A female role model among religious women: Domnika Hegoumena*

Volume 7, issue 1 (summer 1999)

A female role model among religious women: Domnika Hegoumena*
by Annabelle Parker

In making a comparison between women who have become role models for other women, it is difficult to say which characteristics are similar and which ones different, and we can ask ourselves what we are trying to retrieve for kind of information. In what way does it help us to analyse role models, and thus those women and maybe men who followed these models. If it is so, that it explains a development in female religious experience, then it is worthwhile. I will study one woman in this paper, so that later on her life and the many other lives of female religious role models, or spiritual guides, may tell us about what was important for women in Late Antiquity and later periods.

I have chosen to focus on Domnika, because she deserves our attention, having been buried in obscurity for so long.

The Vita Domnicae as a historical text

First, let’s look at the ‘historical’ Domnika: Domnika Hegoumena is a Greek saint who lived during the reign of Theodosius the Great (379-395) in the 4th century. Her Life is to be found in several manuscripts containing Menologiae, on 8th of January. 1 I have used the text edited by Theophilus Johannes in 1884.2 Luckily, a new edition is under way, (by Maria Alexiou) because it is in need of revision. Maybe a new look can clarify the obscurities that one finds in encyclopedias, when researching this text…

For instance: the question “where did Domnika come from?” Will bring up some meddled answers, for which we need to study the manuscripts:

According to the existing edition, Domnika comes originally from Rome (ch. 3), although an article in Bibliotheca Sanctorum wants us to believe she originates from Cartagena.3 It could well be that in other manuscripts than the one(s) used by Theophilus Johannes (Mark. 25), the words tou apo tès Hispanias to genos katagontos in chapter 3 were interpreted as meaning: from Cartagena. But here, this information is given about emperor Theodosius, mentioned in the sentence above, who, as we know from Socrates Scholasticus in his Ecclesiastical History: “This person [Theodosius] was descended from a noble family in Spain.”4

In a Greek encyclopedia 5 we find an item on Domnína (or: Domniki), (8th jan.) in which Domnika’s story is told but it is stressed that she lived under Theodosius II (408-450) and not under Theodosius I. Also it is mentioned that Domnína originates from Cartagena, which corresponds with the article in Bibliotheca Sanctorum.

Then after some other items, follows the Monastery of Holy Domnínes (or: Domnikes). This, a double monastery erected by 2 women from Rome, and the Monastery which Domnika erected, named after the Prophet Zecheriah, are discussed and reduced to monasteries that existed on paper, but maybe not in reality. But apart from this, in discussing Domnika’s monastery and the chapel in name of the Prophet Zecheriah, this author (S.G.P.) discusses how Domnika did live in Theodosius the Great’s time. So the encyclopedia contradicts itself. Unless there are 2 very similar saints, called Domnína and Domnika, who are intertwined.6 The information about these monasteries in Constantinople was probably taken from a 15th century work entitled De Aedificiis or peri ktismatoon tès Koonstantinoupoleoos, by George Kodoni.7 R. Janin writes more thoroughly about the monastery of the Domnikes, or Domnines and the chapel of Zecheriah, that are difficult to localize. Also, in Theodosius the Great’s time, there were apparently only 2 monasteries built, not for women, but for men: that of Dalmatius and of Dius, around 382 and later.8 Janin suggests that the legendary story of Domnika was used to give one of these monastery a worthy history. But he is sure a monastery with a church dedicated to te prophet Zecheriah existed.

In the text of Domnika’s life we find a mention of a contemporary Constantinopolitan, Daniel the Stylite (409-493).9 In this Life we find in chapter 64 a mention of the chapel of St. Zecheriah in Catabolus, the Harbour. In Domnika’s Life the monastery, which is built with the help of Bishop Nectarius (381-397) in a remote place in or near Constantinople, is actually built as an ‘euktèrion’, a chapel, so could this chapel of St. Zecheriah be the same as Domnika’s? It must have been erected before 395, when Theodosius I died, whose death Domnika predicted. The reader can conclude that the author has written this Life much later than the time of Theodosius the Great, because the emperors Zeno and Basiliskus (474-491 and 475-476) are mentioned.

Domnika’s saintly life

At an early age, Domnika learned to read or recite the Bible (Ch. 2). She decided to choose to lead the life of an ascetic. She went to the harbour in Rome, and a boarded a ship for Alexandria. After suffering a heavy storm, she reaches Alexandria, and comes to a prisonbuilding, where she finds 4 virgins, who are not (yet) christian, but who are virtuous heathen. She manages to convert them, and through her prayers, the locks on the doors break open, and they are free. They all go to a ship that is bound for Constantinople, and during this crossing they again suffer storms. In Constantinople, they are greeted by Bishop Nektarius, who had foreseen the arrival of Domnika in a dream. They are taken to the church, and there, the 4 virgins are baptized. The emperor, Theodosius the Great, himself comes to visit her, and many other people come to receive her blessings.

Domnika decides to build a chapel near Constantinople, because she cannot take the pressure of the bad demons who are afflicted by her being there. So with the help of the bishop and the emperor, the Zecheriah-chapel is built, and she wants the ceremony of inauguration to take place at 24th in stead of 29th January, because she foresees a disaster on that day. This disaster is not mentioned after this., although it is suggested by Gédéon in 1899, that in 388 troubles with the Arians mighr have been the disaster Domnika was hinting at.10

In her residence at that chapel, she cures the ill, and also those who are mentally ill. She then hears from an Angel that Theodosius is going to die. In chapter 14 and 15, Domnika’s situation is compared to that of Daniel the Stylite, who had to descend from his pillar (ch. 72-73) to reason against Basiliskus, who had thrown Zeno off the throne for 20 months, and who favored the anti-Chalkedonian, ‘monophysite’ current. Domnika has to go to the empress (whose name is not given), to advice her and bring salvation upon her. Domnika sends her ‘second’, Dorothea, one of the virgins who were baptised, but she is refused entrance by the empress. The empress dies shortly after Dorothea predicts she will never be deigned worthy of entering the church.

Domnika herself foresees her own death, and arranges that Dorothea take over the monastery or convent and everything that she has built up. She offers a prayer, lasting most of chapter 16. After her death, Domnika appears in the sky, and the whole population of the monastery sees her amongst other saints, clothed in bridal suit.

At a great fire (maybe the one of 465? Also mentioned in Daniel the Stylite’s Life), they see a woman, standing next to the Prophet Zecheriah, and they are holding off the flames from the buildings. Later on, a woman who approaches the monastery, is posessed of an evil spirit. This spirit is tormented by the late Domnika, who chases him away.

Domnika as a female role model

In this text, clearly, Domnika is characterized as a leading figure, with a lot of power. Many people, men and women, up to the emperor, came to see her.

For the girls in the prison, Domnika represented a person who was very much in touch with God, through her strong belief, and they wanted to copy her life. Domnika gave direction to the lives of these women. It was not her femininity that was their primary example, because in the text there is not much hint of her as a woman. She does not for instance encounter specific boundaries for women, as a planned marriage, or evil thoughts. And if one changed the name of Domnika into Domnikus, one would not see much difference.11 It is most of all what she did that makes Domnika a role model.

Speaking of Role Models, it is noticable, that our heroine, Domnika, herself chooses a man, the prophet Zecheriah, as role model for her. The chapel she builds is named after him, because she received prophecies herself by imitating him (ch. 9).


* Summary of a paper given at the 13th International Conference on Patristic Studies 16-21 August, 1999.

1 See: Bertocchi, Pietro, ‘Domnica, egumena di Constantinopoli, Giorgio, chozibita, ed. Emiliano, santi’, in Bibliotheca Sanctorum, T. iv, p. 762, [1964].

2 Mnèmeia hagiologika nun prooton hupo (hieroiakonou) Theofilou Iooannou, Benetia, 1884, p. 268: Bios kai thaumata tès hosias mètros hèmoon Domnikès.

3 Idem.

4 Socrates Scholasticus: Ecclesiastical History: A history of the Church in seven books (306-445), transl. from the Greek, London: Samuel Bagster & Sons, 1844, p. 366: Bk. 5, Ch. 2.

5 Thrèskeutikè kai èthikè egklopaideia, 5e Tomos, Athinai, 1964, column 162.

6 F. Halkin in Bibliotheca Hagiographicorum Graecorum mentions 3 types of Vita and 1 epitome: see BHG 562. There is another Domnína, mentioned in the Historia Religiosa or History of the Monks of Syria by Theodoretus of Cyrrhus (393-458). Here, Domnína is a saint who lived around 444 in a hut by her mother’s house, somewhere in the province of Cyr, and who posessed the Gift of Tears. See: Theodoret de Cyr: Histoire des Moines de Syrie, ed. Pierre Canivet et Alice Leroy-Molinghen, 2 tomes: S.C. 234 and 257, Paris, 1979, T.2, Caput xxx.

7 Georgii Codoni / Geoorgiou tou Koodinou: ‘peri ktismatoon tès Koonstantinoupoleoos’ (Saec. XV, anni 1400-1462), in: Migne PG 157, Kol. 605.

8 R. Janin: La Géographie ecclésiastique de l’Empire Byzantin, Iière partie: Le siège de Constantinople et le Patriarchat Oecuménique, T.III: Les églises et les monastères, 2ième éd., Paris, 1969, p. 100-101. He uses M. I. Gédéon’s book: Buzantinon heortologion, Constantinople, 1899, which I have been unable to study.

9 An English translation of this Life is: ‘St. Daniel the Stylite’, in: Three Byzantine Saints, by Elizabeth Dawes and Norman H. Baynes, Crestwood, 1977.

10 See R. Janin: La Géographie ecclésiastique de l’Empire Byzantin, p. 100.

11 With thanks to Dirk Krausmüller for pointing this out to me.


God or angels as impersonators of saints: A belief and its contexts in the “Refutation” of Eustratius of Constantinople and in the writings of Anastasius of Sinai

Volume 6, issue 2 (winter 1998-1999)

by Dirk Krausmüller

In his article “L’ombre d’un doute” G. Dagron has challenged the view that the end of Late Antiquity was an “age of saints”.1 He has argued that the hagiographical literature of the 6th and 7th centuries presents a partisan view which tends to gloss over the considerable opposition against a pivotal role of saints in society. Clear signs of such an opposition can be found in the collections of Questions and Answers dating to that period. In this article I shall discuss one of the points to which Dagron has drawn attention.

In the answer to Quaestio no. 19 of the collection of Anastasius of Sinai we find the statement that “all visions of the saints in the churches and at the tombs are effected through holy angels”.2 This theory also appears in a more developed form in the answer to Quaestio no. 26 of a collection attributed to Athanasius of Alexandria where we are told that “the overshadowings and visions in the churches and at the tombs of the saints do not happen through the souls of the saints but through angels who change their shapes into the appearances of the saints”.3 The authors of the Questions and Answers were, however, not the first to express this view. Dagron has pointed out that a strikingly similar theory is already found in the late 6th century when it is attacked by the Constantinopolitan priest Eustratius in his “Refutation of those who say that the souls of men are not active after the separation from their bodies etc.”.4 In the preface to this treatise Eustratius describes the theory of his adversaries as follows: “When the souls of the saints appear to certain people they do not appear in their substance or own being but a divine power taking on their shapes gives the impression that the souls of the saints are active.”5

While the purpose of this theory is obviously to exclude an involvement of dead saints in the affairs of the living the argument is curiously oblique for the apparitions are accepted as real and simply explained in a different way. This is especially interesting since it would not have been impossible to deny their reality, as a passage in the writings of Maximus the Confessor (+662) clearly shows. At the beginning of the 8th letter to John of Cyzicus, Maximus confesses to the “yearning” he has felt for the addressee ever since he met him for the first time and then goes on to say: “Having been deemed worthy to have this yearning for you most holy one from the beginning I seem to see you always being present and to sense you conversing with me. … And I for one am convinced that my memory does not merely imagine you most holy one but that I sense you as being truly present”.6 Although in the end he thus stresses the reality of John’s presence, it is worth noting that Maximus at first considers the alternative explanation that his “yearning” might have induced his own imagination to conjure up John’s image based on the memory of a previous contact with him. We only need to replace this with the previous seeing of an icon to get an explanation which could well be used to reduce the apparitions of saints to mere figments of the mind.

A look at the remainder of this passage shows its relevance to our topic even more clearly. Maximus explains that he feels assured of the reality of John’s presence because it drives away his sinful thoughts.7 This idea is then restated in the following way: “For the effective power which is in you according to the grace of God drives away the molesting demons and thus gives a most clear sign for your presence”.8 Thus Maximus presents himself as a possessed man whose demons are expelled by the apparition of a saint. By using this image to express that his sinful thoughts leave him he clearly indicates that the experience of the miraculous healings at the shrines of the saints provides the background for this whole passage.

When Maximus bases his belief in the reality of John’s presence on the “real” effects it has on him he does, however, also give a clue why the authors of the Questions and Answers and the adversaries of Eustratius did not conclude that the visions were merely imagined. Obviously the beneficient effects of the apparitions of saints were something so widely agreed that they could not simply be negated but had to be explained in a different way.9

But what did these authors gain by substituting a divine force or angels for the saints? A passage in Eustratius’ “Refutation” shows that by introducing a divine power as actor his adversaries wanted to safeguard that all “supernatural” activity on earth comes directly from God. Having stated his own position that the saints themselves appear to the faithful Eustratius turns to his adversaries: “You who object will certainly say that it is the power of God which acts.” To this he replies: “And I agree! For who is so stupid not to think thus?”10 Then he deduces from God’s promise to “glorify those who glorify me” that the souls of the saints must be active and that therefore “God who has been glorified by them and glorifies them makes visible the souls of the saints to those who are in need of their help when it pleases him.”11 Eustratius constructs his argument in a way that God remains the sole actor and the saints are little more than his instruments who carry out his will through their apparitions. While Eustratius’ presentation serves its purpose to show that in the end there is no contradiction between the two models it must, however, be stressed that it does not correspond to the beliefs held by most of his contemporaries. As is amply testified in hagiographical literature the faithful experienced the saints as independent actors whom they expected to interact with God. When Eustratius deviates from this predominant view the obvious explanation is that he thus tried to prevent the objection of his adversaries that the activity of saints could lead to an infringement on the divine will.

In the Questions and Answers the angels take the place of the divine power of Eustratius’ adversaries as impersonators of the saints. Again we need to determine in what it is that the role of the saints as representatives of a distant God differs from that of the angels. The souls of the saints appear with and act through their own bodies and are therefore clearly distinguished from God. In the case of the angels, on the other hand, there is no link between appearance and “self” which means that they remain anonymous and therefore cannot be perceived as individual actors apart from God. This explains why angels are in fact dispensable elements in the discourse and why the concepts of “angels changing their shapes into the appearances of the saints” found in the Questions and Answers and of “a divine power taking on the shapes (sc. of the saints)” used by the adversaries of Eustratius are in the end interchangeable.

The link with God is further stressed when the angels are said to appear “through the command of God”.12 One could object that Eustratius had made the same point about the saints but in the case of the angels it clearly coincides with the beliefs held by the contemporaries. An episode from the Miracles of Cyrus and John by Sophronius of Jerusalem (+638) is especially instructive for an understanding of the different roles of angels and saints.13 The hero of this story is a fervent worshipper of the saints by the name of George. “When the limits of the life were reached George … departed from this life. And he saw the angels taking him and leading him away and Cyrus and John meeting them and asking them to give them the old man as a favour. The angels said that they could not do this since they served the divine command according to fixed rules; they said, however, that they would wait for their entreaty of God and for his second ruling. Having received this answer the martyrs turned to their entreaty and bent their knees to God and asked him to give them the venerator as a gift. And while they did this a voice came down from heaven and commanded to give the old man to the martyrs and fixed twenty more years in this life.”14

What we find here are two radically different concepts of the transmission of power. The angels are mere instruments of God’s will which they cannot change so that it is pointless for men to influence them in their favour.15 The saints, on the other hand, appear as real intermediaries who can negotiate the reversal of a decision.

There can be no doubt that this scene exactly mirrors the social experience of Sophronius and his contemporaries. The angels correspond to the representatives of the central administration who carry out its regulations in the provinces. The saints, on the other hand, are clearly not “regular” officials entrusted with standard tasks but rather correspond to local notables who are not directly dependent on the emperor and who can use their influence in favour of their clients when need arises.

Although the final decision is made by God, Sophronius’ account shows an initial discrepancy between the will of the saints and that of God which is then overcome through negotiation. By replacing the saints with angels the authors of the Questions and Answers could exclude this discrepancy.16 And the same aim was achieved even more effectively by the adversaries of Eustratius who by reducing all apparitions to a divine power completely eliminated all intermediaries. This means that while they are accepted as reality the negotiations of the faithful with the saints who appear to them are nevertheless deprived of their function and thus have lost all their meaning.

It must, however, be stressed that this is only one possible explanation for the belief in the impersonation of saints by angels or a divine power. In the last part of this article I shall return to this question and show that there could well be other reasons for holding this belief.

The adversaries of Eustratius and the authors of the Questions and Answers could only hope to convince others when they managed to disprove the obvious explanation that it is the saints themselves who appear to the faithful. Dagron has already remarked that they used the theory of the “sleep of the soul” for this purpose. His first case in point are the adversaries of Eustratius. I shall now give the full quotation of the passage from the preface of the treatise which I have already quoted partially at the beginning of the article:

“They insist on saying that after the departure from this life and the withdrawal of the souls from the bodies the souls themselves also remain inactive, be they holy or otherwise. Thus when the souls of the saints appear to certain people they do not appear in their substance or own being, as they say, but a divine power taking on a shape gives the impression that the souls of the saints are active. For those are in some place and can never show themselves to certain people in this life after the departure from the body”.17

This summary shows that Eustratius’ adversaries presented their views as a coherent system in which a radically “anti-Platonic” anthropology based on the interdependence of body and soul led to a denial of the posthumous activity of human souls and therefore necessitated the hypothesis that a divine power takes on the shape of saints as an alternative explanation to account for the apparitions of saints after their death.

Anastasius’ answer to Quaestio no. 19, on the other hand, presents us with a rather different case. According to Dagron his treatment of the topic is virtually identical with that of the adversaries of Eustratius. And indeed before stating that “all visions of the saints in the churches and at the tombs are effected through holy angels” Anastasius has attempted to prove that after death the soul is in a comatose state.18 He observes that even in life the faculties of the soul cannot function when the respective organs are maimed and that a fortiori the soul is completely incapable of functioning after its separation from the body.19 This shows his interest in questions of “natural history” which has been stressed by Dagron.20

When we look more closely at Anastasius’ answer to Quaestio no. 19 we see, however, one important difference. After having developed the theory of the sleep of the soul and before turning to the hypothesis that angels impersonate saints, Anastasius inserts a passage in which he restricts the posthumous inactivity to those who have died as sinners whereas he expresses the opinion that those souls who have acquired the Holy Spirit during their life-times are illuminated by Him and thus enabled to feel joy and praise God and intercede for each other.21 One can argue that this does not disprove his previous teaching about the sleep of the soul since the activity of the saintly souls does not originate in their self-movement but comes from the Holy Spirit as an outside force.

Regardless of the explanation, however, the admission that the saints are active after death has the consequence that the sleep of the soul cannot be used as an explanation for the following hypothesis that angels are responsible for the apparitions of saints.22 Anastasius must have felt the deficiency of his reasoning on the basis of the sleep of the souls for he then adds further arguments to shore up his belief. First he objects that a bodily appearance of saints is impossible since the resurrection of the flesh has not yet taken place.23 Then he states that the souls of the saints are circumscribed so that they cannot appear at the same time in different places.24 These arguments have in common that they are not dependent on the belief in a sleep of the soul. The former simply denies the visibility of dead saints but not necessarily their activity.25 And the latter does not even exclude the actual presence of the soul of the saint in one of these simultaneous apparitions.26 Anastasius thus falls back to a second and even to a third line of defense.27

The most likely explanation for this chaos is that Anastasius’ answer to Quaestio no. 19 ultimately goes back to a source containing an argument which was more or less identical with that of Eustratius’ adversaries and that the stringency of this argument was then destroyed by limiting the conclusion that all souls are inactive “be they holy or otherwise” to the souls of sinners alone. Otherwise it cannot be explained why Anastasius should have presented the now obviously unrelated theories of the sleep of the souls and of the angels as impersonators of saints in the same context. The phrase “as it seems to me” implies that Anastasius himself was responsible for this change.28

Despite the superficial similarity of the argument there is therefore a huge difference between the adversaries of Eustratius and Anastasius. For the former the belief that a divine power impersonates saints is the sign of a strong opposition against the saints whose role is completely negated through the stress on their posthumous inactivity.29 Anastasius, on the other hand, shows no principal opposition to an active afterlife of the saints let alone hostility towards them as a privileged group.30 As a consequence the close parallel we have drawn between the function of the divine power and that of the angels as eliminating the intermediate level between God and the living can only be said to apply to Anastasius’ source but not necessarily to Anastasius himself.

This leaves us with a serious problem. When the wish to do away with the saints could not have motivated him anymore why did he so doggedly adhere to the belief that angels impersonate saints despite the obvious weakness of his reasoning? It may, however, be that we are not asking the right question. While it is true that Anastasius uses a coherent argument of the kind proposed by Eustratius’ adversaries as starting point one cannot simply assume that logical coherence had the same importance for him. For a proper understanding of Anastasius’ intentions we need to compare his argument in Quaestio no. 19 with his treatment of other themes in his Questions and Answers. A good example is the controversy about whether the lifespans of men are predetermined by God or not. There are clear indications that Anastasius adheres to the theory that the term of life is fixed once and for all and can in fact be deduced from certain signs.31 This fits in well with his interest in natural history and the stress on the regularity of natural processes which has been pointed out by Dagron.32 But these statements are found in the context of an “abstract” discussion about the different types of prophecy. In those questions where he is expressly asked about the term of life, on the other hand, we find an outright denial that it could be predetermined by God or known by men.33 But here the explanation is of a radically different type. Anastasius points out that men would then only be repentent right before their death and thus argues with the bad effects such a predetermination and foreknowledge would have on the human character. This shows clearly that Anastasius’ “scientific” or “abstract” reasoning could well be at odds with his practical interests as a spiritual father and that in the end the latter would carry the day. So we are entitled to look for an explanation of the theory of the impersonation of saints by angels quite apart from the concomitant anthropology.

