Bardaisan

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Bardaisan (Syriac : ܒܪ ܕܝܨܢ, Bardaiṣān), known in Arabic as Ibn Daisan (ابن ديصان) [1] and in Latin as Bardesanes (A.D. 154–222), was a Syriac or Parthian [2] gnostic [3] and founder of the Bardaisanites. A scientist, scholar, astrologer, philosopher and poet, Bardaisan was also renowned for his knowledge of India, on which he wrote a book, now lost. [4]

Syriac language dialect of Middle Aramaic

Syriac, also known as Syrian/Syriac Aramaic, Syro-Aramaic or Classical Syriac, is a dialect of Middle Aramaic of the Northwest Semitic languages of the Afroasiatic family that is written in the Syriac alphabet, a derivation of the Aramaic alphabet. Having first appeared in the early first century CE in Edessa, classical Syriac became a major literary language throughout the Middle East from the 4th to the 8th centuries, preserved in a large body of Syriac literature. Indeed, Syriac literature comprises roughly 90% of the extant Aramaic literature. Syriac was once spoken across much of the Near East as well as Anatolia and Eastern Arabia. Syriac originated in Mesopotamia and eventually spread west of Iraq in which it was became the lingua franca of the region during the Mesopotamian Neo-Assyrian period. During the establishment of the Church of the East in central-southern Iraq, speakers of Syriac split into two; those who followed the Eastern Syriac Rite and those who followed Western Syriac Rite. Syriac was the lingua franca of the entire region of Mesopotamia and the native language of the peoples of Iraq and surrounding regions until it was spread further west of the country to the entire Fertile Crescent region, as well as in parts of Eastern Arabia, becoming the dominant language for centuries, before the spread and replacement with Arabic language as the lingua franca. For this reason, Mesopotamian Iraqi Arabic being an Aramaic Syriac substratum, is said to be the most Aramaic Syriac influenced dialect of Arabic, sharing significant similarities in language structure, as well as having evident and stark influences from other ancient Mesopotamian languages of Iraq, such as Akkadian, Sumerian and Babylonian. Mesopotamian Arabic dialects developed by Iraqi Muslims, Iraqi Jews, as well as dialects by Iraqi Christians, most of whom are native ethnic Syriac speakers. Today, Syriac is the native spoken language of millions of Iraqi-Chaldo-Assyrians living in Iraq and the diaspora, and other Syriac-speaking people from Mesopotamia, such as the Mandaean people of Iraq. The dialects of Syriac spoken today include Assyrian Neo-Aramaic, Chaldean Neo-Aramaic, and Mandaic.

Assyrian people Ethnic group

Assyrian people, or Syriacs, are an ethnic group indigenous to Western Asia. Some of them self-identify as Arameans, or as Chaldeans. Speakers of modern Aramaic and as well as the primary languages in their countries of residence, modern Assyrians are Syriac Christians who claim descent from Assyria, one of the oldest civilizations in the world, dating back to 2500 BC in ancient Mesopotamia.

Parthia region of north-eastern Iran

Parthia is a historical region located in north-eastern Iran. It was conquered and subjugated by the empire of the Medes during the 7th century BC, was incorporated into the subsequent Achaemenid Empire under Cyrus the Great in the 6th century BC, and formed part of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire following the 4th-century-BC conquests of Alexander the Great. The region later served as the political and cultural base of the Eastern-Iranian Parni people and Arsacid dynasty, rulers of the Parthian Empire. The Sasanian Empire, the last state of pre-Islamic Persia, also held the region and maintained the Seven Parthian clans as part of their feudal aristocracy.

Contents

Biography

Bardaisan (Syriac : ܒܪ ܕܝܨܢbar Daiṣān "son of the Daiṣān") was a Syriac author born on 11 July 154, in Edessa, which, in those days, was alternately under the influence of the Roman Empire and the Parthian Empire. Edessa was a metropolis of Osroene. Some sources refer to his high birth and wealth; according to Michael the Syrian, Bardaisan's parents had fled Persia and Sextus Julius Africanus reports that he was of Parthian origin. [2] To indicate the city of his birth, his parents called him "Son of the Daisan", the river on which Edessa was situated. He is sometimes also referred to as "the Babylonian" (by Porphyrius); and, on account of his later important activity in Armenia, "the Armenian", (by Hippolytus of Rome), while Ephrem the Syrian calls him "philosopher of the Arameans" (Syriac : ܦܝܠܘܣܘܦܐ ܕܐܖ̈ܡܝܐ, Filosofā d-Arāmāyē). His parents, Nuhama and Nah 'siram, must have been people of rank, for their son was educated with the crown-prince of Osroene at the court of Abgar VIII. Sextus Julius Africanus says that he saw Bardaisan, with bow and arrow, mark the outline of a boy's face with his arrows on a shield which the boy held. [5]

