ignorance of a not unimportant Church of the greatest
of all Church controversies, will bear some examination. First, the
fact must be admitted, explain it as we may, that the “Assyrian” Church
did know nothing officially of the Nicene Council at the time of its
assembling. Not only is there no reference to it in any of the nearly
contemporary documents that remain to us (for they, with one important
exception, are acta martyrum where such reference might
naturally not be found); but the one work of theology (properly so
called) that remains to us from the period, is obviously the work of a
man who had no knowledge of the council, or what was debated therein.
The author in question, of course, is Afraat, the “Sage of Persia.”
Writing about fifteen years after the council (337-346) he uses
expressions, and formulates a creed56
in a fashion that one may fairly say would have been impossible to a
man who had heard of the rights and wrongs of the great controversy
that was then agitating “the West,” no matter which side he took in it.

The Church of “the East” was not asked to accept Nicaea, or its
doctrines, until eighty-five years later, when it frankly and fully
accepted both the council and its creed. Individual bishops may have
(must have)57
known of
the fact, but not the auto-cephalous Church as such.

The most probable explanation of the phenomenon is as follows.
Constantine regarded the council as an “imperial affair.” In the whole
controversy, it was the peace of the Empire that he saw endangered, not
the vital truth of Christianity; and the council was summoned to guard
the first, by determining the second. Under these circumstances, it was
natural that he should not summon bishops from outside the empire to
settle a domestic matter. The Emperor was, of course, aware of the
existence of the Church in Persia, and took an interest (too much
interest, perhaps) in its fortunes; but in the matter of the council he
seems to have regarded it as outside his purview. So the synod met, and
the “Easterns” were not represented to it.

A few years elapsed, and the rise of the great persecution protected
them (at a frightful cost) from the weary controversy that followed.

It is a fact, however, that one of the greatest of “Assyrian”
saints, and the holder of one of the most important metropolitical sees
of later “Assyrian” history, was undoubtedly present at Nicaea. James
of Nisibis certainly, and Ephraim Syrus his deacon probably, were at
the council; but they were there as representatives, not of a see in
the Persian Empire, but of one in the Roman. It was not until 363 that
Nisibis, hitherto the bulwark of the Roman frontier, was abandoned by
Jovian to Persia, and a throne that had hitherto been (if in any
patriarchate) in that of Antioch, fell naturally under that of

Incidentally we may. note that it is a matter for
profound thankfulness that so obstinate a heresy as Arianism should not
have been allowed to find a national point d’appui in such a
Church as that of the Persian Empire. Had it done so, the struggle in
the eastern half of the Empire might have been prolonged indefinitely,
and Teutonic Arianism have found that support for lack of which it sank
and passed away.

In Persia, Sapor II, who had begun his life and reign together in
309, had come to his kingdom and won his spurs in his earlier wars
against the Arabs, where he had shown both the vigour and the cruelty
that marked his whole career. Now, lie was preparing to renew the long
quarrel with Rome, and to demand, if not the whole Achaemenid Empire,
at least the retrocession of the five lost frontier provinces ceded by
Narses to Diocletian. Probably, however, the Persian hesitated at the
thought of challenging Constantine “the Victorious,” old though he now
was. He certainly waited until the great Emperor had
passed away (though had his life been prolonged a few months
Constantine might not have stayed to be attacked) and left a divided
empire to sons weaker than himself. Then Sapor straightway attacked the
weakest and nearest of the three.

During the twenty years previous to the war the fact of the definite
Christianization of Rome had sunk into Persian consciousness; and this
had a natural, but disastrous, “repercussion” on the position of the
Church in Persia. While the Empire was pagan and persecuting,
Christianity was regarded with no suspicion by the Government of the
Shah-in-Shah. It was not the true faith, of course; and its adherents
were regarded probably with some contempt; such. contempt as was the
lot, for instance, of a Jew in Moorish Spain. Persecution existed, no
doubt, but was sporadic at worst; being stirred up usually by some
enthusiastic Mobed, and started by some act of “apostasy.” But with the
conversion of the Roman Emperor, all this was changed. Christians were
thereafter -politically suspect, and from the Persian point of view
naturally and properly suspect, as co-religionists and presumably
sympathizers with Persia’s enemy. It was inevitable that this should be
so. The State establishment of Christianity was a good, if, not an
unmixed good, for the Church in the empire; but the Church outside it
had to pay the bill. In lands where religion and politics were, and
still are, inextricably mingled, it was simply impossible that the
Government official (whether Sassanid Persian or modern Ottoman) should
not suspect those whose faith cut them off from the body politic, and
linked them with its enemies. Whether the suspicion was just or not, is
beside the point; to ask that it should not be entertained, was to ask
too much of oriental human nature. In the collision of these two
activities, political and religious-a disaster as inevitable and as
hopeless as that brought on by “Nemesis” in a Greek tragedy-we have the
key to much (perhaps one half) of the sadness of the history of
Christianity in what we now call “the middle East.” The natural
suspicion of the governing class produces what one side calls
“precautions”; and what the other calls “persecutions,” if the date be
340, and “massacres” if the year be 1896. It produces, too, on the side
of the Christians, constant efforts to hold fast their faith, and yet
avoid persecution. The efforts may take the shape of the corporate
adoption of a form of Christianity different from that in favour over
the border59
(an act
which people in safety over that border complacently call “falling into
heresy”); or the means of defence may be deceitfulness and
slipperiness, which again those who have never been similarly tried
loathe and despise. The problem has changed its form a little during
the centuries, but it still remains essentially the same. Given a State
professing a certain form of militant religion (it matters nothing
whether its prophet be Zoroaster or Diahommed) how can loyalty to that
State be reconciled with the profession of the religion of its rivals?
How will those prosper, who are now making the latest, and not the
least noble effort, at the solution of this secular problem?

Suspicion of the Christians who were Persian subjects was thus
inevitable; and the Mobeds, at least, if no one else was available,
were always ready to fan that suspicion into persecution, even if
Christians on both sides of the frontier were careful to avoid giving
cause for offence. Unhappily, this was not the case. Those in Persia
undoubtedly gave cause for suspicion; they were restless under Magian
rule when they saw Christianity triumphant in the West; and looked to
the Roman Emperor as their deliverer, as naturally as, for instance,
the Armenians under Turkish rule looked, at one time, to Russia.60 Constantine,
too, was no more
averse to the post of general protector of all Christians than were
some Czars. Theodoret quotes his letter to Sapor, and applauds him for
his care for those of the true faith in Persia.61
The good bishop, safe in Cyrrhus, saw in the proceeding only a proof of
the wonderful virtue of the Emperor. Perhaps it was so, but how did it
look to Sapor? The interest of their would-be friends has not always
been an unmixed blessing for the Christians of the “Oriental Empire,”
either in politics or in religion.

Mons. Labourt, noting these facts in his book,62 observes that “precautions”
would have been justifiable enough, but “only the barbarity of the time
can explain, not excuse, the pitiless repression that the King
ordered.” “Repressions” of the kind Sapor adopted are not of one age
only; but are the “precautions” adopted by most oriental rulers under
such circumstances, from Sapor’s time to our own. Which side is most to
blame? The writer has seen the problem from close at hand, and dare not
judge the excesses of either side too harshly.

Thus, when once Sapor had started a war with Rome, it would have
been almost a miracle if he had not also started a persecution of
Christians; and when he returned to his palace after the first
campaign, sore and angry at a humiliating repulse from Nisibis,63 it was natural
to turn
furiously upon them and declare, “at least we will make these Roman
sympathizers pay!” That Jews, Manichaeans, and Mobeds should have urged
him to this course (as the biographer of Mar Shimun believed) is
probable enough; but their influence was hardly necessary.64

Thus the first “Firman” of persecution was issued, ordering all
Christians to pay double taxes, expressly as a contribution to the cost
of a war in which they were taking no share, the Catholicos being
ordered to collect the same. The special order may have been a kind of
test for Afar Shimun, but there was nothing unusual in the Government
thus dealing with the melet through its recognized head. In
any case Shimun refused to obey the order, on the double ground that
his people were too poor, and that tax-collecting was no part of a
bishop’s business. On this it was easy to raise the cry, “he is a
traitor and wishes to rebel”; and a second Firman was issued, ordering
his arrest and the general destruction of all the Christian churches.
Shimun was arrested at Seleucia, the Court being then at Karka d’Lidan (i.e.
Susa), and in the leisurely fashion characteristic of Eastern justice,
was allowed to collect his flock and to take a last farewell of them,
before being conducted, with several colleagues, to what all foresaw
would be his death. All gathered to receive the solemn blessing which a
contemporary writer has preserved for us: “Alay the Cross of our Lord
be the protection of the people of Jesus; the peace of God be with the
servants of God, and stablish your hearts in the faith of Christ, in
tribulation and in ease, in life and in death, now and for evermore.”65

The story of his martyrdom has been told by abler writers,66 to whom we may
refer for the
moving tale of Shimun’s interviews with the King; of the fall,
penitence and triumph of Gusht-azad the eunuch; of the offer of
freedom, both for himself and his melet, made to the
Catholicos, if he would consent to adore the sun but once; and of the
personal appeal of the King to him to yield, by the memory of their
personal friendship. The last scene toot place outside Susa, on ,the
morning of Good Friday, 339; when the Catholicos, five bishops, and
about one hundred clergy sealed their testimony together, Shimun being
the last to die. To him it AN-as given to die for both of the two
noblest causes for which a man may lay down his life-for his faith in
God, and for his duty to his people.

It is impossible to give any general account of the persecution
which, thus inaugurated, raged over all Persia for fully forty years.
The “Acts of Martyrs” indeed are abundant, and many of them are of the
highest historic value, but they give on the whole a very confused

Nothing, in the Last, goes in orderly legal fashion, according to
Western ideas; and persecutions were not carried out in the regular
Roman fashion. Further, a Firman is not so much a decree as a
permission (the standing order being, “thou shalt do nothing at all”);
and the result of the Firmans of persecution issued by Sapor was not
the setting of the machinery of lacy in motion against a religio
, in Roman wise, but something that resembled much more
closely the Armenian massacres of our own day, viz. the releasing of a
race hatred and fanaticism normally held in check, to do its will upon
its objects. The slaughter that followed was assisted frequently rather
than regularly by the Government officials.

The grounds of this feeling are stated, and probably with fair
correctness, to one of the series of Acta, as follows: “The Christians
destroy our holy teaching, and teach men to serve one God, and not to
honour the sun or fire. They teach them, too, to defile water by their
ablutions; to refrain from marriage and the procreation of children;
and to refuse to go out to war with the Shah-in-Shah. They have no
scruple about the slaughter and eating of animals; they bury the
corpses of men in the earth; and attribute the origin of snakes and
creeping things to a good God. They despise many servants of the King,
and teach witchcraft.”67

Summed up, these causes of offence amount to this. The Christians
were men of different habit to the Zoroastrian, and therefore were
hateful and despicable as the foreigner is to the Chinese to-day. Some
of their customs (particularly the burial of the dead, and the growing
habit of thinking celibacy the higher life) were specially abhorrent to
1llagians, to whose thinking it was man’s primary duty to produce fresh
servants for Hormizd, and to refrain from profaning Hormizd’s earth. As
usual, it was the accidents of the presentation of the Faith that made
it hateful to men whose religious philosophy was by no means low; and
“whose views of God, of the world, and of man, approach more nearly to
the fulness of truth than anything else that heathen literature can

The correct Christian conception of celibacy, as a thing higher per
se than marriage, needed correction; and Pauline theology might have
taught its disciples that no one way of disposing of the bodies of the
departed was in itself more reverent than another, or to be insisted on
if it “made a brother to stumble.”69
Thus prejudice born of outraged habit, and prejudice born of offended
religion, joined with the bitterer prejudice bred of patriotism to
produce a race-hatred between the holders of the two faiths. The
Christians were Roman sympathizers, and friends of the enemies of the
land. As a matter of fact the last charge was only half true. Christian
unwillingness to serve in the royal armies was not nearly so marked as
the distrust of them which made the King unwilling to accept their
service as a rule.70
Still a consideration of that kind was not likely to do much towards
abating a popular antipathy.

Thus that race-hatred, so unintelligible to us Europeans, grew up
between Christians and Zoroastrians; and according to the law of the
East, that religion is the determinant of nationality, they rapidly
became separate nations, for all that they dwelt to the same land. Such
race-hatred can, as we see in India, be kept under control for
generations by a Government resolved to keep the peace; but it blazes
up like the fires from a long dormant volcano if it be given
opportunity or permission for its indulgence. In Europe, Highland may
despise Lowland, or one nation another. But put them to live together
in one country (in Canada, for instance), and to a generation or so the
hatreds die out, the races mingle, and a new, possibly a finer type of
humanity is produced. It is only in the East that races (Kurd and
Armenian, or Kurd and Assyrian) will live side by side for generations,
each in villages of their own; doing life’s business together fairly
amicably, and obeying the orders of the Government (if any) to keep the
peace–but mixing no more than oil and water, and abating no jot of
mutual and bitter hatred.

The persecution in this case began with an indiscriminate massacre
of Christians round Susa,71
continuing for about a fortnight, and reproduced, in all probability,
in most of the Christian centres of the kingdom. Later, indeed, some
method was introduced into the proceeding; for Sapor discovered that a
favourite of his had met with a voluntary martyrdom,72 donning the “dress of a
Rabban” (monk or rather celibate) and mixing with the crowd of
confessors. Then a decree was issued, to the effect that all arrested
for Christianity were to be examined by some one in authority, and a
register of executions kept; further, that before any person was
ordered for execution, he or she was first to be put to the torture73 (and Sassanid
were adepts at that art) and only executed on proving obstinate. It
will be understood that this order was genuinely meant to be on the
side of mercy, but how far it was carried out is doubtful. Any man of
position74 apparently-certainly
any provincial governor or Mobed-could examine a Christian, and
sentence him to death; or might put him to death without
examination–for who was going to inquire with any strictness as to
what was done by way of executing the King’s decree in remoter
districts? The death of a Christian 7ayat was not a more important
thing in the fourth century than in the twentieth.

This looseness of organization, however, had its advantages. If any
governor could persecute, any could protect. For instance, the Marquis
(Marzban) of Adiabene, Pigrasp, simply refrained from persecuting,75 during the four
years for
which he held office after the decree was published–“except just
during vintage time,” when for some obscure reason, fanaticism could
not, apparently, be held in check. What one merciful man could do on a
large scale, others no doubt could do on a smaller; just as in a later
age, a generous Kurdish Agha could protect and shelter occasional
Armenian villages. In fact, though the persecution lasted its full
forty years (and indeed there were numerous isolated cases of
persecution, both before and after that period), yet it was
unsystematic in character, and did not and could not press on all
equally for that time. Often, no doubt, when a merciful marquis or
“Rad” died, the Mobeds of the district could procure the appointment of
a zealot in his place. We know, for instance, that this took place on
the death of Pigrasp in Adiabene.76

It was only to be expected that the clergy, and more specially the
bishops, and also the converts from Magianism, should be specially
aimed at by the persecutors. Two successors of Mar Shimun, Shah-dost
and Bar-b’ashmin, followed their former chief within six years; the
former of them being warned of his fate by a vision of his predecessor
in glory,77
calling on
his follower (and nephew) to come up to him without fear. After the
death of Bar-b’ashmin the throne remained vacant for more than twenty
years, as to fill it was to secure the death of a devoted man. Other
bishops, however, must have been consecrated, and the succession was

Among other bishops, Miles of Karka d’Lidan, who was still alive and
vigorous when the persecution began, was far too conspicuous a man to
be out of danger, and was too fearless to shun it. Hence, he was soon
arrested. On examination, the violence of temper that had marred a fine
character blazed out once more. He taunted the Agha who was judging
him, till the official cut him down with his own sabre, and this
somewhat pugnacious martyr died proclaiming vengeance on his murderers,
“whose bodies the fowls of the air shall eat.” The doom could hardly
have sounded very terrible to a Zoroastrian; but as a matter of fact,
the man was soon after. killed in a hunting accident.78

Aqib-shima, the venerable Bishop of Khanitha near Arbela-an ascetic
known and revered by all for his labours in converting the heathen79 of the hill
country round the
modern Rowanduz (where the Christian villages that are his monument
still remain)-was one of the later victims of the time of trial. Like
many of the more notable prisoners, he was finally sent for execution
to the “door of the King,” but an incident that occurred at one of his
many examinations is worth recording.

The martyr was before his judges, when a Manichaean was brought in,
and ordered to abjure his peculiar version of Christianity.80 This he readily
agreed to do
(as indeed was the practice of this sect, when they were not asked to
abjure the secret doctrine known to initiates alone), and lie killed an
ant, which either was, or was thought to be, the sacred symbol of life
according to his creed. One notes, with some regret, that the confessor
had no feeling but joy and triumph at the fall of the heretic.81

Aqib-shima was finally executed by the personal order of Sapor;
while Joseph the Qasha, who had been his companion in suffering, was
stoned by renegade Christians as the price of their lives. This, it may
be mentioned, was a common practice throughout the persecution; any one
who fell away from the faith being compelled to earn his pardon by
acting as executioner to his more staunch companions.

Monks and nuns were naturally as much the object of persecution as
were the clergy-partly as Christian leaders, partly on account of the
horror with which all Zoroastrians regarded the profession of the
celibate life. Nuns were commonly offered their lives if they would
consent to marry;82
renunciation of Christianity not being always insisted on in that case.
The frequency with which martyrdoms of these ascetics occur in the
Acta, is evidence of the firm hold which the ascetic and monastic
principle was taking (naturally) on the oriental mind. But less than a
generation had elapsed since its first introduction; and the
institution was as yet in a somewhat primitive and unorganized
condition, a “Daira” being simply the gathering of a group of devotees,
male or female, round some one leader.

Syriac historians, as a rule, have not much of an eye for the
artistic in narrative; and are so busy in proving to us (by the
recounting of miracles generally) the surpassing sanctity of their
hero, that they leave little room for the personal touches which, to
us, are much more illuminating. The author of the earlier Acta of the
martvrs of the persecution, is a gratifying exception to the rule; and
has recorded for us, not only the moving story of the martyrdom of Mar
Shimun and his companions, but several other picturesque and pathetic
incidents of the time. Thus it is to him that we owe the story of
the noble
lady who cared for the 120 confessors of Seleucia, during their
imprisonment; and only revealed to them the fact that the day of their
“release” had come, by the final gift of white raiment that she made to
each of them, and the prayer that they would intercede for her before
the Throne. The bodies of martyrs were as a rule surrendered to their
friends (though in some cases attempts were made to prevent this84), and
lady was allowed to complete her pious task by the burial of these
bodies in one great martyrium.

On another occasion, when the right of burial was refused and the
bodies left by the roadside, panic was spread among the Magi, and
triumph among the Christians, by a mysterious light that hovered above
the corpses.85
It was, of
course, some kind of phosphorescence, but was universally regarded as a
proof that these were indeed holy men that had been done to death; and
the bodies were interred with all honour. It is an indication of the
absolute changelessness of the East, that the phenomenon and the effect
should have been exactly repeated during the Armenian massacres of

Persecution must have Ragged at times, for the blood-thirst, even of
an oriental fanatic, is not insatiable. It is probable, too, that the
great Roman invasion of Julian gave some respite to Christians (a fact
that would hardly have pleased the author of it), by giving King and
nobles something else to do. This is not, however, directly referred to
in the Acta. Certainly after its conclusion the storm burst out again
with fresh violence, for there was fresh material to work on. Sapor, it
will be remembered, insisted on a “rectification of frontier” as the
price of peace; and five provinces, with six bishoprics and a
population largely Christian, found themselves handed over by a
Christian Emperor to Sapor. Jovian has a good name in ecclesiastical
history, owing mainly to his Nicene Orthodoxy, and to the high opinion
St. Athanasius entertained of him. Something, however, must be entered
on the other side when we remember that, in making peace, he not only
incurred the military shame of handing over to Persia the maiden
fortress that his enemy had never been able to win in fight; but also
made absolutely no effort, as far as we know, to secure decent
treatment for the inhabitants of those provinces which he was handing
over to a notorious persecutor. As a result, not only were those
inhabitants deported into distant provinces of Persia (that was perhaps
a necessary measure of precaution), but instructions were given to mark
their leaders, and to arrest and “deal with” all who would not abandon
“the religion of Caesar.”86
was unintentional irony in the order, when the only Caesar they had
known of late had been Julian; but that fact did not save the victims.
The historians tell us of one of the detachments of captives (the men
of B. Zabdai), among whom were found the Bishop Heliodorus, and several
of the clergy. These were given the choice between apostasy and death,
and were massacred to the number of nearly 300; only twenty-five of the
band accepting their lives at the price offered. Other detachments
suffered in the same way.

The cession of territory was important ecclesiastically, as by
taking Nisibis and “the five provinces” out of the Roman into the
Persian Empire, it also took them, as stated above, out of the
Antiochene Patriarchate, and into that of Seleucia. When peace was
restored to the Church this position was accepted without a murmur. It
may seem strange to a purist, that ecclesiastical boundaries should
thus, as a matter of course, follow civil; but convenience in such a
matter is apt to be stronger than correctitude. No King of Persia could
tolerate such an anomaly as the subjection of some of his subjects,
even quoad ecclesiastica, to an Archbishop outside his
boundary; nor would any Persian Christian, when the persecution
was over, go out of his way to invite its renewal by starting such an

It must be remembered, too, that in the fourth century the idea that
ecclesiastical divisions followed civil was already familiar–as we see
in the life of St. Basil; and that patriarchates were still inchoate.
The greater sees, like Antioch, Rome and Alexandria, were gathering
round them the bishoprics that lay within their sphere of attraction,
just as Seleucia was doing in the Persian sphere. We shall
see that (owing probably to the conditions of the life of a subject melet)
the dependence of the metropolitan and diocesan bishops on the
Catholicos was even more defined in Persia than inside the Roman
Empire. Still, patriarchal boundaries were so far from being defined,
that a new Patriarchate was actually in process of formation round
Constantinople; and we can trace its first beginnings under Chrysostom
in the next generation.

Up to the very end of his life Sapor continued to persecute
relentlessly; and it is only, natural that, as the
persecution goes on, a bitter and resentful tone should creep into the
minds of the sufferers, and should find expression in the Acta. Sayings
like “Your accursed King,”87
or “I will not worship fire, but you will be burning for ever
in it some day,” are to be regretted; though one cannot wonder that a
generation of suffering should have produced them. Still it is
saddening to note the contrast between them, and the stately dignity of
Mar Shimun, the unswerving loyalty of Gushtazad, and the genuine
cheerfulness and even “chaff” of Martha the nun.88

Even during the persecution, the Church did not lose her power of
drawing men to her. More than one chronicler tells with pride of the
conversion, when persecution was hottest, of men like Ait-Alaha of
the priest of
the goddess Sharbil. He was subject to some complaint resembling
dysentery; and was told by a Christian, who succoured him in one of his
paroxysms, to go to the Bishop of Arbela, who would cure him. The
Magian, being cured as promised, professed himself a Christian; and the
bishop, after some natural hesitation, admitted him to baptism, and
subsequently to ordination.

Naturally, a price was put upon the head of the “renegade,” and also
on that of the Bishop Maran-zca. Ait-Alaha, though preserved for some
time, was arrested at last; and as he remained steadfast tinder
torture, was sent with a fellow-prisoner to the King at Bait Lapat, or
Gondi-Sapor. On the journey, the two were apparently on parole, being
allowed personal freedom by their guards, and even permitted to go in
and out of a city (Shehrgard in B. Garmai) where they were delayed for
some days. One is glad to see that the trust was not abused, and that
both Christians loyally delivered themselves up to execution rather
than break their plighted word.

Maran-zca–the name means “our Lord conquers” or “has conquered,”
and is one of many that have a curiously Puritanic ring to the English
reader–always evaded arrest; being able to retire into the mountains
to the north of his diocese, where the “King’s writ” does not run to
this day. Though both of his predecessors, John and Abraham, were
martyred, he died in peace after an episcopate of twenty-nine years.

Sapor, “the long-lived,” also died, at last, in 79; and the
persecution practically died with him. Not that there was safety from
local outbreaks of zeal, or Mobed fanaticism; that could not be
secured, till a royal Firman of toleration had been issued, and neither
of Sapor’s three feeble successors could take so decisive a step. The
worst of the storm, however, was past; and the Church which had endured
as severe a trial as ever national Church was called upon to face–and
which had endured it so nobly–could rest a while, recoup her energies,
and repair her organization; and count up the total of those 16,000
martyrs whose names were known and recorded,90
who had “enriched the Church with their deaths” during those terrible
forty years.



THREE great conflicts, or rather a stage in each of three great
conflicts, came to an end when Sapor the long-lived died, and one of
the lengthiest reigns in history was closed. In Persia the first great
attempt of the Magian hierarchy to destroy Christianity by force lead
been made, and failed.

In the Roman Empire paganism had practically passed away as a
religion; and the victory of Christianity over it had been proclaimed
by the removal of the altar of Victory from the Senate House at Rome,
and the destruction of the Serapeum at Alexandria. Furthermore,
Arianism had been definitely conquered as an official creed. For some
time past it had been beaten in the Church; but yet, while it was
supported by imperial patronage it had remained formidable–at least in
Asia Minor, and the other parts of the Empire which had found their
natural centre in Constantinople. Now that support was withdrawn by
Theodosius, and the faith passed out of practical importance within
Roman territory. The Emperor held a council of the bishops of the
Eastern Empire, to solemnly proclaim its burial, so to speak; and this
gathering, almost accidentally, took rank as “oecumenical” in later
years, though at the moment it passed almost unnoticed. One incident in
the course of it, however, has some importance for our main subject,
viz., that this council saw the commencement of that rivalry between
Alexandria and Constantinople (the throne of the Evangelist, and the
upstart city of yesterday) which was to cost three bishops of the
capital their lives, and one his see. Now, Gregory Nazianzen, the duly
appointed bishop91
the capital, was practically cast Out of his diocese by the protest of
the Egyptian bishops against the translated “intruder”; and the feud,
for it was nothing less, between the two sees was to continue till
communion between them had been finally broken off. In the course of it
three bishops of Constantinople (Chrysostom, Nestorius and Flavian)
were hounded to death by as many patriarchs of Alexandria, assisted by
the emperors; and at least one patriarch of Alexandria, Proterius, was
murdered to his own cathedral. This quarrel is an important factor in
the ecclesiastical history of the next seventy years; for it was
destined toy have considerable influence in embittering the
Christological controversy, and to have a “repercussion,” of which the
effects are felt to-day, on the history of the Persian Church.92

Politically the question of the day for the Empire was the defence
of the State against the barbarians. Theodosius was to effect this
during his life; and thanks to his genius, the eastern portion of the
empire, though raided from end to end, was destined ultimately to
survive the flood before which the western half of it went down. This,
however, was not so clear at the moment; and while the Ostro-Goths were
riding at will over Asia Minor, and Athens and Antioch were in the act
of being plundered by Visi-Goths and Huns respectively, it must have
been difficult to believe that so overwhelming an attach was destined
to pass away.

In Persia, as is often the case, a series of nonentities followed
the death of a great king. Neither Ardashir 11, Sapor III, nor Bahram
IV made any impression on their contemporaries; and the only important
event of the twenty years that covered their three reigns was the
practical extinction of the kingdom of Armenia.93

During the Romo-Persian War, Arsaces, the ruler of that country, had
endeavoured to keep himself safe by impartially betraying both sides,
and then executing his own agents. There was this much of excuse for
him-that he, like the dukes of Savoy, was forbidden by his geographical
position to indulge in the luxury of a conscience. Naturally, when
peace was made, his convenience was consulted by neither party, and
Armenia was handed over to the mercies of Persia. Sapor requited
treachery with treachery; and having secured the person of Arsaces by a
safe-conduct, blinded him, and consigned him to the “Castle of
Oblivion,” the ominously-named “Loches” of the Sassanid kings.

The Shah-in-Shah then attempted to govern the turbulent province by
the appointment of Armenian nobles as Persian satraps, or Marzbans; but
the effort failed. This Poland of the East showed itself in the
character it has borne ever since-a land that can neither govern
itself, nor submit peaceably to the government of any foreigner.94 As it is in the
century, so it was in the fourth. A patriotic party existed which
united a real care for their country with a good deal of personal
ambition, and an absolute lack of scruple in their methods. They
intrigued with Rome or Persia, and betrayed each to the other. They
invited in a foreign garrison; and then,_ in panic at their own act,
butchered them in a sort of “Sicilian vespers.” None of these
“patriots” would be loyal to the foreigner; though at any time any of
them would betray his fellows and his country to whatever power was the
enemy at the moment. But he would act thus, be it understood, to gain
neither money nor power (though he would take both, if they came his
way as reward), but the gratification of some petty personal spite.
Probably, too, all were genuinely convinced that Armenia-civilized and
Christian Armenia-was the true salt of the earth; and that these
regrettable incidents were purely the result of oppression, and the
fault of her oppressors.

Was it wonderful that the two great powers whose peace was
endangered by such a neighbour should agree to partition the country;
and resolve to govern somehow-however badly-those who were unable to
govern themselves? Thus the Armenian kingdom ended, and the Armenian
question began. It is a proof of the continuity of history, and the
permanence of national characteristics, that this problem, started in
the early fifth century, should still remain unsolved. During the
persecution, the Christians of Armenia (that is to say, the nation,
which Tiridates had brought to confess Christianity en masse by
the most drastic of methods) were left undisturbed. Their independence
protected them; and while their coreligionists to the south were
undergoing their great trial, the Armenians–under their Catholicos
organizing their hierarchy, after the most approved Western model, that
of Caesarea. Of course the Church had its troubles; but these arose
either from the royal contempt of Church discipline, as not made for
kings; or from the attempt of Narses to force all the ecclesiastical
machinery of civilized Cappadocia on semi-barbarous Armenia-a blunder
which the rulers of infant Churches have repeated more than once since.
Once the Catholicos was exiled, only to return with fresh zeal from the
mother-Church to carry out the precepts of St. Basil. The cause of this
quarrel was the establishment by the King of a “city of refuge”-an
institution in which Arsaces (probably gauging the needs of his people
much more accurately than Narses) saw a means of abating the
blood-feuds that devastated the country but which the archbishop called
“a licensed Sodom.” On his return from banishment, Narses was poisoned
by the then King, Para or Bab; and the crime caused a breach with
Caesarea, and the proclamation of Armenian ecclesiastical independence.
This policy was no doubt welcome to the Persian King when in 3S4 he
became the avowed suzerain of the bulk of the country; and a few
generations later the Christological quarrel was destined-both in
Armenia and Persia-to make a temporary breach permanent. Up to the
close of the fourth century, however, there was no religious
persecution in Armenia; or rather, all persecution had been of pagans
by Christians, when the nation was forcibly converted. Massacres, and
extensive ones, had taken place when the Persians occupied the country
on the deposition of Arsaces; and here the sufferers were Christians,
and the inflictors Zoroastrians; but these were acts of war, not of
religion. The Church of Armenia, however, -%s*as to have her full share
of persecution, properly so called, during future centuries.

In Persia, as the long persecution gradually flickered out (and
there is evidence that it was not fully over till thirty years
after the death of Sapor), it is not wonderful that the Church should
be left in a most shattered and disorganized condition. The marvel is,
indeed, that life remained in the body at all; and it is doubtful
whether a Western Church would have survived such an ordeal. An Eastern
melet, however, if it has not the vigorous and energetic
(perhaps interfering) vitality of its Western counterpart; and if, like
certain animals, it maintains itself by an external armour of custom
and inherited habit, rather than by a strong principle of internal
life; has this in common also with the crustacean–that it can endure
an amount of cutting and slashing that would be fatal to a more highly
organized body.

Thus, though crushed and maimed–with probably hardly any bishops
remaining, and certainly a very scanty supply of priests–the Church
began its reparative process almost as soon as the persecution was
staved. Naturally it is difficult to trace the stages, for the
confusion of the time is repeated in the confused and fragmentary
statements of the historians.

It appears, however, from the statements of both the later writers
who give us an account of this period96
that a Catholicos, or, at all events, a bishop of Seleucia, was
chosen soon after the death of Sapor; and probably in the time of his
son, though not immediate successor, Sapor III. Bar-Hebraeus, indeed,
declares that permission was given for the election by Sapor II, after
the death of Julian had convinced him of the iniquity and folly of
persecuting Christians.97
As, however, we know from other sources that the event had no such
effect, the statement of other writers that it was Sapor III who gave
the necessary leave seems much more probable. We know from Persian
that this King
had the reputation of being “a just and merciful man”; and it was also
during his reign that the Bishop of Arbela, Shubkha I’Ishu, ventured on
what he had feared to do before, and commenced the ordination of clergy
for his diocese.99

Of the bishop chosen, whose name was Tamuza,100
or Tumarsa, we know little; except that he was assisted in his
organizing work by “Bokht-Ishu the martyr”101
(of whom nothing else is known), and by Mar Abda.

The name of Bokht-Ishu suggests the continuance of persecution in
some cases; and Abda we know as a famous ascetic who founded a
monastery in the little Arab state of Khirta or Kufa, whence came more
than one Catholicos in later days.

As a rule, however, Tamuza was no great advocate of asceticism.
Death and apostasy had so diminished the melet that he
urged all young people to marry, and produce children to recoup its
The advice
was sound, under the circumstances; but it shows how thoroughly the melet
conception” was getting into the minds of the people. It was
far more natural, in their eyes, that the Church should extend by
growth rather than by conversions. The thought was taking root that a
man born in the Church naturally belonged to it; but that it was out of
the common for folk to join it from outside, or for men to work with
the object of winning them.103

In recommending marriage, however, Tamuza had to guard his people
against marriages condemned by the Christian conscience, though ever.
applauded by the Magian code. This was one of the standing temptations
of all Persian Christians; and their obedience to their stricter law
was one of the standing provocations that their existence offered to
Zoroastrians. That the incestuous unions of Magianism should be unknown
now thanks to the influence of a faith that borrowed this point of its
morality at least from Christianity -is not the least of the triumphs
(albeit an indirect one) of the faith.

Tamuza died a natural death-a thing sufficiently unusual among
bishops of the period for Bar-Hebraeus to note the fact specially-but
in spite of this encouraging event it was hard to find any one who, at
the time of his departure, would accept the dangerous post. After a
considerable interval, one Qaiuma (Cajumas) volunteered for the
perilous honour; on the ground that he, being already an old man, had
little to lose by a speedy death, and that such service as his age
could render was at thedisposal of the Church. The date of
his consecration is both uncertain and unimportant. For a few years
(five, according to Bar-Hebraeus) he acted as an avowed stop-gap to the
see; and then the accession of Yezdegerd and the commencement of
friendly relations with the Christian Empire of Rome offered a prospect
of definite peace for the Church. The Catholicos at once offered to lay
clown an office which he had only accepted when it was dangerous, and
whose duties he could not efficiently discharge. A gathering of
bishops, however, unanimously refused the resignation; though they
appointed as his coadjutor a man named Isaac, of ancient and honourable
house, and of kin to the late Catholicos, Tamuza. This man acted as son
to Qaiuma during the brief remainder of the old man’s honourable life,
and succeeded to his throne at his decease.

Such is the story given to us, with no important variations,104 by both the
Monophysite and
Nestorian writers. Both are certainly late in date, but there seems no
solid reason for doubting the substantial truth of that which both

In 399 Yezdegerd I became King of Persia. Magian historians are hard
put to it to find epithets adequate to express their detestation of
this prince –“the apostate,” “the wicked,” the friend of Rome and of
Christians, and the persecutor of Magi. As a matter of fact, this
much-abused man appears from his acts to have been a strong and able
king of peaceful disposition; who refrained from making war on the
Roman Empire when it was hardly in a state to resist him, and who was
uniformly friendly to the two emperors of his day.

The statement made by Procopius105
that Yezdegerd actually acted as guardian of the infant
Theodosius II has been naturally questioned; but even its startling
character makes it credible when given us by an historian who, when not
blinded by prejudice, is usually painstaking and accurate. In his home
policy Yezdegerd set himself steadily to oppose the nobles, and
specially the Magi whose great corporation was powerful enough to be
formidable to the King. Hence he appears to Alagian writers as a
tyrant; so suspicious of everybody that if ever A. came to him to ask a
favour for B., he would at once ask A. what payment he was to receive
as his share.106

This philo-Roman and anti-Alagian policy naturally led him to show
favour to the Christians of his land; though there was probably never
any ground for the hope entertained by them that this Shah-in-Shah
would declare himself a Christian, and be the Persian Constantine. When
Christians threatened to be dangerous, he could repress them as sternly
as he disciplined Magi; and while good folk in Constantinople were
hoping to hear of his conversion, he was actually issuing a Firman of

Still, for all the early part of his reign Yezdegerd was distinctly
a pro-Christian king; and was probably much influenced in this
direction by a Roman subject who was a welcome guest at his court-the
diplomatist-prelate, Alarutha of Maipherqat by Amida. When relations
between Rome and Persia were friendly, embassies (to quote the
contemporary historian) “were always being necessary”; and though the
post of ambassador might be trusted only to some high dignitary of the
empire sending the embassy, yet it was constantly found convenient, in
both countries, to associate with him one or more episcopal assessors,
who were no doubt valuable assistants, thanks to the ecclesiastical
free-masonry that then prevailed from York to Seleucia-Ctesiphon.

Marutha was one of the men most frequently employed in this fashion.
So frequently that one doubts whether, between the claims of embassies
and of councils, his diocese had much benefit from his services! Thus,
having been present, apparently, at the council of Constantinople in
381,108 he
makes his
first appearance in Assyrian Church history at the somewhat informal
council that elected Isaac to the Catholicate-the decision reached
being much affected by his advice.109
Next (perhaps two years later) he is at Constantinople once more; and
not, it must be owned, in the best of company, as he was a member of
the too notorious synod of the Oak that condemned St. Chrysostom110 Five years
elapsed, and the
great opportunity of his life presented itself to the diplomatist
bishop, who seems to have added the art of a physician to his other
accomplishments. In 408 or 409 he was again dispatched (and this time
apparently in all three of his capacities, as diplomatist, bishop and
doctor) to the Persian court; and during a lengthy sojourn there he
rendered to his Eastern brethren the greatest service that a “Western”
bishop ever performed for them. He accomplished his work as diplomatist
and doctor to the satisfaction of his employers; and displayed his
versatile character in a new light, as a Church historian, or at least
as a collector of material for Church history.

The diplomatic side of Marutha’s work was soon accomplished, if, as
is the most probable suggestion, the embassy had nothing more serious
to do than to formally announce the accession of Theodosius II to his
brother and guardian. Medically, he cured the King (by his prayers,
says Socrates) of severe attacks of headache, which the Persian doctors
had been unable to alleviate. According to one account,111 the presence
of a doctor in
the embassy had been specially requested; the Persians declaring with
regret that there were no physicians like the Christians, and that all
the best of them had been killed or driven away during the persecution.
Grateful for his cure, the King showed such honour to Marutha that
Magians began to fear the conversion of one who was no strict
Zoroastrian, and took measures to prevent it. When Yezdegerd was at one
of the usual services in one of the fire-temples of the capital, a
voice was suddenly heard proclaiming from the midst of the sacred fire,
“Turn out that apostate.” All applied the words to Yezdegerd, who seems
to have been genuinely frightened for the moment, and to have hurried
from the temple. Marutha (who, of course, was not in the building)
reassured him, and advised him to make close search for evidence of
fraud; which he did, and was rewarded by finding a place where a man
could stand concealed and utter “supernatural” messages. Severe
punishment for the Magi followed, of course (though neither this nor.
the remembrance of ignominious failure prevented the repetition of the
trick, with like result, on another occasion); and Marutha was
emboldened to ask and obtain from the Shah-in-Shall the two great
favours that he had been charged, if possible, to procure. These were,
first, a firman of toleration for Christians; and second, the leave to
assemble a council for the regulation of Church affairs.

There was no difficulty about the firman, which was issued some time
in the year 409.112
was formally given to the Christians to worship openly, and to rebuild
their churches. Confessors who were still in prison were set at
liberty, and bishops were given free leave to travel in their dioceses.
This decree was practically the Edict of Milan for the Assyrian Church.
It was the formal recognition of the Christians as being in law what
they had hitherto been in fact, viz. a melet with the right to
exist and worship in the Persian Empire. Of course this toleration was
something very far removed from liberty or equality, as we understand
the words. First, the decree was valid only durante beneplacito–till
it was the pleasure of the Shah-in-Shah to withdraw it; and next,
while in existence, the toleration that it gave was limited. A
Christian might exist, but not proselytize. Apostasy from Magianism was
as much a capital offence as ever; and the leave to rebuild old
churches did not (and does not) imply the right to build new ones.
Still the grant was a long step forward for the Church; and the
simultaneous recognition of the right to organize and make, laws for
itself gave to it all that was necessary for its future growth.

Incidentally, we note the right given to “the chiefs” (i.e.
the bishops) to travel and itinerate in their dioceses without being
disturbed. Of course this is necessary for a bishop anywhere, and it is
doubly necessary in the East; yet where the clear right to act thus is
not recognized the proceeding rouses the suspicions of every oriental
official, who is accustomed to the belief that those who are doing.
nothing are doing right, and that inexplicable activity is either
insane or treasonable. “What is the man really after that he goes round
among the rayats in that fashion?” is the question that is
always asked; so that the right to visit his diocese undisturbed by
officials must have been an immense relief to any zealous Assyrian

Further (though this is assumed rather than expressed in formal
documents), the Shah-in-Shah now fully accepted Isaac, Bishop of
Seleucia, as head of the melet, and Catholicos of the Church
in his dominions. Again, this-was only the recognition of what was the
fact previously, though hardly for long enough to make it established
custom. Facts had created the presidency of the see; and though
circumstances had put it, and everything else that was regular, in
abeyance for about seventy years; nevertheless, as soon as peace %vas
restored, and the of the Church recognized by the
State, it was natural that the existence and position of its chief
officer should be recognized also. The Catholicate, thus established,
has remained an established fact ever since; and the right of the
throne of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, or its successor,113
to the presidency of the Assyrian Church has never been challenged.
There have, of course, been disputes over the succession, which has
been claimed by two rival lines since the seventeenth century; and
there have been occasional vacancies; but the right of this throne to
the Catholicate has been axiomatic.

The title, henceforth used habitually and regularly114 by the Bishop
Seleucia-Ctesiphon, and still employed by his successors (though in the
course of the nest half-century they began to use the term Patriarch
along with it, and still continue to do so), needs a word of
explanation. In the Roman Empire it was the name of a civil and
financial office; but previously to its use as an ecclesiastical title
in Persia it had been adopted by the Armenians as the title of the
principal bishop of their national Church. It was probably from them
that the Bishops of Seleucia adopted the word, and they used it in the
same sense.115

The office, as we have seen, was a natural growth from the
conditions of Christian life in Persia. In later ages men felt obliged
to account for the origin of the Patriarchate, as it has by that time
by the fiction
of a grant made in the year 190 by the four “Western” patriarchates to
an “Eastern” brother;117
and other writers, referring back to primitive times the growths of the
fourth and fifth centuries, have seen in the “Catholicos” of Seleucia
the Procurator-general or legatus natus of the see of Antioch.

There is, however, so far as I am aware, no evidence in writers of
the Assyrian or Persian Church that they ever regarded themselves as
under Antiochene jurisdiction; or their chief as in any sense the
delegate of that patriarch.118
It is extremely improbable that any Persian king would ever have
tolerated the subjection of “his rayats” to “the Roman Emperor’s
patriarch”; or that members of a Church liable enough to persecution in
any case would have thus gone out of their way to secure a perpetuity
of it! The “Patriarchates” of Seleucia and Antioch are parallel
growths, and neither of them is an offshoot of the other. Just about
the time that the “custom” referred to at Nicaea was bringing the sees
round Antioch, Alexandria and Rome into formal dependence on those
bishoprics, circumstances were bringing the sees of Persia into like
dependence on the bishopric of their capital. Kings and councils
recognized the facts, but did not create them.119

Toleration and the State recognition of the Catholicos, however,
were not all that was needed. Forty years of persecution, and thirty of
no-government, had naturally left a legacy of confusion behind them;
and a council was necessary, both to straighten out this tangle, and to
link up the Church “of the East” once more with her Western sisters.
Further, the decision of some indisputable authority was needful to
settle various disputes that had arisen.

Some sees had two, some three bishops contending for them; and there
were other quarrels current. For instance, there was in existence a
party of personal opponents of Isaac, the members of which were filing
accusations against him before the King.120
No doubt these accusations collapsed as soon as the royal favour
towards Isaac was shown beyond possibility of error, and no opportunity
for their revival ever occurred. This, however, did not necessarily
mean that they were dead in the minds of their promoters until Isaac
was dead too. It is one of the special beauties of oriental intrigue
that any accusation may be dropped automatically when its object is in
favour; and, after remaining dormant for half a lifetime, spring to
full life again if he lose power.

Marutha, in expectation of the permission which Yezdegerd granted
readily enough, had brought letters from “the Western. bishops” (or
those whom Assyrians called Westerns121),
both for the hypothetical council and for the Catholicos,
recommending the action that they judged advisable. There was also a
covering letter to the Shah-in-Shah, to whom Marutha discreetly showed
all the. documents before the council met.

The “Western” bishops thus writing were Porphyrius, “Catholicos” of
Antioch, and Acacius of Beroea; both of them friends of Theophilus, and
bitter foes of John Chrysostom, then quite recently dead. One of them,
it must be owned, was to play a worthier part in his old age, as the
peacemaker between John of Antioch and Cyril of Alexandria. Joined with
them was another, Acacius of Amida, later the saintly ransomer of
Persian captives, and ambassador to the Church of Assyria on a second
occasion; and the Bishops of Edessa and Tella. Thus all the greater
sees of the Antiochene province were represented. It is noteworthy that
there is no evidence in the acts of the council of the slightest claim
made by Antioch to jurisdiction in Persia. A “Catholicos,” with some
brother bishops, writes to a brother “Catholicos,” making
recommendations which the independent national Church accepts and

The recommendations were simple enough;122
namely, (a) That in future only one bishop should be allowed in each
see, and that care should be taken to have at least three consecrators.
(b) That in future all should celebrate the feast of Easter, and the
feast of Christmas and Epiphany (still regarded as one solemnity), on
the same days; and should observe the fast of forty days123 and Good
Friday. (c) That
if a council were possible, that council should solemnly declare its
adherence to the decrees of Nicaea.

Yezdegerd, in giving permission for the council, gave licence also
to use the royal posts for its assembly; and forty bishops were thus
summoned, from Nisibis in the north to Fars by the Persian Gulf in the
south, “to put a stop to all quarrels, schisms and divisions, and to
establish proper canons for the regulation of the Catholic Church.”

On the feast of. Epiphany, 410, the council met at
Seleucia; and after a brief formal sitting under the presidency of
Isaac and Marutha, adjourned for nearly a month-an interval spent
probably in discussions, and in the drawing up informally of the canons
which were to be passed at a later session. On February t the second
session opened. The letter of the “Westerns” was read and approved; the
Nicene canons, including, of course, the creed, were read, adopted and
signed by the council; and either then or at the next session the
twenty-one canons of the council formally passed unanimously. A second
adjournment followed, during which Isaac and Marutha had an audience of
Yezdegerd, probably submitting the canons for his approval, as a
preliminary to their publication; and finally, two royal commissioners
of high rank the (Grand Vizier and the Commander-in-chief) summoned the
synod to their presence, republished the Firman of Toleration, declared
that Isaac had been established by the King as “Chief of all the
Christians of the East,” and that the joint decisions of the Catholicos
and Marutha were to be final in all existing disputes and would be
enforced by royal authority.

