Bar Hebraeus (1226 – 30 July 1286), previously known by
his Latin name Abulpharagius or Syriac name Mor Gregorios Bar Ebraya,
was a maphrian-catholicos (Chief bishop of Persia) of the Syriac
Orthodox Church in the 13th century. He is noted for his works
concerning philosophy, poetry, language, history, and theology; he
has been called "one of the most learned and versatile men from the
Syriac Orthodox Church" (Dr. William Wright).
He collected in his numerous and elaborate treatises the results of
such research in theology, philosophy, science and history as was in
his time possible in Syria. Most of his works were written in
Syriac. However he also wrote some in Arabic, which had become the
common language in his day.
3.1 Encyclopedic and philosophical
3.5 Other works
7 External links
It is not clear when he adopted the
Christian name Gregory (Syriac:
ܓܪܝܓܘܪܝܘܣ Grigorios, Ġrīġūriyūs), but according to
the Syriac Orthodox tradition of naming High priests, it may have
occurred at the time of his consecration as bishop. Throughout his
life, he was often referred to by the Syriac nickname Bar ʿEbrāyā
(Syriac: ܒܪ ܥܒܪܝܐ, which is pronounced and often
transliterated as Bar Ebroyo in the West Syriac dialect of the Syriac
Orthodox Church), giving rise to the Latinised name Bar Hebraeus. This
nickname refers to his Jewish background, which means 'Son of the
Hebrew'. His father was a Jewish physician. The name also refer to the
place of his birth as well, ʿEbrā, where the old road east of
Kharput (modern Elazığ) and Amida (Mesopotamia)
(modern Diyarbakır) crossed the Euphrates. He is also known as
Abu'l Faraj (in Latin, Abulpharagius).
Mor Gregorios Bar Ebraya
Maphrian of the Syriac Orthodox Church
Syriac Orthodox Church
Ignatius Sleeba III
Gregorius bar Souma
by Ignatius IV Yeshu
Hārūn bin Tūmā al-Malaṭī
near Melitene, Sultanate of Rûm
30 July 1286
Syriac Orthodox Church
A Syriac bishop, philosopher, poet, grammarian, physician, biblical
commentator, historian, and theologian, he was the son of a Jewish
physician, Aaron (Hārūn bin Tūmā al-Malaṭī, Arabic:
هارون بن توما الملطي).
Bar Hebraeus was born in
the village of ʿEbra (Izoli, Turk.: Kuşsarayı) near Malatya,
Sultanate of Rûm
Sultanate of Rûm (modern Turkey, now in the province of Elazig).
Under the care of his father, he began as a boy (a teneris unguiculis)
the study of medicine and of many other branches of knowledge, which
he never abandoned.
A Mongol general invaded the area of Malatya, and falling ill, sought
for a physician. Aaron, the Hebrew physician, was summoned. Upon his
recovery, the Mongol general and Aaron, who took his family with him,
went to Antioch. There
Bar Hebraeus continued with his studies and
when he was about seventeen years of age he became a monk and began to
lead the life of the hermit.
From Antioch he went to Tripoli in Phoenicia, and studied rhetoric and
medicine. In 1246 he was consecrated bishop of Gubos by the Syriac
Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius II, and in 1252 he was transferred to
Aleppo. In 1255 was transferred to the see of Laqabin and finally was
made primate, or maphrian, of the East by Ignatius IV Yeshu in
1264. His episcopal duties did not interfere with his studies; he
took advantage of the numerous visitations, which he had to make
throughout his vast province, to consult the libraries and converse
with the learned men whom he happened to meet. Thus he gradually
accumulated an immense erudition, became familiar with almost all
branches of secular and religious knowledge, and in many cases
thoroughly mastered the bibliography of the various subjects which he
undertook to treat. Bar Hebræus preserved and systematized the work
of his predecessors, either by way of condensation or by way of direct
reproduction. Both on account of his virtues and of his science, Bar
Hebræus was highly esteemed. He died in Maraga, Persia, and was
buried at the Mar Mattai Monastery, near Mosul. He left an
autobiography, to be found in Assemani, Biblioth. Orient., II,
248-263; the account of his death was written by his brother,
Grigorius Barsawmo (d. 1307/8).
Encyclopedic and philosophical
His great encyclopedic work is his Hewath Hekhmetha, "The Cream of
Science", which deals with almost every branch of human knowledge, and
comprises the whole Aristotelian discipline, after
Arabian writers. This work, so far, has not been published, with the
exception of one chapter, by Margoliouth, in Analecta Orientalia ad
poeticam Aristoteleam (London, 1887), 114-139.
The Kethabha dhe-Bhabhatha, ("Book of the Pupils of the Eyes") is a
compendium of logic and dialectics.
The rest is to be found only in MSS., preserved at Florence, Oxford,
London, and elsewhere. (3) Teghrath Teghratha, "Commerce of
Commerces", a résumé of the preceding, also unpublished. (4)
Kethabha dhe-Sewadh Sophia, "Book of Speech of Wisdom"; compendium of
physics and metaphysics. To these should be added a few translations
of Arabic works into Syriac, as well as some treatises written
directly in Arabic.
