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E01087: The 9th c. East Syrian writer Thomas of Margā reports the stealing of the casket with relics of unnamed *Apostles from a church in Antioch, by the East Syrian bishop of Nineveh Īshō‘yahb, that took place in the year 630, and its following bringing to the monastery of Bēt ‘Ābē in Mesopotamia.

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posted on 18.01.2016, 00:00 by sminov
Thomas of Margā, Book of Governors II.5

ܥܠ ܓܠܘܣܩܡܐ ܕܓܖ̈ܡܐ ܕܫܠܝ̈ܚܐ ܕܐܝܬܝ ܡܪܝ ܝܫܘܥܝܗܒ ܥܡܗ ܘܣܡܗ ܒܥܘܡܪܐ ܗܢܐ.

ܒܡܥܒܪܬܗܘܢ ܗܟܝܠ ܕܩܕܝܫ̈ܐ ܕܐܬܐܡܪܘ ܒܐܢܛܝܘܟܝ ܡܕܝܢܬܐ: ܟܕ ܫܪܘ ܒܚܕܐ ܡܢ ܥܕ̈ܬܐ ܕܡܕܝܢܬܐ ܗܕܐ: ܘܩܘܝܘ ܒܗ̇ ܝܘ̈ܡܬܐ ܣܓܝ̈ܐܐ: ܚܙܐ ܡܪܝ ܝܫܘܥܝܗܒ ܗܢܐ ܕܝܠܢ ܓܠܘܣܩܡܐ ܕܫܝܫܐ ܚܘܪܐ ܕܐܝܬ ܒܗ ܪܘܫܡܐ ܕܨܠܝܒܐ ܣܓܝܕܐ: ܘܠܗܢܐ ܟܕܝܢܝܢ ܬܚܝܬ ܡܪܟܒܬܐ ܕܐܝܩܪܗ ܬܪܝܢ ܦܖ̈ܨܘܦܐ ܕܟܖ̈ܘܒܐ: ܘܚܙܐ ܚܝ̈ܠܐ ܕܬܡܢ ܡܣܬܥܪܝܢ ܒܡܨܥܝܘܬܗ: ܘܝܠܦ ܕܡܢܘ̈ܬܐ ܐܝܬ ܒܗ ܡܢ ܓܖ̈ܡܐ ܘܪܘܟܒ ܗܕܡ̈ܐ ܕܫܠܝܚ̈ܐ ܛܘܒ̈ܢܐ: ܟܕ ܒܟܠܗ̇ ܝܥܢܘܬܐ ܐܬܚܡܡ ܕܪܚܡܬܗ ܕܗ̇ܘ ܓܠܘܣܩܡܐ ܕܣܝܡܝܢ ܒܗ: ܨܠܘܬܐ ܠܐܠܗܐ ܡܪܟܠ ܒܟܘ̈ܫܦܐ ܣܓܝ̈ܐܐ ܩܪܒ: ܕܬܬܝܬܐ ܒܘܪܟܬܐ ܗ̇ܝ ܒܡܨܥܝܘܬܗ ܠܦܢܝܬܐ ܗܕܐ. ܟܕ ܕܝܢ ܒܟܠ ܦܘܖ̈ܣܝܢ ܡܫܬܢܩ ܗܘܐ: ܘܠܐ ܝܕܥ ܗܘܐ ܡܢܐ ܢܥܒܕ: ܝܗܒܗ̇ ܠܨܒܘܬܐ ܗܕܐ ܠܐܠܗܐ. ܕܟܕ ܗ̣ܘ ܡܢ ܡܪܝ ܝܫܘܥܝܗܒ ܢܣܥܘܪ ܐܢܫܐܝܬ: ܢܣܬܪ ܕܝܢ ܘܢܚܦܐ ܥܠܘܗܝ ܡܫܝܚܐ ܐܠܗܐܝܬ. ܗ̇ܝ ܕܐܦ ܗܘܬ. ܘܓܢܒܗ ܘܐܝܬܝܗ ܥܡܗ ܠܗܪܟܐ: ܒܟܠܗ ܐܝܩܪܐ ܕܡܬܚܝܒ ܠܡܖ̈ܓܢܝܬܐ ܩܕܝܫ̈ܬܐ ܕܒܠܓܘܗ. ܘܐܝܬ ܠܢ ܫܘܪܪ ܬܪܥܝܬܐ ܘܚܘܫܒܐ ܕܗܕܐ ܗܟܢܐ ܐܣܬܥܪܬ: ܕܥܕܡܐ ܠܝܘܡܢܐ: ܡܬܡܠܠܐ ܡܠܬܐ ܕܥܠܝܗ̇ ܒܡܕܝܢܬܐ ܐܢܛܝܘܟܝ: ܐܝܟ ܕܐܦ ܒܝܘܒܠܐ ܪܕܬ ܘܐܬܝܒܠܬ ܠܘܬܢ: ܒܝܕ ܐܢܫ̈ܐ ܐܝܠܝܢ ܕܩܕܝܡܝܢ ܠܢ ܒܥܘܡܪܐ ܗܢܐ.


'On the casket of the bones of the apostles which Mār Īshō‘yahb brought with him, and placed in this monastery.