Thus, at this council the Church was put formally and finally into
the position of a recognized melet in the Persian kingdom. It
was subject to its own ruler (who was also its religious head), whose
appointment must be at the least approved by the State. It could make
its own laws in its own way, subject to State approval; and
disobedience to them could be punished by State authority, if the
moral and temporal power of the Catholicos failed. And it could
own its own buildings, endowments and institutions. Any man could leave
the melet by either abandoning his Christianity, or (in later
times, when melets multiplied) by leaving his original Church
for some other; but while he remained in it he must obey its rules.

This precedent set by Yezdegerd has been followed so often, through
so many centuries, by so many varying non-Christian rulers, and towards
so many varieties of Christianity, that the first setting of it forms a
really noteworthy point in oriental history. This system is essentially
the one under which all Christians in “the Empire of the East” (whether
the rulers of that empire are Persian, Saracen, Mongol, Seljuk, or
Ottoman) have lived since, and still live to-day; and if survival can
prove fitness, this fact would seem to show that it is, on the whole,
well adapted for them.

Of course it has disadvantages. The appointment of all high officers
of the Church by a non-Christian Government tends, in oriental
circumstances, to bribery and intrigue; just as free election
(supposing, per impossibile, that an oriental ruler would
allow it) produces equally inevitably quarrels and schisms. Further, it
tends, on the whole, to keep the strong and saintly characters out of
the episcopate, and in obscurity. As things go in the East, it is the
supple intriguer rather than the straightforward man who will get such
prizes as are open to the rayat; and there is, further, a
natural tendency to select as bishops such men as will be “safe,” and
give the Government no trouble. Hence., great men are rare among
Eastern bishops; and respectable nonentities and followers of routine
are the rule under good rulers, and self-seeking courtiers under evil.
Thus it comes,. too, that when reform is needed, and a feeling
in favour of it is in the air, the standing obstacle in the way is apt
to be the hierarchy. It is not often that sheer force of lofty
character can prevail and win high office in the Church under a
Government that does not care for loftiness of character, and dreads
strong men anywhere.

At first, no doubt, the fact that the secular Government was ready
to support the head of the melet made for strong discipline in
the Church. But melets tend to multiply; a Government that
distrusts its Christian subjects is always ready to encourage them to
divide, and will readily recognize a new division among them; while
their ingrained quarrelsomeness always leads them to take advantage of
this. Under such circumstances discipline can hardly be pressed. A
bishop may threaten a rich evil-doer with excommunication; but will be
met by the threat, “If you dare, I register myself as Jacobite or
Romanist. They will receive me readily enough, and it will be bad for
any man in my village who does not follow me.”

The melet system guarantees the existence of, and gives
some freedom to, the Church of a subject population; but it also puts a
premium on that spirit of quarrel and intrigue which is the bane of
Eastern Christianity.

The canons passed by the council numbered twenty-one; and are in
effect an adaptation of certain Nicene rules to the circumstances of
the Church, together with other rules of their own devising for its
organization. It is a strong proof of the spirit of independence in the
Assyrians that at this moment-when they owed so much to the West-they
should have dealt thus boldly with the canons even of Nicaea. The
creed, of course, they accepted; but all other rules they seem to have
felt themselves free to accept, alter or neglect, according to their
own judgment as an autocephalous Church.

The creed that was put before them was the original Nicene,124 including the
anathemas. But
Assyrians of to-day do not use it in the precise conciliar form, any
more than Westerns do; and in each case the story of the growth of the
form used from the form sanctioned is an extremely difficult one to
trace. Of the two crucial technical terms in the creed, is rendered by ;125
a different and (to the writer’s thinking) much better rendering of the
Greek than the 126
which is in use to-day. in the third anathema is rendered by 127, a
fact which was important in future doctrinal controversy. The Greek
term, as is obvious, is here equivalent to or the Syriac ;128 and
therefore the same
force. Unfortunately, under the influence of the Cappadocian fathers,
was already being used in the West in the different (and very
artificial) sense of Person; so that the Assyrian Church–just when
effort was being made to link their thought to the West–adopted an
important technical term in a sense which the Westerns were just then
abandoning. This was to be fruitful of misunderstanding, and a
principal cause of separation.

In the remaining canons the tone is that of the substitution of law
for tolerated indiscipline; and the large majority of them concern
themselves with the position and duties of the various ranks of the
hierarchy, from the Catholicos and his metropolitans to the sub-deacon.
Certain things are forbidden that would naturally be the custom in
times of peril, such as celebration of the Eucharist in private houses,
and consecration of bishops by one bishop only. We also find that which
occurs in every oriental council-and was apparently equally ineffective
in every one–viz., the stern prohibition of the practice of magic and
the use of charms. No canons, in East or West, have prevailed against
the fascination of that forbidden fruit.

Other canons (XX and XXI) regulate the position and precedence of
the five metropolitans, Bait Lapat, Nisibis, Prat d’Maishan, parka
d’Bait Sluk and Arbela, which owed obedience to the Catholicos. Their
provinces are duly assigned to them, and the number of suffragans under
each clearly laid down.130
A special canon (XVIII) secured to each bishop the right of appeal to
the Catholicos, without whose confirmation no episcopal consecration
was valid. Definite rules (Canons I and XX) were laid down for the
election of bishops; but not for the choice of a Catholicos, though
provision was made for government during a vacancy. Later, rules were
made on the point; but, as a matter of fact, he was usually nominated
by the Shah-in-Shah.

Broadly (Canons 1, VI, XVIII), the council recognizes in, or confers
on, the holder of the see of Seleucia a power over his suffragans that
is singularly extensive and defined. He has a practical veto on their
appointment; appeal from all their acts lies to him; and they are to
report themselves to him personally twice a year. It may be doubted
whether any patriarch to the Roman Empire (except possibly the
Patriarch of Alexandria) had so unquestioned, and so clearly defined, a
sway over his diocese as. the “Catholicos of the East.” It is not
surprising that the holder of it should soon have begun to use the term
“patriarch” (though not dropping the title Catholicos), before the
Christological controversy had separated him from the West, and long
before it was the habitual and peculiar title of five special sees in
the empire. This centralizing tendency is the fruit, as we have seen,
of melet life, and is fostered, no doubt, by the natural
Eastern attraction towards an autocracy; but it should also be noted
that a force which retarded similar development in Asia Minor was
absent in Persia. In the empire, if there was no provincial
self-government, there was considerable municipal independence; and the
tendency of the oriental to submit to authority-and of the greater sees
to exalt themselves over the lesser-was counterbalanced, in a measure,
by the fact that the bishop was a principal citizen of his own town as
well as a subject of the Emperor, and a suffragan of Antioch or

One other tendency we see in the fathers of Seleucia which might
well have spelt disaster for the Church had their circumstances allowed
them to give way to it. This was the desire to rely on the State, the
secular arm, even when that arm was non-Christian. The King decrees the
supremacy of the Catholicos, the King will enforce the decrees of the
council, and so on. Centuries of obstinate hostility, to their creed
and to themselves, on the part of several successive rulers have not
eradicated this feeling from any branch of Eastern Christianity. The
fact that their rulers have never been Christian has saved them, at a
terrible cost to themselves, from becoming a mere State Church of
Byzantine pattern; but the fact remains that every variety of Christian
Church in the Ottoman Empire (which is in this, as in much else, the
heir of the Sassanid) is State established and State controlled, and
that its officers, up to the date of writing, are partially State paid.
It was, of course, out of policy (and admirable policy too, from their
point of view) that Mahommedan rulers allowed this to continue; but the
proceeding absolutely coincided with popular feeling, and it will be
long before the theory that connection between Church and State is
necessarily iniquitous finds acceptance in the East.

Note on the Catholici, Tamuza and Qaiuma.

Mons. Labourt (Christianisme dans la Perse, p. 86) doubts
the existence of both these Catholici, on the double ground that (a)
Elia of Damascus, whose list of the Catholici is older than any other,
places both before, not after, Papa (Ass., ii. 391); and that (b) the
Council of Dad-Ishu–or to be accurate, a speaker in it–speaks of a
vacancy of twenty-two years before Isaac’s election. The list given by
Elia, however, is purely traditional, and very incorrect in other ways.
The speaker in the council (Agapetus of B. Lapat, Chabot, Synod. Or.,
48, 292) certainly uses language suggesting that the vacancy of
twenty-two years in the Catholicate (which admittedly came somewhere)
was immediately before Isaac’s election; but it also could mean that
such vacancy was simply “before Isaac.”

If however there was no holder of the office after the death of Bar
Wash-min till Yezdegerd gave leave for an election, the vacancy was not
for. twenty-two but for fort%_ seven years at least; and this does not
agree with other information. Hence the explanation that gives least
difficulty is, that Tamuza and Qaiuma were real characters, and Bishops
of Seleucia during the period 380-408. It is quite probable, as Labourt
suggests, that the authority of neither was recognized outside the
limits of Seleucia. The Catholicate had no length of custom behind it,
to give it weight; and it would be quite natural that the holder of it
should be disregarded, till the firman of Yezdegerd put his position
beyond challenge. To this day a patriarch may be duly elected and
consecrated; he may be the lawful nephew of his predecessor, duly
marked out from childhood for the post, and nominated by that
predecessor before his death; but yet, lacking the firman of the
Sultan, he is only half a patriarch in the eyes of half his people, and
there is no getting over the fact.

You may prove to the full that he has every title–from the most
admirably regular to the most scandalously uncanonical–for his office;
but till he has the firman, much is lacking. It is a prejudice
only, of course, and therefore argument fails. To argue away a European
prejudice is not easy. But for a European to argue away the oriental
variety is hopeless.

Similarly, when the firman has been granted, and in virtue of it the
patriarch has been duly installed, loyal obedience will usually be
rendered to him. A Western may kick at an order, but show him that
obedience is for the general good, and he will often give up his own
ideas. To the oriental, to give up your own ideas for the general good
is impossible; but it is wonderful how often loyal obedience will be
rendered to “a good large order.”




THE Council of Seleucia dispersed. Marutha returned home from what
was, as it turned out, his last visit to the East, laden with the
relics and histories of martyrs, his work well and thoroughly done. The
Church of the East settled in its new security to a period of quiet and
rapid growth.

As is usual in Church history, periods of peace and spiritual-work
have no history; and it is only from the names in the episcopal lists
of the two councils, held during the next fifteen years, that we can
see how rapid that growth was. Forty bishoprics are enumerated as
existing in 4Io, at Isaac’s Council, and that gathering was at all
events intended to be complete. But in the next two councils no fewer
than twenty-six. additional sees are mentioned, which do not
appear in the former list. It is possible, of course, that some of
those existed before Yezdegerd issued his firman, and were vacant then;
but most are probably evidence of increase.

And this increase, so rapid and so sure (for most of the sees named
are known to have been still existing centuries later), took place
either in lands where Christian missions do not exist to-day, or where
they find their work least promising and most difficult. Bishops sign
for the sees of Segestan, Teheran, Ispahan, Herat, Khorassan. What
would we give to have native, self-supporting bishoprics in those
centres to-day? Merv, which is also in the list, has now probably a
bishop once more-an official of the conquering Russian Government,
brought. and maintained by their bayonets; but his fifth-century
predecessor came there by the power of the living extension of the
Church, and he speedily developed into a metropolitan, with other
bishops under him. Christianity could certainly be so proclaimed as to
suit the oriental, when taught by easterns to their brethren; and when
a religion, intrinsically eastern, was presented without the western
externals which a western is apt to identify with its essence.

Yet if this oriental Christianity, oriental taught, could spread
itself and flourish in these lands once, it has passed from them now;
and with the exception of some scattered colonies of Armenians, may be
said to have passed from them completely. How is it that it failed? How
is it that another and a lower faith has expelled it? The question is a
serious one for a writer who believes fully in the gospel of the Word
made Flesh, and who holds that it, and it alone, can fully answer the
cravings of the human heart. It is easy to say that this wonderful
extension was “founded on Nestorius, and not on Christ,” and therefore
had no strength. But-putting aside the point that much of the growth
took place before Nestorius was heard of-the explanation that a form of
Christianity that has failed must have been heretical does not seem to
cover the facts. Admitting for argument’s sake (we must deal with the
point more at length in a later chapter) that the Church of the
Assyrians did teach what we mean by “Nestorianism,” the fact remains
that it is not the only great Church that has gone down before Islam,
and that others have shared its fate to which the explanation given
above will not apply. The Church of Africa was orthodox-and has
perished; and the fall of the Nestorians has been only a little more
complete than that of the unimpeachably correct Greeks of Asia Minor.
It is a difficulty. If we could say what made the tree wither, we might
also be able to say what would restore strength and vigour for fresh
growth to its still living roots.

In the list of new sees there are three names of bishops which have
some peculiar interest. First, “Adraq, bishop of the tents of the
Kurds.”131 A
bishop, with a nomad flock, strikes us as unusual; and the fact shows
that instinctive and natural adaptation to the habits of those to whom
he ministered which was part of the strength of the oriental teacher.
Perhaps with us a bishop of a new country, whose palace and cathedral
are contained within the limits of one railway carriage, or one
ox-wagon, is not a wholly unthinkable phenomenon.

Traces of this early spread of Christianity among the Kurds–those
turbulent nomads and semi-nomads who are the bane of modern Assyrian
Christians–exist to-day. It is probable that some at least of the
Christians of Hakkiari are of Kurdish blood, though they themselves
would strenuously deny it: and some tribes of Mussalman Kurds have
clear recollection of the fact that their fathers were Christian; and
retain a desire to return, if it be possible, to that unforgotten faith.132

The two other names that we may notice are, “Domit” (or Domitius),
“Bishop of the Captivity of Gurgan,” and “Hatit” (AEtius 7), “Bishop of
the Captivity of Belashpar,”133–names
that betray at once the Roman origin of their bearers. The existence of
these “Roman captivities” is well known, and captives are frequently
referred to in the Acta Sanctorum.134
Thus, it was “Roman captives” who collected the bodies of Mar Shimun
and his companions; and Pusai the martyr was “the son of a captive”;
while another famous martyr, Bar-shbia, would seem by his name to have
been so also.

When captivities were carried off en masse from the
Christian empire, as sometimes happened, their bishops were taken with
them. This we see from the history of the captives of B. Zabdai,135 even if the
story of
Demetrius of B. Lapat be purely legendary.

Earlier kings like Sapor I made a special point of securing artisans
and craftsmen, as the most valuable plunder in their colossal raids,
and it was precisely among these classes that Christianity spread most
rapidly. Indeed, this ancient habit of the Sassanids was one of the
causes of the spread of the Church in “the East”; and in the times of
their later kings, a cause of the extension of R1onophysitism within
its bounds. We have no means of telling which of the numerous
captivities are referred to here; but there is no impossibility in the
supposition that they date back to Sapor I, one hundred and eighty
years previously. A captivity-even when settled in its new home will
retain its identity for centuries, particularly if its religion be also
of a distinctive character. The Jews of Babylon are, of course, an
instance of this, but other proofs can be given from much more modern
times. The present Jewish colony in Mosul declare that they have been
there since the days of Nebuchadnezzar, if not from the time of Sargon;
and Julfa, a suburb of Ispahan, is populated still by the descendants
of an Armenian captivity, brought from Erivan and Julfa on the river
Aras in the time of our Queen Elizabeth. There is nothing impossible,
then, in Roman captivities having a distinct existence in Persia.136

Early in this period of quiet Isaac the Catholicos passed away. The
exact date of his death is not known; but it is clear that Yahb Alaha137 was elected
Catholicos in
415-416, and at least a year or two must be allowed for the tenure of
the see by Akha, immediate successor of Isaac. We shall probably,
therefore, not be far from the truth if we place the death of Isaac in
the year 412.

Akha succeeded him. This man had been the pupil of the hermit Abda,
whose life he wrote; and one of the helpers of Marutha, in his
collection of the Acts of the Martyrs.138
It was perhaps this circumstance that brought him to the notice of
Yezdegerd, with whom he was a favourite, and from whom he received as
potestatem gregem regendi,
an endowment that no doubt saved
trouble for the time, but was of evil omen for the future. A strict
ascetic in his habits–for his food consisted of nothing but dry bread
and olives–he was respected by that section of growing importance in
the Church, the monastic party. His pontificate, however, was brief,
and certainly did not include more than the three years that the
mediaeval chronicler assigns to him.

Yahb-Alaha (whose not very euphonious name is the equivalent of
Theodore) succeeded him. He had been the fellow pupil of Akha under
Abda, and was, like him, a rigorous ascetic. Later tradition assigned
to him the miraculous curing of a son of the Shah-in-Shah.140 Yezdegerd,
who still
continued friendly with Rome, sent him on an embassy to Theodosius II
shortly after his consecration, and from this he returned with splendid
gifts for the adornment of his cathedral and private tent-chapel. On
returning, however, he also found a somewhat disturbed Church awaiting
him, and a situation that threatened that the religious peace
established by Marutha would not continue for long. That Zoroastrians
generally, and Magians more particularly, should be disturbed and angry
at the rapid spread of Christianity–“particularly among the nobles and
freemen (asatant.)”141was
as natural, but ominous; however, the internal troubles of the Church
were far more dangerous in reality. Unworthy men who had powerful
Zoroastrian friends were making use of their influence, both to avoid
discipline and to win promotion, even to the Episcopate; and dangerous
quarrels and schisms were resulting.142

This use of pagan patronage to gain Church power was at once a
scandal and a problem, and one very likely to arise under melet conditions
of life. The interference of a non-Christian nobleman in the election
of a bishop was, of course, the negation of all Church law; but it
appeared perfectly natural, for instance, to the Zoroastrian seigneur
to drop a hint to a village of his rayats that X. had done
him good service more than once, and that, as they were choosing their
religious headman, he thought that they might make a worse choice. The
Shah-in-Shah nominated the Catholicos, why should not the Agha name the
bishop? Supposing the man named to be not absolutely impossible, would
the villagers neglect the seigneur’s hint, and face the probability
that double dues would be exacted next harvest? Similarly, discipline
ought, of course, to be moved solely by the consideration of the law of
the Church, and the guilt of the sinner. But supposing a bishop to have
told a village of Christians that they ought not to tolerate a strange
teacher in their midst, it would take some resolution to carry out the
order in the face of a warning from the Agha over the hill, “if you
dare to disturb my friend I will burn your village, as I did the seven
others in your valley.”143
though this use of pagan patronage was a very evil thing for the Church
and a fatal thing for the spiritual life of those who availed
themselves of it, it was, after all, only the correlative, in another
sphere, of the reliance of Catholicos and bishops on the secular arm.
If the Catholicos, who owed his throne to the fact that he was a persona
at Court, used the power that the King gave him tyrannically,
why should not the victims make use of their interest with lesser
potentates to evade that tyranny?

The practice, evil enough, was a symptom only; and the real disease
was ingrained quarrelsomeness, and the habit of mind that sticks at
nothing if only the immediate end can be attained. Aden who used pagan
patronage to get themselves made bishops, or to get censures removed,
did not wish to injure the Church, or Christianity; they merely wanted
to get their own way. Their present descendants act in precisely the
same fashion, and when the inevitable results of their proposed action
are pointed out, they are apt to reply, “Ah, but we will work a
and avoid that.” Orientals are always inclined to think that they
can call up the devil to do their work, and then cheat him and avoid
paying him his fee!

Thus Yahb-Alaha came back, to find these tendencies running riot in
the Church for which he was responsible. At a loss what to do, he fell
back on the usual expedient of a council; and as the presence of
another episcopal ambassador from Rome (Acacius of Amida, sent, it
would seem, to return the visit of Yahb-Alaha) gave a convenient
opportunity for obtaining leave, the assembly was able to meet in 420.145

The gathering was scantily attended, for only ten bishops, and among
them only two representatives of metropolitan sees, were present with
the Catholicos and Acacius; nor could they–or for that matter any
assembly of bishops–really solve the problem that was before them.
What was wanted was a change of disposition, and all that they could
suggest was the acceptance of a number of rules. “We have not kept our
old rules, therefore let us bind ourselves to keep them in future, and
many more besides.” It was decided (apparently at the suggestion of
Acacius) that the Church of the “East” should not only re-enact its own
canons, passed ten years ago, but should also accept as binding all the
rules of several purely “western” councils, viz. those of Gangra,
Antioch (the “dedication” council), Caesarea, Ancyra and Laodicea. All
the canons of all these councils were therefore accepted en bloc,
in spite of a hint from the Catholicos that it might be well to keep
their own rules better before binding themselves to observe so many new
ones. Perfect peace and concord reigned (so the argument ran) in the
West (!), therefore the inspired rules that had produced that peace
must be adopted in the “East.” The expedient takes one’s breath away.
Putting aside the ignorance of things “western” shown in the placid
assumption that peace existed there–and, also, the doubtful wisdom of
attempting to control the schismatic spirit by the mere multiplication
of canons–the adoption of an undigested mass of laws, made for other
circumstances and other conditions, was necessarily useless. What, for
instance, had the Church of the Persian Empire to do with canons like
IV and XI of the “Dedication Council,” composed specially to prevent
St. Athanasius from ever getting a fair hearing? What had it to do with
appeals to the Emperor at Constantinople? With the rules made at
Laodicea for the reception of Novatians, Photinians, Quartodecimans and
Montanists–none of whom ever seem to have gained a footing in Persia?
With the purely local sect of Eustathians, whose practices were
condemned at Ancyra? Or with the reconciliation of men who had lapsed
under Roman conditions of persecution?

Of course adoption of such canons as were really fitted to their
circumstances, coupled with a reasoned application of the excellent
principles that underlay the others, would have been a very possible
policy, particularly as the Assyrian Church seems never to have adopted
any definite rules for dealing with “the lapsed” in her numerous
persecutions; or to have attempted any control of irregular appeals to
the secular power. But this was precisely what was not done. The
councils were adopted bodily, and it was a question only whether the
one hundred and eighty, inconsistent canons thus added to
the Corpus Juris of the Church would remain a mere brutum fulmen, or
whether they would be the source of endless litigation and schism.
Fortunately, and no thanks to the council therefor, it was the former
alternative that resulted.

The council of Mar Yahb-Alaha presents an unpleasant contrast to
that of Isaac. In the earlier, the canons of a much greater council
were considered, and those adapted to Assyrian conditions adopted. In
the later, Catholicos and bishops, having heard the advice of the
ambassador who would seem to have been more saint than statesman,
appear to have “opened their mouths and gulped down David whole.”

The fact is that the Assyrian Church seems to have been in a frame
of mind not unknown to their descendants. Suddenly realizing that
things were unsatisfactory generally, they grasped at the first panacea
that offered. In each case the feeling was, “All is wrong with us, and
all is right with the West; let us therefore all be as western as we
can.” There was no consideration as to how far things were really wrong
or right with either party; or whether things passably good for the
“western” would for that reason be absolutely good for the “eastern.”
The panacea was adopted unanimously-till the reaction came.

As a general thing, when a change of habit or an abandonment of
prejudice is in question, the oriental is found by the European to be
“gifted with the noble firmness of the mule.” But nature takes her
revenge on him occasionally, for at times he will exhibit a positively
sheep-like docility-a readiness to follow any leader along a new track,
over a bridge or into a swamp as the case may be. Needless to say, no
European can ever foretell with any certainty which disposition he will
exhibit in a given case.


Troubles external as well as internal were soon to come upon the
Assyrian Church. The increase of the number of converts from
Zoroastrianism to Christianity was seriously alarming the Magian
hierarchy; and it was obvious to those who had eyes to read the signs
of the times that an effort would soon be made to check this flow of
“apostasy” by drastic means. The best that could be hoped for was that
a tolerant king would be able to keep the peace for his lifetime. Let
another take his place, and the inevitable struggle between the two
faiths could not be delayed.

Yahb-Alaha, the Catholicos, at least understood this, and prayed
that his old age might be spared the sight of suffering. This prayer
was granted; for the Catholicos died, perhaps before the, persecution
had begun, certainly before it had become serious. His successor,
M’ana, was hardly settled in his seat before the storm burst.

Its commencement was brought about by a deputation representing all
the Magians of the kingdom, and headed by the “Mobed Mobedan,”
Adarbuzi, in person, which sought audience of the Shah-in-Shah, and
practically called upon him to take some action in view of the increase
of apostasy from the State faith.146
The great corporation was stronger than the King, who had to give way;
and the prelate received power to turn back those who had fallen away,
“not, however, by death, but by fear and a certain amount of beating.”
The 11obeds had to be content with this for the moment, and perhaps
felt some confidence that persecution could not long continue to be
confined to converts only. In any case so it turned out; and we are
enabled to trace the steps of the process in one of the most vivid
pieces of hagiology in the Syriac or any other collection of that

One of the men whom Adarbuzi “turned back” from Christianity–by
beating or otherwise–was a man of Seleucia, called Adur-parwa. This
man had been converted to Christianity by a Qasha named Sapor, who had
cured him in some illness, and for whom the grateful convert had built
a church. Sapor, by the advice of a friend named Narses, had secured a
regular deed of gift for both building and site, so that both were
legally his property; but when the “trouble” began, and Adur-parwa was
reconverted to Magianism, he (filled apparently with a renegade’s zeal)
demanded the restoration of what he had given. Sapor did not contest
the point at law, but fled by the advice of Narses, carrying the
title-deeds with him, and intending no doubt to return in better times
and reclaim the church, which was legally his own. The 1Iagians took
possession of the building, and turned it into a fire-temple. Shortly
after Narses, ignorant of what had happened, entered the church, and
was surprised to find the sacred fire burning in it, and the whole
place fitted up as a Magian sanctuary. He removed the furniture (no
heavy task, if fire-temples in those days were furnished as simply as
is the case now) and extinguished the fire, an act of sacrilege for
which he was mobbed by the villagers. Being rescued from them by
authority, he was sent to the Mobed Mobedan at Seleucia for trial. Here
his Christianity was not urged against him, he being no doubt of the melet
by birth; and Adarbuzi seems to have admitted extenuating
circumstances in the matter of the extinction of the sacred fire, for
the defendant was simply ordered to re-kindle it in the temple, and was
promised his release on compliance. This he declared himself unable to
do. All parties showed admirable restraint in the matter; the Mobed was
anxious to release the prisoner, if he would give what was no doubt
regarded as reasonable satisfaction; and Narses on his side indulged in
none of the insults to another faith which mar some of the histories,
but simply declined to purchase his own release by what he regarded as
an act of apostasy, preferring to suffer the penalty instead.

On his refusal he was imprisoned at Seleucia during the
winter-“among thieves and murderers,” says his biographer, though, in
all probability (an oriental prison not being provided with separate
cells) this implied no special hardship beyond that of detention-and
towards spring a bribe to the gaoler procured his release on bail and
permission to reside in a monastery not far from the city.

In spring the Court made its usual move “to the hills”–i.e.
to B. Lapat or to Susa–and it was decided to have a general clearance
of the city prisons on the occasion. Narses honourably surrendered
himself, and his case thus came before the King personally, and was
decided summarily. “Let him collect fire from 365 places, and put it in
the temple, or let him be put to death.” Again he refused to comply,
and was therefore ordered for execution-the first man, apparently, to
die in this persecution.

Crowds of Christians accompanied him to see the end, exciting the
fears of the official in charge, till both they and the martyr assured
him that they had no thought of obstructing “the King’s justice,” but
merely wished to see the last of a friend. So, without malice and
without display, he met his death, the authorities doing no more than
they judged their duty, and the sufferer making no complaint of the
penalty that befell him for following his conscience. Both parties
acted as became honourable men, the Christian as became his faith. Only
the clumsiness of the impressed executioner (a Christian, who refused
to act till the martyr bade him “strike,” for it should not be imputed
to him) marred the nobility of the ending. Its tragedy lay, not in the
death of the man who preferred it to treachery to his religion, but in
the circumstances which gave honourable men no choice but mutually to
inflict and submit to death.

It was impossible, however, for persecution to continue in this
gentlemanly style. Bloodshed infuriated both sides, calling out hot
zeal in the one party and massacre-lust in the other. Narses could not
have been dead many days when a great fire-temple of Seleucia,148 which stood
close to a
Christian church, was burnt by Christians. A bishop of the name of Abda
was arrested, both as being a prominent Christian, and as being
suspected of this insult to the State religion; and these facts show
that persecution was already drifting beyond the lines of Yezdegerd’s
original permission. As a matter of fact, it was not Abda who had been
guilty of this act of incendiarism; it was an over-zealous Qasha of the
name of Hashu, who at once accused himself when he heard of the arrest
of the bishop, and boldly justified his action; “it was no shrine of
God that we destroyed.” When told to hold his tongue, and let the
accused speak for himself, he persisted in statements that were, under
the circumstances, insults to the State faith, and provocative of
persecution. “Fire is no god, it is but a creature given to us for our
use.” Admitting the burning of the temple, lie absolutely refused to
admit that it was even a questionable act. Abda, however, seems to have
been regarded as responsible; and it was he, not the zealot, who,
according to Theodoret, was ordered to rebuild the temple,149 and was
executed on his
refusal. With these two martyrdoms, and the feeling which the acts
precedent to them would certainly call out (viz. that the Christians
were making attacks on “the religion”), a definite persecution of
Christians, as distinct from a “disciplining of converts,” may be said
to have begun.

About this time, too, any chance of the Shah-in-Shah using his
influence on the side of moderation was removed by the sudden death of
Yezdegerd from the kick of a horse. Both religions saw a divine
judgment on a persecutor in the accident; the Magians holding it a
punishment for his early acts, and the Christians (with somewhat less
than justice to the memory of one who had been on the whole their
benefactor) for the final episodes of his reign.

Bahram V, who succeeded his father Yezdegerd, was practically the
Magian nominee. There was another candidate for. the throne, and the
prince, to secure the support of the hierarchy,150
was obliged to give pledges of some sort to the Mobeds-an act which of
course implied that his full support should be given to the persecution
of the Christians. Thus the religious war continued with peculiar
ferocity, the hideous tortures which Theodoret details151 being fully
supported by the
evidence of Syriac writers. It is not necessary to dwell on these
horrors. Churches, of course, were destroyed, the tent-church of the
Catholicos being made into a hunting-tent for the King; and all freemen
(azatan) who were known to be Christians were deprived of their fiefs.
Theodoret records the case of one of these last in particular: a
Christian named Hormizdas, “who was of the ancient house of the
Achaemenids, and the son of a. Marzban.” He was degraded from his rank,
and set to do the work of the lowest slaves (groom’-rig camels) without
his staunchness being affected; and he died a martyr at the last.
Probably this persecution, for the four years of its duration, was as
savage as any that this much-tried Church was ever called upon to face.

As was the case previously, Christian persecution and war with Rome
went hand in hand, though in this instance the former caused the
latter, and not vice versa. Bahram made the amazing request that
Theodosius should surrender all Christian refugees to his officers, and
the inevitable refusal produced a renewal of war. The course of
hostilities was dull and eventless. The Romans besieged Nisibis, only
to find that the ramparts they had themselves constructed were too
strong for them; while in the north the Persian army, under Bahram
himself, failed in similar fashion before Theodosiopolis, or Erzerum.
Persian siege engineering was always clumsy, and it was not till they
had at last learnt to copy Roman methods that any attempt of theirs on
a strong fort was formidable. The siege of Erzerum, however, furnished
one picturesque incident at least. The bishop of the city, Eunomius-not
content with the giving of moral strength to the garrison after the
model of St. James of Nisibis-appeared in person on the ramparts, and
himself pointed and discharged “the great ballista, blessed in the name
of St. Thomas.” He killed one of the sub-kings present in the Persian
army, and earned for himself the doubtful honour of being the first of
the company of fighting bishops. The whole episode, and particularly
the giving of the name of an apostle to the catapult, has a very
mediaeval ring, and prepares us for the exploits of Bar-soma, half a
century later.

Another bishop, Acacius of Amida, already known in Persia, played a
more episcopal part in the famous episode of the ransoming of the
Persian captives with the Church treasures; an act which both
facilitated the making of peace, and probably contributed to bring
about the cessation of persecution that accompanied the conclusion of

As an effect of the war the last relics of Armenian independence
passed away. The notables of the nation, wearied of the misrule of
their own native prince who was a Persian sub-king, disregarded the
protests of the patriotic Catholicos of Armenia, and requested the
Shah-in-Shah to put them under the rule of an ordinary Marzban. This
petition the Persians naturally granted at once.


Domestic confusions and troubles beset the Assyrian Church even
during the course of the external trial. Armies have fought through an
earthquake before now; and similarly it took more than a mere
persecution to keep the members of the Church from quarrelling among

Yahb-Alaha the Catholicos had died very shortly after the conclusion
of the council at which he presided, and M’ana was elected or nominated
in his stead. This prelate, however, was almost immediately deprived
and banished to Fars-on account of the destruction of a fire-temple,153 says one
authority. It is
quite possible that he somehow incurred the royal displeasure over the
Abda-Hashu incident, and was exiled on that account. In any case, he
held office for a very short time, and sometimes is not reckoned among
the Catholici. It would seem that he died in exile.

Bar-Hebraeus, on the other hand,154
states that M’ana or Magnes introduced the heresy of Nestorius into
Persia, and was for that reason expelled by the orthodox zeal of his
flock. This account we may reject without hesitation, as founded on the
confusion of M’ana the Catholicos with a later namesake, the friend and
helper of Bar-soma. The Catholicos, whatever his sins, did not
introduce “Nestorianism” into Persia ten years previous to the Council
of. Ephesus, while Nestorius was still an unknown monk at Antioch.
A1’ana being thus banished two claimants arose in his place. One was
Marbokht or Farbokht, a man who procured an unauthorized consecration
by purely Zoroastrian influence; while a second candidate, Dad-Ishu,
was more regularly elected, by a council which apparently met during
the actual course of the persecution. This must have taken place, use
suppose, during the first stage, while Yezdegerd was still alive, and
only converts from Zoroastrianism ran any serious risk. Even so, it was
only rendered possible by the interest of one particular man, Samuel,
Bishop of Khorassan, who had a claim on the royal gratitude for his
services in checking an invasion of Turks.155
Dad-Ishu was duly elected and consecrated, and the usurpation of
Farbokht declared to be utterly void.

Farbokht’s proceedings were apparently too irregular to be seriously
defended; but that fact did not prevent him and his party from making
the wildest accusations, more orientali, against a successful
To the King
they declared the Catholicos to be a Roman sympathizer; while to the
Christians they asserted him to be debauched in morals, utterly
unlearned, unable even to read the scriptures, a usurer, a pillager of
churches, and an apostate who had stirred up the existing persecution!
Bahram may have cared but little for the other accusations, but a Roman
sympathizer was, of course, suspect, and the Catholicos was arrested,
beaten and imprisoned.157
This proceeding not improbably saved his life in fact; for being
already in prison on a secular charge, he remained there forgotten till
the peril of martyrdom had passed. His imprisonment continued until the
war with Rome had come to an end and Christians had liberty to exist
once more.

When the persecution and the war ended together, the Christian
“melet” ipso facto resumed their own position towards the
Government, as naturally as did Armenians, for instance, in a later
age. Dad-Ishu was released; but his sufferings and the slanders
combined had broken his spirit. He refused to take his place at the
head of the Church, and crept off alone to the “Monastery of the Ark,”
in Cordyene,158
there to spend his days in a hermit’s cell, “weeping over the fall of
the Church.”

This, however, by no means suited the intentions of his brother
bishops. They were now proposing to organize the Church again after the
persecution, and, moreover, to emphasize its independent and
autocephalous character; and for this, the presence of the Catholicos
was a vital necessity. The pro-western wave of feeling, which had been
in the ascendant four years previously, had now spent its force-the
more so, that the panacea adopted under its influence had conspicuously
failed to do what was expected of it-and the inevitable reaction was
now beginning. Perhaps, with the post hoc propter hoc style of
reasoning dear to the oriental, folk attributed both their suffering
and disorders to the westernizing line they had taken recently; and in
any case, they were now resolved to reverse it.

council of all six metropolitans and thirty-one other bishops met in
the spring of 424 at the little town of “Markabta of the Arabs,” a
place chosen probably because, when persecution was barely ended, it
was not prudent to attract attention by meeting at “the King’s door.”
When they gathered there was one conspicuous absentee; the Catholicos
indeed was there-brought by something very like force from his
monastery, and put on to a throne to preside; but this time there was
no ambassador from “the westerns” to be the moving spirit, as in 410
and 420. To make the gap more marked, Acacius, their visitor and guide
four years before, was actually the guest of the King at the time: and
this on an errand equally honourable to himself and to Bahram, viz. to
receive the royal thanks for his most Christian treatment of Persian
captives. He was not invited to the council that was to reverse his
policy. Proceedings were opened by a pathetic appeal from the
Catholicos (who recounted his past sufferings in detail) to be allowed
to lay down a burden that was too heavy for him, and to retire to the
cell whence he had most reluctantly been dragged; but though all the
bishops present were moved to tears at the recital, they had absolutely
no intention of acceding to the petition. Agapitus, Metropolitan of
Bait Lapat,160
then rose
and made a speech of some length. This is a valuable historical
document from which we have drawn freely in the previous chapters. He
acknowledged in the fullest way Assyrian indebtedness to “westerns” in
the past, showing how repeatedly their intervention had saved
“easterns” from the consequences of their own acts, and how invaluable
their influence with the Government had been. Then, in apparent
contradiction with the lessons of this recent history, it was proposed
by Hosea, Bishop of Nisibis, and carried by acclamation, that Dad-Ishu
should be begged to resume his throne as Patriarch (the title is now
used for the first time); that in future absolute obedience must be
rendered to him, and, in particular, that no appeal should be made from
his decrees to “Western patriarchs.”161
If there were cause for complaint against him, neither suffragans
nor foreigners might presume to judge him; that office being the right
of Christ alone, who placed him at the head of the Church. Dad-Ishu
yielded to the prayer of the council, and resumed his throne, and this
decision was solemnly placed on record.

The act of the council, as will be seen, wag twofold. It declared
the “Church of the East” to be absolutely independent, and it did as
much as a council could do to set up an oriental papacy over itself, in
the person of him whom we may now call its patriarch.

Of these two, the first was probably the important point i7n the
eyes of contemporaries, and the second necessary to guard it.
Westernization spelt persecution and must be stopped, and the readiest
way to stop it was to proclaim independence, and no longer to invite
western bishops to concern themselves in eastern affairs.

The decision of the council (which was apparently not challenged by
Antioch, though it may conceivably have been not quite welcome there)
did not make very much practical difference. Political reasons-that is
to say, the impossibility of Persian subjects existing under the rule
of any Roman prelate-had’ decreed the independence of the Persian
Church. No oriental ruler who is strong enough to prevent it will have
his rayats subject ecclesiastically to a foreign king, or a
foreign king’s subject; and just as Yezdegerd’s firman had only
formally declared the Catholicos and his melet to be that
which they already were in fact, so this council declared formally an
independence and supremacy which already really existed. Circumstances
had previously made orientals welcome western interference: an
interference which was not the assertion of a jurisdiction, but yet was
something on which the assertion of a jurisdiction might be based if
ever opportunity presented itself. It was a possibility that was
repudiated rather than a fact. They now proclaimed the independence
that was already theirs by right and custom, and declared their
patriarch the supreme head of their branch of the Church.

The question now before us is: How did this independence, which was
right and helpful, harden into the separation which we now see and



FOR more than twenty years after the important council of Dad-Ishu
the history of the Assyrian Church is a void. The patriarch, whose
tenure of office was longer than that of almost any other holder of his
post, seems to have enjoyed a long period of peaceful rule, as
compensation for his stormy experiences at its commencement; and we
know nothing of any act of his until his death in 456, and practically
nothing of the history of the Church from 424 to 447.

In secular matters Bahram V, after making peace with Rome, was
busied for the rest of his life in the guarding of his north-eastern
frontier against Turkish inroads; and on his death in 440 (he was
drowned in a spring), his son and successor, Yezdegerd II, was
similarly occupied for the first portion of his reign. It is true that
his King did declare war on the Roman Empire at his accession, but no
event of any importance followed,162
and peace was made very shortly. Broadly, the State and the Christian
Church in Persia seem to have had no history between 424 and 447; and
the fact that such a gap should be possible in those twentythree years
of the world’s history shows how isolated was the Church’s position, at
any rate from the main stream of events.

In the further west, just that period saw the fall of the Roman
Empire. Alaric had entered Rome in 410; and in the next generation,
Goths, Vandals and other “barbarians” were establishing themselves in
Gaul, Spain and Africa. Still, the Hesperiae sonitum ruinae which
Horace had heard in imagination remained inauditum Medis when
at last it actually came to pass.

Probably the activity of the Turks, which forced Persia to stand on
guard on the Oxus, was but another manifestation of that mysterious
outburst of energy in Central Asia which at the same time was sending
Attila and his Huns to the West, and to the Catalaunian plains. Both
empires were facing phases of a common danger, but each was ignorant of
the other’s fortunes.

In the nearer west, Asia Minor and Constantinople, events which were
to have the most important influence on the history of the Assyrian
Church were in actual course; but at that time its members seem to have
been almost as ignorant of them as they had been of Nicaea and the
Arian struggle. The Christological controversy, which had begun before
the close of the fourth century, was rapidly becoming what it was to
remain until the rise of Islam, viz., the dominant question in both
Church and State in the Eastern Empire.

Hitherto we have been attempting to trace the story of the relations
of the Church in the Persian Empire with the Government of that empire;
and also, as far as our material will permit, the history of the
internal life of the Church in question. Now a new element is
introduced; and we have also to trace the effect of the impact of this
great controversy, in its various phases, on the particular melet whose
history forms our main subject.

It is, however, necessary to pause for a moment to discuss the
problem, “How was it that questions so abstract and, as many men say,
so unpractical roused passions so very concrete and mundane?”

Of course it is not really justifiable to call the point at issue
“unpractical.” The question (for though it is convenient to divide the
great Christological controversy into minor heresies, yet it is
essentially one question that is discussed throughout, and to which
various solutions are propounded) is of supreme importance both
theologically and practically. The answer given to it, however little
the fact may be perceived, is bound to colour the whole of human life.
Broadly, it may be stated thus: Admitting the full and proper Deity of
“the Word,” how is this Divine Being also man?

The question is most practical, for all its seeming remoteness. A
man’s conception of religion, and hence of worldly duty, is bound to be
affected, in the long run, according as the object of his highest
reverence is a Gnostic’s Unknowable, or a God Incarnate; and this is
not the less true because men who have turned their backs on the Star
of Bethlehem may for a generation or two be able to walk by the light
that streams from it, though they know not whence it comes. In the long
run, the answer to the question whether a man is or is not bound to
frame his daily life after the model left us by the Carpenter of
Nazareth depends upon the answer to the question that He Himself set
men asking, “Whom say ye that I am?” The connection between the highest
problems of theology and the practice of daily life is as real and as
strong as the force of gravitation which links the sun to every stone
on earth’s surface, and binds the universe in one. Neither is less real
for being unperceived by the ordinary man.

Still, it was not because the supreme importance of the truth at
stake was perceived and understood that men waxed so fierce in the
controversy about them. To assert that it was so is probably no nearer
to the truth than the gibe that the heat excited by theological
controversy stands in inverse ratio to the importance of the questions
discussed. No doubt men on each side felt, dimly or clearly, that it
was Truth for which they struggled, and hence came their fierceness;
but, speaking generally, nobody would dream of saying that the very
ordinary men of the fifth and sixth centuries, who shouted themselves
hoarse over these highest questions, understood their real, if unseen,
practical bearing. Thus we are thrown back upon the question, How was
it that ordinary men, of passions not wholly unlike our own, were moved
to such fury by questions which to the ordinary man of to-day seem so

Of course it might have been infinitely better, both for the Church
and the world, if the problems of theology could have been confined to
the study, and discussed calmly there till agreement was reached; if
they could have been kept “out of the street,” and so have avoided both
the raising of the dust and the soiling of themselves in it. Had every
theologian of the time possessed the temperament, if not the talent, of
an Athanasius, that might have been possible. As, however, it was
morally impossible that a party defeated in conclave should not appeal
to popular support outside it, that “might have been” may be put aside;
and it must be remembered that struggle, with all its unedifying
incidents and consequences, is better for the souls of men than a peace
based on indifference to all except things mundane.

To us it appears that the discussion, thus inevitably brought “into
the street,” raised heat simply because the odium theologicum,
if a very ridiculous, is also a very human passion, and one that
exists to-day in a slightly different form. We do not tear one another
to pieces in the twentieth century over the matter of an iota in the
creed; but we have seen quarrels over points of geology or archeology,
or the question whether A, or B, was the first to reach a wholly
conventional point of the world’s surface; and these problems are
surely at least as remote from practical importance as the question
whether the central figure of a man’s religion is or is not a proper
object of worship. Man was then, and is still, a highly combative

Further, under the Roman Empire religion was politics. Putting the
military and civil services aside, the Church, and the politics of the
Church, offered to the ordinary man the one real carricre ouverte in
which lie could rise to importance locally or even imperially. All that
his Church, and his office in it, means to the member of an oriental melet
to-day, it meant then; with this addition that a man of power in
the Church had the opportunity of using his talents, not merely in an
institution that Government despised, but in the one institution that
the Emperor could not despise. All that political life and its
struggles mean to a constitutional country to-day was meant by
ecclesiastical politics and struggles to a Roman subject of the fifth
century; and interest was as real and keen in one as in the other.

Next, the theological strife of the period was the expression, not
only of politics, but of nationality, and of a national feeling
consciously opposed to the Government policy. In the empire religion
and the Church tended rapidly, during the fifth and sixth centuries, to
become instruments of government in a despotism that tended more and
more toward what is suggested to us by the name Byzantine. Orthodoxy
was loyalty to the Emperor, not to Christ; and heresy was not the
display of a special variety of unchristian spirit, but an offence
against State order. This was, of course, only the reappearance, under
slightly different conditions, of a spirit that had dictated the
persecution of Christianity under Decius and Diocletian, and that now
dictated the persecution of pagans and “heretics.”

And it must be remembered that while the empire was getting more and
more into the habit of using the Church as its instrument, it was also
itself becoming more and more Greek in its character; and so used the
Church as the means to “Graecize,” or rather to “Byzantine,” all
nations within it. This process was instinctively resented by
nationalities that were not Greek; and Egyptian, “Latin” and Syrian
fought against it. Under the circumstances it was perhaps inevitable
that they should fight the battle of nationality on the religious
field; and that when the Christological controversy came up they should
tend to take an anti-Byzantine line.

The struggle continued till the nationalities concerned fairly split
off from the Church of the capital and empire, and the bulk of them
found under Moslem rule at least a semi-recognition of that independent
life which the empire denied them. That part of the empire which was
either really Greek, or which had been content to become so, remained
subject to Constantinople; and was for centuries the most solid and
permanent, and one of the most important facts of history.

