Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
The Chronicle of SeertChristian Historical Imagination in Late Antique Iraq$

Philip Wood

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199670673

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199670673.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.oxfordscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2019. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 19 October 2019

Roman Ecclesiastical History in the Sasanian World: Reception, Adaptation, and Reaction

Roman Ecclesiastical History in the Sasanian World: Reception, Adaptation, and Reaction

(p.120) 5 Roman Ecclesiastical History in the Sasanian World: Reception, Adaptation, and Reaction
The Chronicle of Seert

Philip Wood

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter and the next examine the massive expansion in the historical awareness of the Church of the East of c.580, including the incorporation of large amounts of Roman ecclesiastical history, which provided an assurance of the ‘orthodoxy’ of the East through the celebration of a Western canon of patristic thinkers. One feature of this borrowed history is its treatment of Nestorius and the council of Chalcedon, which was a major waypoint in the orthodox self-definition of the Roman world. Several fifth-century accounts seem ignorant of the condemnation of Nestorius at Chalcedon, while others have more accurate information and are more reluctant to accept the orthodoxy of the Chalcedonian churches of the West. This separation between the Church of the East and the Dyophysites of the West becomes increasingly marked by the seventh century, with the elevation of Nestorius’ theology under the leadership of Babai the Great.

Keywords:   orthodoxy, Chalcedon, diptychs, ecclesiastical history, Nestorius, Theodire of Mopsuestia, Christology, heresy

The School of Nisibis achieved great prominence in the course of the sixth century. The School makes an important impact on the development of the Church of the East as a whole. It was a gateway for Western theology; a training ground for powerful bishops and an engine for the creation of a self-promoting historical tradition. The prominence of catholicoi trained at Nisibis was a major factor in promoting a growing interest in the Church’s definition of a formal Christology.

Christology was the major focus of theological discussion in the Roman world, and had been since before the council of Chalcedon in 451. But though the ‘School of the Persians’ at Edessa had been involved in such disputes, and Barsauma and Mar Narsai had articulated a Dyophysite theology for the Church of the East at the end of the fifth century, it was not a central issue for the catholicoi, at least as seen from the perspective of the synodica or the ‘patriarchal histories’. However, the end of the sixth century sees signs of a growing awareness of theological developments in the West, and this prompted attempts to define the theology of the Church of the East more closely and to set out its relationship with the Christian confessions of the Roman world.

In the reigns of Ezekiel (567–81) and Ishoʿyahb I (582–95), the catholicoi came to enjoy an ever closer relationship with the shah and his regime, and this period of central authority and stability meant that they could devote more time and energy to issues of dogma that had once seemed peripheral. In this period, we see the impact of the closer definition of the Church’s theology in its historiography. The addition of new forms of history from foreign historical traditions enabled the Church of the East to give itself a defensible, ‘orthodox’ past, and articulate its contemporary relationship with other Christian confessions.

(p.121) The Expansion in History-writing

The material that we have encountered from the Chronicle of Seert and the other compiled histories had its origins in ‘patriarchal histories’: an initial text written towards the end of the fifth century and continuations written around the middle of the sixth. The author(s) of these histories had wanted to highlight the strength of the office of catholicos in the face of external challenges. This reoccurring need to maintain authority prompted a rewriting of the history of the period 484–540 in the middle of the century, probably coinciding with the greater claims to authority by the catholicos Joseph and his declaration of Ctesiphon as a patriarchate.1

However, the text of the Chronicle of Seert is clearly not the result of a single strand of composition with periodic continuations. Material from new sources was added which did not always retain the catholicos as its focus. These additional sources described the actions of Roman emperors and the church in the West, the deeds of Persian shahs, monastic foundations in Iraq and, as we have already seen, the disciples of the School of Nisibis. This material all had its origins in discrete historical traditions, such as the Persian ‘book of kings’ or Roman ecclesiastical history, or in hagiographic collections and lists of saints. It accounts for some three quarters of all the material of the Chronicle of Seert.

An important parallel to this use of additional material in the medieval compilations is the development of the diptychs in the liturgy of the Church of the East. These were lists of famous men whose intercession was sought during the Eucharist. They functioned as highly conservative accretive repositories of the church’s historical memory in successive ages and a record of its communion with the living and the dead. A good example of this are the diptychs taken from a rite used at Urmia, in what is now western Iran, in the 1890s.2 The diptychs begin by praying for ‘Adam, Abel, Seth, Enosh, Noah, and Shem’, and proceed through the figures of the Old and New testaments, culminating in the evangelists and apostles, especially ‘Addai and Mari, converters of this eastern region’. After this comes a long list of patriarchs and a shorter list of martyred patriarchs, beginning with Simeon, Shahdost, and Barbaʿshemin.

Next, the diptychs record ‘holy fathers’ under a series of different categories: the 318 fathers of Nicaea, former bishops of Urmia; doctors of the church, hermits ‘noted for their edifying conversations’, ‘illustrious athletes and (p.122) anchorites’, martyrs, and ‘holy and Christ-loving kings’.3 Interspersed with these lists are also records of local monastic founders, missionaries, and martyrs whose relics are placed near the church. Some of these records may reflect modern figures, but they clearly supplement much older lists of holy men, grouped under different categories, that proceed from Biblical figures, through famous bishops, to other categories of holy men. Many of these lists are composed of figures from the Roman Empire, clustered in the fourth century but with representatives from the first six centuries.

Like the Urmia diptychs, the medieval compilations include material that is additional to succession of bishops of the Church of the East. The histories preserved in the Chronicle for the period 480–580 show a broad focus and great variety, incorporating information from Roman and Persian histories and partially integrating it into the central narrative that continues to focus on the catholicoi.

This process of the accumulation of additional material onto a pre-existent narrative culminates in the period 590–640. Here the Chronicle includes narratives that describe monastic foundations, as well as presenting fluid narrative histories that devote equal weight to the deeds of Persian shahs, Roman emperors, the catholicoi, and Christian aristocrats. The material employed in the Chronicle for the period before 590, while diverse, was clearly drawn from sources that focused on different institutions, and which were not used to create a single integrated narrative. Any links of causation between different ‘spheres of interest’ is achieved through juxtaposition. By contrast, the final part of the Chronicle, which covers 590–640, presents much more rounded protagonists and links the fates of several different institutions and groups. This more literary composition is probably the original work of the later ecclesiastical historians, some of whom also reordered and expanded much of the earlier material. These men were responsible for literary histories that described the destructive wars of Khusrau II (591–628) and their aftermath. But they were also responsible for the preservation of a large amount of earlier material, of the patriarchal histories, to which they added in various ways with new strands of history that were external to the deeds of the catholicoi per se.

The Identity of the Ecclesiastical Historians

The Catalogue of the thirteenth-century theologian and scholar, ʿAbdishoʿ of Nisibis, lists all the notable writers of the Church of the East. Within this (p.123) list are a number of historians whose works have not survived: Elias of Merv, Ishoʿdnah of Basra, Theodore bar Koni, Bar Sahde of Karka de Beth Slouq, Simon of Karka, Simon the Treasurer, Mshiha-zkha, Mikha of Beth Garmai, Gregory of Shushtar, the catholicos Ishoʿyahb II, and Daniel bar Maryam.4 These texts range from a ‘short chronicon’ by John of Beth Garmai to the three- and four-volume works by Ishoʿdnah and Daniel, whose work was also accompanied by an explanation of Eusebius’ Chronicon. In addition, ʿAbdishoʿ was aware of the chronicles of Theodoret of Cyrrhus and Socrates, and of the Chronicon of the ‘Jacobite’ Jacob of Edessa. And he also cites several figures who employed history without being historians, such as the liturgist Shahdost of Tirhan;5 Simeon of Beth Garmai, who translated Eusebius’ Chronicon into Syriac;6 and Sergius, who gathered ‘ancient traditions’.7

There was, therefore, a wealth of historical production as well as the secondary use of history by translators and liturgists. The production built upon earlier texts transmitted from Greek, in addition to the gathering of indigenous material. It is also noticeable that the earliest date ascribed to any of these historians is the 590s (Mshiha-zkha) while the latest is the eleventh century.8 The production of history in the Church of the East exploded at the end of the Sasanian period and persisted beyond the fall of the Abbasids. These historians gathered, invented and juxtaposed earlier material as they wrote.