Bearing this in mind we can now return to Anastasius in order to find a satisfactory answer. A look at the parts of Quaestio no. 19 which we have not yet interpreted shows that the belief in the posthumous activity of the souls of the saints is not just a stray element found in an otherwise coherent context. At the beginning of his answer Anastasius establishes a parallel between God and the human soul as being created “in the image of God”.34He first lists apophatic predications of the divine essence like unknowable, untouchable etc. and states that they also apply to the essence of the soul.35 Then he turns to the operations of God and points out that God who is himself invisible shows his activities through his creation and that the soul mirrors him insofar as it is also invisible in itself but shows its activities through the body.36 This provides him with the starting-point for the subsequent development of the theme of the sleep of the soul for his next step is to conclude that the soul becomes inactive once its visible activities are made impossible through the loss of the body. This transition is, however, extremely awkward. Whereas up to this point Anastasius has striven to establish an exact parallel between God and the soul he now draws a conclusion which only applies to the soul without giving an explanation why without the creation God should not be equally inactive.

This muddle is caused by the fact that Anastasius here shifts from one belief system to another. The parallel between God and creation on the one hand and soul and body on the other has its place in an anthropology which stresses the closeness of the soul with God and presupposes that just as God does not need the world to be active the soul is not in need of the body. It was, however, completely rejected by those who adhered to the theory of a posthumous inactivity of the souls. In fact, a stress on the utter difference between God and all his creatures could be called the distinctive mark of their argument. This is especially obvious in Maximus’ 6th letter to John of Cyzicus where he points to this parallel in a refutation of this latter anthropology avowing that otherwise the soul could no longer be called “image of God” and ridiculing the fear of his adversaries that drawing such a parallel would amount to blasphemy.37

This shows that it would be too simple to conclude that Anastasius wrecks an otherwise straightforward argument through his wish to safeguard the activity of dead saints. One can equally argue that the theory of the sleep of the soul is the dysfunctional element in Anastasius’ argument. There are indications that Anastasius himself came to see it this way in the end. The image-relation between God and soul was a pet topic of his to which he returned in his first speech about the kat’ eikona.38 In this speech the hypothesis of the inactivity of the soul after its separation from the body also reappears. Here it is, however, attributed to a fictitious adversary and then refuted.39 Anastasius starts his argument by saying “that the soul as being in the image and likeness of God shows its invisible faculties through visible matter”.40 This corresponds exactly to the parallel he had drawn between God and the soul in his Questions and Answers but now he no longer concludes from this observation that the soul cannot be active without the body. Instead he says that “even when it is separated (sc. from the body) the soul which is pure according to nature and which is then found more perceptive and more spiritual and simple and unencumbered and bright in its substance can in a truer sense be called in the image and likeness of God”.41 When he now links the activity of the soul to its substance he constructs an exact parallel with God whose substance is equally self-sufficient and not dependent on the world. This can only mean that the implications of his argument in the Questions and Answers had finally dawned on him and that he had now changed it to avoid possible misunderstandings.42

The analogy between God and the soul, however, only demands that the soul is as perceptive without the body as it has been with it whereas Anastasius now says that the soul will then be even more perceptive. This shows that he has run the whole gamut from an “Aristotelian” to a diametrically opposed “Platonic” anthropology where the body is regarded as an encumbrance of the self-moved soul.43 At first sight, this looks like a tremendous change. The very fact, however, that these belief systems did not inspire a life-long allegiance in Anastasius suggests that for him they had lost the power to organize a stable symbolic universe.44 One can wonder whether this is simply the freak of an individual or whether it is not rather the sign of a general disintregation of traditional belief systems in the 7th century. This is, however, a question which cannot be addressed in this article.

Considering these changes it comes as a surprise that at the end of his speech on the kat’ eikona Anastasius restates his belief that the souls of the saints do not have contact with the living after the separation from their bodies. It goes without saying that this belief can in no way be explained by a Platonic anthropology. Anastasius’ explanation is therefore based on a completely different reasoning. Now he argues that being sent back to earth is a menial task which befits “servant spirits” like the angels but not the souls of the saints which are “master spirits” created in the image of a God who has then hypostatically united himself with this image.45

What Anastasius rejects here is the idea that the dead saints could be instrumentalized by God in his dealings with the living. When he presents the inability to communicate as the sign of a privileged position this sounds less odd when one remembers what the saints had to endure on their missions to the faithful. I shall only give one example from the Life of Sabas by Cyrill of Scythopolis (+ca. 558): A deacon who has lost money goes to the church of St. Theodore where he stays for many days expecting an apparition. When the saint finally comes the deacon complains that he has wasted so much time with praying and has not been helped. The saint then justifies himself by telling the deacon that he has had another task to see to and finally gives the information required.46 This shows clearly that the saints were believed to be constantly travelling from one church to another in order to satisfy the wishes of the living.47

The Late Antique collections of miracles give many more examples for the trivial matters saints have to deal with and the often crude attempts of the faithful to manipulate them in their favour. So it is not surprising that we find authors who worried about the role of the saints in these interactions. In his sermon on the martyr Leontius patriarch Severus of Antioch (+538) clearly shows the reservations he had regarding the stories of miracles which he narrated.48 He explained them with the condescension of the martyr who adapted to the level of insight of those who benefitted from his appearances and stated that to the perfect he reveals hidden things, to the middle ones he appears in a middle way, and “to those who have imperfect dispositions he condescends and amuses himself with prodigies as with small children”.49 Severus speaks about the “amusement” felt by the martyr but this lowering of one’s own level could also cause a keen feeling of pain. This is clearly expressed by Maximus in a passage of his Ambigua where he says that the inner state of the perfect shines through the body “so that those who are in need of some help may receive it from those who can give it” which obviously refers to miracles.50 The perfect himself, on the other hand, does not gain anything by his actions so that it comes as no surprise when Maximus exclaims at the end: “If only there was nobody in need of receiving benefits … and everyone was self-sufficient!”51 A similar statement we find in his Gnostic Chapters where Maximus first interprets Abraham’s travels from the “Land of the Chaldeans” via “Mesopotamia” to the “Promised Land” as the stages of “passionate life”, “middle condition” and “state full of all goods” which one has to go through to become a saint.52 In the next chapter he points out that some of the saints were taken into the Babylonian captivity thus going the opposite way and then states that “none of the saints appears to go down to Babylonia out of his free will” and that if some let themselves be carried away with the people “through force” they did this only because of the salvation of those who needed their guidance.53 These highly ambiguous passages present us with an image of the saints as social climbers who regard the help for their inferiors as an almost intolerable burden and feel a strong tension between their social obligations and the wish to enjoy the status they have achieved.

Anastasius’ belief in the impersonation of saints by angels could therefore be explained as a radical solution to that problem for it liberates the saints from unwelcome tasks and at the same time allows for a help of others through the substitution of angels. This is all the more likely as Anastasius himself acted as a spiritual guide which may have made him dread an equally burdened afterlife. This helps us to modify Dagron’s conclusion. Far from being opposed to the concept of the “saints” as a special and privileged group Anastasius tried to safeguard this concept against the encroachments of the “non-saints”.54

The barefaced egotism of the faithful is all too apparent in those texts which defend the active role of the saints. Under the reign of Leo VI (886-912) the quaestor Anastasius ho Traulo” wrote an encomium of St. Agathonicus which ends with an exhortation to his audience not to be confused by those who attribute the apparitions of saints to the angels.55 There we find the following argument: “Even if they are without their own body which has been put down through death they wait on the creator with the angels and are (also) not doubted to perform angelic ministrations”.56 What Anastasius ho Traulo” has in mind is obviously a very similar argument to the one set out by Anastasius of Sinai in his speech on the kat’ eikona and he counters it by making the saints “like angels”. This reasoning shows clearly that the concerns of Anastasius of Sinai are completely alien to him. From the beginning he has exclusively argued from the perspective of those “who are in need of help” whereas the point of view of the saints in all this is not considered at all.57

Summing up we can say that the adversaries of Eustratius deduced their belief that a divine power impersonates the saints from the theory of the sleep of the souls and thus integrated it into a coherent cosmology which was openly hostile to the saints as a privileged group. This was, however, not necessarily the case as the example of Anastasius of Sinai shows. Anastasius held the similar belief that angels appear in the shape of saints but he did not derive it from a specific anthropology be it “Aristotelian” as in his Questions and Answers or “Platonic” as in his speech on the kat’ eikona. Moreover, when he denied the saints their personal contacts with the faithful his motive was not hostility towards them but rather the wish to liberate them from an onerous task.


1 G. Dagron, “L’ombre d’un doute: L’hagiographie en question, VIe – XIe siècle”, DOP 46 (1992), 59-68.

2 Anastasius of Sinai, Quaestiones et responsiones, no. 89 (= no. 19), PG 89, 717C: pasai hai optasiai hai ginomenai en tois naois è sorois toon hagioon di’ hagioon angeloon epitelountai. Cf. M. Richard, Les véritables “Questions et réponses” d’ Anastase le Sinaïte. Bulletin de l’IRHT 15 (1967-1968), 39-56. [= Opera minora 3. Turnhout-Louvain 1977, no. 64.

3 Ps-Athanasius, Quaestiones ad Antiochum ducem, no. 26, PG 28, 613B: hai en tois naois kai sorois toon hagioon ginomenai episkiaseis kai optasiai ou dia toon psuchoon toon hagioon ginontai alla di’ angeloon metaschematizomenoon eis to eidos toon hagioon.

4 Cf. Dagron, L’ombre d’un doute, 64. Cf. J. Darrouzès, Art. Eustrate de Cple. DSp 4 (1960), 1718-1719. This long treatise was partly edited by Leo Allatius, De utriusque ecclesiae … perpetua in dogmate de purgatorio consensione. Rom 1655, 336-580. Since I had no access to this book I am quoting from the Codex Vaticanus graecus 511, foll. 151-204, on which Allatius’ edition is based, cf. fol. 151: logos anatreptikos pros tous legontas mè energein tas toon anthroopoon psuchas meta ten diazeuxin heautoon soomatoon, ktl.

5 Codex Vaticanus graecus 511, fol. 152r: kan oun fainoontai tisin hai toon hagioon psuchai kat’ ousian è huparxin idian … fainontai; dunamis de tis theia schematizomene psuchas hagioon energousas deiknusin.

6 Maximus Confessor, Epistulae, no. 8, PG 90, 441A1-2, 7-10: touton ton pothon ap’ arches pros tous hagiootatous humas echein axiootheis aei parontas horan dokoo kai dialegomenoon aisthanesthai …. kai peithomai ge mè psiloos ten mnèmèn fantazesthai tous hagiootatous humas alla parontoon alèthoos epaisthanesthai ….

7 Maximus, Epistulae, no. 8, PG 90, 441A5-6: humas parontas … kai pantas tous en emoi dusoodeis logismous apelaunontas.

8 Maximus, Epistulae, no. 8, PG 90, 441A10-14: …. to ginomenon plèroforian akribè tès humoon parousias poioumenos; hè gar en humin kata charin theou drastèrios dunamis hama tèi mnèvmèi tous diochlountas apelaunousa daimonas safestatèn tès humoon parousias parechetai dèloosin.

9 One must not forget that the proof used by Maximus had been used by Christian authors for centuries, cf. below note 31.

10 Codex Vaticanus graecus 511, fol. 158v: ereite oun pantoos hoi antilegontes hoos hè tou theou dunamis estin hè energousa; sumfèmi kagoo; tís gar houtoo tugchanei abelteros hoos mè houtoo fronei.

11 Codex Vaticanus graecus 511, fol. 158v: legei gar hoti tous doxazontas me doxasoo; poos oun doxazei mè energousoon toon psuchoon … toon doxasantoon auton hagioon …. ho doxastheis hup’ autoon theos kai doxazoon autous hotan autooi areskèi emfaneis toon hagioon kathistèsi ta psuchas tois chrèizousi thès autoon boètheias.

12 Anastasius of Sinai, Quaestio no. 89 (= no. 19), PG 89, 717C: … di’ epitropès theou ….

13 Los Thaumata de Sofronio. Contribucion al estudio de la Incubatio Cristiana (Manuales y anejos de “Emerita” 31), ed. Natalio Fernandez Marcos. Madrid 1975.

14 Los Thaumata de Sofronio, miraculum 51, ed. Marcos, c. 11, 364: Geoorgios … toon horoon tès zooès plèroothentoon tès parousès zooès ekdedèmèken; kai tous angelous horai labontas auton kai apagonta kai kuron autois kai iooannèn sunantoontas tous marturas, kai charizesthai autois ton presbutèn presbeuontas, hoper poiein elegon hai dunameis mè dunasthai, theiooi de thespismati kata tropon douleuousai; menein d’ autoon tèn pros theon hiketeian apèngellon, kai deuteran autou prosdechesthai keleusin. tautèn labontes hoi martures tèn apokrisin, pros hiketeian etreponto, kai pros theon ta gonata klinantes, doorèthènai autois ton latrèn edeonto; kai touto poiountoon, ap’ ouranou foonè katefereto, didonai prostattousa tois martusi ton presbuteron, kai chronous eikosi en sarki diorizousa.

15 Cf. L&S s. v. kata tropon “according to custom”.

16 It must be stressed, however, that “angel” is not a monolithic category and that angels like Michael can well appear as individuals with a definite personality and history who then act as intercessors like the saints.

17 Codex Vaticanus graecus 511, fol. 152r: diischurizontai legontes hoti meta tèn tou biou toude metastasin kai tèn toon psuchoon apo toon soomatoon anachoorèsin anenergètous menousi kai autai hai psuchai eite hagiai eite alloos poos huparchousin; kan oun fainoontai tisin hai toon hagioon psuchai kat’ ousian è huparxin idian hoos autoi fasin ou fainontai; dunamis de tis theia schèmatizomenè psuchas hagioon energousas deiknusin; ekeinai gar en tini topooi eisi mèdepote dunamenoi meta tèn tou soomatos ekdèmian en tooide tooi biooi tisin emfanizein.

18 Anastasius of Sinai, Quaestio no. 89 (= no. 19), PG 89, 717C: pasai hai optasiai hai ginomenai en tois naois è sorois toon hagioon di’ hagioon angeloon epitelountai.

19 Anastasius of Sinai, Quaestio no. 89 (= no. 19), PG 89, 717A12-B14.

20 Cf. Dagron, “L’ombre d’un doute”, 61-63. Anastasius does, however, also list biblical passages in favour of his theory “so that nobody may think that we invent medical mythologies”, Quaestio no. 89 (= no. 19), PG 89, 720A1-2: kai hina mè doxoosi tinas iatrikas hèmas muthologias anaplattein. A comparison with the Questions and Answers attributed to Athanasius of Alexandria is instructive for there biblical quotations are the only kind of proof, Ps-Athanasius, Quaestio no. 26, PG 28, 613B. This shows that the theory of a sleep of the souls was not necessarily based on “scientific” reasoning and that regarding this point Dagron’s conclusion only applies to Anastasius of Sinai. His two other points of alternative explanations for diseases and for miracles cannot be discussed here.

21 Anastasius of Sinai, Quaestio no. 89 (= no. 19), PG 89, B14-C5.

22 That this is the case shows a comparison with patriarch Methodius in the 9th century who held an identical view of the afterlife but nevertheless accepted the apparitions of saints. Cf. his Life of Euthymius of Sardes, c. 44, ed. J. Gouillard, “La vie d’Euthyme de Sardes (+831), une oeuvre du patriarche Méthode”, TM 10 (1987), 83.

23 Anastasius of Sinai, Quaestio no. 89 (= no. 19), PG 89, 717C6-13.

24 Anastasius of Sinai, Quaestio no. 89 (= no. 19), PG 89, 717C13-D5.

25 The argument is, moreover, rather weak for Anastasius does not consider let alone explain why unlike the angels human souls should not be capable of taking on shapes which are not “real” bodies. A century earlier Eustratius had already suggested a solution for this problem by saying that the saints can be their own image-bearers. Cf. G. Dagron, “Holy Images and Likeness”, DOP 45 (1991), 23-33.

26 Such a distinction was actually made by patriarch Methodius in the 9th century. Cf. his scholion on the Passio S. Marinae, ed. H. Usener, Festschrift zur fünften Säcularfeier der Carl-Ruprechts-Universität in Heidelberg. Bonn, 1886, p. 53, ll. 4-5.

27 This is obvious from the phrase with which Anastasius introduces his last argument: ei de antilegein nomizeis. So it is not surprising when in the Questions and Answers attributed to Athanasius of Alexandria we find a further desintegration of this flawed argument. Here the sleep of the soul and the explanation for the apparitions are presented in two successive chapters so that the two steps of the argument are completely disjointed and the only remaining reason for depriving the saints of their contact with the living is the hypothesis of the circumscription of the souls, Ps-Athanasius, Quaestio no. 25, PG 28, 613A, Quaestio no. 26, PG 28, 613B.

28 Anastasius of Sinai, Quaestio no. 89 (= no. 19), PG 89, 717C2: emoi dokei.

29 Moreover, this is not the only deduction they made from the theory of the sleep of the souls for they also used it to explain away the efficacy of the prayers of the living for dead sinners. Most of Eustratius’ treatise is, in fact, devoted to a proof of the efficacy of the prayers for the dead. Thus, their hostility against the saints as a privileged group of dead who are able to alleviate the lot of the living is just a facet of a general attempt to sever all bonds between the living and the dead. The adversaries of Eustratius appear as moral rigorists who obviously considered all forms of solidarity as corrupting and as potentially directed against God and therefore developed the concept of an atomized society. Their position needs to be discussed in greater detail which cannot be done in this article.

30 Cf. his other statements about the afterlife in his Questions and Answers where he expresses the belief that the disembodied soul of a saint is not only active but can even see this world. Cf. e. g. Quaestio no. 91, 724B.

31 Anastasius of Sinai, Quaestio no. 20, PG 89, 521A9-13: hoi akathartoi daimones … thanatous anthroopoon (sc. heuriskousin); esti gar sussèma tina entethenta hupo tès pronoias tooi anthroopinooi soomati malista en tais opsesin autou kai pro pollou chronou kai pro bracheos hoos fasin hoi tèn iatrikèn epistèmèn leptoos kai akriboos epanèirèmenoi.

32 Dagron, “L’ombre d’un doute”, 63, concludes that the attitudes found in the Questions and Answers show “une réaction concertée” against the contemporary triumph of hagiography and as a rethinking of faith after the Arab conquest “en balisant le domaine légitime de la science profane”.

33 Anastasius of Sinai, Quaestio no. 21, 532C3-4: ei proginooskousin tou’o polla atopa emellon diaprattesthai.

34 Anastasius of Sinai, Quaestio no. 89, PG 89, 716C3-8.

35 Anastasius of Sinai, Quaestio no. 89, PG 89, 716C8-717A1.

36 Anastasius of Sinai, Quaestio no. 89, PG 89, 717A1-12.

37 Maximus Confessor, Epistulae, no. 6, PG 90, 429B-D.

38 Anastasius Sinaita, Sermones duo in constitutionem hominis secundum imaginem Dei necnon opuscula adversus monotheletas. Ed. K.-H. Uthemann (Corpus Christianorum Series Graeca 12). Turnhout-Löwen 1985.

39 Anastasius Sinaita, Sermones duo, ed. Uthemann, I, c. 5, 29: ei de legeis moi hoti ouden kath’ heautèn energei hè psuchè chooris tou soomatos.

40 Anastasius Sinaita, Sermones duo, ed. Uthemann, I, c. 5, 29: èdè touto kai hèmeis proeirèkamen (this refers back to I, 2, p. 27) hoti kai en toutooi kat’ eikona kai homoioosin theou ousa, dia tès hulès tès horoomenès tas aoratous autès deiknusi dunameis.

41 Anastasius Sinaita, Sermones duo, ed. Uthemann, I, c. 5, 29: plèn hoti kai choorizomenè tou soomatos hè kata fusin kathara psuchè, hè ousiai tote malista dioratikootera kai pneumatikootera kai haplè kai aparenochlètos kai footeinotera heuriskomenè, kat’ eikona kai homoioosin theou alèthesteroos dunatai prosagoreuesthai.

42 This is makes it likely that Anastasius wrote the speech after the QA for it is hardly conceivable that he replaced the sound argument presented here by a flawed one in the QA.

43 Cf. especially the key term aparenochlètos.

44 The almost playful treatment of these topics which is especially obvious in Anastasius’ development of the image-theme points into the same direction.

45 Anastasius Sinaita, Sermones duo, ed. Uthemann, I, c. 6, 30-31: hothen hoos theotimètos hèmoon hè psuchè oude apostelletai heis diakonian meta tèn apallagèn tou soomatos, kathoos hoi angeloi apostellontai; epeidè ekeina men eisi leitourgika ègoun doulika pneumata, hai de toon hagioon malista psuchai kat’eikona theou despotika pneumata … ei gar èlattootai ho anthroopos meta tèn parakoèn brachu ti par’ angelous hoos thnètos gegonoos, all’ homoos tetimètai polu ti par’ angelous dia tès tou theou logou en autooi kath’ hupostasin henooseoos.

46 Cf. the Life of Sabas, c. 78; E. Schwartz, Kyrillos von Skythopolis. Leipzig 1939, 184-185.

47 This belief would have been shared by Anastasius who as we have seen believed in the circumscription of the soul.

48 Homélie XXVII: Sur le saint martyr Léonce, Les Homélies Cathedrales de Sévère d’Antioche. Traduction syriaque de Jacques d’Édesse, publiée et traduite par M. Brière et F. Graffin. Homélies XXV à XXXI. (PO 36, 4) Turnhout 1974, pp. 559-573.

49 Severus, Homily XXVII, eds. Brière, Graffin, p. 567, ll. 1-8: “… et à ceux qui ont des dispositions imparfaites il condescend et s’amuse avec des prodiges, comme avec de tout petits enfants”.