Now while these holy men who have been mentioned above were passing through the city of Antioch, and while they were resting in one of the churches of this city in which they tarried many days, this Mār Īshō‘yahb of ours saw a white marble casket upon which was the sign of the adorable Cross, and to this, united to the chariot of its honour, were two figures of cherubs. And he saw the mighty deeds which were wrought there by means of it, and he learned that there were inside it some of the bones and parts of the bodies of the blessed apostles, and being hot with all the desire of his love for that casket in which these were laid, he offered up prayers to God, the Lord of all, and frequent entreaties, that by means of himself it might be brought to this country. And having vexed and tortured himself [by scheming] all manner of devices, and not knowing what to do, he gave this matter to God, [asking] that while he, that is Mār Īshō‘yahb, used all human efforts, Christ would protect and defend him in a Divine manner. And this actually happened, for he stole (Syr. gnav) it and brought it with him here with all the honour due to the holy pearls which were therein. And we are certain in our opinion and judgment that this matter was wrought thus, for it is spoken of to this day in the city of Antioch, even as also it came down by tradition, and was handed on to us by those men who were before us in this monastery.'

Ed. Budge 1893, vol. 1, pp. 70-71 (Syr.), vol. 1, pp. 127-128 (trans., lightly adapted).

History

Evidence ID

E01087

Saint Name

Apostles (unspecified) : S00084

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)

Language

Syriac

Evidence not before

839

Evidence not after

840

Activity not before

630

Activity not after

630

Place of Evidence - Region

Mesopotamia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Marga

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

Marga Edessa Edessa Ἔδεσσα Edessa

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops

Cult Activities - Relics

Unspecified relic Theft/appropriation of relics

Source

Thomas, the East Syrian bishop of Margā, composed the Book of Governors around the year 840. In this work, Thomas presents history of his native monastery of Bēt ‘Ābē, located in northern Mesopotamia, about 100 km north-east of Mosul. The work contains biographies of the abbots of the monastery and several other prominent figures of the East Syrian church from the 6th up to the middle of the 9th century. For the Syriac text, see Budge 1893, v. 1; Bedjan 1901, pp. 1-517; English translation: Budge 1893, v. 2 . For general information on Thomas's life and works, see Teule 2009; Fiey 1956.

Discussion

In the second book of his work, containing among other things an account of the East Syrian patriarch Īshō‘yahb II of Gdālā (628-645; see on him Sako 1983, pp. 63-86), Thomas describes how a 'casket' (Syr. gluskmā, from Gr. γλωσσόκομον) with the relics of apostles was brought to the monastery of Bēt ‘Ābē in Mesopotamia some time after the year 630. According to Thomas, this was done by the East-Syrian bishop of Nineveh Īshō‘yahb, who stole the relics of unnamed apostles from a church in Antioch, during his visit to this city as a member of the embassy to Heraclius headed by the patriarch Īshō‘yahb II of Gdālā (628-645) in the year 630. Thomas, who had been a monk of the monastery of Bēt ‘Ābē, later became bishop of Margā, and here he records a tradition received from the older monks. This story bears a witness to the existence in this monastery of some relics of apostles, presumably brought in the middle of the 7th century from Antioch. However, there are reasons to doubt authenticity of this tradition. On the one hand, we do know that Īshō‘yahb of Nineveh was a member of the diplomatic embassy sent in the year 630 by the Sasanian king Sheroe to the Roman emperor Heraclius with the purpose of reaching a peace agreement (see on this Seleznyov 2012). On the other hand, according to the various accounts of this mission, the Persian delegation met Heraclius in the city of Aleppo, not in Antioch. Moreover, one might wonder how a member of the foreign diplomatic mission might be able to steal a casket with relics from a major shrine in such city as Antioch. Finally, this tradition finds no corroboration in any other independent source. Accordingly, the historicity of this tradition should be regarded as doubtful.

Bibliography

Main editions and translations: Bedjan, P. (ed.), Liber superiorum, seu Historia Monastica, auctore Thoma, Episcopo Margensi. Liber Fundatorum Monasteriorum in regno Persarum et Arabum. Homiliae Mar-Narsetis in Joseph. Documenta Patrum de quibusdam verae fidei dogmatibus (Paris/Leipzig: Otto Harrassowitz, 1901). Budge, E.A.W. (ed.), The Book of Governors: The Historia Monastica of Thomas, Bishop of Margâ A.D. 840, Edited from Syriac Manuscripts in the British Museum and Other Libraries. 2 vols. (London: K. Paul Trench Trubner & Co., 1893). Further reading: Fiey, J.-M., “Thomas de Marga. Notule de littérature syriaque,” Le Muséon 78:3-4 (1965), 361-366. Sako, L.R., Lettre christologique du Patriarche Syro-oriental Īšō‘yahb II de Gḏālā (628–646): étude, traduction et édition critique (Rome: Pontificium Institutum Orientale, 1983). Seleznyov, N.N., “Ираклий и Ӣшō‘йав II: восточный эпизод в истории “экуменического” проекта византийского императора,” Символ 61 (2012), 280-300. Teule, H.G.B., “Thomas of Margā,” in: D.R. Thomas and B.H. Roggema (eds.), Christian-Muslim Relations: A Bibliographical History. Volume 1 (600‒900) (History of Christian-Muslim Relations 11; Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2009), 688-690.

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