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not completely corrected. EWTN has corrected all mistakes found.)
ANCIENT SYRIAC DOCUMENTS
Acts of Sharbil
The Martyrdom of Barsamya
Martyrdom of Habib the Deacon
Martyrdom of the Holy Confessors Shamuna, Guria, and Habib
Moses of Chorene
ANCIENT SYRIAC DOCUMENTS
ACTS OF SHARBIL,(1) WHO WAS A PRIEST OF IDOLS, AND WAS CONVERTED TO THE
CONFESSION OF CHRISTIANITY IN CHRIST.(2)
IN the fifteenth year of the Sovereign Ruler(3) Trajan Caesar,(4) and
in the third year of King Abgar the Seventh,(5) which is the year 416 of
the kingdom of Alexander king of the Greeks, and in the priesthood of
Sharbil and Barsamya,(6) Trajan Caesar commanded the governors of the
countries under his dominion that sacrifices and libations should be
increased in all the cities of their administration, and that those who did
not sacrifice should be seized and delivered over to stripes, and to the
tearing of combs, and to bitter inflictions of all kinds of tortures, and
should afterwards receive the punishment of the sword.
Now, when the command arrived at the town of Edessa of the Parthians,
there was a great festival, on the eighth of Nisan, on the third day of the
week: the whole city was gathered together by the great altar(7) which was
in the middle of the town, opposite the Record office,(8) all the gods
having been brought together, and decorated, and sitting in honour, both
Nebu and Bel together with their fellows. And all the priests were
offering incense of spices and libations,(9) and an odour of sweetness was
diffusing itself around, and sheep and oxen were being slaughtered, and the
sound of the harp and the drum was heard in the whole town. And Sharbil was
chief and ruler of all the priests; and he was honoured above all his
fellows, and was clad in splendid and magnificent vestments; and a headband
embossed with figures of gold was set upon his head; and at the bidding of
his word everything that he ordered was done. And Abgar the king, son of
the gods, was standing at the head of the people. And they obeyed Sharbil,
because he drew nearer to all the gods than any of his fellows, and as
being the one who according to that which he had heard from the gods
returned an answer to every man.
And, while these things were being done by the command of the king,
Barsamya, the bishop of the Christians, went up to Sharbil, he and Tiridath
the elder and Shalula the deacon; and he said to Sharbil, the high priest:
The King Christ, to whom belong heaven and earth, will demand an account at
thy hands of all these souls against whom thou art sinning, and whom thou
art misleading, and turning away from the God of verity and of truth to
idols that are made and deceitful, which are not able to do anything with
their hands--moreover also thou hast no pity on thine own soul, which is
destitute of the true life of God; and thou declarest to this people that
the dumb idols talk with thee; and, as if thou wert listening to something
from them, thou puttest thine ear near to one and another of them, and
sayest to this people: The god Nebu bade me say to you," On account of your
sacrifices and oblations I cause peace in this your country;" and: Bel
saith, "I cause great plenty in your land;" and those who hear this from
thee do not discern that thou art greatly deceiving them--because "they
have a mouth and speak not, and they have eyes and see not with them;" it
is ye who bear up them, and not they who bear up(10) you, as ye suppose;
and it is ye who set tables before them, and not they who feed you. And now
be persuaded by me touching that which I say to thee and advise thee. If
thou be willing to hearken to me, abandon idols made, and worship God the
Maker of all things, and His Son Jesus Christ. Do not, because He put on a
body and became man and was stretched out on the cross of death, be ashamed
of Him and refuse to worship Him: for, all these things which He endured--
it was for the salvation of men and for their deliverance. For this One who
put on a body is God, the Son of God, Son of the essence of His Father, and
Son of the nature of Him who begat Him: for He is the adorable brightness
of His Godhead, and is the glorious manifestation of His majesty, and
together with His Father He existed from eternity and from everlasting, His
arm, and His right hand, and His power, and His wisdom, and His strength,
and the living Spirit which is from Him, the Expiator and Sanctifier of all
His worshippers. These are the things which Palut taught us, with whom thy
venerable self(1) was acquainted; and thou knowest that Palut was the
disciple of Addaeus the apostle. Abgar the king also, who was older than
this Abgar, who himself worshippeth idols as well as thou, he too believed
in the King Christ, the Son of Him whom thou callest Lord of all the
gods.(2) For it is forbidden to Christians to worship anything that is
made, and is a creature, and in its nature is not God: even as ye worship
idols made by men,(3) who themselves also are made and created. Be
persuaded, therefore, by these things which I have said to thee, which
things are the belief of the Church: for I know that all this population
are looking to thee, and I am well assured that, if thou be persuaded, many
also will persuaded with thee.(4)
Sharbil said to him: Very acceptable to me are these thy words which
thou hast spoken before me; yea, exceedingly acceptable are they to me.
But, as for me, I know that I am outcast from(5) all these things, and
there is no longer any remedy for me. And, now that hope is cut off from
me, why weariest thou thyself about a man dead and buried,(6) for whose
death there is no hope of resuscitation? For I am slain by paganism, and am
become a dead man, the property of the Evil One: in sacrifices and
libations of imposture have I consumed all the days of my life.
And, when Barsamya the bishop heard these things,(7) he fell down
before his feet, and said to him: There is hope for those who turn, and
healing for those that are wounded. I myself will be surety to thee for the
abundant mercies of the Son Christ: that He will pardon thee all the sins
which thou hast committed against Him, in that thou hast worshipped and
honoured His creatures instead of Himself. For that Gracious One, who
extended Himself on the cross of death, will not withhold His grace from
the souls that comply with His precepts and take refuge in His kindness
which has been displayed towards us. Like as He did towards the robber, so
is He able to do to thee, and also to those who are like thee.
Sharbil said to him: Thou, like a skilful physician, who suffers pain
from the pain of the afflicted, hast done well in that thou hast been
concerned about me. But at present, because it is the festival to-day of
this people, of every one of them, I cannot go down with thee to-day to the
church. Depart thou, and go down with honour; and to-morrow at night I will
come down to thee: I too have henceforth renounced for myself the gods made
with hands, confess the Lord Christ, the Maker of all men.
And the next day Sharbil arose and went down to Barsamya by night, he
and Babai his sister; and he was received by the whole church. And he said
to them: Offer for me prayer and supplication, that Christ may forgive me
all the sins that I have committed against Him in all this long course of
years. And, because they were in dread of the persecutors, they arose and
gave him the seal of salvation,(8) whilst he confessed the Father, and the
Son, and the Holy Spirit.(9)
And, when all the city had heard that he was gone down to the church,
there began to be a consternation among the multitude; and they arose and
went down to him, and saw him clad in the fashion of the Christians.(10)
And he said to them: May the Son Christ forgive me all the sins that I have
committed against you, and all in which I made you think that the gods
talked with me, whereas they did not talk; and, forasmuch as I have been to
you a cause of abomination, may I now be to you a cause of good: instead of
worshipping, as formerly, idols made with hands, may ye henceforth worship
God the Maker. And, when they had heard these things, there remained with
him a great congregation of men and of women; and Labu also, and Hafsai,
and Barcalba, and Avida, chief persons of the city. They all said to
Sharbil: Henceforth we also renounce that which thou hast renounced, and we
confess the King Christ, whom thou hast confessed.
But Lysanias,(1) the judge of the country, when he heard(2) that
Sharbil had done this,(3) sent by night(4) and carded him off from the
church. And there went up with him many Christians. And he sat down, to
hear him and to judge him, before the altar which is in the middle of the
town, where he used to sacrifice to the gods. And he said to him: Wherefore
hast thou renounced the gods, whom thou didst worship, and to whom thou
didst sacrifice, and to whom thou wast made chief of the priests, and lo!
dost today confess Christ, whom thou didst formerly deny? For see how those
Christians, to whom thou art gone, renounce not that which they have
held,(5) like as thou hast renounced that in which thou wast born. If thou
art assured of the gods, how is it that thou hast renounced them this day?
But, if on the contrary thou art not assured, as thou declarest concerning
them, how is it that thou didst once sacrifice to them and worship them?
Sharbil said: When I was blinded in my mind, I worshipped that which I
knew not; but to-day, inasmuch as I have obtained the clear eyes of the
mind, it is henceforth impossible that I should stumble at carved stones,
or that I should any longer be the cause of stumbling to others. For it is
a great disgrace to him whose eyes are open, if he goes and falls into the
pit of destruction.
The judge said: Because thou hast been priest of the venerable gods,
and hast been partaker of the mystery of those whom the mighty emperors(6)
worship, I will have patience with thee, in order that thou mayest be
persuaded by me, and not turn away from the service of the gods; but, if on
the contrary thou shall not be persuaded by me, by those same gods whom
thou hast renounced I swear that, even as on a man that is a murderer, so
will I inflict tortures on thee, and will avenge on thee the wrong done to
the gods, whom thou hast rebelled against and renounced, and also the
insult which thou hast poured upon them; nor will I leave untried any kind
of tortures which I will not inflict on thee; and, like as thine honour
formerly was great, so will I make thine ignominy great this day.
Sharbil said: I too, on my part, am not content that thou shouldest
look upon me as formerly, wheel I worshipped gods made with hands; but look
thou upon me to-day and question me as a Christian man renouncing idols and
confessing the King Christ.
The judge said: How is it that thou art not afraid of the emperors, nor
moved to shame by those who are listening to thy trial, that thou sayest,
"I am a Christian"? But promise that thou wilt sacrifice to the gods,
according to thy former custom, so that thy honour may be great, as
formerly--lest I make to tremble at thee all those who have believed like
Sharbil said: Of the King of kings I am afraid, but at any king of
earth I tremble not, nor yet at thy threats towards me, which lo! thou
utterest against the worshippers of Christ: whom I confessed yesterday, and
lo! I am brought to trial for His sake to-day, like as He Himself was
brought to trial for the sake of sinners like me.
The judge said: Although thou have no pity on thyself, still I will
have pity on thee, and refrain from cutting off those hands of thine with
which thou hast placed incense before the gods, and from stopping with thy
blood those ears of thine which have heard their mysteries, and thy tongue
which has interpreted and explained to us their secret things. Of those
gods lo! I am afraid, and I have pity on thee. But, if thou continue thus,
those gods be my witnesses that I will have no pity on thee!
Sharbil said: As a man who art afraid of the emperors and tremblest at
idols, have thou no pity on me. For, as for me, I know not what thou
sayest: therefore also is my mind not shaken or terrified by those things
which thou sayest. For by thy judgments shall all they escape from the
judgment to come who do not worship that which is not God in its own
The judge said: Let him be scourged with thongs,(7) because he has
dared to answer me thus, and has resisted the command of the emperors, and
has not appreciated the honour which the gods conferred on him: inasmuch
as, lo! he has renounced them.
And he was scourged by ten men, who laid hold on him, according to the
command of the judge.
Sharbil said: Thou art not aware of the scourging of justice in that
world which is to come. For thou wilt cease, and thy judgments also will
pass away; but justice will not pass away, nor will its retributions come
to an end.
The judge(1) said: Thou art so intoxicated with this same Christianity,
that thou dost not even know(2) before whom thou art judged, and by whom it
is that thou art scourged--even by those who formerly held thee in honour,
and paid adoration to thy priesthood in the gods. Why dost thou hate
honour, and love this ignominy? For, although thou speakest contrary to the
law, yet I myself cannot turn aside from the laws of the emperors.
Sharbil said: As thou takest heed not to depart from the laws of the
emperors, and if moreover thou depart from them thou knowest what command
they will give concerning thee, so do I also take heed not to decline from
the law of Him who said, "Thou shalt not worship any image, nor any
likeness;" and therefore will I not sacrifice to idols made with hands: for
long enough was the time in which I sacrificed to them, when I was in
The judge said: Bring not upon thee punishment(3) in addition to the
punishment which thou hast already brought upon thee. Enough is it for thee
to have said, "I will not sacrifice:" do not dare to insult the gods, by
calling them manufactured idols whom even the emperors honour.