50 Maximus Confessor, Ambigua, PG 91, 1108C: ef’ ooi … tous deomenous epikourias tinos hupo toon dunamenoon tuchein. The second point which does not concern us here is that the saint thus presents others with a model for imitation. As in Severus this is linked to condescension for the saint becomes everything to everyone thus representing on his level the workings of divine providence.

51 Maximus, Ambigua, PG 91, 1108C: hoos eige mèdeis èn ho eu pathein deomenos … auton hekaston arkein eautooi.

52 Maximus, Capita Theologica et Oeconomica, II, 48; PG 90, 1145C: ho empathès bios … ho epamfoterizoon tois enantiois tropos … hè pantos agathou peplèroomenè katastasis.

53 Maximus, Capita Theologica et Oeconomica, II, 49; PG 90, 1145CD: sèmeiooteon hoos oudeis toon hagioon ekousioos fainetai katelthoon eis tèn Babuloonian … ei de tines autoon kata bian ekei tooi laooi sunapèchthèsan nooumen dia toutoon tous mè proègoumenoos alla kata peristasin sootèrias heneken toon chrèizontoon cheiragoogias afentas ton hupsèloteron tès gnooseoos logon ….

54 After all, a saint is not the sum of the demands society makes on him but has his own voice. This is a point which has been neglected by P. Brown!

55 G. van Hoof, “Encomium in s. Agathonicum Nicomediensem martyrem”. AB 5 (1886) 369-415. Cf. S. Pétridès, Art. Anastase 73: Anastase le Bègue. DHGE 2 (1914), 1477, who points to a letter which Anastasius sent to Leo Choerosphactes in the year 907.

56 Anastasius, Encomium, ed. van Hoof, c. 16, 414, ll. 11-14: ei gar kai dicha tou oikeiou soomatos eisin apamfiasthentos toutou tooi thanatooi alla met’ angeloon tooi ktistèi paristamenoi angelikas leitourgias apotelein ouk amfiballontai. The remainder of his argument is made up of a refutation of the argument of circumscription.

57 Anastasius, Encomium, ed. van Hoof, c. 16, p. 414, l. 6: tois epikourias deomenois; cf. Maximus’ expression tous deomenous epikourias tinos quoted above note 50.

The uses of the Varangian Guard

by Timothy Dawson

In the year 987 Prince Vladimir of Kiev sent a force of six thousand men to aid the emperor of the Romaioi Basil II against the usurper, Bardas Phocas. In an army that had a thousand-year history of using foreign levies and mercenaries this force earned itself an unique place. Its survivors became the nucleus of the imperial bodyguard which became known as the Varangian Guard. The Varangian Guard had a reputation as en elite fighting force, but in a nation which was the most prosperous and militarily sophisticated in the world at the time the unit may be seen to have had uses perhaps surpassing the military ones.

This essay will concentrate on the heyday of the Guard from its founding to 1204; for while there is evidence for some survival of the unit in name after the Fourth Crusade,1 it is, as Sigfus Blondal put it, no more than “the ghost of the regiment”,2 a purely ceremonial entity with nothing like the prestige or military effectiveness of the earlier period.

Despite their fearsome reputation the “Varangians of the City” probably saw much less action than the army as a whole. Their duty was to stand behind the Emperor, and since he usually had many able generals to conduct ordinary campaigns and was often content to use them,3 they would only leave the City for those major enterprises of attack or defence that the Emperor oversaw personally. Even then they might not actually take part in the fighting, as is evidenced by John II’s initial refusal to “waste his Treasures” at the battle of Beroë even in the face of imminent stalemate or defeat.4

A task of the Varangian Guard in barracks at Constantinople was civil policing. Their character as foreign mercenaries untainted by the political and religious passions that stirred the local population and solely loyal to the Emperor must have made them especially useful in performing such risky and delicate tasks as arresting, imprisoning and punishing people who held some religious or aristocratic standing and who might otherwise have been able to work on sympathies existing in native troops.

The regiment probably also had a dampening effect on court intrigue, making it less likely to erupt into open revolt. The evidence for this is limited, but the Alexiad reveals that the Guard was a major consideration in Alexios’ strategy in his rebellion once underway,5 and it is a reasonable inference to conclude that the Guard’s existence and character would have made him think very carefully before he took military steps. The Varangians were almost always uncompromisingly loyal to the incumbent Emperor. The exceptions to this occur in situations manifesting a combination of popular discontent, Varangian disaffection, and the presence of a highly legitimate replacement. The clearest example of this was the overthrow of Michael V in 1042, wherein the Guard became the spearhead of widespread discontent caused by Michael’s policies and attempts to purge the upper bureaucracy and the royal family. In this uprising the Guard reinstated the Dowager Empress Zoe, whom Michael had stripped of her position and consigned to a monastery on false charges of treason. The final punishment of blinding was inflicted by the Varangian Commander, Harald Sigurdsson, later as King of Norway to become known as the “Stern-ruler” (Hardrada). This episode does not entirely paint the regiment as pillars of virtue, because one major cause of its ire was the imprisonment of Harald and two close associates on the probably justified charges of misappropriation of imperial booty and tax-farming.6 The prodigious quantities of loot that Harald sent home and took with him when he returned to Norway themselves became legendary.7 Returning to the original topic, episodes such as that of the succession of Constantine VIII show that the Guard valued legitimate succession in the western manner almost as much as simple encumbancy.8

The uses of the Varangian Guard had another less tangible side. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries it became an important pillar of imperial ideology. Byzantine chroniclers make much of the warriors having come from what were to them the farthest edges of the world lured by far-flung tales of the glory of New Rome and its ruler. The depictions of the Varangians’ imposing stature and combative prowess were undoubtedly true, but even their truth was probably somewhat a matter of contrivance. To enter the regiment it was necessary to purchase a position for a substantial sum of gold. Hence an aspiring Varangian had to have been successful enough to have made the perilous journey to the Great City with cash in hand, and is likely then to have had to pass some kind of selection criteria designed to maintain the quality of the company, with the unsuccessful applicants being shunted off to the provincial varangian regiments.

The influx of Saxons in the wake of the Norman Conquest, and those who followed in later centuries, was especially useful to the propagandists. Anna Comnena 9 in the late eleventh century and Cinnamus 10 and others in the twelfth were able to hark back in a fanciful fashion to Britain’s time as a Roman province and imply a continuity of fealty there.

Curiously Norse sources almost seem willing to accede to Byzantine political theory, explicitly conceding the Emperor of Constantinople a higher status than local rulers. Even if they do not profess any notional fealty, an echo of the Oecumenical Empire and the Family of Kings was plainly heard in Scandia.11

For propaganda purposes it was desirable that the Emperor’s elite should manifest some piety reflecting the sacrality of the Purple. The common image of Viking adventurers is that of heathen raiders despoiling monasteries and churches in the British isles, Neustria and Aquitaine, but the kingdoms of the North had all been thoroughly christianised by the first decade of the eleventh century. The original force of Varangians may well itself have been mostly Christian, since its despatch to Constantinople had been part of the manoeuvring that saw Vladimir receive the Byzantine Princess Anna as wife, and more, in exchange for imposing Christianity on the Principality of Kiev.12 The Varangian Guard had the distinction of its own churches, something not associated with other military units in the empire. The earliest of these seems to have been set up early in the eleventh century, but got caught in the crossfire of the struggle between Patriarch and Pope and closed in 1052.13 More is known of its successor, which was established not far from Hagia Sophia. In familiar fashion it was built in fulfilment of a supplicatory vow that was supposed to have turned the tide of the battle of Beroë. Norse sources say that this church was dedicated to Saint Olaf Haraldsson, and that his sword hung above the altar,14 but more reliable accounts indicate that it was dedicated in typical Byzantine manner to the Theotokos, Mary.15

Thus far I have dealt with the uses of the Varangian Guard to the Emperor, but the existence of the Guard was useful to other monarchs as well. I have already referred to the wealth Harald Hardrada obtained during his sojourn in Byzantium. The largesse and ostentation that this permitted him did much to acquire and strengthen his rule.16 Besides that, his time in the Guard became a major part in his royal mythology. King Harald’s Saga contains a number of common folk-motif stories along with the more factual accounts. These tales are known to predate Harald’s period in the East, and scholars have surmised that these tales were brought back by Harald’s companions and incorporated into his mythology within his lifetime.17 I have mentioned the hierarchy of kings embraced in Norse literature, and King Harald’s Saga and other treatments of his life make much use of the transferred glory of the Basileus by exaggerating his position and the favour in which he was held.

A similar use is made of reflected imperial glory in the story of King Eric of Denmark who passed through Constantinople on pilgrimage. He is said to have gained high favour and lavish gifts from the Emperor for his wise and humble advice to members of the Guard.18

There are two other examples of how the Varangian Guard was invoke to posthumously glorify rulers, enhance the sacrality of kingships and add lustre to national folklores. I have already referred to the cult of Saint Olaf. The thirteenth-century saga writer Snorri Sturlusson gives a long account of the events that turned the tide battle of Beroë, and especially of the miracles worked by Olaf’s sword which brought his sanctity to the notice of the Emperor.19 Snorri draws on a source not far removed in time from the battle, but the religious aspects of the tale are not corroborated in other sources, Norse or Greek, there is not record of any sword having hung above the altar of any church in the City. It seems certain that this is a hagiographical concoction.

The other example of the Saga of Saint Edward the Confessor, a much debated composition 20 originating in Iceland in its surviving example, and probably dating from the fourteenth century but perhaps earlier. This is a partisan account of events surrounding the Norman Conquest of England, which includes a tale of a mass migration of Saxons to Byzantium, some to settle on the Black Sea and others to join the Varangian Guard. Many of the events are confirmed by other evidence, but the Saga falls clearly into the genre of Saxon mythology that have given us such familiar stories and Robin Hood and Ivanhoe.

The Varangian Guard was thus more than a military bulwark for the Byzantine Emperor, and formed an element of the ideological foundations for rulers East and West, and grist for the mills of national folklores.


1 For example in the fourteenth century court ceremony manual of Pseudo-Kodinos. Jean Verpeaux Pseudo-Kodinos: Traitédes Offices, Paris, 1966 p. 179, 183, 184 and further.

2 Sigfus Blondal, The Varangians of Byzantium revised by Benedikt S. Benedikz, Cambridge, 1978 Chapter 7.

3 The exception which might be cited amongst the Comneni, Alexios I, John II and Manual I, have had their exploits somewhat exaggerated byclassicising biographers who felt compelled to depict them in a similar light to the heros of ancient Greek literature.

4 Snorri Snorrasson’s account cited in Blondal (n. 2 above) p. 149.

5 Anna Comnena, Alexiad, translated by E.R.A. Sewter, Harmondsworth, 1985 p. 95f.

6 Blondal (n. 2 above) p.77-87.

7 Ibid. p. 78 and H.R. Ellis Davidson The Viking Road to Byzantium London, 1976 p.226-8.

8 Blondal (n. 2 above) p.113.

9 Alexiad (n. 5 above) p. 95.

10 Quoted in Blondal (n. 2 above) p. 150.

11 King Eric’s position is depicted as lower in Eirics drapa by Magnus Skeggjason, quoted in Blondal, p. 134. Numerous references confirm it for example the “Great King” of Thjodolf Arnorsson’s Sexstefja (Blondal,p. 93) and especially “Lord of Kings” in Einar Skularsson’s Geisli (Blondal, p.186). Thorvald Kodransson’s Thattr gives a tributary position to Kiev (Blondal, p.198).

12 Blondal, p. 44 and Ellis Davidson, p. 179f.

13 Steven Runciman, The Byzantine Theocracy, Cambridge, 1977, p.106-7.

14 Blondal, p.148ff

15 Ibid., p.185.

16 Ellis Davidson (n. 7 above) p. 227.

17 Ibid., p. 214ff and Blondal, p. 71.

18 Blondal (n. 1 above) p. 132ff.

19 Ibid., p. 148ff.

20 Cf. Leslie Rogers “Anglo-Saxons and Icelanders in Byzantium”, in Byzantine Papers, Canberra, 1981.

Das eucharistische Brot tab’o in der Syrisch-Orthodoxen Kirche[note1]

von Gabriel Rabo

I. Einleitung

Das Brot für die Eucharistiefeier war in der Ostkirche, aber auch in der lateinischen Kirche, bis zur Mitte des 5. Jhs. das gewöhnliche Brot, 2 dann entwickelte sich eine vom christlichen Geist geprägte Form mit unterschiedlichen Kennzeichen. Die älteste Form, wohl ein Vorläufer des heutigen Hostienstempels, ist möglicherweise das ganz punktierte Flachbrot mit in der Mitte eingeritzten Kreuzchen.3 Über sein genaues Alter ist nichts bekannt. Das Brot verwendeten die Ostsyrer wahrscheinlich sowohl als gewöhnliches Nahrungsmittel wie auch für den eucharistischen Zweck. Als eucharistischen Hostienstempel kann man zunächst an den koptischen Tonstempel denken, der mit einem Reliefbild oder -negativ versehen ist.4 Ebenfalls hat sich im syrisch-orthodoxen Ritus eine besondere und eindrückliche Gestalt für das eucharistische Brot entwickelt, welches mit verschiedenen Namen belegt wurde. Diese Art des Brotes dürfte spätestens schon vor dem Ende des 8. Jhs. in Gebrauch gewesen sein, da die beiden Liturgiekommentatoren Iwannis Bischof von Dara (+860) und Mose Bar Kepha (+903) sie in ihren Werken besprechen. Das eucharistische Brot wird tab’o, furshono (arab. burshan, abgeleitet vom syrischen Wort furshon, furshono), bukro und fristo genannt. Der Name tab’o, der heute allgemein gebräuchlich ist, kommt von dem syrischen Verb tba’ (abdrücken) und bezeichnet einen aus Holz gemachten Stempel (Abdruck), mit dem der Teig des eucharistischen Brotes geformt wird. Der ancrwp wird wohl so benannt, weil die Gläubigen ihr eigenes Mehl für das eucharistische Brot als Darbringung in Anlehnung an Lv 6,7-16 opfern. Das Wort furshono kommt von dem Verb frash und bedeutet ‘trennen’. Der Name bukro, ‘Erstgeborener’, bezieht sich auf paulinische Aussagen: “Wenn er den Erstgeborenen wieder in die Welt einführt” (Hebr 1,6) und Christus als ‘Erstling der Auferstehung’ (1 Kor 15,19). Der andere Name fristo leitet sich von dem Verb fras (ausdehnen) her und ist wahrscheinlich der einfache Name für das Flachbrot.

II. Herstellung

Die Hostie tab’o ist rund, ca. 1,5 cm dick und im Durchmesser etwa 7 cm groß. Sie wird kreuzweise gleichmäßig in vier große Teile geteilt; jeder Teil wird weiter in drei Stücke geschnitten. Die Hostien werden für jede Eucharistiefeier täglich frisch gebacken. Es wird erst nach dem Sonnenuntergang, am Vorabend des jeweiligen Tages der Zelebration, mit dem Kneten des Brotes begonnen, weil der neue Tag in der syrischen Kirche wie im Judentum nach dem Sonnenuntergang, d.h. nach dem Abendoffizium beginnt. Der Teig der Hostie besteht aus weißem, sauber durchgesiebtem Mehl, aus klarem warmem Quellwasser, Sauerteig vom letzten Backen und aus ein wenig Salz,5 dessen symbolische Bedeutung aus 2 Kön 2,19-22 und aus Mk 9,49-50 abgeleitet wird. Das Mehl wird aus handverlesenen Weizenähren mit einer Handmühle gemahlen; während der Erntezeit wird das Getreide nach der Tradition im Tur’Abdin von den Gläubigen wöchentlich als qsoto, d.h. als Opfergabe, zum Priester bzw. Hostienbäcker gebracht. Der Teig wird von einem Diakon, Mönch oder Priester in der Kirche, im Pfarrhaus oder beim Messner bei Psalmen und nach Yahya Ibn Garir (11. Jh.) “wie manche sagen” nüchtern 6 geknetet und in ein dafür bestimmtes weißes Tuch gelegt. In diesem wird er unter einem Gesang eines wahrscheinlich von Ephrem dem Syrer (+373) verfaßten Hymnus 7 hin und her geschwungen und dann bis zur Durchsäuerung beiseite gelegt. Der Teig wird zunächst gleichmäßig in Stücke geschnitten und mit dem eigentlichen tab’o (Hostienstempel) aus Holz 8 geformt. Dabei begnügt man sich damit, die Oberfläche der Hostienstempel mit etwas Öl einzustreichen, um zu verhindern, daß der Teig festklebt. Der Holz-tab’o hat auf beiden Seiten einen Stempel. Ein Stempel ist für die normalen Hostien jeder Eucharistiefeier, der andere Stempel für die Hostie der Eucharistiefeier am Donnerstag der Geheimnisse (Gründonnerstag) bestimmt. Letzterer wird bukro (s.u.) genannt. Nach dem Stempeln der Teigstücke werden diese nun kreuzweise an fünf Stellen der Oberfläche angestochen. In die Rückseite der Hostien werden mit einem kleinen Hölzchen fünf kleine Kreuzchen gestochen. Am frühen Morgen vor der Messe beginnt man dann, die Hostien frisch zu backen. Als Bestandteil des Brennstoffs bestimmte Yahya Ibn Garir das “Holz, dessen Frucht wohlschmeckend ist”.9 Nach dem Backen aller Hostien wird die beste, schönste und reinste Hostie, die nicht angebrannt und verkümmert ist, für den Altar zur Konsekration ausgewählt.10 Sie darf auf keinen Fall zerbrochen, verbrannt oder beschädigt werden.

Die Anordnung der Hostie auf der Patene während der Eucharistiefeier ist im Verlauf des Kirchen-Jahreskreises verschieden: Von Weihnachten bis Karfreitag 11 wird die Figur des Lammes (emro), von Karsamstag bis zum Kreuzerhöhungsfest am 14. September die des Gekreuzigten (zqifuto) und vom Kreuzerhöhungsfest bis Weihnachten die des Jünglings (talyo) oder des Menschen (barnosho) verwendet. Zum Bild des Lammes wird die Hostie vom Priester während der Brechung und Bezeichnung (qsoyo wa-rshomo) in zwei Hälften (A B) gebrochen und die oberen Eckstücke des linken (C) und rechten (D) Teils werden abgetrennt. Dann werden die beiden Hälften (A B) so in die Patene gelegt, daß ihre beiden Ränder einander berühren. Eines der Eckstücke (C oder D) wird oben von dem Gesamten getrennt angeordnet und soll so den Kopf der Lammfigur bilden. Für die Jünglingsfigur wird die Hostie zunächst bis zum oberen Bruchstück (C) wie bei der Lammfigur bearbeitet. Der Priester befeuchtet mit dem in den Kelch eingetauchten Stück (C) die beiden Hälften (A B) der Hostie und legt dann das Stück (C) in der Oberkante der Hälften (A B) wieder wie bei der Lammfigur. Anschließend werden die beiden Hälften (A B) in zwei Abschnitte, jeweils für ein Bein, geteilt. So besteht die Jünglingsfigur aus fünf Teilen. Die Figur des Gekreuzigten wird sorgfältiger als die anderen angeordnet. Die Brechung wird wie bei anderen Figuren bis zum Stück (C) für die Position des Hauptes bearbeitet. Die beiden Hälften (A B) werden in weitere acht Teile zerschnitten. Für den Körper (a b) und die Arme (c d) werden vier Stücke, für das Becken das einzelne Stück (e) und für die Beine die anderen zwei Stücke (f g) verwendet. Das Stück D wird in die Unterkannte (unter den Stücken f g) gelegt und versinnbildlicht nicht die Füße, sondern den Adamsschädel, der nach der syrischen Tradition auf Golgotha liegt, wo das Kreuz Jesu stand.12

III. Kommentar

Die Stücke der Hostie sind mit einem Kreuz versehen und bilden insgesamt die symbolische Zahl Zwölf, für die zwölf Apostel. Die im äußeren Kreisring der Hostie eingeprägten Punkte symbolisieren die 72 Missionare und die den Leib Christi empfangenden Gläubigen; die vier großen Teile sind ferner das Symbol für die vier Evangelisten.13 Die fünf Einstiche auf der Hostienoberfläche symbolisieren die fünf Wundmale Christi, nämlich die durch die Lanze, den Dornenkranz und die drei Nägel des Kreuzes.14 Die zweite Art der Hostie bukro, die aus vier Teilen besteht, ist nur für die Eucharistiefeier am Donnerstag der Geheimnisse bestimmt. An diesem besonderen Tag wird die Eucharistie der Bukro-Hostie gefeiert. Am Donnerstag der Geheimnisse werden einfache und Bukro-Hostien gebacken und von zwei Diakonen an alle Familien der jeweiligen Pfarrei verteilt; d.h. für jede Person ist eine einfache Hostie und für jede Familie eine Bukro-Hostie und ein Stück Sauerteig bestimmt, der nach syrischer Tradition seit der Zeit der Apostel bis in die Gegenwart überliefert wird. Dieses Teigstück mischt man mit anderem eigenem Teig, so daß man das ganze Jahr über den gechenkten Segensteig zur Verfügung hat. Die Hostie wird nicht einfach gegessen, sondern als Segensbrot oder -gegenstand für das Haus zum Schutz vor dem Bösen oder zum Zweck der Getreidesegnung zwischen dem Getreide aufbewahrt. Diese sehr alte syrische Tradition ist im Tur ‘Abdin noch immer lebendig.

In bezug auf das Backen des eucharistischen Brotes ist anzunehmen, daß die Gläubigen es früher selber hergestellt und am gleichen Tag als Opfer auf den Altar gebracht haben. Da aber die Regeln beim Brotbacken häufig nicht genau eingehalten wurden, wurde dann festgelegt, daß die Gläubigen das Brot nicht mehr selber backen, sondern das Mehl dafür zum Hostienbäcker bringen sollten.

Neben dieser Opferung der Hostie gab es damals noch einen anderen Opferbrauch in der syrischen Kirche, der heute in Vergessenheit geraten ist: Man legte zu Beginn der Weizenernte neben die Hostie zwölf Körner einer Weizenähre in die Patene, um das Erstlingsgetreide zu opfern. Rahmani bezieht diesen Brauch auf den 4. von den Aposteln gesprochenen Kanon.15 In gleicher Weise bringt man auch noch heute ab und zu frische Trauben während der Erntezeit statt des Weines dar.