Thus the battle was fought on the theological field, and around
theological truths of the last importance; but it was not for these
that the combatants fought, but for something that in their minds they

As regards the merits of the controversy, the Greeks were the better
theologians; that is to say, their expressions of infinite truths in
finite words appear to us to be the least unsatisfactory and
misleading. Of course every human expression intended to explain or
describe the mystery of the Incarnation becomes false if its inadequacy
is forgotten; and each party, as a rule, only half remembered this fact
as regards their own terms, and quite forgot it as regards those of
their opponents. Thus each usually insisted on stretching the language
used by the other to its full logical conclusion; forgetting that logic
does not apply to the case, and that this reductio ad absurdum line
of argument, if used at all, was applicable equally to both. Each side
vehemently asserted that the other was teaching a doctrine which the
other as vehemently denied that he taught. A. stretched B.’s tenets
(usually misunderstood, and sometimes misstated) to their full logical
conclusion, and presented them to B. as B.’s doctrines. B. returned the
compliment to A. Each denied holding the views that the other
attributed to him, and anathematized what he insisted that the other
must hold.163

Whether “heretics” of any variety really intended to deny the truths
which the Greek theologians asserted, and which they intended their
expressions to guard, is another and very difficult question. We shall
have to examine it later as far as one variety is concerned. They very
certainly did not intend to agree with the Greeks; in fact, they
-,wanted to differ from them. On the other hand, the Greeks did not
want to agree with them, but to subdue them. Rancour against Greek
theologians, however, though it may be a wrong thing, is not
necessarily rancour against truth; even though the Greek may think that
it is, and though what he shouts as a battle-cry may be sound theology.
Neither side in the battle made any attempt to “get behind words,” and
to see whether they could not, and did not, fully accept the principle
embodied in the objectionable form of words that was the other’s
standard in the theological war. Again and again one is disposed to
cry, as one studies the weary warfare, “Oh for one hour of St.

Another question remains, and one which is of growing importance in
our own day. Supposing, for argument’s sake, that the “heretics” did
hold at the beginning of each of the various schisms all that the
“orthodox” imputed to them (a large supposition-a test of the size of
which is the extraordinary character of the views which the “heretics”
Imputed to the “orthodox”), do those views still exist to-day? It is of
the nature of “heresy” to disappear, and of imperfect and inadequate
conceptions to melt silently away when they are not maintained by
opposition. The writer can affirm this much of his own personal
knowledge: that where “heretics,” of various complexions, state the
beliefs they hold in non-technical language, so that they do not use
the terms to which they cling as a sacred heritage (and which often
have very different meanings as used by different Churches), they
usually make a statement of faith indistinguishable from orthodoxy.

A formidable complication, which one does not see how to
disentangle, still further increases the difficulty of the problem. It
must. be remembered164
that the great crux of specifically Christian theology, “How can Christ
be at once God and Man?” was approached in the East from Antioch to
Seleucia by minds steeped for generations in the dualistic conceptions
that lie at the base of all oriental philosophy–conceptions which
postulate the evil of matter, and the existence of an impassable gulf
between Creator and creature.

Doctrines of this kind are called Manichaean, principally because
disciples of Manes did much to popularize them in the West, but Manes
did not create or give currency to the conceptions; he merely based his
system upon them.

Minds bred in a “Manichaean” medium shrank inevitably from the
conception of a real Incarnation of the Word, resulting in a true
“God-Man”; and they explained away the difficulty in various ways. Some
declared, with the Gnostics, that the nature assumed must have been a
phantom merely; others adopted one of two explanations superficially.
opposite but essentially the same, the concave and convex sides of the
curve. They either declared the Incarnation to be a mere association of
a man with the Divinity, which is Nestorianism; or that the manhood was
annihilated by assumption into the Divinity, which is Monophysitism. In
either case, belief in the absolute incompatibility of the human and
the Divine lies at the root of the conception. Neither the “Nestorian”
nor the “Monophysite” Christ (if the language they used be pressed) is
a true Mediator, for a Mediator is impossible. The persistence of this
inadequate conception may be judged from the fact that it also
underlies Mahommedan theology.

So much for the general mental atmosphere, so to speak, in which the
problems of the Christological controversy were approached by some of
the combatants in the struggle, a statement necessary for our
comprehension of it.

The Assyrian Church, however, had not to face it until
it was pretty far advanced. Isolated as ever, it might have escaped
this controversy as thoroughly as it did that of Arianism, had it been
no more prolonged and equally, decisive in its issue. The
patriarchate of Dad-Ishu saw in the West the assembling of the first
council of Ephesus, and the deposition of Nestorius; the scandal of the
second council of that name, and the assembly of the fourth “general
council” at Chalcedon. It saw, in a word, the rejection of Nestorianism
and the rise of Monophysitism in the Roman Empire. But only the
faintest echoes of this strife appear to have reached the Church of
Assyria, which was in the peaceful state of having nothing to record
during most of that period. Mshikha-Zca, writing about a hundred years
has absolutely
nothing “local” to say of the two bishops, Daniel and Rkhima, who
during this period were the metropolitans of Arbela. Concerning the
controversy he tells us that the first of them, Daniel, heard of the
persecution of “the martyr Nestorius” by “the second Pharaoh, Cyril of
Egypt”; and, being a prophet, foretold the “extinction of the true
light in the West, and its shining forth in the East.” If (as we are
given to understand) this worthy prelate died before his time, owing to
his grief at the persecution referred to, we need certainly not
question his status as a prophet–seeing that he died on Low Sunday,
431, and the council of Ephesus did not meet till June of that year.

Rkhima, his successor, was a hard-working bishop within his own
diocese. He certainly, and other bishops probably, warned their flocks
against “the perversion of the faith” current in the West; and men’s
minds were thus prepared for the separation that was to follow fifty
years later. For the time being, however, the Church took no corporate
action. How little they knew of the rights and wrongs of the matter
appears from the fact that they believed Cyril to have proclaimed, in
his “sacrilegious council of Ephesus,” the doctrine of “one nature and
one qnuma,” with the express object of severing communion between East
and West.166

A man of some fame in later ages appears to have arisen during this
period, though he probably reached maturity a few years after this
date. This was Isaac of Nineveh; who as ascetic and mystic was honoured
by all sects in after time, and who, therefore, probably dates from a
period antecedent to their division. Though his writings on the
contemplative life and the various grades thereof were to exercise a
great influence on Eastern monasticism, he did not exert, and, indeed,
carefully refrained from exerting, any sway over his contemporaries. If
his biographer tells the truth, he may share with another bishop
mentioned in this chapter the distinction of having the shortest
episcopate on record. He was (much against his inclination, no doubt)
dragged from his cell on the mountain of Mar Mattai (where his
monastery still exists), and consecrated Bishop of Nineveh. The new
bishop made the six hours’ journey from the monastery to the city, and
was installed; but either that evening or next morning two litigants
brought a case of debt for the episcopal decision. “What says the
Gospel?” began the bishop. “Oh, never mind the Gospel just now,
Holiness,” said the creditor. “But if you don’t mind the Gospel, what
am I doing here?” said the prelate, who apparently did not admit that
he was there to get them to mind it, or that if they did mind it they
would hardly need a pastor at all! So, “seeing that his solitary life
would be disturbed by the episcopal office”–which was, indeed,
inevitable, but might perhaps have been foreseen-the bishop resigned at
once, and betook himself to the desert of Scete; where he remained
until death, undisturbed either by office or by the troubles that arose
in the Church before the time of his final departure.167

At the time, however, things were peaceful; and the time of peace
was also one of growth. In the life-story of Pethiun,168 evangelist of
the country
about the sources of the lesser Zab, we have a picture that must have
been repeated in many another province at the time. There we read the
story of the lad Yazdin, son of a wealthy Magian, who, being unhappy at
home, found happiness, and was led to Christianity in the house of one
Jacob, a Christian dependent of the family, and apparently
foster-father of the youth. Jacob refused his charge baptism when he
applied for it, “from fear of what your father will say”; and Yazdin
ran way from home and found an asylum with the Bishop of Karka d’Bait
Sluk, who received him into a monastery. After some years he returned
home, to find his father dead and his brother Gushnasp (now owner of
the family property) a Christian also, baptized by the name of
Dad-Ishu, and more than willing that his rabban brother should build
the cell he needed on the estate, and receive his son Pethiun under his
care. Neither Government nor clan openly resented, at the moment, this
conversion of a family that was obviously of some local importance.

Still, this exemption of an active Church from Government
interference and from doctrinal quarrels could not last; and about the
year 448 we find Yezdegerd II declaring war against Christianity in his
dominions. At about the same time he started a vehement persecution of
both Armenians and Assyrians; in the former case avowedly because
Christians could not possibly be loyal subjects of Persia, and, in all
probability, for the same reason in the latter case also.

The persecution seems to have been intended to be general all over
but we have
only details of it as far as it affected the province of B. Garmai. It
is probable that it was far more severe there than elsewhere, and
perhaps was unknown in some districts altogether.

According to the rather late account that remains to us, a massacre
of appalling magnitude took place; ten bishops and 153,000 (!) clergy
and laity being martyred in several consecutive days of slaughter on a
mound outside the city of Karka d’Bait Sluk. Local
tradition still asserts that the red gravel of the hillock was stained
that colour by the martyrs’ blood, and the martyrium built over the
bodies remains to this day?170

The fact of a great massacre of Christians in this persecution at
this spot need not be doubted, even if the number given by the
historian be impossibly large, and if there be some other errors to the
Nor need we
question the perfectly historical character of the episodes recorded;
such as the act of the woman Shirin, who with her two sons came of her
own accord to seek the martyrdom that she received;172 or the conversion of the
chief agent of the persecution, Tamasgerd, who was led by the sight of
the endurance of those whom he was butchering to own that the faith
that gave them strength must be from God, and joined himself with them
in their confession and their fate. The place of martyrdom and the
memorial church that stands there still bear the name, not of any of
the bishops that perished then, but of this convert who was there
“baptized in his own blood.”

As John, the metropolitan of Karka, was led to death,173 a youth among
those who
stood by called to him to be of good cheer and play the man; and the
bishop, turning to him, declared that he was worthy to take his place.
So, in their prison, or perhaps on the very place of execution, the
other bishops laid hands upon the youth Dindui; and for a day or so he
remained as metropolitan of Karka, until he too, marked by the
persecutors, received his crown.

Like other persecutions, this trial passed at last; and when peace
came again, the bishops of two provinces gathered at the spot,174 and decreed a
solemn annual
memorial of those who had perished there. More than fourteen centuries
have passed, and the Christians of Kirkuk own now a jurisdiction that
was strange to their ancestors; yet still they gather year by year at
the little church upon the red hillock, and still the 25th day of Ilul
is the holy dukrana of those who died for Christ in the year

Other martyrdoms, of course, took place elsewhere, and in particular
we know of the death of the Pethiun mentioned above. This teacher was
put to death near the modern Sulimanieh (the ancient Kholwan), and with
him perished his disciple and companion in “rabbanship,” Anahid,. the
beautiful daughter of the Mobed Adur-Hormizd. The nun, however (who, as
usual, was offered life “if she would marry as women ought”175), was for
some reason taken
to Nisibis for execution.

However extensive the massacres in the Assyrian Church, the
sufferings here can hardly have been greater than those inflicted in
Armenia to the course of what Armenians describe as the first great
persecution of their national Church. We perhaps should describe it
rather as a rebellion or civil war, prompted by the attempt of the
Government to destroy the national faith.

In this case,176
Yezdegerd, by rather treacherous means, was able to procure a more or
less forced apostasy from most of the Armenian nobles, as a preliminary
measure; and then attempted, through them, to force Zoroastrianism on
the mass of the people. A national rising followed, the rebels making a
fruitless appeal to Rome for help; and a fierce “guerilla” warfare
waged for several years–the Armenians finding, as usual, patriots who
were able leaders on a small scale, but somehow producing no great
As usual,
too, their worst foes were those of their own households, and none did
so much to subdue Armenia as Armenian renegades.

Finally, a sullen submission was secured; and Zoroastrianism drove
Christianity out of sight for the moment, so that the Shah-in-Shah
could plume himself on a new country won to Magianism–a conversion
which lasted, of course, for just so long as it could be enforced. It
is worth mentioning that the history of their country, between the
years 448 and 456, affords an ample explanation of the non-appearance
of the Armenian bishops of Chalcedon, and of their consequent
non-acceptance of that council. The Assyrian Church was not represented
at it either, any more than at the preceding councils; nevertheless,
they seem to have accepted, at some subsequent date, what they
understood to be the decision of this synod.178



YEZDEGERD was succeeded on the throne by Piroz. Not altogether
peaceably, for there was a rival claimant in the person of Prince
Hormizdas, and he was only overthrown by Turkish help-help that had to
be paid for by the cession of a frontier fortress. Piroz, however,
succeeded, and ruled for twenty-eight years. Christian writers give him
a high character, in that lie was (then declare179)
ruled in all things by the advice of a Christian of whom we shall
hear much-Bar-soma of Nisibis. Bar soma was a favourite of Piroz, no
doubt, and his adviser in some things, and no very good adviser either.
Still, it may be doubted whether the power of the Christian counsellor
was as great as other Christians thought, particularly as they always
tend to believe that a man in any post of authority is practically
omnipotent. If the power of Barsoma was anything like as great as
Christians believed, Magians must have judged the precedent a very bad
one, for no king of the Sassanid house was so consistently unlucky as
was Piroz. He was unfortunate in war abroad, for in fighting with the
Turks (a war brought on solely by his own perfidy180) lie was
manoeuvred into a hopeless position and forced to capitulate; as the
price of life the “King of kings” had to do homage, and to swear never
again to lead an army past the boundary stone of his empire.

At home he was even more unfortunate; for a terrible drought of
seven years brought, of course, famine and pestilence in its train.
Even the snow-fed Tigris had no water in its bed, and all other streams
failed completely. Nevertheless, either the King or his advisers
managed the great relief works that were instituted so well that not a
single man, or, according to another account, one only, died of

At the beginning of this reign Babowai became patriarch of the
Assyrian Church-a man who was a learned philosopher, according to one
historian, and mediocriter doctus according to the other.
Adore important, however, than his learning, or lack of it, was the
fact that he was a convert from Magianism-an “apostate” Zoroastrians
would say-and therefore always liable to death, though many reasons
might make it impossible to carry out the sentence. Still, as convert,
he had much to suffer. He was imprisoned for seven years and tortured
repeatedly, though- it is not clear whether this was before or after
his consecration made him conspicuous to his enemies.181 As it was in
his days that
the Church of the East was disturbed by the impact of those disputes
that for the last half century or more had been agitating the West, we
must here say a word on the stage that the Christological controversy
had reached when it did at last arrive in Assyrian Church territory.

There is a general impression, even in the minds of historical
students, that when once a council which after ages were to style
“oecumenical” had given its decision on a point, that question was
settled finally; and that any one who did not subscribe to it, wrote
himself down heretic at once by his refusal. As a matter of fact no
settlement was authoritative till it was generally accepted. In the
eyes of contemporaries, Ephesus was simply an assembly, whose dictum
needed re-enacting and “stiffening” (according to one party) at the
second council held at that place, which we usually call by the name of
the “Latrocinium”182;
while according to the other party (the majority) its decision
needed restating, and co-ordinating with other truths at Chalcedon.

This latter council, too, no more settled the question at issue than
did that of Nicaea. Each was the beginning of a period of strife, not
its conclusion. But whereas the dispute argued at Nicxa did come to an
end (for the time) within three centuries after the dispersal of the
tile problems
“settled” at Chalcedon are causes of schism still, and will remain so,
while Armenian, Copt and Jacobite remain unreconciled.

The council was rejected, either at once or after a very short
interval, by whole provinces of the empire-not altogether, it is true,
for theological reasons-but that does not alter the fact. Broadly, it
was rejected absolutely by Egypt and Palestine, the former of which
will have none of it to this day. A large majority of the Christians of
the Antiochene patriarchate and a considerable minority of those in
Asia Minor opposed it also; and one of the two national Churches
outside the empire (the Armenian) repudiated it as noon as it had
opportunity to speak. Only Rome and what we call “the West” were
heartily for it, and that mainly because it was the only oecumenical
council where the Pope played a prominent and worthy part.

At first the Emperor, of course, felt bound to maintain its
decision; for the gibing name of “melkite,”184
given to its adherents in Syria, had this much of truth in it to
give it a sting-that the Council of Chalcedon was at least as much
under royal influence as it is good for a “general council” to be. As
time passed, however, certain facts came out, and were impressed on
that imperial consciousness that never seems to die with its possessor.

Any emperor who held Constantinople, held Asia Minor up to the
Taurus range: held, that is, the Pontic and Asian themes, and could
keep them tolerably quiet and obedient. On the other hand, no
“Chalcedonian” could make loyal subjects of the inhabitants of Egypt,
Palestine and “Syria,”185
no “anti-Chalcedonian” could do so with Rome and the West. The empire,
in fact, was parting asunder like a ship on rocks. Nothing could keep
its eastern and western extremities, the bow and stern of the figure,
from tearing themselves off by their own weight; but when once they had
gone, the strongly knit midship section, left on the rocks on which the
ship had splintered, had passive strength enough to resist any waves
for many a long year. Had it not been for a gang of wreckers who called
themselves crusaders, it might be there still.

The rending process also took time, for the rivets of Roman
organization did not “give” readily; and it was not completed till the
Khalifs sat in Damascus at one end, and Charlemagne had been crowned at
Rome at the other. Successive emperors might give special attention,
now to one of the sections that tended to part, and now to the other.
At first their attention was drawn to the East. Zeno and Anastasius
regarded the West, subdued by Goths and Vandals, as lost already and
irrecoverably; they might indeed, as opportunity offered, let loose a
second horde of “barbarians” against those in possession, but no more.
Thus Anastasius watched Theodoric go against Odoacer with much the
feelings, one imagines, of a man who sees the pack of wolves who have
been hunting him turn against the second pack that are already ravaging
his flocks. The country was lost, and they “cut their losses.” They
would not run any risk of estranging the subjects who remained-the
Monophysites of Syria and Egypt–to conciliate the “Dyophysites”186 of Italy who
were lost to
them already.

Hence these two emperors are monophysite in sympathy; and , under
them that confession is dominant in the empire, till at last all the
great patriarchates save Rome only are held by its followers. Roman
Christians, abandoned by the empire, are loyal to an Arian ruler, and
Rome anathematizes all the “Eastern Empire.”

With the rise of a new dynasty there is a change. Justin and
Justinian were Chalcedonian-orthodox -by conviction, and resolute to
recover Italy and Africa politically. Hence the portion of the empire
that really depends on Constantinople becomes orthodox once more, and
continues so to be. As it ,becomes clear that it has definitely adopted
this bias, the lapse of two or three generations sees the Monophysite
portions surrender themselves to the Mussulman, rather than be
conquered by him; while in another century or so, for different
reasons, Rome and the West are lost to the empire also. Fate decreed-or
shall we say that the Devil contrived-that it was in the time of
Monophysite supremacy in the empire that the Christological problem
should first be presented to the Assyrian Church; and further, that
when the Church of the empire had abandoned that inadequate conception,
and settled to orthodoxy, knowledge of what “orthodoxy” is, and of what
the “Greeks” held, should be hidden from the Assyrians by the bulk of
interposed Monophysitism.

It ought to be clearly realized-for it is a fact of the last
importance for the formation of a right judgment on the attitude taken
by the Assyrian Church–that when the Christological controversy came
before its members, the Church of the empire, so far as known to them,
was Monophysite. The doctrine of “the one Nature” was not a heresy
professed by a handful of Egyptian and Syrian nobodies, who were
clearly and avowedly out of Catholic communion; but it was the doctrine
that was dominant over all the empire of Constantinople held by every
patriarch except only the Roman and he was in any case beyond Assyrian

We can now approach, with some possibility of just comprehension,
the story of the great controversy as it affected the Assyrian Church.

Babowai, as patriarch, had no easy time of rule. It was not only the
hourly danger that he, a conspicuous “apostate,” must run from the
Magi; but he had under him a suffragan of the most awkward character to
control, viz., Bar-soma, metropolitan of Nisibis. This was the man who
was to be protagonist in the first part of the drama that was to be
played; one of the most striking and picturesque, but not one of the
most saintly, figures in the history of his Church.

By birth he was of Cordyene, and was possibly slave-born,187 though he
must have attained
freedom, in that case, early in life, for when Ibas was Bishop of
Edessa this youth, with several other Assyrians destined to high office
in their Church, was a student in the college there. This college,
though of no great antiquity (for it owed its foundation to St.
Ephraim, and was therefore of later date than the migration of that
saint from Nisibis to Edessa, after the cession of the former city to
Persia in 363), had become the centre of theological and Western
culture to the Christians of the East. There were in Persia, as far as
we know, no Christian schools, though Magian colleges abounded, and the
teacher was a recognized and honoured grade in their hierarchy. The
Christian who desired learning (and the Assyrian thirst for it is
keener than even his thirst for money) must cross the frontier to where
Christianity ruled.

To Edessa, then, went many an Assyrian, during the long period of
peace that marked the patriarchate of Dad-Ishu; and Bar-soma had for
companions (amongst others) Acacius, afterwards patriarch of Seleucia,
Narses, called “the harp of the Spirit,” and first head of the college
that was to spring from Edessa, Wana, afterwards Bishop of Ardashir,
and Papa, afterwards metropolitan of B. Lapat. It adds a touch of
nature to the history to find that the oriental student of theology was
human enough to give nicknames to his fellows, and these lads were
known one to another as “Bean-maker,” “Dagon,” and “Piggy”! Bar-soma’s
own sobriquet was “Swimmer among the nests.”

During the episcopate of Ibas (435-457) one Marun of Dilaita, an
Assyrian from the district of Mosul, was head of the college, and the
whole atmosphere was pronouncedly “dyophysite”–something, that is to
say, which its enemies (and its enemies were rapidly becoming the
dominant theological party) would call “Nestorian.” The question
whether the bishop himself was or was not a “Nestorian,” as we
understand the term, is one that we may be thankful to leave
undisturbed. The fact that one and the same letter of his was accepted
as orthodox by one oecumenical council (the fourth) and condemned as
heretical by the fifth, may suffice to show how impossible it is to
apply the clear-cut distinctions that a later age thinks it can draw,
to the men who were actually engaged in the conflict. In looking at a
landscape from a distance it is easy to say “that rock lies on the
hillside, and that other in the valley.” On the spot, one sees that it
is a misuse of terms to say “here valley ends and hillside begins.”

At Edessa Bar-soma shared the stormy fortunes of his chief, and was
expelled with him from school and city when the notorious “Latrocinium”
sent Ibas into exile.188
The. fact that one who must have been still comparatively young was
marked out for condemnation by what was meant to be an oecumenical
synod, is evidence that he already attained a reputation-of a kind.
When Ibas was acquitted at Chalcedon and returned to his see, his pupil
seemingly returned with him and remained for about six years. In 457
Ibas died, and the wave of monophysite feeling that he had kept in
check swept over the place; Nonnus, whom the Latrocinium had put in as
bishop in his room, now regaining the see, of which the Council of
Chalcedon had deprived him. Bar-soma and most of his companions were
either expelled, or voluntarily quitted a sphere that had ceased to be
congenial; and the party returned to Persia, where, as stated, most of
them rose to high office in the Assyrian Church.189

Bar-soma in particular became Archbishop of Nisibis, third see in
the Church, and was a particular favourite with King Piroz. Further, he
was very active in secular business, and (according to one account)
actually united with his office as archbishop the post of “Lord of the
Marches” of the Roman and Persian Empires–a combination that makes us
think we are already in the middle ages. It appears from his own
writings, however, that he was not personally “Marquis of Nisibis,”
though he certainly acted as the assistant and right hand of that
official in the border province of Persia.190

For the time being at any rate there was no confinement of promotion
to men who had been markedly “dyophysite” at Edessa. The high promotion
of Papa,191
who certainly
had belonged to the other party, and who is noted as “orthodox” by the
monophysite Shimun of B. Arsham,192
is a proof that there was no controversy in the Church as yet. Still,
things were uneasy. In particular there was trouble, if not with the
Government, yet with the Magians, in spite of the royal favour to
particular Christians. It is possible that we ought to date the
imprisonment of Babowai the patriarch somewhere in the period 470-480,193 and it is
certain that those
years saw what we may call a minor persecution. Churches were burnt and
Christians imprisoned, though we have no evidence that there were any

A more dangerous thing was, that the relations between the patriarch
and Bar-soma became exceedingly hostile. We have no information as to
what the casus belli may have been; but both were
Assyrians, and therefore not prone to peace; and of Bar-soma we know
that he had separate quarrels with almost every authority, colleague or
subordinate, with whom he came in contact. Babowai used discipline,194 righteously
or otherwise, on
some bishops, who fled to Bar-soma and found the pre. late of Nisibis
ready to take their part. Bar-Hebraeus hints, and quite possibly with
truth, that the attempt to enforce episcopal celibacy was at the root
of this trouble between the two. Apparently this was a point on which
party feeling ran high; and though there was no canon on the matter, a
strict section wished to enforce it, while a majority were strongly
opposed to its enforcement. Whatever the cause, the two quarrelled
fiercely. even while persecution was threatening, and while things were
so the patriarch made a fatal blunder. He wrote a letter to some “Roman
bishops,” asking them to use their influence with the emperor, and
procure his intercession with the Shah-in-Shah to avert persecution;
and in the letter, he used one very unfortunate expression “God has
given us over to an accursed kingdom. This was dispatched by a special
messenger, who was directed to smuggle it over the border in the hollow
of a cane; but things went awry somehow and the document fell into the
hands of Bar-soma.

It is too much to ask of an oriental controversialist, that when the
imprudence of an opponent has put the means of ruining him in his
hands, the combatant should refrain from using it, merely because the
consequences to the writer may be very unpleasant! Further, it was easy
for Bar-soma to persuade himself that his mere duty to the Shah-in-Shah
demanded that he should forward the letter to him; and it was the fact
that he would himself be ruined if the King should ever hear that he
had seen–and suppressed–such a document.

Given the choice between using the chance of ruining an opponent and
running the risk of ruin himself, it was not likely that Bar-soma
should hesitate. He sent the letter to Piroz. It was not generous, but
few orientals would have acted otherwise. He may or may not have sent
accusations with it, nor does it greatly matter; a man does not reach
high office under an oriental despotism without knowing what the
writing of such a letter means to its writer if it be discovered.

Piroz was furious when the letter was read to him: the patriarch was
summoned at once to “the King’s door,” and when he entered was shown
simply the foot of the folded paper, with the query, “Is this your
seal?” He admitted the fact, and the letter was read in full diwan. It
was vain for the terror-struck Christians to explain that “accursed”
was simply a figure of speech for non-Christian; or, as some gallantly
attempted, to say that it was no more than a slip of the pen, and that
was what was
really. meant. The unhappy prelate was sentenced to a
horrible death, being hung up by his ring-finger till he expired. The
Church in after days reckoned him a martyr, as having been put to
death, if not for Christianity, at least by Magian malice.

The post of patriarch was seemingly left vacant for a while, as
might easily happen under the circumstances; and for about three years
Bar-soma was the most real authority in the Church. Authority in such
vigorous hands was not likely to lie idle, but we have unfortunately no
very reliable account of the use he made of it. Bar-Hebraeus indeed is
explicit enough, giving an account borrowed (as Monsignor Chagot points
out) from a Monophysite writer of the seventh century, Michael the

According to him, when Babowai was dead, Bar-soma advised Piroz to
establish or promote “heresy” in the Church of his empire, for
political reasons. It would be very much better for him, if his
Christian subjects were entirely separated from those of the Roman
Empire. Piroz agreeing and giving his favourite a “free hand,” Bar-soma
took Persian troops and with them marched through the length and
breadth of the land, forcing all Christians into heresy. At Tagrit on
the Tigris he was repulsed-the men of that place declaring, “If you
dare to interfere with us, we will expose you and your crimes to the
and he dared
not enter Armenia; but he drove the “orthodox” monks from Mar Matai,
and destroyed with fire and sword all who would not follow him into
heresy. Ninety priests in particular were massacred in Nineveh, says
the historian, and 7,700 of the faithful in all. Collecting some
bishops at B. Adrai in Nuhadra, he forced on them a canon allowing
Episcopal marriage-an act repeated at later councils at B. Sluk198 and
Seleucia. As a result
of these acts, ” Nestorianism” was spread all over Persia; and with it
came such an appalling increase of immorality among the clergy, that
all the dust-heaps and roads were full of exposed and abandoned
children, and special orphanages had to be made for their reception, to
save them from being devoured by dogs!

Finally, some bishops who had fled from Bar-soma consecrated Acacius
as patriarch; but the terrible “Bar-sola”199
was able to force him into Nestorianism also, and the schism was
complete between the Assyrian Church and the rest of the Church

This statement is of course the work of a partisan, not of an
historian-and of an oriental partisan. To such an one the throwing of
mud is “common form,” and truth is not so much an object as
adhesiveness. Ages of controversy have made him an adept in judging
what mud will stick, and he has a full appreciation of the power of a
halftruth! Still, even in oriental controversy, regard should be paid
to the probabilities, if not to the decencies; and (putting aside a few
small blunders) it is simply impossible to believe that the licensing
of clerical marriage should have led to the spread of open immorality,
and the exposure of thousands of unacknowledged children, and the like.
The only result of the wild slander of Bar-Hebraeus, is to throw doubt
on every statement that he makes to the discredit of his opponent.

It must also be remembered that Bar-Hebraeus is a Monophysite, and
writes as one. Hence, where he says Catholic or orthodox, we have to
substitute the name of that heresy.

Certain broad facts, however, stand out as true. Thus it appears
that after the death of Babowai, Bar-soma organized the Church on a
footing of separation from, not merely independence of, the Westerns.
Piroz of course approved. It was obviously to his interest that his
Christian subjects should be separated from those of Rome, and no doubt
he threw the weight of royal influence on Bar-soma’s side. As the
“Henoticon” of Zeno had recently been published (these events took
place 482-484), and the Church of the Roman Empire was officially
Monophysite, to make an official confession of the “two
Natures in Christ”–which to Bar-Hebraeus was “Nestorianism”–was to
separate from them–and this was done.

There can be little doubt that the great mass of Christians in
Persia were on Bar-soma’s side in what he did. Bar-Hebraeus of course
declares that they were “dragooned” into it; but, putting aside the
fact that Assyrian Christians were not wont to be very pliant under
persecution, does the work of a “dragonade” last as that of Bar-soma
has done? It cannot be doubted that the mass of Assyrian Christians
were “Dyophysite” to the core, and were perfectly willing to separate
from those who held the doctrine of “one Nature.” Their reasons for
wishing to separate, however, were not purely doctrinal. That, as we
have stated, we hold to have been the case nowhere; even though the
oriental has an appetite for abstract theology and philosophical
disputation that the Western cannot appreciate. The spirit of
nationality, too, had probably less to do with it in their case than in
that of others, for their full ecclesiastical independence was won
already. The cause was something more mundane, but very natural all the
same. For about one hundred and fifty years now they had been always
under the shadow, and frequently under the edge of the sword of
persecution; and this persecution had been never separate from the
feeling,” Rome is Christian, therefore no Christian can be loyal.” A
Persian war with Rome and a persecution of the Assyrian Church had
usually gone together, and the answer to the question “which caused
which?” had made little difference to the persecuted.

Their faith was a thing they could not and would not give up; but
when already estranged from the Westerns by the theological quarrel,
was it wonderful that, weary of suffering, they should say, “Let us at
all events do something to show that we are a different brand of
Christians to the Roman, and so need not be persecuted every time the
Emperor and the Shah-in-Shah have a quarrel.”

Bar-Hebraeus also informs us that a motive force in the matter was
the desire for legalized marriage among the clergy and bishops (though
marriage is not the word that the historian employs). That this was so,
particularly in the light of the fact that the passing of a canon to
that effect accompanied the separation, is very probable. There is not
much evidence available on the point; but it does seem that the
oriental mind was revolting against the false doctrine about celibacy
current in “the West”; and while asceticism had a place, and a
prominent one, in their religion, there was yet a perfectly true
instinct in their minds that marriage was a holy thing to all not
specially called to another life, and that sacred office was no bar to
what was a duty rather than an indulgence. It has been suggested,200 that desire
to assimilate
themselves to their Zoroastrian neighbours also moved them. The writer
does not think it likely that there was conscious desire for
assimilation. At the same time, the ideas and conceptions of the
religion of the land have a way of soaking into the mind even of the
alien, when resident, as we see in our best Indian officials; and how
much more must this be the case with the native? It is probable that
the Zoroastrian atmosphere they breathed kept their ascetic conceptions
(which as orientals they were bound to have in one form or another)
within the very reasonable bounds which at present prevail among them.201

As an incident of his work Bar-soma held a council at B. Lapat, and
issued a confession of faith, the first of several of the Assyrian
Church’s declaring, that concerned itself with Christology. It does not
survive; but there can be no doubt that it was emphatically
“Dyophysite,” and opposed to the then dominant creed of “the West.”
Bar-Hebraeus declares it to have been “Nestorian,” and so it very
possibly was, even in our sense of the word. The point is of no great
importance as the confession was formally repudiated soon after; but as
the council of Chalcedon was “Nestorian” to all good
Monophysites, the evidence of this writer (valeat quantum)
would rather point to its being orthodox. Next, the council of B. Lapat
proceeded to practically canonize Theodore of Mopsuestia, whom they
described (truly enough) as having been “honoured in life, and honoured
in death,” and whom they further added, “all should follow.”202 Another
canon, the only one
to be regularly re-enacted later, declared the lawfulness of marriage
for all Christians, including every grade of the hierarchy, and
Bar-soma himself took advantage of the permission thus given. Seventeen
other canons followed, which concerned themselves, so far as the
few fragments remaining will allow us to judge,203
with Simony, nepotism, and like matters, which were, in fact, rules
highly profitable for the Assyrian or for any Church–if they could be

The council of Bait Lapat was the “high-water mark” of Bar-soma’s
power. He had become head of his Church, and he had bent it to his
will. It had declared itself opposed theologically to “the West”–to
the Church of the Emperor and his Henoticon; it was independent and
separate, and friendly to the King of Persia, and Bar-soma was its
ruler. No doubt he had won this position not only as bishop, but also
as warden of the marches. The people and clergy were willing to go with
him, but if not he had military as well as theological arguments to
urge! The story of extensive massacres of “the faithful,” given by
Bar-Hebraeus, one may put on one side without hesitation, as on a par
with that historian’s orphanages; but the fact that Bar-soma’s admirer,
hints at some
bloodshed, makes it probable that force was sometimes used. Still, as
Shimun of B. Arsham, that very hostile contemporary writer (who must
have been a young man, at or near Seleucia, at the time), who knows the
career of Bar-soma well enough to be able to give us his school
nickname yet knows nothing of any slaughter, we may conclude
confidently that if there was any, it was insignificant in amount. It
must be remembered that nobody would be shocked at the fact of
Barsoma’s making an episcopal tour with an escort drawn from the
frontier corps that lie seems to have commanded, or much shocked if
blood should be shed. Orientals like to have proof that the “Hukumet”
is behind the man they are willing to obey. They revere power; and its
concrete embodiment in a few soldiers does not strike them as at all
unepiscopal. Of course his opponents would exclaim at the
sacrilege–and would imitate it, if they got the chance!

Though there is no doubt that the great majority of the Christians
of Persia were willing enough to follow the lead given by Bar-soma,
there was a minority opposed to him. Papa, Bishop of B. Lapat, was one
of them, and there were other bishops with him. The men of Tagrit, too,
and the monks of at least one important monastery (Mar Matai by Mosul)
clung to the confession of one “Nature”-or adopted it, in opposition to
a man they hated-and some monks about Seleucia-Ctesiphon were of the
same way of thinking.205

It is impossible to say how far this minority at the time was
Monophysite in doctrine and by conviction, and how far it was merely
opposed to Bar-soma, though there is good evidencethat its
principal bishop, Papa of B. Lapat, acted from the latter of these two
motives. Still, here was the root of a Monophysite party in the Church,
opposed to the Dyophysite majority. In later days it was to gather
strength and to make a bold effort at the capture of the Church itself.
Failing in this, it was able to win recognition as a separate melet.

No doubt Bar-soma hoped and expected to be patriarch in place of
Babowai, and the prize must have seemed in his grasp when he held the
council of B. Lapat in 484. At that very moment, however, it was
snatched from him, and the support of much of his power cut from under
his feet, by the death of his patron, King Piroz. That sovereign’s
defeat by the Turks, and his disgraceful homage to their sultan, had of
course rankled in his mind; and, oath or no oath, lie was resolved to
avenge it. Thu$ he made war against them, and to keep the letter of his
bond, made elephants drag in the van of his army, the
boundary stone that he had sworn that he would never pass. The Turks
gathered for battle, and their sultan, like another of his race in
another continent, reared the broken treaty on a lance, and bade his
troops fight under that banner. As at Kossovo, the God of Battles
accepted the appeal, and in the utter rout of the Persians that
followed, Piroz himself was killed. The Turks, mere nomad tribesmen
still, could not follow up their great success; but Persian power was
paralyzed for the moment, and Armenia recognized the opportunity and
sprang to arms. The new King, Balas, was glad enough to retain his
sovereignty over them at the price of the recognition of their national

Balas also filled up the vacant patriarchate of the Assyrian Church,
but it was not Bar-soma that he selected. The late King’s favourite
seldom stands too well with the new ruler, and Balas ordered the
consecration of the old school-fellow of Bar-soma, Acacius. This
destroyed the very base of the power that the Bishop of Nisibis had
wielded. He was, of course, metropolitan still; but he was not head of
the melet, and another was. To use a homely metaphor,
there had been a new deal, and a change of trumps. All the old figures
remained unaltered, but their relations to one another and their
relative values had changed.

For a little Bar-soma refused to admit the situation, and would not
acknowledge Acacius. We do not know what ostensible reason he gave, but
it does not matter, for it was his own power that he fought for, and
the dispute was not long. The metropolitan of Nisibis had to admit that
he was powerless against the patriarch backed by the King, and finally
to submit, making the best terms for himself that he could:

Thus, in August 485, Acacius came north; and a gathering of bishops
(for it was hardly a formal council) took place at B. Adrai,206 in the
province of Nuhadra.
Bar-soma had still a strong party behind him, for the metropolitans of
Bait Garmai and Fars, with the bishop of the important see of Kashkar,
were his supporters; and Papa of B. Lapat was the only bishop of
importance who accompanied the patriarch. The metropolitans of Arbela
and Prat D’Maishan were not present. Still he had to submit; to
acknowledge Acacius as his patriarch and superior; to consent to the
full annulment of his own council at B. Lapat, and to agree that
another council should be held to review its canons and to re-enact as
many of them as should be desirable. On these terms a reconciliation of
a kind was effected, and Bar-soma was recognized as’ metropolitan of
Nisibis, whither he now proceeded to hide his diminished head.

Bar-soma had had to submit to his rival, more or less in camera;
but it was not likely that he would make a public “journey to
Canossa” if that could be avoided and circumstances came to his aid.
Opportune frontier disturbances made it impossible for the
soldier-bishop to leave his post. One may suspect that the prelate who
knew the frontier so well that it was impossible to spare him in time
of trouble, knew also enough to make (if necessary) the trouble that
made it so impossible that he should be spared! There is, however,
absolutely no evidence behind that supposition. All that we know is
that an Arab raid put Bar. soma’s attendance at the council out of the
question; and we cannot deny ourselves the pleasure of giving a free
translation of the letter in which he announced the fact to his

“People who don’t know think that the Bishop of Nisibis has a fine
time of it; but for two years we have been having plague and famine,
and now the Tu’an Arabs have been on the raid, plundering round Nisibis
and across the Roman border; and the Romans, with their Arabs, the
threatening reprisals. The marquis is trying to make terms on condition
of mutual return of plunder; but that necessitates a meeting between
him and the Roman general, with a big official from Seleucia, and all
the chiefs of both Arab tribes, and goodness knows how long that will
take to arrange!

“Last August (when I did come to a council, to oblige you) we got
the general to come to Nisibis for a talk; and those Tu’ans must needs
choose that time to go a-raiding, and of course the Romans thought it
was our treachery, and there was no end of a fuss 1 I cannot possibly
come to any council now, in spite of your request and the King’s order.
The marquis will not hear of it, and will not even summon’ my
suffragans and let them go. Besides, you are just starting on this
embassy of yours to Constantinople, and you really had better put off
the council till your return. By the way, among the Romans there is the
devil of a row ecclesiastically, and you will be delighted at the
contrast with our splendid union (!). If you will have the council, I
will agree beforehand to all of its decisions that are in accordance
with the faith. We have already dropped the Bait Lapat canons. Your
humble disciple and subject. Take care of yourself, and pray for us.”

Neither the dispositions of men nor the conditions of life have
changed in all these centuries in the country where that letter was
written; and in course of time even episcopal functions have come to be
once more pretty much what Bar-soma made them!

In spite of (or was it because of?) the absence of his formidable
suffragan Acacius determined on holding the council, which met
accordingly. Either before or during it he received another letter from
Bar-soma,209 to
him that the marquis had written to the King (who had clearly
authorized the holding of the council) to say that he could not spare
his active helper. He reiterates his guarded assurance that he will
accept “all that the council does for the preservation of the Faith and
in accordance with the canons”–an assertion which, of course, meant
that he would accept just as much as he approved-but declares that he
is not to be expected at it.

The council met without him in February 486, and was scantily
attended. As its first Canon it passed a Confession of Faith, which was
declared to be the more necessary as some “false ascetics” were busy
spreading false teaching among the Faithful, particularly round
Seleucia. The Confession (which speaks of a Trinity in Three perfect
“Qnumi”–a point to be noted, as being the first official use of that
term in the sense in which it is afterwards habitually employed) is
orthodox: but it emphatically asserts the Two Natures, and is (perhaps
with intention) so worded that a Nestorian could accept it. Thus it
speaks of the , naqiputha gamirta,
or the “perfect conjoining” of the two natures, and also of the Unity
of the Person210

After a second Canon ordering the false ascetics spoken of (who were
Monophysite monks) to be confined to their monasteries, and in
particular to refrain from schismatic celebrations of the Eucharist-an
indication that the Monophysite party were already beginning to try to
secure for themselves a separate existence; the council goes on to
affirm emphatically the right of all, including bishops and clergy, to
marry and to take a second wife if the first should die. Celibacy was
to be a matter of choice, scandals having taught the Church that any
attempt to make it compulsory led to disaster. A professed celebate,
who broke his vow of chastity in secret, naturally received special
censure; but it is not clear whether a “Rabban” who found his chosen
life too high for him, might (as he may at present) openly declare that
fact, and live as an ordinary layman with the wife of his choice having
departed from a holy purpose, but broken no irrevocable vow.

The disciplinary rules seem to an Anglican to be excellent, and the
doctrinal canon acceptable,211
its indefiniteness being to our thinking no fault. Apparently it either
was or could be interpreted as being similar to that of B. Lapat; and
indeed that council seems to have been fudged irregular rather because
of the conduct of Bar-soma, and the absence of the Catholicos, than for
any other reason. Bar-soma accepted the council, and Acacius and his
turbulent suffragan had peace awhile; the patriarch being soon invoked
positively to protect the metropolitan, who was by no means at ease in
his own diocese, and who wrote to the patriarch, begging him to
excommunicate the malcontents, lest serious trouble should arise and
rebellion and persecution follow.212
One cannot say that the accusation of tyranny, which was the charge
against Bar-soma, is improbable in the light of his career; and it is
noteworthy how very humble the sometime ruler of the whole Church had
for the time being become. He professes himself “the humblest of the
servants” of Acacius, deplores the “human passion” which led to his
“unchristian synod” at B. Lapat, and his “unchristian rebellion”
against the lawful authority of Babowai. However (standing and
immemorial excuse of the Assyrian when his sin has found him out), all
this was dust because human nature is fallible: and the Devil is the
person really responsible–a doctrine which all orientals find very

Acacius made peace somehow without launching the excommunications
which Bar-soma (true Assyrian in this as in all) was sure the judge
must pronounce, after hearing the plaintiff’s side only; and a little
later lie had to ask the Bishop of Nisibis to try and bring the Bishop
and people of Susa to a sense of their duties to one another and to the
patriarch-thus affording Bar-soma the chance of appearing in the one
-role which that versatile hero had never played yet, that of
peacemaker. The veteran fighter, magnificently declaring as a preface
that he had always been a lover of peace ( !), did his best no doubt,
but failed. Indeed, one has some sympathy with disputants_ who failed
to recognize the dove of peace in a messenger whose previous career so
much more nearly resembled that of a game-cock.

Before long, however, Bar-soma found worthier (his worthiest) work
to do. His. old school, Edessa, had been suspect by the authorities for
thirty years, since Ibas had died and the doctrine of the “one Nature”
had been predominant. In 489 Zeno the Emperor ordered its dispersal;
telling the bishop, Cyrus, to purge his city of Nestorian venom.
According! the great school, the centre of culture for the Last, came
abruptly to an end; the college by the “spring of Abraham” was
destroyed and a church built on the site; and the main channel
summarily blocked, through which the Persian Church could receive
Western philosophy and theology. By its means they might have been
taught that the Greeks were not so far removed from them, after all,
and through it they. might have made their contribution to the fulness
of Catholic life. The Church of the Empire now turned her back on the
Church without the border; and the act is another and important stage
in the gradual separation of the Assyrian Church from the rest of

This circumstance brought to Bar-soma the great opportunity of his
life, and it must be owned that he took advantage of it as an
enlightened statesman and prelate should. He did a work for which his
Church was to be his debtor during a thousand ears of existence, and
which may weigh in the balance against much that is evil in his
chequered and stormy career.

The university that had been destroyed in Edessa he set up in
Nisibis. Selecting an able head, Narses, he gathered tutors and pupils
once more; found quarters for them somewhere; and established the great
school that was to be the nursery of patriarchs and bishops for future
generations, and which was to supply to the Church of the East that
which Edessa had given her, and of which she was now deprived. It was a
great deed, and one that was to have influence that the doer could not
dream of. When we remember how much of the culture of mediaeval Europe
was to come to her through the Saracens, and that the “Nestorians” were
the teachers of the Saracens, one is set asking whether Oxford,
Cambridge and Paris do not owe an unsuspected debt to Bar-soma, though
the road from Nisibis to those centres may run through Baghdad and

While Bar-soma was superintending the growth of his school, and the
Church was assimilating the reforms that he had forced upon her, the
Armenian Church to the north was also taking one of the important steps
in her history. The bishops gathered in council at Dvin,213 and there
repudiated the council of Chalcedon, an act which they have never since
really withdrawn. They were led to this step by a rather curious
coincidence, through the influence of another Barsoma; that Barsumas
(to give him the name by which we know him) who won an unhappy
notoriety at the “Latrocinium,” and who was afterwards a vigorous
preacher of Monophysitism in Asia. His disciple, Samuel,214 had been sent
by him to

Of course, this act did not for the moment separate them from the
Church of Constantinople, which then professed the Henoticon. That
effect came to pass thirty years later, when Chalcedon was acknowledged
once more, and Armenia clung obstinately to her national confession.
Formal reconciliation has been affected more than once, but it has
always been unreal, and this Church has always continued in separation
on that point, and has professed some sort of Monophysitism.215 Thus (a fact
which must have
been very gratifying to all Persian statesmen) the two Christian melets
to their dominions were separated, not only from the Christians of the
Roman Empire, but also from one another.

In the Assyrian Church quarrels soon broke out once more. It would
seem really not to have been in Bar-soma’s power to be long at peace
with anybody, and by the year 491 he was again at open war with Acacius.216 We do not
know the cause of
quarrel; but as open anathemas were exchanged, it was obviously pushed
further than any, previous disagreement of theirs. On this
occasion there was no reconciliation, though (when both were dead) some
attempt was made to “whitewash” both parties by the next patriarch.
Bar-soma had yet another quarrel on his hands at the time with Narses,
head of the Nisibis college. Bar-Hebraeus declares it to have been over
a woman; but Barsoma must at the time have been over seventy, and
Narses cannot have been much less.