Edessa ancient city in upper Mesopotamia

Edessa was a city in Upper Mesopotamia, founded on an earlier site by Seleucus I Nicator ca. 302 BC. It was also known as Antiochia on the Callirhoe from the 2nd century BC. It was the capital of the semi-independent kingdom of Osroene from c. 132 BC and fell under direct Roman rule in ca. 242. It became an important early centre of Syriac Christianity. It fell to the Muslim conquest in 638, was briefly retaken by Byzantium in 1031 and became the center of the Crusader state of the County of Edessa from 1098–1144. It fell to the Turkic Zengid dynasty in 1144 and was eventually absorbed by the Ottoman Empire in 1517. The modern name of the city is Urfa and it is located in Şanlıurfa Province in the Southeast Anatolia Region of Turkey.

Roman Empire Period of Imperial Rome following the Roman Republic (27 BC–476 AD)

The Roman Empire was the post-Roman Republic period of the ancient Roman civilization. Ruled by emperors, it had large territorial holdings around the Mediterranean Sea in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and the Caucasus. From the constitutional reforms of Augustus to the military anarchy of the third century, the Empire was a principate ruled from Italy, homeland of the Romans and metropole of the empire, with the city of Rome as capital. The Roman Empire was then ruled by multiple emperors and divided in a Western Roman Empire, based in Milan and later Ravenna, and an Eastern Roman Empire, based in Nicomedia and later Constantinople. Rome remained the nominal capital of both parts until 476 AD, when Odoacer deposed Romulus Augustus after capturing Ravenna and the Senate of Rome sent the imperial regalia to Constantinople. The fall of the Western Roman Empire to barbarian kings, along with the hellenization of the Eastern Roman Empire into the Byzantine Empire, is conventionally used to mark the end of Ancient Rome and the beginning of the Middle Ages.

Parthian Empire Iranian empire ruled by Arsacids

The Parthian Empire, also known as the Arsacid Empire, was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Iran. Its latter name comes from Arsaces I of Parthia who, as leader of the Parni tribe, founded it in the mid-3rd century BC when he conquered the region of Parthia in Iran's northeast, then a satrapy (province) under Andragoras, in rebellion against the Seleucid Empire. Mithridates I of Parthia (r. c. 171–138 BC) greatly expanded the empire by seizing Media and Mesopotamia from the Seleucids. At its height, the Parthian Empire stretched from the northern reaches of the Euphrates, in what is now central-eastern Turkey, to eastern Iran. The empire, located on the Silk Road trade route between the Roman Empire in the Mediterranean Basin and the Han dynasty of China, became a center of trade and commerce.

Bardesanes is the creator of an eponymous offshoot of ancient Mesopotamian religion that formed the basis of the teachings of Manichaeism and later of the batini sects of Shia Islam. [6]

Eponym Someone or something after which something is named

An eponym is a person, place, or thing after whom or after which something is named, or believed to be named. The adjectives derived from eponym include eponymous and eponymic. For example, Elizabeth I of England is the eponym of the Elizabethan era, and "the eponymous founder of the Ford Motor Company" refers to Henry Ford. Recent usage, especially in the recorded-music industry, also allows eponymous to mean "named after its central character or creator".

Ancient Mesopotamian religion religion

Mesopotamian religion refers to the religious beliefs and practices of the civilizations of ancient Mesopotamia, particularly Sumer, Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia between circa 3500 BC and 400 AD, after which they largely gave way to Syriac Christianity. The religious development of Mesopotamia and Mesopotamian culture in general was not particularly influenced by the movements of the various peoples into and throughout the area, particularly the south. Rather, Mesopotamian religion was a consistent and coherent tradition which adapted to the internal needs of its adherents over millennia of development.