Die vier Bestandteile des eucharistischen Brotes: Mehl, Wasser, Sauerteig und Salz – so Mose Bar Kepha und Dionysius Ya’qub Bar Salibi (+1171) – symbolisieren wohl die vier Elemente des Kosmos, aus denen die Körper zusammengesetzt sind, d.h. die Erde, das Wasser, das Feuer und die Luft.16 Mehl, Wasser und Sauerteig sind gleichseitig ein Abbild der Dreifaltigkeit.17 Außerdem wird aber auch das Olivenöl als Bestandteil für die Hostie bei Isaak von Antiochien (+460), dem Patriarchen Yuhannun Bar Shushan von Antiochien (+1072), Yahya Ibn Garir und dem Papst Christodulos von Alexandrien (+1077) genannt, wobei hier zwischen den letzten beiden eine heftige Diskussion entstand, weil letzterer in den Teig weder Salz noch Öl mischte.18 Bar Salibi und Yahya Ibn Garir sehen im [Oliven]öl einen der wichtigsten der oben genannten Bestandteile des eucharistischen Brotes.19 Letzterer bevorzugt das Öl vor allem Anderen und mißt ihm einen hohen Rang zu, weil die mit Öl übergossenen Speiseopfer in Lv 2,1-7 und die mit Öl gekneteten zwölf Brotkuchen in Lv 24, 5-7 Vorbilder der Eucharistie (qurbono) seien: “Das Öl im Qurban ist wie die Seele im Leib”.20 Ob das Öl auch heute tatsächlich ein Bestandteil im eucharistischen Brot ist, kann hier allgemein nicht beantwortet werden. Jedenfalls wird es als Hilfsmittel gegen das Kleben des Teiges am Stempel verwendet.

Der Teig darf niemals von einer Frau, auch nicht von einer Jungfrau, vorbereitet werden, weil die Frau nach den syrischen Kirchenvätern den Menschen zum Sündenfall verführt hat. Sind die oben genannten Personen abwesend, kann ein jungfräulicher Laie diese Aufgabe übernehmen. Die Tradition des täglich frisch gebackenen eucharistischen Brotes geht nach Yuhannun von Tella (+538), Bar Salibi und Gregorius Yuhannun Bar ‘Ebroyo (+1286) bis auf die Apostelzeit zurück. Sie vergleichen im Anschluß an Paulus (1.Kor 10,3) das täglich frisch gebackene eucharistische Brot mit dem “himmlischen Manna für die Israeliten”, 21 das man täglich frisch aß und das für den nächsten Tag nicht aufgehoben werden konnte. Es ist möglich, daß die Hostien zu früheren Zeiten in einem nur dafür bestimmten Ofen gebacken wurden, weil es früher einen solchen kleinen Ofen, genannt arwunt, auf einem syrischen, aber auch auf dem koptischen Kirchhof im alten Kairo gab. Heute backt man sie – so nach der syrischen Tradition im Tur ‘Abdin – auf einer gewöhnlichen Blechplatte.

Mehrere Hostien können für die Eucharistie je nach Bedarf der Kommunizierenden, z.B. am Donnerstag der Geheimnisse, an dem jedem syrisch-orthodoxen Christ grundsätzlich der Empfang der Kommunion empfohlen wird, zum Altar gebracht werden. Bis zu drei Hostien können ohne weiteres gebracht werden. Aber sonst soll man sie immer als Einzelstücke und nicht paarweise nehmen. Mose Bar Kepha vergleicht die eine Hostie mit dem mensch-gewordenen Logos, die zwei Stücke mit der Menschheit und Gottheit Christi und die drei Stücke mit den drei Personen der Dreieinigkeit.22 Bar ‘Ebroyo weist in seinem Nomokanon darauf hin, daß er – wie auch Yuhannun von Tella – keine Regel kennt, wonach die Hostien einzeln oder paarweise auf den Altar dargebracht werden sollen. Er schreibt allerdings an Klemens, man solle am Samstag drei Brote für die Zahl der Dreieinigkeit und am Sonntag vier Brote der Zahl der vier Evangelisten entsprechend für den Altar nehmen.23 Die auf den Altar gebrachten Hostien dürfen nie mehr weggenommen werden, wohl aber dürfen andere hinzugefügt werden, solange das Velum auf dem Kelch und der Patene ausgebreitet ist. 24 Jedes Stück der konsekrierten Hostie, des Leibes Christi, wird in Anlehnung an Jes 6,6-7 gmurto, wörtlich ‘Glühkohle’ genannt, 25 welche die Gottheit und Menschheit Christi darstellen soll. Ephrem der Syrer, Ya`qub von Sarug (+521) und Yuhannun von Tella nennen sie margonito, d.h. ‘Perle’.26 Außer den für den Altar bestimmten Hostien werden einige (meistens wird eine besonders große gebacken) für das Eulogion (burkto) genommen, die während der Eucharistiefeier vor der Predigt und nach der Segnung in viele kleine Teile geschnitten und am Ende der Eucharistiefeier von einem Diakon, der eine Kerze in der rechten Hand hält, vor dem Ausgang der Kirche stehend an alle Gläubigen verteilt werden.

Für die syrische Kirche wie auch für einige andere orientalische Kirchen hat die Verwendung des gesäuerten Brotes (lahmo hami’o) für die Eucharistiefeier eine entscheidende Bedeutung, im Gegensatz zum Brauch der abendländischen und mancher anderer orientalischen (z.B. der armenischen) Kirchen. Dieser Brauch war schon in der alten Kirche von Antiochien bekannt. So kritisiert Ephiphanius, der Bischof von Zypern (+403) die judenchristlichen Ebioniten, weil sie ungesäuertes Brot und nur Wasser für die Eucharistiefeier verwendeten.27 Johannes Chrysostomos (+407) bezeugt auch, da die aus Erde bestehende Substanz des Menschen dem Tod unterworfen sei, habe nun Christus den zweiten Teig vorbereitet. Ein noch deutlicherer Beweis für den Gebrauch des gesäuerten Brotes in der frühen Kirche von Antiochien ist die Kritik des Rabbula von Edessa (+435) an den fastenden Mönchen des Klosters von Perin, die absichtlich mehr gesäuerten Teig für das eucharistische Brot verwendeten, das ihnen dann zugleich als Speise diente.28 Mose Bar Kepha und Bar Salibi, die hier von Yuhannun Bar Shushan abhängig sind, beantworten diese wichtige Frage des gesäuerten oder ungesäuerten Brotes gegenüber den Armeniern ganz deutlich, indem sie betonen, daß der Begriff lahmo (Brot) sich stark vom fatiro (Ungesäuerten) unterscheide. Der lahmo besteht zweifellos aus hmiro (Sauerteig) der die Lebendigkeit versinnbildlicht. Der fatiro aber besteht nur aus Mehl und Wasser, was die Sterblichkeit symbolisiert. Bar Kepha und Bar Salibi sagen weiter, wobei sie sich auf Worte der Evangelisten und des Paulus stützen, unser Herr – so ebenfalls auch bei Maruta von Tagrit (+649) in seinem Kommentar zu den Evangelien 29 – habe beim Abendmahl den lahmo (das Brot) und nicht den fatiro (das ungesäuerte Brot) genommen. Nach diesen beiden Kirchenlehrern ist das Brot der Einsetzungsberichte also gesäuert. Sie beziehen sich dabei auch auf das Gleichnis vom Sauerteig (Mt 13,33).30 Ebenso meint Yahya Ibn Garir, Jesus habe sich als das vom Himmel herabgekommene Brot bezeichnet. Er habe nicht gesagt, er sei das ungesäuerte Brot. Und er betont: “Wie der Leib Jesu das Vollkommenste ist, so muß auch zur Materie des qurban die vollkommenste Brotart genommen werden, also gesäuertes Brot”.31 Nach Rahmani waren frühe Kirchenlehrer wie Ephrem der Syrer und Rabbula von Edessa andererseits aber auch der Meinung, daß Jesus ungesäuertes Brot am Tag der ungesäuerten Brote aß. Der Patriarch Yuhannun von Antiochien (+649) und der Bischof Lo’ozor Bar Sobto von Bagdad (9. Jh.) geben dieselbe Überlieferung wieder.32 Das eucharistische Brot ist aber Ephrem zufolge aus Sauerteig. Dabei bezieht er sich negativ und polemisch auf das ungesäuerte Brot des jüdischen Pascha: Sauerteig schenkt das Leben aber Ungesäuertes den Tod.33

Das eucharistische Brot ist in der Syrisch-Orthodoxen Kirche eines der wichtigsten liturgischen Elemente, desen Symbolik das theologische Herz und die Frömmigkeit der Kirche zum Ausdruck bringt. Viele liturgische Traditionen, aber auch Bräuche der syrischen Volksfrömmigkeit, die ihren Ursprung schon in der Alten Kirche haben, wurden und werden im Tur ‘Abdin praktiziert.


1 Diese Arbeit wurde am 14.08.1996 auf dem VII. internationalen Syrologenkongreß, dem sog. ‘Symposium Syriacum’, in Uppsala, Schweden vorgetragen. Sie ist in den folgenden Zeitschriften veröffentlicht: Kolo Suryoyo No 117-118, (Sept-Okt) 1997, S. 167-173; Hermeneia, Zeitschrift für ostkirchliche Kunst, Bd 14, Heft 1, April 1998, (Herten) S. 7-14; Orientalia Christiana Analecta (OCA) 256, Symposium Syriacum VII, (Roma 1998), S. 139-147.

2 Vgl. O. Casel, “Altchristliche Liturgie bis auf Konstantin d. Gr.”, JLW 9, (Münster 1929), 229-260, hier 232.

3 Vgl. F. J. Dölger, “Heidnische und christliche Brotstempel mit religiösen Zeichen”, Antike und Christentum, 1, (Münster 1929), 1-46, hier 27, (Tafel 7 unten links).

4 Vgl. ebd., 10 f.

5 Vgl. E.S. Drower, Water into Wine, A Study of Ritual Idiom in the Middle East, London 1956, 55.

6 Vgl. G. Graf, “Die Eucharistielehre des Jakobiten Yahya Ibn Garir”, OC 37 (Wiesbaden 1953), 100-115, hier 108.

7 Dieser Hymnus wird nach der Melodie quqoyo gesungen und lautet: eno no lahmo d-haye emar moran, d-men raumo l-‘umqo nehtet tursoyo l-‘olmo, shalhan(y) abo melto d-lo besro, w-ak akoro zar’an(y) gabriel, w-qabeltan(y) karsoh d-maryam ak ar’o tto, w-ho mzayhin li b-idayhun kohne ‘al madbho haleluya badmut malake. “Ich bin das Brot des Lebens, sagte unser Herr, der aus der Hoheit [Himmel] in die Tiefe [Erde] hinabgestiegen ist, zur Nahrung für die Welt. Der Vater sandte mich als Wort ohne Fleisch, Gabriel pflanzte mich wie ein Ackermann, und Maria empfing mich in ihrem Mutterschoß wie ein gutes Feld. Nun tragen mich die Priester (lobend) mit ihren Händen auf den Altar H[alleluja] im Bild der Engel.” Textausgabe: E. Barsaum, ktobo d-shumloyo d-qurobo lfut tekso d- ´ito suryoyto trisat shubho, dayro d-kurkmo [Kloster Zafaran, Mardin] 1912, 61.

8 Die Hostienstempel können auch aus einem Stein sein, obwohl solche heute nicht mehr in der syrisch-orthodoxen Kirche gibt, aber ein solcher Steinstempel befindet sich in Kairo und in der St. Stephans-Kirche in Jerusalem. Vgl. A.A. King, The Rite of the Eastern Christendom, 1, (Rom 1947), 102.

9 Vgl. Graf, “Die Eucharistielehre” (oben Anm 5), 108.

10 Vgl. Dölger, “Heidnische und christliche Brotstempel” (oben Anm 2), 35; Graf, “Die Eucharistielehre” (oben Anm 5), 108.

11 Zur Erklärung der Anordnung der Figuren wird immer der Karfreitag herangezogen. Am Karfreitag aber wird die Eucharistie nicht gefeiert.

12 Vgl. G. Rabo, Die Eucharistiefeier der Syrisch-Orthodoxen Kirche von Antiochien, 92 f, [unveröffentlichtes Manuskript]; Drower, Water into Wine (oben Anm 4), 144 ff.

13 Vgl. ebd., 55.

14 Vgl. E. Kaplan, pushoq gmirut gmiruoto, [unveröffentlichtes Manuskript], 15.

15 Vgl. E. Rahmani, Les Liturgies Orientales et Occidentales, Beyrouth 1929, 70.

16 Vgl. Mose Bar Kepha, ktobo d-pus’oq (a)roz qurbono Kurban Sirrinin Tefsiri, hg. E. Bilgiç, Mardin 1957, 30; Kaplan, pushoq gmirut gmiruoto, (oben Anm 13), 13 f.

17 Vgl. Graf, “Die Eucharistielehre” (oben Anm 5), 108.

18 Vgl. King, The Rite of the Eastern Christendom, 1 (oben Anm 7), 102 ff; E. Rahmani, Les Liturgies (oben Anm 14), 69.

19 Vgl. BO II, (Rom 1721), 182 f.

20 Vgl. Graf, “Die Eucharistielehre” (oben Anm 5), 108; W. de Vries, Sakramentenlehre bei den syrischen Monophysiten, OCA 125, (Rom 1940), 159 f.

21 Vgl. King, The Rite of the Eastern Christendom, 1 (oben Anm 7), 104; BO II, 185; G. Barhebräus, Nomocanon (Hudoye), hg. St. Ephrem der Syrer Kloster, Glane21986, 22.

22 Vgl. Mose Bar Kepha, ktobo d-pushoq (a)roz qurbono (oben Anm 15), 24 f; I. Saka, pushoq qurobo, tafsir-ul-quddas, Bagdad 21977, 9.

23 Vgl. Barhebräus, Nomocanon (oben Anm 20), 22 f.

24 Vgl. King, The Rite of the Eastern Christendom, 1, (oben Anm 7), 106; Saka,pushoq qurobo (oben Anm 21), 9.

25 Vgl. Bar Salibi, BO I, (Rom 1719), 79.

26 Vgl. King, The Rite of the Eastern Christendom, 1, (oben Anm 7), 102.

27 Vgl. Rahmani, Les Liturgies (oben Anm 14), 65.

28 Vgl. ebd., 65.

29 Vgl. Maruta, BO I, 180.

30 Vgl. Mose Bar Kepha, ktobo d-pushoq (a)roz qurbono (oben Anm 15), 29 f; Bar Salibi, BO II, 183.

31 Graf, “Die Eucharistielehre” (oben Anm 5), 107.

32 Vgl. Rahmani, Les Liturgies (oben Anm 14), 66 f.

33 Vgl. ebd., 63.

‘Nothing but blood mixed with phlegm’: Desert Mothers’ teachings on the object of desire

by Annabelle Parker(1)

Three years ago I introduced the audience of this symposium to Synkletike, ascetical teacher and Desert Mother. This time the theme of the symposium seemed appropriate to look at the Vita again from the angle of ‘desire and denial’…

In this paper I will discuss desire and temptations of women who lived ascetically in Late Antique christianity, with emphasis on Synkletike. It is not an attempt to prove that women had different temptations than men when in the desert.

Most women who wanted to become a ‘Bride of Christ’ went to live in a church, to become ‘virgins of the church’. These communities already existed in fourth-century Egypt, because for instance the well known Anthony sent his sister to a community of virgins, when he started his ascetical lifestyle.2

The culmination of desert asceticism can be found in fourth-century Egypt. According to Athanasius, Anthony did a most unusual thing: he retreated into the desert, not just at the edge of his village, but deep into the desert.3 He closed himself in a tomb, and later on in a fortress, to emerge some twenty years later as if transfigurated, for he had gained the state of ‘apatheia’, passionlessness. Many men followed in his footsteps, and the retreat into the desert as an ascetic became an important ‘movement’.

But, as this paper suggests, not only men retreated, we have accounts of women who also lived a life of asceticism in or on the edge of the desert.

Synkletike was a virgin who lived on the outskirts of Alexandria in the 4th or 5th century. The Vita of this ‘didaskalos’4, written by someone who has been called ‘Pseudo-Athanasius’,5 can be taken as an example for women in that age, who chose an ascetical lifestyle, and for whom it was meant to be an example. As the name of Pseudo-Athanasius suggests, Synkletike has often been referred to as the female St. Anthony. This could mean that her Vita was a literary construction.

In Palladius’ Lausiac History6 not only stories about holy men, but also of women are mentioned.7

But, to quote Peter Brown: “No Life of Anthony heralded a new departure in the piety of Christian women”.8 The Life of Synkletike can be seen as an example of a female St. Anthony, because of her monologue on the Devil’s works (also called logismoi, or ‘thoughts’), and her retreat in a family tomb, and her giving away everything after the death of her parents; but the big movement of men going into the desert and building communities has not such a ‘heroic’ female counterpart. Not many women who became consecrated virgins, or Brides of Christ, had made this choice for themselves. It was mostly their parents who decided for them that they should live in a church, and dedicate themselves to being a gift to the church, a sacred vessel, although they kept their own free will.9 A virgin meant a lot to the household or small community: her prayers and fasting were a protection for the house from evils and disasters.10

But the women who became ‘famous’ were those who had chosen the ascetical life for themselves, wether it was through their sins or as widows, or even like Anthony, and who were not pushed by their parents. In the Apophthegmata Patrum 11 there are stories about the brave or seductive conduct of women, but we find only three headings of women whose sayings have been collected: Sarra, Theodora and Synkletike. Of these three, Synkletike’s life has been written down and transmitted separately, and both her sayings and Life may have a common source. Sarra and Theodore have left us just some of their sayings.

Before I start talking more about the Desert mothers, I would like to consider these stories about individual women living ascetically more in general. These are, amongst others: Mary of Egypt, Alexandra, Pelagia the Harlot, Thaïs, and in other places than Egypt: the female companions Jerome corresponded with (Eustochium, Melania the Younger, Paula), Egeria, Olympia, Febronia, Thecla, etc.

Some of these women are known through churchfathers. Sometimes a Vita has been written by a bishop, or it was mentioned in compilations of desert stories. Synkletike’s life was made famous through Athanasius (or rather: Pseudo-Athanasius), Thecla’s acts through Paul, Olympia through her friendship with Chrysostomos, Eustochium, Melania (the Elder: 340-410), Paula and Melania (the Younger: (+439) through their teacher Jerome, and Macrina, who was Gregory of Nyssa’s sister.

Others gained merit on their own: Egeria, who wrote her pilgrim’s travel journal, Mary of Egypt, and Sarra and Theodora, the desert mothers.

So even though some of these stories and lives of women have come to us introduced by a churchfather, it was also possible for a female ascetic to become well-known on her own accord.

The reasons for women to become an ascetic varied of course, but sometimes it seems to us that there is a cliché or pattern to be found, for instance, some females lived ascetically because they wanted to do penance for a sin, usually a sexual sin, for example: Mary of Egypt (harlot), Pelagia (harlot), and Alexandra, who felt guilty, because she had seduced a man. Others became ‘didaskalos’, teachers for other women or even men: for example Thekla12, Macrina, Gregory of Nyssa’s sister, who is depicted as a ‘virgin-philosopher’ and Synkletike, who teaches a crowd of women about ascetical practice.

Concerning teaching, Peter Brown13 states, that it was not at all unusual to have females as ‘spiritual guides’. Theodora is such a spiritual guide for men and women alike,14 and in the Vitae of Macrina15 and of Synkletike16, Thekla is mentioned as an example for their lives. In Synkletike’s Vita, the Saint addresses women in particular, but in the quotes of her Vita taken over in the Apophthegmata and in Paul of Evergetis’ Synagoge17, her words are for monks as well, shown in the male participiats.

There are also those women who, in order to survive in the desert, dressed themselves successfully as men, for example: Pelagia was a harlot in Antioch; on hearing a sermon spoken by bishop Nonnus in church, she decided to live ascetically, and was baptized by this same bishop. She disappeared and when she died in her cell in Jerusalem many years later, everyone, including bishop Nonnus, who came to visit her, or rather, him, thought she was the monk Pelagius, a man. But when they ‘set about anointing the body with myrrh, they found that it was a woman.’18

A lot of these women come from a rich background. That leaves them a lot to give up, which in some cases makes them very virtuous. Jerome helps a group of aristocratic women in Rome educate themselves, and Synkletike seems to have a lot to give away when her parents die. The name ‘Synkletike’ could mean female senator, senatrix, or wife of a senator. In the Vita, the author explains her name as being derived from ‘assembly of saints’ (from Synkletos, assembly)19 can also be a literary construction to take a wealthy woman as an example for other women, just because she can stand out as very generous. What news is there in the story of a poor girl living ascetically?

Finally we can categorize the women who were on pilgrimage to the Holy Land and some of them also wanted to visit the famous Desert fathers: Egeria20, who travelled supposedly from Galicia to the east, Melania the Younger21 and Severa the deaconness.22

As mentioned above, women who wanted to live ascetically, were able to do this in churches, where they were taken up with other virgins. Usually, these groups in churches or convents were gathered together by rich widows or unmarried women. Some virgins lived together in rooms or with their family.

But there were also women who lived alone, in a cell, not in a group. One of the three women mentioned in the Apophthegmata Patrum 23, Sarra, spent sixty years on the banks of the Nile, where the passage was very narrow, and thus the place where she lived was very difficult to approach. In a saying, we read: “It was said concerning her that for sixty years she lived beside a river and never lifted her eyes to look at it.”24 So looking at water while being in the desert was a temptation she resisted.

What were the desires or temptations to be on the look out for? Clearly, gluttony, and other ‘luxuries’, because they make us weak (c. 32); possessions of all kinds are also vices, because “the majority of our griefs and trials originate in the removal of possessions”, as Synkletike tells the reader (c. 35), “What course of action does he (the Enemy) have against those without possesions? None! Can he burn their estates? Impossible! Destroy their livestock? They do not have any! Lay hands on their dear ones? To these too they long ago said good-bye.”(c. 35)25 So the devil cannot touch those who have let go of their earthly possessions, according to Synkletike.