It was probably during this final quarrel (though the date is
uncertain) that Acacius was sent by the Shah-in-Shah on an embassy to
he was catechized, of course, by the bishops of the empire concerning
his faith. Having heard his statement they demanded that, as further
proof of orthodoxy, he should anathematize Bar-soma. Acacius made no
difficulty in doing that; and in fact the man was, in all probability,
already as much under anathema as his patriarch could make him, though
for acts which neither the bishops of the time, nor we moderns, would
regard as his greatest sins l On the doctrinal point Acacius gave,
presumably, the only official statement of faith the Church knew other
than the Nicene creed, viz., the Confession that the council of 486 had
endorsed; and declared that the “Easterns” knew nothing of Nestorius
and his heresy, and had simply kept the faith as they always had
received it. This was probably perfectly true, as far as Christology
was concerned; for up to that time the Assyrian Church had only
retained the loose phraseology of an earlier age, either not knowing
that the terms they used were changing their meaning in the “West,” or
thinking that the fact did not concern them. There is much strength in
the position “they may change their terms if they like, but why should
they think we ought to?” and had the Assyrian Church always acted thus,
their position would be much less equivocal. Acacius was admitted to
communion, and this may be taken as in some sort a healing of the
separation that Bar-soma had brought about; but the memory of the rift
remained, and was of evil omen for the future. As a matter of fact, the
Church of the capital was herself too torn by dissensions to act very
decisively, and the point is important. When we speak of the Assyrian
Church “separating herself from the union of Christendom” we ought not
to forget that the phrase presupposes the existence of an united body
to separate from; and that such a body did not exist after the council
of Chalcedon. What really happened was this. When all was in confusion
and schism rife everywhere, one portion of the Church, isolated and
independent before, took an independent line which led her into further
isolation. Whether her teaching was really different from that portion
of the Church which we now call “orthodox,” and whether, granting that,
it is now so different from that of another and younger portion of the
Church that these two cannot enter into fraternal relations; these are
two distinct and difficult questions, neither of which admit of an
offhand answer.

Acacius returned to Persia. He had anathematized Bar-soma, and
engaged to depose him-perhaps with a mental reservation, “if he could”;
but their quarrel was ended before he arrived, for the Bishop of
Nisibis was dead. He was killed, says Bar-Hebraeus, by the monks of Mt.
but he was dead
in any case, and that most strangely mingled character had passed to
its account.

A man who did much good, and much evil. Who. would win the power he
desired by any means; and would use it at once for his own advancement
and for what he judged to be the good of his melet. In his
status lie reminds us of the medixval prince-prelate, rather than the
oriental ecclesiastic. May we judge him by the same rule that we apply
to them? Yet he is, withal, the epitome of his people. We see in him
their qualities; but those qualities are exaggerated, and he is cast
altogether to a larger mould than is the wont. In his quarrelsomeness,
in his unscrupulousness, in his love for his Church and love for
learning, joined with personal ambition, he is a true son of his
annoying and attractive nation. One who has studied the history of the
Church must feel some gratitude towards the man who wrote some of its
most picturesque pages; and one who has learnt to care for the people
must own to a kindness for so representative an Assyrian.



THE quarrel between Acacius and Bar-soma had been a personal
feud-devoid, so far as we are aware, of any great influence on the
Church. But while it was raging, a controversy of another kind had
arisen in Persia, culminating in one of the strangest episodes in the
history, not of the Sassanid house only, but of kingship itself.

Kobad (or Qawad) had followed Balas on the throne; and in his days
one Mazdak, a Magian of high rank, had started the preaching of
doctrines which purported to be only a reform in the religion of
Zoroaster, but which were in effect productive of a revolution both in
Church and State.

All men were equal, according to this very modern-spirited zealot;219 and all
life, including
animal life, was sacred and inviolable. ‘All property was common, and
“property” included women. The gospel proclaimed by this new prophet
was a Socialism of the most communistic variety, coupled with
Vegetarianism, Humanitarianism, and perhaps a few other polysyllabic
“isms” which some believe to be the offspring of modern thought alone.

We know too little, unfortunately, of the inner life of the Assyrian
Church to say what effect, if any, was produced on it by this new
gospel. Thus the opportunity of studying an early version of Christian
Socialism is denied us, interesting and profitable though it might be.220

In the nation at large, as might perhaps have been expected,
Mazdak’s teaching was most warmly received and widely propagated. It is
true that it was ultimately trampled out; but obviously there was much
resentment current at the “caste-system” of Magianism: and the welcome
given to this reformer may help us to understand the rapid downfall of
Zoroastrianism before the political and religious teaching of Islam,
when that wonderful system made its appearance in Persia 150 years
later. Nor was the discontent confined to the commonalty. Some of the
nobles and princes became converts to a system which robbed them of
their rank and wealth, and this fact makes one suspect the existence of
some such wave of republican enthusiasm as that which swept over the
French noblesse in the early days of the revolution. Most
marvellous of all, the King of kings himself became a convert, and an
adherent of the new teaching! The spectacle of an autocrat suddenly
turning Communist is suggestive of the realms of Gilbert and Sullivan,
rather than of sober history; but the explanation would seem to be that
Kobad was moved, not solely by religious zeal, but partly by the hope
that he would be able to break down by this means the dominion of the
great clans, the Zoroastrian noblesse, and specially that of
the Magian body. One historian has it that a sham miracle (the familiar
voice from the sacred fire) converted the doubting monarch. One would
have thought that this particular fraud was too familiar to deceive;
but after all it is the old tricks that succeed, so there may be truth
in the story.

Kobad, says the same writer, followed the teaching of his new creed
with a peculiar thoroughness; surrendering. (by a sort of
reversal of the policy of King Cophetua) even his harem to his brothers
in the faith, and descending from the throne himself when warned that
he had had his turn at kingship, and ought to let another try his hand!

As a matter of fact, though one abandons so Utopian an episode with
distinct regret, it appears to have been the nobles who deposed the
King. They procured what modern Ottomans would call a “fetva” from the
Mobed Mobedan,221
to the
effect that it was lawful to depose a prince who had departed from “the
religion” (recent events have familiarized us with this strange outcrop
of constitutionalism in the midst of autocracy); and the Shah-in-Shah
was consigned to the Castle of Oblivion.

Zamasp, his brother, became King in his room, and, with a generosity
unusual in an oriental, refused to kill the dethroned monarch. After a
while Kobad escaped from prison-smuggled out by his sister (or wife) in
a roll of carpets which ignorant servants carried off, while the, lady
occupied the attention of the guard. Kobad found a refuge among the
Turks, and (after a year or so) help from them also, by means of which
he regained his throne. Zamasp disappears, but apparently was not
murdered, and was allowed to live in retirement. Exile had effectually
cooled the King’s reforming zeal. Henceforward, whatever his private
opinions, he would be a Zoroastrian ruler, prepared, as facts were to
show, to deal most drastically with his former brethren.

The Assyrian Church as such was apparently not affected by either
the revolution or the counterrevolution, any mote than the same Church
in modern times was affected by changes in the Ottoman Empire, though,
of course, the daily life of every member of the body was profoundly
influenced. Acacius the Patriarch died during the changes, and was
succeeded by Babai, a married man, who was allowed by Zamasp to
assemble the bishops of the Church in council to 497. A firman was
necessary for this, as for anything out of the ordinary routine of
life; for the oriental official is always afraid (or the rayat
is afraid that the official will be afraid) of anything not absolutely
familiar. The doctrine that the assembly of any council, general or
otherwise, needs the commandment and will of the prince seems perfectly
natural to an Eastern.

The firman gave a significant hint that it would be well to
re-affirm the canon permitting the marriage of all clergy-for. a
conspicuous dissimilarity of custom does more to provoke race hatred
than any abstract doctrine-and the rule was passed accordingly. It is
worth noting that this canon-so far as the writer has been able to
ascertain-has never been repealed; and therefore presumably remains the
law (though not the practice) of the Assyrian Church to this day. At
present it held usually that all clergy up to the grade of bishop may
marry; and they do so freely. But bishops, in all the various
communions that we unscientifically “lump together” under the name of
“the Eastern Church,” must be strictly celibates.

When Abd-Ishu of Nisibis, during the thirteenth century, collated
the various councils that were of authority in the Assyrian Church, and
compiled from them “the Book of the Sunhadus” which is the present
manual of canon law, he passed over the point of episcopal marriage in
discreet silence. It had long ceased to be the custom (a fact brought
about largely by the force of the example of Mar Aba), but there was no
canon to forbid it. Still it had become so unheard of that he did not
venture to transcribe the canon that expressly authorized it. However,
there still survives some recollection of the fact that a few at least
of their patriarchs were married men; and with it a certain amount of
feeling that it might possibly be well to revive the custom.

After passing a second canon annulling all the anathemas discharged
at one another by Bar-soma and Acacius–and doing all that was possible
to “whitewash” both deceased prelates-the Council had to discuss the
case of a man who had been concerned in their quarrels, Papa of B.
Lapat. This old representative of the Monophysite party in the Church
had refused to attend the Council, and was now threatened with anathema
if he did not subscribe to its decisions within one year. He had, it
will be remembered, been always believed to be a Monophysite; and
though he had attended, and subscribed to the confession passed by the
Council of Acacius in 486,222
he was still believed to be so at heart. If Papa were an Assyrian of
the twentieth century, one would suspect that he had swallowed some
theological prejudices in order to be able to strike efficiently at his
enemy, Bar-soma; and had reproduced the prejudice as soon as the
overpowering necessity had passed with Bar-soma’s death !

Papa’s own death probably followed soon (for he must have been a
very aged man in 498), and prevented the uneasiness from becoming an
open breach. The bulk of his flock were Dyophysite in sympathy, and his
successor was of that way of thinking.

Papa’s career, however, serves to remind us of the existence of an
undercurrent of Monophysite feeling; though the fact that they were
unable to take advantage of the opportunity which the quarrels of the
Dyophysites soon gave them is enough to prove their relative
insignificance. Shimun of B. Arsham became, on Papa’s death, their most
prominent man-the word “leader” implies more coherence as a party than
they seem to have possessed. This bishop had leave to “itinerate” among
his people;223
and his
disputes with the Dyophysites once attracted the notice of the
Government, with the result that both parties were contemptuously
snubbed. Babai, or perhaps his successor, entered on some sort of
persecution of the party; and Shimun himself was imprisoned, till the
intercession of the Emperor Anastasius procured his release. This
“persecution” (which the authors of it would consider to be only the
disciplining of disorderly members of the melet its recognized
head) failed of its object-the Monophysites remained a party, and
Tagrit in particular was their stronghold. It was centuries before a
single church of the Dyophysites was built there.

Yet another of the many wars between Rome and Persia was started in
502. It was a case of frontier manoeuvres only, noticeable chiefly for
the ridiculous smallness of the force employed on the Roman side. An
army of 15,000 men was all that Anastasius could put into the field;
and those were put under divided command, to avert all danger of their
achieving anything decisive.

Theodosiopolis and Amida were taken by the Persians, though the
black ramparts of “Kara Amid”224
all but foiled King Kobad. Both were returned at the peace, when (in
flat defiance of the terms of it) Anastasius built the great fortress
that was to balance lost Nisibis; Daras, where the ruined walls and
vast indestructible grain-pits remain till this day.

The war with Rome did not disturb Christians in Persia. They were
practically separated from the Church of Constantinople; though it
would be very difficult to say exactly what the formal relations
between the two bodies were at the time, or what was the theological
status of either. Acacius had been admitted to communion; but the
Church in the Roman Empire, so long as the Henoticon was its confession
of faith, was officially Monophysite notwithstanding. No cut-and-dried
theory will fit the anomalous facts. What most concerned the Assyrian
Christians was that they had achieved the result they desired-freedom
from persecution during Romo-Persian quarrels. Questions of
inter-communion might stand over until the Byzantine Church should know
its own mind.

During the war Babai the Patriarch died; and his successor, Silas,
was duly chosen and consecrated, a fact that shows how free from all
risk of persecution the Church was at the moment. He too was
married–to a wife who had a tongue and who ruled him, says
Bar-Hebraeus–and, according to all authorities, he was both lax and
covetous, selling even the church in his greed. The eighteen years of
his patriarchate (505-523) seem to have passed without incidents,
though the patriarch was more concerned with his family than with his
duties. The metropolitan of B. Lapat (Buzaq, the successor of Papa) had
influence with “the Porte,” and secured peace for the Christians.225 The decadence
which had no
doubt under Silas, continued and worsened at his death in 523; when
there ensued what is known as “the duality,” a period of sixteen years
during which rival claimants to the patriarchate hurled anathemas at
one another’s heads, consecrated opposing bishops to the sees as they
fell vacant, and generally brought confusion and schism into the

Silas, when he felt himself failing, had endeavoured to secure the
succession to his office-to one Elisha, his own son-in-law and
archdeacon, and head of a school recently founded in Seleucia.226 The act was,
of course, both
improper and uncanonical, being directly forbidden by the first canon
of the Council of Isaac, but was not for that reason opposed to
oriental ways of thought. Ideas which in another Eastern land have
produced caste were consonant to the Persian mind; and those who had
the existence of a priestly clan constantly before them is the Magians
were not shocked at the thought of a sacred office belonging naturally
to one house or family. We can see the custom beginning in the election
of the nephew and archdeacon of Mar Shimun to the vacant throne when
the latter Was martyred; and the strange semi-hereditary system of
to-day shows how persistent, and how far superior to all canons, the
habit can be.227

The election of Elisha was contested, and a somewhat lengthy dispute
resulted. Finally the candidate, seeing that it was impossible to
secure any unanimous choice, procured an irregular consecration from
his own supporters (of whom the Bishop of Merv was chief), probably in
the hope that his opponents would be obliged to accept a fait accompli.228 This,
however, they would
not do; and after a fruitless appeal to Kobad, chose and consecrated
one Narses. This claimant was a man of Huzistan, with some reputation
for learning. He had, however, few supporters; and his own diocesan
appears to have been none too willing to accept him. Ultimately,
however, the latter withdrew leis opposition, apparently on the ground
that Elisha was too impossible, and the consecration was performed.
Elisha, however, would not give way, and each claimant began
consecrating bishops in the sees of those who refused to recognize him.
A destructive schism followed-almost every diocese and province being
divided against itself, and spiritual life and power naturally

Narses ultimately died; and Elisha hoped for the moment that his
claim would now be acknowledged. But though all longed for peace, all
were disgusted with him and his conduct, and not a man would accept

A synod of some kind was gathered, and the pseudo-patriarch formally
deposed. It was declared that neither he nor Narses were to be counted
legitimate holders of the office; and Paul of Khuzistan, Archdeacon and
Bishop-elect of Bait Lapat,229
was elected. This man stood high in the favour of Chosroes I, who was
now Shah-in-Shah, because of a service he had rendered to him as
crown-prince in giving an opportune supply of water to his army.230 It was hoped
that his high
character would enable him to really heal the open wounds of the

While all had, been in confusion among the Dyophysites, their
opponents were hardly in better case. Shortly before the duality in the
Assyrian Church gave the Monophysites their opportunity in Persia, that
whole sect had been deprived of a main source of its strength by the
accession of Justin at Constantinople, and the return of Dyophysitism
to power in the empire. This act was proclaimed by an ostentatious
reconciliation with the see of Rome.

Neither Justin nor Justinian persecuted the Monophysites; but they
depressed them, and, so far as possible, secured that they should not
consecrate any bishops. It was probably owing to this that when Shimun
of B. Arsham died, about 534, only one bishop of his way of thinking,
Qaris of Singar,231
to be found in all the East; and the monks of Mar Matai had to apply to
the Armenian Church for the consecration of the domestic prelate whom
they kept (and still keep) resident in that monastery.

Magianism, too, was having its troubles. Mazdak and his teaching
were by no means disposed of when Kobad was officially reconverted; for
at least one member of the royal house, beside several nobles, remained
in the new faith-a fact that makes one suspect that a doctrine that
could thus win men against their own obvious interest must have had
more to commend it than its adversaries would allow! A little oriental
experience gives a great distrust in that account of a man’s religion
that his enemy gives. The opponent may not be consciously caricaturing,
but he invariably represents his own deductions from A.’s principles as
A.’s actual tenets.

Mazdakites were numerous enough to be formidable, and when, in 523,
Kobad proclaimed his favourite and youngest son Chosroes as
heir-apparent, they made a determined attempt to substitute the
Alazdakean prince in his room. Kobad and Chosroes together determined
to read the rebels a lesson, and a grim and treacherous one it was. The
Mazdakite chiefs were invited to a royal banquet, the Shah-in-Shah
himself receiving Mazdak alone. The banquet over, the King asked his
guest and old teacher to come out into the garden “to see some trees of
the King’s planting.” He came, and was shown them-the feet of his own
adherents projecting from the row of pits in which they had been buried
alive. He himself was seized, and impaled publicly; and a massacre of
100,000 of his followers put the crown’ on the horrible work. The party
of reform among Zoroastrians, if not destroyed, was driven out of

Another war with Rome began in 528, which was of no great
importance, except for the fact that it showed Justinian that he had at
last found a general in Belisarius. It brought to the Romans the
satisfaction of winning the first victory in the open field that they
had won for more than a generation-the battle of Daras. Virtue had
altogether one out of the Roman armies for the time; and tough the
victor of Daras was to restore it, the tactics which he, most dashing
of cavalry generals, adopted on that day show how little confidence he
had in his own troops.232

In the Church it seemed as though fate was determined to give no
peace to the Assyrians; for Paul, the patriarch elected after the long
“duality,” lived only for two months. All were bitterly disappointed at
his death; but for once the blow proved to be a blessing in disguise,
for the man elected in his place was one of the greatest gifts of God
to the Assyrian Church.

All men were weary of strife; and for once the election was
unanimous, without a prompting from the King. The electors chose a man
whose reputation for wisdom, learning and holiness already stood high;
and which was so well founded that trials could but increase it–Aba, a
professor in the college at Nisibis.

An oriental always reverences character and sanctity, however
unequal a battle that reverence may sometimes fight with his
self-interest; and for once those who chose the patriarch allowed this
feeling free scope, and called a man to be their leader who for
saintliness, for statesmanship, for loyalty both to his God and his
king has no equal in the long series of “holders of the throne of Mar
Adai.” Oriental conditions do not favour the selection of great men for
episcopal rank. As a rule, those who control the choice prefer a
nonentity, and it is well if the nonentity is respectable. Sometimes,
however, the power that lies in the character of a saint overcomes all
obstacles; and as in our own time such an one as Megerdich Khrimian can
rise to the throne of the “Catholicos of all the Armenians,” so it was
in the sixth century, when the whole Church of. Persia turned to the
lecturer of Nisibis as the man who could save them from their enemies
and from themselves.

Aba, Mar Aba the Great, was by birth and education a Zoroastrian,
and a member of the great Magian clan. Learned in the theology and
philosophy of his faith, he had risen to the rank of “Andarzbed,” or
“instructor of Magi”, and was also secretary to the governor of the
province of B. Aramai–when the call to another service came to him.
That is to say he was of mature age, and he knowingly abandoned a
promising career.

It was the courtesy and humility of a Christian of Jewish descent
that first drew the Magian official to Christianity. Exactly in the
fashion of a modern Ottoman official, he had ordered this man, whose
name was Joseph, to clear out of the ferry-boat that was going over the
Tigris, and let his betters go first.233
Twice they attempted to cross, and twice the clumsy craft was driven
back by squalls of wind, and it was not till they asked the Christian
to enter the boat that the passage was accomplished.

Aba frankly asked Joseph’s pardon for his discourtesy, and made his
acquaintance; thus discovering that he was a Christian, and not, as he
had thought, a Marcionite.234
The influence of his new friend drew him towards Christianity; and he
was accused of being an apostate by his fellow secretary, who
discovered that he frequented the Christian services. On this he gave
up his official career and sought baptism, intending to embrace the
solitary life; but before doing so he went to the college at Nisibis,
to spend some time in preliminary study. Here he distinguished himself,
“learning ‘David’ in a few days”; but was not permitted to hide his
talents as he had intended.

M’ana, Bishop of Arzun, realized the ability of the new proselyte,
and insisted that it was his duty to teach others, thus persuading him
to take for a while the post of teacher in the school which he
had established in his own diocese. Thence Aba went on pilgrimage to
Jerusalem, visiting Egypt, Greece and Constantinople, where he stayed
for a year with a companion whom he had picked up at Edessa. Both
employed themselves in teaching. and were apparently received to
communion as a matter of course by the authorities of the Church at the
capital, where Justinian had brought back Dyophysitism. and the
acceptance of the Council of Chalcedon. After his residence there he
returned to the East, which he reached somewhere about the year 536, or
perhaps rather before that date.235
Here the state of the Church after the years of duality shocked and
horrified him, and he thought once more of fleeing from the world into
a rabban’s cell; but again he responded to the call of duty and service
of the Church, and remained as a teacher at Nisibis, where his learning
and sanctity soon won him wide fame in the melet. Time passed;
the Narses-Elisha schism came to an end; Paul the Patriarch was
elected, and died; and now all turned to the converted Magian, the man
of wisdom, experience and holiness, to come forth from his retirement
and heal the wounds of the Church.

Aba accepted the call; a deed which was, for him, an act of the
highest self-sacrifice, for he cannot have been ignorant of the fate to
which he was exposing himself by so doing. To one born in “the melet
the patriarchate might present itself as a prize; for it was the
highest position open to him-it carried with it wealth, consideration,
power. To the convert the case was absolutely changed; to him-an
apostate in the eyes of every Magian-to be patriarch was to be a
conspicuous apostate, whose daily duty it would be to stand between
Christians and Magian oppression, and to invoke the protection of the hukumet
for the former against the latter. His very existence was an
outrage and a provocation to all good Zoroastrians; and his occupation
the balking of their desires. The fate of the last patriarch who had
been a convert, Babowai, was an example of what, his own would probably
be. Aba, who had given up a career for his faith’s sake, can hardly be
accused of the ambition that takes no count of danger. When he accepted
consecration, it can only have been in obedience to what he felt to be
the solemn call of duty to God and man; and with the full knowledge
that the duty would have to be fulfilled at the constant risk and, in
all probability, at the ultimate cost of his life.

The state of the Church when Mar Aba assumed the government might
have been the despair of a weak man, but yet it offered a great
opportunity to a strong one. The patriarchate had been restored and
unified; but all else was in the most admired disorder, and it was the
patriarch’s part to put all straight, if indeed it could be done. But
if all was in disorder, all men were sick of disorder, and were ready
to follow almost any lead that gave a hope of better things-and in Mar
Aba they had found a leader who, believing in and trusting his God,
believed in and trusted himself and the power given him. ‘Men will
follow such an one; and orientals will follow him more readily than
most men.

In things external the barometer seemed to be tending more and more
towards “stormy.” Magians were uneasy and suspicious, and the clouds
were once more banking up for persecution–a trial that the Church had
been spared since the official adoption of a Monophysite confession by
the Church in the empire, and the repudiation of it by the “easterns”
under Bar-soma. The reason was that the Church of the empire had now
ceased to be Monophysite, and a Chalcedonian (Justin or Justinian) had
been on the throne now for twenty-two years.

Their policy, viz. that of depressing and suppressing the
Monophysites, had been carried out as consistently as an active-minded
empress would allow, and it was now bearing fruit. Almost all the
bishops of the empire were Dyophysite; and the opposite party, alarmed
by the prospect of extinction, were taking exceptional measures to
preserve themselves.

The secret consecration of Jacobus Baradaeus was practically.
contemporary with that of Aba; but there had been no time for the work
of that name-father of his communion to show; and the Monophysites,
except in their Egyptian stronghold, had been driven out of sight for
the time being. This meant a distinct rapprochement of the
Persian and “Byzantine” Churches, with its automatic consequence, a
danger of persecution to the former. The commencement of Justinian’s
great war with Persia was nearly simultaneous with the accession of the
two prelates named (540), and this of course increased the danger that
Chosroes would follow the example of Sapor II. So, in a measure, he
actually did; commencing a definite, though not very general,
persecution, as we shall see a little later. It may be remembered that
when peace was made between the two empires in 562, Justinian inserted
a special article, quite in the style of his predecessors, to the
effect that Persian Christians were not to be persecuted.

There was this danger, then, to face; but when we turn to the
question of the relations between the Assyrian Church and that in the
Roman Empire, we find it still very difficult to say what they were,
and can only repeat our warning that the facts will not square with any
cut-and-dried theory of what ought to be. Things would be simpler if we
could accept the general idea that, by rejecting the inspired and
infallible Council of Ephesus, the Church of Assyria had cut herself
off from Catholic communion, and was thenceforward openly and avowedly
heretical; but that idea has no relation to the facts. The Assyrian
Church had certainly not accepted Ephesus-nor had they formally
rejected it–nor had they ever been asked to do either. But they had
accepted, or at least were under the impression that they had accepted,
Chalcedon as an orthodox council,236
and Leo’s tome as an authoritative explanation of Christological
doctrine. There was no formal act on either side; and the question
whether communion was or was not restored under Justinian depends on
the question whether it was or was not in a broken state previous to
his accession. When last there had been any dealings between the two
bodies the “westerns’ had accepted Acacius as orthodox. Since then the
Assyrians had not changed, but had kept to, and still used, terms that
were anterior in date to the controversy; and the most rigid
anti-Nestorian can only say of e.g. the confession of Aba,237 that it is
not very
definite. On the other hand, the Assyrians were quite entitled to say
that the Church of Constantinople, so long as they had accepted the
Henoticon of Zeno, lay at the least under grave suspicion of heresy.
Now, however, they had cleared themselves; and therefore there was no
reason why the Patriarch of Seleucia could not follow the laudable
example of his brother of Rome, and admit–his brother of
Constantinople to communion!

If one may use a figure, these two parts of the Christian body, the
Greek and Persian Churches, were like those masses of foam that one
sees so often on a swollen river. They had a common origin, and in
essence they were one; but an eddy had drifted them apart, and they
pursued separate ways on the surface of the one stream, each having its
own history and adventures. Then another swirl of the current brought
them together once more, and they touched, and it would seem as if they
were on the point of coalescing finally; but there came another swirl
and they separated again, and were carried by a force outside
themselves further and further from one another.

All that Aba could do for the Church had to be done under Chosroes
I, or to give him the name that he would have used himself, Kosru, or
Cyrus, II. Claiming as they did to be the heirs of the Achaemenids, the
Sassanid kings used their names; and they may fairly have a grudge
against the Greek historians whose perversity has so thoroughly
disguised the fact. Greeks never seemed able to get an oriental name
right, and were not even consistent in their crooked versions of them.

On the whole, Chosroes was no unworthy representative of his
namesake, for there was much that was fine in his character. Of course
he was very warlike, as may be judged from the fact that twenty-five of
the forty-seven years of his reign were spent in war against the Roman
Empire, and most of the remaining twenty-two in fighting with other
foes. One must own, too, that he could be (like all orientals) not so
much cruel for cruelty’s sake, as absolutely merciless in taking what
he most likely called “precautions.” Thus he shared in his father’s
massacre of the Mazdakites, and perpetrated another on his own account
a little later. Further, he seems to have been the first Sassanid king
to signalize his accession by a massacre of all his brothers, a
precedent followed often in later days.

On the whole, however, he deserved his title of “just”; and in
reorganizing Persian society, much shaken by the recent attempt to
establish Socialism, he showed much ability. We cannot deny him the
merit of supreme insight into the needs of his people when we remember
that the system of taxation that he devised exists in those lands to
this day,238
and does not
seem likely to be abolished except in one particular.

He could be generous in the grand oriental style; and as a general
was no mean strategist, being able to see where to strike. Thus in his
Roman wars he was not content, like his predecessors, to raid and
plunder Syria; but struck for Lazica, and a footing on the Black Sea.
It is true that he failed to hold it, for it is not easy for one who
rules from Seleucia or Baghdad to stretch his hand over the Taurus
mountains; but had Chosroes I succeeded in his aim and made Persia a
maritime power, Chosroes If might not have been stopped by the
Bosphorus, and the Persian might have anticipated Mahomet the

Mar Aba’s first work was to repair the ravages of the duality, and
the total breach of all discipline that the schism had produced. With
this end the council that followed his consecration passed forty canons,239 most of which
are simply
re-enactments of rules nominally in force; they are taken in fact from
the six councils adopted en bloc by Mar Yahb Alaha in 420, to
which (an important addition) that of Chalcedon is now added. Wiser
than his predecessor, Aba only adopted such rules as experience had
shown to be needful and suitable for those for whom they were destined.
The one doctrinal canon (XL) is important. This declares that the
Church of Assyria accepts the faith of Nicaea, as expounded by
Theodore. The question of doctrine, and the point whether the Church
did in fact preach the peculiar tenets of the great theorizer of
Mopsuestia, or (a distinct question) whether it or anybody ever taught
those condemned as his in 553, requires special treatment. For the
moment it suffices to note the fact of this re-enactment of Bar-soma’s
canonization of the great Antiochene, who, it will be remembered, was
still uncondemned in the West. It was destined to prove important, in
the light of the attitude adopted by the Assyrian Church in future

The canons of past councils had often been left unenforced, but this
was not to be the case with Aba. Further, the patriarch knew his
countrymen, to whom authority that is not visible is too often
authority forgotten; and he determined that the patriarchate should
show itself alive and vigorous to those who needed its rule. Of course
those who most required discipline were the least likely to come and
ask for it (with one exception, certainly, for the most disreputable of
several claimants to the see of B. Lapat came to curry favour with the
new patriarch, and got more discipline than he either expected or
desired); therefore discipline should be taken to them. Matters were
soon put straight at Seleucia, where Paul had probably been able to do
some work; and in October 540 the patriarch set out on a prolonged
“cold weather tour” in the provinces of Maishan, Fars and Khuzistan,
where the schisms of the duality had been worst. The northern provinces
(Adiabene, B. Garmai, Assyria) had either been less affected by the
evil, or (which is more probable) the troubles had been already
diminished by Aba’s personal influence during his residence at Nisibis.

Setting out accordingly the patriarch went first to Kashkar, where
he met several brother bishops who accompanied him for the journey. In
fact, it was not a mere patriarchal tour of visitation round the
provinces that now took place; it was a perambulatory synod that went
to all centres of disturbance, and did summary justice with full
synodical authority, though its personnel varied from time to
time. Halting at all the principal towns, Kashkar, Bassora,
Ri-Ardashir, and others, the council heard cases and established Church
order and discipline, and no doubt summary sessions could be held under
any convenient tree at any midday halt!240

Usually the procedure was much the same in all cases. When a town
was reached all claimants to the bishopric, whatever their number,
appeared. Where there was but one (a thing that did not happen often),
he was confirmed in his see, no matter which of the two rivals had
appointed him. Where there were two or more, the patriarch in synod
heard and decided with plenary authority; paying due regard to such
features of the case as priority of consecration or personal character,
and sometimes allowing the unsuccessful claimant the jus
and the privilege of receiving the Eucharist in the
specially bad case, that of Abraham, soi-disant Bishop of B.
Lapat, may be described, as giving both an instance of procedure and a
rather lurid light on the state of the Church during the schism.

This man had, as a layman, been censured by the bishop, Buzaq, for
immorality; and an appeal to the patriarch, Silas, had only resulted in
his being declared incapable of receiving ordination. Notwithstanding,
he had contrived to get ordained by one party or the other during the
schism, and aspired to the bishopric by the help of some powerful
Magian friends. He offered a heavy bribe to Taimai, Metropolitan of
Bassora, if he would come and consecrate him; and when that apparently
equally disreputable prelate was prevented from doing so by some more
respectable bishops, Abraham came secretly to Bassora, and by another
bribe induced Taimai and two suffragans to break a solemn oath and
consecrate him.

Paul, then patriarch, excommunicated all four; and the synod which
elected Mar Aba confirmed the sentence. Undaunted, Abraham presented
himself at Seleucia, hoping for the countenance of the new Catholicos;
but Aba refused even to see him, and Abraham, finding himself shunned
by all Christians, presented himself afresh as a penitent, in which
capacity he was received. He confessed his ordination as priest to have
been irregular, his consecration as bishop simoniacal, disclaimed the
episcopate, and begged for leave to exercise qashaship only. On these
terms he was absolved; but returning to B. Lapat, refused to submit to
the sentence, and appealed to his Zoroastrian supporters, hoping to be
bishop still. Even the Magians refused to help him, however, and he
fled. Things stood thus when the perambulatory synod reached B. Lapat,
and by its sentence the criminal was degraded from all clerical rank
and excommunicated. Only on penitence could he be restored even to lay
communion. All the clergy present, and the more prominent Christian
laymen of the town, signed the sentence.

The work of the synod and the effect of it were alike admirable. Its
picturesqueness, its summariness and its efficiency all appealed
strongly to the oriental imagination; and one wonders that so good a
precedent has not been followed. Of course circumstances favoured it.
Had not Government looked kindly on the patriarch, so suspicious an
outburst of activity would have been stopped at its first stage. And
the time fitted also; for had not men been weary of strife, they might
not have been so docile. Even with all’ deductions, however, the work
of the council remains a marvellous instance of the cheerful obedience
which the oriental will yield, not to law (that does not appeal to him
in the least), but to the man in whose disinterestedness he believes.
This faith is hard to win; but when it is won, much may be done by its
means. That his fellows had such faith in him is not the least
testimony to Aba’s lofty character.

It was during this memorable journey that the patriarch wrote-for
the information of certain villagers-that confession of faith which
still remains as his, and which was probably spread broadcast wherever
it was required.242
Immediately on his return he put forth another document-his pastoral
“De Moribus.”243
first of these we treat of elsewhere; and the second deals mainly with
the law of marriage and with “the prohibited degrees”-a matter on which
clear regulation was specially necessary for Assyrians., seeing that
with them the temptation to assimilate themselves to their Zoroastrian
neighbours was always present, and the Christian law meant always odium
and sometimes danger. The patriarch drew up the table under which his
Church is ruled to-day, and it is one of several legacies for which she
stands indebted to him. As we shall see, his work in this direction was
to cost him personally much affliction.

On his return to Seleucia, probably in the spring of 541, Mar Aba
settled to a busy life. The night, says his biographer (who, being an
thought of
the day as beginning at sunset), was given to correspondence; and from
dawn till 10 a.m. he expounded the Scriptures in the school of
Seleucia, the school which, if he did not found, he at least remodelled
after the fashion of his own Nisibis. From 10 a.m. till evening he was
busy with “affairs,” settling disputes between Christians, or between
Christians and heathen. The various works of scholarship attributed to
him (Commentaries, and a translation of the New Testament into Syriac)
can hardly be of this period, and most likely date from his residence
at Nisibis.

The perambulatory synod had done wonders; but it could not, of
course, prevent the subsequent arising of troubles in the provinces. B.
Lapat and Nisibis, those special homes of unrest, gave cause for
anxiety once more; and this time the patriarch was unable to visit the
places personally, for Government was uneasy about the loyalty of
Christians during the war with Rome, and therefore (it is always the
first act of an oriental official when anxious) all itinerating was
At B. Lapat
the trouble was a disputed election; but at Nisibis the prelate
(probably Kusai) was suffering from what in anything less than a
metropolitan archbishop one would have called a fit of sulks! Having
quarrelled with his flock, he had shut himself up in his house, and
“would not be their bishop any more.” The phenomenon is not unfamiliar
to those who have to deal with Mar Kusai’s present descendants; and one
can only say that there is in the oriental a vein of childishness that
is extremely puzzling and annoying to the

Western. To call him “half devil and half child” is not to give an
exhaustive description of him; but strains of both of these types
appear in him most disconcertingly, and one is, often tempted, when the
latter is to the fore, to apply the appropriate childish remedies.
Unluckily one cannot use these on the person of an archbishop I

Mar Aba tried to meet the difficulty by the proclamation of the
supremacy, not to say the autocracy, of the patriarch; declaring that
every suffragan must come to council at his call, and regard all as
void which had not his approval. Let all men take example from the
obedience and discipline that prevailed across the border, where, even
if there were disagreements about the faith, all obeyed their
patriarchs and bishops without hesitation or question. The example was
not too happily chosen at a time when the “Nika” was still a recent
memory at Constantinople, and Justinian was trying in vain to find some
means of keeping Monophysite and Chalcedonian from one another’s
throats; and one must own that Mar Aba, like many another great ruler,
forgot in his own disinterestedness that others might be self-seeking.
If the patriarch is to be an autocrat, some means must be found of
securing always a virtuous autocrat!

In a measure he recognized this difficulty, and by the scheme he
drew up for the future election of patriarchs246
he endeavoured to secure that there should not be another case of
“duality,” and that only men of tried worth should be chosen to his
high office. The method of the election of the Catholicos, it will be
remembered, had been left open by the council of Isaac; and now Afar
Aba made an effort to fill this gap by the formation of an electoral
college, which should do something like justice to the three elements
that had a right to a voice in the matter–viz. the clergy and laity of
Seleucia-Ctesiphon, of whom the patriarch was diocesan; the bishops of
B. Aramai, of which province he was metropolitan; and the other
metropolitans and their suffragans. According to the scheme, the clergy
and laity of the capital were to assemble, with the bishops of the
province, and the metropolitans of Prat d’Maishan (Bassora), Arbela and
Karka d’Bait Sluk, each of whom was to bring three suffragans. This
body elected the patriarch. On paper, the plan was probably as fair as
any that could be devised, though the omission of Nisibis from the
electing metropolitans strikes one as peculiar. Practically, however,
it must be owned that no account is taken of the most important element
of all, the Shah-in-Shah. Whether the intervention of a non-Christian
in the choice 6f a patriarch be correct or incorrect, the King would
always have the last voice, and frequently the first also, in the
choice of the “melet-bashi”; nor did the melet think it
possible that it should be otherwise. Aba’s scheme might give the
machinery by which the patriarch was to be elected, and by which, in
fact, he was elected for many a year; but that election was usually
performed under the shadow of what we should call a conge d’elire.

Afar Aba, it would seem, had something of the idealist in him; and
would not have been the great prelate and spiritual father that
he was had he not had it. His vigour and devotion breathed a new spirit
into ‘ the Church; his wise regulations repaired the body where repair
was needed;-and the ready response to his calls showed that there was
zeal enough ready to be roused, and that (as so often happens) it was
leaders who could lead that the Church needed; of men who could follow
she had plenty. From the inspiration that he had given, and the renewal
of spiritual life which followed it, came, moreover, the great revival
and reform of monastic life which (under Abraham of Kashkar) also marks
Aba’s patriarchate. Of this we shall have a word to say in another
chapter; and here need only note that it was natural among
orientals–and doubly natural in the sixth century–that a great
“movement” or “revival” (to use the Western terms) should choose
instinctively that special form of self-expression. We must now turn
from the story of the patriarch’s reforms to the tale of the sufferings
and oppressions, in which he showed a moral greatness and strength
equal at least to the disinterested statesmanship which had reformed
the disordered Church-though one must own that to a Western who lives
among orientals it is the latter virtues that strike us most in Aba;
and all the more because of their rarity in his melet. The
Church of the East has many martyrs, but not a statesman who can be
named in comparison with him.

The work of organization and reform had not been accomplished too
soon; for not many weeks can have elapsed after the patriarch’s return
from his tour when his persecution at the hands of the Magi began-a
trial that was to continue until his death. Some at least of the
synodical documents that the Church has preserved must have been
composed when this trouble was actually upon him. Nor was the patriarch
the only sufferer; for a certain amount of persecution fell upon the
whole Church, though it would appear that converts were the only actual
martyrs. We have the acta of two of these, Gregory and Yazidpanah,247 both of whom
were men of
position; and the same source informs us that some at least among the
bishops, besides the patriarch, were imprisoned. This revival of
persecution after an interval of sixty years (for there had been none
since the death of Babowai) naturally produced a panic among
Christians; and the “good lead” given by Grigor, the first martyr, was
therefore doubly valuable for those who had not been bred up in the
knowledge of what their faith might mean to them. The fact that the
Church of Persia was no longer clearly separated from that of the
empire would expose it, of course, to the old dangers and suspicions.

Naturally it was not long before an “apostate” so conspicuous
as the patriarch was attacked; he being accused to the Kind by the
Mobed Mobedan in person, and charged with despising the national “din,”
and with proselytizing.248
Chosroes, who always both liked and respected the patriarch, and who
was no fanatic personally, was not anxious to have the question raised
at all; but he was also desirous not to offend the established
hierarchy, a body whose resentment not even the Shah-in-Shah could
despise. Thus, for the moment, he found some excuse for putting off the
case (the circumlocution office itself might learn much from the
oriental in that respect), and departed to the war in Lazica. When he
was gone, however, Dad-Hormizd, the Mobed Mobedan, proceeded with the
affair on his own authority, as head of the Magian inquisition (or of
what more or less corresponded to the Holy Office)-being able to do so
on account of the fact that Aba was a “renegade” from Magianism.

The patriarch was arrested, and tumultuously accused as an apostate
and a proselytizer, both of which charges he fully admitted, and was
threatened with death. Had he been a mere rayat he would probably have
been executed at once; but the head of the Christian melet was
too conspicuous a man to be disposed of summarily, so as they could not
frighten him, and were afraid to kill him, some more formal accusation
had to be made. Of course there was little difficulty about this. The
Rad of Fars (the title is that of the chief Mobed of a province) was
produced, and bore testimony to Aba’s proselytizing in his diocese; and
further, to his warning Christians not to eat “the flesh of Murmurings,”249 or food over
which Magian
incantations had been pronounced. Aba was given no opportunity of
defending himself, but was declared guilty and worthy of death. On this
he appealed to the King, who had by this time (for the proceedings took
time) returned from the war to Seleucia.

Chosroes heard the case, the Mobeds demanding the death of the enemy
of “the religion,” and called on the patriarch for his answer. “I am a
Christian,” he said; “I preach my own faith, and I want every man to
join it; but of his own free will, and not of compulsion. I use force
on no man; but I warn those who are Christians to keep the laws of
their religion.” “And if you would but hear him, sire, you would join
us, and we would welcome you,” cried a voice from the crowd. It was one
Abrudaq, a Christian in the King’s service, and the words, of course,
infuriated the Mobeds, who demanded the death of the blasphemer. The
King, however, not wishing to lose a good servant, sent the man away on
some business of his own, and adjourned the case once more. He was
obviously in a difficulty. He wished not to condemn Aba, both because
of his respect for his character, and because the Christian melet was
powerful enough to make the King hesitate about offending them; on the
other hand, he could not afford to enrage the Mobeds, and there was no
denying the fact (which the prisoner admitted) that the law was on
their side! There was no doubt that Aba was an “apostate,” and the law
of the religion said that apostates must die. The Magians probably
understood the situation, and cast about for means of overcoming the
King’s reluctance. Accusations of oppression of his own people was
their first idea, and this was their next move against the Catholicos;
though Magian zeal in such a matter must have worn a rather ridiculous
air–the wolf solemnly accusing the sheep-dog of bullying the sheep!
Still a false accuser was found and produced in court-where he broke
down utterly and ignominiously, confessing himself that all his
accusations were false. Such an end to such a charge against a man who
had done Aba’s reforming work is as high a testimony to the character
of that work as could well be given.

Foiled on this tack, the persevering Magi tried another. During the
“duality” discipline had gone to the winds, and many Christians had
contracted marriages of a type lawful by Zoroastrian

law, but incestuous to all Christian thinking. Aba had disciplined
these cases, and the fact had brought into prominence the ever-present
dislike which Zoroastrians felt for a practice which (by implication)
accused their habits.

“Who are these dogs who say that our holy law is sinful?” was the
feeling that all Zoroastrians, even the King, shared more or less.
Hence the Magians approached the patriarch on the matter, hoping to
trap him into some sort of defiance of the King. “Let those marriages
stand at least which were entered into before your time.” “I cannot,”
was the answer. “God’s law is not mine to alter.” “But if the King
orders you to do so?” “Let his Majesty issue the order first.” “But if
he does order it?” “I will see what the order is but at the last I must
obey God rather than man.” Shortly afterwards Chosroes met Aba in the
street (the patriarch was apparently allowed a measure of personal
liberty), and to the horror and rage of the Magi returned his salute
with marked friendliness, and summoned him to an audience. Here he told
him frankly that, as a renegade, he was legally liable to death. “But
you shall go free and continue to act as Catholicos if you will stop
receiving converts, admit those married by Magian law to communion, and
allow your people to eat Magian sacrifices.” Obviously the Mobeds had
been influencing the King; but the royal offer sheds an instructive
light on the rapid growth of the Church, and on the position of the
patriarch as recognized head of his melet. To the terms,
however, Aba could only return his steadfast non possumus, and
the King, annoyed at the attitude, ordered him to prison under the care
of the Magi. This was equivalent to a sentence of death, though it was
probably not so intended; for when he was in prison it would be easy to
dispatch him by the hand of some underling, and represent that an act
of possibly mistimed zeal towards a notorious apostate ought not to be
judged severely. This was understood, and the attitude of the
Christians of the capital became so threatening that the order was
recalled. Chosroes, feeling, it would appear, that the matter had got
to be settled somehow, sent the Catholicos into exile, to Azerbaijan.
Amid the passionate grief of all Christians he departed, and reached
the appointed province; but the local Rad, Dardin (a man selected for
his notoriously hard character), soon showed such respect and regard
for the patriarch that he was removed thence, and sent to “Sirsh,” the
very centre and stronghold of Magianism. This place was in all
probability “Takht-i-Sulieman,” about sixty miles south-east of Lake
Urmi; where the ruins of the great Magian temple still stand on their
mound, close by the mysterious crater of Zindan. Here his confinement
was purposely made very severe at first, in the undisguised hope that
his death would be caused by it; and the hard winters of the high
Persian plateau must have been a further trial to one bred in the land
of Radan, which is practically the Babylonian plain. Later, however
(perhaps in response to a hint from court), he was allowed to live in a
house of his own, where he furnished a room as a church, and his
friends were allowed to visit him. Here for seven years he continued in
a captivity which may without irreverence be compared to that of St.
Paul; and acted as patriarch from his prison in the Magian stronghold.
He consecrated bishops, reconciled penitents, governed by interviews
and correspondence. Men came in numbers to see him, and “the mountains
of Azerbaijan were worn by the feet of saints”250
who came either on Church business, or on what tended to become a
pilgrimage to a living saint. Cures were worked by him-such cures as
are wrought to-day among a people among whom the “ages of faith” have
never passed away, and the reality of which we therefore need not
doubt, any more than we doubt the similar incidents in Bede or Adamnan.
The power of the patriarch when going from place to place with his
synod, strong in the favour of the Government, was not greater than
when he sat in prison among his enemies, and ruled the flock committed
to him from a cell.