Sharbil said: But, if on behalf of the emperors, who are far away and
not near at hand and not conscious of those who treat their commands with
contempt, thou biddest me sacrifice, how is it that on behalf of idols, who
lo! are present and are seen, but see not, thou biddest me sacrifice? Why,
hereby thou hast declared before all thy attendants(4) that, because they
have a mouth and speak not, lo! thou art become a pleader for them: dumb
idols "to whom their makers shall be like," and "every one that trusteth
upon them" shall be like thee.
The judge said: It was not for this that thou wast called before me--
that, instead of paying the honour which is due, thou shouldst despise the
emperors. But draw near to the gods and sacrifice, and have pity on
thyself, thou self-despiser!
Sharbil said: Why should it be requisite for thee to ask me many
questions, after that which I have said to thee: "I will not sacrifice"?
Thou hast called me a self-despiser? But would that from my childhood I had
had this mind and had thus despised myself,(5) which was perishing!
The judge said: Hang him up, and tear him with combs on his sides.--And
while he was thus torn he cried aloud and said: It is for the sake of
Christ, who has secretly caused His light to arise upon the darkness of my
mind. And, when he had thus spoken, the judge commanded again that he
should be torn with combs on his face.
Sharbil said: It is better that thou shouldest inflict tortures upon me
for not sacrificing, than that I should be judged there for having
sacrificed to the work of men's hands.
The judge said: Let his body be bent backwards, and let straps be tied
to his hands and his feet; and, when he has been bent backwards, let him be
scourged on his belly.
And they scourged him in this manner, according to the command of the
Then he commanded that he should go up to the prison, and that he
should be east into a dark dungeon. And the executioners,(6) and the
Christians who had come up with him from the church, carried him, because
he was not able to walk upon his feet in consequence of his having been
bent backwards. And he was in the gaol many days.
But on the second of Ilul,(7) on the third day of the week, the judge
arose and went down to his judgment-hall by night; and the whole body of
his attendants was with him; and he commanded the keeper of the prison, and
they brought him before him. And the judge said to him: This long while
hast thou been in prison: what has been thy determination concerning those
things on which thou wast questioned before me? Dost thou consent to
minister to the gods according to thy former custom, agreeably to the
command of the emperors?
Sharbil said: This has been my determination in the prison, that that
with which I began before thee, I will finish even to the last; nor will I
play false with my word. For I will not again confess idols, which I have
renounced; nor will I renounce the King Christ, whom I have confessed.
The judge said: Hang him up by his right hand, because he has withdrawn
it from the gods that he may not again offer incense with it, until his
hand with which he ministered to the gods be dislocated, because he
persists in this saying of his.
And, while he was suspended by his hand, they asked him and said to
him: Dost thou consent to sacrifice to the gods? But he was not able to
return them an answer, on account of the dislocation of his arm. And the
judge commanded, and they loosed him and took him down. But he was not able
to bring his arm up to his side, until the executioners pressed it and
brought it up to his side.
The judge said: Put on incense, and go whithersoever thou wilt, and no
one shall compel thee to be a priest again. But, if thou wilt not, I will
show thee tortures bitterer than these.
Sharbil said: As for gods that made not the heavens and the earth, may
they perish from under these heavens! But thou, menace me not with words of
threatening; but, instead of words, show upon me the deeds of threatening,
that I hear thee not again making mention of the detestable name of gods!
The judge said: Let him be branded with the brand of bitter fire
between his eyes and upon his cheeks.
And the executioners did so, until the smell of the branding reeked
forth in the midst of the judgment-hall: but he refused to sacrifice.
Sharbil said: Thou hast heard for thyself from me, when I said to thee
"Thou art not aware of the smoke of the roasting of the fire which is
prepared for those who, like thee, confess idols made by hands, and deny
the living God, after thy fashion."
The judge said: Who taught thee all these things, that thou shouldest
speak before me thus--a man who was a friend of the gods and an enemy of
Christ, whereas, lo! thou art become his advocate.
Sharbil said: Christ whom I have confessed, He it is that hath taught
me to speak thus. But there needeth not that I should be His advocate, for
His own mercies are eloquent advocates for guilty ones like me, and these
will avail to plead(1) on my behalf in the day when the sentences shall be
The judge said: Let him be hanged up, and let him be torn with combs
upon his former wounds; also let salt and vinegar be rubbed into the wounds
upon his sides. Then he said to him: Renounce not the gods whom thou didst
Sharbil said: Have pity on me and spare me again from saying that there
be gods, and powers, and fates, and nativities. On the contrary, I confess
one God, who made the heavens, and the earth, and the seas, and all that is
therein; and the Son who is from Him, the King Christ.
The judge said: It is not about this that thou art questioned before
me--viz.: what is the belief of the Christians which thou hast confessed;
but this is what I said to thee, "Renounce not those gods to whom thou wast
Sharbil said: Where is that wisdom of thine and of the emperors of whom
thou makest thy boast, that ye worship the work of the hands of the
artificers and confess them, whilst the artificers themselves, who made the
idols, ye insult by the burdens and imposts which ye lay upon them? The
artificer standeth up at thy presence, to do honour to thee; and thou
standest up in the presence of the work of the artificer, and dost honour
it and worship it.
The judge said: Thou art not the man to call others to account for(2)
these things; but from thyself a strict account is demanded, as to the
cause for which thou hast renounced the gods, and refusest to offer them
incense like thy fellow-priests.
Sharbil said: Death on account of this is true life: those who confess
the King Christ, He also will confess before His glorious Father.
The judge said: Let lighted candles(3) be brought, and let them be
passed round about his face and about the sides of his wounds. And they
did so a long while.
Sharbil said: It is well that thou burnest me with this fire, that so I
may be delivered from "that fire which is not quenched, and the worm that
dieth not," which is threatened to those(4) who worship things made instead
of the Maker: for it is forbidden to the Christians to honour or worship
anything except the nature of Him who is God Most High. For that which is
made and is created is designed to be a worshipper of its Maker, and is not
to be worshipped along with its Creator, as thou supposest.
The governor said: It is not this for which the emperors have ordered
me to demand an account at thy hands, whether there be judgment and the
rendering of an account after the death of men; nor yet about this do I
care, whether that which is made is to be honoured or not to be honoured.
What the emperors have commanded me is this: that, whosoever will not
sacrifice to the gods and offer incense to them, I should employ against
him stripes, and combs, and sharp swords.
Sharbil said: The kings of this world are conscious of this world only;
but the King of all kings, He hath revealed and shown to us that there is
another world, and a judgment in reserve, in which a recompense will be
made, on the one hand to those who have served God, and on the other to
those who have not served Him nor confessed Him. Therefore do I cry aloud,
that I will not again sacrifice to idols, nor will I offer oblations to
devils, nor will I do honour to demons!
The judge said: Let nails of iron be driven in between the eyes of the
insolent fellow, and let him go to that world which he is looking forward
to, like a fanatic.(1)
And the executioners did so, the sound of the driving in of the nails
being heard as they were being driven in sharply.
Sharbil said: Thou hast driven in nails between my eyes, even as nails
were driven into the hands of the glorious Architect of the creation, and
by reason of this did all orders of the creation tremble and quake at that
season. For these tortures which lo! thou art inflicting on me are nothing
in view of that judgment which is to come. For those "whose ways are always
firm," because "they have not the judgment of God before their eyes,"(2)
and who on this account do not even confess that God exists--neither will
He confess them.
The judge said: Thou sayest in words that there is a judgment; but I
will show thee in deeds: so that, instead of that judgment which is to
come, thou mayest tremble and be afraid of this one which is before thine
eyes, in which lo! thou art involved, and not multiply thy speech before
Sharbil said: Whosoever is resolved to set God before his eyes in
secret, God will also be at his right hand; and I too am not afraid of thy
threats of tortures, with which thou dost menace me and seek to make me
The judge said: Let Christ, whom thou hast confessed, deliver thee from
all the tortures which I have inflicted on thee, and am about further to
inflict on thee; and let Him show His deliverance towards thee openly, and
save thee out of my hands.
Sharbil said: This is the true deliverance of Christ imparted to me--
this secret power which He has given me to endure all the tortures thou art
inflicting on me, and whatsoever it is settled in thy mind still further to
inflict upon me; and, although thou hast plainly seen it to be so, thou
hast refused to credit my word.
The judge said: Take him away from before me, and let him be hanged
upon a beam the contrary way, head downwards; and let him be beaten with
whips while he is hanging.
And the executioners did so to him, at the door of the judgment-hall.
Then the governor commanded, and they brought him in before him. And he
said to him: Sacrifice to the gods, and do the will of the emperors, thou
priest that hatest honour and lovest ignominy instead!
Sharbil said: Why dost thou again repeat thy words, and command me to
sacrifice, after the many times that thou hast heard from me that I will
not sacrifice again? For it is not any compulsion on the part of the
Christians that has kept me back from sacrifices, but the truth they hold:
this it is that has delivered me from the error of paganism.
The judge said: Let him be put into a chest(3) of iron like a murderer,
and let him be scourged with thongs like a malefactor.
And the executioners did so, until there remained not a sound place on
Sharbil said: As for these tortures, which thou supposest to be bitter,
out of the midst of their bitterness will spring up for me fountains of
deliverance and mercy in the day of the eternal sentences.
The governor said: Let small round pieces of wood be placed between the
fingers of his hands,(4) and let these be squeezed upon them vehemently.(5)
And they did so to him, until the blood came out from under the nails
of his fingers.
Sharbil said: If thine eye be not satisfied with the tortures of the
body, add still further to its tortures whatsoever thou wilt.
The judge said: Let the fingers of his hands be loosed, and make him
sit upon the ground; and bind his hands upon his knees, and thrust a piece
of wood under his knees, and let it pass over the bands of his hands, and
hang him up by his feet, thus bent, head downwards; and let him be scourged
with thongs. And they did so to him.
Sharbil said: They cannot conquer who fight against God, nor may they
be overcome whose confidence is God; and therefore do I say, that "neither
fire nor sword, nor death nor life, nor height nor depth, can separate my
heart from the love of God, which is in our Lord Jesus Christ."
The judge said: Make hot a ball of lead and of brass, and place it
under his armpits.
And they did so, until his ribs began to be seen.
Sharbil said: The tortures thou dost inflict upon me are too little for
thy rage against me--unless thy rage were little and thy tortures were
The judge said: Thou wilt not hurry me on by these things which thou
sayest; for I have room in my mind(6) to bear long with thee, and to behold
every evil and shocking and bitter thing which(1) I shall exhibit in the
torment of thy body, because thou wilt not consent to sacrifice to the gods
whom thou didst formerly worship.
Sharbil said: Those things which I have said and repeated before thee,
thou in thine unbelief knowest not how to hear: now, supposest thou that
thou knowest those things which are in my mind?
The judge said: The answers which thou givest will not help thee, but
will multiply upon thee inflictions manifold.
Sharbil said: If the several stories of thy several gods are by thee
accepted as true, yet is it matter of shame to us to tell of what sort they
are. For one had intercourse with boys, which is not right; and another
fell in love with a maiden, who fled for refuge into a tree, as your
shameful stories tell.
The judge said: This fellow, who was formerly a respecter of the gods,
but has now turned to insult them and has not been afraid, and has also
despised the command of the emperors and has not trembled--set him to stand
upon a gridiron(2) heated with fire.
And the executioners did so, until the under part of his feet was burnt
Sharbil said: If thy rage is excited at my mention of the abominable
and obscene tales of thy gods, how much more does it become thee to be
ashamed of their acts! For lo! if a person were to do what one of thy gods
did, and they were to bring him before thee, thou wouldest pass sentence
of death upon him.
The judge said: This day will I bring thee to account for thy
blasphemy against the gods, and thine audacity in insulting also the
emperors; nor will I leave thee alone until thou offer incense to them,
according to thy former custom.
Sharbil said: Stand by thy threats, then, and speak not falsely; and
show towards me in deeds the authority of the emperors which they have
given thee; and do not thyself bring reproach on the emperors with thy
falsehood, and be thyself also despised in the eyes of thine attendants!
The judge said: Thy blasphemy against the gods and thine audacity
towards the emperors have brought upon thee these tortures which thou art
undergoing; and, if thou add further to thine audacity, there shall be
further added to thee inflictions bitterer than these.
Sharbil said: Thou hast authority, as judge: do whatsoever thou wilt,
and show no pity.