I do not propose that we can reconstruct the writings of any of the ecclesiastical historians that are included in the medieval compilations. But we can analyse the introduction of new categories of historical material and the way it was combined with the patriarchal histories. In this chapter I will examine the ecclesiastical historians’ extension of historical inquiry back into the fourth century and before, through their inclusion of Roman ecclesiastical history and the apocrypha that surrounded it. Like the lists of names in the Urmia diptychs, the Western ecclesiastical history employed in the Chronicle of Seert illustrates awareness of theologians who were seen to have laid the foundations of all ‘orthodox’ churches. Though the style of material is often varied, all of it is shaped by the changing relationship of the Church of the East vis-à-vis the churches of the West, in terms of the awareness and elaboration of a shared ‘orthodox’ history; Ctesiphon’s new claims to patriarchal authority and the (p.124) opposition between a church with a strong Dyophysite Christology and its ‘Jacobite’ adversaries.

A New Roman Past

The Chronicle of Seert’s coverage of Roman ecclesiastical history can be divided into two broad parts. Firstly, it contains a chronologically continuous ecclesiastical history drawn primarily from Eusebius’ Chronicon and the fifth-century Greek ecclesiastical histories of Theodoret and Socrates.9 This extends from before the start of the extant Chronicle to some point in the break that divides the middle, probably the deposition of Nestorius.

The second major tranche of Roman ecclesiastical history is a narrative based around the succession of the patriarchs of Constantinople and the Christological arguments before and during the reign of Justinian. This narrative strand may begin with the accession of John Chrysostom at Constantinople, but there is no substantive commentary on ecclesiastical politics in the city until the second half of the Chronicle (i.e. the very end of the fifth century).10 The continued reception of this ecclesiastical history points to its importance for the identity of the Church of the East as a Dyophysite church, in opposition to its Jacobite opponents.

This version of Roman ecclesiastical history represents a distinctive combination of the fourth- and fifth-century Greek sources that provides a chain of orthodoxy for the fathers of the Dyophysite Christology of the Church of the East, a chain that connects them to Diodore of Tarsus, Theodore of Mopsuestia, and Nestorius. This chapter will analyse the reception of this ‘official’ church history in the Sasanian and post-Sasanian world and focus on how and why Roman ecclesiastical history was epitomized and adapted.11 I begin by examining the Roman ecclesiastical history in Mari’s Chronicle and the Chronicle of Seert to determine its original point of composition and the context for the embedding of this material in the ‘patriarchal histories’ centred on Ctesiphon. After this, I contrast this process to the use of Western history in the Nisibene ecclesiastical history of Barhadbeshaba, with its more explicit focus on the theology and person of Nestorius.

(p.125) The Dyophysite Fathers and the Reception of the Fifth-century Histories

The material for the third to fifth centuries is excerpted at varying levels of detail from Eusebius and his continuators.12 These Greek ecclesiastical histories have been mined to provide discrete biographies of fathers of the church, holy men, and heresiarchs: Peter of Alexandria, Arius, Ephraem, Paphnutius, Flavian of Antioch and Diodore of Tarsus, Basil, Macedonius, and Theodore of Mopsuestia (many of them ‘Antiochene’, Dyophysite theologians).The great level of detail given to these hagiographic vignettes points to the continued theological relevance of these post-Nicene theologians and to the deliberate assertion of a Dyophysite chain of inheritance stretching back to the fourth century and the conflict with the Arians.13 The Chronicle reflects the creation of a canon of theologians, which allows us to ask questions about the sources and intentions of the historians who incorporated this material in the late sixth century and beyond, and the changing self-identity of the Church of the East over the same period.

However, the break in the middle of the Chronicle obscures exactly how this ‘chain of orthodoxy’ might have continued into the controversies surrounding Chalcedon, the era of the fall of Nestorius at Ephesus, and the contest between Theodoret and other Dyophysites with Cyril of Alexandria. Here Mari’s history provides an important point of comparison to the Chronicle. It shares many of the stories of the theologians of this era, often more heavily abbreviated, and his history can provide us with an impression of how the missing section of the Chronicle of Seert treated the fall of Nestorius, which probably concluded its list of ‘orthodox’ Roman fathers.

Roman ecclesiastical history in Mari exists in a single narrative arc, which extends from the fourth century to the middle of the fifth and is split across the reigns of multiple catholicoi. It is focused on the defeat of the Arians, as narrated in Socrates or Theodoret, and its aftermath in the councils of Ephesus (p.126) and Chalcedon. Like the Chronicle of Seert, much of this narrative focuses on individual theologians, and the material taken from Socrates and Theodoret was summarized with an eye to these vignettes of important individuals and to the heretical opponents of the ‘orthodox’.

To cover the middle of the fifth century, Mari uses a continuation of Socrates or Theodoret that links their anti-Arian history to the time of Nestorius. This continuation describes the alliance of the Roman Pope Celestine with Cyril of Alexandria and Cyril’s attack on the memory of John Chrysostom, before narrating the failed attempt of John of Antioch to exile Cyril and defend Nestorius. Finally, Mari provides three vignettes, each with a different focus, which continue the main narrative in different ways and present Chalcedon in 451 as a vindication of Nestorius and his opposition to Cyril. There is no indication here that Chalcedon actually confirmed Nestorius’ deposition or that John of Antioch ultimately sought to seek compromise with Cyril. Mari records how Marcian commanded the monks who supported Cyril to abandon their position and solicited the support of Pope Leo, whose Tome provided one of the major touchstones of Chalcedonianism, and a stumbling block to hopes of reconciliation with the Miaphysites.14 In a second vignette he describes the opposition of Dioscurus, Cyril’s successor, and the extreme Monophysite Eutychius to Flavian of Constantinople, ‘a disciple of Theodore’. He relates how Flavian was expelled to die in exile before Dioscurus and Euthychius were themselves condemned, and how the name of Flavian inscribed ‘in the Book of Life’, the lists of martyred patriarchs recited in the diptychs. Finally, in a third vignette, Mari describes the emperor Marcian, the convener of Chalcedon, as the man who restored the order of the church, and praises his marriage to ‘the sister of Theodosius [II]’ [Pulcheria].15

Therefore Mari presents the Dyophysite fathers in a chain of orthodox succession, leading from Diodore to Theodore of Mopsuestia, followed by their successors Nestorius and Flavian, and completes this narrative arc with his description of Chalcedon as a victory for the Dyophysites. The whole narrative of Nestorius and Flavian is all of the same style, and it is joined together by the depiction of Cyrilians’ fight with the Dyophysites from Chrysostom to Flavian. The critical point for our analysis here is that Mari has probably received his account of Nestorius from a Greek ecclesiastical history that, while it was violently opposed to Cyril, also had a positive vision of Chalcedon and found a hero in Flavian, the opponent of the Monophysite Eutyches and a prominent Dyophysite martyr. Nestorius is viewed sympathetically and prominently, but his fall is not the culmination of this narrative.