Finally his persecutors, disappointed no doubt at the failure of
their double plan, to deprive him of his power or to compass his death,
determined to be done with him for ever. An assassin was hired, one
Peter of Gurgan, an apostate Christian priest; and a plot formed for
the murder of Aba, who, it was to be explained, had been cut down in
attempting to make his escape. The plot failed, and was discovered, and
the wretched instrument fled. Aba, however, recognized that the attempt
would be repeated, perhaps with better fortune, and took a bold
resolution. He left his place of exile with one or two companions; but
went, not to any place of concealment, but straight to Seleucia and the
King, before whose astonished gaze he presented himself. The Magians
were, of course, delighted, thinking that their enemy was at last
delivered into their hands. The patriarch was, of course, arrested; and
the amazed Chosroes asked what he expected, after thus flying in the
face of the royal command. Fearlessly Mar Aba replied that he was the
King’s servant, ready to die if that was his will; but though willing
to be executed at the King’s order, he was not willing to be murdered
contrary to his order. Let the King of kings do justice! No appeal so
goes home to an oriental as a cry to “the justice of the King.”
Slackness in government, self-seeking in officials, fear of disloyalty,
all produce infinite suffering and oppression; but things have gone
very far to the bad when Majesty will make no effort “to deliver the
poor when he crieth,” as the ideal King should do. Chosroes was not
unworthy of his name of “Just”; for though he could be frightfully
cruel at times, he did as a rule endeavour to live up to the higher
side of the saying, “the King is the shadow of God”–the
representative, that is, of a power beyond him self. Now he heard the
stream of accusations that the Magians poured out, and then addressed
the patriarch. “You stand charged with apostasy, with proselytizing,
with forcing your melet to abstain from marriages that the
State accepts, with acting as patriarch in exile against the King’s
order, and with breaking prison–and you admit the offences. All the
offences against the State I pardon freely; as a renegade from
Magianism, however, you must answer that charge before the Mobeds. Now,
as you have come of your own accord to the King’s justice, go freely to
your house, and come to answer the accusation when called upon.” The
decision shows at once the strength and weakness of the King: he could
pardon offences against himself, and he could respect a noble
character; but he dared not defy the Magian hierarchy.

As usual, the half-measure proved so irritating that the King might
just as well have defied the Mobeds once for all; for though the
Christians were, of course, delighted, and escorted the patriarch to
his house with frantic joy, the Magians were furious, and rebuked the
King to his face as a “fautor of apostates.” Nor were Aba’s perils
over; next day he had to attend the royal divan at a hunting-lodge, and
a plot was formed to kill him at the gates as he came up. A body of
Christians, however, escorted him, and the attempt was postponed from
fear of a tumult; while a Zoroastrian noble, who had become aware of
the plot, informed the King of it. and warned him of the political
danger of allowing the head of a powerful melet to be
assassinated. Still fear of the Mobeds prevailed with the King, and he
allowed them to arrest the patriarch and convey him to prison,
secretly, for fear of riot; though it must be owned that he gave strict
orders that he was on no account to be killed. For months Aba remained
in prison, and in chains; though, as is usual in oriental prisons, his
friends were allowed to visit him (probably by grace of the great power
Bakhshish), and he was allowed even to consecrate bishops while in
Still a
captive, he was obliged to accompany the King on the whole of his
“summer progress”; though at every halting-place Christians crowded to
see him and receive his blessing, and to petition the King for his
release. Even Mobeds respected him, and promised to intercede for his
pardon if he would but promise to make no more converts.

Finally, soon after the royal return to Seleucia, his patient
constancy was victorious. Chosroes sent for him, and released him,
absolutely and unconditionally. It is true that when the King left the
city soon after the Mobeds pounced on their prey, and the patriarch
found himself in prison once more; but though Chosroes might hesitate
long, he was not the tool that the Mobeds imagined him to be, and this
open contempt of the royal decree roused him. A sharply-worded order
for the instant release of the prisoner came back; and Mar Aba, worn in
body and broken in health, but victorious, came out once more, and
finally, from his prison. Nine years of persecution and danger had been
his portion, but he had endured to the end, and he was saved.

One last test remained to be faced. One of the sons of Chosroes,
Nushishad, was a Christian. The King had shown no resentment of the
fact, beyond confining the prince to the palace; but he had escaped
thence and risen in rebellion against his father, calling on all
Christians, and specially those of Khuzistan, to join him. Mar Aba was
suspected of complicity, on account of a recent consecration of bishops
for that province, and the Mobeds, of course, supported the accusation.
He was arrested and brought before Chosroes, who broke out in one of
his rages, denouncing him as guilty and sentencing him to one of the
horrible Sassanid punishments-viz. to be blinded, thrown into a
sand-pit, and left to die. “If that be the King’s will,” said the
fearless patriarch, “I am ready. I am not guilty; but I welcome the end
of a long trial.” As so often, the power of his high character recalled
the King to his better self; he examined the case, and it soon appeared
that Magian malice was the only evidence against the prisoner. Chosroes
released him at once, only calling on him to write to the Christians of
Khuzistan, and to warn them not to join the rebellion. This he at once
agreed to do, and soon after was actually sent to the disturbed
district by the King to remove all danger of a Christian rising.252

This, however, was his last journey, and his last earthly service to
his melet. Worn out by his trials he fell ill on his return to
Seleucia; and though Chosroes sent his own physician to tend him, it
soon appeared that hardship and imprisonment had done their work, and
the long-desired release was given to this faithful servant. The hatred
of some Magians might pursue him after death, and an attempt was made
to procure a royal order that his body should be cast to the dogs; but
Chosroes absolutely refused to allow this insult to the memory of one
whom he had always respected, and whom at last he had learnt to trust.
Other important Mobeds, sent to certify his death, could not refuse the
tribute of their reverence to the great opponent of their faith.

Thus Mar Aba the Great passed to his reward. His career as patriarch
had been a martyrdom, though he was not actually called upon to
undergo, for his Master’s sake, the death that he had faced so often
and so fearlessly in His cause. Greatest and noblest of the patriarchs
of. the East; worthy companion of Hugh, of Anselm, and of
other Western saints who have withstood kings to the face for the glory
of God; we may apply to him the words a great English writer has
written of another Father, abler perhaps, and more famous, but hardly
more “royal-hearted”-in all that is recorded of him (and we know him
better than we do any other figure of the period) “we find nothing but
what it well became a wise man to do and a righteous to suffer.”


SABR-ISHU (552-604)

CHOSROES’ admiration of Mar Aba had been sincere; but it did not
find expression in any very careful choice of his successor. The man
whom he nominated to the electoral college was his doctor–probably the
same man whom he sent to attend Aba in his last illness–a layman of
the name of Joseph. This man was a scholar of Nisibis;253 trained as a
doctor in the
Roman Empire, and obviously a favourite with the King. He may have been
a good doctor, but he made a very bad patriarch; for he had all of his
predecessor’s belief that the holder of that office ought to be an
autocrat, very little of his high sense of duty, and none of his
disinterestedness. For two years after his consecration he ruled alone;
making excuses when the metropolitans demanded that he should call them
to the customary synod. And though his personal conduct gave no cause
for complaint in this first portion of his reign, yet he was obviously
a bad ruler; for when, in 554, he was forced to gather a council, the
bishops declared that the state of the Church “was as if no canons had
ever existed.”254

The council administered a rebuke to the patriarch which was severe,
but probably not undeserved; for they passed a canon (Canon VII of
Joseph’s synod) to the effect that the Catholicos was not, in future,
to make important decisions on his own authority only; but was first to
take the advice of at least three of his colleagues. These were easy to
collect, in spite of the governmental nervousness about councils for
which there was no firman. Several of the centres of the great urban
district of Seleucia-Ctesiphon had now bishops of their own–as at B.
Ardashir and Dastagerd; while the constant presence of bishops at the
capital, on Church or personal business, formed a sort of “Sojourning
synod” comparable to the well-known one at Constantinople.

In spite of the rebuke, or possibly in his anger at it, the conduct
of the high-handed Joseph grew Steadily worse as time went on. He took
bribes; he tyrannized over priests; in at least one case he imprisoned
a bishop–Shimun of Anbar or Piroz-Sapor–in his own patriarchal
palace. Here, he would not even allow him to attend the Eucharist; and
when the prisoner consecrated a miniature altar in his cell, the
patriarch himself desecrated and destroyed it.255
Nor was it the clergy only that he bullied; the laity came in for
ill-treatment too: and if, as Bar-Hebraeus tells us, fie had a habit of
putting a donkey’s head-stall on inconvenient petitioners, and tying
them up at his gate, we cannot wonder that he acquired a good deal of
unpopularity l Finally, a council was held, to consider his acts and
the situation at large; and it declared him deposed,256 an act of very doubtful
legality, in view of the express declarations of the synods of Dad-Ishu
and Aba. But neither legality nor consistency are held in great regard
by the oriental, when they happen to stand in the way of the immediate

To decree the patriarch’s dep6sition, however, was one thing, and to
get rid of him another. Joseph had the support of Chosroes; and while
that was secured to him, he could point triumphantly to the canons
declaring his supremacy, and snap his fingers at a council. The
Shah-in-Shah, when appealed to, only said, “He is Catholicos, and what
would you?”

Finally Moses of Nisibis–Joseph’s successor as royal
physician–contrived to secure his removal. Coming to the King to make
a petition as for himself, he told a story of a poor man to whom the
King of his bounty had given an elephant, which ate its owner out of
house and home till he begged to be relieved of it. Chosroes laughed.
“Well, what is it you want?” he said. “Oh, King, if you would only take
away your elephant!”

Joseph was removed from office accordingly in 570: and spent some of
his retirement in the composition of certain letters, which still
remain, purporting to be written in the fourth century by Ephraim Syrus
and James of Nisibis to Papa, explaining the impossibility of
dethroning a Catholicos. Possibly the same ingenious pen did something
to improve the acts of the Council of Dad-Ishu. All were delighted to
be rid of him; the name of the degraded patriarch was not put upon the
diptychs, and even those ordained by him were held to be in some sense
“irregular” and to need some sort of reconciliation.257

Ezekiel, the man whom Moses of Nisibis suggested as Joseph’s
successor, is little more than a name to us. He is said to have been
But in that
case was perhaps a widower at the time of his consecration; for the
example of Mar Aba, and possibly the mockery of the Monophysites, made
Assyrians unwilling to have more married patriarchs, though married
bishops were by no means unknown as yet. His council, with its
thirty-nine canons,259
an important document for the history of oriental canon law, and gives
us a picture of Church life at the time to which we shall refer later.
But his twelve years of rule (570-582) were not marked by political or
ecclesiastical events of importance; excepting the death of Chosroes 1,
and the accession of Hormizd IV, or Hormisdas, in 578.

The reason for this emptiness of history is not far to seek. The
latter part of the patriarchate of Joseph, and the first of that of
Ezekiel, saw a terrible outbreak of plague in all the East-a return of
the same scourge as that which had devastated both the Roman and
Persian Empires in 541, and of which Procopius has left us a
description. Syriac writers call the sickness the “Shar’uth,”260 ; but
it was probably what we know as oriental plague, and its
destructiveness was as awful as usual. Whole households died; and none
dare enter the empty houses to gather the gold that lay there
ownerless. The King, by payment of a huge reward, got together a
company of grave-diggers, who collected the corpses in the capital,
interred them, and claimed their fee. It was paid them; but all were
found dead a few hours later, the pile of gold lying undivided by their

Finally, two of the metropolitans-those of Karka and
Arbela-instituted solemn services of intercession, litanies and
Rogation processions; calling on all men to show penitence under the
shadow of God’s judgments, as the men of Nineveh had done of old, in
order that they too might be spared. The patriarch scoffed;261 and called
the leaders of
the processions “blind leaders of the blind”–a faithlessness punished
by the failure of his own sight. The plague abated, and ever since the
Church of Assyria has perpetuated the observance. The third week before
“the Great Fast” still sees the celebration of the “Bautha of the
Ninevites,” the “Rogation days” of this Church.262

Ezekiel was followed on the throne by Ishu-yahb of Arzun, the first
of several patriarchs to bear that name. Two names, as in the modern
Armenian fashion, were presented to the King by the electoral college;263 and Hormizd
chose Ishu-yahb
on account of a political service he had rendered in giving information
of some Roman military movements on the frontier. Hormizd was a
pro-Christian ruler, if we may, credit a story given us by the Arabic
It is said
that the Magi tried to rouse him to persecute the Christians, on the
ground that they were a danger to his throne. Ay throne stands on four
feet, not on two,” said the King. “On Jews and Christians as well as on
Zoroastrians”; and so the matter dropped.

The whole of this reign was occupied with the weary war which Justin
II, Tiberius, and Maurice waged from 572 till 591 ; a war conducted
apparently with the object of securing the maximum of suffering to the
provincials, with the minimum of strategic result. Campaigns that were
mere raids followed one upon another; the Persians once pushing to the
gates of Antioch, and securing an enormous number of captives, who
were, after the plague, probably as valuable a form of loot as any
available. Two hundred and ninety thousand prisoners were carried off
to Persia, and settled in new Antioch and similar cities. One flash of
pure comedy, not to say farce, enlivens the dreary story. Justin sent
to Mondir, the Arab king, bidding him come on important business to
meet the Roman general Marcian; and wrote also to Marcian, bidding him
execute the Arab on his arrival; put the letters into the wrong
envelopes and so dispatched them!

The war was only ended by a palace revolution, which brought about
the death of Hormizd; and immediately there followed a foretaste of
that outburst of anarchy which was practically to destroy the Sassanid
monarchy a generation later, after another and greater struggle with
Rome. Bahram the Persian general, who was already in revolt, owing to a
personal insult offered him by Hormizd, made an attempt to secure the
throne for himself, when that king was dethroned by the adherents of
his son, Chosroes.265
a time lie succeeded; defeating Chosroes, and forcing him to take
refuge in Roman territory: But, outside his own army, Bahram had no
supporters; and when his one force was defeated by Roman troops
supplied by Maurice, the general’s cause was lost. Chosroes II,
surnamed Parviz, was thereupon recognized as king.

Many embassies were, of course, exchanged in the course of the long
war; and of one of them at least–possibly that which brought about the
final peace–the patriarch Ishu-yahb was a member, and he thus came to
have an interview with the Emperor Maurice.266
Diplomatic business done, the theological question came up; and the
Emperor asked, “What is your faith in the Persian Church? Since the
time of the Council of Chalcedon, we have heard nothing whatever about
you.” The patriarch in answer wrote a confession, which was submitted
to the patriarchs of Constantinople and Antioch, and received by them
as absolutely orthodox. This confession may have been that given in the
Liber Turris, or may have been one of the two theological
canons included in the Synodicon as the work of this patriarch.267 In either
case it is hard to
see what other decision the two prelates consulted could have given,
seeing that the confessions are elaborately orthodox, and one of them
cannot even be called indefinite.

The incident shows that, a full century and a half after the, time
of Nestorius, Constantinople did not know how to class the Assyrian
Church in the controversies of the time. It was regarded as something
outside current ecclesiastical politics; while at the same time it was
certainly not classed as Nestorian. Nevertheless, it as in the days of
this patriarch, just when there seemed a fair prospect of a clear
understanding, that a more definite step was taken towards separation
than any since the time of Bar-soma; for it was at this time that “the
easterns” first heard of, or first realized, the condemnation in the
West of the man whom they regarded as the greatest of all commentators
and theologians–Theodore of Mopsuestia.

We cannot enter here into the details of the weary “Three Chapters”
controversy, but must recapitulate a few of the main facts. Justinian
had come to the conclusion that something must be done to reconcile the
Monophysites of Egypt and Syria to the Council of Chalcedon ; and
thereby to abate the chronic disloyalty of those provinces, which
indeed had become a public danger. For the conqueror of Italy to
estrange the West by repudiating Chalcedon was impossible, even if the
imperial theologian could have brought himself to it. There was hope,
however, that if the men most objectionable to them were anathematized,
the Monophysite party would consent to swallow their objections to the
council; and this was the line that the Emperor on the advice of
Theodora and Theodore Ascidas the courtier. bishop-determined to
follow. Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret, Ibas, and a little later
Origen, were selected as the victims, and were condemned.

It was a political move, not a religious act characteristic of the
time when religion had become politics; and it deservedly failed of its
political object. The Monophysites were not reconciled; and were only
furnished with another argument for controversial use. “You have
condemned Chalcedon, in condemning the men whom Chalcedon acquitted.
Now be consistent, and condemn the council.”

Many, too, felt, and quite rightly, that the condemnation of men
dead “in the peace of the Church” (whatever defence might be found in
the doubtful precedent of King Josiah and the idolaters’ bones) was a
scandal and a wrong. Of course, more than one of Theodore’s theories
had a strange sound; even as had others of Origen’s, his fellow in
condemnation. But nevertheless, to condemn the man who had passed from
the earthly tribunal to one where absolute justice would be done him to
condemn him when he could neither defend nor abandon his tenets-was
contrary to all justice. The two great irregular thinkers were far
enough from one another in time, in way of life, in cast of mind. Love
of meditating on the deep things of God, and love of their Master’s
service, were about the only things they had in common. Nevertheless,
there was a sardonic fitness in the fact that these two
great minds should be linked in a common condemnation, by one so
immeasurably below them as that imperial pedant, the Caesar-Pope

Theology that could not be expressed in a code, conceptions that
“broke through language,” could not enter into that legal mind; and the
condemnation appeared to him to stand on all fours with the
confiscation of the property of a rebel, who could not be executed
because he was dead.

Thus it was that, even in the West, the condemnation of the “Three
Chapters” was felt to be a very questionable transaction, and one that
stood much in need of explanation. Vigilius the Pope had to give it, as
he travelled towards the home he never reached; and he, poor man, was
in the singularly unfortunate position of having to give an
explanation, not only of his condemnation of the Chapters, but of his
refusal to condemn them also! With some ingenuity he had got himself
gored by both horns of the dilemma. Africa and Gaul refused at first to
accept the council. Aquileia and the north of Italy held out against it
for one hundred and fifty years. Only the original Roman patriarchate
seems to have accepted it at once. Of course, ultimately, all the West
came into line, as they realized that there was no objection to their
continuing to honour the Council of Chalcedon; and that the second
Council of Constantinople could be neglected, as it has been in fact;
for, after all, it was not their men that had been condemned.

But if the West felt so much uneasiness on a point which did not
concern them directly, what was the East likely to feel upon the point?
Theodore had been their teacher, and was “their man.” For more than a
century his name, uncondemned in the ‘Nest, had been held in special
honour by them. And now, without consultation with them, and frankly as
a move in a political game for the reconciling of heretics, he was to
be declared anathema.

Whether they, as a Church, actually held the doctrines of the man
they honoured, is another matter. Some of their writers did so. But if
it be fair to describe Theodore’s conception of the Hypostatic Union as
“a connexion, gradually growing more complete as the spiritual growth
of the Christ proceeded,” then they, as a Church, certainly did not
hold it. And as certainly they did not hold the opinions condemned as
Theodore’s by the Council of Constantinople.268
However, the Assyrian Church did not pause to consider these
refinements. Their man had been attacked, and they defended him. With
characteristic oriental wrong-headedness, they assumed that because
Theodore had been unjustly condemned, therefore he was a writer of
infallible correctness in all points; and they passed a decree
accordingly.269 A
domestic disagreement, of which we treat in the next chapter, made them
still more eager to affirm the orthodoxy of the Mopsuestian.

There is a positively Mephistophelean irony in the situation. For
some time past the Assyrians had been obliged to define their own
thoughts on the Christoiogical problem more accurately; owing,
probably, to the exigencies of argument with the Monophysites. In
consequence the Assyrian theologians, though working on their own line,
had reached a conclusion practically identical with that reached at
Constantinople. Granting, for argument’s sake, the absolute
Nestorianism (in the worst sense) of men like Bar-soma and Narses, yet
Ishu-yahb’s confession is orthodox; and this occupies a position of
authority in the formal documents of the Church which is not given to
the writings of either of the other two. But just at the moment when it
was put forward they realized the condemnation of their hero; and, to
use a figure they will employ of themselves, they “shied like a horse.”
To fall back on the metaphor we employ above, the swirl of the current
had caught the foam patches just as they seemed uniting–and they swung
apart once more. Justinian could hardly have intended or foreseen this
result of his political move; but perhaps it would not have affected
him had he known it. He had the Church in the empire to manage; what
was the Church outside it to him?

Henceforward, the Assyrians do seem to have regarded themselves as
separate from the Church of Constantinople; but separated far more by
the “names of the doctors” than by any abstract point of Christology.
Soon, too, suspicion grew between the two bodies, each thinking that
the other’s words and intent must be wrong; and a temper most
antagonistic to true union came to prevail in the minds of both.

Ishu-yahb continued to be patriarch until his death in 596; but lost
the favour of the King in his latter years. Chosroes II, as stated
above, was forced to flee to Rome almost immediately after his
accession; and had expected the head of the Christian melet to
accompany him-no doubt in the belief that such a circumstance would
make it easier for him to obtain the help he desired from the Emperor
Maurice. Ishu-yahb avoided coming with him perhaps because he was
worshipping the rising sun (though there is no evidence on this
point)–and did not go out to meet him on his return. This last is a
great breach of oriental etiquette towards a superior; and is generally
taken as implying either hostility to the person you do not meet, or a
guilty conscience towards him.

The patriarch died in 596 while on a visit to the Court of Khirta,
the residence of the Arab sub-King Naaman, who was a Christian. There
had been a bishop among these Arabs for many years; but the conversion
of the prince was an event of Ishu-yahb’s patriarchate, and was due
mainly to the hermit-bishop of Lashom, Sabr-Ishu, the successor of
Ishu-yahb at Seleucia. Monophysite missionaries also attempted to
obtain a footing in this sphere; and an unseemly wrangle between the
two Christian bodies resulted. The existence of this independent Arab
Church is yet another instance of the ground once held by Christianity,
and (alas!) lost again.

The man whom Chosroes selected in Ishu-yahb’s place was Sabr-Ishu of
Lashom, a man whose asceticism and sanctity had won him wide fame.
Shirin, the King’s Christian wife, had the greatest reverence for
him;–Chosroes himself was accustomed to ask for his prayers; and the
Emperor Maurice once sent him a relic, a piece of the true Cross,
asking him to send his cowl in exchange.270

Chosroes revered him because, during his campaign against Bahram,271 he had in a
dream seen his
horse led forward by an aged man, whom Shirin, when he told her the
vision, declared must be Sabr-Ishu. Indeed, Chosroes is said to have
recognized the figure of his dream, when he met the bishop.

Sabr-Ishu was bred a shepherd, and had been an ascetic from his
youth; a fact which at one time led him toward Marcionism. He had been
a hermit in “the mountains of Radan”272
(the rugged parallel ridges of limestone between Kirkuk and
Sulisanieh), and in other places, till he had become a power in the
land as saint and healer. The reality of the cures he worked, many of
which are recorded in his life, seems to be attested by the fact273 that the
Alagians regarded
him as an enchanter. On this charge they summoned him to Karka d-B.
Sluk; and the metropolitan and people immediately insisted on
consecrating him to a bishopric that was then vacant, at Lashom, a
small town distant about twelve miles from the city of Kirkuk, or

On the death of Ishu-yahb, the electoral body presented five names
to the King for his selection; but that of the Bishop of Lashom was not
among them. When Chosroes asked why he had been left out, the answer
was made that indeed there was no holier man in the land, but that his
great age was against him. Chosroes insisted; and Sabr-Ishu was
elected, with an episcopal vekil to make the more fatiguing

Though a saint in his cell, Sabr-Ishu (like some others) was not
quite a success as bishop. Physically, indeed, he proved tougher than
had been anticipated, thanks no doubt to his shepherd training; but his
episcopal decisions were apt to be harsh and unjust. A conspicuous
instance of this was the case of Gregory of Nisibis. This prelate had
some trouble with his flock, who always appear in the history as very
unruly sheep (and indeed the combination of a frontier district, a
large military garrison, and a big university, is not one that makes
for orderliness); and sheaves of complaints were sent against him, both
to patriarch and King.274
He had offended the school, which constituted an extra-diocesan imperium
in imperio
, by his share in the condemnation and removal of their
great teacher, Khenana (see next chapter). He had offended the clergy
by a too vigorous discipline, particularly in the case of a man known
only by his nickname, “the Fox’s son,” whom he had caught sacrificing a
white cock in the woods outside the town.275
And he had offended the monks, more particularly those of Singar, by
his policy of weeding out from among them the sectaries known as

Sabr-Ishu, apparently without due examination, accepted all these
charges as true; and, with the consent of the King, deposed Gregory,
and sent him to a monastery. In wrath, the metropolitan shook the dust
of Nisibis from his feet, and withdrew-foretelling that judgment would
shortly fall on both accusers and over-hasty judge.

In fact, shortly after, a local rebellion at Nisibis brought sharp
discipline on the city from the King; and by his injustice, Sabr-Ishu
is said to have lost thenceforward his power of working miracles.277

It must have been shortly after this episode that the Romano-Persian
war broke out again; and the rivalry of four hundred years entered on
its last and most magnificent phase.

Chosroes had at least a good reason to allege for his recommencement
of it: to avenge the death of his friend and benefactor Maurice, and to
win back the crown of his young ward, Theodosius, from the usurping
Phocas. But though that was his excuse for beginning the war, and
indeed may have been at first his real intention in fighting, for he
made Sabr-Ishu solemnly crown the young refugee as Roman Emperor,278 the intent
and the youth
soon vanish from sight together in the prospect of winning back, at
last, the whole Achaemenid heritage: and Chosroes fights and conquers
for his own hand.

In one of the first campaigns, the Shah-in-Shah insisted on the aged
Sabr-Ishu accompanying the force, to bring good luck to his banners;279 but though
the amazing
success that befell the Persians might seem to justify their belief in
their episcopal mascot, the fatigues soon proved too much for the old
man, who was well over eighty. He was carried back from Dara to Nisibis
to die; and the city, of course, claimed his body, as that of a saint.
However, after a wrangle, it was interred, according to his own wish,
in his own monastery at Lashom.280



THE death of Sabr-Ishu saw the close of that period of relative
quiet which had been accorded to the Assyrian Church since the
accession of Aba. In the nest generation it was caught in the confusion
of the mighty struggle between Heraclius and Chosroes, while at the
same time it had to repulse the great attempt made by the Monophysites
to capture its organization. This period saw also the definite
crystallization of its hitherto fluid formulae in the shape
which they still preserve; so that by the middle of the seventh
century-when the Shah-in-Shah has given place to the Khalif, and
Zoroaster to Mahommed–the Church settled down into the uneventful life
of a subject melet in the Mussulman State, definitely separate
from all others.

The close of this period of quiet, then, gives a good opportunity
for attempting to sketch the condition of the Church, so far as our
authorities reveal it to us.

The Church was an organized melet in the kingdom, as
described in a previous chapter. Its patriarch was one of the great
dignitaries of State, ranking apparently nest to the Mobed Mobedan,281 and therefore
very high
indeed; while many Christians held important posts-in the domestic
service of the King for instance, and in the civil service. All this,
however, does not necessarily mean, in the East, any real power of
independence; and is quite compatible with a position of acknowledged
inferiority, as a melet.

In Turkey under the old regime, the patriarchs of the various
Christian bodies were great men in dignity. They had right of audience
of the Sultan, and could (if so disposed) be tyrants, each over his own
melet; but vet had less power in politics than a third-class
Kaimakam. Similarly, to the provinces, the bishop might be one of the
council of the governor-general (Vali); but his power there was usually
nil. The vice-governor was always a Christian and next in dignity to
the Vali; but supposing that official to be ill, it was never by any
chance the vice-governor that took his place, but some other official.
In theory, every position was open to the rayat, excepting only army
rank. In practice, no power in the State was ever put into his hands,
and no Turk would ever dream of obeying him. Power over his Christian
fellows might be his, and individual Christians might have influence in
the highest quarters, but no equality was possible.

The impression left by a study of Syriac authorities on the mind of
a writer to whom the present position of Christian melets in
the Ottoman Empire is more familiar than to most Europeans, is this
that their position has changed very little since Sassanid days; and
that the present Government has simply taken over the system that
existed before them. There is, of course, a danger of “reading back”
odd, but familiar, modern conditions into ancient authorities; but yet
one rises from a study of, e.g., the very varied sources that deal with
the career of Afar Aba, with the feeling that (given the change of
Islam for Magianism) much of that history might belong to the present
day, or at least, to a period immediately previous to the revolution of
19o8-to. the nineteenth century instead of the sixth. Even the surface
of things changes little in the East; and the substance hardly at all.

The Church was a melet; tolerated, but with no real
political power; though members of it might have some, or much,
influence. Even in the East, however, a melet has one lever of
power, that of passive resistance, or absolute submission. It can say
to authority, “Kill us if you will, but we will not do this thing”; and
as authority, when not frightened, is usually unwilling to massacre
(partly from good-nature, partly because nobody kills his own cattle
wantonly) the Melet can sometimes get its object in this way.

On the other hand, outside the circle of Magian influence, in Herat
and Khorassan, what little we know of the Church (and it is very
little) shows us. Christianity as a growing force, able to win Turks
and other Mongols.

The seventh century was the period of missions to China; and the
strangely Christian like ceremonial of modern Lamas was quite possibly
borrowed from Assyrian sources. Perhaps the greatest “might have been”
in Church history, is what might have been had the magnificent Turkish
stock adopted Christianity, and not Islam, as their national faith. A
race that has all the military virtues in amplest measure, might have
shown a Christian knighthood which the finest Norman chivalry could not

The dangers of the Church were those which always beset a subject melet.
First (for the Assyrian is ever his own worst enemy) came their
quarrelsomeness, and the habit of grasping at any weapon to gratify the
immediate personal spite. Usually the handiest tool was the use of
Magian patronage or Magian suspicion. Thus, we hear of a certain man,282 who being
refused ordination
as priest because his villagers would have none of him, promptly
stirred up the Magians against that village, by the accusation that
they were “new Christians”–converts; and produced a local persecution.
“They won’t have me for priest, there shall be no priest and no
people,” was his feeling, no doubt.

Similarly, the same council tells us of a village, where there were
two churches. The congregation of the original building, jealous of the
other, got hold of a letter from the bishop “to the Clergy of the New
Church of X,” and took it to the local governor. “Excellency, here is a
new church, built without leave; here is the proof thereof”; and the
church was destroyed. The second of those incidents (the fact is worth
recalling, as showing how exactly modern conditions reproduce the
ancient ones) has an absolute parallel in the writer’s own experience.
The Romanist minority in a particular village complained of the act of
the mass of the people, in rebuilding their own half ruinous church.
“Excellency, they are building a new church without a firman.” If they
had no church of their own, they must of necessity come to that of the
complainants, was the feeling. Proselytizing zeal, and not mere
jealousy, was the motive.

The Assyrian Church has enemies in plenty; but none would be now, or
ever would have been, really dangerous to her spiritual life, if she
could be saved from the quarrels of her own children.

Of course, as we have seen above, this recourse to pagan patronage
often made discipline an impossibility. A man censured, or. put to
penance, might be able to get double corvee283 a
inflicted on
the priest; or an utterly unworthy man might “pull the strings” with
some Zoroastrian friend, till the bishop, from fear of the consequences
to Christians, might feel that he could not refuse him the unmerited
ordination he demanded-demanded, because Holy Orders carried (and
carry) with them, always consideration, and sometimes power. Bishops
might not be above using the influence of a Zoroastrian noble to get a
portion of another’s diocese into their hands; for a large diocese
meant a large income, and this fact was a standing temptation to some
metropolitans to keep dioceses in their provinces vacant.

The use of pagan patronage might appear in a hundred ways. This was
bad for Church discipline, so specially necessary in a people who lack
the instinct of self-government. It was worse for spiritual life. But
it generally achieved its immediate object; and given quarrelsome
people, it was almost sure to be resorted to.

We have said above, that in the position of a melet circumstances
are against the election, as a rule, of really able bishops. Usually
the ruler does nothing worse than dread genius and devotion, because it
is so disturbing. But often he may want a tool, or a bishopric maybe,
as in the case of the Patriarch Joseph, a way of rewarding a friend; or
worse, a convenient way of paying a supple rascal for dirty work done.284 Further, the
fact that the
bishop, as- chief of the melet, has much of the government in
his hands, makes both bishop and people think of that most conspicuous
side of the office, to the exclusion of any higher one. People want a
bishop to be-and come to think he ought to be-a good ruler and manager,
rather than a right reverend father in God.

It is probable that the growing habit of episcopal celibacy (for
after Mar Aba’s day, married bishops became few and far between285) was
a useful
means of checking this secularization of the bishop’s office. So much
worldly work came to him of necessity, that if he was not too immersed
in it, he must be one of those who had markedly drawn themselves apart
from the world.

Socially, the state of Christians was then, apparently, pretty much
what it is still. The mercantile and artisan classes were largely of
the faith; the villagers, the agricultural class, were so to a very
considerable extent; the ‘squire class, the feudal seigneur and his
family, very seldom; and soldiers, hardly ever. Men of the civil
service were Christians pretty frequently; while law was an
ecclesiastical matter for all faiths, and its votaries were divided
accordingly. Christians had almost a monopoly of the medical

Thus, at B. Lapat, in 540, the chief of the artisans, the president
of the merchants, and the head of the guild of silversmiths, all sign
the condemnation of Abraham bar Audmihr.286
While on another occasion, we see that the “Keeper of all the Oueen’s
camels”287 was
Christian; and in the time of Chosroes, the chief financial officer of
the empire was so too.288

That Christians had to wear some distinctive dress, appears not only
from the story of Mar Aba, quoted above, but also from the life of Mar
Giwergis, where the hero appears before his sister “in the humble dress
of a Christian.”289
same authority shows us, that in these later days, the risk that a
Zoroastrian ran in becoming a Christian had much diminished. King
Hormizd IV, for instance, on hearing of the conversion of this man, a
Magian noble, only observed, “Well, let him go to hell, if he prefers
it;” and his sister wrote to him that he would run no risk if he
appeared at Court, and might even save his property by so doing. It
must be owned that this man was martyred later, but under rather
exceptional circumstances.

The Church was becoming wealthy; for in the long freedom from
persecution, endowments accumulated. There was, however, a constant
leakage, owing to the fact that the clergy or bishops, in whose name
the real property was necessarily registered, were so very apt to
regard it as their own, and to leave it by will accordingly!290 This habit
also exists
to-day;’ the oriental being apparently quite unable to distinguish
between funds entrusted to him for certain purposes, and his own
absolute property. It was hardly to be expected that Magian law would
guarantee the security of Christian Church property; and the modern
expedient of securing honest and immortal trustees by registering lands
in the name of the patron saint of the Church had apparently not then
been thought of.291

Monks and Monasteries.–A sketch of the conditions of
Assyrian Church life in the sixth century must include some reference
to the monasticism that was one of its most marked features; though the
institution was not a thing apart, but a branch only of the great
system which spread from the cave of Benedict at Subiaco, to the lands
eastward of Teheran.

Traditionally, the man who brought the monastic system from Egypt to
“the East” was one Augin, or Eugenius, who was led from the Red Sea to
Assyria at the very beginning of the fourth century, and established
himself upon Mt. Izla near Nisibis, which was then Roman territory. The
foundation of many monasteries besides that named is attributed to him;
among which is included Deir Zaaferan by Mardin, the present residence
of the patriarch of the Jacobites; and one of his many pupils is said
to have been St. James of Nisibis.

Neither Theodoret nor Thomas of Marga, however, have any knowledge
of Mar Augin; but his existence need not therefore be questioned,
though it may be doubted whether the monastic system existed in any
organized form at so early a date. That ascetics of both sexes, Rabbans
and Rabbanyati, existed in considerable numbers, e.g., during
the persecution of Sapor, is abundantly clear, and they often gathered
in groups round some one leader. Organization and rule, however, hardly
existed; and “nuns” were often simply women self-dedicated to a life of
celibacy and good works in their own homes, wearing plain garments, but
no recognized uniform. Among modern Assyrians, it is interesting to
note, the institution has now reverted to this, its primitive form.

To speak of the organization or introduction of monasticism into the
East, is really to use more formal language than the facts seem to
justify. Augin or another wandering ascetic brought the seed, but in a
soil so congenial as that of Mesopotamia it took root and grew

A period of slackness, however, followed its first introduction, and
its first growth. A Catholicos like Tamuza (see p. 26) discourages
celibacy, though doubtless for good reasons; and in the time of
Bar-soma celibates of both sexes are made to understand that their
profession is purely voluntary as regards both the adoption. of, and
continuance in, the life. It is not until the general revival of Church
life under Mar Aba that monasticism really regains vigour; and then it
formulates for itself a rule which, starting from Mount Izla, becomes
the recognized way of life for all “oriental” monasteries.

Abraham of Kashkar, the contemporary of Mar Aba, a pupil like him of
the college at Nisibis, and at one time also a pilgrim in Palestine and
Egypt, was the great organizer, and in a sense the founder, of Assyrian

His rules293
eleven in number; but four only are important, and these inculcate
“tranquillity,” fasting, prayer and study, and silence, as the four
great principles of the life. Chastity, of course, is assumed, and
poverty also, for an intending monk, as a matter of course, gave all
his goods to the poor; but there are no rules about dress or food,
though there was a tradition on both those points; and the gap between
the monasticism of East and West is marked by the absence of any vow of
obedience. Eastern monasteries had their abbots; but the abbot’s rule
was one of personal influence rather than of law: and it may be broadly
said that an eastern monastery had more of asceticism, and far less of
discipline, than its western counterpart. An incident recorded by
Thomas of Marga294
illustrate this. Some of the monks living in the “outer cells” at Mount
Izla, brought women to stay with them there; and the abuse must have
gone on for months, or even years, before it was brought to the notice
of the abbot by a monk who happened to leave his cell at an unusual
hour. Then, the guilty were expelled. Now, a Western monastery might be
as corrupt as even Messrs. Legh and monastery might would have us
believe; but the existence of such a state of things as this, without
the connivance of the abbot, would be a physical impossibility.

In the West the life of the monastery was, of course, coenobitic.
Monks lived in the common cloister, slept in the common dormitory, met
in the common chapter-house. Prayer and fasting there might be in
plenty, and study too; but “tranquillity” and silence hardly at all. A
monastery was the barrack of a regiment organized for active service in
the army of the Church.

In the East there was a certain amount of coenobitic life; but this
was far less of a “common life” than in the West, for each monk had a
cell of his own, where he spent the greater part of each day in
solitude; and the life of a monastery was simply a preparation for the
life of absolute solitude in a cell (or frequently a cave) in the
neighbourhood The contrast between the buildings of monasteries of
specially strict rule, like Fountains or Rievaulx, with great Eastern
houses like Rabban Hormizd, or the monastery of the ark on Judi Dagh,
shows the two ideals of monastic life. We all know the great English
foundations, with chapter-house, refectory, school, guest-house and
hospital, placed indeed far from the haunts of men, but becoming each a
centre of life and culture in itself. Rabban Hormizd lies in a gorge of
naked uncultivable rock-the church almost the only building; while
cells by the hundred, hewn in the mountain-side, but placed without
plan and often almost inaccessible, were the lodgings of the monks.

The one is a great organization; the other a gathering of ascetics

Kipling’s “Purun Bhagat” is the ideal Eastern monk. He retires from
the world, that he “may sit down, and get knowledge:” Fast and vigil
are his instruments; constant repetition of some holy formula (a “Name”
in one case, the Psalms and offices in the other), the “Key to unlock
the secrets of Paradise”; and, says Isaac of Nineveh, in the highest
stage of the life of contemplation a stage that can only be begun in
this life, the mind, free from its captivity in the body, “flits
through immaterial realms.”295

But, if this degree is to be attained, absolute solitude is a sine
qua non. Human companionship is like frost, to the buds and fruit of
the contemplative life, says Isaac of Nineveh; and of Sabr-Ishu it is
recorded that he left the spot where people came to him to be cured,
because his contemplation was disturbed thereby. As with the Indian
hermit of the story, it never occurred to him to doubt the reality of
his miraculous powers, or to be surprised at his own possession of

If, however, this contemplative ideal could produce, at times,
saints of exceptional elevation of character; there is no denying that
it was frightfully liable to abuse, and might readily produce either a
mere idler, or something worse. This we see in the curious sect of
Christian Fakirs, the Msaliani or praying-men, who at this
period troubled all Church authorities from Ephesus to Seleucia. These
men (of whom we hear first in the year 350, and who were not extinct in
the twelfth century) professed to occupy themselves only in prayer; but
had no cells or monasteries, and wandered about, living by begging.
They must have much resembled the dervishes of to-day.

According to their theory, a demon was innate in every man (this is
a sort of caricature of the doctrine of original sin) and was to be
expelled only by a life of continuous prayers. After its expulsion, the
Holy Spirit entered, giving the beatific vision, and subduing all
bodily passions. To one who had reached this stage, Church ordinances
were indifferent. He could do what he would without sin, and he had
supernatural powers.

It will be seen that men of this type might be harmless
mystics; or might be simply useless idlers (many of them gave
themselves over to sleep under pretence of seeing visions296); or might be
sunk in the
lowest profligacy. As many of them used to wander with female
companions, the last was probably often the case. In the West they were
soon condemned. Flavian of Antioch came to Edessa to detect them, and
by a treacherous show of friendship,’ got their local leader, Akha, to
reveal the secret tenets. These were repudiated both by a local synod
and afterwards by the general council of Ephesus.

In the East they were not conspicuous till much later; or possibly
the way of monastic life current there, enabled them to pass undetected
much longer. Ezekiel is the first patriarch to refer to them. He speaks
(Canon I) of the existence of “false ascetics, who lead captive silly
women and seduce them from their duties”; who also “Broke all laws and
despised sacraments.” Ishu-yahb takes much the same line. His
declaration (Canon VIII of his council) that all religions must have a
monastery or some other proper abode (whence one may infer that the
existence of a Rabban who lived in his own house was still not
uncommon); and that those who desired to wander, whether for study or
any other purpose, must have a commendatory letter from the bishop of
their diocese; was reasonable enough. An Eastern monastery certainly
did not err to the direction of not giving facilities for the
contemplative life; and as a rule, the Msaliani were either a nuisance
or a scandal.

Incidentally, one notices with interest that the “roving strain” so
conspicuous in some modern Assyrians, goes back to this early period of
their history.

Monasteries were, in theory, diocesan, and subject to the bishop.
But just as in the `Vest, at a later period, it was the ambition of all
monks to get their houses declared subordinate to the Pope alone, so in
the East (as the council of Sabr-Ishu shows us) many sought to escape
the rule of their bishop, and to be put “under the hand” of the
patriarch only.297

In that case, any bishop available was secured for the performance
of pontifical acts.

In a later age, any church where a patriarch had been buried claimed
the privilege of independence.298

Schools of the Assyrian Church.–Education is one of the
things that never fails to stimulate the Assyrian, and their schools
have always been a feature of their Church life. As we have seen, no
centre of education of any great importance existed among them at
first; though the fact that special search was made for “teachers” in
Adiabene during the persecution of Sapor is evidence that there were
such schools during the fourth century.299
These, however, could hardly have been very advanced affairs; and for
all higher education, the college of Edessa served until its
suppression in 489. Then the school of Nisibis was founded; and the
next century, when the Church had relative peace, saw the rise of a
large number of really important “education centres” in Persia. Babowai
the patriarch started a school at Seleucia,300
of which his successor Acacius was the first head. Aba refounded or
remodelled it, and gave it a library; and in later days, when the
patriarchate was transferred to Baghdad, the school followed it. Other
schools of note existed at Dor Koni and Makhozi d’Ariun; while Amr
speaks of colleges for Tartars at Merv, and for Arabs at Khirta and
Prat d’Maishan.301

Every bishop probably maintained a school of greater or less
importance (a thing that was necessary in a land where the Government
colleges were pronouncedly Magian), and the Chorepiscopus of every
diocese appears to have had. education as his special charge.302 Scribes and
doctors were
highly honoured. One school, that of Seleucia, seems to have had a half
recognized right of interference in the election of the patriarch
(much, perhaps, as the school of Westminster has in the coronation of
the King of England), and once, by schoolboy arguments, compelled a
reluctant man to accept consecration!303

Of the curriculum of these schools we have information in one
instance only, Nisibis, the rules of which have been preserved. This,
however, was the most important of all, and was probably representative.304

This school formed a self-governing corporation, which could own
property, and was extra-diocesan, its head being apparently subordinate
only to the patriarch. It was quartered in a monastery, the tutors
being brethren of the same; and its students were so far under monastic
rule, that they were expected to live a celibate life during the three
years’ course. The head of the school was known as Rabban; and the
tutors, who shared that name with the head also, as teachers and
expounders, , while a college steward, acting
with a
council, managed the finances. Education was free: but students were
expected to maintain themselves, apparently by their own work, during
the long summer vacation that the climate of Nisibis imposes; and they
therefore presumably paid the cost of their maintenance in one form or
another to some authority, probably to the steward. Begging was
forbidden; but students might lend money to one another at one per
cent., and the steward had a certain number of bursaries in his gift.

The course was purely theological, the sole textbooks being the
Scriptures, and more particularly the Psalms (to this day many
Assyrians know the whole psalter by heart; and in theory, none should
be ordained deacon till he has that knowledge.) The Church services
also formed a part of the regular course; and no doubt all the approved
theological works of the Church were to be found in the library.

The students lived in groups of five or six in a cell, where they
ate in common. Hence it was that Sabr-Ishu, during his residence, was
enabled to observe his rule of eating only once in the week ( !), a
fact which he persuaded the “sons of his cell” to conceal. All lodged
within the monastery precincts; but orientals pack close, and where
bedsteads, chairs and tables are not in use, a very small cell will
accommodate six. A space of ten feet by seven gives ample room for all
to lie at length, and what more is needed? Thus, though the college in
Sabr-Ishu’s day contained eight hundred pupils, one need not assume the
existence of courts like those of a Western college, and the
architecture was probably always what we should consider very humble.
No institution under Mussulman rule likes to give the impression that
it has more money than it knows what to do with! Leave to quit the
precincts had always to be obtained; and of course a special permit was
necessary for the crossing of the frontier line that ran so
attractively near to the West.

Monophysitism in Persia.–The latter half of the sixth
century saw a considerable increase in the number of the small
discontented minority that had developed into the “Monophysite Church
of the East.” In the empire this faction had gradually resigned their
hope of winning the Church of the capital; and as Justinian succeeded
Justin, and the acquiescence (to use no stronger term) of the Church of
Asia Minor in the confession of the council of Chalcedon became a plain
undeniable fact, they began to organize themselves in Syria on a
separate footing. In Egypt Monophysitism had become a national faith,
and even emperors did not wish to stir tip a hornets’ nest by
interfering with it. A “Melkite” patriarch was maintained there, but he
ruled over an insignificant minority of officials, and the vast
majority of Egyptian Christians would have none of his services.305

In Syria, from Antioch to the Persian border and beyond it–Jacobus
Baradmus was wandering to and fro as a monk or beggar, consecrating
bishops literally by the score, and starting the Monophysite Church
once more under the name which that communion bears to this day, the
“Jacobites.” Efforts were, of course, made to find and stop him; but to
quote the apposite remark of an Ottoman official, “To find one special
beggar is like trying to find one special flea”; and Monophysites,
under his influence, speedily became the dominant party in Syria, and,
in company with the Armenians, have remained so to this day. Naturally
this revival of their brethren in the Roman Empire had its effect on
the Monophysites in Persia, who again received a “metropolitan” (though
he probably had no suffragans) in the person of Akha d’Imeh. This
prelate was consecrated by Jacobus Baradaus himself,306 but was martyred in 575 for
some untimely proselytizing from Magians which brought the wrath of
Chosroes I upon him; and no successor was found to him, until after the
death of that monarch, in 578. Qam-Ishu was then consecrated; but
though the monastery of Mar Mattai and the town of Tagrit remained as
their strongholds, the Monophysites, by the admission of their own
historian, were a small body.307

Still, they were soon to receive recruits, and in a somewhat
unexpected fashion. Already, in 540, Chosroes I had brought a huge
train of captives from Antioch to Seleucia, where he had built “New
Antioch” for their reception; and most of these were probably
Christians, and most of the Christians were Monophysite in creed. The
experiment had probably succeeded; for in 573 the same King repeated
it, raiding the unhappy provinces once more, and bringing back a
captivity that might have roused the envy of Sargon and Nebuchadnezzar.
Two hundred and ninety thousand new subjects were brought from Roman to
Persian territory, and settled in various towns, where they formed a
welcome reinforcement for the hitherto not very important Monophysite
It was shortly
after this event that we get the first formal admission, in Assyrian
councils, of the existence of organized bodies of “heretics” outside
the only recognized Church.309
were soon to force themselves on the notice of its authorities in an
unpleasant way; and meantime their position was anomalous, even for the
East. They were Christians; and therefore, in the view of the
Government, members of the Christian melet and subject
to its head. But they regarded themselves as out side that body; they
had their own bishop’s, and used, if not their own services, at least
an expurgated version of those in common use. After a little their
recognition as a separate and independent melet was to
regularize matters; but in the interval there was an excellent
opportunity for anybody who deemed himself censured unjustly by his
bishop (or even not given the promotion he thought he had earned) to
evade discipline by “going over to the opposition” and joining this
Monophysite section. The act did not imply apostasy, for the Jacobites
were Christians. It did not imply abandonment of an old confession, for
the confession was still unformulated. Of course, the position was
destructive of discipline and morale in the Church, and
is exactly paralleled to-day in the relations of the “Evangelical” and
“Romanized” Assyrians towards the parent body.