The judge said: How can he that hath had no pity on his own body, so as
to avoid suffering in it these tortures, be afraid or ashamed of not
obeying the command of the emperors?
Sharbil said: Thou hast well said that I am not ashamed: because near
at hand is He that justifieth me, and my soul is caught up in rapture
towards him. For, whereas I once provoked Him to anger by the sacrifices of
idols, I am this day pacifying Him by the inflictions I endure in my
person: for my soul is a captive to God who became man.
The judge said: It is a captive, then, that I am questioning, and a
madman without sense; and with a dead man who is burnt, lo! am I talking.
Sharbil said: If thou art assured that I am mad, question me no
further: for it is a madman that is being questioned; nay, rather, I am a
dead man who is burnt, as thou hast said.
The judge said: How shall I count thee a dead man, When lo! thou hast
cried aloud, "I will not sacrifice?"
Sharbil said: I myself, too, know not how to return thee an answer,
since thou hast called me a dead man and yet turnest to question me again
as if alive.
The judge said: Well have I called thee a dead man, because thy feet
are burnt and thou carest not, and thy face is scorched and thou holdest
thy peace, and nails are driven in between thine eyes and thou takest no
account of it, and thy ribs are seen between the furrows of the combs and
thou insultest the emperors, and thy whole body is mangled and maimed with
stripes and thou blasphemest against the gods; and, because thou hatest thy
body, lo! thou sayest whatsoever pleaseth thee.
Sharbil said: If thou callest me audacious because I have endured these
things, it is fit that thou, who hast inflicted them upon me, shouldest be
called a murderer in thy acts and a blasphemer in thy words.
The judge said: Lo! thou hast insulted the emperors, and likewise the
gods; and lo! thou insultest me also, in order that I may pronounce
sentence of death upon thee quickly. But instead of this, which thou
lookest for, I am prepared yet further to inflict upon thee bitter and
Sharbil said: Thou knowest what I have said to thee many times: instead
of denunciations of threatening, proceed to show upon me the performance of
the threat, that thou mayest be known to do the will of the emperors.
The judge said: Let him be torn with combs upon his legs and upon the
sides of his thighs.
And the executioners did so, until his blood flowed and ran down upon
Sharbil said: Thou hast well done in treating me thus: because I have
heard that one of the teachers of the Church hath said,(1) "Scars are on my
body, that I may come to the resurrection from the place of the dead." Me
too, who was a dead man out of sight, lo! thine inflictions bring to life
The judge said: Let him be torn with combs on his face, since he is not
ashamed of the nails which are driven in between his eyes.
And they tore him with combs upon his cheeks, and between the nails
which were driven into them.
Sharbil said: I will not obey the emperors, who command that to be
worshipped and honoured which is not of the nature of God, and is not God
in its nature, but is the work of him that made it.
The judge said: Like as the emperors worship, so also worship thou; and
that honour which the judges render, do thou render also.
Sharbil said: Even though I insult that which is the work of men and
has no perception and no feeling of anything, yet do not thou insult God,
the Maker of all, nor worship along with Him that which is not of Him, and
is foreign to His nature.
The judge said: Does this your doctrine so teach you, that you should
insult the very luminaries which give light to all the regions of the
Sharbil said: Although it is not enjoined upon us to insult them, yet
it is enjoined upon us not to worship them nor honour them, seeing that
they are things made: for this were an insufferable(2) wrong, that a thing
made should be worshipped along with its Maker; and it is an insult to the
Maker that His creatures should be honoured along with Himself.
The judge said: Christ whom thou confessest was hanged on a tree; and
on a tree will I hang thee, like thy Master.
And they hanged him on a tree(3) a long while.
Sharbil said: As for Christ, whom lo! thou mockest--see how thy many
gods were unable to stand before Him: for lo! they are despised and
rejected, and are made a laughing-stock and a jest by those who used
formerly to worship them.
The judge said: How is it that thou renouncest the gods, and confessest
Christ, who was hanged on a tree?
Sharbil said: This cross of Christ is the great boast of the
Christians, since it is by this that the deliverance of salvation has come
to all His worshippers, and by this that they have had their eyes
enlightened, so as not to worship creatures along with the Creator.
The governor said: Let thy boasting of the cross be kept within thy own
mind, and let incense be offered by thy hands to the gods.
Sharbil said: Those who have been delivered by the cross cannot any
longer worship and serve the idols of error made with hands: for creature
cannot worship creature, because it is itself also designed to be a
worshipper of Him who made it; and that it should be worshipped along with
its Maker is an insult to its Maker, as I have said before.
The governor said: Leave alone thy books which have taught thee to
speak thus, and perform the command of the emperors, that thou idle not by
the emperors' law.
But Sharbil said: Is this, then, the justice of the emperors, in whom
thou takest such pride, that we should leave alone the law of God and keep
The governor said: The citation of the books in which thou believest,
and from which thou hast quoted--it is this which has brought upon thee
these afflictions: for, if thou hadst offered incense to the gods, great
would have been thine honour, like as it was formerly, as priest of the
Sharbil said: To thine unbelieving heart these things seem as if they
were afflictions; but to the true heart "affliction imparts patience, and
from it comes also experience, and from experience likewise the hope"(4) of
The governor said: Hang him up and tear him with combs upon his former
And, from the fury with which the judge urged On the executioners, his
very bowels were almost seen. And, lest he should die under the combs and
escape from still further tortures, he gave orders and they took him down.
And, when the judge saw that he was become silent and was not able to
return him any further answer, he refrained from him a little while, until
he began to revive.
Sharbil said: Why hast thou had pity upon me for even this little time,
and kept me back from the gain of a confessor's death?(5)
The governor said: I have not had pity on thee at all in refraining for
a little while: thy silence it was that made me pause a little; and, if I
had power beyond the law of the emperors, I should like to lay other
tortures upon thee, so as to be more fully avenged on thee for thine insult
toward the gods: for in despising me thou hast despised the gods; and I, on
my part, have borne with thee and tortured thee thus, as a man who so
And the judge gave orders, and suddenly the curtain(6) fell before him
for a short time; and he settled and drew up the sentence(1) which he
should pronounce against him publicly.
And suddenly the curtain was drawn back again; and the judge cried
aloud and said: As regards this Sharbil, who was formerly priest of the
gods, but has turned this day and renounced the gods, and has cried aloud
"I am a Christian," and has not trembled at the gods, but has insulted
them; and, further, has not been afraid of the emperors and their command;
and, though I have bidden him sacrifice to the gods according to his former
custom, has not sacrificed, but has treated them with the greatest insult:
I have looked into the matter, and decided, that towards a man who doeth
these things, even though he were now to sacrifice, it is not fit that any
mercy should be shown; and that it is not fit that he should any longer
behold the sun of his lords, because he has scorned their laws. I give
sentence that, according to the law of the emperors, a strap(2) be thrust
into the mouth of the insulter, as into the mouth of a murderer, and that
he depart outside of the city of the emperors with haste, as one who has
insulted the lords of the city and the gods who hold authority over it. I
give sentence that he be sawn with a saw of wood, and that, when he is near
to die, then his head be taken off with the sword of the headsmen.
And forthwith a strap was thrust into his mouth with all speed, and the
executioners hurried him off, and made him run quickly upon his burnt feet,
and took him away outside of the city, a crowd of people running after him.
For they had been standing looking on at his trial all day, and wondering
that he did not suffer under his afflictions: for his countenance, which
was cheerful, testified to the joy of his heart. And, when the executioners
arrived at the place where he was to receive the punishment of death, the
people of the city were with them, that they might see whether they did
according as the judge had commanded, and hear what Sharbil might say at
that season, so that they might inform the judge of the country.
And they offered him some wine to drink, according to the custom of
murderers to drink. But he said to them: I will not drink, because I wish
to feel the saw with which ye saw me, and the sword which ye pass over my
neck; but instead of this wine, which will not be of any use to me, give me
a little time to pray, while ye stand. And he stood up, and looked toward
the east,(3) and lifted up his voice and said: Forgive me, Christ, all the
sins I have committed against Thee, and all the times in which I have
provoked Thee to anger by the polluted sacrifices of dead idols; and have
pity on me and save me,(4) and deliver me from the judgment to come; and be
merciful to me, as Thou wast merciful to the robber; and receive me like
the penitents who have been converted and have turned to Thee, as Thou also
hast turned to them; and, whereas I have entered into Thy vineyard, at the
eleventh hour, instead of judgment, deliver me from justice: let Thy death,
which was for the sake of sinners, restore to life again my slain body in
the day of Thy coming.
And, when the Sharirs of the city heard these things, they were very
angry with the executioners for having given him leave to pray.
And, while the nails were remaining which had been driven in between
his eyes, and his ribs were seen between the wounds of the combs, and while
from the burning on his sides and the soles of his feet, which were
scorched and burnt, and from the gashes of the combs on his face, and on
his sides, and on his thighs, and on his legs, the blood was flowing and
running down, they brought carpenters' instruments, and thrust him into a
wooden vice, and tightened it upon him until the bones of his joints
creaked with the pressure; then they put upon him a saw of iron, and began
sawing him asunder; and, when he was just about to die, because the saw had
reached to his mouth, they smote him with the sword and took off his head,
while he was still squeezed down in the vice.
And Babai his sister drew near and spread out her skirt and caught his
blood; and she said to him: May my spirit be united with thy spirit the
presence of Christ, whom thou hast known and believed.
And the Sharirs of the city ran and came and informed the judge of the
things which Sharbil had uttered in his prayer, and how his sister had
caught his blood. And the judge commanded them to return and give orders to
the executioners that, on the spot where she had caught the blood of her
brother, she also should receive the punishment of death. And the
executioners laid hold on her, and each one of them severally put her to
torture; and, with her brother's blood upon her, her soul took its flight
from her, and they mingled her blood with his. And, when the executioners
were entered into the city, the brethren and young men s ran and stole away
their two corpses; and they laid them in the burial-place of the father of
Abshelama the bishop, on the fifth of Ilul, the eve of the Sabbath.
I wrote these Acts on paper--I, Marinus, and Anatolus, the notaries;
and we placed them in the archives of the city, where the papers of the
kings are placed.(1)
This Barsamya,(2) the bishop, made a disciple of Sharbil the priest.
And he lived in the days of Binus,(3) bishop of Rome; in whose days the
whole population of Rome assembled together, and cried out to the
praetor(4) of their city, and said to him: There are too many strangers in
this our city, and these cause famine and clearness of everything: but we
beseech thee to command them to depart out of the city. And, when he had
commanded them to depart out of the city, these strangers assembled
themselves together, and said to the praetor: We beseech thee, my lord,
command also that the bones of our dead may depart with us. And he
commanded them to take the bones of their dead, and to depart. And all the
strangers assembled themselves together to take the bones of Simon Cephas
and of Paul, the apostles; but the people of Rome said to them: We will not
give you the bones of the apostles. And the strangers said to them: Learn
ye and understand that Simon, who is called Cephas, is of Bethsaida of
Galilee, and Paul the apostle is of Tarsus, a city of Cilicia. And, when
the people of Rome knew that this matter was so, then they let them alone.
And, when they had taken them up and were removing them from their places,
immediately there was a great earthquake; and the buildings of the city
were on the point of falling down, and the city was near being overthrown.
And, when the people of Rome saw it, their turned and besought the
strangers to remain in their city, and that the bones might be laid in
their places again. And, when the bones of the apostles were returned to
their places, there was quietness, and the earthquakes ceased, and the
winds became still, and the air became bright, and the whole city became
cheerful. And when the Jews and pagans saw it, they also ran and fell at
the feet of Fabianus, the bishop of their city, the Jews crying out: We
confess Christ, whom we crucified: He is the Son of the living-God, of whom
the prophets spoke in their mysteries. And the pagans also cried out and
said to him: We renounce idols and carved images, which are of no use, and
we believe in Jesus the King, the Son of God, who has come and is to come
again. And, what ever other doctrines there were in Rome and in all italy,
the followers of these also renounced their doctrines, like as the pagans
had renounced theirs, and confessed the Gospel of the apostles, which was
preached in the church.
Here end the Acts of Sharbil the confessor.