The most important work of Bar Hebræus is Awsar Raze, "Storehouse of
Secrets", a commentary on the entire Bible, both doctrinal and
critical. Before giving his doctrinal exposition of a passage, he
first considers its critical state. Although he uses the
Peshitta as a
basis, he knows that it is not perfect, and therefore controls it by
the Hebrew, the Septuagint, the Greek versions of Symmachus,
Theodotion, Aquila, by Oriental versions, Armenian and Coptic, and
finally by the other Syriac translations, Heraclean,
especially the Syro-Hexapla. The work of Bar Hebræus is of prime
importance for the recovery of these versions and more specially for
Hexapla of Origen, of which the Syro-
Hexapla is a translation by
Paul of Tella. His exegetical and doctrinal portions are taken from
Greek Fathers and previous Syriac Orthodox theologians. No
complete edition of the work has yet been issued, but many individual
books have been published at different times.
Bar Hebraeus has left a large ecclesiastical history called
Makhtbhanuth Zabhne, Chronicon, in which he considers history from the
Creation down to his own day. Bar Hebræus used almost all that had
been written before him, showing particular favor to the now lost
chronographic records published by
Theophilus of Edessa (late 8th
century, although he has this only through
Michael the Syrian
Michael the Syrian and
other dependents). The work is divided into two portions, often
The first portion deals with political and civil history and is known
as the Chronicon Syriacum. The standard edition of the Chronicon
Syriacum is that of Bedjan, Gregorii Barhebraei Chronicon Syriacum
(Paris, 1890). An English translation by Wallis Budge exists.
This was to give context to the second portion, known as the Chronicon
Ecclesiasticum and covering the religious history. That section
Aaron and consists of a series of entries of important
individuals. The first half covers the history of the Syriac Orthodox
Church and the Patriarchs of Antioch, while the second half is devoted
to the Church of the East, the Nestorian Patriarchs, and the Jacobite
Maphrians. The current edition of the Chronicon Ecclesiasticum is that
of Abbeloos and Lamy, Syriac text, Latin translation. An English
translation by David Wilmshurst was published by Gorgias Press in
Bar Hebraeus, later, decided to write a history for the edification of
Christians rather than for the Church itself. This became Mukhtasar
fî'l-Duwal. An 1890 edition of his work is a translation by Fr.
Anton Salihani. A Latin translation exists in the older edition of
Edward Pococke, (mis)translated Historia Compendiosa
In theology Bar Hebræus was a Miaphysite. He probably, however,
thought that the differences between Catholics, Nestorians, and the
rest were of a theological, but not of a dogmatical nature, and that
they did not affect the common faith; hence, he did not consider
others as heretics, and was not himself considered as such, at least
by the Church of the East and the Armenians. Indeed, he once mused
When I had given much thought and pondered on the matter, I became
convinced that these quarrels among the different Christian Churches
are not a matter of factual substance, but of words and terminology;
for they all confess Christ our Lord to be perfect God and perfect
human, without any commingling, mixing, or confusion of the natures...
Thus I saw all the Christian communities, with their different
christological positions, as possessing a single common ground that is
without any difference between them.
In this field, we have from him Menarath Qudhshe, "Lamp of the
Sanctuary", and the Kethabha dhe-Zalge, "Book of Rays", a summary of
the first. These works have not been published, and exist in
manuscript in Paris, Berlin, London, Oxford, and Rome. Ascetical and
moral theology were also treated by Bar Hebræus, and we have from him
Kethabha dhe-Ithiqon, "Book of Ethics", and Kethabha dhe-Yauna, "Book
of the Dove", an ascetical guide. Both have been edited by Bedjan in
"Ethicon seu Moralia Gregorii Barhebræi" (
Paris and Leipzig, 1898).
The "Book of the Dove" was issued simultaneously by Cardahi (Rome,
1898). Bar Hebræus codified the juridical texts of the Syriac
Orthodox, in a collection called Kethabha dhe-Hudhaye, "Book of
Directions", edited by Bedjan, "Barhebræi Nomocanon" (Paris, 1898). A
Latin translation is to be found in Angelo Mai, "Scriptorum Veter.
Nova Collectio", vol. x. Bar Hebræus has left besides many other
works. On grammatical subjects we have the "Book of Splendours" and
"Book of the Spark", both edited by Martin, "Oeuvres grammaticales de
Aboul Faradj dit Barhebræus" (2 vols., Paris, 1872); also works on
mathematics, astronomy, cosmography, and medicine, some of which have
been published, but others exist only in manuscript.