Kenana and his doctrines.–During this period some
theological troubles arose in the Assyrian Church; and the influence of
a great teacher, who might have saved them from the separation to which
they were fast drifting, was contemptuously rejected. This man was
Khenana of Adiabene; a man who in 570 had become head of the school of
Nisibis, and who therefore held what was probably the most influential
position in the Church for the formation of its theology.310 Of course, he
was a writer
on doctrine, and he had composed works “On the Sacraments” and “On the
Observance of Palm Sunday”-which festival he, with the then Bishop of
Nisibis, seems to have really introduced into the Assyrian calendar. He
was also partly responsible for the Bautha services.

It was his doctrinal and exegetical works, however, that roused
odium against him. These were a book “on the Orthodox Faith,” and a
commentary on job, both of which were vehemently attacked. The leader
of the assault on the former was one Giwergis, a converted Magian and a
monk of Mount Izla, who had great weight in the Church; and somewhere
between the years 577-580, there was a bitter controversy between the
two men.311

Giwergis, who declared that the influence of Khenana was ruining the
school, accused him of teaching (a) Fatalism, in that he asserted that
all things were fated and decreed by the stars; (b) A unity of Nature
between God and Man; and (c) That there were in Christ two natures, but
only one “qnuma.”

The first two charges probably meant no more than that the Professor
taught “predestination” in some form; and that he emphasized such texts
as “we shall be like Him,” “partakers of the divine Nature,” and the
like. All the gravamen of the accusation lay in the third heading.
Giwergis insisted that the phrase was a simple impossibility. “One
qnuma means necessarily one nature, and if, as Justinian asserts, half
a nature and half a nature make one qnuma, then you have something that
is neither God nor Man, a thing apart.”312
Here, as again on a later occasion, the Assyrian controversialist
showed great ignorance as to what “Western” teachers actually did
assert; for of course no theologian ever produced the monstrous
doctrine here attributed to Justinian.

Each side was convinced that they were right, and the other wrong;
and neither wanted to hear that the other’s doctrine did not deserve
all the abuse they poured on it. A peacemaker who strove to show (as
Khenana apparently, and a later writer certainly did) that each could
accept and use the other’s terms, found himself hounded out. Khenana
had not contradicted authorized phraseology; for the point was still
open in his time, and remained so for a generation after.

The theological question does not seem to have been threshed out on
this occasion. Khenana was condemned by his bishop, Gregory, certainly,
and by the patriarch probably. But he was condemned on a minor point,
viz., because in his commentary on job he had ventured to contradict
the “Interpreter,” and ascribe that work to Moses.313 Neither Ishu-yahb not
Sabr-Ishu ventured to condemn the doctor by name; and one is inclined
to suggest (for it would be characteristic of oriental ways) that as it
was difficult to reach any clear decision on the Christological problem
(for in all probability the views of the Patriarch Ishu-yahb were
pretty much those of Khenana on that point), it was found convenient to
get rid of the doctor by condemning his views on the minor point, and
to let the larger question rest. Of course, this shirking of the
difficulty was useless in the long run.

Khenana left Nisibis, accompanied by fully three hundred of his
pupils, but no schism followed, though the danger of one must have been
considerable. Most of this school, we may conjecture, were probably
absorbed by the Monophysites, seeing that their indeterminate position
would make such a process easy. The condemnation of the man who was
trying to teach that “Western” expressions were of a kind that could be
accepted in the “East,” was a very grave misfortune; and it shows how
misunderstanding, resentment and suspicion were now causing the two
bodies to drift apart from one another.



THERE was no difficulty in obtaining leave for the election of a
successor to Sabr-Ishu. Chosroes readily gave permission for the
gathering of a council, and the electoral college met early in 604; the
bishops being allowed to make use of the royal posts for the journey,
as in the Roman Empire;314
while orders were given that they should freely elect a proper person,
with an eye only to his fitness for the post.

The bishops assembled to perform their office accordingly.
Sabr-Ishu’s wish in the matter was known, for lie had hoped to see a
monk named Bar-khoshaba take his place; but nobody seems to have
supported that candidate in the council, and his name was tacitly
too, did not think that his orders for a free election precluded him
from making suggestions as to the choice of a melet-bashi; and
if he did not issue a formal conge d’elire, he at least let it
be clearly known that he wished for the election of Gregory, formerly
Bishop of Nisibis, the man in whose deposition by Sabr-Ishu he had at
least acquiesced,316
whose worth he had apparently come to realize since. The bishops,
however, were very unwilling to choose this man, perhaps because they
feared his zeal; and another powerful influence was exercised against
him, viz. that of Shirin, the King’s Christian wife. She had her own
candidate, another Gregory, a man of Kashkar and a professor at
Seleucia, who had formerly been her steward; and further, she seems to
have had a personal dislike for Gregory of Nisibis.317 Here, then, the bishops saw
their opportunity. Though every one knew as a matter of fact which
Gregory the king had intended, yet apparently lie had not expressed his
mandate so clearly that it was impossible to confuse the two men with
any show of plausibility; and they hoped no doubt that if they avoided
electing the man they dreaded, yet Shirin’s influence would bear them
harmless if they put her favourite in his place. Therefore, Gregory of
Seleucia was elected, consecrated, and sent to do homage as Catholicos
in the royal diwan; though it must have been with some nervousness that
he came before the Shah-in-Shah. Chosroes was both angry and surprised.
“This the patriarch!” he exclaimed. “This is not the man whom I
nominated.” Such explanations as were possible were given–to the
effect that if they had confused two namesakes they were very sorry;
but that the man was patriarch now, and that to undo what had been
solemnly and regularly done was impossible, “so what can we do?”
Further, that if this Gregory was not the King’s nominee, he was the
Queen’s. Ultimately Chosroes accepted the fait accompli, but
with a very bad grace. “Patriarch he is and patriarch lie shall be–but
never again do I allow another election.” Gregory himself was heavily
fined; and all Christians suffered–as men do in oriental lands–from
the feeling that got abroad that they were somehow “under the wrath of
the Government.” Eastern minor officials are very quick to recognize
and act on any opportunity of doing a little safe squeezing on their
own account that may thus be opened to them!

The patriarch personally (as is generally the case, when the prelate
is not of very high character) was able to make good terms for
himself; and got on comfortably, when once he had paid the fine exacted.318 His imposing
presence and
ingratiating address, which had served him well with Shirin, commended
him to Chosroes now; and after the first period of tension, he got on
fairly well with the King. His consecration council, apparently, had
been held before the difficulty came to a head, and thus it does not
reflect this particular trouble.319
Its canons-in addition to the usual confession of faith and
canonization of Theodore–show that the Msaliani, as stated above, were
a scandal and a nuisance; and further, that the relations of the
authorities to the Monophysite section were becoming very severely
strained. Qashas of this school still used the ordinary services (which
by now were becoming stereotyped in form, though the absence of any
printing press kept them more or less changeable until the nineteenth
century); but they omitted certain anthems from the Liturgy, and from
the Sunday version of the Daily Office, in which our Lord was spoken of
as “the first-fruits of our nature.” A Monophysite, of course, could
hardly use such a phrase; and anything that can be described as
“tampering with the services is extremely irritating to the Assyrian to
this day.

It was, in fact, becoming Impossible for the Monophysite section to
remain even outwardly attached to the Dyophysite Church, and the formal
recognition of them as a separate melet could not be long
delayed. Yet the authorities of the dominant Church were not at all
willing that Christians who were not their subjects should have leave
to exist in the “Eastern Empire”; a state of mind that we still find
existing at the present day.320

Very soon Gregory showed that though he might ingratiate himself
with the Shah-in-Shah, he was nevertheless a very bad ruler of the
Church. His avarice and oppression became a scandal even to Magians,321 and
accusations against him
poured in to the King. This habit of exposing the shame of Christianity
to its enemies, and the constant appeal to the “unbeliever” against
fellow Christians, is one of the most regrettable traits of Eastern
Church life, and is one that has not grown less marked during the
centuries. Among the petitions for the removal of Gregory appeared a
caricature illustrating his greed. The patriarch was represented as
feeling a (presumably- tithe) hen, to see whether she was fat enough
for his consumption; while all around the bishops of the Church were
depicted, “in attitudes that it would not be decent to describe.”322 The anecdote,
, is evidence also that the seventh-century patriarchs–or
one of them, at all events–were in the habit of eating flesh-meat, an
indulgence not permitted at present!

All petitions for Gregory’s removal were useless. Chosroes was not
likely to go out of his way, when already annoyed at the fact of his
election, to relieve unsatisfactory rayats from the
consequences of their own disobedience. “It serves them right,” was his
not unnatural attitude; and the Church was left to suffer under the
patriarch that they had forced upon the King, till his death relieved
them of his presence. This was not long delayed; Gregory’s patriarchate
only lasting from 604-608; and as soon as his death occurred, the King
confiscated to his own use the hoards that he had wrung from the

On the death of their oppressor the Assyrians made the usual request
for leave to elect a new holder of the office, but were met with a
sharp refusal. Chosroes had not forgotten what had happened when
Sabr-Ishu died; and though he perhaps might not have been implacable,
or might have hoped that the experience of the results of their own
choosing might make the rayats more obedient to a hint from him
this time, there was an influence by his side that was bitterly hostile
to the Dyophysite Church. This was his doctor, Gabriel of Singar, a man
known usually by his official title of “Drustbedh.” He was a strong
Monophysite in creed, but is said by Assyrian writers to have only
become so when Sabr-Ishu put him under censure for bigamy,324 and refused,
as almost his
last act, to restore him to communion even at the request of the King.
Speaking generally, accusations against an opponent’s morals are too
thoroughly “common form” in the East to be taken very seriously either
by parties to the dispute, or by the historian; but it is likely enough
(whatever his morals or immorals may have been) that some personal
quarrel had made Gabriel change sides, and “go over to the opposition.”
In such a case, the party that wins a convert worth having does not
always scrutinize too closely his reasons for doing what is so
indisputably “the right thing,” and conversions of the kind are not
unknown to this day, either in England or Assyria.

Whatever his reasons, Gabriel used all his influence with the King
against the granting of the permission to elect, and used it
successfully. The vacancy thus caused lasted for twenty years
(608-628), until, in fact, the death of Chosroes II.

The vacancy meant infinite disorder and inconvenience. Without a
patriarch no metropolitans or bishops could be validly consecrated; for
in theory, each of these ought to be “confirmed” at Seleucia, before
exercising his office. In the East also all the important business of a
subject melet passes through its patriarch’s hands, in that he
is the recognized intermediary between his people and the Government.
To lose the patriarch is to lose at once the main embodiment of unity,
and the most important safeguard against official oppression. The
Eastern, too, depends on authority; and a prolonged vacancy in the
patriarchate means to him, in the religious sphere, all that a
prolonged vacancy in the Papacy would mean to a devout Roman Catholic;
with this addition–that he is deprived also of the principal security
of his civil life.

Of course, a “stop-gap” of some sort had to be provided; though
probably nothing was done at first, as all would wait on time and
chance, oriental fashion, and hope that in one way~ or another the
difficulty would be removed. Ultimately, two men came to act as
“vekils” of the non-existent patriarch, the more important of the two
being Babai the Great, abbot of the monastery of Mount Izla, who was
nominated inspector-general of the monasteries of the three northern
provinces by the Metropolitans of Nisibis, B. Garmai, and Adiabene.325 This office
gave a good
reason for itinerating, even if it had been easy for the most
suspicious official to check the pilgrimages of a wandering monk; and
Babai, though not a bishop, acted as patriarch in all ecclesiastical
matters as far as authority went, though of course he could not ordain
or consecrate, and was absolutely unrecognized by the Government.

Possibly it was not unprofitable that the Church should be taught
that the exercise of spiritual authority did not depend on the
possession of a firman from the King.

In the south, Aba, Archdeacon of Seleucia, did much the same work;
for which he was qualified by the fact of his previous office, which
had made him a sort of oculus patriarchae. In theory, the
Bishop of Kashkar had the right to act as holder of the office during
any vacancy to the Catholicate,326
but in this particular case nobody seems to have thought of relying
upon him.

Meantime the great Roman war of Chosroes was in full progress; and
the Persians were marching from victory to victory in that astonishing
series of triumphs which so nearly brought the Empire of Constantinople
to an end. Already in 6o8, Daras, Edessa, Hierapolis, had all fallen.
In 6og, the loss of Erzerum (Theodosiopolis) opened the road from
Persian Armenia into Pontus; and a year later Antioch had fallen, while
Persian cavalry were raiding right up to Chalcedon and the Bosphorus.
All power seemed to have gone from the empire. Not only was it the case
that the invaded provinces (which were largely Monophysite) had no
loyalty for a Chalcedonian; but the ruffian Phocas apparently devoted
all his energy to the discovery of plots, and had none to spare for
opposing the enemies of his country; and probably no one had much
desire to do anything under his leadership. In 61o he was got
rid of, Heraclius taking his place; but the war, of course, did not
come to an end; though it was probably about this time that Chosroes
abandoned the transparent fiction that he was fighting in the cause of
the boy Emperor Theodosius. His invasion, too, was no mere raid, like
those of so many of his predecessors. If his grandfather had carried
off the inhabitants of the provinces, he would have the provinces
themselves; and the fact that he built himself a great and most
magnificent palace in his new dominions327
shows how little intention he had of ever abandoning them.

The years 611 and 612 saw a pause in the military operations. The
Roman Empire was helpless; and Heraclius (who seems to have accumulated
energy for the doing of great deeds during long periods of inertia) was
for the time content with having destroyed Phocas, and did nothing
against the Persians. On the Persian side the reasons for inactivity
are unknown; but the period saw a curious episode in the history of the
two rival schools of Christianity in the country.

In the year 612, after four years of vacancy, a fresh effort was
made to get leave for the election of a Catholicos. Chosroes was
apparently not unfavourable to the idea; for the absence of any
official head of the melet had its inconveniences from the
Government point of view, and it seemed not improbable that the request
would be granted. The Monophysites, however, who of course had profited
largely by the confusion among their rivals (though it is to be noted
that their strength lay rather among the monks than the clergy or
laity), set on foot a rival intrigue, of which Gabriel the Drustbedh
and Shirin (who appears to have been now completely under his
influence) were the chiefs. The object was328
to get the petition for the granting of a patriarch duly conceded; but
to get the appointment put into the hands of Gabriel. It was a bold bid
for the capture of the hierarchy; for of course Gabriel’s nominee would
have been a staunch Monophysite, and during his term of office men of
that colour only would have been promoted. The Church would have been
made Monophysite (outwardly at any rate) for the time being, in much
the same fashion as portions of it have been made Roman Catholic in a
later age by the giving of bishops and clergy of the complexion desired
to a laity that was ignorant and had only an instinctive attachment to
the faith of their fathers.

The project became known, and the whole Church was horror-struck at
the prospect. Petitions were sent in to the court, declaring that the
course proposed would bring trouble and confusion in every province of
the empire (as indeed would probably have been the case), and begging
to be allowed a man, if not of their own choice, at least of their own
Church. It was in the north, under Babai’s influence and leadership,
that the agitation was strongest; or at least we have more information
on the point as far as that district is concerned; and here it was
decided to send a deputation of bishops to the court, to press the
matter. The men chosen were the metropolitans of Adiabene and B.
Garmai, Jonadab and Shubkha l’Maran; and at their request the Rabban
Giwergis, the convert from Magianism and opponent of Khenana, was
associated with them, both as a theologian and as a man of experience
in the ways of courts. On their arrival at court,329 Christian habitues of the
capital gave a most discouraging account of the prospects. “The horn of
the heretics was exalted,” and it would be wiser to let the request for
a Catholicos drop, and to wait for better times. This course, under the
influence of Giwergis, the deputation refused to adopt-and rightly, for
to withdraw then would have been to give up the matter; and to
acquiesce (or at least to be understood as acquiescing) in the
appointment of a nominee of Gabriel’s, who would have been consecrated
by Monophysite bishops.

Accordingly, their petition for leave to proceed to an election was
duly sent in, by the hand of a courtier of the name of Farukan; but was
met with the reply, “Before allowing you to make any choice, we must
see whether your faith is the correct Christianity or no.” The idea of
a public discussion, before either the King himself or his
representative, was started somehow (our two authorities differ as to
the original author of it) and was taken up by the King with an
oriental’s interest in religious problems. The two claimants to the
name of Christian should argue their case before him. Both sides
prepared for the struggle, neither realizing in the very least, as far
as we can see, that they were presenting perhaps the most melancholy
and unedifying spectacle to the whole mournful history of oriental
Christianity. Two varieties of Christians, disputing publicly about the
sublimest mysteries of their common faith, not for truth’s sake but
frankly for controversial victory. The umpire a Zoroastrian, who
despised both melets about equally (regarding both as the
allies of his enemy), and who was no doubt delighted to get the two
objectionable parties together, and to set them fighting. The prize,
that the Christian victor should have the right to set that pagan power
persecuting and oppressing the Christian vanquished. Is any feature
lacking to complete the justification for the sneering amusement with
which every enemy of the Cross there present must have regarded the
scene? Thackeray has imagined the one complete parallel to the
situation that we can remember–the scene in “Vanity Fair” where the
infidel Lord Steyne sets his son’s tutor and his wife’s confessor to
argue against one another after dinner for his amusement.

Further, though we know of no other case in which Christian shame
was thus paraded (though an instance or two might be found in India), a
bitterer sting is given to the story by the reflection that this was no
passing episode, however disgraceful, but was the epitome of the
history of oriental Christianity. Mussulman rule exists by Christian
divisions; and every Moslem knows it, and knows too that he need not
fear for its continuance. If the Crescent has displaced the Cross on
St. Sophia and many another noble fane, it was because the supporters
of the holier emblem deserved nothing else; and the Crescent will not
be removed until that lesson has been thoroughly learned.

The two sets of representatives (the Dyophysite party consisting of
the men named above) met at the appointed place.330
Jonadab and Giwergis handed in a confession of faith drawn up by the
latter, which still remains. It is remarkable as being the first
official occasion of the employment of the present Christological
formula, which the Church in question uses to this day, acknowledging
in our Lord “two natures, two qnumi and one parsopa.”
Coupled with the confession was a reiteration of the request for the
election of a patriarch; and-one notes with regret-an expression of
hope that, now that the Shah-in-Shah had subdued the whole Roman
Empire, he would impose the confession of this faith on all his
new subjects!331
If the
Church of “the East” has not disgraced her history by “acts of faith”
like those that we associate with Smithfield and like places, one must
own that she has been saved that shame by her lack of power to
persecute, rather than by any lack of will to do so!

The confession was countered by the presentation of three questions,
suggested apparently by the King, and all three of them showing an
entire lack of any real grasp of the theological questions at issue–a
defect which is also apparent in the answers given to them from the
Dyophysite side. Thus, it was asked–

I. Is the Blessed Virgin Mary “Mother of God”332
or “Mother of Man”?

The two terms, it will be seen, were regarded as mutually exclusive.

II. Which is the elder party, and which separated from which?

Again, the thought of there being a common stock, from which both
had separated, was a thing that neither could admit. The ignoring, by
both parties, of the existence of “Chalcedonianism,” is one of the
noteworthy features of the wrangle.

III. Were there any, before the days of Nestorius, who taught “two
natures and two qnumi“?

The thought of the possible rise of new controversies was, to all
seeming, strange to both again.

Consideration of the theological question we reserve for another
chapter, only remarking that in this dispute we. have
exemplifed to the full the method of controversy we have referred to
above; viz. the absence of any effort to enter into the position of an
opponent, and to do justice to the elements of truth that it contains.
The opponent has to be proved wrong; usually by the use of a
reductio ad absurdum
line of argument–eminently calculated
to annoy by its injustice. He is to be treated as an enemy; not as an
estranged friend who may be won back. Similarly, neither side has any
doubt whatever as to the applicability of logic to the question, or of
the adequacy of human terms to express superhuman mysteries.

Of course, on these terms, no agreement was reached. And, equally of
course, each set of disputants was convinced that their opponents had
been pulverized, and only wondered at the failure of those opponents to
see the same. Thus there ended an exhibition deplorable in itself; but
important in the history of the Assyrian Church, in that it marks, not
indeed their separation from the Church of Constantinople (that
question, as we have seen, did not arise in any formal way), but the
adoption of a terminology different from both the “Jacobite” and
“Melkite” usages. The official use of the familiar catchword “two qnumi
and one parsopa,” the official repudiation of the term “Yaldath Alaha”
(the nearest Syriac rendering of Theotokos), and the official
acceptance of the term “Nestorian” as a term descriptive of the
Assyrian Church, all date from this gathering. The sense in which the
terms were accepted or rejected is a matter which must receive separate
discussion. But, historically, we may date the formal separation of the
Assyrian Church from both the other great theological divisions of
eastern Christianity, as commencing from the year 612; so far, that is,
as a process so gradual and informal can be attached to any date at

It would be more true to say that we can see that the process has
begun at the time of Dad-Ishu’s council in 424; and that we can see
that it is complete by 640, when Sahdona was excommunicated. We have
endeavoured to trace the various changes of relative position, and to
emphasize the utter impossibility of fitting the relations of the two
independent bodies into any cut-and-dried theory of ecclesiastical.
correctness in the previous chapters.

The very late date of the completion of the process must be noted.
It was not consummated, it will be observed, until the period of the
great Mussulman conquests. And it is largely the existence of political
and physical obstacles created thereby, that has made the closing of
the breach impossible.

The conference ended, and the disputants separated; but no answer
was given either way to the petition for a patriarch, and the matter
remained in suspense. Perhaps Chosroes had had his amusement in the
theological prize-fight that had been exhibited before him, and that
was all that he wanted. More probably, he was really in doubt as to
what to do-willing enough to give pleasure to his two favourites,
Shirin and Gabriel; but yet realizing that to do so would mean a
disturbance on which he had not quite calculated. Thus both parties
were kept dangling about the court for some months, until in fact the
approach of the summer heats brought the usual migration to “the

That, under these circumstances, trouble should arise between the
two was inevitable; but it was not until the court had reached B. Lapat
that it came to a head. Near that city was one of the three monasteries
that Chosroes had built to please Shirin-that of Mar Sergius.333 Hitherto it
had been in
Dyophysite hands (this is one of several pieces of evidence that Shirin
had been only gradually won over, probably by Gabriel, to favour the
opposite party); and now Gabriel proposed to turn out its occupants,
and to put it into the hands of his own supporters. Naturally the
“Nestorian” bishops objected to this, and a crowd gathered about the
monastery which defeated the intention of the Drustbedh. In his anger
at the disappointment, he appealed to the King–accusing the bishop,
Shubkha 1’Maran, of intending violence, and laying information against
Giwergis, as an “apostate from Magianism.” This last accusation was, of
course, a deadly weapon in the hands of any one who could bring himself
to use it; for supposing its truth (and in this case it was
undeniable), it meant death to its object. Conversions might be winked
at; but the Magians were only too glad of an opportunity to put the law
in force in any conspicuous case. Gabriel must have known this well
enough, and therefore cannot be acquitted of compassing the murder of
his most formidable opponent. The only extenuating circumstance we are
aware of, is this: the Drustbedh must have known all along that this
weapon was ready to his hand, for Giwergis was a well-known man in the
Church; and yet he had refrained from availing himself of it. The deed
may have been done in a moment of anger-passion roused by the dispute
over the monastery-but it remains one more instance of the fatal
readiness of the oriental to grasp at any means of gratifying the
immediate personal spite.

Giwergis was arrested, accused, and at once admitted the fact. “I
was converted from blasphemy to Christianity in your sixth year.”334 He was flung
into prison;
and a panic naturally spread among the Dyophysites, thus deprived of
their protagonist. They scattered; and there was no more talk of
permission for the election of a patriarch, for the bishops were glad
enough to save themselves; and a panic, reflected in contemporary
letters, spread through the Church.

As a matter of fact, their defeat was not as complete as they
feared. If they had failed utterly to get a patriarch of their own,
they had at least defeated the daring attempt of the Monophysites to
capture the hierarchy by the appointment of a man of their school.
Chosroes seems to have come to the conclusion that the resentment at
such a scheme in the melet was too real and general to make
the thing worth while; so that the desire of his favourites must go
ungratified. Probably the whole affair appeared to him in no more
serious a light. The Monophysites did not press their demand; and the
Dyophysites, fearing that the arrest of Giwergis was but the prelude to
a general persecution, were content to “lie low” under Babai and Aba,
and to wait for the passing of the storm. A metropolitan, Samuel by
name, was consecrated for the Monophysites,335
who were thenceforward practically organized as a distinct melet in
the kingdom.

Giwergis, whose arrest had caused the panic, remained in prison for
fifteen months; so that anywhere but in the Cast, one would have judged
his case forgotten, and his person fairly safe. A Rabban by profession,
he could “do his Rabbanutha” as well in prison as anywhere else. Then,
again in eastern fashion, he was suddenly remembered-brought to
trial-and given his choice between apostasy and martyrdom. Choosing the
latter, he was sentenced to “crucifixion,”336
a penalty which he underwent in the suburbs of Seleucia-Ctesiphon.

Meantime, the war with Rome went on, and the series of Persian
triumphs received no check. Palestine and Jerusalem were conquered; and
the Cross, proudest trophy of all, was carried to Persia and presented
to Shirin. Egypt was overrun-the Monophysite population offering no
resistance to invaders who at least were not Chalcedonians-and a
Persian army was encamped for years at Chalcedon itself. Chosroes had
attained the great ambition of all his house. The Empire of the
Achaemenids was his in all its old extent. But it must be owned that no
witch’s power ever stopped at running water more abruptly than did that
of the Persian at the salt river of the Bosphorus. The greatest prize
of all, though in his sight for years, was never in his grasp.

Heraclius offered almost any concessions as the price of peace; and
it would seem to have been the contemptuous reply sent to him (“Let him
resign his throne and turn Zoroastrian”) that roused him at last by its
sting from his lethargy. After an attempt at flight, he prepared and
delivered his wonderful counterstroke. For six years (622-628) the
armies of the combatants marched to and fro across Persia and Asia
Minor, a period of “Alarums and Excursions” in which there is no Church
history to record, till all the world was utterly weary of war.
Chosroes alone continued obstinate; refusing all terms of peace, and
ordering the execution of his best general for the crime of failing to
command victory. At last, his subjects turned on him; and the
simultaneous rebellion of that general, Shahr-barz, at Chalcedon, and
of the King’s own son Kobad (or Siroes), at Seleucia, suddenly brought
the fighting to a conclusion. Heraclius, so long the protagonist in the
war, became a mere spectator of the revolutions of his opponents.

In the conspiracy of Kobad against his father, the principal agent
was a Christian, Shamta, the son of Yazdin;337
a man who had private cause for enmity against Chosroes, in that
the King had reduced his house to penury, by the confiscation of the
property of his father. That father had been “farmer-general” of the
taxes of the kingdom, and in his business had amassed, of course, a
huge fortune.338
This the
Shah-in-Shah seized at Yazdin’s death; and Shamta, in revenge, was
easily led to join in the plot of the crown prince. He it was who
secured the person of Chosroes when the time came for action. The King
was, of course, soon put to death–“two kings in a land are
impossible,” was the significant advice given to Kobad by the nobles339–and the most
brilliant of
the Sassanids, whose greatness and whose fall are both so striking,
died as fallen princes die. The prisons of princes are not far from
their graves, particularly in the East. The last words attributed to
him–“the reign of a parricide will be short–“found a grim fulfilment
in the early death of his undutiful son.

Shamta rose to honour, for the moment, for his services; but eastern
kings know better than to trust regicides, even if they profit by them,
and he soon vanished from the scene. In his hour of power, however, he
did a service for his Church, obtaining the new king’s sanction for the
election of a patriarch at last. All the college voted unanimously for
Babai, the unofficial Catholicos, who had borne the burden and heat of
the day, but he declined the honour, and retired to his cell at Mount

The fathers then elected Ishu-yahb II, of Gedala, who no doubt found
full occupation at first in re-organizing the Church, shaken by the
long years of confusion.

The Jacobites had also to organize themselves341
now on a footing of clear and acknowledged separation from the main
body of the Church in Persia. Samuel the metropolitan was seemingly
dead; but the patriarch of Antioch (Athanasius the camel driver) sent a
successor to the East, and the melet was arranged in twelve
bishoprics (the number shows that numerically the sect was not so very
important), which acknowledged the jurisdiction of the metropolitans of
Mar Mattai and Tagrit, both of whom were, and are, subordinate to the
Jacobite patriarch of Antioch. Both “Nestorian” and “Jacobite” Churches
were content to recognize in theory, and in practice to ignore, the
existence of the other; and what both desired was a period of quiet
after the generation of strife, political and ecclesiastical, from
which they had just emerged.



THE subject of this chapter is a matter which is of necessity both
tangled and thorny; but the object which we put before ourselves in
writing it admits of fairly simple statement. This is, first, to
ascertain what was the official teaching of the Assyrian Church on one
particular doctrinal point, from the time of their acceptance of the
Nicene Creed in 410 until the definite crystallization of
their present formula in 612; secondly, to determine, if possible, in
what sense they intended the technical terms then adopted to be used.

The doctrinal point in question is, of course, their
Christology=’their conceptions of the relations between the divine and
the human in Christ; and we have to study the development of the
formula in which they express their ideas and its meaning.

Practically, the question begins with their acceptance of the Nicene
Creed in 410; and their acceptance with it of the results of western
philosophical thought on the great problem up to the date of Nicaea. We
may regret that it was impossible that an eastern Christianity could
not be left to work at, and express its feelings about these subjects,
in its own way. Had such a thing been possible, Christianity might in
due time have been presented–e.g. to Brahminical and Buddhist
thinkers–without the western trappings of which we cannot free it even
in thought, and which do apparently constitute an obstacle to those
thinkers. They are no more an “encumbrance” to us than is his
power-driven lathe, with all its gear of belts and “chucks,” an
encumbrance to an English mechanic. Yet that admirable machine is a
very real nuisance to a workman who, squatting on the ground, works a
primitive lathe with “bow and string.” Similarly, the framework of
western thought is an encumbrance to minds cast in a different mould
from ours. An oriental can learn to use an English lathe, of course;
but he does not turn out with it work of English quality–nor would the
Englishman, with oriental tools.

Thus for the Assyrians, the fact that they could not be left to work
out their own theological salvation under the God who worked in them no
less than in St. Athanasius and St. Basil was a misfortune. They never
really grasped the theological philosophy of the West; and one of the
causes of the separation was really this–that an oriental doing his
theological thinking in Greek terms is David in Saul’s armour. Saul’s
armour may be very good for Saul, but other weapons serve another
better. The attempt was made to transfer Greek thought to minds of
Semitic and oriental cast; and “thoughts,” says Bishop Westcott,
“cannot be transferred, they must be appropriated.” Still the Greek
terms became the medium in which, for better or worse, the Assyrian
Church had to work after 410.

Previously the only expression of their Christology that we have is
that expressed in the homilies of Afraat; and this ought to be taken as
the expression of an influence tending to modify what was subsequently
accepted, rather than as an official Confession. The Christology of
this writer is very undeveloped; and (as stated above) is. a strong
testimony to the absolute remoteness of the Assyrian Church from all
the quarrels of Nicaea. Afraat’s Christ is described as hardly more
than the “man approved of God”–which St. Luke once described Him as
being; to be “adored” as we “adore” kings, and to be God as Moses was
“a god” unto Pharaoh.342

Elsewhere, it is true, the writer uses language expressing a far
higher idea; and which goes to show that his previous description-true
as far as it went-no more expressed his entire thought of Christ than
does the quotation given express the entire thought of the evangelist.
“God and His Christ, though they are one, yet dwell in many men; and in
their reality are in heaven.”343
a If Some of Afraat’s words suggest Christ as mere man, we may reply
with Browning–

“Could mere man do this? Yet this, Christ saith, He
lived and died to do. Call Christ then the illimitable God.”

Still, whatever Afraat’s conception in his hours of insight, it is
undeniable that the thought of a merely human Christ, which could be
drawn from his works, might readily produce what we know as
“Nestorianism,” when contrasted with developed Trinitarian doctrine-a
doctrine which was not presented to the “easterns” till it was
developed. Thinking of Christ as a supremely great human teacher, they
might think of the Incarnation as a mere association with Him of what
they had recently learnt to call the Second Person of the Trinity. Thus
there was in the East a soil in which Nestorianism might easily spring
up, and in which it probably did often spring up; just as both it and
Monophysitism have often done, in truth, in lands where their
catch-words are strenuously denied.

We give the creed found in Afraat, which is most probably the
original baptismal creed of the Assyrian Church.

I believe in God Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth
and all things therein; who made Adam in His image, gave the Old
Testament to Moses, sent the Spirit on the prophets, and sent Christ
into the world. And 1 believe in the resurrection of the dead, and the
sacrament of baptism.

It is, however, with the acceptance of the Nicene Creed that we
really approach to a “Christological question.”

In 410, as stated, this document was first put in its original form
before the Church, and was accepted ex animo. A confession
which they hold to be the “Creed of the 318,” and which is doctrinally
identical with it, is their confession to-day. In all the strife of
intervening ages they have always held that they continued loyal to the
confession they had always been taught, and that if any changing had
been done others had done it. The belief is at least a testimony to
their hearty acceptance of the new creed.345

In accepting it the Church took for the first time into regular use
a term that bulks largely in her history, the word “Qnuma.” This occurs
to Afraat and Ephraim, but it now first becomes official; and it is
noteworthy that it was adopted in a sense that the West was then
abandoning. In the translation of the Nicene Creed Qnuma stands for ,
which is there (as is well known) equivalent to . Already, however, in
the West this word was coming to mean (in common use) “person,” not
“substance” or “subsistence”; and seventy years later the “East” had so
far followed suit that the Assyrian Church was speaking of “three
Qnumi” in the Trinity. The older usage, however, so far persisted as to
be still in official use in 585;346
and thus an important technical term, while in use both in East and
Nest, was developing in both, but was not developing on the same
lines-a fact that was to be fruitful of misunderstanding.

Time passed; the Christological controversy definitely extended
itself into the “East,” and several official Confessions composed in
the glare of it were put forward. Bar-soma’s is the first of these in
date, but its repudiation and destruction have spared us the problem of
determining on its character; and the first of its kind to survive is
that put forward by Acacius in 486. We append it here, and take the
opportunity of repeating our opinion concerning it–viz. that though it
is pronouncedly “Dyophysite,” and composed (probably with design) in
terms that a “Nestorian” could accept, it is to itself orthodox, and it
was judged so to be by Constantinopolitan prelates of the day. The
strongest point against it appears to be that its writer (alone among
the series of writers who composed this collection of formal documents)
uses the term “Parsopa” in another passage in the sense of

Confession of Acacius, 486. S. O.,
54, 302.

The faith of us all should be, in one confession of
one divine Nature in three perfect Qnumi; one true and eternal Trinity
of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; the confession by which heathenism is
conquered ‘and Judaism is rebuked. Further, concerning the ‘
of Christ, our faith ought to be in the confession of two natures of
Godhead and Manhood; and let no one of us venture to introduce mixture,
confusion or commixture into the diversities of these two Natures,
seeing that the Godhead remains unchanged in its own characteristics,
and the Humanity in its own; and we join the diversities of the two
Natures in one majesty and adoration, because of the perfect and
inseparable 348
that existed between the Godhead and Manhood.

If any one thinks, or teaches others, that suffering
or change can attach themselves to the Godhead of the Lord, or if he
does not keep to the confession of perfect God and perfect Man in the
unity of the Person (Parsopa) of our redeemer, let him be anathema.

After the time of Acacius there is no official
Confession published for seventy years. This period, however, or at
least the early part of it, is the time when Narses flourished; and we
therefore give a series of extracts from the writings of that important
theologian, premising, however, that his homilies–be they good or
evil-are not an official Confession of his Church, any more than (for
instance) those of Latimer or Ridley are of the Church of England.

MIMRA X. 91.

One is the Word, begotten of the
Father, without beginning, And one the Manhood, of Adam’s humanity.

Two in Nature, “essential being” and
humanity complete, One Son of God in honour and power.

The Son of God is one in Person,349
though not
so in Nature, Essential being abides, and man is man, and the two are

Hidden is the mystery of one Person,
of essential being and

MIMRA X. 145.

The power that framed man chose one
man from among men,

And gave Him power to reconcile all
with all.

MIMRA X. 267.

Said Cyril, “Why does he not call Mary
‘Mother of the Godhead ‘?”

She who bore essential being in
fleshly wise, in that He became flesh.

MIMRA X. 414.

Blame the evangelists, if blame you

For their books express the
distinction of the Word and the Body.

Nay, even our Lord lies under their

Who showed in His body the print of
nails and smiting spear.

He and His disciples made the
distinction manifest, Declaring the nature of essential being, and the
nature of man.

They separated them, that their order
might be clear, They gathered them, in the unity of the Person.

The Evangelists proclaim one Person,
of the Word and the Body.

MIMRA x. 437.

The Photinians declare the divine
Three to be one Person.


When then was come the fulness of
appointed time, God sent His Son, to come and renew our creation He
came to us mortals, to renew the image defaced, And of our fallen
nature made Him a temple and dwelt therein.


Heretics say: “the Word was.
changed, and became flesh as it is written;

He did not take a body from Mary, but
His Qnuma became flesh.”

It was not that the Word was changed,
and became flesh in His Qnuma,

But the Word clad Himself with flesh,
that in it He might set us mortals free.

It was not that the Word was changed,
but that He took manhood;

The manhood underwent birth, growth,
thirst, hunger, and death in due time.


Let not the reader think, in reading
“Man,” That I mean two Sons, for the Son is one indeed, Equal to the
Father, who in His love to us took perfect manhood

And made it one thing in lordship and
power with Himself. From the time that the Spirit formed Him in the
womb He is Lord and Heir and Ruler, in height and depth alike.


The Word wove the mantle of flesh, to
conceal in it His greatness,

And to show to men in manhood the
image of the greatness,


His will limited itself in it, but His
nature was not limited by it,

He was completely in it by will, by
nature in it and everywhere.

This became the Maker, that He should
not be limited by His work,

For His body was His own work, in
which He willed to dwell.

Without limitation of His nature, He
dwelt in it fully by His will.

But it may be that disputants strive
with words, as is their wont,

” How say you that created and Creator
are one Person?” I say that the temple is created, that the Word
wrought for His abode,

The only-begotten is Creator, who
willed to dwell in His own work.

As Soul and Body together are called
one Person, The Soul the immortal nature, the Body the mortal, and they
are called one Person, these distinct two;

So with the Word, essential being, and
the body and nature of man,

The one created, the other Creator,
they are one in union. The soul is enclosed in the body, yet is its
activity without the body;

The body is in one place, the motions
of the soul are unconfined;

So the Word. dwelt in the body, and
was in the height and depth,

His manhood was limited, His Godhead
was everywhere. The Soul suffers not in the body, when its limbs are

And the Godhead suffered not, when
that body suffered, in which it dwelt.

If the soul suffers not, which is
created, like the body, How should Godhead suffer, that is by nature
impassible? The soul suffers with the body, in love and not by nature,
And the sufferings of the body are by figure attributed to the soul.

We believe these extracts to be fairly
representative of the teaching of this writer. That
passages of them are what we mean by Nestorian–or at least
are very capable of bearing that interpretation–is an undeniable fact;
and if it be asserted that the whole mind of the writer should be
interpreted by them we do not see how to disprove the charge.

Personally, however, we prefer to take
a more charitable line, and to interpret the bad by the good, rather
than vice versa; to accept as expressing the writer’s
intention his own exposition of the figure contained in the Quicunque
–“as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God
and Man is one Christ.”

Narses was, of course, a
controversialist. He conceived that an important side of the truth (the
absolute reality of the humanity of our Lord) was denied; and lie was
probably right in that belief. If he used unfortunate expressions, and
overstated the truth he meant to guard (as in some cases he certainly
did), we need not defend him; and, after all, he is one writer, not the
Church. One thing we may point out in fairness. We do not think that
any expressions we have found in Narses are more emphatically
“Nestorian” (or at least what would be called so in any other writer)
than those in the De Incarnatione of St. Athanasius of

Further, it may be well for us to
remember that in his insistence on the need of emphasizing the absolute
reality of the humanity of Christ, Narses was fighting no imaginary
danger. He was in controversy with men who denied the humanity in
terms; and asserted one nature, and that a Divine one. If the mistaken
reverence which prompted the Monophysite idea, with its tendency to
deny the true humanity of our Lord, was verbally defeated at Chalcedon,
yet that thought in a measure victores captivos cepit. Both in
East and West, as we use the terms, the conception of Christ as Alaster
and Exemplar faded away more and more before the conception of Him as
God and judge; while the natural craving of humanity for a divine
Friend-a craving which Christ came to satisfy led to the practical
substitution of another figure for His in that capacity. We may add
that owing to this current of thought another side of divine truth has
remained unexplored as yet–viz. that expressed in the tremendous words
of St. Athanasius, “He became Man, that we might become God.”

Of course it cannot be asserted that
Assyrian theologians ever progressed on the path they had open before
them; but we, too, must admit that in the West we have not given its
due proportion (in fact, not in word) to the truth they have so
steadfastly asserted, and which gave them their strength -the truth,
that is, of the absolute reality of the humanity of Christ.

If, as some hold, we are working our
way towards a better synthesis of theological truths than we have yet
attained, in the new lights on man and matter which science has
revealed, we may yet come to feel that we owe Assyrians a debt for the
testimony that they have borne.

After Acacius, the next authoritative
exposition is that of Mar Elba (S. O., 541, 551). This, however,
is an explanation of the Creed for unlearned men only, and is too
lengthy to transcribe. It is emphatic on the point that Christ is God
and Man, and that He is One. But, save that it speaks of the Qnumi of
the Trinity, it uses no technical terms. The worst that can be said of
it is that it is somewhat indefinite on the point under

We may now pass on to the series of
official Confessions, which, following one another in quick succession,
lead us to the crucial year 612. Those. that is to say, of Joseph,
Ezekiel, Ishu-yabh, Sabr-Ishu and Gregory.

554, S. O., 98, 335.

Before all else, we
guard our Confession of the two natures of Christ, that is to say, of
His Godhead and His Manhood; we guard the characteristics of the
natures, and we repudiate the existence in them of any kind of
confusion, disturbance, change or mutation; we guard, too, the number
of three Qnumi in the Trinity, and we confess, in one true and
unspeakable Unity, one true Son of one God, the Father of truth.

If any one thinks or
says that there are two Christs or two Sons, or in any wise or for any
reason, introduces a” Quaternity,” we have anathematized and do
anathematize him.

576. S. O., 113, 372.

God * * in the last
days * * * spoke to us in His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, in Whom were
revealed afresh the glorious Qnumi of the Father, and of Himself, and
of the Holy Spirit. * * * He was abased of His own free will for the
redemption of our nature, that had grown old and worn in the works of
sin; and He tool: it, inseparably, a perfect temple, to be the
dwelling-place of His Godhead, of Mary the Holy Virgin.

He was conceived and
born of her by the power of the highest, Christ incarnate, to be
acknowledged and confessed in two natures, God and Man, one Son. In
Hint the old age of our nature was renewed, and the debt of our race
paid, in the robe of His manhood, by His acceptance of suffering and
the death of the Cross.

585. S. O., 194, 453.

The same Christianity
teaches us, by the Holy Spirit, through the Apostle, of the revelation
of God the Word, and of His dispensation in the body, and of His
incarnation, that came to pass for us men and for our salvation, and
for the renewal and reformation of all creation. Because of the great
love with which He loved us, He departed from the bosom of the Father,
of His own free will, not of necessity; and came into the world and was
in the world; and as it is written, that which was invisible was
manifested is the flesh. “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.”
He became, but was not changed; He who is in the form of God emptied
Himself, and took the form of a servant; He took, but did not increase
Himself, for both in the “becoming” and in the “taking” His essence
remained without change, and without increase. Jesus Christ the Son of
God, God the Word, Light of Light, came down and was incarnate and was
made man, “economically” without transference or change. Jesus Christ
our Lord, God, He who was begotten of the Father before all worlds in
His Godhead, was in the last days born in the flesh of Mary; ever
Virgin, the same, but not in the same. The Word became flesh in
inseparable unity, and dwelt among us. * * * * Jesus Christ, the Son of
God, God above all, begotten in His Godhead eternally of the Father,
without Mother, He the same but not in the same, was born in His manhood
of a mother without Father, in the last days. He suffered in the
flesh, was crucified, died and was buried, under Pontius Pilate, and
rose from the dead the third day. Christ, the Son of God, suffered in
flesh, the same. In the nature of His Godhead, Christ the Son of God is
above suffering; Jesus Christ is both passible and impassible, the
Creator of the world, and the endurer of suffering. He who was rich,
for our sakes became poor; God the Word endured the humiliation of
suffering, in the temple of His body, “economically,” in the lofty and
inseparable union, though in the nature of His Godhead He did
not suffer.

596. S. O., 198, 458.

We believe firmly,
according to the letter and spirit of the scriptures, and the
traditions of the Holy Fathers, in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only
begotten Son of God, Who before the foundation of the world was
begotten in His Godhead spiritually, without mother, and in the last
days was born of the 14oly Virgin in fleshly wise, without union. with
man, by the power of the Holy Ghost. In His Godhead, He is eternal, and
in His Manhood, of Mary one true

Son of God. He in the
nature of His manhood, endured for our sake suffering and death, and by
the power of His Godhead, He raised up His body uncorrupt on the third
day, and has promised us resurrection from the dead, ascension into
heaven, and life of the world to come that passeth not away.

605. S. O., 209, 473.

One eternal nature,
recognized in three Qnumi, which, by means of the first-fruits of our
nature, wrought the deliverance and renewal of our race, for the “form
of God.” according to the word of the apostle, took the “form of
servant,” and in Him was completed and consummated the exalted
dispensation of our redemption. He who was the form of God in the form
of servant is the one Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, by whom all things
were made, perfect God and perfect Man, perfect God in the nature of
His Godhead, perfect man in the nature of His manhood, Godhead and
manhood keeping their characteristics, and being united in the true
unity of the one Person of the Son Christ. The Godhead perfected the
Manhood by suffering, as it is written, but neither suffering change,
nor mutation, in any wise touched the Godhead.

of Bishops, 612. S. O., 565, 582.