What about the other desire, the desire for another person?

For men, to be far away from women, preferably in the desert, was an effective way to live ascetically. Ascetical women lived more often in houses in cities, and could separate themselves from the ‘world’ by following a strict diet. Is this so?

According to Synkletike, fasting was not the only option for women, they also had to keep themselves from making public excursions in order to stop images arising in their thoughts (c. 25). Synkletike also gives the following warning for ‘sisterly love’: (c. 27) “…the Malevolent One has transformed even sisterly love into his own brand of evil. He has actually tripped up, through their attachment to their sisters, virgins who have fled from marriage and all worldly illusion”.

The true ascetic must really be the person who stands above the male or female body of the other, as Susanna Elm in her book ‘Virgins of God’ shows by quoting an anonymous saying about a monk who takes a detour to avoid a group of virgins. The leader of the group says: “If you were a perfect monk, you would not have seen us as women.”26


The Life of Synkletike contains a large monologue on the logismoi, or: ‘thoughts’. According to the author of the work, not a lot is known about her ascetical practice, because Synkletike did not allow anyone to “be an observer of this” (c. 15). But the monologue explaining the ways in which every person’s logismoi work shows that the Vita is a work of great psychological insight (for instance: caput 41, see below).

The theory of the logismoi has been developed by Evagrius of Pontus (+399). Every person has ‘thoughts’. One of the thoughts that Synkletike uses in her teachings is for example: fornication (c. 26). The Devil uses the thoughts to “promote his own plans” (c. 27): he sets the thoughts to work through memories or visions of objects. It is how we react to these memories or visions that we know which thought the Devil is using.27 The ascetic has to learn to master his or her thoughts. The impure and material thoughts are the first ones to be mastered by ascetics. After these follow the more interior ones like arrogance. The Devil uses more subtle means for those ‘internal’ thoughts, so one has to be more advanced in the ascetical lifestyle to handle those internal thoughts.

What does Synkletike say about the logismos of fornication, of sexual ‘impure’ thoughts? of physical attraction? The devil works through the senses, or he works through remembrance, images of the past that go through one’s mind. Even “to give assent to these fantasies, is equivalent to sexual impurity in the world” (c. 26). One of the most interesting chapters of the Vita Syncleticae, concerning thoughts of desire is the next: (c. 29)

“For example, if in the crannies of the mind there should appear a vision of a beautiful apparition, it should be opposed instantly by one’s rational faculty. One should mentally gouge out the eyes of the image, and tear the flesh from its cheeks, and slash off the lips too – then one should look at the ugly framework of the bare bones! then one should view with scorn what was the object of desire! For thus the mind would have the strength to retreat from a foolish deception. The love object was nothing but blood mixed with phlegm, a mixture that for living creatures requires a covering. In this way, then, also through such mental processes it is possible to frighten off the foul evil… And still further, one should imagine over the entire body of the object of lust foul-smelling and festering sores and to see it with the inner eye, to put it briefly, as something like a corpse or even to see oneself as a corpse. And most important of all is control over the belly, for thus is possible also control over pleasures beneath the belly.”

This is a cruel but effective citation, and there are more stories like this one.

In his article ‘Mères du désert et Maternité spirituelle’, p. 236-237,28 Joseph Soler writes that the fathers did not underestimate the spiritual and ascetical life of females, and that the spiritual direction that women were taught did not vary much from that of men. The emphasis on Christ as the husband of virgins, and taking Mary more as a model for them, were the only differences. But Sarra, the desert mother, had to prove herself still in front of men, according to this tale:

“Another time, two old men, great anchorites, came to the district of Pelusium to visit her. When they arrived one said to the other, ‘Let us humiliate this old woman.’ So they said to her, Be careful not to become conceited thinking to yourself: “Look how anchorites are coming to see me, a mere woman.” ‘ But Amma Sarah said to them, ‘According to nature I am a woman, but not according to my thoughts.'”29.

So did women de-womanize themselves or their thoughts? As I have mentioned, some women dressed as men, because it was safer, and in some cases, to gain acceptance among a community of monks. Maybe some women did not want to live with hundreds of other women, who often had fights, or to avoid what Synkletike had called ‘sisterly love’. In order to live alone, a woman had the choice between making herself inapproachable (like in a cell that was sealed off, or up a steep mountain), or pretending to be a man. And anyway: if a woman went to live in the desert, her appearance would adapt itself to the climate there, like Mary of Egypt, whose clothes were torn and lost long ago.30

Synkletike went to live in a family tomb on the outskirts of Alexandria. Many women found their way to her place, and it was only after many pleas that she talked about the way to leave the whole world behind in order to “advance towards God” (c. 60). But Synkletike’s sayings were taken up in the Apophthegmata Patrum, just as Sarra’s. And moreover, Synkletike’s Vita is cited in the tenth-century monastic florilegium, Paul of Evergetis’ Synagoge, that was being read in monasteries, and the verbs in female form were written in the male form, in order to appeal to ‘everyone’, not only to women… And as Benedicta Ward told me, when discussing the Desert fathers and mothers: “some Desert fathers were spiritual mothers too, so it is not a matter of gender, but more a matter of approach.”31

So if the difference between men and women in the desert was not mentionable, what about the difference between women who lived in the ‘world’ and ascetical women: Synkletike tells this to those who have come to hear her (c. 42):

“Let us women not be misled by the thought that those in the world are without cares. For perhaps in comparison they struggle more than we do. For towards women generally there is great hostility in the world. They bear children with difficulty and risk, and they suffer patiently through nursing, and they share illnesses with their sick children — and these things they endure without having any limit to their travail. For either the children they bear are maimed in body, or, brought up in perversity, they treacherously murder their parents. Since we women know these facts, therefore, let us not be deluded by the Enemy that their life is easy and carefree. For in giving birth women die in labour; and yet, in failing to give birth, they waste away under reproaches that they are barren and unfruitful.”

Conclusion, a general one

This paper has been about ascetics, about women, about the temptations of sexual attraction, how to act against it. The fascinating world of desert fathers and mothers still captures our imagination, even though the monastic environment is not desired by most. The teachings that were written down, even if the persons may not be historical, are still read today. Does this prove they have a universal message? To train body and soul for salvation, to be free of desires, it must be as old as man himself. And I admit, when I am stuck in my thoughts like possessiveness, or fornicative ones, then it helps to read about the struggles of others before me, and to realize that it makes sense to be able to discern between the different ‘thoughts’ and what stirs me, and how I get addicted, and how I can project my bad feelings on a devil, rather than on a human being. The stories of these women and men make our own bad thoughts more human, and they prove that nothing that one wants is reached by not putting in an effort. And that temptations are a basic force in everyone’s life.

I hope you have enjoyed hearing something about the temptations in the desert.


1 This paper was given as a communication at the 31st Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies, Brighton, 21-24 March 1997, which carried the theme ‘desire and denial’.

2 Vita Antonii, ed. J.-P. Migne, Patrologia Graeca 26, col. 835-976, 841 b.

3 Idem, 860 B- and further.

4 Some mss. refer to Synkletike as didáskalos, see Migne’s ed. in P.G. 28, col. 1487-1558; Colbert’s ed. has metros, see Ecclesiae Graecae Monumenta, T. 1, Parisiorum 1677, ff. 201-277, so have Vat. gr. 825, Paris grec 1449, and Gotob. 4, and Athena 2104; Coislin 124 has aeí parthénou; Paris grec 1598 has parthénou; Uppsala gr. 5 has a strange reference to kallipárthenou Théklis.

5 Ed.: Migne, J.-P.: Patrologia Graeca 28, col. 1487-1558.

6 Palladius: Historia Lausiaca, ed. C. Butler, Cambridge 1898-1904 (2 vols).

7 Margot King: The desert mothers, Toronto, 1989, p. 10, has apparently counted 2975 women mentioned in the Historia Lausiaca.

8 Peter Brown, The body and society, 262.

9 Idem, 260.

10 Ibid., 264.

11 Ed. J.-P. Migne, Patrologia graeca, T. 65, col. 72-440, Paris, 1868. Transl.: Benedicta Ward, Kalamazoo, 1975. Dutch: Chr. Wagenaar, Vaderspreuken: gerontikon, Bonheiden, 1987 (3de herz. uitg.).

12 Who taught or preached even though Paul had written: (1 Tm 2, 12): ‘But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.’

13 The body and society, p. 269.

14 The sayings of the Desert Fathers: the alphabetical collection, transl. forew. by Benedicta Ward, Kalamazoo, Mich., rev. ed. 1984 (1975), p. 82.

15 Vita Macrinae: Migne, J.-P.: P.G., T. 46, cols 96-1000. Translat.: Kevin Corrigan, The Life of Saint Macrina, by Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa, Toronto, 1989 (Peregrina transl. series no. 10), p. 28/Dutch transl. F. van der Meer en G. Bartelink, Utrecht, 1971, p. 35.

16 P.G. 28, see caput 10 for mention of Thekla.

17 Euergetinòs etoi Sunagooge toon theofthóngoon remátoon kaì didaskalíoon toon theofóroon kaì hagíoon patéroon, ed. Makarios Korinthos, Nikodemos Hagiorites, Venetië, 1783; 7de ed. in 4 vols: Athena, 1983.

18 Helen Waddell: The desert fathers, translations from the Latin with an introduction, London, 1987 (1936), p. 281.

19 PG 28, caput 4.

20 Peregrinatio ad loca sancta, éd. P. Maraval (Journal de voyage), Paris, 1982 (Sources chrétiennes, 296).

21 There is no edition known to me of this Saint’s Life, see Joyce E. Salisbury: Church Fathers, independent virgins, London, 1992 (1991), for a chapter about her deeds, p. 89-96.

22 See for Severa: Susanna Elm: ‘Virgins of God’: the making of asceticism in Late Antiquity, Oxford, 1994: Severa wanted to cross the desert on her pilgrimage to the Desert fathers, pp. 277-279.

23 Ed. J.-P. Migne, Patrologia graeca, T. 65, col. 72-440, Paris, 1868. Transl.: Benedicta Ward, Kalamazoo, 1975. Dutch: Chr. Wagenaar, Vaderspreuken: gerontikon, Bonheiden, 1987 (3de herz. uitg.).

24 Sarah 3, Ward: p. 230. Wagenaar, p. 250.

25 Vita Syncleticae, transl. E. Bryson-Bongie.

26 Susanna Elm, p. 267 and n. 45: N 23 and also Abraham 1.

27 See for this specific psychological explaining of the thoughts: Anselm Grun: Het omgaan met de boze, Bonheiden, 1984, transl. from Der Umgang mit dem Bösen, der Dämonenkampf im alten Mönchtum, Münsterschwarzach [s.d.], p. 26.

28 Joseph M. Soler: “Mères du désert et maternité spirituelle”, in Collectanea Cisterciensia 48 (1986) 235-250.

29 Sarah 4, transl. Ward, 193, Wagenaar, 250.

30 See for Mary of Egypt: J.-P. Migne (ed.): Patrologia Graeca 87, col. 3697-3726, and the translation of Benedicta Ward: Harlots of the desert, Kalamazoo, 1987, p. 26-56, for this citation: p. 41.

31 On my visit to the Convent of the Incarnation, Fairacres, Oxford, Sept. 1996.

Timothy of Antioch: Byzantine concepts of the Resurrection, part 2

by Dirk Krausmüller

This paper examines the concepts of the glorified body developed by patriarch Anastasius I. of Antioch (559-570, 593-599) and the priest Timothy of Antioch (6th/7th c.) in their sermons on the transfiguration.1 I have juxtaposed these two texts because Anastasius clearly refers to Timothy when he attacks his conclusion that the identities of Moses and Elijah were recognized by the apostles through their visible attributes “tables” and “chariots”.2 In the first part of this paper I have presented Anastasius’ own explanation which was based on his belief in a spiritualisation of the body which allowed mutual identification through “clairvoyance” (diórasis). Now I will try to reconstruct Timothy’s radically different concept of glorified humanity.3

Timothy discusses the significance of the events on Mt. Thabor in two different passages of his sermon.4 At first he tells his audience that Christ devised the transfiguration as a means to cure the apostles of their doubts about his resurrection: “At once he assures the apostles while still living on the earth and in the body by showing them the unbearable power … with bodily eyes the God-like power of the resurrection.”5 “In front of them he positioned Moses and Elijah who had been considered dead by them in their thoughts being clad in unapproachable glory and telling the sufferings of the affair of the cross in Jerusalem in their own articulate voice so that they might wait for what they had been taught through sight and hearing.”6 Timothy then quotes Luke’s account of the transfiguration before embarking on a second discussion of the event.7 “Have you seen what assurance the Lord Christ in his own person gave to the doubters after eight days while they were still on earth by showing them the unapproachable beauty of his divinity – not as great as it was but as much as the unsleeping eyes of men could bear – and revealed to them his glory?”8 “Likewise he presented Moses and Elijah as more flourishing than in their previous lives relating the signs of the cross that were going to happen so that the apostles realized that like them no death ruled the just and that they might hate the present life.”9

The two descriptions of the transfiguration follow the same pattern. Twice Timothy speaks about Christ’s plan to give “assurance” (plèroforía) to the apostles and in both cases he first refers to Christ’s transfigured body and then to the appearance of Moses and Elijah as witnesses thus presenting the participants in the order of their importance. A closer look at Timothy’s text, however, reveals that not Christ but Moses and Elijah are the central figures of his sermon. Before he discusses the transfiguration itself Timothy gives an elaborate account of the worries of the apostles after they have heard about Christ’s prophecy of his death and resurrection: “I must go to Jerusalem and suffer much and die and rise on the third day.”10 He presents them as “cowards, pusillanimous, held by human weakness” reacting with disbelief and disappointment.11 Their thoughts culminate in the question “Who has ever been resurrected from the dead?”12 To stress the truth of this general statement they point to Moses and Elijah.13 By ascribing such a reasoning to the apostles, Timothy contrives to introduce Moses and Elijah as possible “precedents” for the resurrection before he discusses their roole at the transfiguration. Thus, he can interpret Christ’s assurance as corresponding to the thoughts of the apostles and state that Moses and Elijah appear during the transfiguration exactly because they have been “considered dead by them” and thus prove the “power of the resurrection.”14

The reason for the curious shift away from Christ is probably that Christ is not yet dead and his transfiguration only a passing change which does not prove anything about the state he will be in after his resurrection. Christ’s assurance, however, is only effective if Moses and Elijah really have their glorified bodies and are not just “types” of a coming transformation at the last judgement. Timothy’s concern not to jeopardize this reality leads him to avoid all references to the second coming.15 This is most obvious in his interpretation of the prophecy: “Verily, I tell you, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”16 When he explains the “kingdom of God” as “the glory which is allotted to the faithful after the departure from here, the future glory”, then this does not point to an absolute future event since what is still the future for the apostles is already the present for Moses and Elijah on Mt. Thabor.17 And when he says that the cloud overshadowed Moses and Elijah at the transfiguration “so that the apostles, too, would be assured in which state of glory they were” this clearly refers to a permanent condition (katástasis) which is simply no longer visible to apostles and not to a passing impersonation of the future resurrection.18 Thus, for Timothy the transfiguration is not a prefiguration of the kingdom of God, it is the kingdom of God come true, at least as far as it concerns Moses and Elijah.

This leads to a reinterpretation of the biblical account that Moses and Elijah appear to make a prophecy about Christ’s coming death. While Timothy repeatedly refers to it, the context invariably shows that this prophecy has no function in his argument.19 Like Anastasius Timothy stresses the contrast between the apostles’ disbelief in Christ’s prophecy and their assurance by that of Moses and Elijah when he lets them say to the apostles: “Since you do not obey the Lord, at least believe the servants”.20 Timothy’s explanation, however, for why the apostles believed them whereas they had doubted Christ’s words before is radically different from Anastasius’ solution. The words of Moses and Elijah have not changed their quality by becoming more “transparent” and therefore self-evident.21 What assures the apostles is that they are confronted with “real” visible glorified individuals speaking with “real” audible voices. And as sensible bodies they are perceived by the senses. Thus there is throughout a stress on the “assurance” through sense perception.22

Timothy refrains from introducing a superior reality which transcends the actual figures which sets him apart from Anastasius who immediately veers away from Moses and Elijah to the concepts they supposedly stand for, i. e. the law and the prophets .23 This can be explained by his wish not to endanger the “reality” of the presence of Moses and Elijah. Characteristically, we find no trace of an allegorical treatment of the biblical story in Timothy’s sermon.24 Moreover, there is a curious passage in the text which indicates his reservations about this type of interpretation. When the apostles have heard Christ’s announcement of his coming death and resurrection they subject it to their reasoning.25 They muster their experience and find no precedent for such an event. They do, however, not think that Christ has lied to them but rather that Christ’s words must be an “allegorical speech”.26 This allows them interpret the prophecy in a way that fits their preconceived notions of death and life. This is quite a penetrating criticism for it is true that allegorical interpretations lead to the reduction of individual phenomena to a small number of already known standard patterns and that they tend to explain away new and unprecedented events.27 So they can conclude that “nothing of what he says will happen”.28

They are, however, not at all happy about this supposed allegory for they complain: “He misleads us as simple people.”29 What they mean is that Christ worries them by using figurative speech because they are no specialists for this kind of interpretation and therefore might take his words at face-value. Timothy construes a case here where the possible existence of a hidden meaning makes the status of the actual words ambiguous in the way that nothing “real” might correspond to them. Of course, this is a caricature of the allegorical method but it shows an inherent tendency. When Timothy has the apostles hear the words and then consider their meaning he lets them follow Anastasius’ precept not to stop at the surface.30 But the apostles only succeed in casting doubts on the literal meaning without being able to find a conclusive interpretation. The consequence is faithlessness.31 This impasse can only be overcome on the level of sense perception by presenting the apostles with something “real” which corresponds to the literal meaning of Christ’s words and thus excludes the possibility of allegory.

This means that Christ simply broadens the experience of the apostles on which they can base their judgement about the possible and impossible. In this framework there is no need for a growing refinement of the intellect that can lead men beyond the phenomena to divine trutès. So it is not surprising that in Timothy’s sermon the “assurance” of the apostles (whom he has just presented as rather obtuse) comes “fast” and “sudden”.32 We can conclude that Timothy regards sense perception as a self-evident and non-ambiguous type of knowledge by which the object can be grasped “spontaneously” without the need of subjecting it to human reasoning.33 When he juxtaposes the assurance “with bodily eyes” with what the apostles had thought “in the mind” he shows a strong aversion against the activity of the human intellect which leads away from the sensible and subverts its “reality”.34 This may be one reason why Timothy does not consider at all that Christ might take the shortcut to the apostles’ minds to inform them about the identities of Moses and Elijah.35

This brings us back to our starting-point since it helps to explain why he introduces visible signs from which the apostles can infer who they are.36 The identification through attributes, however, is not just necessitated by the exclusion of other ways of communication; it has an important function for the apostles’ assurance. As we have already seen Timothy stresses the roole of Moses and Elijah as individual precedents for the resurrection and not just as random examples to demonstrate a general concept of glorified man. Timothy’s reasoning that the attributes allow a certain identification of their bearers helps us to determine how he conceives of this individuality for it presupposes that Moses and Elijah are permanently connected with the “tables” and the “chariot”.37 And this is also the case with their activities. Timothy inserts a dialogue in which Peter tries to persuade Christ to stay on Mt. Thabor by pointing to Elijah and Moses as “efficacious generals” who will defend them against the Jews.38 When he specifies that Elijah will again burn them with fire from heaven and that Moses will again drown them like the Egyptians he interprets the actions of Elijah and Moses in their lifetimes as their own customary ways of acting which they can reproduce at will even after their demise.39 We can conclude that Timothy regards the continuing command over the body and its faculties as an intrinsic part of the afterlife and thus stresses the permanence of the individual as an autonomous actor even beyond death.

This is in marked contrast with the monenergetic and monotheletic leanings of patriarch Anastasius. For Anastasius the transformation of the body which shows at the transfiguration is paralleled with (and preceded by) an inner transformation through the renunciation of one’s self.40 He refers to Paul who “has remodelled the life itself and thus no longer lives himself nor moves or acts on his own account but has Christ acting in him as the life itself; for he has left himself utterly and mortified his own will subjecting himself completely to the divine will”.41 Thus for Anastasius there will be no room for individuality and individual activity (idioos … energoon) after the resurrection.42

Timothy is clearly opposed to such an ideal of human perfection. In his sermon on Symeon he inserts another episode where sense perception is given an important function for the identification of an individual. Timothy explains how Symeon identified Mary among all the mothers coming to the temple: “Symeon turned his eyes hither and thither and when he saw many mothers in the ordinary shape of humanity but only the Virgin surrounded by an infinite and divine light he ran to her and dived through the other mothers.”43 This very lively description is another example for Timothy’s stress on human activity even when the “supernatural” is involved. This stress becomes even more apparent when we look at the context. The identification of Mary by Symeon is preceded by divine interventions which determine his actions. In his house Symeon was told by the Holy Spirit that he should go to the temple to hold the Christ-child as had been prophesied to him before.44 Then he ran to the temple “rejuvenated by the swift wing of his desire as if he was lifted up by the Spirit”.45 And having arrived at the temple he “placed himself near the door waiting for the revelation of the Holy Spirit.”46 This whole sequence is presented by Timothy as a paraphrase of Luke’s statement that “Symeon went to the temple in the spirit”.47 The drift of Timothy’s argument becomes obvious when we compare it with a “monenergetic” interpretation of the same verse. Such an interpretation we find e. g. in Leontius of Neapolis who concluded from it that “the saints do nothing in a self-moved way but are moved by the Holy Spirit”.48 Timothy, on the other hand, breaks up the divine influence into two distinct revelations at home and in the temple separated by Symeon’s walk to the temple where the Spirit is only mentioned to account for the extraordinary strength of Symeon’s own desire. We can conclude that Timothy only accepts individual divine interventions which are clearly marked as extraordinary and is not prepared to conceive of the Spirit as a continuous moving force in man replacing his own faculties.49

This stress on the preservation of individual humanity affects Timothy’s interpretation of the events on Mt. Thabor. In keeping with the biblical account and earlier interpretations he presents the transfiguration of Christ as a revelation of the “inaccessible glory of his divinity”.50 But at the same time he makes it clear this does not mean a transformation of Christ’s human body into something else. Surprisingly enough for a sermon on the transfiguration the actual term metamórfoosis never appears in the text. And this is not only because Timothy follows the account of the story given by Luke who does not use this term. When he says that Christ assured the apostles he specifies that he did so autoprosoopoos.51 The usual meaning of this word is, of course, “in one’s own person”.52 But prósoopon also means “face” and has, in fact, just appeared in this meaning in Timothy’s quotation of Luke: “The appearance of his face became different.”53 So we can take autoprosoopoos to mean “with the same face” in the sense that Christ’s humanity was preserved. Timothy must have introduced this term to counterbalance Luke’s statement (who presents Christ as heteroprósoopos).