(p.127) The sixth-century ecclesiastical historian Evagrius refers to a little known history of Nestorius that he used for this period, and it may be this that has entered the Iraqi tradition.16 Given the emphasis on Chalcedon in this account, it may have come from within a Dyophysite Chalcedonian tradition (even if some of the invective against Cyril and the references to ‘Lord Nestorius’ are later additions). There was considerable difference of opinion on the orthodoxy of the protagonists of the debates before and after Chalcedon well into the sixth century in Chalcedonian circles in the Roman Empire, as well as ongoing debates about Theopaschism (the doctrine that one of the persons of the Trinity suffered in the flesh). Some Chalcedonians accepted Chalcedon by emphasizing its connection to Diodore and Theodore, while others (so called neo-Chalcedonians) accentuated the contributions of Cyril and argued for Theopaschism. These debates resulted in different florilegia of select fathers (or select quotations from fathers), as well as the production of ecclesiastical histories to defend these selections, such as that of Basil of Cilicia (d.527).17 In the 520s and 30s, Chalcedonians would increasingly assert their separation from Nestorius and attempt to reconcile Antiochene and Alexandrian traditions, but before this date, when the city of Cyrrhus could still hold processions for the Dyophysite fathers, some Chalcedonians continued to place heavy emphasis on the connections between Chalcedon and the Antiochene theologians.18

The aftermath of Chalcedon produced different attempts to orchestrate the quotations of a patristic past that all sides revered in favour of a theological position and the theologians who espoused it. These took the form of relatively detailed stories, such as those used by Mari, and lists of select fathers, rather than theological quotation. These lists include those who were directly implicated in the formation of Christology (such as Diodore and Theodore), and more famous theologians might accrue more details from hagiographies or older ecclesiastical histories. But these lists and stories also included a number of other figures who were co-opted because of their opposition to heretics (of the fourth century or earlier) who were seen as pre-cursors of the (p.128) Miaphysites. Both kinds of figures were embedded into the Iraqi historical tradition to justify the quarrel with the Miaphysites and describe its history.

We can find good examples of the retrojection of the debate between Cyril and his Antiochene opponents in the selection of fourth-century material used by the Chronicle of Seert. Diodore is identified as an opponent of Photinus and Paul of Samosata, both of whom were traditionally employed as polemical comparisons in Christological debates of the fifth century and beyond.19 And Epiphanius of Salamis, the heresiographer, may be included, accompanied by a long hagiography with no theological content at all, because he was identified as an opponent of the fourth-century ‘heretic’ Apollinarius, who was often represented as the inspiration for the Miaphysitism of Cyril and Severus.20 Similarly, lists of ‘fathers of the church’ may include figures from the far West, such as Damasus of Rome and Ambrose of Milan, because they had opposed the Apollinarians and were subsequently employed in florilegia that were collated to oppose the Miaphysites.21

Ishoʿyahb I and the Incorporation of Roman Ecclesiastical History

The lists of the fathers seen in the medieval compilations have their origins in debates in the Roman world in the late fifth and early sixth century. But how did these orthodox lists, and the heresies they opposed, become transmitted into the Church of the East?

The testimony of the synods of Ctesiphon provides the crucial theological background to this reception of history. In these synods there is a clear sense of the importance of the fourth-century councils of the Roman Empire, Nicaea (325) and Constantinople (381), which are referred to as the councils of 318 and 150, referring to the numbers of fathers that gathered there. The councils are seen as the basis for the orthodoxy of the Church of the East: doctrinal canons flow from their definitions.22 But specific debates about Christology are not informed by the technical language that had been developed at Chalcedon and before. Even though Aba had been responsible for bringing Nestorius’ theological tract, the Bazaar of Heracleides, from the West, Aba’s council only discusses Christ’s nature by directly quoting Biblical passages. Until the middle of the sixth century, the theology in the Church of the East reflected in these synods, including attacks on Theopaschism, was done using (p.129) traditional, local theological terminology, at the same time as earlier Roman synods were represented as defining moments of orthodoxy and church authority.

However, the last quarter of the sixth century witnesses major developments in the self-definition of the theology of the Church of the East, as articulated at Ctesiphon. These were the definition of orthodoxy against a series of heretical opponents and an increasing concern with the technical language of creeds. Heretics are divided into two groups in Ezekiel’s 576 synod: Mani, Marcion, and Bardaisan and Arius, Eunomius, and Apollinarius.23 The first group of heretics plays a defensive and internal role in Ezekiel’s self-presentation: here he is trying to differentiate himself from long-established nearby groups, drawing on parallels in earlier Syriac writing.24 Ezekiel’s inclusion of the second group, by contrast, represents a reaction to the relatively recent arrival of the Jacobites in Iraq. It represents a comment on the Roman ecclesiastical history and the intellectual history of the catholicos’ Jacobite foe.

Apollinarius, a pupil of Athanasius of Alexandria, had been condemned for his extreme Monophysitism at Constantinople, but one of his formulae, ‘the one incarnate nature of God the Word’ had circulated as Athanasian and had been used by Cyril. This Apollinarian legacy in the theology of Cyril and his followers had been attacked by Nestorius and Flavian of Constantinople, and Apollinarius could be represented as a precursor to later Miaphysites such as Severus and Philoxenus: a man who had been publicly condemned and whose heresy was renewed under Cyril.25 In addition to this, the association of Apollinarius with Arius and the neo-Arian Eunomius presents Apollinarius in the company of an Arian tradition that was opposed by all parts of the Christological spectrum in the sixth century. This association between Apollinarius (and by extension, all later Miaphysites) and the Arians is only presented here in a simple list. But it is the same association that is made at much greater length in the Chronicle of Seert and in Mari. The medieval compilations, drawing on Socrates and Theodoret, would establish the orthodoxy of Diodore of Tarsus and the Dyophysite fathers through their opposition to the Arians as a prelude to their conflict with the Miaphysite followers of Cyril. Similar associations are made in Ezekiel’s synod, emphasizing the definition of the church as anti-Arian, in the tradition of Diodore and Nestorius, as well as the Apollinarian connections of later Miaphysites.

(p.130) The definition of orthodox doctrine becomes much more explicit in Ishoʿyahb I’s synod of 585. Here the preamble lays a particular stress on the need ‘to define the true faith’, and, for the first time, issues of creed and the reputation of theologians are debated in the canons themselves. In particular, his first canon provides an exegesis of the creed declared at Constantinople at 381 and highlights the condemnation of the Macedonian heresy, the opponents of Theodore of Mopsuestia, in that council.26 This is followed in the second canon by a brief account of Theodore’s life, which describes his birthplace, his intellectual succession, and his association with John Chrysostom. Ezekiel’s synod had not focused on any particular Dyophysite theologian and was confined to the demarcation of heresy. But Ishoʿyahb concentrates on the figure of Theodore, confirming his role as the exegete par excellence.27

In a synodical letter that is appended to the acts of the 585 council, Ishoʿyahb continues to refine his definition of orthodoxy. He explains the creed in terms of the avoidance of a series of heresies: the Marcionites, followed by Paulicians and Photinians and then Eutychians and Apollinarians.28 The Marcionites and Apollinarians had already been identified in 576, but the addition of other heresies is interesting because they correspond to the accusations made by Nestorius himself in the Bazaar of Heracleides and by Pope Leo of Rome and other Chalcedonians against Dioscurus. Similar accusations were also made in the Nisibene account of the struggle of the Dyophysite fathers, Barhadbeshaba’s Ecclesiastical History (written c. 569).29

Some twenty years before Ishoʿyahb, the Jacobites had made substantial inroads into Iraq with the missions of Ahudemmeh, who converted the Arabs of the Jazira and prominent members of the court of Khusrau I. The arrival of the Jacobites presented a growing threat to the catholicoi, at a time when both Christian confessions sought greater political influence. The self-definition of Ishoʿyahb’s synod through the complex heresiology we have seen here implies a more sophisticated and international vision of ecclesiastical history, whereby the Church of the East could use heresiologies developed in the debates of the middle fifth-century Roman world to attack contemporary Jacobites. In addition, Ishoʿyahb’s emphasis on the primacy of Theodore of Mopsuestia was (p.131) also an attempt to prevent internal changes to the church’s Christology within the School of Nisibis by Henana, whose teachings were represented as dangerous innovations.30

The synods of the late sixth century represent Miaphysitism as the continuation of earlier Roman heresy. This interest in the heresiological classification of Miaphysites through their supposed forebears also suggests an approximate dating for the initial inclusion of the Dyophysite ecclesiastical history into the Iraqi historical repertoire. This historical material, like the heresiology of Ishoʿyahb’s synod, set out the Roman history of the orthodoxy of the Church of the East. This reception of Western history may have been made possible by the prominence of the school of Nisibis, as point of contact for Western ideas and a centre of education for the East, as well as the personal diplomatic contact between the catholicos and the Roman emperor.31 In addition, the awareness of this new, theologically significant, history coincides with the first ecclesiastical historians mentioned by ʿAbdishoʿ: the availability of a Western historical tradition may have stimulated a late sixth-century flowering of historiography in this period.