Thus for us men and for
our salvation, the Son of God, the Word, came into the world without
removing from His Father, and was in the world, that yet was made by
His hands. And, because it was not possible f6r created natures to see
the glorious nature of the Godhead, He formed for Himself, in wondrous
wise, a temple from the very nature of the race of Adam, from the
Virgin Mary. That temple was fashioned without human intercourse in the
order of nature, and He clothed Himself with it, and united Himself
with it, and in it revealed Himself to the world. * * Because of the
wonderful connection and inseparable union that there was, from the
first moment of conception, between the human nature that was assumed,
and God the Word that assumed it, we are taught henceforward to
recognize one Person of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten
of His Father in the nature of His Godhead without beginning, before
the world was, and born of the holy Virgin, the daughter of David, in
the nature of His manhood, in these last days.

* * * * * * *

Of the one nature it is
written that “He took,” and of the other that “it was taken.” Thus, it
is impossible to confuse the characteristics of the natures, for it is
not possible that the Taker should be the Taken, or that that which was
taken should be the taker. It is possible that God the Word should be
manifested in the flesh that He put on, and that His human nature
should be visible to the world in the order of Manhood, one Son of God
in inseparable union. This we have learnt and hold.

It is not possible that
Godhead should be converted into Manhood, or Manhood into Godhead, for
essential being is not capable of change or suffering; and if Godhead
be changed, it is not a revelation, but an alteration of Godhead; and
if Manhood be taken out of its nature, it is not the redemption, but
the destruction of Manhood. That is why we believe with our heart and
confess with our lips One Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, whose
Godhead was not concealed, neither was His Manhood spirited away, but
Who is perfect God and perfect Man.

When we call Christ
“perfect God,” we do not mean the Trinity, but one of the Qnumi of the
Trinity, God the Word. And when we call Christ perfect Klan, we do not
mean all men, but that one “Qnuma” that was visibly taken for our
salvation into unity with God the Word. Thus our Lord Jesus Christ,
begotten in His Godhead eternally of the Father, was in the last days
born in His manhood of the Holy Virgin.


And we are taught
clearly that His Manhood ascended into heaven, and that the Qnuma of
His Manhood was not dissolved or changed, but that it abides in
inseparable unity with His Godhead, in the supreme glory; and in it He
will appear, in His last manifestation from heaven, to shame those that
crucified Him, and to the glory of those that believe in Him.

A study of this series of official
Confessions, issued by the Assyrian Church up to the year 612, shows
that the adoption of the Christological formula in present use dates
from that Year. Of this series, the strictest theologian could Hardly
say of the worst that it is worse than indefinite; while from that they
range to one (that of Ishu-yabh) which is orthodox and Catholic, even
on the delicate point of the “Communicatio Idiomatum.”

In 612, however, a new formula is
adopted, “two natures (kiani), two Qnumi, and one Parsopa in Christ”;
and in the light of this change, and the simultaneous repudiation of a
title of the Blessed Virgin which all the rest of the Church declares
to be hers of right, a defender of the Assyrian Church must be prepared
to answer the question, “In what sense was the new form adopted, and
the term Yaldath Alaha rejected?”

The first term of the formula, “two
kiani,” need not detain us. The word is the equivalent of or “nature,”
and, of course, any one who regards the Council of Chalcedon as having
any authority would insist on the phrase as necessary.

The term “Parsopa” ,
requires a little examination.

The author of the Appendix to
Bethune-Baker’s Nestorius and His Teaching, on the Syriac
theological terms declares that in the New Testament and in older
writers this term has always the meaning of “face” or “appearance”; and
in later writers comes to acquire the force of “person.”

As far as the New Testament is
concerned, this is not quite correct. The word is found, so far as we
are aware, about forty times therein;351
but though it is translated “face” on most occasions, it is usually
“face” in the sense of “real presence,” and hence is much nearer to
“person” than to “appearance.”

Typical texts are, “Their angels
behold the face of My Father”; “The light of the knowledge of
the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ” (a text, by the
way, which gives the Assyrians some right to claim scriptural authority
for their use, for the text will certainly bear the sense of “person”);
“To appear before the face of God for us.” While in one case
the word means “person,” in the sense of representative–“For your
sakes forgave I it, in the person of Christ.” We shall have to
notice this curious use of the word elsewhere.

As regards its theological force, a
study of the great series of councils which form the Synodicon
brings some interesting facts to light. First, with the
one exception of the Council of Acacius (486), referred to above, the
term is not used at all of our Lord until quite late in the
history–until, in fact, Ishu-yahb employs it in 585. After 612 it is
used regularly. A whole series of patriarchs, Aba, Joseph, Ezekiel,
Sabr-Ishu, and Ishu-yahb in the exposition quoted, speak of our Lord as
“One,” “one Son,” and the like, but use no technical term for the

Second, during this period the term
“Parsopa” itself is used regularly and frequently in the Synodicon, in
different contexts; and it invariably has the full sense of “person”–a
human individual.

In the whole of this great collection
of official documents, extending over 250 years, and the work of
fourteen different writers, the word is used forty-six times. It is
used in every council except the first two and the last. On twelve
occasions it is used in that theological sense whose force is under
discussion. Once it means “appearance” (in the Council of Acacius, as
stated); and on all of the remaining thirty-three occasions352 it means
clearly and
unmistakably “person.” Such contexts as “the person chosen for
patriarch,” the “persons who brought in duality,” “choose a fit and
proper person,” are the usual position in which it appears; though in
four cases it is used in the sense of “personal representative” or
“vekil,” as in 2 Cor. ii. 10.

The inference appears to be plain. So
long as might be, the Assyrian Church avoided the use of any technical
term for that which no words can describe. When forced by controversy-
to use one, they adopted the word to which a century of habitual and
official use had given the full meaning of “person.”

Similarly, Narses, as we have seen,
and Babai more regularly, employ this word to express the “Persons” of
the Holy Trinity. The use of the last writer is particularly important,
seeing that he, if he did not preside at the gathering where the term
was first used officially, was practically the patriarch of the Church
at the time. Of course Babai, as a general thing, uses the term “Qnuma”
where we should speak of the “Persons ” of the Trinity; and we must
return later to the question of what that word means to him. He uses
“Parsopa,” however, in that sense eleven times,353
which is ample to show that it will fully bear the meaning.

Further, in writers not primarily
theological, like Ishu-yahb III and Thomas of Marga,354 “person” is the ordinary,
though not the invariable, meaning of the word.

Surely we may say that the evidence is
very strong that in the seventh century “Person” was the ordinary force
of the word “Parsopa”; and that very clear proof must be brought that
it was then adopted for theological use in another sense before an
independent Church be condemned for so adopting it.

We can now turn to discuss the
theological meaning of the other term in question, Qnuma. Usually it is
assumed that this means “person”; particularly as it is the general
representative of , and is used regularly (as we have seen) where we
speak of the “Persons” of the Trinity. It is not unfair, perhaps, to
say that because this has been assumed, it has been taken for granted
that “Parsopa” must mean something less, like “appearance.”355

As, however, we have shown that the
ordinary interpretation of “Parsopa” in official use in the seventh
century was “Person,” the presumption is really the other way-that
“Qnuma” is not “Person,” but something else, consistent with its
ordinary “Trinitarian” use. We have now to see what that something else
maybe. Before approaching the question, however, we should like to
enter a caveat against the general impression that because “Qnuma” is
the general representation of “Hypostasis,” it therefore responds to
every shift of meaning in the tangled history of that perplexing word.
The one word is not a translation of the other by any means, as
“kiana,” for instance; may be said to be of . The relation of the two
words may best be expressed by the figure of two circles which cut one
another but have different centres. More or less of the two fields
included in the two circumferences coincide, but by no means the whole.
vado1ravts is the inward reality which underlies the outward
appearance; the word looks, as it were, from outward to inward. “Qnuma”
is the specialization of that which is common to many; it looks from
the abstract to the concrete.

Bethune-Baker’s Appendix points out
that, in general use, “Qnuma” means “self”; and would be represented in
Greek by , or some one of its compounds. With this we fully agree; and
where it appears in the New Testament the word does, as a rule,
translate that pronoun,356
though, of course, it is not by any means its exclusive rendering. In
non-theological writers, such as Ishu-yahb in his letters, or the “Acta
Sanctorum,” would be almost invariably the Greek rendering of
it. The same Appendix points out that in Ephraim the word means
“subsistence” or “reality”; and that Babai defines it as being “the
specialization of ,” “the set of natural characteristics,” as they
exist in the individual.357
It is obvious that these three senses, “self,” “reality,” and “set of
attributes,” melt very readily into one another.

Still the question must be faced, even
if these are the original senses, What is its force in the
Christological controversy? Particularly in the light of the fact that,
if it be not “person,” it is at least used where we use that word.

Here we may refer to two contemporary
authorities-Babai, the man who was practically patriarch of the Church
at the time when the phrase “two Qnumi” was adopted, and who, either
then or a little later, explained his own tenets in an elaborate
treatise; and Ishu-yahb, afterwards third patriarch of that name, and
in 612 Bishop of Mosul.

Babai we have referred to above; and
it is obvious that if the term “Qnuma” be kept to its meaning of “set
of natural characteristics,” nobody who accepts the Tome of Leo as of
authority could deny “two ‘Qnumi’ in Christ.” Of course writers do not
always keep to that use, nor does Babai himself always do so; but in
his formula, as given, we have the explanation of the term given by the
theologian more responsible than any other for its introduction. The
inference that it was adopted in his sense seems almost irresistible.

Another point may be brought forward
to show in what sense Babai used the word. This writer is very fond of
quoting Hebrews i. 3, , where (as is well known) is
equivalent to , and is rendered in the Pshitta by “Ithutha,” “essence.”
In his work he quotes this passage eleven times–six times correctly,
five times with the substitution of “Qnumaö for “Ithutha.” It
would thus seem that to the writer who introduced “two Qnumi,” “Qnuma”
and “Ithutha” were almost synonyms, and may be rendered respectively
“subsistence” and “essence.”358

From Babai we turn to Ishu-yahb; but
as we have to deal with this writer in the next chapter, we may be
content here with one brief quotation, sufficient to show in what sense
that writer accepted “Qnuma” theologically.

“‘Qnuma’ has the meaning of
naturehood, , kianutha,
and that meaning only.
It stands steadfast in the simple expression of that essential meaning,
and all that we mean by ‘naturehood’ is demonstrably included in it. It
does not admit of subtraction from, or addition to its meaning.”359

To these two writers, then-the two
writers of eminence in the Assyrian Church at the time in
question–“Qnuma” most certainly, if words mean anything at all, meant
something different from what we mean by “person”–something much more
like what we mean by “subsistence,” “mode of being,” “set of
characteristics.” Thus we see how they can speak of three “Qnumi” in
the Trinity, and two “Qnumi” in Christ; of three “Parsopi” in the
Trinity, and one “Parsopa” in Christ.

Of course the phrase has its dangers.
It is orthodox or not according to the intent of the user; and can be
misinterpreted, as can most other phrases; the “one nature incarnate”
of St. Cyril is a case very much in point. There is an interpretation
of “two Qnumi” which is as Nestorian as words can well be. “Take its
ordinary sense of . No Catholic would deny, we imagine, and many
Monophysites would admit, that Christ is , which would in
Syriac be, , alaha
b’qnumeh o’barnasha b’qnumeh,
there is an interpretation of two that is Nestorian enough.

That, in adopting this formula, the
Assyrian Church adopted a formula verbally different from that of the
Greeks is clear enough. That in clinging to it they intentionally clung
to something different from the Greek use is clear also. Did they, in
so doing, intend to deny what the Greeks intended to affirm-namely, the
true Divinity, the true Humanity, and the true Personal Unity of the
God-Man? This we do not believe to have been the case. We know by their
own statements that they did not understand what the Greeks affirmed,
and in their attacks upon them fought a shadow of their own creation;
and we believe that under and by means of their different expressions
each party asserted a doctrine identical with Catholic truth, even
though neither would believe it of the other.

We have now done what we set out to
do. We have shown how and when the Assyrian Church adopted her
Christological formula; and what the technical words of it meant to
those under whose influence it was adopted. That others, both before
and after, may have used them in a less desirable sense may be true
enough, but is nothing to the purpose. Have writers to the Church of
England never read a Calvinist sense into Catholic formulae; and do we
consider the Church of England bound by that which every one of her
sons has written?

When the formulae used by an
independent, auto-cephalous Church will bear a Catholic sense; and when
there is no convincing evidence that it was imposed in another sense;
surely that independent Church has the right to use it. In this case
all the evidence available tends to shoe= that the Church adopted the
formula in a sense (to use no stronger expression) that a Catholic
could accept. Is not this sufficient to secure that unitatem in
outside whose bounds we of the Church of England allow
to others that libertatem that we use so amply ourselves?

There is, however, another point of
theological importance which was first raised officially in 612, and
which must be discussed before the question is quitted–viz. the
rejection by the Assyrian Church of the term “Yaldath Alaha,” the
Syriac rendering of .

Up to the date mentioned the Church
had, as far as we know, taken no official attitude towards this term.
Narses had discussed and rejected it, as being nothing but “Mother of
the Godhead”; and at the 612 gathering it was more or less definitely
repudiated, the general feeling concerning it being (and remaining to
this day) practically that expressed by Narses.

In discussing the question we must
point out that “Yaldath Alaha” is no satisfactory rendering of the
Greek word, though admittedly the best available. Most Western thinkers
would admit, we believe, a difference of nuance between
“Deipara” or and “Mater Dei,” even if their theological intent be
proved identical; and some who disliked the last term would have no
objection to the first two. The term “Yaldath Alaha,” however, is
harder for an Assyrian than is “Mater Deiö for an Englishman; for
it suggests almost inevitably “Alater Deitatis,” and even “Mater
Trinitatis,” seeing that “Alaha” is the name common to all three
Persons of the Holy Trinity.

The fact that this objection is
sometimes urged captiously ought not to blind us to the truth that it
is really felt by one who does his thinking in Syriac. Nothing is
harder than to realize all that a word one knows in an acquired
language may suggest to one to whom the language is his mother tongue.

Further, if “Yaldath Alaha” has to an
Assyrian an objectionable ring that has not to the Western, his term
“Mother of Christ” has a far higher force than the Greek . “Christ” to
him (though his word “Mshikha” is etymologically identical with the
Greek) is the word which stands, not for the Messiah-King of prophecy,
but for the union of the two natures-the God-Alan. Babai is never weary
of asserting this fact.

It would be rash to assert that
“Yaldath Mshikha” to an Assyrian implies all that does to a Western;
but at least they are far nearer to one another than European thought
would lead one to expect. Thus when the term “Mother of God” was put
before them in 612, their answer to the Monophysites was, “why not
‘Mother of Christ’? ‘Yaldath Alaha’ and ‘Yaldath Barnasha’ (‘Mother of
God’ and ‘Mother of the Man or Manhood’) are alike objectionable; for
the first omits, and may be taken as denying, the humanity; and the
second fails adequately to recognize the divinity of our Redeemer. If
one be admitted, the other ought to be admitted too; but why not be
content with the term that expresses both natures?”360 Some of their arguments
have a captious and unpleasant ring, as, for instance–“Christ, qua
God, existed from all eternity; Christ, qua Man, took being
of Mary; why refuse to call her the Mother of that which took being of
her, and insist on calling her Mother of that which did not so take
being?” Or again, and worse–” You only insist on calling the Virgin ‘
Mother of God’ in our desire to attribute suffering to the Divinity.”

Still it is important to notice that
Babai, in his treatise, expressly and repeatedly admits the lawfulness
of the term if it be properly guarded, and we transcribe one of these,

Babai, “De Unione,”
Mimra VII, Head xxii. p. 242. (See also p. 236.) It is just and right
and proper that Mary should be called “Mother of Christ,” for that is
the name that shows that there was one Person of unity, who in His
human nature was of her nature, and in His Godhead, not of her nature.
But seeing that from the first moment of the conception of the Manhood
of our Lord, that He took from her, God the Word dwelt in it
temple-wise and unitedly, and made it with him one Son eternally, we do
say that she was thus “Mother of God” and “Mother of the Manhood.”
Mother of the Manhood by nature; Mother of God, in that He was united
to His manhood from the first moment of its conception; and it is His
temple eternally, and He is God and Man unitedly, one Son, one Christ.

It will be noted that this writer
accepts the word in a force identical, and in terms practically
identical, with those of the Concordat between Cyril and John of
Antioch, made in 433 (the Epistle “Laetantur Coeli”)-a document which
Cyril accepted as being, for him, equivalent to the acceptance of the
Council of Ephesus. Perhaps the coincidence is designed, but more
probably Babai is simply using “Antiochene” phraseology.

Is a Concordat, the second which this
document has effected, possible upon these lines? Given, a Church which
accepts the Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople, which has not
accepted Ephesus, but which does consider that it has accepted
Chalcedon. It stands suspected of heresy for its non-acceptance of the
third council of that series, which (whatever better-informed men may
say) it does not regard as included in the fourth.

Can more be asked from it in fairness
than the acceptance of the document which the protagonist of-
Ephesus-disregarding its formal decree regarded as the embodiment of
all that he contended for there?

This document has all the weight that
the authority of a general council can give it. It was composed to deal
with the very question at issue. It has nevertheless never been fought
over. But (lamentably rare distinction among the great documents that
are Church standards of truth and sound theology) it has always been a
medium of peace.



THE present Creed of the Assyrian
Church, while doctrinally identical with that of Nicaea accepted by the
Church in 410, is by no means the same verbally as that document. Those
who use it, however, are as a rule ignorant of this fact, and the
development of the present form presents a rather difficult question.

This Creed is far nearer to the Creed
of Constantinople than to that of Nicaea; but differs from it, not
merely in the transposition of several clauses, but also in the
addition of two new clauses, one of which at any rate is, we believe,
peculiar to itself.

We believe, however, that it was
developed from the Nicaeno-Constantinopolitan creed that we use
to-day-though the introduction of this version of the Creed into Persia
is as mysterious as the introduction of it into Asia ‘Minor-arid that
the alterations for the most part came from verbal repetition. The date
of its becoming fixed in its present form is uncertain; but the Book- o
f the Sunhadus, in giving the Creed, quotes neither the present nor the
original form, but a version quoted as if in common use in the Council
of Ishu-yahb in 585. It does this without apparent knowledge that its
version is at all different from that in daily use; and the fact would
seem to imply that the present form of the Creed is later than the
compilation of the Sunhadus in the thirteenth century. One
must own, however, that this conclusion is very doubtful. We give the
three versions in “synoptic” form, as this method illustrates (what we
believe to be the fact) that It “Ishu-yahb’s Creed” constitutes an
intermediate stage in the development of the present document from the


I believe in one God the

Father Almighty, maker

of heaven and earth, and

of all things

visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus

Christ, the only-begotten

Son of God,

begotten of his Father

before all worlds,

God of God, Light of Light,

very God of very God,

begotten, not made,

being of one substance

with the Father,

by whom all things were


Who for us men, and for

our Salvation, came down

from Heaven, and was

Incarnate by the Holy


of the Virgin Mary,

and was made Man,

and was crucified also for

us, under Pontius Pilate.

He suffered, and was buried,

and the third day He rose


according to the scriptures,

and ascended into Heaven

and sitteth on the right

hand of the Father,

and shah come again with

glory to judge

both the quick and the


whose kingdom shall have

no end.

And I believe in the

Holy Ghost,

the Lord and giver of life,

who proceedeth from the

Father and the Son,

who with the Father and

the Son together is worshipped

and glorified,

who spake by the prophets;

and I believe one Catholic

and Apostolic Church,

I acknowledge one Baptism

for the remission of


and I look for the resurrection

of the dead,

and the life of the world

to come.


We believe in one God

the Father Almighty,

maker of all things,

visible and invisible;

And in one Lord Jesus

Christ, the only-begotten

Son of God,

First-born of all Creation,

by whom the worlds were

framed, and all things


begotten of his Father

before all worlds,

and not made,

Light of Light,

very God of very God,

being of one substance

with the Father,

Who for us men, and for

our Salvation, came down

from Heaven, and was

Incarnate by the Holy


of the Virgin Mary,

and was made Man,

and was crucified also for

us, under Pontius Pilate.

He suffered, and died and

was buried,

and the third day He rose

according to the scriptures,

and ascended into Heaven

and sitteth on the right

hand of the Father,

and shall come with glory

to judge both the quick and the


whose kingdom shall have

no end.

And in one Holy Spirit,

the Lord, and giver of life,

who proceedeth from the


who with the Father and

the Son is worshipped,

who spake by the prophets

and apostles

and in one Holy, Catholic

and Apostolic Church,

and one Baptism for the

remission of sins,

and in the resurrection of

the dead,

and the life of the world

to come.

And those who my “there

was, when he was not,”

or “before he was begotten,

he was not, or that

“he was made of nothing,”

or that he was of different

qnuma or essence, or think

that the Son of God was

subject to change or to

alteration, these does the

holy and apostolic church



We believe in one God,

the Father Almighty,

maker of all things,

visible and invisible;

And in one Lord Jesus

Christ, the only-begotten

Son of God,

First-born of all Creation,

begotten of his Father

before all worlds,

and not made,

very God of very God,

being of one substance

with the Father,

by whom the worlds were

framed and all things


Who for us men, and for

our Salvation, came down

from Heaven, and was

Incarnate by the Holy


and was made Man,

and was conceived and

born of the Virgin Mary,

and suffered and was crucified

under Pontius Pilate,

and was buried

and the third day He rose,

as it was written,

and ascended into Heaven

and sitteth on the right

hand of the. Father,

and shall come again to


both the quick and the


And in one Holy Spirit,

the Spirit of Truth

who proceedeth from the


the Spirit that giveth life;

and in one Holy, Apostolic

and Catholic Church;

and we acknowledge one

Baptism for the remission

of sin,

and in the resurrection of

the body

and the life eternal.

Putting merely verbal changes and
transpositions on one side, the peculiar features of the present
Assyrian Creed lie in (a) the omission of the clauses, “Whose Kingdom
shall have no end,” and “Who with the Father and the Son
together is worshipped and glorified, Who spake by the prophets.”

This omission is a distinct loss to
the fulness of the Creed, but has no doctrinal significance. No member
of the Assyrian Church would dream of denying the doctrine of the
omitted clauses.

(b) On the other hand, Assyrians
insert in the Creed two other clauses. First, they declare that the
only begotten Son is “the first-born of all creation” (Col. i. 15); and
next, they insert words to emphasize the doctrine that He who was “Very
God of Very God, of one substance with the Father,” was “conceived and
born of the Virgin Mary.” In other words, those who are accused of
Nestorianism have been at some pains to alter the wording of their
Creed in an anti-Nestorian direction. It is odd, and (as we hold)
significant, that both the national Churches that stand accused of
heresy (Armenian361
the Assyrian), should. have introduced into their versions of the Creed
clauses clean contrary to the particular heresies of which they are



IN the preceding chapter we have
studied the technical terms of Assyrian Christology, and have proved
(as we trust) that to those who adopted the terms “one Parsopa” meant
“one Person,” and not “one appearance”; and “two Qnumi” “two
subsistences” (or some analogous word), and not “two Persons,” in our
Lord. Further, we have seen that those responsible for the refusal to
use the name “Yaldath Alaha” declared themselves willing to accept it
in the only sense in which “Chalcedonians” imposed it.

We must now consider the attitude
adopted by the Assyrian Church towards the Council of Chalcedon-that
gathering which spoke what most English Churchmen to-day would consider
the decisive, if not the last, word in the Christological controversy.

The general belief on this point has
hitherto been that, in rejecting the Council of Ephesus, the Church of
Assyria rejected all subsequent councils; and thus went openly and
avowedly into heresy, either in the time of Bar-soma, or before it.
Previous chapters have shown, we trust, that this simple and clear-cut
belief (though it would simplify matters if it were true) has nothing
to do with the facts. It is very difficult to say whether the Church of
Assyria and the “Orthodox” were or were not out of communion with one
another until a date subsequent to 640; and if (as logically would seem
to be the case) you cannot reject anything till you have been asked to
accept it, the said Church can hardly be said to have even rejected
Ephesus as yet. Concerning Chalcedon, Monsigneur Chabot (in his edition
of the Synodicon Orientale) expressly mentions that council in
the list of western councils received by the Assyrian Church; adding
that the “Tome of Leo” was also received by them, as a separate
document of synodical authority, and as an orthodox exposition of the
This editor
does not print the Syriac versions of either document in his book, or
for that matter any other of the several “western” synods referred to;
for the sufficient reason that they are known and accessible to all
students and that his great work was already rather bulky.

The announcement came as a surprise to
all who had judged the Assyrian Church heretical; for obviously a
Church that accepts Chalcedon and Leo’s Tome occupies a very different
position towards Nestorianism to one that, rejecting Ephesus, rejects
all subsequent councils. It is at least a possible position that
acceptance of Chalcedon implies acceptance of Ephesus; and certainly a
Church that regards the “Definitio” of Chalcedon, and the Tome, as of
authority, is not what we mean by “Nestorian.” So great was the
surprise that some held that they must have accepted the council “by
mistake,” though the chances of their accepting, in error, two separate
documents of practically similar force may be described as

The writer has been at some pains to
examine this point, and now gives the results of his investigation.

In the manuscript of the Synodicon
at Mosul (the text from which other copies have been
taken) the “Definitio” of Chalcedon is undoubtedly included; and when
compared line by line with the Greek text it is seen to be, as a whole,
fairly and accurately rendered. There are, however, one or two
alterations of words.363
Thus where the “blessed Cyril” is referred to, “accursed” is
substituted, with a magnificent disregard of the effect on the sense of
the passage; and the phrase “to rebuke the folly of Nestorius” is
omitted. This we consider to be, in all probability, the “emendation”
of a later copyist. One cannot conceive of sane men admitting the
paragraph if it stood originally as it stands at present. Thus it is
made to run–

“Concerning those who
dare to corrupt the mystery of the dispensation, and to say that that
which was born of the Virgin was a mere man, the Synod accepts the
Synodical letters of the ‘accursed’ Cyril, he who was the ‘evil’
shepherd of Alexandria, that he wrote ‘evilly’ to the ‘holy’ Nestorius,
and to the head of the ‘Easterns'” (to rebuke the folly of Nestorius
and) “to give in God-fearing zeal an exposition of the Faith to those
who desire knowledge. With these letters it joins, as is proper, the
letter of the holy and blessed Leo.”

The Definitio proper is also fairly
translated, except that the Greek “Theotokos” is rendered by the
periphrasis, “Mother of Christ, who is both God and Man,” and for the
“one Hypostasis” they substitute “two Qnumi.” Of these renderings, the
first seems to us adequate, in light of the fact that “Yaldath Alaha”
conveys an idea different to that of “Theotokos,” and the latter we
suspect of being another later corruption, in light of the fact that
the phrase was not adopted for at least two generations after the
acceptance of the council. Its force we discuss elsewhere.

Thus the Definitio is made to run–

“Joining ourselves
therefore to the holy Fathers, we all confess alike and with one
accord-one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, perfect in His
Godhead,. and, the same, perfect in His Manhood, of reasonable soul and
body. Of one nature with His Father in His Godhead, and, the same, of
one nature with us in His Manhood, in all thins save sin; begotten of
the Father before the worlds in His Godhead, and born in these last
days, the same, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin,
Mother of Christ. God and Man; One and the same Christ, Son, God, Lord
Only-begotten; to be acknowledged in two natures without confusion,
without change, without mixture, without separation; the distinction of
the two natures being by no means done away by the union, but the
individuality of either of the two natures being rather preserved, and
running together in one Person and two Qnumi; not to be divided or
separated into two Sons, but there being one and the same only-begotten
Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The manuscript has suffered in places,
and we have not the means of comparing the Syriac with the Greek and
Latin throughout (i. e.; in the text of the Imperial decree, and
in the patristic testimonies, appended to the “Tome of Leo”), but we
believe that there is no other omission or alteration of any doctrinal
significance. In particular, the translation of the “Tome of Leo” is
complete and accurate.

The date of the acceptance of this
council by the Assyrian Church cannot be determined at present. It was
certainly accomplished previous to 540, when the council is referred to
by Mar Aba, and presumably, subsequent to the arising of the
Christological controversy in Persia, in the year 48o. It is possible
that it was introduced by Bar-soma, the only Assyrian, so far as we
know, who was in any way directly concerned in its acts–but that is a
conjecture merely.

Here we may leave the matter. The
views of the Assyrian Church upon the character of Cyril are not
matters of faith, even if the emendation referred to be not the work of
an unauthorized copyist. Doctrinally, the Council of Chalcedon was
accepted by the Assyrian Church, and inserted in their collection of
councils, standing there exactly on the same footing as any one of
their own gatherings. To all learned theologians of the Anglican Church
we would put this question–

The official teaching of this Church
lies before you. judged by these documents (and we have no right to
judge her by others) is the Church that uses them guilty of what we
call Nestorianism?



AT the end of that struggle of giants,
the Romano-Persian war of 602-628, Heraclius set himself to a task far
more difficult than even that of conquering Chosroes; namely, the task
of putting an end to the religious quarrels that distracted, and to a
great extent paralyzed, the whole Roman Empire. There is little doubt
that in doing this the object of the Emperor was largely political. No
doubt he was a religious man personally; and probably, too, he took an
interest, as everybody then did, in the game of theological strife. It
was, however, as Emperor, rather than as governor of the Church, that
he strove to find a formula which, by reconciling the Monophysites to
the Council of Chalcedon, might render the inhabitants of Syria and
Egypt once more loyal subjects of the throne of Constantinople.

This effort to make a peace which
nobody but the servants of the State desired, only added one more to
the contending ecclesiastical factions in the empire; and enabled one
more unrecognized nation (the Maronites) to find a theological “point dappui”
for its national life. Outside the empire, however, though the actual
effort made by Heraclius seems to have passed quite unnoticed,364 the general
intentions of the Emperor did produce a curious episode in the history
of the Church of Persia. It is true that he completely failed to draw
back into union a body that had drifted into separation; but the
effort, and the partial response to it, throw light on the internal,
condition of the Church in question.

The Romano-Persian war came to a
natural end with the death of Chosroes in 628; but owing to the
revolutions that followed in Persia, no formal treaty of peace was
drawn up till the reign of Queen Buran (or Burandocht) in 630. When the
formal embassy was sent for the purpose from Persia to Antioch, its
members were as usual mostly Christian bishops. Ishu-yahb II, the then
patriarch, a man of Gedala,365
was at its head; and with him were the metropolitans of Nisibis,
Arbela, and Karka d’B. Slok; and two bishopsùIshu-yahb of Mosul,
afterwards the third patriarch of that name, and one Sahdona of Ariun
in Garmistan, a man who had already made a name for himself as scholar,
ascetic and author.

The patriarch, like so many of the
bishops of his Church, was a scholar of Nisibis, where he had been a
pupil of Khenana, and had been one of the 300 students that left the
college366 when
great professor was expelled. He may have imbibed his theological views
from his tutor; but, if so, they do not seem to have interfered with
his promotion in the Church. According to one account he was a married

The diplomatic business of the embassy
was soon finished. Both sides desired peace, being in fact fairly
“fought to a stand-still”; and all that had to be done was to ratify
the agreement already practically arrived at, and to accept the status
quo ante betlum as an arrangement which both parties probably
expected would last for generations.

After, or during, the diplomatic
negotiations, Heraclius raised the question of the theological status
of the Persian Church. Nearly 200 years had elapsed since the
“Easterns” had had any direct dealings with the “Westerns,” and much
water had run under the bridges in the interval. There was a general
feeling, no doubt, on either side, that the other was heretical; but it
is certain that the “Easterns” did not know what the “Westerns” taught,
and probable that the “Westerns” were no better informed in their turn.
Heraclius asked the patriarch for a Confession of the faith of his
Church. Ishu-yahb gave it; declaring his belief in a Christ who, as
Perfect Man, was consubstantial with us; – and who, as Perfect God, was
consubstantial with the Father, in one “Personalitas.”368 This was
accepted as
orthodox (indeed the keenest controversialist could hardly say that it
was worse than indefinite), and the Eastern was allowed on several
occasions to celebrate the Mysteries before the Emperor.

On his return home, however, probably
with good hope that he had brought about the end of two long quarrels,
secular and religious, Ishu-yahb found his conduct challenged by his
own suffragans. One of these probably was his colleague and namesake
Ishu-yahb of Mosul, and the party was certainly headed by another
important prelate, Bar-soma of Susa or Karka De Lidan. “You must have
anathematized the three fathers, Theodore, Diodore and Nestorius, and
have accepted the term Galdath Alcha () or those Greeks would never
have allowed you to approach their altars.” The position taken up by
this zealot is noteworthy, as showing on what points the Easterns
conceived the admitted separation to have taken place. The technical
term “two qnumi” is not mentioned; and indeed it had at the time
scarcely made its way to universal acceptance among Assyrian writers.369 The “names”
and the word
Galdath Alcha were the real crux; and`the first apparently the more

Ishu-yahb defended himself, and indeed
there is no evidence that he had ever in fact been asked to make the
concessions condemned. The controversy was stopped by royal order; but
its arising showed the real difficulty in the way of re-union, namely,
the suspicion felt by each party towards the other, and the conviction
that whatever “those others” did or said was bound to be wrong. Such a
moral atmosphere as this, persisting as it does in a measure to this
day, is a more formidable obstacle to any real union than any number of
differing theological formulae.

While the patriarch was settling the
affairs of Church and State at Antioch, his companions, who were
quartered in a monastery at Apamaea, had (of course, being orientals)
started a warm discussion on matters theological with their
Chalcedonian hosts. The battle ended naturally (according to the
Eastern account) in an utter rout for the “Westerns.” One of the men of
the East at any rate, Ishu-yahb of Mosul, was not likely to be affected
by any arguments; for his letters remain to us, and in the numerous
controversies of which they give a picture, the writer shows a most
conspicuous inability to enter into any other side of any question at
issue than his own. When the diplomatic work was done the embassy
returned home, triumphantly convinced as regarded most of them, of the
truth of their own opinions, and by no means empty-handed.

The Emperor would, of course, give
rich gifts to the ambassadors; and with good reason if (as is stated in
one account) it was by their hands that the “True Cross”370 (captured in
614, when
Jerusalem fell before Chosroes) was restored. They had also secured,
however, in less honourable fashion, something that was no doubt more
valuable to them than any imperial gift. Ishu-yahb of Mosul had been
shown in Antioch a reliquary containing some “of the bones of the
blessed Apostles.” This he piously and, prayerfully contrived to steal,
and presented to his favourite monastery of Bait ‘Abi371 near Mosul.

The chronicler, of course, records the
fact with devout exultation, and one notices with interest this early
instance of the conviction, later so universal, that relics are “fair
game”-things that the most honourable and conscientious of men may
blamelessly annex.

One of the party, however, left
Antioch by no means so satisfied with the controversial victory as his
fellows. This was Sahdona of Ariun, whose “perversion” was soon to
cause so much confusion to his Church. He had; contrary to the advice
of his colleagues, vaingloriously attempted to dispute with the abbot
of the monastery where they had lodged; and this aged man, by
“art-magic and sorcery,” as Ishu-yahb held, “corrupted his mind from
the true faith.” As, however, Sahdona had opened the discussion, not by
denouncing his opponent’s heresy as he should have done, but by
kneeling and asking for the old abbot’s blessing, it is perhaps not
surprising that they ended by coming to an agreement. Sahdona, too,
does not seem to have been led to the conviction that the “Church of
the Easterns” was wrong, and that of Constantinople right;372 but to the
belief that the
doctrines that both held were essentially identical, and only verbally

Thus on his return to his diocese he
soon began to proclaim that the “one qnuma” (Hypostasis) of the
Westerns, in the sense in which they used the term, was practically
identical with the “one Parsopa” of the Easterns, as used by them. He
can hardy have denied that each word was patient of interpretations
that could not possibly be got within the limits of the other; but he
did assert that the theological sense of one word, as used by one
party, was identical with the theological sense of the other word, as
used by the other. The writer believes that this view of Sahdona’s was
absolutely correct as regards the general use of the terms, though it
might be possible to find individuals who used either term in different
senses. Still, however right, it was not for that reason welcome to men
accustomed to look on Westerns as heretics, and on themselves as the
elect and correct people. They wanted controversial victory, not
reconciliation; and they were no more willing to revise their views of
an opponent’s teaching, and of the limits of loyalty to their own
Church, than was the average Anglican dignitary of the middle of the
nineteenth century. Ishu-yahb of Mosul, Sahdona’s companion in the
embassy, and previously his friend in the college of Nisibis and the
monastery of Bait ‘Abi, took the field against him now. This man was
now Metropolitan of Arbela, and at a provincial council at which the
Bishop of Ariun (who was not one of his suffragans) happened to be
present, he expostulated with him very warmly, and so far succeeded in
his aim that Sahdona agreed to retract certain obnoxious. passages in a
book that he had written to explain his views.373

The dispute, however, very soon broke
out again, and we find Ishu-yahb writing to Sahdona, denying vehemently
the possibility of identifying “Parsopa” and “qnuma” in any shade of
meaning that either would admit?374

“When you use a word,” writes
Ishu-yahb, you cannot make it mean just what you want it to, and these
two terms have special meanings of their own. * * * Parsopa, I grant,
can be interpreted in various ways, but Qnuma is a word of one
interpretation only, namely ‘naturehood’ (kianutha), and it sticks to
the simple expression of its essential meaning. You say Parsopa and
Qnuma are synonyms. Much more so are Qnuma and Kiana, and this idea of
yours thrusts you straight into the pit of (Monophysite) heresy. * * *
The Greek equivalent of Qnuma is Hypostasis, and that means,
‘Stability,’ ‘Position,’ ‘Substance’ (Quyama) .”

Ishu-yahb would have found it
difficult to maintain his position that Qnuma is like a coin, of
unchangeable value, but the importance of his letter lies in two
directions. It shows in what sense one prominent theologian at the time
accepted the term “two Qnumi in Christ,” and it shows what he conceived
himself to be denying when he denounced the Western “one Hypostasis.”

If Qnuma means “naturehood” and can
mean nothing else, then to assert “two Qnumi” is not to assert “two
Persons”; and if Ishu-yahb conceived Hypostasis to mean substance, then
in denying one Hypostasis he was not denying the doctrine of, e. g.,
the Council of Chalcedon, but a caricature of it that existed only in
his own mind. That he should have thus caricatured it was pardonable
enough. The Easterns were still conceiving of the Greek term Hypostasis
as used at Nicaea, and as they had themselves accepted it in 410. They
did not realize that the term had since been employed in a new, and it
must be owned in an artificial sense. The dispute was essentially a
misunderstanding, as far as doctrine was involved in it; and the
separation that followed was based thereon. An Athanasius might perhaps
have healed it, as we know he did heal a similar dispute; but Sahdona
had not the calibre to fill that majestic role, and even the
“royal-hearted” might have failed where neither party desired a

The dispute came before the
Catholicos, who was now not Ishu-yahb of. Gedala, whose
views were practically those of Sahdona, but Mar Imeh. Ishu-yahb of
Mosul carried his point in the council, proclaiming, with a confident
ignorance that touches the sublime,375
“Now, when every province of the Roman Empire confesses with one accord
the duality of the Qnumi in Christ, exiles every Bishop that does not
confess this, and anathematizes the name of the accursed Cyril, is it
the time for us to fall away from the Faith?” Sahdona was
excommunicated; and, leaving the East, was received as a confessor in
the West (or the Roman Empire), where he became Bishop of Edessa, and
wrote works on asceticism, in which he confesses “two natures, one
Qnuma, and one Parsopa in the Christ.” Before very long, however, the
man who had been expelled from “the East” as a practical Monophysite,
was expelled from the “West” also, as a practical Nestorian. For a
moment it seemed possible that he might be restored to his old
see; but the project came to nothing. Anathematized by all parties, the
peacemaker ended his days in a hermit’s cell.

His own age saw in him only a man whom
no party in the world could trust. We may see in him a man for whom the
world was too hard; of whom, perhaps, it was not worthy. The end of his
noble attempt to bring about a premature reconciliation stands as a
warning to those who strive to do that which he failed to do-to tell
them that though they may hope by God’s blessing for better success,
they need not hope for more of this world’s praise.

In giving the story of Sahdona’s
ill-starred effort at peacemaking, we have somewhat anticipated the
order of events. Ishu-yahb II, with whom the Bishop of Ariun visited
Roman territory, was patriarch 628-644; and though the Sahdona
controversy (unfortunately perhaps) did not come to a head in his day,
his time of office did not lack great political events. During that
period there occurred the collapse of the great Persian Empire, and the
substitution for it of the rule of the Khalifs.

Kobad-Siroes, who acceded 628, did not
live long, as had been foretold in his dying father’s curse. He died of
plague within the year; and his one son (almost the only male Sassanid
surviving, after the massacre of the royal house of which his father
had been guilty) was an infant. This gave an opportunity to the
ambitious General Shahrbarz, who determined to play the role that
Bahram had essayed a generation previously; he seized the throne, and
the boy-king (Ardashir III) disappeared. But the national instinct
against any ruler who was not of the royal house, was still too strong
for the usurper to be able to maintain himself. Shahr-barz perished in
a mutiny of his own troops within a month; and the people, as male
Sassanids had failed, called upon a daughter of the house to occupy the
throne. Buran, who thus became queen-regnant (a most unusual thing in
the East) made peace with Rome as stated above; but her reign, too,
endured for a few months only, and her death heralded a period of utter
confusion. Pretender after pretender rose, ruled for an hour, and
vanished before his successor; till at last all wearied of anarchy, and
called for a king of the old house. Such an one was found, a lad of the
name of Yezdegerd, hardly fifteen years old, and apparently of no very
strong character. He was not of the direct line, but was near enough to
it to satisfy men who were crying out for a ruler with some show of
title; and he became, in 632, the last of the line of Sassanid kings.

The question if this lad could have
restored and reorganized the kingdom of his ancestors was never to be
fairly tried. That outburst of volcano-like energy, which the Khalifs
who followed Mahommed in Mecca were able to call out and direct, was in
its full strength just then, and the lava-streams were pouring out both
to the north and east of their crater. In 633 the tributary kingdom of
Khirta was attacked and conquered; and though the wave of conquest was
checked for the moment, yet 636 saw the great battle of Cadesia; and by
640 the kingdom that looked back to Cyrus as its founder was a thing of
the past. Yezdegerd, a fugitive King, maintained a shadow of royalty
for a few years longer at Merv, but that little State only endured
until the Arabs were ready to annex it.

During the same years other armies
were pouring out against the Romans, in obedience to that strange
impulse which was to carry the Arabs so far and so fast, and then
suddenly to carry them no. further. Syria, Palestine, Egypt were lost
to Constantinople one after the other; the Monophysites preferring the
Saracens to the Chalcedonians, much as at Constantinople men of a later
age were to cry, “Better the Turks than the Latins.” The Roman Empire
shrank till its boundary extended no further than the range of Taurus;
but the provinces that had become Chalcedonian in faith resisted the

Jacobite and “Nestorian” (for as they
had now accepted the label which others affixed to them, we perhaps may
use it too) found themselves under one Government, and each proceeded
to make terms with it as best they could.

Ishu-yahb was the negotiator in the
case of the Assyrian Church; and neither. that body nor the Jacobite
had any difficulty in securing the recognition of their melet status,
and they obtained much the same terms. Neither, of course, was likely
to be content, if the other wore either lighter or heavier chains than

In each case the right to exist on
payment of tribute, the right to keep their churches but not to build
new ones, and the exemption from military service; were cheerfully
conceded; and the two settled down into that comfortable neutrality,
and ignoring of one another’s existence, which describes their mutual
relationship to this day. Assyrian tradition declares that special
privileges were given to their Church and to their patriarch, by a
firman from the prophet himself; and a document, purporting to be the
grant in question, was actually preserved until the middle of the
nineteenth century, when Kurdish hatred of Christians overcame all
their reverence for the prophet, and the grant perished in the
“Massacres of Bedr Khan Beg.” It is an undoubted fact that the
patriarchal house, as such, is regarded with a respect among Moslems,
which they do not show to other Christian bishops;376 but the claim to a special
position is one that can hardly be substantiated under present

Here a new chapter opens in the
history of the Assyrian Church, and one that demands separate
treatment. Their history was far from ended, for they still had great
triumphs to win, they still had their greatest suffering’s to undergo;.
but they had now definitely settled into the position-political and
theological–that they occupy to this day. That is to say, they were
now a melet in the great Mussulman State, definitely separated from the
Church of Constantinople, as well as from that of Antioch and contented
so to be.

The two bodies had drifted apart; and
though we hold our. conviction that the theological dispute
was a misunderstanding, and one capable of settlement, in the right
circumstances, and by the right men, neither necessary was forthcoming.
“Thus they continued on their separate way, each forgetting how near
the other had once been. For practical purposes they even forgot each
other’s existence, though travellers like Marco Polo might mention the
discovery of Nestorian Churches as interesting facts. Each branch of
the Church Catholic, busied with its own problems, and cut off by
circumstances from all others, ignored those others almost completely;
and in the thirteenth century a “Nestorian” archdeacon, whom
circumstances brought to Rome (and to the presence, in France, of our
Edward 1) found himself hailed there almost as a visitor from another

Since then the world has grown
smaller. Western and Eastern Christians have come to realize the
existence each of the other, and to realize, too, that they must take
such existence into account. What the future may hold we know not; but
if National Churches as such have any part at all to play in Catholic
Christendom, their relations to one another must be important; and the
attitude of the youngest, and for. the moment the most vigorous, of
those bodies to her elder sisters, is now recognized as a thing that
must be considered and determined. The Assyrian Church has been
preserved through trials and sufferings such as no Western body has
ever been called upon to endure; and independent and national still, it
holds fast its allegiance to “the holder of the throne of Mar Adai,”
the representative of the Catholicos-patriarch of Seleucia-Ctesiphon.
Now, a new life is springing up in all the “East”; a life nobly
embodied in those who rule the kingdom of which Assyrians are the
subjects. What work has God in the future for those whom He surely has
not preserved in the past without an object; and who in that past, with
all their faults and failings, have served Him so loyally and so well?

“O Lord, we beseech
Thee let Thy continual pity cleanse and defend this Church; and whereas
it cannot continue in safety without Thy succour, preserve it evermore
by Thy help and goodness, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”



With two exceptions, “Ishu” is the same name as “Jesus,” but where it
appears in compounds like “Sabr-Ishu” (“Hope-in-Jesus”) I have kept the
Syriac lettering. Also the name “Shimun” is, for reasons known to every
friend of the Church, too familiar to be represented by “Simon.”

The sculptures from this palace are in the R6nig Friedrich Museum,

Mshikha-Zca. Life of Khiran.

Armenia, of course, owed much to Cappadocian help in later days, and
became a sort of adopted daughter of Caesarea. Christianity, however,
existed in the land before the conversion of the King by Gregory the
Illuminator, and Armenian. writers declare that it owed its existence
to Edessene- teachers, and principally to Thaddeus the Apostle. They
also declare that Osrh6ene was a tributary state of the “Armenian
Empire,” but the ecclesiastical tradition may be better founded than
the political.

Acta S. Maris, 32. Ed. Abbeloos.

