Saint NameThekla, follower of Apostle Paul : S00092
Saint Name in Sourceܬܩܠܐ
Type of EvidenceLiterary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)
Evidence not before569
Evidence not after600
Activity not before428
Activity not after429
Place of Evidence - RegionMesopotamia
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Edessa
Cult activities - PlacesCult building - unspecified
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsBurial ad sanctos
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesEcclesiastics - bishops
SourceBarḥadbešabbā ‘Arbāyā, an East-Syrian writer and member of the School of Nisibis in Northern Mesopotamia, was active during the late 6th and early 7th century. Among other works, he produced two important historical compositions, the Ecclesiastical History and the Cause of the Foundation of the Schools. Composed not very long after the year 569, the History covers events mostly of the 4th and 5th century from an East-Syrian perspective. While for the bulk of his work Barḥadbešabbā extensively used Greek sources, in the concluding two chapters he deals with the history of the Schools of Edessa and of Nisibis up to the year 569, relying on the local tradition of the latter academic institution (on its history, see Vööbus 1965; Becker 2006; Becker 2008).
Syriac text, together with French translation: Nau 1913; Nau 1932. For general information on Barḥadbešabbā, see Becker and Childers 2011; Becker 2008, 11-16, 40-46.
DiscussionAt the conclusion of chapter 19 of his Ecclesiastical History, which deals with Theodore of Mopsuestia (c. 350-428), Barḥadbešabbā reports that he died when Theodotos, the bishop of Antioch (417/420-428/9), was still in office. As for the place of Theodore's burial, the History relates that his body was interred next to the bones of Thekla. Although the History does not mention explicitly where this shrine was located, it was presumably the church of Thekla at Seleukeia/Seleucia ad Calycadnum in Isauria, some 170 km from Theodore's see of Mopsuestia (on this cultic place, see Davis 2001, 36-80). The East-Syrian History of Barḥadbešabbā is the only surviving source from Late Antiquity that tells us of the burial of Theodore in Thekla's shrine. This is not surprising, in light of the fact that the memory of Theodore was actively suppressed in the mainstream imperial Church, especially after his condemnation at the Second Council of Constantinople in the year 553, where the earlier edict of Justinian against the 'Three Chapters' was confirmed (on Theodore's life and works, see Greer 1961; McLeod 2009, 1-68).
Such a particular choice of burial place for Theodore, if accurately reported, might have been conditioned by the bishop's personal devotional predilections, which seem to have included a strong connection to this female saint. Thus, according to another report of Barḥadbešabbā, found in the Cause of the Foundation of the Schools, Theodore would regularly pray at Thekla's tomb: "After he was led to the bishopric of Mopsuestia, he would prostrate himself regularly at the grave of the blessed Thekla and from her he would seek help so as to receive the power to interpret the scriptures" (ed. Scher 1908, p. 379; trans. Becker 2008, 147).
Nau, F., La seconde partie de l’Histoire de Barhadbešabba ‘Arbaïa et controverse de Théodore de Mopsueste avec les Macédoniens (Patrologia Orientalis 9.5 ; Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1913).
Nau, F., La première partie de l’Histoire de Barhadbešabba ‘Arbaïa (Patrologia Orientalis 23.2; Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1932).
Scher, A., Mar Barhadbšabba ‘Arbaya, évêque de Halwan (VIe siècle). Cause de la fondation des écoles (Patrologia Orientalis 4.4 ; Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1908).
Becker, A.H., Fear of God and the Beginning of Wisdom: The School of Nisibis and the Development of Scholastic Culture in Late Antique Mesopotamia (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006).
Becker, A.H., Sources for the Study of the School of Nisibis (Translated Texts for Historians 50; Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2008).
Becker, A.H., and Childers, J.W., “Barḥadbshabba ‘Arbaya,” in: S.P. Brock, A.M. Butts, G.A. Kiraz and L. van Rompay (eds.), Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage (Piscataway, New Jersey: Gorgias Press, 2011), 57-58.
Davis, S.J., The Cult of Saint Thecla: A Tradition of Women’s Piety in Late Antiquity (Oxford Early Christian Studies; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).
Greer, R.A., Theodore of Mopsuestia: Exegete and Theologian (Westminster: Faith Press, 1961).
McLeod, F.G., Theodore of Mopsuestia (The Early Church Fathers; London / New York: Routledge, 2009).
Vööbus, A., History of the School of Nisibis (CSCO 266, Subs. 26; Louvain: Secrétariat du CorpusSCO, 1965).