A full list of Bar Hebraeus's other works, and of editions of such of
them as have been published, will be found in W. Wright's Syriac
Literature, pp. 268–281. The more important of them are:
Kethabha dhe-Bhabhatha (Book of the Pupils of the Eyes), a treatise on
logic or dialectics
Hewath Hekmetha (Butter of Wisdom), an exposition of the whole
philosophy of Aristotle
Sullarat Haunãnãyã (Ascent of the Mind), a treatise on astronomy
and cosmography, edited and translated by F. Nau (Paris, 1899)
various medical works
Kethabha dhe-Zalge (Book of Rays), a treatise on grammar
Kethabha dhe-Thunnaye Mighaizjzikhanl (Book of Entertaining Stories),
edited and translated by
E. A. Wallis Budge
E. A. Wallis Budge (London, 1897).
He is regarded as a saint by the Syriac Orthodox Church, who hold his
feast day on July 30.
^ Chambers Biographical Dictionary, ISBN 0-550-18022-2, page 5
^ a b One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates
text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh,
ed. (1911). "Bar-Hebraeus". Encyclopædia Britannica. 3 (11th ed.).
Cambridge University Press. p. 400.
^ a b c Budge, E.A.W., The Chronography of Gregory Abu'l Faraj, The
Son of Aaron, The Hebrew Physician Commonly Known as Bar Hebraeus
Being the First Part of His Political
History of the World. London:
Oxford University Press. 1932
^ A few Syriac sources[who?] give Bar-Hebraeus's full Arabic name as
Jamāluddīn Abū'l-Faraj Ġrīġūriyūs bin Tājuddīn Hārūn bin
Tūmā al-Malaṭī (Arabic: جمال الدين ابو الفرج
غريغوريوس بن تاج الدين هارون بن توما
الملطي). However, all references to this longer name are
posthumous. The Syriac nickname Bar ʿEbrāyā is sometimes arabised
as Ibn al-ʿIbrī (Arabic: ابن العبري). E.A.W. Budge says
Bar Hebraeus was given the baptismal name John (Syriac: ܝܘܚܢܢ,
Yōḥanan), but this may be a scribal error. As a Syriac bishop, Bar
Hebraeus is often given the honorific Mār (Syriac: ܡܪܝ,
pronounced Mor in West Syriac dialect), and thus Mar/Mor
^ a b c Butin, Romain. "Bar Hebræus." The
Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol.
2. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 2 Dec. 2014
^ Samir, Khalil. "Bar Hebraeus", The Coptic encyclopedia, vol. 2,
^ SR Todt (1988). "Die syrische und die arabische Weltgeschichte des
Bar Hebraeus". Der Islam. 65: 60–80. . Conrad and so Hoyland
^ a b c d Lawrence Conrad (1994). "On the Arabic Chronicle of Bar
Hebraeus". Parole de l'Orient. 19: 319–78.
^ 3 vols., Louvain, 1872–77
^ Oxford, 1663
^ Bar Hebraeus. Book of the Dove. Chapter IV.
^ Holweck, F. G., A Biographical Dictionary of the Saints. St. Louis,
MO: B. Herder Book Co. 1924.
Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Bar Hebræus". Catholic
Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
Patriarch Ignatius Ephraim 1 (1949). "Al lulu Al-Manthour".
Patriarch Ignatius Zakka 1 (1986). The Patriarchal Circular.
Archbishop Gregorius Paulos Behnam (na). "Bar Ebroyo the Poet".
Bar Ebroyo. Published collection of poems.
Bar Ebroyo. Makhtbanooth Zabney (The Chronography of Bar Ebroyo).
Bar Ebroyo. "Al Mukhtasar Fid-Dual".
Takahashi, Hidemi (2005). Barhebraeus: A Bio-Bibliography. Piscataway,
NJ: Gorgias Press. ISBN 1-59333-148-7.
Takahashi, Hidemi, (2011). Bar `Ebroyo, Grigorios, in Sebastian Brock
et al. (eds.), Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of Syriac Heritage,
Piscataway, Gorgias Press.
Budge, Ernest A. Wallis, ed. (1932). Bar Hebraeus' Chronography:
Translated from Syriac. London.
Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article
Gregorii Barhebraei Chronicon ecclesiasticum: quod e codice Musei
britannici descriptum conjuncta opera ediderunt, Latinitate donarunt
annotationibusque ...illustrarunt Jean Baptiste Abbeloos, Thomas
Joseph Lamy Also at Archive.org here.
Gregorii Barhebraei Chronicon Syriacum
Encyclopaedia of Bar-Hebraeus (Abu al-Faraj) / SuryoyoNews.
Gregorii Bar-Hebraei Scholia in Psalmum LXVIII. e codicibus mss.
syriacis Bibliothecae Florentinae et Clementino-Vaticanae et
Bodleianae Oxoniensis primum edita et annotationibus illustrata,
The Laughable Stories of Bar-Hebraeus, 1897 tr. by E.A.W. Budge, at
Takahashi, Hidemi (2007). "Barhebraeus: Gregory Abū al‐Faraj". In
Thomas Hockey; et al. The Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers.
New York: Springer. pp. 94–5.
ISBN 978-0-387-31022-0. (PDF version)
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