When we now turn to Moses and Elijah we find them described as “clad in inaccessible glory” which likens their appearance to that of Christ.54 This is again counterbalanced by a stress on the constancy of the human individual. When Timothy mentions that they foretell Christ’s death to the apostles he says that they spoke “in the sound of their own voice”.55 Thus he not only specifies that their speech is “sound” (fthoggè) and therefore audible but also that it is “of their own voice” (idiófoonos) i. e. that they used their own physical equipment to articulate their words.56 Their glory which Timothy compares with a garment is probably nothing more than a kind of halo added to the original human shape.57

Timothy’s preoccupation with the preservation of “ordinary” humanity as opposed to its transformation through divinisation shows his affinity to the “Nestorians”. In fact, the use of the term autoprosoopoos points to a Nestorian Christology for prósoopon can mean both Christ’s human face and his human person which implies that Timothy accepts the existence of two “persons” in Christ.58

The stress on individual human activity influences Timothy’s interpretation of the resurrection. In the passage about the reflections of the apostles which precedes their assurance through the transfiguration he explains why they think of Moses and Elijah as precedents. They reason that Moses and Elijah are more likely to rise from the dead than other men because they were “the most efficacious people in this life”.59 Thus, they accept that there is a causal relation between their activity in this life and the resumption of this activity at the resurrection. This implies that Moses and Elijah have an active share in their rebirth. Such an interpretation is, in fact, demanded by the context for when the apostles first say that Christ “has resurrected the dead” and immediately afterwards maintain that “nobody has risen from the dead” this would be a blatant contradiction if we do not interpret the first statement as referring to “passive” resurrections effected by somebody else and the second as referring to “active” self-induced resurrections.60 We must remember that Moses and Elijah are introduced as precedents for Christ who also resurrects himself after he has died.61 Thus, the apostles express the belief that the activity of an individual human being other than Christ himself can bring about its immortality. Instead of a clear distinction between Christ and all other human beings there seems to be a continuous scale where the degree of activity in this life determines the degree of immortality in the afterlife.62

In a concept of immortality which is based on continuous activity the break caused by death and resurrection creates severe problems. Characteristically, the conclusion drawn by the apostles from the resurrections worked by Christ is not that they will also be resurrected after death but that they will not die at all: “We considered ourselves immortal”.63 From this point of view it is not surprising that according to Timothy the apostles not only doubted the possibility of Christ’s resurrection; they also could not see the point of his death: “If he will rise after three days why then does he die?”64

Timothy does not only ascribe such a reasoning to the apostles; he himself denies death and resurrection a roole as necessary preconditions for the glorification of the body. This is not immediately obvious for at first sight he seems to follow the traditional Christian teaching. After all, he states that Moses and Elijah prove “the power of the resurrection” and gives as the reason for their appearance Christ’s wish to assure the apostles “that the rebirth is more admirable than the present life.”65 But when we look more closely at the case of Elijah we find a curious ambiguity. Whereas in the passages mentioned so far Timothy treats Moses and Elijah exactly alike, there are other passages in the sermon where he presents Elijah as being still alive when he appeared on Mt. Thabor. Thus he refers to Philippians 2, 10 and identifies Moses as the representative of the “underworld” and Elijah as representing “heaven”.66 Since this is a topos which he took over from earlier sermons on the transfiguration one could argue that he simply followed an established tradition here without caring for the coherence of his argument.67 This is, however, not a satisfying explanation since this distinction is also found in the highly original passage where Timothy presents the thoughts of the apostles about Christ’s resurrection: “Elijah was assumed and has not appeared; Moses has died and is reduced to dust.”68 When we look at the context of this statement we can resolve the apparent contradiction. Since it is preceded by the question “Who has ever been resurrected from the dead?” we can conclude that in the case of Elijah “death” for the apostles simply means that he is no longer visible to them.69 This must be Timothy’s own solution for it is highly unlikely that he would have departed from a tradition that unanimously accepted that Elijah had not yet died when he appeared to the apostles. Thus, the transformation of Elijah’s body would have happened in his celestial abode without a previous separation and reunion of body and soul.70

One of Timothy’s peculiarities is his great interest in all cases where a human being was taken away from the earth by God while still alive in his body. Thus when at the end of the sermon on the transfiguration the Father witnesses the divinity of the Son the only other activity of Christ he mentions after the creation of the world and of Adam is the “transfer” of Enoch.71 The same interest shows in his sermon on Symeon where we again find Enoch mentioned.72 Here he heads a list of “just” men who prove the truth of Wisdom 5, 16: “The just live for ever.”73 In a paraphrase Timothy explains how he understands this verse: “There is no more ever-living animate statue among rational beings than the just.”74 The expression “animate statue” clearly refers to the eternal life of the human compound and not to that of the soul alone.75 This, of course, finds a fitting illustration in the case of Enoch and explains why he is given such a prominent position in the series of just men.76 Wisdom 5, 16 was one of Timothy’s pet quotations because we also find it in the sermon on the transfiguration after he has said that Moses and Elijah demonstrate that “no death is master of the just”.77 It is likely that here, too, Timothy wanted to express that they never died in the sense of a separation from the body.78 This certainly is the case with Elijah as we have already seen. But what about Moses? After all, the apostles expressly say that he has died. Their statement is, however, ambiguous for when they add that he is “in an unknown grave” it is left open whether he has really died or whether they simply infer this.79 After all, Timothy likens Moses’ fate to that of Elijah when he then lets the apostles continue that neither of them “has revealed himself”.80 This repeats the previous statement that Elijah “has not appeared” but now refers to both figures.81 There was a Jewish tradition that Moses did not die and Timothy may have been aware of it.82

Even if this cannot be conclusively proven it is obvious that Timothy shows a tendency to extend the model of Elijah to other figures. This can be seen from his concept of Mary’s afterlife which he propounds in his sermon on Symeon: “The virgin has been immortal until now, after he who has lived in her has moved her to places belonging to the assumed.”83 Thus Timothy not only presents her as transferred with her body which was a current belief in his time. He also states that Mary has not died yet which sets him apart from all other accounts of Mary’s assumption where it is invariably preceded by her death and resurrection.84 Timothy clearly fashions Mary’s afterlife after the model of Enoch and Elijah.85 And just as in the case of Elijah it is implied that the transformation of her body to the better has already happened without her previous death.86

Timothy’s concept of the afterlife is not unprecedented as can be seen from a comparison with the writings of Ephraem of Amida who was patriarch of Antioch under Justinian.87 Ephraem also accords the assumptions of Elijah and Enoch an important place in the history of salvation. He states that Christ took them as “firstlings of the whole dough” and then explains that Adam would never have died and remained uncorrupted if he had not sinned and that Elijah and Enoch are still alive to demonstrate this fact.88 This has far-reaching consequences for the roole of Christ as saviour of mankind for obviously Elijah and Enoch do not owe their return to primeval perfection to the incarnation of God but to their own sinless life. So it is only logical that Ephraem extends Christ’s roole as the new Adam and “firstling” to Elijah and Enoch. Moreover, Elijah and Enoch achieve the state of incorruptibility without dying first. Thus Christ’s death appears to lose its significance for human salvation. Such a consequence is, in fact, implied by Ephraem’s Christology. Though being a Chalcedonian he shows a strong affinity to aphthartodocetism which means that he regards Christ’s body as incorruptible even before his resurrection.89 At the end of his treatise, however, Ephraem seems to have second thoughts since he insists that Enoch and Elijah will die on the day of the last judgement.90 It is, however, obvious that this runs counter to his previous argument for if their permanence in this body is interpreted as the recovering of the state before the fall this presupposes that they have not sinned and so they should not die either.

If we compare Ephraem’s systematic treatment with the information we have gleaned from Timothy’s sermons we find that both authors share important points. Like Ephraem Timothy presents the glorification of the bodies of Moses and Elijah as the result of their activity in this life and therefore as “self-made” and he insinuates that Moses and Elijah achieve this state without dying before.91 Timothy may even hint at the same link with the protology as Ephraem when he juxtaposes the creation of Adam with the transposition of Enoch at the end of his sermon on the transfiguration.92 Like Ephraem, however, Timothy seems to have qualms about openly stating that a transformation does not necessarily presuppose death and resurrection. His reticence not only shows in the oblique way he speaks about Elijah but also in his statement that Mary is “immortal until now” (rather than that she will never die).93 Nevertheless, as in the case of Ephraem we can conclude that even if he does not say that Mary will never die one cannot see how a future death could be meaningful in his system (for it would only make Mary less “ever-living”, after all).

We must ask now what prompted Timothy to this reinterpretation of the traditional Christian teaching about death and resurrection. Again the thoughts of the apostles give us a clue. When they say that they considered themselves immortal this must be seen in the light of their previous statement “that only the present life is real, filled with light and pleasure, and that there is no other better rebirth, more admirable than the present life.”94 With such a positive attitude towards this life it is not surprising that they expected it to go on for ever.95 Of course, Timothy does not agree with them and wants them to “hate the present life” but he tries to achieve this aim by presenting the future life as a slightly better version of it.96 Throughout the text the present life provides the yardstick for the evaluation of the life to come. Timothy strives to make this connection obvious by describing the present life as “filled with light” with which he can then juxtapose the “better” light of the transfiguration. And when he calls the glorified bodies of Moses and Elijah “more flourishing than in their previous lives” his point of reference is the actual present body which means that the glorified body is seen in terms of earthly beauty.97 Timothy conceives of the bodies of Moses and Elijah as solidly “carnal” and material because a red complexion is a sign for the presence of blood as the life-giving force.98 While Timothy still insists on the superiority of the glorified body the difference between it and the earthly bodies is now simply one of degree.

One is reminded of the descriptions of the undecomposed corpses of saints in Lives dating to the period in which Timothy lived. In patriarch Methodius’ Life of Euthymius of Sardeis (+831) e. g. the corpse is called “of better complexion now” which is remarkably similar to Timothy’s phrase “more flourishing”.99 This is hardly a coincidence since this interest in the state of a corpse implies a close connection between the preservation of this earthly body and the glorification of the resurrected body.

Although it is dangerous to make generalisations it seems that the “carnal” concept of the glorified body expressed in Timothy’s sermons gained wider acceptance towards the end of Late Antiquity to the detriment of the “spiritualist” tradition represented e. g. by Anastasius of Antioch. This is at least the impression one gets from a letter of Maximus the Confessor in which he complained about the spread of “a new dogma about the resurrection” which completely disregarded Paul’s teachings about the spiritual nature of the resurrected body.100 According to him its contents were “that at the resurrection the bodies will again be kept alive through phlegm and blood and red and black bile and drawing in of air and sensible food so that nothing extraordinary at all will appear through the resurrection compared with the present life apart from the fact that one will not be able to die again.”101

There can be no doubt that in Timothy’s case this belief is the result of his positive attitude towards earthly life.102 His view is diametrically opposed to that of “spiritualist” authors like Gregory of Nyssa who held that the corruption introduced by the fall has led to a complete change of the original human body.103 In his system Gregory could give death and corruption a meaningful function as a necessary purifying process that the present sullied and “dense” body must undergo to be fit for a return to its original condition at the resurrection.104 For Timothy, on the other hand, the change required to restitute the primeval perfect state is so slight that it does not need death to bring it about.105

Such a positive view of the present life is in fact already found in Ephraem.106 When he refers to Enoch and Elijah as examples to illustrate what the uncorrupted body of Adam before the fall was like he does so to prove that the resurrected body will only be “better” but not turned into a soul.107 And when he compares the uncorrupted state of Adam with health and our corruption with illness this shows clearly that he does not accept a fundamental difference between both states.108

If we go back even further than Ephraem and look for Late Antique predecessors for Timothy’s idea of human perfectibility quite apart from Christ’s death and resurrection we find the closest parallel in authors belonging to what has been termed the “School of Antioch”. Theodoret e. g. rejects the concept of an original sin which has done away with the fundamental goodness of man and insists that even after Adam’s fall there were just men like Enoch etc.109 Nevertheless, he still interprets the death of all human beings as a punishment for Adam’s sin and Christ’s death and resurrection as the only means to bestow immortality on mankind.110 By allowing the individual to remain sinless like Adam through the use of its own natural resources but denying it a return to Adam’s incorruptibility, however, he creates a glaring discrepancy between the ethical and the ontological spheres.111 In Theodoret’s writings there are indications that he attempts to overcome this discrepancy.112 A glorification without death, however, was not conceivable for him because it would have smacked of “Eutychianism” and endangered the reality of the human nature.113 This problem is reflected in a curious passage in a sermon on the dormition attributed to patriarch Theodosius of Alexandria (535-566) where Christ says to Mary: “I did not want to let you know death; I wanted to carry you up to heaven like Enoch and Elijah (as regards these others, however, they will also know death at the end); but if that happened to you, bad people would think that you are a heavenly power descended on the earth and that this plan of the incarnation and the way it has come true is an illusion.”114 Here we obviously have an author who has strong sympathies for aphthartodocetism but who does not dare to come to the same conclusion as Timothy for fear of being accused of fantasiasmós.115 Such a charge could not be brought against Timothy who believed that the change to uncorruptibility involved only a minimal adjustment of our present corruptible human body and thus could not have endangered the “reality” of Mary’s human nature.116 This allowed him to combine an “aphthartodocetic” position with an “Antiochene” (or “Nestorian”) anthropology which insisted on the constancy of the ordinary human existence.


1 Anastasius of Antioch, Oratio I in Transfigurationem (BHG 1993, CPG 6947), PG 89, 1361-1376; Timothy of Antioch, Sermo in Crucem et in Transfigurationem (BHG 434h, CPG 7406), PG 86, 256-265.

2 Timothy’s argument is found in PG 86, 261C1-3: kaì póthen autoîs he gnoosis hoti Mooüsès èn kaì Èlías? Ek toon tekmèríoon: ho gàr Èlias sùn tooi harmati parésthè kaì ho Mooüsès tàs plákas bastázoon. Anastasius refutes it in PG 89, 1369B4-7: tò dè punthánesthaí tinas póthn è poos kaì ek tínoon sèmeíoon epégnoosan hoi mathètaì toùs profètas ou moi dokeî kompsòn eperoothèma kaì zètèseoos axion einai.

3 Apart from his sermon on the Transfiguration I will also refer to Timothy’s Sermo in Symeonem et in S. Mariam Virginem (BHG 1958, CPG 7405), PG 86, 237-252.

4 The first part of the sermon is devoted to an interpretation of Moses’ outstretched arms as a prefiguration of the cross which is not connected with the transfiguration theme and therefore does not concern us here, PG 86, 256A1-257C11.

5 PG 86, 260B5-13: thâtton dè kaì plèroforeî epì gès eti kaì en soomati toon apostóloon diagóntoon hupodeiknùs autois tèn abástakton dúnamin soomatikoîs ofthalmoîs theoprepè tès anastásews dúnamin. The text of PG is obviously corrupt. The first dúnamin seems to be redundant; cf. PG 86, 261A14/15: tò aprósiton autou tès theótètos kállos … hoson èdúnanto bastásai .

6 PG 86, 260B13-C2: parastèsas enantíon autoon Mooüsèn kaì Èlían toùs nekroùs katà diánoian hup’ autoon logisthéntas en aprosítooi dóxès stolisthéntas kaì tà tès staurikès en Hierosolúmois pragmateías diègouménous páthè en idiofoonooi fthoggèi hopoos opsei kaì akoèi stoicheioothénta (stoicheioothéntes?) prosménoosin.

7 Quotation of Luke 9, 27-35, PG 86, 260C3-261A10.

8 PG 86, 261A11-B2: eides pósèn plèroforían ho despótès Christòs toîs amfibállousin en tèi gèi eti diágousin metà oktoo hèméras autoprosoopoos paréschen emfanísas autois tò aprósiton autou tès theótètos kállos ouch hoson èn all’ hoson hèdúnanto bastásai anthroopoon anústakta bléfara kaì tèn heautou dóxan anefánisen.

9 PG 86, 261B2-7: homoíoos dè Mooüsèn kaì Èlían anthèrotérous tès protéras zooès paréstèsen diègouménous tà tou staurou méllonta gínesthai tekmèria pròs tò sunideîn toùs apostólous hoti kat’ autoùs oudeìs despózei toon dikaíoon thánatos kaì hina misèswsin tèn parousan zooè.

10 PG 86, 257D3-5: deî me apeltheîn eis Hierousalèm kaì pollà patheîn kaì apoktanthènai kaì tèi trítèi hèmérai anastènai. Cf. Matthew 16, 21; Luke 9, 22.

11 PG 86, 260A8-9: ei metà treîs hèméras egeíretai tí kaì apothnèiskei.

12 PG 86, 260A11/12: tís pote ek nekroon anéstè.

13 PG 86, 260A14-15.

14 Unfortunately the text in PG is corrupt here; see above footnote 5. It is, however, likely that tès anastáseoos dúnamin already refers to Moses and Elijah since anástasin should correspond to the following nekroùs logisthéntas and refer back to the question: tís pote ek nekroon anéstè.

15 Basil of Seleucia sees the transfiguration as an eikoon of the second coming of Christ; PG 85, 456B13: tès parousías eikóna procharísasthai speúdoo, cf. 461A12/13. For Basil this does not seem to imply that the transfiguration is not “real”. Nevertheless, eikoon has always the connotation of not being “real”. In an anonymous sermon on the Transfiguration the phenomenon is presented as a painting, cf. M. Aubineau, ‘Une homélie grecque inédite sur la transfiguration’. AB 85 (1957), p. 406, ll. 59-61: mè fobèthète athanátou foonès lógon akoúsantes kaì basileías opsin idóntes hoos en eikóni kaì semnooi pínaki. For Chrysostom who also uses the term eikoon the transfiguration has the same status of reality as the parable of Lazarus and Dives, cf. Homilia 56 in Matthaeum, PG 58, 549.

16 PG 86, 260C7-9. Anastasius also seems to believe in the reality of the transformation on Mt. Thabor. His interpretation of the “kingdom of heaven” as referring both to the transfiguration and to the second coming, however, creates exactly the ambiguity which I have mentioned in the previous note, PG 89, 1365A1-B3.

17 PG 86, 260C10-11: poían basileían? tèn metà tèn enthen exodon toîs pistoîs apokeklèrooménèn dóxan tèn méllousan dóxan. When Timothy lets Peter say at the end of the apparition: “We have now come to know the invincible glory of your kingdom from those present”, cf. PG 86, 261D1-2: egnoomén sou nun ek toon paróntoon tès basileías tèn akatamáchèton dóxan. There can be no doubt that “those present” are Moses and Elijah; cf. 264C13-14: paróntoon gàr Mooüsè kaì Èlía.

18 PG 86, 264C5-7: pròs tò plèroforèthènai kaì toùs apostólous en poíai dóxèi kathestèkasin.

19 This is most obvious in his second paraphrase of the biblical text where the proof of the reality of the resurrection as the purpose of their appearing on the Mount (expressed by prós and infinitive) does not refer back to the immediately preceding reference to their words about the cross but to the first part of the sentence where Moses and Elijah are presented as resurrected persons; cf. PG 86, 261B5. Cf. PG 86, 260D6-9, with the quotation of Luke 9, 31: elegon tèn exodon autou hèn emelle plèroun en Hierousalèm, and Timothy’s paraphrase where he also restricts themselves to the passion.

20 PG 86, 260D11-261A1: par’ ho tooi despótèi ou peitharcheîte kan hèmîn toîs doúlois pisteúsate.

21 PG 89, 1369A14-B3.

22 PG 86, 257D2: ep’ opsesin autoùs plèroforeî; PG 86, 260B11: plèroforeî … hupodeiknùs autois … soomatikoîs ofthalmoîs; PG 86, 260C2: opsei kaì akoèi stoicheioothéntes; PG 86, 261B10: opsei plèroforètheís.

23 PG 89, 1369A13-14: Mooüsès kaì Èlías tout’ estin ho nómos kaì hoi profètai. Timothy also refrains from an allegorical interpretation of their attributes (which Anastasius does not mention; but cf. Maximus’ interpretation of the Life of Elijah in his Ambigua, PG 91, 1124B3: theíooi aretoon harmati).

24 On the other hand, he shows great interest in typological interpretations, cf. PG 86, 257A1-6.

25 PG 86, 257D6: tèi akoèi prosdexámenoì PG 86, 260B5-6: chalepèn dianóèsin; cf. PG 86, 260B14: katà diánoian logisthéntas.