Nisibis and the Dyophysite History of Barhadbeshaba

The histories of the Dyophysite fathers that we find in the medieval compilations, and of Nestorius and Flavian of Constantinople in particular, should be seen in the context of another account of the same events composed in Nisibis, the Ecclesiastical History of Barhadbeshaba. This text was produced in c.569 as part of the attempt to link the founding theologians of the School of Nisibis, (p.132) via the school of the Persians in Edessa, to the intellectual tradition of Diodore, Theodore, and Nestorius. Barhadbeshaba begins his history with Arius, and proceeds with a description of Nicaea, Athanasius’ opposition to Arius at Alexandria, and then the conflicts between the neo-Arians of the fourth century (Aetius and Eunomius) and their ‘orthodox’ opponents (Basil, Flavian of Antioch, Diodore, John Chrysostom, Theodore, and Nestorius). This text illustrates the importance of Nisibis as a gateway for the heresiological and historical ideas deployed under Ishoʿyahb’s patronage, as well as Barhadbeshaba’s focus on Nestorius as martyr.

Barhadbeshaba’s narrative focuses heavily on the anti-Arian positions of the orthodox. Even his descriptions of later figures such as Theodore and Nestorius emphasizes their credentials as opponents of paganism and Arianism.32 Like the account preserved in Mari, Barhadbeshaba probably used the history of Nestorius referred to by the sixth-century Greek Chalcedonian historian Evagrius to compose the last part of this history,33 but he combined this with the information contained in the theological work attributed to Nestorius himself, the Bazaar of Herclaides, as well as a Life of Nestorius that provided additional hagiographic details. The density of material devoted to Nestorius makes it clear that he was the centre of this narrative of Dyophysitism in the Roman Empire and that, for Barhadbeshaba, he provided a crucial link to the School of Nisibis and to the Nisibene theologians Narsai and Abraham.34

Barhadbeshaba uses Roman ecclesiastical history to present the chain of orthodox teachers by whom Nestorius was educated, before describing his deposition and condemnation by Cyril of Alexandria. The arguments between theologians of the Antiochene school and Cyril culminated in the latter’s campaign against the works of Diodore and Theodore, Cyril’s condemnation of Nestorius at the 431 council of Ephesus and Nestorius’ exile to Egypt.35 Barhadbeshaba notes that Nestorius ruled for seven years and was exiled for eighteen, and describes the miracles he performed while in Egypt. The overall effect of Barhadbeshaba’s description of Nestorius’ sojourn in Egypt may be to present Nestorius as a cipher for Dyophysite orthodoxy, preserved in exile like the scholars of Nisibis.36

(p.133) Barhadbeshaba emphasizes both Nestorius’ intellectual ancestry (‘an Antiochene’, ‘a co-citizen of Theodore’) and his status as a martyr (‘a spiritual athlete’). His account of Nestorius’ duel with Cyril focuses on his theology, drawing on the Bazaar of Heraclaides itself. The Bazaar influences the structure of the History as a whole: both texts assert the orthodox ancestry of Nestorius and of the sees of Antioch and Constantinople.37 The Ecclesiastical History also follows the Bazaar in typifying Nestorius’ opponents as ‘the Egyptians’ and in its presentation of Nestorius’ own theology, which emphasizes Mary’s role as ‘Mother of Christ’ rather than ‘Mother of God’, as Cyril presented her.38 Both texts argue for the orthodoxy of Nestorius’ position and present Cyril’s ‘Mother of God’ formula as heretical.39

We are not concerned here with the accuracy of the claims of the Bazaar or of Barhadbeshaba to represent Nestorius’ theology (or with the accuracy of that theology). But this vision of the orthodox succession in the West is not relegated to the past: there is no condemnation of the faith of the Roman world in either text, only a vicious polemic against the Egyptians. The argument is instead for the mistaken condemnation of Nestorius by those who have already realized the falsehood of a truly Monophysite position, such as that of Eutyches. Neither the Bazaar, nor the history of Barhadbeshaba composed over a century later, has abandoned the Roman world as the unredeemable site of heresy.

The Miaphysite historian Zachariah of Mytilene had accused Marcian of being a follower of Nestorius and Theodore in his orchestration of Chalcedon.40 Barhadbeshaba’s History and the history that was ultimately inserted in Mari’s Chronicle seem to have inverted this view, by adopting both Marcian and Nestorius as opponents of Cyril and of the Theodoran tradition. However, we should still note the important difference between the two Eastern histories: Barhadbeshaba is much more focused on Nestorius, as a martyr and as a theologian, while the history used by Mari treats him more simply as an opponent of Cyril. The difference is partly a reflection of the Nisibene author’s richer sources and greater interest in theology. But it also raises a broader question of how much emphasis authors in the Church of the East were willing to place on Chalcedon and how far they were aware of the condemnation of Nestorius at Chalcedon or considered it important. Other authors based in Nisibis took very different stances on Chalcedon and placed the breach with Roman orthodoxy much earlier than Barhadbeshaba or the historians working under Ishoʿyahb I.

(p.134) Chalcedon in the Church of the East

The transmission of a positive account of Chalcedon to the Church of the East occurred under unusual political and theological circumstances.41 Ishoʿyahb I’s prestigious diplomatic contacts with Maurice, and their mutual declarations of orthodoxy, occurred at a time when the Roman emperor was acting decisively against Miaphysites in the East.42 Maurice targeted Miaphysites leaders who used their religious differences with Chalcedon to assert a measure of political independence. He dismantled longstanding relations with the Ghassanid Arabs and attempted to force the conversion of their leaders to Chalcedonianism, and pursued a policy of rural missionary work, which was especially successful in the Caucasus.43 In addition, his reign saw small-scale persecutions of Miaphysites in Harran and Edessa.44

Maurice’s religious policies may have made Ishoʿyahb’s courting of the emperor a more obvious initiative under this emperor than under his predecessors, since Maurice, unlike Justinian (527–65) or Justin II (565–78), never made concessions to the Miaphysites and applied consistent pressure to prominent Miaphysite centres on the frontier. This relationship may leave an imprint in the image of Maurice preserved in the Chronicle of Seert. History writing in the Church of the East became especially prolific in the generation after Ishoʿyahb’s death, in the reign of Khusrau II, and these histories, preserved in the dense final part of the extant Chronicle of Seert, remember Maurice as the pious supporter of the catholicos Sabrishoʿ, the defender of Khusrau during his civil wars and as a Christian martyr, killed by the usurper Phocas.45 His reputation as one of the ‘good kings’, a successor to Constantine and Theodosius, as he is represented in the Urmia diptychs, was secured by these events.

Some authors in the Church of the East continued the pro-Chalcedon sentiments of the reign of Ishoʿyahb I, especially those writing ‘history’ rather than ‘theology’. The Chronicle of Seert includes several sections that continue Roman ecclesiastical history into the sixth century. Some of these focus on events in sixth-century Constantinople, and juxtapose the actions of the patriarchs of that city, such as Anatolius and Gennadius, with contemporary (p.135) catholicoi and Roman Popes as allied opponents of the ‘Theopaschites’.46 This narrative of sixth-century events, focused on the patriarchs of Constantinople, probably provided a continuation of earlier sections that described Chalcedon. The same effect is produced in these sixth-century scenes as the fifth-century scene in Mari: Roman and Constantinopolitan patriarchs, and Chalcedonian emperors, are ranged against the Miaphysites and support the Dyophysite fathers, while the negative vision of Nestorius at Chalcedon is ignored.