Manichaeism ancient Iranian religion founded by Mani in 3rd century AD

Manichaeism was a major religion founded by the Iranian prophet Mani in the Sasanian Empire.

Owing to political disturbances in Edessa, Bardaisan and his parents moved for a while to Hierapolis (now Manbij), a strong centre of Babylonianism. Here, the boy was brought up in the house of a priest Anuduzbar. In this school he learnt all the intricacies of Babylonian astrology, a training that permanently influenced his mind and proved the bane of his later life. At the age of twenty-five he happened to hear the homilies of Hystaspes, the Bishop of Edessa, received instruction, was baptized, and even admitted to the diaconate or the priesthood. "Priesthood", however, may merely imply that he ranked as one of the college of presbyters, for he remained in the world, had a son called Harmonius, and when Abgar IX, the friend of his youth, ascended the throne (179) he took his place at court. He was clearly no ascetic, but dressed in finery "with berylls and caftan", [5] according to Ephrem the Syrian. [5]

Manbij City in Aleppo Governorate, Syria

Manbij is a city in the northeast of Aleppo Governorate in northern Syria, 30 kilometers west of the Euphrates. In the 2004 census by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), Manbij had a population of nearly 100,000. The population of Manbij is largely Arab, with Kurdish, Circassian and Chechen minorities. Many of its residents practice Naqshbandi Sufism.

Babylonian astrology Wikimedia list article

In Babylon as well as in Assyria as a direct offshoot of Babylonian culture, astrology takes its place as one of the two chief means at the disposal of the priests for ascertaining the will and intention of the gods, the other being through the inspection of the livers of sacrificial animals.

Beryl gemstone: cyclosilicate

Beryl ( BERR-əl) is a mineral composed of beryllium aluminium cyclosilicate with the chemical formula Be3Al2Si6O18. Well-known varieties of beryl include emerald and aquamarine. Naturally occurring, hexagonal crystals of beryl can be up to several meters in size, but terminated crystals are relatively rare. Pure beryl is colorless, but it is frequently tinted by impurities; possible colors are green, blue, yellow, red (the rarest), and white. Beryl is also an ore source of beryllium.

According to tradition, during his youth he shared the education of a royal prince who afterwards became King of Edessa, perhaps Abgar X of Osroene (ruled 202–217). He is said to have converted the prince to Christianity, and may have had an important share in Christianizing the city. [7]

Christianity is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Its adherents, known as Christians, believe that Jesus Christ is the merciful Son of God and savior of all people, whose coming as the Messiah was prophesied in the Old Testament. It is the world's largest religion with over 2.4 billion followers, with its followers affirming that Jesus is the Logos, whose coming as the Messiah was prophesied in the Hebrew scriptures and chronicled in the New Testament.

Epiphanius of Salamis and Bar Hebraeus assert that he was first an orthodox Christian and afterwards an adherent of Valentinus. [7]

Epiphanes is the author of On Righteousness, a notable early Gnostic Christian literary work that promotes communist principles, that was published and discussed by Clement of Alexandria, in Stromaties, III. Epiphanes was also attributed with founding Monadic Gnosis. G.R.S. Mead however thinks that Epiphanes was a legend and may not have been an actual person, that the real author of On Righteousness may be the Valentinian, Marcus.

Gregory Bar Hebraeus, also known by his Latin name Abulpharagius or Syriac name Mor Gregorios Bar Ebraya, was a maphrian-catholicos 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".

Valentinus was the best known and, for a time, most successful early Christian gnostic theologian. He founded his school in Rome. According to Tertullian, Valentinus was a candidate for bishop of Rome but started his own group when another was chosen.