26 PG 86, 257D9-10: allègorikòn lógon hèmîn légei, and PG 86, 260A6-7: allègoroon hèmîn légei.

27 PG 86, 257D8: xená … paregguèmata.

28 PG 86, 260A11: mátaia tà legómená estin; PG 86, 260B3: oudèn estai toon par’ autou legoménoon.

29 PG 86, 260B3: planai hèmâs hoos idiootas.

30 PG 89, 1365B11-C2.

31 PG 86, 260C6: distázousì; PG 86, 260D10: amfibállousì; PG 86, 261A12: amfibállousi.

32 PG 86, 260B6-8: ho kúrios ouk egkatalimpánei toùs heautou mathètàs tèi trikumíai tès apistías nèchesthai thâtton dè plèroforeî. PG 86, 260C12-14: egéneto metà toùs toútous hoos hèmérai oktoo: súntomos hè tou kuríou plèroforía thâtton paréchei tèn epipóthèsin. This is significant since it shows a departure from the tradition. Already Chrysostom had interpreted this as a period of “mental” preparation in his sermon on the Transfiguration, cf. Homilia 56 in Matthaeum, PG 58, 550: tí dèpote oun kaì prolégei? hina eumathésteroi perì tèn theoorían génoontai … kaí … houtoo nèfoúsèi kaì memerimnèménèi tèi dianoíai paragénoontai. Chrysostom stresses that the apostles were above the the ordinary doubting people, cf. PG 59, 549: eudókimoi kaì eugnoomones. Cf. Anastasius’ interpretation, PG 89, 1368B1-2.

33 The belief in the self-evidence of sensible phenomena (and the corresponding distrust of mental activities) is shared by patriarch Methodius of Constantinople who in his Life of Theophanes (+818) stresses that his audience knew the saint from “autopsy” and therefore will not doubt the truth of his story, cf. Life of Theophanes, ed. V. V. Latyshev. Zapiski of the Russian Academy of Sciences, 13 (1916 – 1922). No. 4, c. 2, p. 2, ll. 18-20: ouk empodízei tòn noun distagmòs poopote oud’ egkoteî logismòs dianooúmenos all’ estin ergon ho lógos deiknúmenos kaì autopísteutos suggrafè tò istórèma.

34 This is accentuated by the juxtaposition of PG 86, 260B10-12: soomatikoîs ofthalmoîs theoprepè anastáseoos dúnamin, and PG 86, 260B13-14: nekroùs katà diánoian … logisthéntas. What he does not consider at all here is that such a knowledge could be found “beyond” the realm of human reasoning.

35 After all, Timothy himself refers to such a type of information at the beginning of his sermon when he says that Moses knew Amalek could be vanquished if he held up his arms “having received a revelation of the divine Spirit.” Cf. PG 86, 257A15: theíou pneúmatos dexámenos apokálupsin. It is worth noting that this is Timothy’s own addition since in Exodus 12, 8-16 there is no reference to a divine revelation.

36 Anastasius of Sinai provides us with the closest parallel. He also believes in the opacity of the resurrection body and therefore concludes that no mutual recognition will be possible after the resurrection because the resurrected will all look like Adam before the fall. Cf. Questions and Answers, nr. 89 (=19), PG 89, 720B8-13: all’ oudè metà tèn anástasin allèlous epignoosómetha fusikooi epignoorismooi: ou gár estin ekeî smikrótès è megaleiótès soomátoon … all’ hoios gégonen ho Adàm toioutoi pántes hoi ap’ aioonos kekoimèménoi anistámetha.

37 This statement is not as simple as it seems to be. One must not forget that in Timothy’s time many people had considerable doubts whether one could infer the identity of a person from its outward appearance, cf. G. Dagron, ‘Holy Images and Likeness’. DOP 45 (1991), pp. 23-33. These doubts arose from the ambiguous state of saints in posthumous apparitions which may be one more reason why Timothy stressed the reality of the bodies of Moses and Elijah.

38 PG 86, 61D8-9: echeis entautha toùs drastikoùs stratopedárchas Mooüsèn kaì Èlían.

39 PG 86, 261D9-11: ho Èlías pur authis kat’ autoon bréxei ho Mooüsès Faraooníooi túpooi pántas autoùs pniktooi táfooi parapémpsei. This concept is also found in the medieval West (where often saints specialise in miracles which relate to their lives and martyrdoms).

40 In both cases Anastasius uses the verb metapoieîn; cf. PG 89, 1365A5/6: tò idion sooma metapoièsas eis aftharsían; PG 89, 1364A13-15: trópon tinà katalipoon heautòn kaì pásas tàs psuchikàs petapoièsas dunámeis.

41 PG 89, 1361C6-1364A2: ho Paulos … tèn zooèn autèn metepoíèse mèkéti zoon autòs kaì idíoos kinoúmenos è energoon all’ autò tò zèn Christòn eichen en autooi energounta: parèken gàr heautòn holoscheroos kaì tò idion thélèma nekroosas tooi theíooi thélèmati holon heautòn hupéstroosen. This is a combination of Acts 17, 28: en autooi gàr zoomen kaì kinoúmetha kaí esmen, Galatians 2, 20: zoo dè oukéti egoo zèi dè en emoì Christós, and Philippians 1, 21: emoì gàr tò zèn Christós.

42 Although all this is expressed in Pauline quotations the insertion of the key terms energoon and energounta points to the incipient monenergetic discourse. Cf. Maximus the Confessor who in a passage with strong monenergetic overtones complements kineîtai from Acts 17, 28 with the participle energoúmenos, Ambigua, PG 91, 1084B1-7.

43 PG 86, 244A9-14: ho dè Sumeoon hoode kakeîse tàs opseis periféroon hoos heoora pollàs mètéras en tooi idiootikooi tès anthroopótètos schèmati mónèn dè tèn Parthénon apeírooi kaì theïkooi footì periteichistheîsan katadramoon ho Sumeoon echoorèsen tàs loipàs mètéras.

44 PG 86, 240C3-7: tò hagion pneuma tòn chrèsmòn paréschèke kaì diègeiren tòn Sumeoona légoon: exegeírou ktl.. The chrèsmós is presented as an articulate speech of the Spirit.

45 PG 86, 241C1-2: anakainistheìs tooi oxutátooi tès epithumías pterooi hoos hupò tou pneúmatos koufizómenos.

46 PG 86, 244A4-5: estè plèsíon toon thuroon periménoon tèn apokálupsin tou hagíou pneúmatos. As we have seen this revelation is again mediated through the senses.

47 PG 86, 241A15-16: kaì tí estin: kaì èlthen en tooi pneúmati eis tò ierón? akoue sunetoos. Cf. Luke 2, 27: kaì èlthen en tooi pneúmati eis tò ierón.

48 Leontius of Neapolis, Sermo in Symeonem (CPG 7880; BHG 1955), PG 93, 1580A: ou gàr autokinètoos oi hagioí ti diapráttontai all’ ek pneúmatos hagíou kinoúmenoi.

49 PG 86, 240C4: ho epì tosouton dikaiosúnès elásas hoos en autooi tooi soomati theîon chrèsmòn déxasthai. Cf. PG 86, 261A12: plèroforían … en tèi gèi eti diágousin … paréschen.

50 PG 86, 261A14-15: emfanísas autois tò aprósiton autou tès theótètos kállos (cf. 1. Timothy 6, 16: foos oikoon aprósiton); PG 86, 260B10: hupodeiknùs autois tèn abástakton dúnamin; PG 86, 261B2: tèn heautou dóxan anefánisen.

51 PG 86, 261A11-13: eides pósèn plèroforían ho despótès Christòs … autoprosoopoos paréschen.

52 Cf. Liddell & Scott s. v. autoprósoopos “in one’s own person”.

53 PG 86, 260D2-3 with the quotation of Luke 9, 29: kaì egéneto tò eidos tou prosoopou autou heteron.

54 PG 86, 260B14: en aprosítooi dóxès stolisthéntas. Timothy’s reference to the “glory” of Moses and Elijah is, of course, an adaptation of ofthéntes en dóxèi in Luke 9, 31 which he quotes in 260D6.

55 PG 86, 260C2: en idiofoonooi fthoggèi.

56 Thus Timothy excludes that the voice could have been produced in a different, immaterial way. Cf. the Life of Basil the Younger dating to the 10th century where the crying of the souls in Hades is explained this way, ed. A. N. Veselovskij, Sbornik of the Section for the Russian Language, Imperial Academy of Sciences, 46 (Petersburg, 1890), nr. 6, supplement, p. 41: psuchikèi dèlonóti kaì alalètooi fthoggèi kaì ou dià soomatikoon orgánoon exèrthrooménèi kaì legoménèi. Cf. also Leontius of Jerusalem, Adversus Nestorianos, I, 14, PG 86, 1457C, who mentions the voice as an example for an idikootátè enérgeia which the soul can only use if it is physically connected with the foonètikà mória of the body as instrument.

57 The passage in the sermon on Symeon which I have interpreted above shows how Timothy may have conceived of this “glory”. Here Mary comes to the temple “surrounded by infinite and divine light” which sets her apart from the other women who appear “in the ordinary shape of their humanity”. Cf. PG 65, 244A11-13. But, of course, this does not mean that Mary has a “spiritual body” here. The light is something “peripheral” and does not cause a transformation.

58 The same double meaning of prósoopon we find in a question put to Leontius of Jerusalem by his Nestorian adversary: trioon ontoon prosoopoon toon theíoon tò dè rapisthèn poîon einai légete. This is criticized by Leontius as sophism: tò gàr rapisthèn prósoopon ou tò antì hupostáseoos lambanómenon èn all’ hè opsis. Cf. Leontius of Jerusalem, Adversus Nestorianos, II, 16, PG 86, 1572B-D. His wish to introduce a reference to “person” would explain why Timothy coined the term autoprosoopoos although Luke’s phrase eidos … heteron would rather have suggested a form like autoeidoos.

59 PG 86, 260A14-15: hoon oudeìs drastikooteros en tooi bíooi hèurètai.

60 PG 86, 260A4-5: dokountes mathèteúein tooi nekroùs egeírontì; A11-12: tís pote ek nekroon anéstè.

61 A comparison with Leontius of Jerusalem may help to clarify the difference. In Adversus Nestorianos, I, 19, PG 86, 1476, Leontius attacks the Nestorian position that Christ has his immortality and incorruptibility ex anastáseoos (i. e. as a gift which the divine Word confers on the man Christ at the moment of the resurrection). Leontius says that Christ’s resurrection would then be suffered by him and be in no way different from the resurrections of Lazarus etc. which were caused by an “energy” that was not part of their substance, cf. A3-6. In this case it would no longer be a necessary precondition for the resurrection of all men, cf. C3-6. Leontius stresses that Christ’s case is different because he “resurrected himself “, cf. B8-9: autòs heautòn anastèsai légetaì; cf. A 6: autourgikoos; cf. C13: dédeiktai autou hè anástasis autoenérgeia einai.

Leontius’ solution is that the “resurrective energy” of the divinity is conferred on the humanity so that the humanity can then “resurrect itself”. The conferral of the “power” to display such an “energy” takes place at the moment of the union, cf. I, 6, PG 86, 1425C4-9.

Timothy holds a similar position. Like Leontius he obviously believes that a human being can “resurrect” itself through its own “activity” for drastikós and energès are synonyms, as opposed to pathètikós. What distinguishes him from Leontius is that he does not restrict this power to Christ (and that he does not stress that ultimately this power comes from God).

62 This explains why Timothy could not refer to any human being to demonstrate the possibility of Christ’s resurrection. A very similar reasoning we find in the writings of patriarch Methodius of Constantinople who also establishes a relation between the degree of activity in this life and the posthumous activity of human beings and who accordingly distinguishes between levels of posthumous life, cf. J. Gouillard, ‘La vie d’Euthyme de Sardes (+831), une oeuvre du patriarche Methode’. Travaux et Memoires, 10 (1987), c. 26, p. 59, ll. 531-537.

63 PG 86, 260A4-5: hoos athánatoi diekeímetha dokountes mathèteúein tooi nekroùs egeíronti.

64 PG 86, 260A8-9: ei metà treîs hèméras egeíretai tí kaì apothnèiskei.

65 PG 86, 257D1-3: hothen ho kúrios deiknùs autois tèn paliggenesían axiagastotéran einai tès paroúsès zooès ep’ opsesin autoùs plèroforeî.

66 PG 86, 261C6-10: ek toon katachthoníoon anègagen tòn Mooüsèn ek toon epouraníoon katègagen tòn Èlían.

67 For earlier examples of this topos cf. e. g. Chrysostom, Homilia 56 in Matthaeum, PG 58, 550/551 about Moses and Elijah: … kaì tòn teteleutèkóta kaì tòn oudépoo touto pathónta …; Basil of Seleucia, PG 85, 457C1-4; Pseudo-Proclus, PG 65, 768B11-13.

68 PG 86, 265A11-14: Èlías anelèfthè kaì ouk efánè: Mooüsès apéthanen en agnoostooi táfooi koniortootheìs kaì eti ménei en tooi tópooi.

69 PG 86, 265A11-12: tís pote ek nekroon anéstè.

70 After all, “after the departure from here” (metà tèn enthen exodon) does not necessarily mean “after death”.

71 PG 86, 265A2-4: houtos ho laboon choun apò tès gès kaì plásas tòn anthroopon: houtos ho tòn enooch paradóxoos metatetheìs ex anthroopoon.

72 PG 86, 237B12-14: díkaios en asebeî geneai kratoúmenos sùn autooi tooi soomati metársios gínetai en axiagástooi diaítèi katoikizómenos. Cf. Wisdom 4, 10/11.

73 PG 86, 237B1-2: katà tò fáskon theîon rhètòn hoti oi díkaioi eis tòn aioona zoosi.

74 PG 86, 237A14-B2: oudèn tou dikaíou aeizooóteron en logikoîs emyucon agalma katà tò fáskon theîon rhèhtón: díkaioi eis tòn aioona zoosin.

75 In fact, if it referred to the immortality of the soul it would not fit the concept of the soul found in Late Antique theologians who define its immortality as a part of its nature or being so that that there are no individual differences between members of the human nature. This is probably the reason why (according to the Biblia Patristica, vol. 5) the Cappadocians do not quote this verse.

With the shift to a concept of immortality which is based on continuing activity, however, Wisdom 5, 16 becomes meaningful; cf. footnote 42 for the close relation of the concept of “live” with that of “activity”. Once this shift has occurred there can be individual differences and degrees of aeizooïa (as implied by the comparative); cf. footnote 36. Methodius e. g. quotes Wisdom 5, 16 to underline that through his miracles Euthymius is active even after death, cf. Life of Euthymius, ed. Gouillard, c. 41, p. 81, ll. 870-871.

76 With the exception of Elijah the next examples (Noah, Lot, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David) all refer to individuals who were saved from disaster during their lives. This means that their lives only provide “typoi” for the survival of the just after their death.

77 PG 86, 261B6-8: pròs tò sunideîn toùs apostólous hoti kat’ autoùs oudeìs despózei toon dikaíoon thánatos … katà tò fáskon theîon rhètòn hoti hoi díkaioi eis tòn aioona zoosi.

78 It is probably no coincidence that Timothy uses the same attribute “admirable” to describe the “rebirth” here and Enoch’s manner of life in his sermon on Symeon; cf. PG 86, 257D1: axiagastotéran paliggenesían; PG 86, 237B13: en axiagástooi diaítèi.

79 PG 86, 265A13-14: Mooüsès apéthanen en agnoostooi táfooi koniortootheìs kaì eti ménei en tooi tópooi.

80 PG 86, 260B1: hoon oudeìs drastikooteros en tooi bíooi toútoon oudeìs anekálupsen (sc. heautón).

81 The verb implies that something is already existing but hidden. Cf. PG 86, 252A2-3: ho dè kúrios anakalúptoon autois loipòn tèn kruptoménèn tès theótètos axían.

82 Cf. Philo, Quaestiones in Genesim, 1, 86 (about Enoch’s assumption in Genesis 5, 24): quod donum et protopropheta assequutus est nam illius sepulchrum nemo scivit. Philo Alexandrinus, Quaestiones et Solutiones in Genesim I et II, e versione armenica. Introduction, traduction et notes par Ch. Mercier. (Les oeuvres de Philon d’Alexandrie, 34a). Paris 1979, pp. 158sv.

A reference to such a belief can be found in an Encomium on the Holy Archangels and Angels by Michael the Syncellus (+846) who interprets Juda 9 as the attempt of the devil to hide the body of Moses in order to make the Jews worship him as a God. Cf. codex 1B of the Library of the Oecumenical Patriarchate, Panagia Kamariotissa (Istanbul), fol. 241v: diïschurízeto gàr foonaîs ho palamnaîos ofis kaì polumèchanos labeîn touto kaì apokrúpsai hopoos kaì authis apoplanèsèi tòn tou theou laòn tou en autooi eidoololatrèsai kaì autooi latreutikoos proskunèsai kathoos kaì en allois autoùs apeplánèse kaì méchri muoon etheopoiounto tèn ktísin. I am grateful to Dr. Irene Vaslev, librarian at Dumbarton Oaks, for having sent me a microfilm of this manuscript.

83 PG 86, 245D1-2: hè parthénos achri tès deuro athánatos tou katoikèsantos analèpsímois autèn chooríois metanasteúsantos. This statement is prompted by an interpretation of Luke 2, 35 as referring to her martyrdom which Timothy rejects.

84 Cf. Pseudo-Melito, Transitus Mariae, ed. A. Wenger, L’assomption del la T. S. Vierge dans la tradition byzantine. Paris, 1955, p. 232; Pseudo-John, Transitus Mariae, ed. C. Tischendorf, Apocalypses Mosis etc. Leipzig, 1866, p. 109; Theodosius of Alexandria, ed. M. Chaîne, ROC 29 (1933-34), p. 309/310; John of Salonica, Sermo in Dormitionem, ed. M. Jugie, Homélies mariales byzantines, PG 19 (Rome, 1930), p. 435; Theognostus, Sermo in Dormitionem, ed. M. Jugie, Homélies mariales byzantines, PO 16, 3 (Rome, 1922), p. 460; Cosmas Vestitor, Sermo tertius, ed. A. Wenger, L’assomption, p. 326; Epiphanius of Kallistratou, De vita B. Virginis, PG 120, 25; John of Damascus, Sermo I in dormitionem, Die Schriften des Johannes von Damaskus, ed. B. Kotter, vol. 5 (PTS, 29). Berlin-New York 1988, p. 495. John stresses that Mary could only achieve incorruptibility by shedding what was mortal in her. At the same time, however, he insists that her body remained uncorrupted while it was separated from her soul.

85 Cf. analèpsímois and anelèfthè applied to Elijah. The analèpsima chooría where Mary lives are probably identical with Enoch’s axiágastos díaita.

86 Like the authors listed above Timothy certainly believed that Mary’s body is incorruptible now. With metanasteúsantos Timothy has chosen a word that sounds suspiciously like anastèsantos so that he insinuates that the “resurrection” has already happened at the moment of the assumption.

87 Photius, Bibliothèque, Tome IV (Codices 223-229). Texte établi et traduit par R. Henri. Paris, 1965. Cf. A. Grillmeier, ‘Art. Éfrem d’Amid’. DHGE 15 (1963), pp. 581-585.

88 Five Chapters to Anatolius Scholasticus; Photius, Bibliotheca, cod. 229, p. 253b35-39, ed. Henry, vol. 4, p. 139: Enooch kaì Èlías .. eti perióntes en tooi soomati: kaì gàr toútous hoos aparchèn tou holou furámatos (Romans 11, 16) hèmoon ho dèmiourgòs laboon edeixe pâsin hoos ei mè Ómarten ho Adàm eti an perièn metà tou soomatos.

89 J. Lebon, ‘Éphrem d’Amid, patriarche d’Antioche (526-544)’. In: Mélanges d’ Histoire offerts à Ch. Moeller, Vol. I. Louvain-Paris 1914, 196-214.

90 Five Chapters to Anatolius Scholasticus; Photius, Bibliotheca, cod. 229, p. 253b39-41, ed. Henry, vol. 4, p. 139: plèn kaì houtoi poluchrónion bíon anúontes geúsontaí pote thánaton kan en rhipèi ofthalmou. This was the traditional view; cf. K. Wessel, ‘Art. Elias’, RAC 4 (1959), pp. 1153/1154; K. Berger, ‘Art. Henoch’, RAC 14 (1988), p. 504.

91 Again Christ has lost his function as model which guarantees the future glorification of all human beings and his death and resurrection have become dysfunctional. A “physische Erlösungslehre” is alien to Timothy.

92 PG 86, 265A2-4.

93 For possible reasons for this reticence cf. the end of this paper.

94 PG 86, 257C16-19: mónèn tèn parousan zooèn alèthinèn einai légontas footòs kaì apolaúseoos peplèrooménèn ouchì dè paliggenesían hetéran ameínoo tès paroúsès zooès.

95 As a consequence the apostles do not see a difference between the resurrections worked by Christ which only give back the earthly life and a resurrection which is a change for the better.

For the apostles the conferring of immortality is simply an exercise of Christ’s power. An interpretation of Christ’s death as atonement for the sins of the fallen mankind is conspicuously absent from their reasonings. Timothy, however, does mention the theme of atonement elsewhere in his sermon; cf. PG 86, 264A11-13: tòn kósmon soosoo: … tís tòn Adàm diupnèsei? … tís tòn kósmon exagorásei.

96 PG 86, 261B7: hina misèsoosi tèn parousan zooèn.

97 PG 86, 261B3: anthèrotérous tès protéras zooès. This seems to be singular in the sermons on the Transfiguration. Cf. e. g. the term anthèroprósoopos in the description of the appearance of St. Paul in Malalas’ Chronicle, Book X, PG 97, 389B5.

98 The connection between “loss of blood” and “loss of a florid complexion” is apparent in Methodius of Constantinople who refers to it in a figurative sense: elambáneto pròs gunaikoon … hamartíai tò tès psuchès anthèròn aimorrooúntoon; Life of Euthymius, ed. Gouillard, c. 4, p. 25, l. 54. Cf. also Anastasius of Sinai who sees a close connection between “loss of blood” and “loss of life”: dià tès hupochoorèseoos tès tou haimatos thermótètos ho choorismòs tès psuchès gínetaì; Questions and Answers, nr. 92, PG 89, 729AB.

99 Cf. Methodius’ description of the corpse of Euthymius of Sardes: nunì euchrooteros hupárchei ho hagios hè pareià erúthrá, Life of Euthymius, ed. Gouillard, c. 27, l. 546, p. 59. Here we also find a stress on the fundamental continuity of the saint’s appearance: oud’ ho charaktèr tès eumorfías parèllaktai, c. 27, l. 544, p. 59. Cf. also the description of the corpse of Nicephorus of Medikion: ouk oochrón … oud’ hup’ allès sèmasías nekrótètos huperúthrous echonta tàs pareiás, Life of Nicephorus, ed. Halkin, c. 19, ll. 9-11, p. 425.