However, not all authors within the Church of the East took such this positive view of Chalcedon or the Chalcedonians. The following sections of this chapter examine the genesis of this anti-Chalcedon tradition among certain Nisibene theologians and its dissemination in later generations. This was a version of Roman ecclesiastical history that suited the more extreme Diophysitism of later generations and laid the ground for the self-conception of the Church of the East as ‘Nestorian’, an idea that was retrojected onto fifth-century figures such as Dadishoʿ and Acacius.

The Anti-Chalcedon Tradition

Ishoʿyahb I’s positive relationship with Maurice was not matched by the relationship between other theologians of his church and Roman emperors. In the reigns of Justinian and Heraclius, emperors attempted to engage in dialogue with the Church of the East at the same time as presenting concessions to the Miaphysites, either through Justinian’s condemnation of the Three Chapters in 553 (in which Theodore of Mopsuestia was denounced) or in Heraclius’ doctrine of Monotheletism, that sought to produce a new compromise formula. Moreover, Guillaumont has observed that the opposition of the scholars of Nisibis to Justinian provided a historical precedent that was invoked against Ishoʿyahb II (628–45), and those who took communion with Heraclius.47 In other words, a historical discourse evolved in the course of the late sixth century that asserted the theological boundaries of the Church of the East, in contrast to the more tolerant alternative presented under Ishoʿyahb I.48

The account of Justinian’s meeting with the theologians is preserved in the Chronicle of Seert, though its chronology has been disordered.49 It begins by (p.136) observing Justinian’s decline into Julianism (a Miaphysite splinter group). Next it describes how the emperor received a delegation of theologians led by Paul of Nisibis, which also included the future catholicos Ishoʿyahb I. These theologians then convince Justinian that ‘the nature cannot exist without hypostasis…and that the two natures cannot exist in a single hypostasis (qnūm-an wāhid-an)’. However, Justinian later goes on to anathematize Diodore and his Dyophysite companions, after which he dies.

This embassy occurred in 562,50 shortly before the emperor’s death, but the author has displaced the Three Chapters controversy (from their real date in 553) to maintain the illusion that Paul successfully convinced Justinian and that the emperor later broke faith with him. These events prompted Paul to write his lost ‘Treaty against Caesar’, whose content is discussed in a ninth-century Miaphysite polemic.51 This text accuses Paul ‘the Nestorian’ of arguing for two hypostases, and argues that this would render God as a Quaternity and not a Trinity. If these accusations are true then it would present Paul as a more extreme Dyophysite than Ishoʿyahb I, at least as he comes across in the synods. The Synodicon only reflects Justinian’s Three Chapters in the 585 synod, with its defence of Theodore, which is repeated in 596. The delay in reaction from Ctesiphon to Justinian’s actions confirm the thesis that Ishoʿyahb I’s reign saw a new international awareness in circles around the catholicos. But it is also notable that Ishoʿyahb I, unlike Paul, made no explicitly Christological statement to buttress his defence of Theodore.52 Ctesiphon appears both more isolated and less theologically developed in this period than Nisibis.

Sebastian Brock has noted that it is only under Babai the great (d.628) that the Church of the East adopted an extreme Dyophysite Christology, with its assertion of two hypostases (qnome) in the Son.53 However, as Guillaumont observes, this may reflect trends in the theology of the Church of the East that go back to Paul.54 Babai may also draw on Paul’s ideas in other ways: he supplemented his Christology with an image of Justinian as a new Saul, ‘a murderer of the priests of God’, who ‘composed heretical books against the orthodox’.55 Babai composed his works at a time of considerable crisis for the (p.137) Church of the East, when Miaphysites had gained influence at court and forced their opponents, labelled for the first time ‘Nestorians’, to publicly justify their orthodoxy before the shah in 612. Like earlier synods of the church, Babai’s theology was defined by its stance against Theopaschism, but this was now combined with a greater interest in technical Christology (in the hypostastic union) and in the vocabulary and slogans of Nestorius himself (such as ‘Mother of Christ’).56 Here Babai articulated a much more extreme Dyophysitism than had previously been employed in the synods, and this period of reaction may underlie the opposition to Ishoʿyahb II in 630 when he accepted communion with Heraclius at Aleppo after the Romans defeated the Persians and the emperor seemed on the verge of settling differences between Christian groups.57

The controversy that surrounded Ishoʿyahb II’s mission receives a lengthy description in the Chronicle of Seert, when a long letter written against the catholicos by one Barsauma of Susa is inserted into the text.58 Barsauma begins by praising the catholicos and praying that the church may always be protected from heresy, but he soon launches into criticism of Ishoʿyahb: ‘I cry (azʿaq) with a loud voice…: there is a chasm (‘amīqa) between us and the Greeks that has its origin at the council of Chalcedon, which robbed men of equality…took away justice (ṣawāb)…forced the fathers to renounce their opinions…and led to persecution’. He follows this with a further six objections to Chalcedon and to Ishoʿyahb’s behaviour. The council, he says, praised Cyril and Celestine, ratified the synod of Ephesus and exiled Nestorius. It also proclaimed that two natures could exist in a single hypostasis, and called Mary ‘Mother of God’, instead of ‘Mother of Christ’. Finally, and most importantly, by saying mass with a Chalcedonian, Ishoʿyahb had agreed to avoid saying the names of the Dyophysite fathers in the diptychs and therefore abandoned the faith declared at Nicaea and Constantinople (‘the faith of the 318 and 150’).

Barsauma criticizes Chalcedon at a level of detail not seen before in the Eastern sources. I suggest that the contrast between the information shown here and the positive vision of Chalcedon in Ishoʿyahb I’s historians is a product of the more extreme theological stance in the East after Babai’s ‘reign’, and of ever increasing knowledge about the content of the Western councils, and the criticism of Nestorius at Chalcedon. Barsauma’s criticisms follow Babai’s agenda in highlighting the importance of the hypostatic union and the title of Mary. In Barhadbeshaba, Nestorius had been seen as a martyr (p.138) for a Dyophysite orthodoxy, but the condemnation of Nestorius that was confirmed at Chalcedon was never explored, both because of ignorance of the council’s contents and because it was represented as a defeat for the followers of Cyril, especially his successor Dioscurus. Increasing awareness of the acts of the Greek church, increased Miaphysite pressure in the East, and the changing policies of the Roman emperors meant that these contradictions were revealed.

Barsauma goes on to present Ishoʿyahb’s actions in terms of his predecessors, by comparing his compromise to their steadfastness. Barsauma compares Ishoʿyahb to Paul of Nisibis who stood up to Justinian ‘though inferior to you in honour and rank’,59 and recalls Ahai and Acacius, other catholicoi who went to the Romans as diplomats but maintained the honour of the church.60 He chastises Ishoʿyahb for ‘receiving Caesar’s gold and the patronage (karāma) of Boran (the shahin)’ and, calling to mind the last judgement, reminds him that it is a time when empires are being overturned: it is not an occasion when men can gather up treasure for themselves.61 In being the dupe of the emperor, Ishoʿyahb has allowed the beliefs of Cyril and Apollinarius, who have cast their shadows (ẓilm) over the West, and which have begun ‘to encroach upon the lands of the East’.62

The historian of these events seems to have inserted Barsauma’s letter verbatim. He does not deny Barsauma’s vision of the faith, but he is still keen to exonerate Ishoʿyahb as well. The description of Ishoʿyahb’s meeting with Heraclius corresponds fairly closely to Barsauma’s image of orthodoxy: Heraclius is impressed by the catholicos’ intelligence, and they discuss Paul of Nisibis’ works against Justinian, and they agree that they are consistent with the faith of Nicaea. Heraclius also allows Ishoʿyahb to suppress the name of Cyril from the diptychs and hears Ishoʿyahb’s defence of Mary’s title as ‘Mother of Christ’.63 Ultimately, Ishoʿyahb defends himself from Barsauma’s accusation by emphasizing that he wanted to make peace with the emperor and that he had always confessed Christ ‘in two natures and two hypostases’, which ‘stifled the flames of Barsauma’s anger’.64