Perhaps owing to the persecutions under Caracalla, Bardaisan for a time retreated into Armenia, and is said to have there preached Christianity with indifferent success, and also to have composed a history of the Armenian kings. [7]

As a gnostic, he certainly denied the resurrection of the body; [7] and so far as we can judge by the obscure quotations from his hymns furnished by Ephrem the Syrian he explained the origin of the world by a process of emanation from the supreme God whom he called the Father of the living. He and his Bardaisan movement were considered heretic by the Christians, and he was subjected to critical polemics, [7] particularly in the hymns by Ephrem:

And if he thinks he has said the last thing
He has reached heathenism,
O Bar-Daisan,
Son of the River Daisan,
Whose mind is liquid like his name!
[8]

His acceptance of Christianity was perfectly sincere; and later stories, that he left the Roman Church and joined the Valentinian Gnostics out of disappointed ambition, do not deserve much credit. His royal friend became (probably after 202, i.e. after his visit and honourable reception at Rome) the first Christian king; and both king and philosopher laboured to create the first Christian State. Bardaisan showed great literary activity against Marcion and Valentinus, the Gnostics of the day. Bardaisan mixed his Babylonian pseudo-astronomy with Christian dogma and originated a Christian sect, which was vigorously combated by St. Ephrem. The Romans under Caracalla, taking advantage of the anti-Christian faction in Edessa, captured Abgar IX and sent him in chains to Rome. Thus the Osrhoenic kingdom, after 353 years' existence, came to an end. Though he was urged by a friend of Caracalla to apostatize, Bardaisan stood firm, saying that he feared not death, as he would in any event have to undergo it, even though he should now submit to the emperor. At the age of sixty-three he was forced to take refuge in the fortress of Ani in Armenia and tried to spread the Gospel there, but with little success. He died at the age of sixty-eight, either at Ani or at Edessa. According to Michael the Syrian, Bardaisan had besides Harmonius two other sons, called Abgarun and Hasdu. [5]

Encounter with religious men from India

Porphyry states that on one occasion at Edessa, Bardaisan interviewed an Indian deputation of holy men (Ancient Greek : Σαρμαναίοι "śramaṇas") who had been sent to the Roman emperor Elagabalus or another Severan emperor, and questioned them as to the nature of Indian religion. The encounter is described in Porphyry De abstin., iv, 17 [9] and Stobaeus (Eccles., iii, 56, 141):

For the polity of the Indians being distributed into many parts, there is one tribe among them of men divinely wise, whom the Greeks are accustomed to call Gymnosophists. But of these there are two sects, one of which the Bramins preside over, the Samanaeans the other. [10] The race of the Bramins, however, receive divine wisdom of this kind by succession, in the same manner as the priesthood. But the Samanaeans are elected, and consist of those who wish to possess divine knowledge. And the particulars respecting them are the following, as the Babylonian Bardaisan narrates, who lived in the times of our fathers, and was familiar with those Indians who, together with Damadamis, were sent to Caesar. All the Bramins originate from one stock; for all of them are derived from one father and one mother. But the Samanaeans are not the offspring of one family, being, as we have said, collected from every nation of Indians.

Porphyry De abstin., iv,

Bardaisanite school

The followers of Bardaisan (the Bardaisanites) were a sect of the 2nd century deemed heretical by later Christians, including the Catholic Church. Bardaisan's son, Harmonius, is considered to have strayed farther from the path of orthodoxy. Educated at Athens, he added to the Chaldee astrology of his father Greek ideas concerning the soul, the birth and destruction of bodies and a sort of metempsychosis. [5]

A certain Marinus, a follower of Bardaisan and a dualist, who is refuted in the "Dialogue of Adamantius", held the doctrine of a twofold primeval being; for the devil, according to him is not created by God. He was also a Docetist, as he denied Christ's birth of a woman. Bardaisan's form of gnosticism influenced Manichaeism. [5]

According to St. Ephrem, the Bardaisanites of his day were given to many puerilities and obscenities. Sun and Moon were considered male and female principles, and the ideas of heaven amongst the Bardaisanites were not without an admixture of sensuality. [5]

St. Ephrem's zealous efforts to suppress this powerful heresy were not entirely successful. Rabbula, Bishop of Edessa in 431–432, found it flourishing everywhere. Its existence in the seventh century is attested by Jacob of Edessa; in the eighth by George, Bishop of the Arab tribes; in the tenth by the historian Masudi; and even in the twelfth by Shashrastani. Bardaisanism seems to have evolved first into Valentinianism and then into common Manichaeism. The last-named writer states: "The followers of Daisan believe in two elements, light and darkness. The light causes the good, deliberately and with free will; the darkness causes the evil, but by force of nature and necessity. They believe that light is a living thing, possessing knowledge, might, perception and understanding; and from it movement and life take their source; but that darkness is dead, ignorant, feeble, rigid and soulless, without activity and discrimination; and they hold that the evil within them is the outcome of their nature and is done without their co-operation". [11]