FURTHER, THE MARTYRDOM OF BARSAMYA,(1) THE BISHOP OF THE BLESSED CITY
IN the year four hundred and sixteen of the kingdom of the Greeks, that
is the fifteenth year of the reign of the sovereign ruler, our lord, Trajan
Caesar, in the consulship of Commodus and Cyrillus,(2) in the month Ilul,
on the fifth day of the month, the day after Lysinus,(3) the judge of the
country, had heard the case of Sharbil the priest; as the judge was sitting
in his judgment-hall, the Sharirs of the city came before him and said to
him: We give information before thine Excellency concerning Barsamya, the
leader of the Christians, that he went up to Sharbil, the priest, as he was
standing and ministering before the venerable gods, and sent and called him
to him secretly, and spoke to him, quoting from the books in which he reads
in the church where their congregation meets, and recited to him the belief
of the Christians, and said to him, "It is not right for thee to worship
many gods, but only one God, and His Son Jesus Christ"--until he made him a
disciple, and induced him to renounce the gods whom he had formerly
worshipped; and by means of Sharbil himself also many have become
disciples, and are gone down to the church, and lo! this day they confess
Christ; and even Avida, and Nebo,(4) and Barcalba, and Hafsai, honourable
and chief persons of the city, have yielded to Sharbil in this. We,
accordingly, as Sharirs of the city, make this known before thine
Excellency, in order that we may not receive punishment as offenders for
not having declared before thine Excellency the things which were spoken in
secret to Sharbil by Barsamya the guide of the church. Thine Excellency now
knoweth what it is fight to command in respect of this said matter.
And, immediately that the judge heard these things, he sent the Sharirs
of the city, and some of his attendants with them, to go down to the church
and bring up Barsamya from the church. And they led him and brought him up
to the judgment-hall of the judge; and there went up many Christians with
him, saying: We also will die with Barsamya, because we too are of one mind
with him in respect to the doctrine of which he made Sharbil a disciple,
and in all that he spoke to him, and in all the instruction that Sharbil
received from him, so that he was persuaded by him, and died for the sake
of that which he heard from him.
And the Sharirs of the city came, and said to the judge: Barsamya, as
thine Excellency commanded, lo! is standing at the door of the judg-ment-
hall of thy Lordship;(1) and honourable chief-persons of the city, who
became disciples along with Sharbil, lo! are standing by Barsamya, and
crying out, "We will all die with Barsamya, who is our teacher and guide."
And, when the judge heard those things which the Sharirs of the city
had told him, he commanded them to go out and write down the names of the
persons who were crying out, "We will die with Barsamya." And, when they
went out to write down the names of these persons, those who so cried out
were too many for them, and they were not able to write down their names,
because they were so many: for the cry kept coming to them from all sides,
that they "would die for Christ's sake along with Barsamya."
And, when the tumult of the crowd became great, the Sharirs of the city
turned back, and came in to the judge, and said to him: We are not able to
write down the names of the persons who are crying aloud outside, because
they are too many to be numbered. And the judge commanded that Barsamya
should be taken up to the prison, so that the crowd might be dispersed
which was collected together about him, lest through the tumult of the
multitude there should be some mischief in the city. And, when he went up
the gaol, those who had become disciples along with Sharbil continued with
And after many days were passed the judge rose up in the morning and
went down to his judgment-hall, in order that he might hear the case of
Barsamya. And the judge commanded, and they brought him from the prison;
and he came in and stood before him. The officers said: Lo, he standeth
before thine Excellency.
The judge said: Art thou Barsamya, who hast been made ruler and guide
of the people of the Christians, and didst make a disciple of Sharbil, who
was chief-priest of the gods, and used to worship them?
Barsamya said: It is I who have done this, and I do not deny it; and I
am prepared to die for the truth of this.
The judge said: How is it that thou wast not afraid of the command of
the emperors, so that, when the emperors commanded that every one should
sacrifice, thou didst induce Sharbil, when he was standing and sacrificing
to the gods and offering incense to them, to deny that which he had
confessed, and confess Christ whom he had denied?
Barsamya said: I was assuredly(2) made a shepherd of men, not for the
sake of those only who are found, but also for the sake of those who have
strayed from the fold of truth, and become food for the wolves of paganism;
and, had I not sought to make Sharbil a disciple, at my hands would his
blood have been required; and, if he had not listened to me, I should have
been innocent of his blood.
The judge said: Now, therefore, since thou hast confessed that it was
thou that madest Sharbil a disciple, at thy hands will I require his death;
and on this account it is right that thou rather than he shouldest be
condemned before me, because by thy hands he has died the horrible deaths
of grievous tortures for having abandoned the command of the emperors and
obeyed thy words.
Barsamya said: Not to my words did Sharbil become a disciple, but to
the word of God which He spoke: "Thou shalt not worship images and the
likenesses of men." And it is not I alone that am content to die the death
of Sharbil for his confession of Christ, but also all the Christians,
members of the Church, are likewise eager for this, because they know that
they will secure their salvation before God thereby.
The judge said: Answer me not in this manner, like Sharbil thy
disciple, lest thine own torments be worse than his; but promise that thou
wilt sacrifice before the gods on his behalf.
Barsamya said: Sharbil, who knew not God, I taught to know Him: and
dost thou bid me, who have known God from my youth, to renounce God? God
forbid that I should do this thing!
The judge said: Ye have made the whole creation disciples of the
teaching of Christ; and lo! they renounce the many gods whom the many
worshipped. Give up this way of thinking,(3) lest I make those who are near
tremble at thee as they behold thee to-day, and those also that are afar
off as they hear of the torments to which thou art condemned.
Barsamya said: If God is the help of those who pray to Him, who is he
that can resist them? Or what is the power that can prevail against them?
Or thine own threats--what can they do to them: to men who, before thou
give commandment concerning them that they shall die, have their death
already set before their eyes, and are expecting it every day?
The judge said: Bring not the subject of Christ before my judgment-
seat; but, instead of this, obey the command of the emperors, who command
to sacrifice to the gods.
Barsamya said: Even though we should not lay the subject of Christ
before thee, yet the sufferings of Christ are portrayed indelibly(1) in the
worshippers of Christ; and, even more than thou hearkenest to the commands
of the emperors, do we Christians hearken to the commands of Christ the
King of kings.
The judge said: Lo! thou hast obeyed Christ and worshipped him up to
his day: henceforth obey the emperors, and worship the gods whom the
Barsamya said: How canst thou bid me renounce that in which I was born?
when lo! thou didst exact punishment for this at the hand of Sharbil, and
saidst to him: Why hast thou renounced the paganism in which thou wast
born, and confessed Christianity to which thou wast a stranger? Lo! even
before I came into thy presence thou didst thyself give testimony on the
matter beforehand, and saidst to Sharbil: The Christians, to whom thou art
gone over, do not renounce that in which they were born, but continue in
it. Abide, therefore, by the word, which thou hast spoken.
The judge said: Let Barsamya be scourged, because he has rebelled
against the command of the emperors, and has caused those also who were
obedient to the emperors to rebel with him.
And, when he had been scourged by five men, he said to him: Reject not
the command of the emperors, nor insult the emperors' gods.
Barsamya said: Thy mind is greatly blinded, O judge, and so also is
that of the emperors who gave thee authority; nor are the things that are
manifest seen by you; nor do ye perceive that lo! the whole creation
worships Christ; and thou sayest to me, Do not worship Him, as if I alone
worshipped Him--Him whom the watchers(2) above worship on high.
The judge said: But if ye have taught men to worship Christ, who is it
that has persuaded those above to worship Christ?
Barsamya said: Those above have themselves preached, and have taught
those below concerning the living worship of the King Christ, seeing that
they worship Him, and His Father, together with His divine Spirit.(3)
The judge said: Give up these things which your writings teach you, and
which ye teach also to others, and obey those things which the emperors
have commanded, and spurn not their laws--lest ye be spurned by means of
the sword from the light of this venerable sun.
Barsamya said: The light which pusseth away and abideth not is not the
true light, but is only the similitude of that true light, to whose beams
darkness cometh not near, which is reserved and standeth fast for the true
worshippers of Christ.
The judge said: Speak not before me of anything else instead of that
about which I have asked thee, lest I dismiss thee from life to death, for
denying this light which is seen and confessing that which is not seen.
Barsamya said: I cannot leave alone that about which thou askest me,
and speak of that about which thou dost not ask me. It was thou that
spakest to me about the light of the sun, and I said before thee that there
is a light on high which surpasses in its brightness that of the sun which
thou dost worship and honour. For an account will be required of thee for
worshipping thy fellow-creature instead of God thy Creator.
The judge said: Do not insult the very sun, the light of creatures, nor
set thou at nought the command of the emperors, nor contentiously resist
the lords of the country, who have authority in it.
Barsamya said: Of what avail is the light of the sun to a blind man
that cannot see it? For without the eyes of the body, it is not possible
for its beams to be seen. So that by this thou mayest know that it is the
work of God, forasmuch as it has no power of its own to show its light to
The judge said: When I have tortured thee as thou deservest, then will
I write word about thee to the Imperial government, reporting what insult
thou hast offered to the gods, in that thou madest a disciple of Sharbil
the priest, one who honoured the gods, and that ye despise the laws of the
emperors, and that ye make no account of the judges of the countries, and
live like barbarians, though under the authority of the Romans
Barsamya said: Thou dost not terrify me by these things which thou
sayest. It is true, I am not in the presence of the emperors to-day; yet
lo! before the authority which the emperors have given thee I am now
standing, and I am brought to trial, because I said, I will not renounce
God, to whom the heavens and the earth belong, nor His Son Jesus Christ,
the King of all the earth.
The judge said: If thou art indeed assured of this, that thou art
standing and being tried before the authority of the emperors, obey their
commands, and rebel not against their laws, lest like a rebel thou receive
the punishment of death.
Barsamya said: But if those who rebel against the emperors, even when
they justly rebel, are deserving of death, as thou sayest; for those who
rebel against God, the King of kings, even the punishment of death by the
sword is too little.
The judge said: It was not that thou shouldest expound in my judgment-
hall that thou wast brought in before me, because the trial on which thou
standest has but little concern with expound-ing, but much concern with the
punishment of death, for those who insult the emperors and comply not with
Barsamya said: Because God is not before your eyes, and ye refuse to
hear the word of God; and graven images that are of no use, "which have a
mouth and speak not," are accounted by you as though they spake, because
your understanding is blinded by the darkness of paganism in which ye
The judge interrupting said: Leave off those things thou art saying,
for they will not help thee at all, and worship the gods, before the bitter
tearings of combs and harsh tortures come upon thee.
Barsamya said: Do thou too leave off the many questions which lo! thou
askest me, and give command for the stripes and the combs with which thou
dost menace me: for thy words will not help thee so much as thy inflictions
will help me.
The judge said: Let Barsamya be hanged up and torn with combs.
And at that very moment there came to him letters from Alusis(1) the
chief proconsul, father of emperors.(2) And he commanded, and they took
down Barsamya, and he was not torn with combs; and they took him outside of
the hall of judgment.
And the judge commanded that the nobles, and the chief persons, and the
princes, and the honourable persons of the city, should come before him,
that they might hear what was the order that was issued by the emperors, by
the hand of the proconsuls, the rulers of the countries under the authority
of the Romans. And it was found that the emperors had written by the hand
of the proconsuls to the judges of the countries:(3) "Since our Majesty
commanded that there should be a persecution against the people of the
Christians, we have heard and learned, from the Sharirs whom we have in the
countries under the dominion of our Majesty, that the people of the
Christians are persons who eschew murder, and sorcery, and adultery, and
theft, and bribery and fraud, and those things for which the laws of our
Majesty also exact punishment from those who commit them. We, therefore, in
our impartial justice, have commanded that on account of these things the
persecution of the sword shall cease from them, and that there shall be
rest and quietness in all our dominions, they continuing to minister
according to their custom and no man hindering them. It is not, however,
towards them that we show clemency, but towards their laws, agreeing as
they do with the laws of our Majesty. And, if any man hinder them after
this our command, that sword which is ordered by us to descend upon those
who despise our command, the same do we command to descend upon those who
despise this decree of our clemency."