Though we cannot know what the private agreements actually were between Heraclius and Ishoʿyahb II, the catholicos’ discussion of Christology in a letter indicates that he saw Chalcedon as misguided, but not the kind of aberration that the Miaphysites represented. He describes Chalcedon as ‘neither orthodox nor heretical’: ‘It was intended to restore the faith, but slipped away [from its intention] due to feeble phraseology…. It can never be said (p.139) that two hypostases existed within a single nature.’65 This attitude may have allowed Ishoʿyahb to accept communion with Heraclius and to only raise certain issues that he considered important, leaving aside the names that Heraclius’ bishops might employ in the diptychs or the rehabilitation of Nestorius. Notably, his letter avoids the controversial issue of the names of the diptychs. He only cites one ‘father’ specifically, Gregory of Nyssa, and only one council, Nicaea.66 Similarly, his condemnation of heretics only includes those who were anathematized in all Christian churches (with the exception of Severus).67

The concentration of Christological debate on individual reputations had previously been raised as a problematic issue in the Roman world in the early sixth century. In his informal conversations with the Miaphysites, Justinian had protested that ‘they say nothing unorthodox, but do not want to communicate with us because of scruples [over] names in the diptychs’.68 Like Justinian, Ishoʿyahb may have seen the possibility of the reconciliation of Christological views that respected the language and traditions of the Church of the East without raising the issue of differences in the diptychs. But, as we have seen, these names (and the rejection of parallel lists of heretics) had been an important feature of the self-definition of the church against the Miaphysites. Ishoʿyahb employed the sophisticated terminology of Paul and Babai, but also had to function as an intermediary with Heraclius after he had defeated the Persian empire in a twenty-year war. There must have been a great incentive to reach a compromise with an emperor with such dominant political importance, whose victory may have also implied the beginning of the last days, especially when Sasanian rulers were being regularly deposed and no longer offered regular patronage. But, at the same time, the concentration of the self-representation on the Church of the East on the person of Nestorius, which we see in Barhadbeshaba, ultimately revealed the internal contradictions of a canon of orthodoxy that tried to include both Chalcedon and Nestorius. Importantly, the course of events has been edited to limit the significance of Barsauma’s objections. Bar Hebraeus, whose Jacobite compilation of the sources would have had less incentive to cover up embarrassing details, presents the meeting as a loss of face for Ishoʿyahb. He reports that Ishoʿyahb followed ‘the Greek faith’ and was dropped from the diptychs until he made a public declaration that he had not denied his faith.69

(p.140) A Nestorian Church

The long-term impact of Babai’s assertion of a more extreme Christology and a more marked identification with Nestorius and his slogans is apparent as early as the synod of Giwargis I in 680, which explicitly defends the theology of ‘Nestorius and Theodore’.70 The figure of Nestorius becomes increasingly prominent in the ninth- and tenth-century texts that are contemporary with the Chronicle of Seert. The Haddad Chronicle, in a section devoted to ecclesiology and ritual, describes Ctesiphon as ‘the chair of Nestorius’ and explains the shape of the catholicos’ staff with reference to the staves of Aaron and Nestorius.71 By contrast, Theodore of Mopsuestia is not granted any such importance in these accounts. The ninth-century liturgical and ecclesiological compilation formerly attributed to George of Arbela gives a major role to Nestorius in different contexts. Here a number of discussions of theology have their historical context attached, and, in a long text that refers to few individuals, Nestorius is mentioned as the great opponent of Cyril, as the target of the Theopaschite Trisagion and, strikingly, as the source of the church’s name as ‘Nestorians’.72 The fact that pseudo-George employs ‘Nestorian’ positively shows the shift in attitudes that must have occurred, in some parts of the church at least, between the polemical use of the term in 612 and the church’s own use of the term by the ninth century.

Around the same time as George, the liturgist Shahdost of Tirhan also employed a positive image of Nestorius, this time embedded in a synchronized history of the Roman and Persian churches written with a focus on theology and liturgy. Shahdost’s work, preserved in a later florilegium, repeats the ‘Mother of Christ’ slogan and focuses on Cyril’s attack on Nestorius at Ephesus.73 He calls himself one of the ‘Nestorian Christians’, in contrast to his Miaphysite opponents, and ‘Nestorius’ is a common attribution for anonymous texts in the same florilegium.74

The identification of the Church of the East with the person of Nestorius did not initially have an impact of the church’s vision of the council of Chalcedon. But the growing popularity of Nestorius in the work of Babai and beyond, and the increased definition of the church’s Christology made the contradictions in the historical record more acute. Pseudo-Ishaq of Nineveh, in the same florilegium as Shahdost, presents Chalcedon as a moment of apostasy by the one-time opponents of Cyril: ‘While some took exile…others disregarded the fear of the (p.141) heavenly king to avoid losing their position of leadership…and assented to a single hypostasis.’75 Shahdost, by contrast, was more prepared to defend Chalcedon. Well-read in the historical tradition of the Church of the East, Shahdost may have known of an earlier positive vision of Chalcedon that he tried to blend with the church’s contemporary focus on Nestorius.76 He asserts that

Acacius and Barsauma [of Nisibis] did not accept Chalcedon, but did not entirely reject it either…it will not mislead us that the heretics and the followers of the synod dare to say that the synod anathematized Nestorius. We say to them, ‘You lie, for the synod called him lacking in understanding and placed no anathema on him,’77

Shahdost attempts to maintain the positive vision of Chalcedon in the Church of the East by presenting the negative interpretation of the council as a plot by Miaphysites and Melkites. But even his attempts at compromise still show the retrojection of Acacius’ synod of 486 as engaged with Chalcedon at all, when its only theological statement was a simple objection to Theopaschism.

Miaphysite sources in the ninth century and beyond would also place the break with the Roman church and the shift of the East to Nestorianism in the fifth century. The letter of pseudo-Philoxenus, ostensibly written to a fifth-century Arab ruler but finally compiled in c.750, imagines that many people became Nestorian because of Persian persecution and that the ‘Nestorian catholicosate’ was created under ‘the ungodly Acacius’.78 Bar Hebraeus also dates the split to Acacius: he presents this as the moment that the Church of the East became ‘Nestorian’ and the end of the ‘orthodox’ succession of catholicoi until its restoration by Ahudemmeh.79 The Miaphysite texts clearly intend to deny the legitimacy of the catholicoi after Acacius, and to lay claim to the earlier history of the Church of the East for themselves. But the presentation of Acacius as a ‘Nestorian’ also existed within the Church of the East. Pseudo-George was probably inspired by the coincidence of Nestorius’ expulsion with Dadishoʿ’s reign and Dadishoʿ’s own claims to autocephaly: he dates the ‘Nestorianization’ of the church to his reign, to an even earlier date than the Miaphysites.80 Even men like Shahdost, with a more tolerant vision of Chalcedon, were forced to accommodate this prevailing image of the church as ‘Nestorian’.

(p.142) Conclusions

Sebastian Brock has powerfully rebutted the idea that the Church of the East was Nestorian in a technical, theological sense. And, in so far as ‘Nestorian’ was a label that exaggerated the church’s Dyophysitism, he must be correct, especially when it is applied to the period before Babai’s creation of a new Christological language.81 The Acacian synod was anti-Theopaschite rather than Nestorian, and the praise for Nestorius by writers such as Narsai of Nisibis (d.503) was made without any real knowledge of his theology: Theodore was a much more important influence.

But the Church of the East was increasingly Nestorian in a historical sense, in that Nestorius played a critical role in the church’s historical imagination. Initially, the reverence for Nestorius was accommodated within a wider history of the church fathers that had a positive image of the council of Chalcedon. This version of events, popularized under Ishoʿyahb I, was preserved and elaborated in the church’s historical tradition and embedded in the medieval compilations.

