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E00522: Movsēs Xorenac'i's History of Armenia, written in Armenian and traditionally considered a 5th c. text, but most probably of the early 8th c., recounts the conception of *Gregory the Illuminator (converter of Armenia, S00251) on the grave of the apostle *Addai/Thaddaeus (the Apostle, one of the seventy-two, S00255).

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posted on 18.05.2015, 00:00 by dlambert
Movsēs Xorenac'i, History of Armenia, Book II, Chapter 74 (Concerning the arrival of Anak and the begetting of Saint Gregory)

Movsēs tells the story of the conception of Gregory the Illuminator, by his father Anak and his unnamed mother. Anak is described as a great Persian commander, then engaged in the war between the Sassanian Khusrow and the Parthian Ardashir in the early 3rd century. Anak, fighting on the side of Ardashir, was conspiring to kill Khusrow.

Book 2, Chapter 74

Որոց պատահեալ Անակայ՝ ածեն զնա հրամանաւ թագաւորին ի գաւառն, որ անուանեալ կոչի Արտազ, ի տեղի դաշտավայրս, ուր յայտնեցան նշխարք սրբոյ եւ մեծի առաքելոյն մերոյ Թադէի: Եւ աստ ասեմ զրոյց զսքանչելի ծերոյն որ ասէր, եթէ ի նախնեաց ունիմ սովորութիւն, որդի ի հօրէ առնլով զյիշատակ զրուցացս այսոցիկե, որպէս Ոլիմպիոդորայն յաղագս Տարօնոյ եւ Սիմն կոչեցեալ լերինն: Արդ՝ ի բնակելն Անակայ ի դաշտին Արտազու՝ պատահէ նմա տեղի օթարանին մօտ առ դիրս սրբոյ Առաքելոյն, որպէս թէ ի ներքսագոյն սրսկապանի խորանին. եւ անդ ասեն զյղութիւն մօր սրբոյ եւ մեծի մերոյ Լուսաւորչին: Վասն որոյ եւ զնորին Առաքելոյ շնորհսն ընկալեալ որ առ հանգստարանաւ նորին զլինելութիւն էառ՝ զնորին ելից զհոգեւոր մշակութեանն պակասութիւն:

'They met Anak and brought him at the king [Khusrow]'s command to the province called Artaz, to a plain where the relics of our holy and great apostle Thaddaeus were revealed. Here I repeat a story of the wonderful old man who said: "I have from my ancestors the tradition, son receiving from father the remembrance of these tales," like those of Olympiodorus about Tarawn and the mountain called Sim. Now when Anak was dwelling in the plain of Artaz he happened to spend the night by the grave of the holy apostle, [which was] under the innermost bed of his tent. And there they say the mother of our holy and great Illuminator [Gregory] conceived. Therefore he [Gregory] received the grace of that same apostle, and having been begotten beside his grave he completed what was lacking in his spiritual labours.'

After two years Anak succeeded in killing Khusrow. As a result, he and his family were put to death but the future enlightener of Armenia survived the slaughter.

Text: Thomson 1981, 211-212; Translation: Thomson 2006, 217.

History

Evidence ID

E00522

Saint Name

Gregory the Illuminator, Converter of Armenia : S00251 Addai/Thaddeus the Apostle, one of the seventy-two : S00255

Saint Name in Source

Լուսաւորիչ թադէ

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)

Language

Armenian

Evidence not before

450

Evidence not after

800

Activity not before

250

Activity not after

750

Place of Evidence - Region

Armenia

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Hadamakert Հադամակերտ Hadamakert Başkale

Major author/Major anonymous work

Movsēs Xorenaci (History of Armenia)

Cult activities - Places

Place of martyrdom of a saint

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Oral transmission of saint-related stories

Cult Activities - Miracles

Fertility- and family-related miracles (infertility, marriages)

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Soldiers Relatives of the saint

Cult Activities - Relics

Other activities with relics

Source

The author In the introductory paragraph the author identifies himself as Moses of Khoren (Xoren), although no such town is otherwise attested. He claims to be an active member of the circle of Maštoc' and Sahak of the early 5th century and to have witnessed some of the events he described. But the authorship and date has been challenged convincingly, as the author reveals knowledge of sources much later than the 5th century, and, as Robert Thomson points out, it was only after the year 900 that Movsēs's claim to have been a student of Sahak and Maštoc' was shared by other Armenian authors (Thomson 2006, 2-3). The first reference to the History of Movsēs Xorenac‘i appears in the 10th century, when he is used as a source. It is in the early 11th century that lists first appear in which Movsēs is listed as a 5th century author. Thereafter Movsēs was canonically considered as the 5th century “father of Armenian history”. Currently the most convincing suggested date for the compilation and composition of Movsēs’s history is the first half of the 8th century. Movsēs frequently cites unnamed earlier sources in support of what he writes, but there is no way of telling whether these really existed, or whether they are a rhetorical device. Xorenac'i’s agenda Movsēs overtly writes for his Bagratid patrons, who ascended to power in Armenia in the early 8th century. He seeks to connect the Bagratid family to the period before the official conversion of Armenia, and to assert their perpetual Christianity. According to Movsēs, the Bagratids were even associated with the preaching of Thaddaeus in Edessa, before the latter came to Armenia. Tobias, in whose house Thaddaeus had lodged in Edessa, was, according to Movsēs, a Jewish Bagratid prince. This claim is crucial for Movsēs, as previous historians, who mostly wrote for the rival Mamikonean clan, had closely associated this latter family with Gregory the Illuminator. The Mamikoneans had, according to this tradition, married into the family of Gregory. Therefore Movsēs’s primary agenda was to elevate his patrons’ prestige vis-à-vis the Mamikoneans by pointing out their even older Christian connections (Thomson 2006, 29-30). As part of this agenda, Movsēs promoted the cult of the early apostles Thaddaeus and Barthlomew in Armenia, and adapted the story of the Syrian King Abgar into the Armenian tradition, having made Abgar Armenian.

Discussion

Another version of the story of Gregory's conception over the relics of Thaddaeus is in the Syriac version of Agathangelos (Vs 8) (E00524) and was also known to Stepannos Siwnec'i, who wrote in c. 718 (E00523) (Book of Letters, 323). It is currently impossible to determine which source is the earliest. Unlike other authors, Movsēs had a specific agenda to create continuity between the first supposed apostle to Armenia, Thaddeus, and Gregory. As Gregory's cult was already well developed by the time Movsēs was writing, it was the cult of Thaddaeus that Movsēs was trying to promote and build into the grand narrative of Armenia's conversion (in part to enhance the status of his Bagratid patrons, whose ancestors he closely associated with the apostle Thaddeus).

Bibliography

Edition: Thomson, R.W., Moses Khorenats'i, Patmut'iwn Hayots' (History of the Armenians), a facsimile reproduction of the 1913 Tiflis edition (New York: Caravan Books, 1981). Translation: Thomson, R.W., Moses Khorenats'i, History of the Armenians (Ann Arbor: Caravan Books, 2006).

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