Doctrine

Various opinions have been formed as to the real doctrine of Bardesanes. As early as Hippolytus (Philosoph., VI, 50) his doctrine was described as a variety of Valentinianism, the most popular form of Gnosticism. Adolf Hilgenfeld in 1864 defended this view, based mainly on extracts from St. Ephrem, who devoted his life to combating Bardaisanism in Edessa. [5]

The strong and fervent expressions of St. Ephrem against the Bardaisanites of his day are not a fair criterion of the doctrine of their master. The extraordinary veneration of his own countrymen, the very reserved and half-respectful allusion to him in the early Fathers, and above all the "Book of the Laws of the Countries" suggest a milder view of Bardaisan's aberrations. He cannot be called a Gnostic in the proper sense of the word. Like the Early Christians, he believed in an Almighty God, Creator of heaven and earth, whose will is absolute, and to whom all things are subject. God endowed man with freedom of will to work out his salvation and allowed the world to be a mixture of good and evil, light and darkness. All things, even those we now consider inanimate, have a measure of liberty. In all of them the light has to overcome the darkness. After six thousand years this earth shall have an end, and a world without evil shall take its place. [5]

However, Bardaisan also thought the sun, moon and planets were living beings, to whom, under God, the government of this world was largely entrusted; and though man was free, he was strongly influenced for good or for evil by the constellations. Bardaisan's catechism must have been a strange mixture of Christian doctrine and references to the signs of the Zodiac. Led by the fact that "spirit" is feminine in Syriac, he seems to have held unorthodox views on the Trinity. He apparently denied the Resurrection of the Body, but thought Christ's body was endowed with incorruptibility as with a special gift. [5]

Writings

Bardaisan apparently was a voluminous author. Though nearly all his works have perished, we find notices of the following: [5]

See also

Notes

  1. Houtsma, M. Th (1993). E.J. Brill's First Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913-1936. BRILL. ISBN   9004097910.
  2. 1 2 Prods Oktor Skjaervo. Bardesanes. Encyclopædia Iranica. Volume III. Fasc. 7-8. ISBN   0-7100-9121-4.
  3. After Bardaisan Studies on Continuity and Change in Syriac Christianity in Honour of Professor Han. J.W. Drijvers (Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta), archived from the original on 8 March 2012, retrieved 2 September 2018
  4. Edessa – Parthian Period, University of Evansville, archived from the original on 20 February 2007
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 Arendzen 1913.
  6. Patricia Crone (28 June 2012). The Nativist Prophets of Early Islamic Iran: Rural Revolt and Local Zoroastrianism. Cambridge University Press. pp. 546–220. ISBN   978-1-107-01879-2.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 McLean 1911.
  8. St. Ephraim of Syria, Translated by A. S. Duncan Jones, 1904
  9. Porphyry "On abstinence from animal food" Book IV, Paragraphs 17&18.
  10. Jaucourt, Louis, chevalier de. "Samanean." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by E.M. Langille. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2012. http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.did2222.0002.611 (accessed 30 April 2018). Originally published as "Samanéen," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, 14:590–592 (Paris, 1765).
  11. Arendzen 1913 cites Haarbrucker tr. (Halle, 1850), I, 293.
  12. Arendzen 1913 cites Theodoretus, Haer. fab., I, xxii; Eusebius of Caesarea, Church History , IV, xxx, 3.
  13. Arendzen 1913 cites Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica , IV, xxx, 2; Epiphanius, Haer., LVI, I; Theodoretus, Haer. fab., I, xxii.
  14. Arendzen 1913 cites St. Ephrem, Serm. Adv. Haer., liii.
  15. in "Bardesane l'astrologue" etc. (Paris, 1899) (see Arendzen 1913).
  16. Arendzen 1913 cites History of G. A., II, 66.
  17. Arendzen 1913 cites Langlois, Fragmenta historicorum graecorum, V, lxviii sqq.
  18. Arendzen 1913 cites Praeparatio Evangelica , VI, x, 6 sqq.
  19. Arendzen 1913 cites Quaestiones, xlvii, 48.
  20. Arendzen 1913 cites IX, 19sqq.

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