And, when this command of the emperor's clemency was read, the whole
city rejoiced that there was quietness and rest for every man. And the
judge commanded, and they released Barsamya, that he might go down to his
church. And the Christians went up in great numbers to the judgment-hall,
together with a great multitude of the population of the city, and they
received Barsamya with great and exceeding honour, repeating psalms before
him, according to their custom; there went also the wives of the chief of
the wise men. And they thronged about him, and saluted him, and called him
"the persecuted confessor," "the companion of Sharbil he martyr." And he
said to them: Persecuted I am, like yourselves; but from the tortures and
combs of Sharbil and his companions I am clean escaped.(4) And they said to
him: We have heard from thee that a teacher of the Church has said, "The
will, according to what it is, so is it accepted."(5) And, when he was
entered into the church, he and all the people that were with him, he stood
up and prayed, and blessed them and sent them away to their homes rejoicing
and praising God for the deliverance which He had wrought for them and for
And the day after Lysinas(6) the judge of the country had set his hand
to these Acts, he was dismissed from his authority.
I Zenophilus and Patrophilus are the notaries who wrote these Acts,
Diodorus and Euterpes,(7) Sharirs of the city, bearing witness with us by
setting-to their hand, as the ancient laws of the ancient kings command.
This(8) Barsamya, bishop of Edessa, who made a disciple of Sharbil, the
priest of the same city, lived in the days of Fabianus, bishop of the city
of Rome. And ordination to the priesthood was received by Barsamya from
Abshelama, who was bishop in Edessa; and by Abshelama ordination was
received from Palut the First; and by Palut ordination was received from
Serapion, bishop of Antioch; and by Serapion ordination was received from
Zephyrinus, bishop of Rome; and Zephyrinus of Rome received ordination from
Victor of the same place, vis., Rome; and Victor received ordination from
Eleutherius; and Eleutherius received it from Sorer; and Soter received it
from Anicetus; and Anicetus received it from Dapius;(1) and Dapius
received it from Telesphorus; and Telesphorus received it from Xystus;(2)
and Xystus received it from Alexander; and Alexander received it from
Evartis;(3) and Evartis received it from Cletus; and Cletus received it
from Anus;(4) and Anus received it from Simon Cephas; and Simon Cephas
received it from our Lord, together with his fellow-apostles, on the first
day of the week, the day of the ascension of our Lord to His glorious
Father, which was the fourth day of Heziran,(5) which was is the
nineteenth(6) year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, in the consulship of
Rufus and Rubelinus, which year was the year 341; for in the year 309
occurred the advent(7) of our Saviour in the world, according to the
testimony which we ourselves have found in a correct register(8) among the
archives, which errs not at all in whatever it sets forth.
Here endeth the martyrdom of Barsamya, bishop of Edessa.
ANCIENT SYRIAC DOCUMENTS
MARTYRDOM OF HABIB THE DEACON.(1)
IN the month Ab,(2) of the year six hundred and twenty of the kingdom
of Alexander the Macedonian, in the consulate of Licinius and
Constantine,(3) which is the year in which he(4) was born, in the
magistracy(5) of Julius and Barak, in the days of Cona.(6) bishop of
Edessa, Licinius made a persecution against the Church and all the people
of the Christians, after that first persecution which Diocletian the
emperor had made. And Licinius the emperor commanded that there should be
sacrifices and libations, and that the altars in every place should be
restored, that they might bum sweet spices and frankincense before Zeus.
And, when many were persecuted, they cried out of their own accord: We
are Christians; and they were not afraid of the persecution, because these
who were persecuted were more numerous than those who persecuted them.
Now Habib, who was of the village of Telzeha(7) and had been made a
deacon, went secretly into the churches which were in the villages, and
ministered and read the Scriptures, and encouraged and strengthened many by
his words, and admonished them to stand fast in the truth of their belief,
and not to be afraid of the persecutors; and gave them directions.
And, when many were strengthened by his words, and received his
addresses affectionately, being careful not to renounce the covenant they
had made, and when the Sharirs of the city, the men who had been appointed
with reference to this particular matter, heard of it, they went in and
informed Lysanias, the governor who was in the town of Edessa, and said to
him: Habib, who is a deacon in the village of Telzeha, goes about and
ministers secretly in every place, and resists the command of the emperors,
and is not afraid.
And, when the governor heard these things, he was filled with rage
against Habib; and he made a report, and sent and informed Licinius the
emperor of all those things which Habib was doing; he wished also to
ascertain(8) what command would be issued respecting him and the rest of
those who would not sacrifice. For although a command had been issued that
every one should sacrifice, yet it had not been commanded what should be
done to those who did not sacrifice: because they had heard that
Constantine, the commander(9) in Gaul and Spain, was become a Christian
and did not sacrifice. And Licinius the emperor thus command Lysanias the
govern or: Whoever it is that has been so daring as to transgress our
command, our Majesty has commanded that he shall be burned(10) with fire;
and that all others who do not consent to sacrifice shall be put to death
by the sword.
Now, when this command came to the town of Edessa, Habib, in reference
to whom the report had been made, was gone across the river to the country
of the people of Zeugma,(11) to minister there also secretly. And, when the
governor sent and inquired for him in his village, and in all the country
round about, and he was not to be found, he commanded that all his family
should be arrested, and also the inhabitants of his village; and they
arrested them and put them in irons, his mother and the rest of his family,
and also some of the people of his village; and they brought them to the
city, and shut them up in prison.
And, when Habib heard what had taken place, he considered in his mind
and pondered anxiously in his thoughts: It is expedient for me, said he,
that I should go and appear before the judge of the country, rather than
that I should remain in secret and others should be brought in to him and
be crowned with martyrdom because of me, and that I should find myself in
great shame. For in what respect will the name of Christianity help him who
flees from the confession of Christianity? Lo! if he flee from this, the
death of nature is before him whithersoever he goes, and escape from it he
cannot, because this is decreed against all the children of Adam.
And Habib arose and went to Edessa secretly, having prepared his back
for the stripes and his sides for the combs, and his person for the burning
of fire. And he went immediately(1) to Theotecna,(2) a veteran(3) who was
chief of the band of attendants(4) on the governor; and he said to him: I
am Habib of Telzeha, whom ye are inquiring for. And Theotecna said to him:
If so be that no one saw thee coming to me, hearken to me in what I say to
thee, and depart and go away to the place where thou hast been, and remain
there in this time of persecution; and of this, that thou camest to me and
spakest with me and that I advised thee thus, let no one know or be aware.
And about thy family and the inhabitants of thy village, be not at all
anxious: for no one will at all hurt them; but they will be in prison a few
days only, and then the governor will let them go: because against them
the emperors have not commanded anything serious or alarming. But, if on
the contrary thou wilt not be persuaded by me in regard to these things
which I have said to thee, I am clear of thy blood: because, if so be that
thou appear before the judge of the country, thou wilt not escape from
death by fire, according to the command of the emperors which they have
issued concerning thee.
Habib said to Theotecna: It is not about my family and the inhabitants
of my village that I am concerned, but for my own salvation, lest it should
be forfeited. About this too I am much distressed, that I did not happen to
be in my village on the day that the governor inquired for me, and that on
my account lo! many are put in irons, and I have been looked upon by him as
a fugitive. Therefore, if so be that thou wilt not consent to my request
and take me in before the governor, I will go alone and appear before him.
And, when Theotecna heard him speak thus to him, he laid hold of him
firmly, and handed him over to his assistants,(5) and they went together to
conduct him to the judgment-hall of the governor. And Theotecna went in and
informed the governor, and said to him: Habib of Tetzeha, whom thine
Excellency was inquiring for, is come. And the governor said: Who is it
that has brought him? and where did they find him? and what did he do where
he was? Theotecna said to him: He came hither himself, of his own accord,
and without the compulsion of any one, since no one knew anything about
And when the governor heard this, he was greatly exasperated against
him; and thus he spoke: This fellow, who has so acted, has shown great
contempt towards me and has despised me, and has accounted me as no judge;
and, because he has so acted, it is not meet that any mercy should be shown
towards him; nor yet either that I should hasten to pass sentence of death
against him, according to the command of the emperors concerning him; but
it is meet for me to have patience with him, so that the bitter torments
and punishments inflicted on hint may be the more abundant, and that
through him I may terrify many others from daring again to flee.
And, many persons being collected together and standing by him at the
door of the judgment-hall, some of whom were members of the body of
attendants, and some people of the city, there were some of them that said
to him: Thou hast done badly in coming and showing thyself to those who
were inquiring for thee, without the compulsion of the judge; and there
were others, again, who said to him: Thou hast done well in coming and
showing thyself of thine own accord, rather than that the compulsion of the
judge should bring thee: for now is thy confession of Christ known to be of
thine own will, and not from the compulsion of men.
And those things which the Sharirs of the city had heard from those who
were speaking to him as they stood at the door of the judgment-hall--and
this circumstance also in particular, that he had gone secretly to
Theotecna and that he had not been willing to denounce him, had been heard
by the Sharirs of the city--everything that they had heard they made known
to the judge.
And the judge was enraged against those who had been saying to Habib:
Wherefore didst thou come and show thyself to the judge, without the
compulsion of the judge himself? And to Theotecna he said: It is not seemly
for a man who has been made chief over his fellows to act deceitfully in
this manner towards his superior, and to set at nought the command of the
emperors, which they issued against Habib the rebel, that he should be
burned with fire.
Theotecna said: I have not acted deceitfully against my fellows,
neither was it my purpose to set at naught the command which the emperors
have issued: for what am I before thine Excellency, that I should have
dared to do this? But I strictly questioned him as to that for which thine
Excellency also has demanded an account at my hands, that I might know and
see whether it was of his own free will that he came hither or whether the
compulsion of thine Excellency brought him by the hand of others; and, when
I heard from him that he came of his own accord, I carefully brought him to
the honourable door of the judgment-hall of thy Worship.(1)
And the governor hastily commanded, and they brought in Habib before
him. The officers said: Lo! he standeth before thine Excellency,
And he began to question him thus, and said to him: What is thy name?
And whence art thou? And what art thou?
He said to him: My name is Habib, and I am from the village of Telzeha,
and I have been made a deacon.
The governor said: Wherefore hast thou transgressed the command of the
emperors, and dost minister in thine office of deacon, which thou art
forbidden by the emperors to do, and refusest to sacrifice to Zeus, whom
the emperors worship?
Habib said: We are Christians; we do not worship the works of men, who
are nothing, whose works also are nothing; but we worship God, who made the
The governor said: Persist not in that daring mind with which thou art
come into my presence, and insult not Zeus, the great boast of the
Habib said: But this Zeus is an idol, the work of men. It is very well
for thee to say that I insult him. But, if the carving of him out of wood
and the fixing of him with nails proclaim aloud concerning him that he is
made, how sayest thou to me that I insult him? since lo! his insult is from
himself, and against himself.
The governor said: By this very thing, that thou refusest to worship
him, thou insultest him.
Habib said: But, if because I do not worship him I insult him, how
great an insult, then, did the carpenter inflict on him, who carved him
with an axe of iron; and the smith, who smote him and fixed him with nails!
And, when the governor heard him speak thus he commanded him to be
scourged without pity. And, when he had been scourged by five men, he said
to him: Wilt thou now obey the emperors? For, if thou wilt not obey them, I
will tear thee severely with combs, and I will torture thee with all kinds
of tortures, and then at last I will give command concerning thee that thou
be burned with fire.
Habib said: These threats with which lo! thou art seeking to terrify
me, are much meaner and paltrier than those which I had already settled it
in my mind to endure: therefore(2) came I and made my appearance before
The governor said: Put him into the iron cask(3) for murderers, and let
him be scourged as he deserves. And, when he had been scourged, they said
to him: Sacrifice to the gods. But he cried aloud, and said: Accursed are
your idols, and so are they who join with you in wor-shipping them like
And the governor commanded, and they took him up to the prison; but
they refused him permission to speak with his family, or with the
inhabitants of his village, according to the command of the judge. On that
day was the festival of the emperors.
And on the second of Ilul the governor commanded, and they brought him
from the prison. And he said to him: Wilt thou renounce the profession thou
hast made(4) and obey the command which the emperors issue? For, if thou
wilt not obey, with the bitter tearings of combs will I make thee obey
Habib said: I have not obeyed them, and morever it is settled in my
mind that I will not obey them--no, not even if thou lay upon me
punishments still worse than those which the emperors have commanded.