From the middle sixth century, Eastern theologians objected to the attempts of Roman emperors to compromise with the Miaphysites and this caused problems for a catholicos such as Ishoʿyahb II who sought a rapprochement with the Romans. This difference was exacerbated by Babai’s focus on Nestorius’ slogans, which would ultimately culminate in the self-identification of the church as ‘Nestorian’ in the Abbasid period, an initiative that emphasized the church’s distinct heritage. This in turn involved the retrojection of the image of the church as Nestorian onto its earlier history and maintained the church’s distinctiveness not only against Miaphysites, but against Chalcedonians as well.


(1) Barhebraeus, HE, III, 31 accuses Joseph of historical forgery. For Joseph as ‘patriarch’ see Fiey, Jalons, 77 and W. Macomber, ‘The authority of the catholicos-patriarch of Seleucia-Ctesiphon’, OCA 181, 179–200, at 190 and 196–7. For the late sixth-century expansion in central authority see Joseph, canon 15 and Ezekiel, canon 19 (Synodicon,104 and 121) for the patriarch’s role in ordinations, ‘from which all the eparchies of the East are generated’.

(2) F. Brightman, Western and Eastern Liturgies, 2 vols. (London, 1901), I, 276–81. These diptychs were read immediately before the peace.

(3) Constantine and Helena, Jovian, Theodosius, Bishoi(?), Nu‘man, and Maurice.

(4) ʿAbdishoʿ, Metrical Catalogue. See also the list in Fiey, Jalons, 9 and Degen, ‘Daniel bar Maryam’.

(5) Chronicle of Seert, I/i, XVII (273); XVIII (277 and 280), all on Constantine and Nicaea.

(6) Assemani, BO, IIIa, 168.

(7) Assemani, BO, IIIa, 171.

(8) Assemani, BO, IIIa, 216. The attribution of the Arbela Chronicle to Mshiha-zkha is a twentieth-century forgery. See J.-M. Vosté, ‘Alphonse Mingana’, OCP 7 (1941), 514–18.

(9) Eusebius was important to the Iraqi ecclesiastical historians for his role in determining the date of Easter (Chronicle of Seert, I/i, XXI–XXII (285–7). His Chronicon was chiefly accessed through the translation of Simeon of Beth Garmai (c.600): Assemani, BO, IIIa, 168.

(10) Chronicle of Seert, II/i, III; VI; XXXIV.

(11) The ecclesiastical historians discussed here have a tendency to reduce complex theology to slogans and chains of transmission. Though Christology was of real importance to some, here I investigate the historians’ representation of theology as an issue of importance in itself.

(12) On the continuations of Eusebius’ Chronicon in the Syriac tradition see H. Kesseling, ‘Die Syrische Eusebius Chronik’, OC (1927), 31–47 and 225–39 and (1928), 33–53; W. Witakowski, ‘The Chronicle of Eusebius’, Aram 12 (2000), 419–37 and R. Burgess, Studies in Eusebian and post-Eusebian Chronography (Stuttgart, 1999), esp. 121 for his comments on the Chronicle of Seert. Chronicle of Seert, I/i, X (247) cites Socrates directly, as well as Theodore of Mopsuestia.

(13) With a few exceptions, only post-Nicene authors were translated into Syriac. S. Brock, ‘Syriac literature: a crossroads of cultures’, PdO 31 (2004), 17–35, at 22. These sections also include figures who are only of peripheral importance to the development of theology, but who would have been significant in the original narratives of Socrates and Theodoret, e.g. the importance of Diodore’s opponent Eunomius or his predecessor at Tarsus, Silvanus (XLIX), or the references to Meletius and Eusebius of Samosata in the section on the ‘heretic’ Macedonius (LII). Other sections, such as that on Basil (LI), may be drawn from Socrates but have been much more heavily epitomized, probably by another ecclesiastical historian.

(14) On the Tome see W. H. C. Frend, The Rise of the Monophysite Movement: Chapters in the History of the Church in the Fifth and Sixth Centuries (Cambridge, 1972), 212–13 and 217.

(15) Mari, HE, 37–40/32–5.

(16) Evagrius, HE, I, 7.

(17) P. Rorem and J. Lamoureaux, ‘John of Scythopolis on Apollinarian Christology’, Church History 62 (1993), 469–82; S. Harvey, ‘Neochalcedoniansm’, in The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church; R. Janin. ‘Basile de Cilice’, in DHGE.

(18) A. Outler, ‘The Three Chapters: a comment on the survival of Antiochene Christology’, in A Tribute to Arthur Vööbus (Chicago, 1977), 357–64. Later florilegia of the Church of the East also seem to have been compiled in this formative era. The florilegium used by Giwargis I in 680 (Synodicon, 242–3) employs Cyril himself to contradict the Miaphysite position, implying that the text had originally been gathered with Cyril’s followers in mind, seeking to expose the contradiction in Cyril’s thought. Also see L. Abramowski, ‘Zur geplanten Ausgabe von Brit. Mus. Add. 12156’, in J. Dummer and J. Irmscher (eds.), Texte und Textkritik: eine Aufsatzsammlung (Berlin, 1987) and L. Abramowski and A. Goodman, Nestorian Christological Texts (Cambridge, 1972) for examples of florilegia of fifth-century figures translated en bloc from Greek to Syriac.

(19) Chronicle of Seert, I/ii, XLIX (276).

(20) Chronicle of Seert, I/ii, LXIV (314–15).

(21) Chronicle of Seert, I/ii, LVII (305).

(22) E.g. the preamble to Joseph’s synod in 555. Synodicon, 97.

(23) Synodicon, 114.

(24) For Ephraem’s writing on Manichees and Marcionites note Murray, Symbols, 78–9.

(25) On Apollinarius and his legacy see P. Gray, ‘The legacy of Chalcedon: Christological problems and their significance’, in M. Maas (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Justinian (Cambridge, 2005), 215–36, at 218–19.

(26) Synodicon, 133–6 (Canon 1).

(27) Synodicon, 137–9 (Canon 2).

(28) Synodicon, 193–5. He also contrasts the doctrines of Severus with the orthodoxy of Ephraem at 196.

(29) Barhadbeshaba, HE, XX (532). Also compare Bazaar of Heracleides, 2 and 99. The Bazaar names these heresies as Manichaeism and Photinianism, but the HE identifies the heresiarchs as Paul of Samosata and Apollinarius, who appear as frequent polemical comparisons in this debate. See further, A. Grillmeier, Christ in Christian Tradition, Volume One: From the Apostolic Age to Chalcedon (Louisville, 1975), 97, on the association of Eutyches with Manichaeans and Apollinarians.

(30) Fiey, Jalons, 127 notes phases of Jacobite expansion in the 520s, 536–42, and 550s in response to Roman persecution in Syria, when John of Ephesus presents ‘Persia’ as a major Miaphysite refuge. Also see Baumer, Church of the East, 83 on Henana. Ishoʿyahb himself was a product of the School of Nisibis, and its sometime governor: Chronicle of Seert, II/i, XXXVI (194) and II/ii, XLII (438). On the debate over Theodoran Christology and the ‘innovation’ of Henana, see G. Reinink, ‘ “Edessa grew dim and Nisibis shone forth”: The school of Nisibis at the transition of the sixth-seventh century’, in J.-W. Drijvers and A. MacDonald (eds.), Centres of Learning: Learning and Location in Pre-Modern Europe and the Near East (Leiden/New York/Cologne, 1995), 77–89 and G. Reinink, ‘Tradition and the formation of the “Nestorian” identity in sixth- to seventh-century Iraq’, in B. Ter Haar Romeny, The Religious Origins of Nations? The Christian Communities of the Middle East (Leiden, 2009), 217–50, which disposes of several misconceptions in the older literature (e.g. Morony, Iraq, 326). Reinink observes that both Henana and Babai could be seen as working within the framework of the traditional doctrine of the Church of the East. Also note the assessment of the historiography on Henana in Becker, Fear of God, 198–203.