B.-H., A.D. 266-330. Mari Ibn Sulieman (Liber Turris), A.D. 247_326
(1). Papa’s latter-day successors are consecrated in their “teens,” but
even these do not attain to such magnificently lengthy tenures.

Sources Syriaques, vol. i., Msiha-Zkha, texte de traduction. A.
Mingana, Mosul, Life of Pqida.

Samson, successor of Pqida, died “seven years after the victory of
Trajan,” i.e. A.D. 123. This was nine years after the death of Pqida,
whose episcopate lasted ten years. Pqida was therefore consecrate A.D.

See History of parka d’B. Slok, Bedi., ii. 512.

St. Thomas is called the ” rounder ” by Bar-Hebraeus, but is
represented as a bird of passage only. The work is done by Adai, and
his disciples Agai and Mari. B.-H., i.

Acta S. Maris, 19, ch. viii; 32, ch. xi; 33, ch. xii. Note.-Labourt (p.
14) and Duval (Litterature syraque, p. 118) both criticize the Acta
S. Maris
, on the ground that they represent the hero as contending
with the worship of sacred trees and springs; not with Magianism or
starworship, as ought to have been the case had they given a reliable
picture of Mesopotamian life at their supposed date. This is true; but
it should be noted that the author represents the nature-worship as
existing in provinces like Adiabene and Garmistan, where, according to
Mshikha-Zca, it was very strong at the time, and where fire-worship was
never a national cult. There are no references to it in the chapters
that deal with Seleucia and Khuzistan. As in the district named the
worship of trees and springs is not extinct to this day, centuries of
Christian and Mussulman teaching notwithstanding (the writer knows two
sacred springs, and sacred trees by the dozen, in the country in
question), it is reasonable to conclude that it was more conspicuous in
early centuries.

The almost total absence of any
mention of fire-worship is a difficulty that cuts both ways. That a
sixth-century writer in Persia should not have known of the cult is
inconceivable-as well could a Hindu Christian be ignorant of the
existence of Brahmanism-so the omission must be designed. Possibly, the
writer did not care to speak of a campaign against the State faith, for
fear of consequences. A Syriac biographer of to-day, for instance,
would hardly venture to boast of his hero as making converts from

Melet (“Millet”) is the technical word in Turkey for a
Christian subject nation, organized, as they always are, in a Church,
and dealing with the Government through its religious head. It suits
the condition of the Church in Zoroastrian Persia so perfectly that we
must use the word, particularly as no Western nation possesses the name
or the thing. A rayat, or subject, is a member of such a melet.

Many of these magical formulae are current among Assyrians of today,
and these are often essentially the same as those on the most ancient
Babylonian tablets. A substratum of the oldest faith of the country has
survived the changes of 7000 years.

M.-Z., Life of Samson.

M.-Z., Life of Isaac.

M.-Z., Life of Noah.

M.-Z., Lives of Pqida, Isaac.

Bedjan, ii. 184


M.-Z., Life of Isaac.

M.-Z., Life of Abel.

Mar Augin of Egypt, the friend of James of Nisibis, is stated to have
been the first to bring the monastic life to the East, and he certainly
did not arrive before the year 300. Bedj. i. 424 (Life
of Mar Shalitha

Chabot, Syn. Orientale, p. 34, 273; M.Z., Life of Khiran.

M.-Z., Life of Khiran.

The “tels” so common, e.g. round Mosul, are very different things from
the “ash-mounds” of Azerbaijan.

Acta Maris, ch. viii, 19.

M.-Z., Lives of Shakhluta and of Akha d’abuh’.

This bishop is said (Liber Turris) to have been given his strange name,
meaning “brother of his father,” from his personal resemblance
to that relative. M.-Z. declares, with much greater probability, that
it was applied to him from the fact that he was born of one of
the incestuous marriages common among Zoroastrians. He was of that
faith by birth; and served as a soldier in Sapor’s great invasion of
Roman territory that followed the capture of Valerian in 258.

We incline to date the composition of this document as between the
years 424 and 530, i.e. to place it after the Council of
Dad-Ishu, seeing that it seems reminiscent of some of the language
there used; and previous to the time of Mar Aba, seeing that the.
arrangements described in it for the election of a patriarch do not
agree with those pre. scribed by that prelate. If this be correct, the
document would roughly coincide in date with the separation of the
“Nestorian” or “Dyophysite” Church of the Persian Empire from the West;
a date in itself not unlikely for its composition. In this case the
fact that the tradition is common to both Dyophysites and Monophysites,
and so is probably older in date than their separation one from the
other, would be explained.

Chabot, Synadicon Orientale, pp. 46-49, 289-291.

The author rather imprudently gives us some synchronisms, and
gets sadly confused therein; making his imaginary Bishop Jacob
(172-190) contemporary not only with Commodus, but with Ardashir I of
Persia (acceded 225), and with Porphyry (born-232). Of course, the
existence of four patriarchates m the year 19o is itself unhistorical.

M.-Z., Life of Akha d’abuh’.

We follow M.-Z. in preference to Bar-Hebraeus, who says that
Papa Avas consecrated by the Bishop of Prat d’Maishan or Bassora. That
see, however, was in existence at the time, M.-Z, Life o f Khiran.

Acta S. Maris, 32.

The Episcopate of Akha d’abuh’ lasted 273-291 (M.-Z.). There
is no evidence where the consecration should be placed, inside those

Rawlinson, Seventh Oriental Empire, ch. iv.

In Syriac, Qardu, Bait Zabdai, and Arzun. The others are, Bait Rakhimi
(Rehimene), and Bait Moksai (Moxcene). See Map. Arzun and B. Moksai
still retain their ancient names. Qardu is jezire, and B. Zabdai

If we identify Papa, as seems least difficult on the whole, with the
oppressive Bishop of Aphraat’s Fourteenth Minim, he was also a man of
very fine presence. In any case, a man who held his bishopric for more
than three times the ordinary period, must have had some unusual
physical qualities.

Bar-Hebraeus calls him learned in
Syriac. One must own that we do not know in what Syriac books he could
have been learned (except the Diatessaron), at a period when even
Aphraat was still unwritten.

M.-Z., Life of Shri’a.

The life of Mar Mari does make the claim, but it is significant
that Seleucia was regarded as the throne of Shimun the Martyr,
not of Mari the Apostle.

It may be noted that this influence, which always tends to give some
one head (whether lie be called patriarch or not) to the Church of a
subject Melet, tends also to make it
independent of any extra-national authority. The non-Christian ruler
does not like his subjects to carry appeals, even on purely
ecclesiastical points, out of his dominions. Hence the favour of the
Mussulman or Zoroastrian ruler is always thrown on the side of
the native Church, as against that subject to any patriarch or pope
outside the kingdom;–provided, of course, that the non-Christian ruler
is strong enough to keep the foreigner out of his dominions.

M.-Z., Life of Shri’a.

Syn. Or., 46, 289.

Or Sabba’e.

Life of Miles, Bedj., ii. 267.

The date, hitherto a matter of doubt, is practically settled by
M.-Z. (Life of Shri’a). The council met during the episcopate
of Shri’a, Bishop of Arbela 291-317. Papa, after the council,
appealed to S’ada of Edessa, who was consecrated 313.
The period 313-317, therefore, must have seen the assembling of the

Ammonius must be a slip for Ammon, pupil of Anthony.

The above is taken mainly from the Life of Mar Miles (Bed’.
ii. 26o). This document is marked by a tone much opposed to the
Catholicos, but the main incidents, and notably the “Speak, Gospel,
speak” episode, which struck the imagination of all parties, are
corroborated by other writers. See council of Dad-Ishu, Synodicon

Life of Miles, Bedj., ii. 264.

M- Z., Life o f Shri’a.

B.-H. says, also to Ephraim Syrus, but that saint was then
about ten years old. The existing correspondence of Papa with these
bishops is apocryphal. See Labourt, p. 83, note 2.

See note 50.

M.-Z., Life of Shri’a. I incline to think that this more nearly
represents what happened. With M. Labourt, I hold that the acts of the
Council of Dad-Ishu ought not to be trusted too absolutely, in that
they have gone through a process of doctoring themselves; and in any
case, the historical statements about Papa are the reported speech of a
member of the council only, not its formal declaration.

The statement in the Life of Miles, that Papa survived his
stroke of paralysis twelve years, has the ring of truth about it, as
stated, though Bar-Hebraeus has doubts on the matter.

M.-Z., Life of Shri’a; Bedj., ii. 180.

Afrant, Mimra i. Labourt, p. 32 et seq.

e.g. those of Nisibis. B. Zabdai, etc.

A John “of Persia” occurs in some lists of Nicene signatories, but this
is probably a mis-reading for Perrha. Persia was never the name of a
see in the Assyrian Church, though the province of ” Fars ” formed the
jurisdiction of a metropolitan in later days. The legend referred to by
Bar. Hebraeus (Primates Orientis, Vita Papae), that either Papa.
or Shimun attended Nicaen, we reject without hesitation as the figment
of a latter day, when Assyrians had come to believe that “so great a
throne as ours must have had a representative at so great a council.”
See Labourt, p. 32, note.

It must not be forgotten that, as we hope to show later, there is a
second and important motive, for these schisms in the Church; viz. the
desire to find expression in the religious sphere, for nationality.

Labourt, p. 48. Afraat, Mimra, xii.

Theodoret, Eccl. Hist., i. 25.

Labourt; p. 50.

It was on this occasion that the besieged city %vas preserved by the
moral influence of St. James, its bishop, and also by the “miraculous”
swarms of flies that his prayers sent against the besiegers (Theodoret,
ii. 30). The influence of the great bishop did much towards keeping up
the courage of the defenders, we may well believe. As to the flies,
still less need we question the reality of the swarms. Sapor tried to
flood the city; therefore his huge force was camping in a swamp, during
a Mesopotamian summer!

Bedj., ii. 134.

Bedj., ii. 154.

Specially Bright, Age of Fathers, I. A.

Acts of Aqib-shima, Bedj., ii. 351. The list of accusations is said to
be taken from a royal Firman. Whether that is so or not, they give at
least the popular feeling.

Westcott, Gospel of Life, ch. v. 3.

It is worth noting that in the matter of food (the one point on which
there is clear scriptural direction to the contrary!) the
Christians do seem to have given way. Their modern descendants regard
certain animals, e.g. the hare and the pig, as unfit for human

Sometimes they were employed, but there were probably few Christians
among the” Azadan,” the free tenants in chief who furnished the cavalry
of the Sassanid feudal army the “infantry” were undisciplined peasants.

Bedi., ii. 241.

Bedj., ii. 245. Obviously “Rabbans” and “Rabbanyati” also wore some
sort of distinctive dress. See Bedj., ii. 233.

ii. 246.

The organization of society under the Sassanids was broadly feudal; so
that there was nothing strange in the Agha, or Seigneur, executing
justice, high, middle and low.

M.-Z., Life of John.


B.-H., Primates Orientis, Shah-dost.

The Agha was Hormizd of Raziqai. Miles had wandered far, but the homing
instinct of his people brought him home to die (Bedj., ii. 271).

To convert pagans proper to Christianity was blameless, and even
laudable; though proselytizing from Zoroastrians was punishable with
death, even in a time of peace. At the present day, Christian teachers
are free to convert, e.g. Yezidis, if they can; and fanatical
Mussulmans have been known to offer to spare disciples of that strange
faith, even in time of massacre, if they will consent to turn
“Mussulman or Christian.”

This is mentioned as quite an unusual thing. Apparently the Manichees,
if (as stated) they helped to rouse Sapor to persecution, drew down
vengeance also on themselves. Sassanian officials had not the
experience which enables the Ottoman to distinguish between different
kinds of Christian, one of whom you may kill when you must not touch

This act of the Manichees forms an interesting comment on a recent
Hulsean lecture. “Take from the Christian Church,” says Dr. Figgis,
“the mysterious birth and the availing death, the empty tomb, and the
sacramental presence, and see what you have left. Would it be very much
to live by? Would it be anything at all to die for? ” It was precisely
those four points that the Manichees (no doubt in the name of a
so-called deeper mystery) cut out of their Christianity.

They would probably be forced to marry Zoroastrians; and a wife whose
faith was not that of her husband was unthinkable. The same offer was
hardly ever made to monks; probably because the Zoroastrian, like many
orientals today, simply did not believe in the existence of male
celibacy (Bedj., ii. 233, 308).

Bedj., ii. 291.

The idea was, that the bodies would be used for magic, and the fear had
this much of justification, that dust soaked with a martyr’s blood, or
from his grave, was (and is) regarded as a remedy for most diseases.
The substance is called ” Khenana,” “Grace” or “Mercy.”

Bedj., iv. 137.

Bedj., ii. 316.

Acts of Aqib-shima.

Bedj., ii. 233. Martha, as usual, was offered life and freedom, by the
Mobed who tried her, if she would consent to marry. She explained that
she was sorry, but that she was betrothed to “Ishu” (i.e.
Jesus,–the name is still a very common one), and enjoyed the confusion
of the Mobed, who asked after the family and village of the supposed
Bridegroom, and declared that he would send for Him. Later, the
fearless girl indulged in some similar sparring with the executioner!

This must have been the convert’s baptismal name. Bedj., iv. 133.
M.-Z., Life of Maran-zca.

There were also an immense number of unrecorded sufferers.

He had been appointed by the council, and the act of an oecumenical
council can hardly be irregular!

It is not meant, of course, that this rivalry between two great sees
was the only, or primary, cause of their quarrels; only that it was a
factor in it, and one that ought not to be forgotten. No doubt
Timothy, Theophilus and Dioscuros were no less convinced than was Cyril
that their zeal in the conflict was purely zeal for God and Truth.

See Rawlinson, Seventh Oriental Empire, ch. xi.-xii.; Lynch,
Armenia, i. pp. 277-315.

Let us in fairness admit, however, that as yet no foreigner has even
attempted to govern the country respectably!

Or Norseses.

Bar-Hebraeus and Amr, in the Liber Turris. See also Elia
of Nisibis

B.-H., p. 42 note, and additional note, p. 81.

Tabari, p. 71, Ed. Noldeke.

M.-Z., Life of Shubkha 1’Ishu.

The name is that of the planet Mars, according to both B.-H. and modern
Assyrians. The connection between the planet, the month July-August
(Tamuz), and the Babylonian sun-god, is outside our present

A. and S., Liber Turris.

B.-H., p. 42. It is quite possible that the historian may have
mistakenly attributed the thought of his own age to an earlier one.
Still the conception referred to is certainly one of the innate
stock ideas of the oriental Christian today.

B.-H:, p. 42.

B.-H. declares that the synod, by advice of Marutha (who may or may not
have been present at it) accepted the resignation, and that Qaiuma
retired to a hermit’s cell. Both agree that he practically withdrew
from office.

De Bello Persico, i. 2. There may have been no formal act.
Perhaps Arcadius only commended his successor to the care of his
“brother,” and received such a reply as “he shall be to me as my own

Yezdegerd knew his countrymen ! One might not ask, but would always
suspect some such bargain to be behind any such request.

Socr., vu. 8. No doubt the historian repeats what was common talk in
Church circles in Constantinople; and which he, a lad of twelve at the
time, might remember.

Amr, Assem., iii. 363. The Assyrian “Sunhadus ” declares he was present
at Nicaea also; but this is a manifest blunder, due to his having
brought the canons of Nicaea to Seleucia in 410.

So says Amr. His whole account, however, is too confused to be much
relied on. For instance, he declares that A4arutha after this
gathering, reported the devotion and orthodoxy of the Assyrian Church
to the Council of Constantinople.

Socr., vi. 15. The only definite act recorded as his, however, is that
he trod so emphatically on the (presumably gouty) toe of Cyrinus of
Chalcedon, as to incapacitate that determined enemy of St. Chrysostom
from attendance at the council.

Amr, Liber Turris. A few centuries later Eastern Christians had
certainly a practical monopoly of medical practice under the Khalifate;
and to this day, Mahommedan doctors are few in number and primitive in

There does not seem any reason to
doubt the story that Marutha was a doctor; and, if it be admitted, this
prelate may fairly be claimed as the first historic instance of the
medical missionary.

For the rest of this chapter, see Synodicon Orientale Council
of Isaac.

The seat of the holder of the office has changed repeatedly in the
course of ages, from Seleucia-Ctesiphon to Baghdad, Mosul, Maragha on
Lake Urmi, and, for the last century or so, to Qudshanis in Kurdistan.

The word is used in the acts of Shimun and his two successors (Bedi.,
ii. 134, 276, 296). Previously, there was hardly opportunity for
official use.

See Dict. Christian Antiquities, and Procopius De Bello
, ii. 25. It is noteworthy that Assyrian writers also use
the term for the prelate when we should certainly call “Patriarch” of
Antioch. Chabot, Syn. Or., 18, 255. An expert in hierarchical
precedence may say what the difference between Catholicos and patriarch
ought to be, but to a Persian in the early fifth century, they were
practically interchangeable terms.

See Ass., iii. 59, note 4. It will be seen that the theory first
broached by Assemani, and accepted by others (E. C:. Neale, but not by
Labourt), that Seleucia was a metropolitan in the Antiochene
patriarchate till the Nestorian controversy, is rendered untenable by
the evidence of the Synodicon and Mshikha-Zca.

Assem., iii. 51-58. The so-called “letter of the patriarchs” is a very
late composition. See p. 41.

It will be remembered that Papa, when condemned by the council,
did not appeal to Antioch, but to Edessa and Nisibis.

The maxim of a later age, “imperium sine Patriarcha non staret,” may
not commend itself to the purist, but it represents one of those facts
that are apt to deal rather discourteously with a purist’s theories.
Nationality is bound to express itself in, the religious sphere; and
the lesson is writ large on Church history, that the refusal of its
legitimate expression to this natural human instinct leads to disaster.
From the days of Jacobites and Nestorians in Syria, to those of Vlachs
and Exarchists in the Balkans today, the story has been the same.

Chabot, Synodicon Orientale, 49, 293.

Anything west of Constantinople was as thoroughly beyond the purview of
Assyrians as they were beyond the purview of writers in Italy, Gaul or

Syn. Or., 20, 258.

“Forty days in seven weeks,” showing that Lent was kept originally
according to the modern Western rule. Modern Assyrians keep a Lent of
fifty days, and include Sundays in it.

As Marutha was at Constantinople; this fact is noteworthy.

Bar Ithutha.

Bar Kiana.




The council had to determine whether Bait Lapat or Karka d’Lidan
(Susa), (both of which were royal residences), should be metropolitan;
and decided in favour of the former. Further, it had
to say which of four, or more, claimant to these two sees was in the
right. For the time all the soi-disant bishops were
suspended; but as one of them, Agapitus of B. Lapat, appears
fourteen years later as a warm supporter of Seleucian supremacy, it
would seem that a modus vivendi was reached. The condemnation
of a bishop of the Bahrein Islands in the Persian Gulf shows how far
the Church had extended (p. 273, 34).

Synodicon Orientale, 43, 285.

A Kurd is a Mussulman, but no fanatic, though sometimes represented as
such. He is not very zealous in any direction, except that of
plundering his neighbour’s goods; and is not specially efficient, even
as a brigand.

A sept of Heriki, wildest of nomad
Kurds, still carry with them as a tribal palladium a relic that
purports to be the head of Mar Gewergis, a Christian martyr. It is the
last relic of the Christianity of their ancestors.

It is worth mentioning that the
Catholicos Yahb-Alaha had a tent-church (Bedj., iv. 256), which may
have been for the benefit of nomad Christians, Arab or Kurd. Its
existence, however, may only mean that then, as now, all who could
afford it camped outside the towns, in gardens, during the summer

Syn. Or., 43, 285.

Bedj., ii. 2o6, 208, 281. Bar-shbia means “son of captivity.”

Bedj., ii. 316. This captivity was settled in Huzistan, and may
possibly be the captivity of Belashpar referred to. Even if Demetrius
of B. Lapat be legendary the growth of the legend is evidence of the
existence of “Roman captivities.”

If the fact of violent transportation be condoned, captives were
generally well treated in their new homes, and even their supposed
whims consulted. Thus, Chosroes I built his “New Antioch” exactly on
the lines of the city on the Orontes; and the shah who’ transported the
Armenians to Ispahan was anxious to bring the Cathedral of Etchmiadzin
with them–and would have done it, but for his captives’ petition!

Syn. Or., 276, note.

Amr, Assemani, iii. 368.

Liber Turris.

Liber Turris. Socrates (vil. 8) also mentions the miracle, but refers
it to Abda.

Bedj., iv. 170

Syn. Or., 49, 293.

This actually occurred during the twentieth century, but was equally
possible during the fifth.

“Pand,” i.e. an expedient, clever and usually shady. The
two go together.

Syn. Or., 37, 276; 43, 284.

Bedj., iv. 171-2.

Bedj., iv. 170-180: Acts of Narses.

Bedi., iv. 250; Theodoret, v. 39. Seleucia-Ctesiphon was an “urban
district” rather than a city, in which separate towns existed. One of
these, Dastagerd, had a separate bishop in 424 (Syn. Or., 44,
287). Probably this fact explains the existence of a bishop in the
capital, who was not the Catholicos.

The Syriac acts, which are far fuller and more reliable, fail us here.

Tabari, p. 95.

Theod., v. 39; Bedj., ii. 539-558; iv. 189, 253.

It must be remembered that they were not alone in this trait. St.
Cyprian records that African confessors could not communicate together
when in prison for their common faith. The fact really shows oriental
acceptance of violence, rather than oriental quarrelsomeness. An
occasional massacre stands on much the same footing in their minds as
an occasional invasion or flood.

Liber Turris, Amr, Assem., iii. 376.

Bar-Hebraeus, p. 54. B.-H., ordinarily tolerant, can no more do justice
to a Nestorian than can a Protestant to the Scarlet Woman.

Amr, Assem., iii. 214. It is possible that we have another martial
prelate here!

Syn. Or., 45, 288.

Amr, Assem., ii. 214.

i.e, to Judi Dagh, near the modern Jezireh, a mountain which
local tradition identifies with the Ararat on which the Ark rested.
Here St. James of Nisibis had a hermitage, and here there exist still
the remains of a monastery, which we may probably identify with that of
the “Ark” to which Dad-lshu retired.

We follow the acts of the Council of Dad-Ishu (Syn. Or.,
43, 285; 53, 298), though, as stated above, with some doubt as to their
absolute authenticity.

See p. 29.

Syn. Or., 51, 296.

The “war” seems to have been no more than a military demonstration,
intended to prevent the building of fortresses, contrary to treaty, on
the Roman side of the frontier. It succeeded in its object.

For instance, the ” Orthodox ” said to the ” Nestorian,’0 “You call the
B.V.M. ‘ Mother of Christ.’ You must mean by that, ‘ Mother of a mere

“We mean nothing of the kind,” said
the ” Nestorian ” to the “Orthodox,” ‘but you call her ‘ Mother of
God,’ and that can only mean, ‘ Mother of the God-head.”‘

Both were quite logical, particularly
when the varying nuances of the technical words in the different
languages used are remembered, and. both were wrong.

For the thought expressed in this paragraph, the writer must express
his indebtedness to a friend, the Rev. O. H. Parry.

M.-Z., pp. 144-145. Is it possible that Assyrians confounded in their
minds the first council of Ephesus with the second, the Latrocinium?

M.-Z., p. 144. Life of Rkhima.

Assem., i. 445; Chabot, De S. Isaaci vita, etc., ch. i.

Bedj., ii. 559.

Bedj., ii. 519, and, passim, 518-531. Certain officials are
ordered “to deal with” the Christians of Karka. The order reads like
one of a series issued to governors at large, but M.-Z., though he
knows of the persecution (p. 147), does not refer to it
as extending into Adiabene.

The writer believes the existing building, a church of unusual design,
to be at least built on the lines of the original. Memory of other
sites referred to in the History of Karka (Bedj., ii. 510-531) has
perished; the Christian community of Kirkuk (as Karka is now called)
having been almost exterminated by plague about 100 years ago.

The Acts put the Bishop of Arbela among the victims. This is
contradicted by M.-Z.

The act may be paralleled elsewhere, but the fact does not imply
“borrowing” but simply that human beings under similar conditions tend
to act similarly.

Bedj., ii. 528.

Bedj., ii. 531; M.-Z., p. 147. Ilul is September (old style).

Bedj., ii. 583-603. Some of the peculiar tortures inflicted on Anahid
and other confessors were, until very lately, still in practical use in
the country.

See Rawlinson, Seventh Monarchy, ch. xv.

To call Armenians a nation of cowards is a gross injustice; but as
soldiers they have never produced anything higher than good “generals
of division” like Loris Melikoti, and artisan leaders.

Syn Or., p. 6. See chap. xiii. note 2.

M.-Z., p. 147.

Rawlinson, Seventh Monarchy, ch. xvi. Peace had been made with
the Turks, and it was to be cemented by a royal marriage. Piroz
substituted a slave for the princess, and (the real crime to oriental
thinkers) was detected.

B.-H. and Liber Turris. The former says that he was imprisoned after
consecration, and released “when peace was made with Rome.” We have no
information of any war, and the statement reads like a confusion of his
career with that of his predecessor.

One may accept fully the doctrinal statement endorsed by the first
Council of Ephesus, and yet feel that the contrast between it and the
second is not so marked as to make it obvious why the members
of the first form a gathering of inspired fathers, and of the second, a
“gang of brigands.”

i.e. with the abandonment of Arianism by the Lombards, temp.
Gregory the Great.

i.e. “King’s man,” from melka, king.

One must use this improper term for what was properly called “the
Orient.” One has to use the term “western” in two different senses, for
the folk about Antioch and the folk about Rome. It is too much to have
the same difficulty with the word “eastern.”

A convenient term for those who held the doctrine of the “two natures”
in some form: the alternative terms “Orthodox” and “Nestorian” both beg
the question of the status of those so labelled.

Shimun of Bait. Arsham. Assemani, i. 351.

Labourt, p. 133.

Shimun of B. Arsham confuses this expulsion of Barsoma and his
companions with the general dispersion of the school, thirty years
later. There can be no doubt that Bar-soma was Bishop of Nisibis long
before the latter event occurred.

Liber Turris, Life of Babowai. M.-Z., Life of Abushta, p. 147.
Bar-soma, Letter 2 (Syn. Or., 526, 532).

To the Bishopric of B. Lapat. Syn. Or., 83, 300; Assem., i.

Assem. declares Shimun to have been orthodox, but a man who accepted
the Henoticon and rejected Chalcedon can only have belonged to one
party in sympathy.

Bedj., ii. 631-634.

Bar-soma, Letter 3. Syn. Or., 528, 534; Bedj., ii. 631.

The omission or insertion of one soundless consonant makes the
difference of meaning , rishaita, for , reshi’ta.
Incidentally, it is interesting to
notice how many of the formalities of the Sassanids survive in their
modern heirs, the Ottomans. The familiar phrase., “the sublime Porte,”
is only “the King’s door”; Turkey is in all formal documents “the
sublime Kingdom,” all others being merely “princely.” It even appears
that the Mobed Mobedan had a position like that of the Sheik-ul-Islam,
and could on cause shown issue a “fetva” declaring his King unfit to
rule-unless the King anticipated the intention, and executed him

Labourt, p. 136.

Bar-Hebraeus does not seem to think this policy of blackmail at all
discreditable to his heroes!

B.-H., p. 71. As a matter of fact it was B. Lapat. It it said to have
been held in the “house of Yazdin, the Taxfarmer.” The only man of that
description we know lived 150 years later, but the name is common.

“Son of shoes ” instead of “son of fast.” The name given to Bar-soma by
Bar-Hebraeus in derision.

Adeney, The Greek and Eastern Churches.

It is also quite true, that things do go more smoothly for the melet,
if they do not outrage the prejudices of the dominant religion too
openly; and the enforced celibacy of an order is not a thing that can
be concealed. Thus, the Moslem of to-day thinks that a
Christian who does not use pictures or images in his worship, is a
decidedly less contemptible animal than one who does use them.
It is, of course, quite easy to prove that this matter of devotion or
discipline is a purely Christian affair, nothing to Magian or Moslem;
but what profit to prove it, if your opponent of the dominant faith
does not agree? He has a vast superiority to argument.

This canon is only preserved to us through its having been quoted and
adopted by a later council (Gregory, A.D. 605; Syn. Or., 211,
475). It was of course annulled with the other canons when the council
was repudiated; but the fact of the canonization of the then
uncondemned Theodore, in 484, must be remembered when we come to
discuss the attitude of the Assyrian Church toward the posthumous
anathema, pronounced on him in 553.

Syn. Or., 621.

Liber Turris. It is about the only reliable statement in that account.

Council of Acacius, Canons I and II.

Syn. Or., 61, 308. Bar-soma, Letter i.

Bar-soma, Letter 2. S.O., 526, 532.

This tribe at least, and very probably the Tu’ans also, still live in
the district.

Letter 4.

Parsopa. For the force of this term in the councils, see chap. xiii.

The word naqiputha has a ring that is not quite pleasant, but
is no more Nestorian than the , of the Council of Chalcedon.

S. O., 528.

Otherwise Vagarshapat. It is the place now generally called
Etchmiadzin, which was originally only the name of the great monastery.

Ass., ii. 266.

The question of Armenian “heresy” does not concern us. We may mention,
however, that so severe a judge as J. M. Neale considers them to be
“orthodox in intention”; and that they have introduced into their
version of the Creed clauses emphasizing the reality and eternity of
the Human nature of Christ, and therefore can hardly be “Monophysite”
in the ordinary sense.

Syn. Or., Council of Babai, 63, 312.

B.-H-, 76. In that case, he either did not go on the embassy referred
to in the second letter of Bar-soma, or he went twice. Both
explanations are possible. It is possible, too, that Acacius did not
anathematize Bar-soma till the “West” insisted on it as a condition of
Communion. In that case, one must feel some sympathy with Bar-soma in
his retaliation, and admit that in this case he was not the aggressor.
To us, what we have written above appears more probable.

B.-H., p. 78. “Killed with the keys of their cells,” says the
historian. If so, one would like to know how it was achieved, for the
oriental key is not an iron bar that can be a weapon on emergency, but
a notched slip of wood some eight inches long, and about as formidable
as a paperknife.

Rawlinson, ch. xx; Tabari, p. 142-144.

Possibly the lost letters of Bar-soma may be rediscovered, as those of
a later prelate have recently been. His comments on such a movement
would provide most interesting reading.

Of course the technical term belongs to a later period; nor need we
suppose that the quaint formality of the present age was followed then,
and the question asked, “If Zeid, who is commander of the faithful,
does such and such things, is it lawful to depose the said Zeid?”

S. O., Council of Acacius.

Labourt, p. 158; B.-H., p. 86.

“Black Amida.” This is still the Turkish name for Diarbekr, whose
basalt walls are largely of Roman building. Kobad was so discouraged by
the resistance of the town, that he offered to raise the siege, if a
small ransom was paid, “to save his face.” The over-confident garrison
sent in a bill for the vegetables consumed during the siege, and the
women mocked him from the ramparts. Kobad persevered and, shortly
after, an unguarded tower gave him entry (Zach. Mitylene, vii.

Liber Turris, Amr, Assem., iii. 614.

S. O., 339.

Bishoprics in the Assyrian Church to-day usually descend, by what is
known as the “natar-cursya system,” from uncle to nephew. The
custom, of course, is uncanonical, and as completely opposed to
primitive usage as is nomination by a lay rime Ministet, or by an
universal Pope!

The first two habits at any rate can
only be defended on the ground that they are the outcome of historical
conditions, and in practice produce results that are not intolerable.

Liber Turris.

S. O., Mar Aba, de Dualitate.

Liber Turris.

B.-H., 88. Singar is at the present a Yezidi stronghold, but many of
these men are descendants of Christians, and keep “Christian holy
books” in their shrines, which, however, they allow no stranger to

Belisarius fought that day behind the shelter of big “field
entrenchments,” and, when the Persian attack was repulsed, would not
trust his troops to make any pursuit.

In ferries on the Tigris a man who misses one crossing may often have
to wait for three hours before the boat has been towed back to the
crossing place against the rapid. current, has crossed again, and is
ready for another trip. Of course, no big man is going to wait his
turn, merely because a rayat was in the boat first!

Marcionites were called Christians, and Christians, Mshikhai (Mshikha,
or Messiah, being Syriac for Christ). Christians, as we see from other
evidence, wore some distinctive dress, as they did until the present
generation. It appears that Marcionites were a numerous sect in Persia
at the time.

Labourt suggests (p. 167) that the accession to power of the
Monophysite Patriarch Anthimus (535) was the reason for Aba’s
departure. This is probable enough, though there is no evidence for it
in the Biography, and I cannot identify the statement, attributed to
Mari, that he was expelled for refusing to anathematize Theodore of
Mopsuestia. Its the see-saw of ecclesiastical politics at
Constantinople a man might readily find himself orthodox one week and
heretical the next.

S. O., Council of Aba, 546, 556.

Mar Aba, de Recta Fide, S. O., 540, 550. See chap. xiii., “The
Christology of the Assyrian Church.”

So much per acre of cultivated land, and so much per tree, with an
additional poll-tax for Christians who did no military service. This
system, taken over by the Arabs, is that of the Ottoman Empire to-day,
though the late revolution had made Christians liable to service in the

M. Chabot (S. O., 546, 566) dates this council during
Aba’s exile. In default of very clear evidence there does not seem any
reason for removing it from a time and place when it could have been
held easily, to one where it would have been difficult. The point is
not important, but one does not differ readily from Monsignor Chabot.

S. O., De Dualitate; Mar Aba, iv.

Normally, all but the officiating clergy receive the Elements at the
door leading from the sanctuary into the nave.

De recta fide, S. O., 540, 550.

S. O., 80, 332.

Life, p. 226.

S. O., 90, 345; Mar Aba, v.; De Regimine Ecclesim.

S. O., 543, 553; Mar Aba, “Practica.”

IV Catholici (Bedjan). 347, 413, 395.

IV Catholici, “Life of Mar Aba,” 226.

Life, p. 228.

Life, p. 249.

The delightful casualness of the oriental prison is hardly changed to
this day, though indeed it is hardly more marked than it was, say, in
Newgate in the eighteenth century. The writer has known a modern Vali
say, in reply to a petition on behalf of an imprisoned Qasha, “You may
take him out any Sunday for service, if you will engage to bring him
back safe!”

About the same time, the arrival of a Qasha of the Hephthalite Turks,
who was to be consecrated bishop, gave Chosroes a new idea of the
extent and influence of the Church in his dominions. The tribe in
question lived somewhere on the river Oxus.

Liber Turris.

S. O., 97. 354.

Liber Turris.


Liber Turris.


S. O., 111, 368.

“Elias, Damasc.,” Ass., iii. 434. Liber Turris.

Liber Turris.

Modern Assyrians trace back this observance to the fast of the
Ninevites in the days of Jonah. Without accepting that identification,
one may note that the Bautha fast and subsequent feast are observed not
only by the Assyrians of modern days, but by the Yezidis
(Devil-worshippers) also. This fact makes it appear probable that the
fast of the sixth century has been “grafted on to” another and much
older observance.

Liber Turris.

Tabari, p. 268.

Tabari, 268; Rawlinson, ch. xx.

Liber Turris, Amr, Ass., iii. 110. Assemani declares Ishu-yahb must
have concealed heresy to be so accepted. His writings certainly conceal
it very effectually.

S. O., 133, 294; 192, 452.

See, on this point, the doctrines of the Assembly of Bishops, 612 (S.
., 565, 582).

S. O., Council of Ishu-yahb, Canon II.

Ass., iii. 444. Life of Sabr-Ishu (Bedi., IV Cath.), p. 303.

Guidi, Chron., p. 7. Liber Turris refers the incident to another war.

Life, p. 290.

Ibid., p. 300.

Guidi, pp. 11, 12.

The performance of animal sacrifices (a relic, no doubt, of paganism)
still persists among Assyrians, but modern bishops make no special
effort to check it. Any one that did would have his hands full.

For these sectaries, see next chapter.

Guidi, p. 12.

Guidi, p. 16.

Ibid., p. 16; Liber Turris.

Guidi, p. 18.

Zach., Mityl., vii. 7.

Joseph, Canon II, S. O.

Forced labour on bridges, etc. This danger at least has passed;
roads and bridges are not maintained (S. O., Joseph, xii.).

This danger is really an argument, during the present distress, for the
present odd hereditary system. It at least provides as good a chance of
a good bishop as of a good King!

That they existed still, appears from Canons XI and XVII of Josephus.

S. O., 79, 331.

S. O., 87, 342.

Thomas of Marga, i. xxxv.

Life of Mar Giwergis (Bedj., IV Cath.), p. 452, 448.

Joseph., Can. XI; Ezekiel, Can. XXV, XXX; Ishu-yahb, Can. VI.

This ingenious expedient is now impossible; the authorities hinting
that as “Simon Peter, son of Jonas, Fisherman of Capernaum, vilayet of
Beyrout,” and “Paul, tentmaker of Tarsus, vilayet of Adana,” were now
dead, and had apparently died intestate, their trust property reverted
to the ministry of pious benefactions.

For a discussion of the whole question, see Budge, Book of Governors,
“Excursus on Mesopotamian monasticism.”

Budge, T. of M., vol. i. p. cxxxiv.

T. of M., Bk. I. ch. viii.

Chabot, Isaac of Nineveh. Only comparison of those two very
different works, Isaac of Nineveh and The Miracle of Purun Bhagat (Second
Jungle Book), will show how very much the Indian and the Mesopotamian
ascetic have in common, under the differences of their faith.

Theodoret, viii. 10.

In one case at least, perhaps in others, “founder’s kin” claimed a
visitor’s rights in the monastery (T. of M., i. vii.-x.).

Sozomen, ii. 12.

Sozomen, ii. 12.

Assem., iv. 929.

Ibid., iv. 932.

Arab Nicene Canons, Assem., iv. 934.

Liber Turris: Life of Dinkha.

Ecole de Nisibe, histoire et statuts. Chabot.

There was one exception to this, and we must chronicle the most
magnificent instance of the obstinately separate existence of a
melet that one is likely to find. The village of San, the
ancient Tanis, is inhabited by a people of a non-Egyptian type, who
are, and always have been, “Melkite” or “Orthodox” in faith. Tanis was
the capital of the Hyksos Kings of Egypt, and the people of that place
have maintained a separate existence, and probably a separate religion,
since the Hyksos were expelled, about 1500 B.C.

See Pinches, Old Testament in
Light of Historic Records
, p. 266.

B.-H., 104.

B.-H., 100.

It was on this occasion that 2000 Christian maidens, hearing
that they were to be presented to the Sultan of the Turks, unanimously
drowned themselves (John of Ephesus,

S. O., Councils of Ishu-yahb and Sabr-Ishu.

Assemani, iii. 81.

There is no reference to the matter in Ezekiel’s Council in 576, but
the battle was over, before the assembly of that of Ishu-yahb, in 585.

Life of Giwergis, IV Cath., p. 483.

S. O., Ishu-yahb, Canon II. Theodore, who anticipated many of
the conclusions of modern critics, had ascribed it to a non-Jewish
author, probably an Edomite.

S. O., 208, 471.

Liber Turris.

T. of Marga, i. xxxvi.

B.-H., 108. Liber Turris.

Amr. Assemani, ii. 451.

S. O., 212, 476.

During the Macedonian disorders, the Orthodox Patriarch at
Constantinople was convinced throughout that peace and order would be
assured if only the Ottoman Government would enforce his spiritual
authority over all “Exarchists,” “Vlachs” and other separatist bodies
in the provinces concerned.

B.-H., 108.

Thomas of Marga, i. xxv.

Assem., iii. 451.

Guidi, p. 13, 17.

T. of M., I. Xxvii.

Council of Isaac, Canon XX.

At Mashita. See p. 20.

Life of Giwergis, p. 505.

Life of Giwergis, p. 513, IV Catholici.

Life, p. 516-520; S. O., 565, 582.

S. O., 567, 585.

The term is one which may be either “man” or “manhood.”

Life, p. 520-500; Guidi, p. 22; Labourt, p. 228.

Life, p. 526. There must be an error here. Chosroes acceded 590, and
Giwergis was certainly a Christian in the time of his predecessor. See
p. 72. “The sixth year of your Father” may be the right reading.

B.-H., 112.

“Crucifixion” under the Sassanids did not imply what we understand by
the term. The victim was hung up, usually by the hands, to a stake, and
shot to death with arrows. It might, therefore, be a very speedy and
merciful death.

T. of M., i. xxxv.

One thousand pieces of gold per day appears to have been the sum which
the “farmer-general” contracted to pay to the Shah-in-Shah, I. c.

Tabari, p. 261.

Thomas of Margo, i. xxxv. Babai, one notes with some
regret, seems to have afterwards been sorry for the act of
self-abnegation. On returning to his cell he had a vision of an angel
standing there, who said, “With your leave, I now depart from thee.”
“Who art thou? ” said the abbot. “I am the angel of the Catholicate of
the East,” replied the vision; “while thou didst fill the office, I was
charged to be with thee ever. Now that thou hast given it to another,
suffer me to go to him.” “Had I known that thou was with me, I had not
refused the charge,” said Babai; “now depart, and pray for me.”

B.-H., Life of Athanasius, iii. p. 132.

Afraat, Mimra I.

Mimra, vi, II. The word for “reality” is qnuma.

It will be seen that the creed has the general features of the
primitive baptismal creeds, viz. confession of Father, Son and Holy
Spirit; and of the Resurrection and Baptism.

For a discussion of the question of the relations of the present-day
creed with that of the council, see p. 93.

Council of Ishu-yahb, S. O., 136, 398.

Lit. “dispensation.” Another instance of terms borrowed
from the Greek.

Syr. , naqiputha.

So I render parsopa throughout, believing (as I
shall show later) that I am doing only justice thereby. It will be seen
that Narses uses the term of the Persons of the Trinity. “Essential
being,” as used by him, is equivalent to Godhead (, Ithutha),
and qnuma is practically “substance.”

Chaps. viii, ix. The historic statements made by Narses concerning
Nestorius and Cyril do not concern us. Some are utterly mistaken, some
half true.

e.g. Matt. xviii. 10; 2 Cor, ii, 10, iv. 6; Heb. ix, 24; &c.

Council of Dad-Ishu, 49. 20. Babai, 64. 24; 65. 5. Aba, 69. 19; 74. 23;
85. 10. Joseph, 98. 11, 18; 99. 32; 100. 3; 102. 33; 104. 26. Ezekiel,
124. 7, 10; 127. 5, 7; 129. 2. Ishu-yahb, 136. 4; 142. 16; 153. 12, 21;
155. 1; 161. 10; 175. 23; 195. 24. Sabr-Ishu, 200. 16; 201. 29.
Gregory, 207. 21; 208. 18; 210. 5. Gewergis, 218. 11, 22; 219. 2, 26;
233. 6; 240. 21; 242. 6. Assembly of Bishops, 565. 17; 567. 13; 573.
17; 575. 18; 577. 18; 578. 14, 20.

To give references to a Syriac manuscript is difficult, for reference
to the paging is useless. The uses in question will be found, however,
in the “De Unione Mimra I,” Head v, pp. 26, 31; II. vi. p. 59; II. vii.
p. 45, 46; IV. xvii. p. 141; VI. xx. p. 177, 181, 183. The MS. referred
to contains the book in 260 pages.

Ishu-yahb, Letters, ed. Duval, Corpus Scr. In Thomas of
Marga, Book of Governors
(ed. Budge), the word occurs thirteen
times in Books I, II, III; 1 theological sense, 1 doubtful (Budge
translates “person”), 2 Face or appearance, 9 “person.”

A conspicuous instance of this occurs in the Book of Governors,
ii. vii. Dr. Budge renders , Trein
kianein otrein Qnumein b’Khad Parsopa d’Barutha
, as “Two natures
and two Persons in one created form” Surely there is a slip here. ,
Barutha, is “sonship,” not “Creation,” ,
Bariutha, and the right rendering, in the light
of this writer’s habitual use of , Parsopa,
“Two Natures, and two ‘qnumi,’ in one Person of Sonship.”

“Qnuma” in New Test.: Rom. i. 27, ix. 3; 1 Cor. vi. ix. 27, xii. 25;
Eph. ii. 15; Col. ii. 15; 1 Thess. iv. 9; Heb. i. 3; ix. 28, x. 1.
Probably the list is not exhaustive. One curious use may be noted, Col.
ii. 15, where “in His Qnuma” appears to refer (and certainly can be
interpreted as referring) solely to the humanity of Christ.

Bethune-Baker, p. 228. Babai, Mimra, IV, Head xvii.

Babai, “De Unione,” 1. -v. p. 30; II. vi. p. 33; II. vi. p.
44, II. vii. p. 46; II. viii. p. 61; III. ix. p. 75; III- ix. p. 77;
VI: xx. p. 181; VI. xxi. p. 222; VI. xxi. p. 223; VII. xxii. P. 248.

Ishu-yahb, Letters 2, 6, p. 131, Duval. Quoted also by Budge; Book
of Governors
, II. cxxxix.

Council of Bps: S. O., 576.

Armenians, who are accused of Monophysitism, declare in their creed
that our Lord became “body, spirit, soul, and the whole complete being
of man,” and that” He ascended in His own body to heaven, * * * and
shall come in His own body to judge.”

S. O., p. 6. See also pp. 545, 556.

This “tampering with documents” has its humorous side–for those who
have personal knowledge of the modern Assyrian Church. The Greek and
Latin texts used were those given by Heurtley.

The Assyrian Church, or at least some of its writers, does use the
formula “one will” as applied to our Lord. I am not aware of any
evidence, however, that connects this directly with the Ecthesis of
Heraclius. Incidentally it may be observed that when a Church lays
itself open to the charges of the two contradictoryheresies
of Nestorianism and Monophysitism, there is at least a case for
supposing that it is, to intention, Orthodox; even if it be clumsy in

Thomas of Marga, ii. iv.

Liber Turris.

B.-H., 116.

Liber Turris. The Arabic word used and translated as a singular
is Shakhsiet, which has no etymological equivalent in Syriac. The
writer cannot undertake to say how it stands to the terms Parsopa and
Qnuma. Probably Parsoputha would be the nearest form.

As late ‘as the ninth century, Theodore Bar Koni still regards the use
of the term as indifferent. Since then, it has become the battle-cry of

So Noldeke, Tabari, Geschichter, der Perser, 392. Probably, however,
the relic had been surrendered previously. See Budge, T. of Marga, ii.
125, note.

T. of Marga, ii. iv.

I purposely abstain from using the term “Catholic”; partly as it is,
under the circumstances, a question-begging epithet; partly because it
is doubtful whether the “Emperor’s Church” was at that moment
technically Catholic, and not Monothelite.

Ishu-yahb, Letter 6, p. 123- Budge, T. of Marga, ii. 138-9.

Ishu-yahb, Letter 7, p. 131.

Ishu-yahb, Letter 30, p. 212. Budge, ii. 146.

e.g. the strictest Mussulman will eat an animal slaughtered by
one of the house in question, which he will often refuse to do
normally. A similar firman of protection (or what is held to be such)
is preserved at one particular “Nestorian ” Church (Mar Zeia, Jilu),
and has repeatedly saved that shrine from being plundered by the Kurds.

See History of Rabban Soma, Bedj., IV Catholici,
pp. 53-84. It is noteworthy that this wanderer, who presented a
confession of faith similar to that used at present (two natures, two
Qnumi, one Parsopa in Christ), was received as orthodox at Rome. It is
a fine point, whether this proves the orthodoxy of the confession, or
the ignorance of the Pope qua private doctor. See p. 60 of authority