The governor said: By the gods I swear, that, if thou do not sacrifice,
I will leave no harsh and bitter sufferings untried with which I will not
torture thee: and we shall see whether Christ, whom thou worshippest, will
Habib said: All those who worship Christ are delivered through Christ,
because they worship not creatures along with the Creator of creatures.
The governor said: Let him be stretched out and be scourged with whips,
until there remain not a place in his body on which he has not been
Habib said: As for these inflictions, which thou supposest to be so
bitter with their lacerations,(5) out of them are plaited crowns of victory
for those who endure them.
The governor said: How call ye afflictions ease, and account the
torments of your bodies a crown of victory?
Habib said: It is not for thee to ask me concerning these things,
because thine unbelief is not worthy to hear the reasons of them. That I
will not sacrifice I have said already, and I say so still.
The governor said: Thou art subjected to these punishments because thou
deservest them: I will put out thine eyes, which look upon this Zeus and
are not afraid of him; and I will stop thine ears, which hear the laws of
the emperors and tremble not.
Habib said: To the God whom thou deniest here belongs that other world;
and there wilt thou be made to confess Him with scourgings, though thou
hast again denied Him.
The governor said: Leave alone that world of which thou hast spoken,
and consider anxiously now, that from this punishment to which lo! thou art
being subjected there is no one that can deliver thee; unless indeed the
gods deliver thee, on thy sacrificing to them.
Habib said: Those who die for the sake of the name of Christ, and
worship not those objects that are made and created, will find their life
in the presence of Cod;(1) but those who love the life of time more than
that--their torment will be for ever.
And the governor commanded, and they hanged him up and tore him with
combs; and, while they were tearing him with the combs, they knocked him
about. And he was hanging a long while, until the shoulderblades of his
The governor said to him: Wilt thou comply even now, and put on incense
before Zeus there?(2)
Habib said: Previously to these sufferings I did not comply with thy
demands: and now that lo! I have undergone them, how thinkest thou that I
shall comply, and thereby lose that which I have gained by them?
The governor said: By punishments fiercer and bitterer than these I am
prepared to make thee obey, according to the command of the emperors,
until thou do their will.
Habib said: Thou art punishing me for not obeying the command of the
emperors, when lo! thou thyself also, whom the emperors have raised to
greatness and made a judge, hast transgressed their command, in that thou
hast not done to' me that which the emperors have commanded thee.
The governor said: Because I have had patience with thee, therefore
hast thou spoken thus, like a man that brings an accusation.
Habib said: Hadst thou not scourged me, and bound me, and torn me with
combs, and put my feet in fetters,(3) there would have been room to think
that thou hadst had patience with me. But, if these things take place in
the meanwhile, where is the patience towards me of which thou hast spoken?
The governor said: These things which thou hast said will not help
thee, because they all go against thee, and they will bring upon thee
inflictions bitterer even than those which the emperors have commanded.
Habib said: Had I not been sensible that they would help me, I should
not have spoken a single word about them before thee.
The governor said: I will silence thy speeches, and at the same time as
regards thee pacify the gods, whom thou has not worshipped; and I will
satisfy the emperors in respect to thee, as regards thy rebellion against
Habib said: I am not afraid of the death with which thou seekest to
terrify me; for, had I been afraid of it, I should not have gone about from
house to house and ministered: on which account I did so minister.(4)
The governor said: How is it that thou worshippest and honourest a man,
but refusest to worship and honour Zeus there?
Habib said: I worship not a man, because the Scriptures teaches me,(6)
"Cursed is every one that putteth his trust in man;" but God, who took upon
Him a body and became a man, Him do I worship, and glorify.
The governor said: Do thou that which the emperors have commanded; and,
as for that which is in thy own mind, if thou art willing to give it up,
well; but, if thou art not willing, then do not abandon it.
Habib said: To do both these things is impossible: because falsehood is
contrary to truth, and it is impossible that that should be banished from
my thoughts which is firmly fixed in my mind.
The governor said: By inflictions bitter and severe will I make thee
dismiss from thy thoughts that of which thou hast said, It is firmly fixed
in my mind.
Habib said: As for these inflictions by which thou thinkest that it
will be rooted out of my thoughts, by means of these it is that it grows
within my thoughts, like a tree which bears fruit.
The governor said: What help will stripes and combs give to that tree
of thine? and more especially at the time when I shall command fire against
it, to burn it up without pity.
Habib said: It is not on those things at which thou lookest that I
look, because I contemplate the things which are out of sight; and
therefore I do the will of God, the Maker of all things,, and not that of
an idol made with hands, which is not sensible of anything whatever.
The governor said: Because he thus denies the gods whom the emperors
worship, let him be torn with Combs in addition to his former tearings:
for, amidst the many questions which I have had the patience to ask him, he
has forgotten his former tearings.
And, while they were tearing him, he cried aloud and said: "The
sufferings of this time are not equal to that glory which shall be revealed
in"(1) those who love Christ.
And, when the governor saw that even under these inflictions he refused
to sacrifice, he said to him: Does your doctrine so teach you, that you
should hate your own bodies?
Habib said: Nay, we do not hate our bodies: the Scripture distinctly
teaches us, "Whosoever shall lose his life shall find it."(2) But another
thing too it teaches us: that we should "not cast that which is holy to
dogs, nor cast pearls before swine."(3)
The governor said: I know that in speaking thus thy sole object is that
my rage and the wrath of my mind may be excited, and that I may pronounce
sentence of death against thee speedily. I am not going, then, to be
hurried on to that which thou desirest; but I will have patience: not;
indeed, for thy relief, but so that the tortures inflicted on thee may be
increased, and that thou mayest see thy flesh failing off before thy face
by means of the combs that are passing over thy sides.
Habib said: I myself also am looking for this, that thou shouldst
multiply thy tortures upon me, even as thou hast said.
The governor said: Submit to the emperors, who have power to do
whatsoever they choose.
Habib said: It is not of men to do whatsoever they choose, but of God,
whose power is in the heavens, and over all the dwellers upon earth; "nor
is there any that may rebuke His hands(4) and say to Him, ' What doest
The governor said: For this insolence of thine, death by the sword is
too small. I, however, am prepared to command the infliction upon thee of a
death more bitter than that of the sword.
Habib said: And I, too, am looking for a death which is more lingering
than that of the sword, which thou mayest pronounce upon me at any time
And thereupon the governor proceeded to pass sentence of death upon
him. And he called out aloud before his attendants, and said, whilst they
were listening to him, as were also the nobles of the city: This Habib, who
has denied the gods, as ye have also heard from him, and furthermore has
reviled the emperors, deserves that his life should be blotted out from
beneath this glorious Sun, and that he should not any longer behold this
luminary, associate of gods; and, had it not been commanded by former
emperors that the corpses of murderers should be buried, it would not be
right that the corpse of this fellow either should be buried, because he
has been so insolent. I command, that a strap be put into his mouth, as
into the mouth of a murderer, and that he be burned by a slow lingering
fire, so that the torment of his death may be increased.
And he went out from the presence of the governor, with the strap
thrust into his mouth; and a multitude of the people of the city ran after
him. And the Christians were rejoicing, forasmuch as he had not turned
aside nor quitted his post;(5) but the pagans were threatening him, for
refusing to sacrifice. And they led him forth by the western archway, over
against the cemetery,(6) which was built by (7) Abshelama,(8) the son of
Abgar. And his mother was clad in white, and she went out with him.
And, when he was arrived at the place where they were going to burn
him, he stood up and prayed, as did all those who came out with him; and he
said: "O King Christ, since Thine is this world, and Thine the world to
come, behold and see, that, while I might have fled from these afflictions,
I did not flee, in order that I might not fall into the hands of Thy
justice: may this fire, in which I am to be burned, serve me for a
recompense before Thee, so that I may be delivered from that fire which is
not quenched; and receive Thou my spirit into Thy presence, through Thy
Divine Spirit, O glorious Son of the adorable Father!" And, when he had
prayed, he turned and blessed them; and they weeping gave him the
salutation, both men and women; and they said to him: Pray for us in the
presence of thy Lord, that He would cause peace among His people, and
restoration to His churches which are overthrown.
And, while Habib was standing, they dug a place, and brought him and
set him within it; and they fixed up by him a stake. And they came to bind
him to the stake; but he said to them: I will not stir from this place in
which ye are going to burn me. And they brought fagots, and set them in
order, and placed them on all sides of him. And, when the fire blazed up
and the flame of it rose fiercely, they called out to him: Open thy mouth.
And the moment he opened his mouth his soul mounted up. And they cried
aloud, both men and women, with the voice of weeping.
And they pulled and drew him out of the fire, throwing over him fine
linen cloths and choice ointments and spices. And they snatched away some
of the pieces of wood which had been put for his burning, and the brethren
and some persons of the laity bore him away. And they prepared him for
interment, and buried him by Guria and Shamuna the martyrs, in the same
grave in which they were laid, on the hill which is called Baith Allah
Cucla, repeating over him psalms and hymns, and conveying his burnt body
affectionately and honourably to the grave. And even some of the Jews and
pagans took part with the Christian brethren in winding up and burying his
body. At the time, too, when he was burned, and also at the time when he
was buried, there was one spectacle of grief overspreading those within and
those without; tears, too, were running down from all eyes: while every one
gave glory to God, because for His name's sake he had given his body to the
burning of fire.
The day on which he was burned was the eve of the Sabbath, the
second of the month Ilul--the day on which the news came that Constantine
the Great had set out from the interior of Spain, to proceed to Rome, the
city of Italy, that he might carry on war with Licinius, that emperor who
at this day rules over the eastern portion of the territories of the
Romans; and lo! the countries on all sides are in commotion, because no man
knows which of them will conquer and continue in his imperial power. And
through this report the persecution slackened for a little while from the
And the notaries wrote down everything which they had heard from the
judge; and the Sharirs of the city wrote down all the other things which
were spoken outside the door of the judgment-hall, and, according to the
custom that existed, they reported to the judge all that they had seen and
all that they had heard, and the decisions of the judge were written down
in their Acts.
I, Theophilus, who have renounced the evil inheritance of my fathers,
and confessed Christ, carefully wrote out a copy of these Acts of Habib,
even as I had formerly written out those of Guria and Shamuna, his
fellow-martyrs. And, whereas he had felicitated them upon their death by
the sword, he himself also was made like them by the fire in which he was
burnt, and received his crown. And, whereas I have written down the year,
and the month, and the day, of the coronation of these martyrs, it is not
for the sake of those who, like me, were spectators of the deed, but with
the view that those who come after us may learn at what time these martyrs
suffered, and what manner of men they were; as they may lean also from the
Acts of the former martyrs, who suffered in the days of Domitianus and of
all the other emperors who likewise also raised a persecution against the
Church, and put a great many to death, by stripes and by tearing with
combs, and by bitter inflictions, and by sharp swords, and by burning fire,
and by the terrible sea, and by the merciless mines. And all these things,
and things like them, they suffered for the hope of the recompense to come.
Moreover, the afflictions of these martyrs, and of those of whom I had
heard, opened the eyes of me, Theophilus, and enlightened my mind, and I
confessed Christ, that He is the Son of God, and is God. And may the dust
of the feet of these martyrs, which I received as I was running after them
at the time when they were departing to be crowned, procure me pardon for
having denied Him, and may He confess me before His worshippers, seeing
that I have confessed Him now!
And at the twenty-seventh question which the judge put to Habib, he
gave sentence against him of death by the burning of fire.
Here endeth the martyrdom of Habib the deacon.
ANCIENT SYRIAC DOCUMENTS
MARTYRDOM OF THE HOLY CONFESSORS SHAMUNA, GURIA, AND HABIB, FROM SIMEON
IN the six hundredth year from the empire of Alexander the Macedonian,
when Diocletian had been nine years sovereign of the Romans, and Maximian
was consul for the sixth time, and Augur son of Zoaras was praetor, and
Cognatus was bishop of the Edessenes, a great persecution was raised
against the churches in all the countries which were under the sway of the
Romans. The name of Christian was looked upon as execrable, and was
assailed and harassed with abuse; while the priests and the monks, on
account of their staunch and unconquerable stedfastness, were-subjected to
shocking punishments, and the pious were at their wits' end with sadness
and fear. For, desiring as they did to proclaim the truth because of their
yearning affection for Christ, they yet shrunk back from doing so for fear
of punishment. For those who took up arms against true religion were bent
on making the Christians renounce Christianity and embrace the cause of
Saturn and Rhea, whilst the faithful on their part laboured to prove that
the objects of heathen worship had no real existence.