(31) The catholicos himself assumed a role as a diplomat from the shah Hormizd IV to the Roman emperor Maurice (582–602) in 587.

(32) Barhadbeshaba, HE, XIX (507–8) and XX (521).

(33) Evagrius, HE, I, 7. The sections on Theodore and Nestorius are written in a similar style to Socrates and Theodoret, with lengthy quotations from letters and speeches.

(34) Unlike most other figures in the history, Nestorius receives two sections, and these are long, with a total of c.70 pages in Nau’s edition. Sudden jumps in the narrative indicate that Barhadbeshaba is indeed mixing two or more different texts (e.g. XXI, 528–9).

(35) Among various modern summaries of these events: H.-I. Marrou (ed.), Nouvelle histoire de l’église (Paris, 1963), I, 384–94.

(36) See A. Shin, ‘Nestorius and factions in the fifth century’, Studia Patristica 39 (2003), 125–30.

(37) Bazaar of Heracleides gives a list of ‘orthodox’ bishops at 377.

(38) Barhadbeshaba, HE, XXI (532) and XXII (538).

(39) Barhadbeshaba, HE, XXI (532). Bazaar, 96–8 calls Cyril an Apollinarian, and a Theopaschite (93).

(40) Zachariah of Mytilene, HE, III, 1, c (tr. Greatrex, Horn, and Phenix, 101–2).

(41) For a survey of the sources and the theology involved see W. de Vries, ‘Die syrisch-nestorianische Haltung zu Chalkedon’, in A. Grillmeier and H. Bacht (eds.), Das Konzil von Chalkedon: Geschichte und Gegenwart. 3 vols. (Wurzburg, 1951), I, 603–35.

(42) Mari, HE, 57/49–50 describes Ishoʿyahb I taking communion with Maurice, but this may confuse the similar meeting between Ishoʿyahb II and Heraclius.

(43) R. W. Thomson, ‘The Armenians in the fifth and sixth centuries’, in Cameron, Ward-Perkins, and Whitby (eds.), The Cambridge Ancient History XIV, 662–77, at 674–6; Evagrius, HE, VI, 22 (ed. Bidez and Parmentier, 238).

(44) Dionysius of Tel-Mahre, HE, 3, 5, and 9 (tr. Palmer, 112–18).

(45) Chronicle of Seert, II/ii, LXVIII (497) and LXX (499).

(46) Chronicle of Seert, II/i, III (104–5); VI (108); XI (123); XIX (138); and XXII (145).

(47) A. Guillaumont, ‘Justinien et l’église perse’, DOP 23 (1970), 39–67.

(48) W. de Vries, ‘La conception de l’église chez les syriens séparés de Rome II’, OS 3 (1958), 149–64, first pointed to the diversity of ‘Nestorian’ positions on Chalcedon in the sixth to eighth centuries.

(49) Chronicle of Seert, II/i, XXXII (186–8). This section on Justinian includes material from multiple different sources.

(50) Scher (PO 7, 187 note 6) mistakenly dates this to 533: Guillaumont, ‘Justinien’, 51.

(51) Assemani, BO, IIIa, 88; Guillaumont, ‘Justinien’, 52–3.

(52) Paul was defeated in a political struggle with Ishoʿyahb’s predecessor Ezekiel (Chronicle of Seert, II/i, XXXVI (193–4), and his highly defined Christological position may have seemed threatening to catholicoi inclined towards international compromise.

(53) Brock, ‘Christology of the Church of the East’; G. Chediath, The Christology of Mar Babai the Great (Kottayam, 1982), 87–8. Reinink, ‘Nestorian identity’, esp. 220 and 228, notes that Babai’s two-qnome formulation was never canonized as part of a creed, and that the church tradition to which he appealed was ambiguous. On this ambiguity of tradition see also A. de Halleux, ‘La christologie de Martyrius-Sahdona dans l’évolution du nestorianisme’, OCP 23 (1957), 5–32.

(54) Guillaumont, ‘Justinien’, 61.

(55) Babai, Book of Union, 81–2/66.

(56) Chediath, Babai, 62–76; Reinink, ‘Nestorian identity’, 229.

(57) Heraclius’ patriarch Sergius was represented as ‘a follower of Theodore’ who apostasized by proposing his Monothelete formula. Chronicle of Seert, II/ii, LXXXII (528).

(58) Chronicle of Seert, II/ii, XCIV (562–78). Ishoʿyahb’s mission to the west was also said to be the occasion for the ‘apostasy’ of the Eastern theologian Sahdona to the Chalcedonians. See A. de Halleux, ‘Martyrius-Sahdona: la vie mouvementée d’un « hérétique » de l’église nestorienne’, OCP 24 (1958), 93–128.

(59) Chronicle of Seert, II/ii, XCIV (568).

(60) Chronicle of Seert, II/ii, XCIV (573).

(61) Chronicle of Seert, II/ii, XCIV (575).

(62) Chronicle of Seert, II/ii, XCIV (567).

(63) Chronicle of Seert, II/ii, XCIII (557–61).

(64) Chronicle of Seert, II/ii, XCIV (576–9).

(65) Christological Letter of Ishoyahb II (tr. Sako, 146–7).

(66) Christological Letter of Ishoyahb II, 152 and 160–1.

(67) Christological Letter of Ishoyahb II, 145–6.

(68) S. P. Brock, ‘Conversations with the Syrian Orthodox in 532’, OCP 47 (1981), 87–121, at 109, section 35.

(69) Bar Hebraeus, HE, III, 113–5.

(70) Synodicon, 235.

(71) Haddad Chronicle, LXXVIII (118) and LXXXIII (122).

(72) George of Arbela, Expositio Officiorum, I, 107; 129–30; 187–8.

(73) Translated in L. Abramowski and A. Goodman, Nestorian Christological Texts. Cambridge University Library MS. Oriental 1319 (Cambridge, 1972), II, 13 and 17.

(74) Abramowski and Goodman, Nestorian Christological Texts, 31.

(75) Abramowski and Goodman, Nestorian Christological Texts, 37.

(76) He notes (Nestorian Christological Texts, 18–19 and 23) that the Roman and Persian rulers at several points in his theological narrative, which implies he derives a portion of his information from histories as well as from theological material.

(77) Abramowski and Goodman, Nestorian Christological Texts, 20.

(78) A. Mingana, ‘The early spread of Christianity in Asia and the Far East: a new document’, BJRL 9 (1925), 297–371, at 360–7. Much of the letter is concerned with the conversion of the Turks, which implies a later dating.

(79) Bar Hebraeus, HE, III, 61–5.

(80) George of Arbela, Expositio Officiorum, I, 144.

(81) S. Brock, ‘Nestorian church: a lamentable misnomer’, BJRL 78 (1996), 23–53 at 23–30 and S. Brock, ‘The Church of the East up to the sixth century and it absence from councils in the Roman Empire’, in Syriac Dialogue: The First Non-Official Consultation on Dialogue within the Syrian Tradition, with Focus on the Theology of the Church of the East (Vienna, 1996), 68–85. In ‘Nestorian church’, 24, Brock remarks that the thirteenth-century canonist ʿAbdishoʿ of Nisibis observed that ‘Nestorius was not their patriarch, nor did they know his language’. N. Seleznyov, ‘Nestorius of Constantinople: condemnation, suppression, veneration, with special reference to the role of his name in East-Syriac Christianity’, Journal of Eastern Christian Studies 62 (2010), 165–90, at 185, observes that this cannot be read as an attempt to distance the Church of the East from Nestorius’ legacy. In context, the quotation emphasizes the primacy of Dyophysite ideas in the Church of the East before Nestorius: ‘It was Nestorius who followed them, not they who followed Nestorius, especially with regard to the appellation “the Mother of Christ”.’ ʿAbdishoʿ, therefore, was engaged in an even more extreme retrojection of Dyophysitism into the past than pseudo-George of Arbela.