100 Maximus, Epistula 7, PG 91, 433B8-12: tò dè pléon me katèfeías empiploon entautha … tò nun hupò pántoon schedòn kaì málista toon dèthen epifanoon monachoon presbeuómenon perì anastáseoos kainoprepès dógma. Characteristically, Maximus reacts by pointing to Paul’s words in Corinthians; cf. 433D1-3; 440A7-9.

101 Maximus, Epistula 7, PG 91, 433C4-12: fasì gár … flégmati pálin kaì haimati cholèi te au xanthèi kaì melaínèi kaì holkèi aéros kaì trofèi aisthètèi pròs tò zèn sunéchesthai méllein tà soomata katà tèn anástasin oudenòs tò súnolon xénou parà tèn parousan zooèn dià tès anastáseoos anafanèsoménou plèn tò mè dúnasthai pálin apothaneîn.

102 This attitude was probably shared by his audience for it is likely that Timothy’s presentation of the apostles reflects ideas which were current in his congregation.

103 This is most obvious in his famous interpretation of the dermatínoi chitoones as an accretion which is alien to the original body and must be shed again.

104 Cf. e. g. Gregorius Nyssenus, Oratio Catechetica, ed. E. Muehlenberg, (Opera, 3, 4), Leiden 1996, p. 29, ll. 13-18.

105 Timothy is not an isolated case. An outright rejection of Gregory’s interpretation of the protology is found in the Commentary on the Hexaemeron by Anastasius of Sinai. Anastasius throughout denies that what happened to Adam and Eve after their transgression could be regarded as punishment and insists that everything (e. g. the dermátinoi citoones, the sending away from Paradise) has a positive significance and is a necessary preliminary for the incarnation of Christ, cf. PG 89, 1052svv., 1069svv.

106 After all, Ephraem distinguished himself as a fighter against the Origenist monks in Palestine; cf. E. Schwartz, Kyrillos von Skythopolis. Leipzig 1939, p. 191.

107 Five Chapters to Anatolius Scholasticus; Photius, Bibliotheca, cod. 229, p. 253b30-35, ed. Henry, vol. 4, p. 139, where Ephraem attacks a spiritualist “mis”-interpretation of 1. Corinthians 15, 53. This danger was real for in authors like Maximus there is always an ambiguity in their interpretations of this passage, cf. Mystagogia, PG 90, 700BC.

108 Letter to the Monk Eunoïus about Corruption and Incorruptibility; Photius, Bibliotheca, cod. 228, p. 228a13-17, ed. Henry, vol. 4, p. 125: hoti mèn aftharsía hugeía tís estin all’ ouk anaíresis tès hèmetéras fúseoos hè dè fthorà nósos: hothen kaì tòn Adàm prò tès parabáseoos aftharton echonta sárka katà pánta hupárchein hèmîn homooúsion.

109 Haereticarum Fabularum Compendium V, 11, PG 83, 493D1-3: kaì gàr tou Adàm hèmartèkótos kaì toon pleístoon toùs theíous parabebèkótoon nómous diémeinán tines epì toon horoon tès fúseoos kaì tès aretès egénonto frontistaí. In Theodoret we also find a precedent for Timothy’s idea that the divine activity in Christ is only of a higher degree than that in other human beings but not fundamentally different; cf. footnote 62. This is especially obvious in Haereticarum Fabularum Compendium V, 23, PG 83, 532A5-B1.

110 Haereticarum Fabularum Compendium V, 11, PG 83, 492D5-6: ho mèn gàr tès dikaiosúnès horos henòs hèmartèkótos hapan tò toútou génos tooi thanátooi parédooken. Cf. PG 83, 495A3svv. about Christ’s resurrection as necessary precondition for a future zooopoíhsis of all men.

111 This discrepancy is especially obvious since Theodoret makes both his points by using the same verses from Romans 5, 12 – 21. When he speaks about death he accepts Paul’s statement that Adam’s fall affects all people; PG 83, 492A10-12: eis pántas anthroopous dièlthen ho thánatos ef’ hooi pántas hèmarton (cf. Romans 5, 12), whereas he reinterprets Paul’s words as referring to “most” people when he speaks about sin (cf. Romans 5, 19).

112 In his speeches On Providence he stresses that the animals obeyed Adam as long as he was without sin but that he lost the control over them after the fall, cf. PG 83, 640D-641B. The “just” Daniel, however, recovered this status and thus could control the lions in the den, cf. PG 83, 712A-713B. This is pertinent to our question since just as incorruptibility control over animals is an expression of the original kat’ eikóna.

113 Theodoret rejects the interpretation of the incarnation as the coming down of a body from heaven; cf. Expositio Rectae Confessionis, c. 10, PG 6, 1224C5-6.

114 M. Chaîne, ‘Sermon de Théodose patriarche d’ Alexandrie sur la dormition et l’assomption de la vierge’. ROC 29 (1933-34), p. 309: “Je ne voulais pas te laisser connaître la mort, je voulais t’élever aux cieux comme Énoch et Élie, pour ces autres cependant, il faut vue eux aussi connaissent la mort à la fin. Mais si cela arrivait pour toi, des hommes mauvais penseraient de toi vue tu es une puissance céleste descendue sur terre et vue ce plan de l’incarnation, la façon dont il s’est réalisé est un illusion.”

115 Fantasiastès was the term patriarch Severus of Antioch used to denounce Julian of Halicarnassus. Severus criticized Julian for teaching that Christ’s flesh was not consubstantial with us but “uncreated” (i. e. divine) and that its incarnation was analogous to the solidification of water to ice. Cf. e. g. Sévère d’ Antioche, La polémique antijulianiste II A: Le Contra additiones Iuliani, ed. R. Hespel (CSCO 296), Louvain, 1968, c. 24, p. 63, l. 7 – p. 64, l. 2.

116 This concept of the glorified body even allowed Timothy to believe in a preexisting body of Christ without any danger of docetism. This is at least the impression one gets from a curious passage in the sermon on the Transfiguration where he identifies the three men coming to Abraham as Christ accompanied by two angels. Again there is not trace of an allegorical interpretation and Christ appears to have already had an ordinary human body then, PG 86, 264B6-C4.

A bird’s eye view of the Syriac language and literature*

by Edip Aydın

The Syriac Language

Syriac belongs to the Semitic family of languages, and is a dialect of Aramaic. The history of Aramaic goes back to the second millennium B.C. It was “first attested in written form in inscriptions of the tenth century B.C., it still continues to be spoken and written in the late twentieth century A.D. by a variety of communities in the Middle East and elsewhere. At various times over the course of these three thousand or so years of its known history, Aramaic has been spoken or written by peoples of many different faiths, by pagans, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Manicheans, Jews, Samaritans, Mandeans, Christians and Muslims”.1

The closest immediate predecessors of Syriac, were the languages used in Palmyra (in modern Syria) and Hatra (in modern Iraq) around the time of Jesus. Aramaic continued to be in use among the Aramean populations of Syria and Mesopotamia despite being dominated by Greek and Parthian/Persian rulers. The majority of these Arameans later embraced the Christian faith and, although there are a number of short pagan inscriptions,2 and a few relics of pagan literature,3 Syriac is, for the most part a Christian language, a medium for Christian literature and liturgy. Syriac started as the local dialect of Edessa (whose modern name Urfa is derived from Syriac Urhoy) the cultural centre of Syriac literature. The early writers refer to the Syriac language as Urhoyo or Edessene because it started as a local Aramaic dialect of Edessa. The reason that Syriac “came to be adopted as the literary language of Aramaic speaking Christians all over Mesopotamia may in part be due to the prestige enjoyed by Edessa as a result of its claim to possess a letter written by Jesus to its king (of Arab stock) named Abgar the Black”.4 However, Syriac gradually expanded and was carried eastwards along the silk road by merchants and Syriac missionaries to South India and China. A noteworthy witness to the presence of Syriac in Western China in the eighth century A.D. is provided by the bilingual Syriac and Chinese stone inscriptions dated A.D. 781, found at Hsi-an fu (modern Xi’an).5

One of the earliest texts of the Syriac language which provides a foretaste of its beauty and splendour is to be found in the beautiful lyric Odes of Solomon. We quote here ode 40 in English translation:

“As honey drips from a honeycomb, and as milk flows from a woman full of love for her children, so is my hope upon you, my God. As a fountain gushes forth its water, So does my heart gush forth the praise of the Lord and my lips pour out praise to him; my tongue is sweet from converse with him, my limbs grow strong with singing of him, my face exults in the jubilation he brings, my spirit is jubilant at his love and by him my soul is illumined. He who holds the Lord in awe may have confidence, for his salvation is assured: he will gain immortal life, and those who receive this are incorruptible. Halleluia!”6

Eastern and Western Pronunciation

Written Syriac today is almost the same in morphology as the classical Syriac of the fourth century. While the language remained the same, there emerged two dialectical pronunciations of Syriac, usually known as the Eastern and the Western. The Eastern, which is more archaic, is used by the members of the Church of the East. The Western on the other hand, is mainly used by Syrian Orthodox and the Maronites. A clear difference between the Eastern and the Western consists in the pronunciation of original a: the Eastern pronunciation preserves it (e.g. bayta ‘house’), while the Western alters it to o (bayto).

Syriac Scripts

The Syriac language also developed different scripts. The earliest Syriac inscriptions of the first and second centuries A.D. (all pagan) use a script similar to Palmyrene cursive writing. By the time of our earliest manuscripts (early fifth century A.D.) however, this script has taken on a more formalised character, known as Estrangelo (derived from Greek strongulos ’rounded’). The Estrangelo script continued to be used well into the middle ages. Furthermore, it enjoyed a dramatic local revival in Tur’Abdin in the twelve century. During the course of the eighth century there emerged, side by side with Estrangelo, a new and more compact script developed from Estrangelo correctly known as Serto (literally ‘a scratch, character’). This is normally used by the West Syrians and the Maronites. A few centuries later, among the East Syrians, we see the gradual emergence from Estrangelo of the other distinctive script known as Eastern but generally called Nestorian or Chaldean script by European writers.


In the early centuries of Arab rule there emerged various vocalization systems to assist the reading and pronunciation of the unvowelled Arabic, Hebrew and Syriac scripts. What finally emerged for Syriac, were two different systems, one used by West Syrians and Maronites (the so-called Jacobite vowel signs); and the other employed by East Syrians (the so-called Nestorian vowel signs); the former consist of symbols derived from Greek letters, the latter of different combinations of dots.

The scope of Syriac literature

Syriac literature covers a wide area both in time and in space, and provides by far the largest body of Aramaic literature that spans from the second to the twentieth century. Dr. Brock divides this main body of Syriac literature into four distinctive periods. Here I closely follow Brock’s own division and classification of Syriac literature.

(i) The beginnings, in the second and third centuries A.D. Only a few works have survived from this period. They include the following: The Book of the Laws of Countries by a pupil of Bardaisan ‘The Aramean Philosopher’ (died 222); a collection of lyric poems known as Odes of Solomon ; and the Acts of the Apostle Thomas together with a few other texts including among them the earliest translation of the Bible (Old Testament and Gospels).7

(ii) The fourth to seventh centuries (the golden age of Syriac literature). In this period many great writers and outstanding poets of literary merit emerged, (and to use Dr. Brock’s words) and “it can be fairly said that it is in Syriac that the best Aramaic literature, qua literature, can be found.”

In the fourth century two great writers appear: Aphrahat, “the Persian Sage” who has an elegant style and carefully balanced phrases as well as other technical devices to highlight significant passages. Many examples of this very sophisticated prose style can already be found in his 23 Demonstrations covering a variety of special topics, and often touching on Jewish-Christian relations. Along with Aphrahat, we have the genius Ephrem of Nisibis (died 373) who is undoubtedly the best representative of early Syriac Christianity and finest of all Syriac poets. He combines in a unique way the roles of both poet and theologian. Ephrem, produced a massive collection of poems, and there survive over 500 religious lyrics of great beauty and profound spiritual insight. Besides being an outstanding poet, Ephrem a lso wrote a number of prose commentaries on the Bible and several narrative poems.

By no means all Syriac literature is religious in character. Prose literature of this period covers a very wide range of subjects, history, geography, law, philosophy, medicine, astronomy, as well as hagiography, theology, liturgy and biblical interpretation. During this period there were many translations into Syriac, mostly from Greek but also a few from middle Persian (e.g. the earlier version of Kalilah and Dimnah, a famous collection of tales of Indian origin). After the Semitic creativity until the fourth century, Greek influence becomes much more noticeable in the fifth and sixth centuries; in prose, both style and thought patterns are affected, but in poetry much less so. The place of poetry has always been very prominent within Syriac literature as a whole; and notable among the poets of this era is Jacob of Serugh (as a pupil) and Narsai (as a teacher) who were both associated with the famous ‘Persian School’ at Edessa. In 489, the emperor Zeno had closed the school, which was forced to move to safety within the Persian Empire to the town of Nisibis. Both authors, Jacob and Narsai produced large collections of fine verse homilies mainly on biblical themes. Jacob however, at times writes with a mystical intensity, whereas Narsai is largely a didactic poet. Amongst the excellent poetry of this golden age of Syriac literature many delightful dialogue poems are sadly anonymous. In these, personifications of two biblical characters conduct a lively argument in alternating stanzas. The origins of this genre can be traced back to the very beginnings of Mesopotamian literature and it remains popular to the present day.

In the field of the theological literature two authors are strikingly original. Philoxenus of Mabbug (died 523) in the Syrian Orthodox tradition, and Babai the Great (died 628) in that of the Church of the East. The former, was one of the outstanding theologians of his time, and a leading figure in the Syrian Orthodox opposition to the Council of Chalcedon (whose wording he considered to obscure the full reality of the incarnation). The latter on the other hand, was an Abbot of one of the most important monasteries on mount Izla (in Southeastern Turkey); and also a leading and profound theologian of the Church of the East. Philoxenus and Babai also have fine treatises on the spiritual life as well. Philoxenus in his theological as well as spiritual writings offers a remarkable fusion of Syriac and Greek tradition. The Syrian mystic, Isaac of Nineveh (seventh century), whose writings were translated into Greek at the monastery of St Saba in Palestine in the ninth century, is a well-known figure among many. In Egypt the inspiration provided by Isaac lies behind the contemporary monastic revival in the Coptic Church. Historically, his writings were very popular and accepted despite their origin in the Church of the East, and have continued to be widely read in monasteries of all traditions. What influence the Syrian mystics had on early Sufism is a question which still requires proper investigation.8

(iii) The period running from the beginning of the Arab rule in the seventh century to that of the Mongols in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries is described by Brock as “one of scholarly consolidation and encyclopedic effort as far as Syriac literature is concerned”. The Arab invasions prevented close contacts with the Greek-speaking world just when Syriac culture was at the most hellenophile stage of its history. The most important consequences of this, for both Arab and western European civilizations, was that through scholars of the Syriac churches, such as Hunain ibn Ishaq (died 873) working at Baghdad, the Abbasid capital, Greek philosophy, medicine and science were transmitted to the Arab world.9

The twelfth and thirteenth centuries can be described as a renaissance within Syriac literature. The most famous writers of this period of revival are the patriarch Michael the Great, author of the most important of all Syriac chronicles (comparing ecclesiastical, secular and contemporary events up to his time) and the Syriac polymath Gregory Abu’l Faraj better known as Barhebraeus (died 1286). Gregory wrote on every aspect of human knowledge of his time, such as philosophy, medicine, grammar, theology, spirituality, wisdom and wit, history and other subjects. (Some of his works are available in English translation and his book on the chronology of the world was translated into Turkish as well).

(iv) Many western histories of Syriac literature leave their readers with the impression that Syriac literature virtually culminated in the fourteenth century. Factors such as the Black Death contributed to a low point in the history of the Syriac literature in the fourteenth century. However, it did not die out, but continues in an unbroken chain of Syriac writers in prose and poetry, to the present day. The Syriac literature of this period contains a different genre of plays, novels and poetry. Since, however, very little of the literature of this period has been published (although ‘Hujada’ in Sweden and Mor Ephrem Monastery in Holland are preparing a number of works for publication every year), no proper assessment of its quality can yet be made.10

Modern Dialects

On the colloquial level, dialects of Syriac have always been in use. Turoyo, the mountain language is still very much used in the area to the south east of Diyarbakir known as Tur’Abdin. The majority of the speakers are Syrian Orthodox. In recent years many of this community have migrated to Istanbul and western Europe. Although Turoyo has its own oral literature, it is very rarely written (except by or for western scholars).11 Recently, it has been used in some elementary school books and dictionaries produced in Sweden for the use of the children of immigrant Turoyo speakers.

The other dialect which is flourishing today, is called Modern Syriac, or Swadaya which is usually based on either the Urmi or Alqosh dialect. Swadaya is extensively spoken and written by the Assyrian and Chaldean communities in Iran, Iraq (especially since April 1972, when Syriac was proclaimed as an official cultural language of the Assyrian, Chaldean, and Syrian Orthodox citizens who are Syriac speakers). Swadaya is also used in the Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan where the Cyrillic script is employed in writing rather than the Syriac. In modern day, Turoyo and Swadaya are used in broadcasting, magazines, literature as well as liturgy.


Syriac language and literature, besides playing a momentous role in the history of the Christian world, has also constituted an essential dimension within the cultural history of the Middle East as a whole. The historical significance of Syriac lies in providing a cultural bridge between the civilization of Antiquity (Greek as well as Mesopotamian) and that of the Asian world today.


* This article has been translated into Turkish and published in Varlik, a periodical of literature and art (Istanbul, Turkey), 1075 (April, 1997), pp. 28-32.

1 S.P. Brock, “Three Thousand Years of Aramaic literature”, in Aram,1:1 (1989), p. 11.

2 H.J.W. Drijvers, (Ed.) “Old Syriac Inscriptions”, Semitic Studies Series (Leiden) No. III (1972). This work provides a full account of the pagan inscriptions found in Edessa and its vicinity.

3 Amongst these is a letter of advice from a certain philosopher Mara to his son Serapion and a prophecy attributed to the prophet Baba of Harran. An English translation of Mara’s Letter is found in W. Cureton, Spicilegium Syriacum (London, 1855), pp.70-76; of Baba’s prophecy in S.P. Brock, “A Syriac collection of prophecies of pagan philosophers”, in Orientalia Loveniensia Periodica (Leuven) 14 (1983), pp. 233-6.

4 S.P. Brock, “An Introduction to Syriac Studies”, in J.H. Eaton (Ed.,), Horizons in Semitic Studies (1980), p .13.

5 See P.Y. Saeki, “The Nestorian Monument in China” (1916).

6 S.P.Brock,”Spirituality in the Syriac Tradition”, Moran ‘Etho Series No. 2 (Kerala, 1989), p. 19.

7 English translations: H.J.W. Drijvers, The Book of the Laws of Countries. Dialogue on Fate of Bardisan of Edessa (Assen,1965); J.H. Charlesworth, The Odes of Solomon (Oxford,1973; reprinted Missoula, 1977) and in his Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, vol. II (Garden City and London, 1985), pp. 735-71; A.F.J Klijn, Acts of Thomas (Leiden,1962).

8 English translations of a selection of Syriac literature of this period include: J. Gwynn (Ed.), “Selections from…Ephrem the Syrian and Aphrahat..” in A Select Library of Nicene and post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, series II, vol. 13 Oxford/New York, 1898; and reprints); S.P. Brock, The Harp of the Spirit: 18 Poems of St Ephrem (2nd edition, London,1983); F.C. Burkitt, Euphemia and the Goth (London, 1913); E.A.W. Budge, The Discourses of Philoxenus (London,1894); E.A.W. Budge, The History of the Alexander the Great (Cambridge, 1889 repr. 1976); S.P.Brock and S.A. Harvey, Holy Women of the Syrian Orient (Berkeley, 1978); F.J. Hamilton and E.W. Brooks, The Syriac Chronicle known as that of Zechariah of Mytilene (London 1899) For Ephrem, Besides the translations mentioned above, and a further collection by K. McVey in the Classics of Western Spirituality series, many excerpts can be found in R. Murray, Symbols of Church and Kingdom: a Study in Early Syriac Tradition (Cambridge,1975) and in S.P. Brock, The Luminous Eye: the Spiritual World of St Ephrem (Rome, 1985; Kalamazoo, 1992).

9 English translations of some literature of this period include: A.J. Wensinck, Mystic Treatises by Isaac of Nineveh (Amsterdam, 1923; reprinted Wiesbaden, 1969); A. Mingana, Early Christian Mystics (Cambridge,1934); S.P. Brock, The Syriac Fathers on Prayer and the Spiritual Life (Kalamazoo, 1987); A. Mingana, Job of Edessa’s Book of Treasures (Cambridge, 1935); I.G.N. Keith-Falknoner, Kalilah and Dimnah, or the Fables of Bidpai (London, 1885); E.A.W. Budge, The Chronography of Barhebraeus (Oxford, 1932); E.A.W. Budge, Oriental Wit and Wisdom, or the Laughable Stories collected by Mar Gregory John Barhebraeus (London 1899); E.A.W. Budge, The Monks of Kublai Khan, Emperor of China (London, 1928).

10 For the history of twentieth century Syriac literature see R. Macuch, Geschichte der spät – und neusyrischen Literatur (Berlin 1976); Patriarch E. Barsawm, Al lu’ lu Al manthur fi Tarikh al `ulum wal Adab Al Suryaniya (in Arabic, Homs 1943 and reprints; Syriac translation Qamishli 1967; reprinted Holland 1991; partial English translation by M. Moosa, 1978); A. Abuna, Adab Al-lugha Al-Aramiya (in Arabic, Beirut 1970); P. Sarmas, Tash`ita d-Seprayuta Atorayta, I-III (in Modern Syriac, Tehran 1963/70); Cp also S.P. Brock,”Classical Syriac in the Twentieth Century”, Journal of Semitic Studies 34 (1989), 363-75.

11 There is a teaching tool of Turoyo by Otto Jastrow, Lehrbuch der Turoyo-Sprache (Wiesbaden 1992).