At this period it was that an accusation was preferred before the judge
against Guria and Shamuna. The former was a native of Sarcigitua, and the
latter of the village of Ganas; they were, however, both brought up at
Edessa--which they call Mesopotamia, because it is situated between the
Euphrates and the Tigris: a city previously to this but little known to
fame, but which after the struggles of its martyrs obtained universal
notoriety. These holy men would not by any means spend their lives in the
city, but removing to a distance from it, as those who wished to be remote
from its turmoils, they made it their aim to be manifest to God only.
Guria's purity and lovingness were to him a precious and honourable
possession, and from his cultivation of the former the surname of the pure
was given him: so that from his name you would not have known who he was,
but only when you called him by his surname. Shamuna devoted his body and
his youthful and active mind to the service of God, and rivalled Guria in
excellence of character. Against these men an indictment was laid before
the judge, to the effect that they not only pervaded all the country round
about Edessa with their teaching and encouraged the people to hold fast
their faith, but also led them to look with contempt on their persecutors,
and, in order to induce them to set wholly at nought their impiety, taught
them agreeably to that which is written: "Trust not in princes--in the sons
of men, in whom is no safety." By these representations the judge was
wrought up to a high pitch of madness, and gave orders that all those who
held the Christian religion in honour and followed the teaching of Shamuna
and Guria, together with those who persuaded them to this, should be
apprehended, and shut up in safe keeping. The order was carried into
effect; and, seizing the opportunity, he had some of them flogged, and
others tortured in various ways, and induced them to obey the emperor's
command, and then, as if he were behaving kindly and mercifully, he allowed
others to go to their homes; but our two saints, as being the ringleaders
and those who bad communicated their piety to others, he ordered to be
still further maltreated in prison. They, however, rejoiced in the
fellowship of martyrdom. For they heard of many in other provinces who had
to pass through the same conflict as themselves: among them Epiphanius and
Petrus and the most holy Pamphilus, with many others, at Caesarea in
Palestine; Timotheus at Gaza; at Alexandria, Timotheus the Great; Agapetus
at Thessalonica; Hesychius at Nicomedia; Philippus at Adrianopolis; at
Melitina Petrus; Hermes and his companions in the confines of Martyropolis:
all of whom were also encircled with the crown of martyrdom by Duke
Heraclianus, along with other confessors too numerous for us to become
acquainted with. But we must return to the matters of which we were before
Antonius, then, the governor of Edessa, having permitted others to
return to their homes, had a lofty judgment-seat erected, and ordered the
martyrs to be brought before him. The attendants having done as they were
bidden, the governor said to the saints: Our most divine emperor commands
you to renounce Christianity, of which you are followers, and to pay divine
honour to Jupiter by offering incense on the altar. To this Shamuna
replied: Far be it from us to abandon the true faith, whereby we hope to
obtain immortality, and worship the work of men's hands and an image! The
governor said: The emperor's orders must by all means be obeyed. Guria
answered: Our pure and divine faith will we never disown, by following the
will of men, who are subject to dissolution. For we have a Father in heaven
whose will we follow, and He says: "He that shall confess Me before men,
him will I also confess before My Father who is in heaven; but he that
shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father and His
angels." The judge said: You refuse, then, to obey the will of the
emperor? But can you for a moment think, that the purposes of ordinary men
and such as have no more power than yourselves are to be really carried
into execution, while the commands of those who possess supreme power fall
to the ground? They, said the saints, who do the will of the King of kings
spurn and reject the will of the flesh. Then, on the governor's threatening
them with death unless they obeyed, Shamuna said: We shall not die, O
tyrant, if we follow the will of the Creator: nay rather, on the contrary,
we shall live; but, if we follow the commands of your emperor, know thou
that, even thought thou shouldest not put us to death, we shall perish
miserably all the same.
On hearing this, the governor gave orders to Anovitus the jailor to put
them in very safe keeping. For the mind which is naturally inclined to evil
cannot bear the truth, any more than diseased eyes the bright beams of the
sun. And, when he had done as he was commanded, and the martyrs were in
prison, where many other saints also had been previously shut by the
soldiers, the Emperor Diocletian sent for Musonius the governor of Antioch
and ordered him to go to Edessa and see the Christians who were confined
there, whether they were of the common or of the sacred class, and question
them about their religion, and deal with them as he should see fit. So he
came to Edessa; and he had Shamuna and Guria first of all placed before the
tribunal of judgment, and said to them: This, arid no less, is the command
of the lord of the world, that you make a libation of wine and place
incense on the altar of Jupiter. If you refuse to do so, I will destroy you
with manifold punishments: for I will tear your bodies to pieces with
whips, till I get to your very entrails; and I will not cease pouring
boiling lead into your armpits until it reaches even to your bowels; after
that, I will hang you up, now by your hands, now by your feet, and I will
loosen the fastenings of your joints; and I will invent new and unheard of
punishments which you will be utterly unable to endure.
Shamuna answered: We dread "the worm," the threat of which is denounced
against those who deny the Lord, and "the fire which is not quenched," more
than those tortures which thou hast set before us. For God Himself, to whom
we offer rational worship, will, first of all, strengthen us to bear these
manifold tortures, and will deliver us out of thy hands; and, after that,
will also give us to rest in a place of safety, where is the abode of all
those who rejoice. Besides, it is against nothing whatever but the body
that thou takest up arms: for what possible harm couldst thou do to the
soul? since, as long as it resides in the body, it proves superior to
torture; and, when it takes its departure, the body has no feeling whatever
left. For, "the more our outward man is destroyed, the more is our inward
man renewed day by day; for by means of patience we go through with this
contest which is set before us. The governor, however, again, with a kind
of protestation, in order that, in case they did not obey, he might with
the more justice punish them, said: Give up your error, I beg you, and
yield to the command of the emperor: ye will not be able to endure the
tortures. The holy Guria answered: We are neither the slaves of error, as
thou sayest, nor will we ever obey the command of the emperor: God forbid
that we should be so weak-minded and so senseless! For we are His disciples
who laid down His life for us, so manifesting the riches of His goodness
and His love towards us. We will, therefore, resist sin even to death, nor,
come what may, will we be foiled by the stratagems of the adversary, by
which the first man was ensnared and plucked death from the tree through
his disobedience; and Cain was persuaded, and, after staining his hands
with his brother's blood, found the rewards of sin to be wailing and fear.
But we, listening to the words of Christ, will "not be afraid of those that
kill the body but are not able to kill the soul:" Him rather will we fear
"who is able to destroy our soul and body." The tyrant said: It is not
to give you an opportunity of disproving my allegations by snatches of your
own writings that I refrain from anger and show myself forbearing; but that
you may perform the command of the emperor and return in peace to your
These words did not at all shake the resolution of the martyrs; but,
approaching nearer: What, said they, does it matter to us, if thou art
angry, and nursest thine anger, and rainest tortures upon us like snow-
flakes? For then wouldst thou be favouring us all the more, by rendering
the proof of our fortitude more conspicuous, and winning for us a greater
recompense. For this is the crowning point of our hope, that we shall leave
behind our present dwelling, which is but for a time, and depart to one
that will last forever. For we have "a tabernacle not made with hands"
in heaven, which the Scripture is accustomed also to call "Abraham's
bosom," because of the familiar intercourse with God with which he was
blessed. The governor, seeing that their firmness underwent no change,
forthwith left off speaking and proceeded with the threatened punishments,
giving orders to the jailor Anuinus that they should be severally hung up
by one hand, and that, when their hands were dislocated by having to bear
the entire weight of the body, he should further suspend a heavy stone to
their feet, that the sense of pain might be the sharper. This was done, and
from the third hour to the eighth they bore this severe torture with
fortitude, uttering not a word, nor a groan, nor giving any other
indication of a weak or abject mind. You would have said that they were
suffering in a body which was not theirs, or that others were suffering and
they themselves were nothing more than spectators of what was going on.
In the meantime, whilst they were hanging by their hands, the governor
was engaged in trying other cases. Having done with these, he ordered the
jailor to inquire of the saints whether or not they would obey the emperor
and be released from their torture; and on his putting the question to
them, when it was found that they either could not or would not return an
answer, he ordered that they should be confined in the inner part of the
prison, in a dark dungeon, dark both in name and in reality, and that their
feet should be made fast in the stocks. At dawn of day, their feet were
loosened from the confinement of the stocks; but their prison was close
shut up, so that not a single ray even of sunlight could make its way in;
and the jailors were ordered not to give them a bit of bread or a single
drop of water for three whole days. So that, in addition to all the rest,
the martyrs were condemned to a dark prison and a long privation of food.
When the third day arrived, about the beginning of the month of August, the
prison was opened to admit light, but they were detained in it stir up to
the 10th of November. Then the judge had them brought up before his
tribunal: Has not all this time, said he, sufficed to induce you to change
your minds and come to some wholesome decision? They answered: We have
already several times told thee our mind: do, therefore, what thou hast
been commanded. The governor forthwith ordered that Shamuna should be made
to kneel down on one side and that an iron chain should be fastened on
his knee. This having been done, he hung him up head downwards by the foot
with which he had made him kneel; the other he pulled downwards with a
heavy piece of iron, which cannot be described in words: thus endeavouring
to rend the champion in twain. By this means the socket of the hip-bone was
wrenched out of its place and Shamuna became lame. Guria, however, because
he was weak and somewhat pale, he left unpunished: not that he regarded him
with friendly eyes--not that he had any compassion on his weakness; but
rather by way of sparing for another opportunity one whom he was anxious to
punish: lest perchance, as he said, through inadvertence on my part he
should be worn out before he has undergone the torments in reserve for him.
By this time two hours of the day had passed since Shamuna had been
hung up; and the fifth hour had now arrived, and he was still suspended on
high--when the soldiers who stood around, taking pity upon him, urged him
to obey the emperor's command. But the compassion of sinners had no effect
upon the saint. For, although he suffered bitterly from the torture, he
vouchsafed them no answer whatever, leaving them to lament at their
leisure, and to deem themselves rather, and not him, deserving of pity.
But, lifting his eyes to heaven, he prayed to God from the depth of his
heart, reminding Him of the wonders done in old time: Lord God, he said,
without whom not even a poor little sparrow falls into the snare; who
didst cheer the heart of David amid his afflictions; who gavest power to
Daniel even against the lions; who madest the children of Abraham
victorious over the tyrant and the flame: do Thou now also, O Lord, look on
the war which is being waged against us, acquainted as Thou art with the
weakness of our nature. For the enemy is trying to turn away the
workmanship of Thy right hand from the glory which is with Thee. But regard
Thou us with looks of compassion, and maintain within us, against all
attempts to extinguish it, the lamp of Thy commandments; and by Thy light
guide our paths, and vouchsafe us the enjoyment of that happiness which is
in Thee: for Thou art blessed for ever, world without end. Thus did he
utter the praise of the Umpire of the strife; and a scribe who was present
took down in writing what was said.
At length the governor ordered the jailor to release him from his
punishment. He did so, and carried him away all faint and exhausted with
the pain he suffered, and they bore him back to his former prison and laid
him down by the side of the holy Guria. On the 15th of November, however,
in the night, about the time of cockcrowing, the judge got up. He was
preceded by torches and attendants; and, on arriving at the Basilica, as it
is called, where the court was held, he took his seat with great ceremony
on the tribunal, and sent to fetch the champions Guria and Shamuna. The
latter came in walking between two of the jailors and supported by the
hands of both: for he was worn out with hunger and weighed down with age:
nothing but his good hope sustained him. Guria, too, had also to be carried
in: for he could not walk at all, because his foot had been severely galled
by the chain on it. Addressing them both, the advocate of impiety said: In
pursuance of the permission which was granted, you have, doubtless,
consulted together about what it is expedi-ent for you to do. Tell me,
then, whether any fresh resolution has been come to by you, and whether you
have in any respect changed your mind in regard to your former purpose; and
obey the command of the most divine emperor. For thus will you be restored
to the enjoyment of your property and possessions, yea of this most
cheering light also. To this the martyrs reply: No one who is wise would
make any great account of continuing for a little while in the enjoyment of
things which are but transient. Sufficient for us is the time already past
for the use and the sight of them; nor do we feel the want of any of them.
That death, on the contrary, with which thou art threatening us will convey
us to imperishable habitations and give us a participation in the happiness
which is yonder.
The governor replied: What you have said has filled my ears with great
sadness. However, I will explain to you what is determined on: if you place
incense on the altar and sacrifice to the image of Jupiter, all will be
well, and each of you will go away to his home; but, if you still persist
in disobeying the command of the emperor, you will most certainly lose your
heads: for this is what the great emperor wills and determines. To this the
most noble-minded Shamuna replied: If, thou shalt confer upon us so great a
favour as to grant us deliverance from the miseries of this life and
dismissal to the happiness of the life yonder, so far as in us lies thou
shalt be rewarded by Him who lays out our possessions on what is for our
good. The governor replied to this somewhat kindly, as it seemed, saying: I
have patiently endured hitherto, putting up with those long speeches of
yours, in order that by delay you may change your purpose and betake
yourselves to what is for your good, and not have to undergo the punishment
of death. Those who submit, said he, to death which is only for a time, for
the sake of Christ, will manifestly be delivered from eternal death. For
those who die to the world live in Christ. For Peter also, who shines so
brightly among the band of apostles, was condemned to the cross and to
death; and James, the son of thunder was slain by Herod Agrippa with the
sword. Moreover, Stephen also was stoned, who was the first to run the
course of martyrdom. What, too, wilt thou say of John the Baptist? Thou
wilt surely acknowledge his distinguished fortitude and boldness of speech,
when he preferred death rather than keep silence about conjugal infidelity,
and the adulteress received his head as a reward for her dancing?
Again the governor said: It is not that you may reckon up your saints,
as you call them, that I bear so patiently with you, but that, by changing
your resOlution and yielding to the emperor's commands, you may be rescued
from a very bitter death. For, if you behave with such excessive daring and
arrogance, what can you expect but that severer punishments are in store
for you, under the pressure of which you will be ready even against your
will to do what I demand of you: by which time, however, it will be
altogether too late to take refuge in compassion? For the cry which is
wrung from you by force has no power to challenge pity; whilst, on the
other hand, that which is made of your own accord is deserving of
compassion. The confessors and martyrs of Christ said: There needs not many
words., For lo! we are ready to undergo all the punishments thou mayest lay
upon us. What, therefore, has been commanded thee, delay not to perform.
For we are the worshippers of Christ the true God, and (again we say it) of
Him of whose kingdom there shall be no end; who also is alone able to
glorify those in return who glorify His name. In the meantime, whilst these
things were being said by the saints, the governor pronounced sentence
against them that they should suffer death by the sword. But they, filled
with a joy, beyond the power of words to express, exclaimed: To Thee of
right belongeth glory and praise, who art God of all, because it hath
pleased Thee that we should carry on to its dose the conflict we have
entered upon, and that we should also receive at Thy hands the brightness
that shah never fade away.
When, therefore, the governor saw their unyielding firmness, and how
they had heard the final sentence with exultation of soul, he said to the
saints: May God search into what is being done, and be witness that so far
as I was concerned it was no wish of mine that you should lose your lives;
but the inflexible command of the emperor to me compels me to this. He then
ordered a halberdier to take charge of the martyrs, and, putting them in a
carriage, to convey them to a distance from the city with some soldiers,
and there to end them with the sword. So he, taking the saints out at night
by the Roman gate, when the citizens were buried in profound slumber,
conveyed them to Mount Bethelabicla on the north of the city. On their
arrival at that place, having alighted from the carriage with joy of heart
and great firmness of mind, they requested the halberdier and those who
were under his orders to give them time to pray; and it was granted. For,
just as if their tortures and their blood were not enough to plead for
them, they still by reason of their humility deemed it necessary to pray.
So they raised their eyes to heaven and prayed earnestly, concluding with
the words: God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, receive in peace our
spirits to Thyself. Then Shamuna, turning to the halberdier, said: Perform
that which thou hast been commanded. So he kneeled down along with Guria,
and they were beheaded, on the 15th of November. This is the account of
what happened to the martyrs.
But forasmuch as the number sought for a third in order that in them
the Trinity might be glorified, it found, oh admirable providence! Habib--
at a subsequent time indeed: but he also, along with those who had preceded
him, had determined to enter on the journey, and on the very day of
their martyrdom reached his consummation. Habib, then, great among martyrs,
was a native of the same place as they, namely of the village of
Thelsaea; and he had the honour of being invested with the sacred office
of the diaconate. But, when Licinius swayed the sceptre of the Roman empire
and Lysanias had appointed governor of Edessa, a persecution was again
raised against the Christians, and the general danger threatened Habib. For
he would go about the city, teaching the divine Scriptures to all he met
with, arid courageously seeking to strengthen them in piety. When this came
to the ears of Lysanias, he gave information of it to the Emperor Licinius.
For he was anxious to be himself entrusted with the business of bringing
the Christians to trial, and especially Habib: for he had never been
entrusted with it before. The emperor, then, sent him a letter and
commanded him to put Habib to death. So, when Lysanias had received the
letter, search was made everywhere for Habib, who on account of his office
in the Church lived in some part of the city, his mother and some of his
relations residing with him. When he got intelligence of the matter,
fearing lest he should incur punishment for quitting the ranks of
martyrdom, he went of his own accord and presented himself to a man who was
among the chief of the body-guard, named Theotecnus, and presently he said:
I am Habib for whom ye are seeking. But he, looking kindly at him, said: No
one, my good man, is as yet aware of thy coming to me: so go away, and look
to thy safety; and he not concerned about thy mother, nor about thy
relations: for they cannot possibly get into any trouble. Thus far
But Habib, because the occasion was one that called for martyrdom,
refused to yield to a weak and cowardly spirit and secure his safety in any
underhand way. He replied, therefore: It is not for the sake of my dear
mother, nor for the sake of my kinsfolk, that I denounce myself; but I have
come for the sake of the confession of Christ. For Io! whether thou
consent or no, I will make my appearance before the governor, and I will
proclaim my Master Christ before princes and kings. Theotecnus,
accordingly, apprehensive that he might go of his own accord to the
governor, and that in this way he might himself be in jeopardy for not
having denounced him, took Habib and conducted him to the governor: Here,
said he, is Habib, for whom search has been made. When Lysanias learned
that Habib had come of his own accord to the contest, he concluded that
this was a mark of contempt and overweening boldness, as if he set light by
the solemn dignity of the judicial seat; and he had him at once put on his
trial. He inquired of him his condition of life, his name, and his country.
On his answering that he was a native of the village of Thelsaea, and
intimating that he was a minister of Christ, the governor immediately
charged the martyr with not obeying the emperor's commands. He insisted
that a plain proof of this was his refusal to offer incense to Jupiter. To
this Habib kept replying that he was a Christian, and could not forsake the
true God, or sacrifice to the lifeless works of men's hands which had no
sensation. The governor hereupon ordered, that his arms should be bound
with ropes, and that he should be raised up high on a beam and torn with
iron claws. The hanging up was far more difficult to bear than the
tearing: for he was in danger of being pulled asunder, through the forcible
strain with which his arms were stretched out.
In the meantime, as he was hanging up in the air, the governor had
recourse to smooth words, and assumed the guise of patience. He, however,
continued to threaten him with severer punishments unless he should change
his resolution. But he said: No man shall induce me to forsake the faith,
nor persuade me to worship demons, even though he should inflict tortures
more and greater. On the governor's asking him what advantage he expected
to gain from tortures which destroyed his whole body, Habib, Christ's
martyr, replied: The objects, of our regard do not last merely for the
present, nor do we pursue the things that are seen; and, if thou too art
minded to turn thy look towards our hope and promised recompense, possibly
thou wilt even say with Paul: "The sufferings of this time are not worthy
to be compared with the glory which is to be revealed in us." The
governor pronounced his words to be the language of imbecility; and, when
he saw that, notwithstanding all the efforts he made, by turns using smooth
words and assuming the part of patience, and then again threatening him and
menacing him with a shocking death, he could not in either way prevail
with him, he said, as he pronounced sentence upon him: I will not inflict
on thee a sudden and speedy death; I will bring on thy dissolution
gradually by means of a slow fire, and in this way make thee lay aside thy
fierce and intractable spirit. Thereupon, some wood was collected together
at a place outside the city on the northward, and he was led to the pile,
followed by his mother, and also by those who were otherwise by blood
related to him. He then prayed, and pronounced a blessing on all, and gave
them the kiss in the Lord; and after that the wood was kindled by them, and
he was cast into the fire; and, when he had opened his mouth to receive the
flame, he yielded up his spirit to Him who had given it. Then, when the
fire had subsided, his relatives wrapped him in a costly piece of linen and
anointed him with unguents; and, having suitably sung psalms and hymns,
they laid him by the side of Shamuna and Guria, to the glory of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, who constitute a Divine Trinity,
which cannot be divided: to whom is due honour and worship now and always,
and for evermore, Amen. Such was the close of the life of the martyr Habib
in the time of Licinius, and thus did he obtain the privilege of being laid
with the saints, and thus did he bring to the pious rest from their
persecutions. For shortly afterwards the power of Licinius waned, and the
rule of Constantine prospered, and the sovereignty of the Romans became
his; and he was the first of the emperors who openly professed piety, and
allowed the Christians to live as Christians.
ANCIENT SYRIAC DOCUMENTS.
MOSES OF CHORENE.
HISTORY OF ARMENIA.
I. REIGN OF ABGAR; ARMENIA BECOMES COMPLETELY TRIBUTARY TO THE ROMANS;
WAR WITH HEROD'S TROOPS; HIS BROTHER'S SON, JOSEPH, IS KILLED.
ABGAR, son of Archam, ascends the throne in the twentieth year of
Archavir, king of the Persians. This Abgar was called Avak-air (great man),
on account of his great gentleness and wisdom, and also on account of his
size. Not being able to pronounce well, the Greeks and the Syrians called
him Abgar. In the second year of his reign, all the districts of Armenia
become tributary to the Romans. A command is given by the Emperor Augustus,
as we are told in the Gospel of St. Luke, to number all the people in every
part. Roman commissioners, sent for that purpose into Armenia, carried
thither the statue of the Emperor Augustus, and set it up in all the
temples. At this very time, our Saviour Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came
into the world.
At the same period there was trouble between Abgar and Herod: for Herod
wished that his statue should be erected near to that of Caesar in the
temples of Armenia. Abgar withstood this claim. Moreover, Herod was but
seeking a pretext to attack Abgar: he sent an army of Thracians and Germans
to make an incursion into the country of the Persians, with orders to pass
through the territories of Abgar. But Abgar, far from submitting to this,
resisted, saying that the emperor's command was to march the troops into
Persia through the desert. Herod, indignant, and unable to act by himself,
overwhelmed with troubles, as a punishment for his wicked conduct towards
Christ, as Josephus relates, sent his nephew to whom he had given his
daughter, who had been married in the first
instance to Pheror, his brother. Herod's lieutenant, at the head of a
considerable army, hastened to reach Mesopotamia, met Abgar at the camp in
the province of Pouknan, fell in the combat, and his troops were put to
flight. Soon afterwards, Herod died: Archelaus, his son, was appointed by
Augustus ethnarch of Judaea.
II. FOUNDING OF THE TOWN OF EDESSA; BRIEF ACCOUNT OF THE RACE OF OUR
A little while afterwards, Augustus dies, and Tiberius becomes emperor
of the Romans in his stead. Germanicus, having become Caesar, dragging in
his train the princes of the kingdom of Archavir and of Abgar, celebrates a
triumph in respect of the war waged with them, in which these princes had
killed Herod's nephew. Abgar, indignant, forms plans of revolt and prepares
himself for combat. He builds a town on the ground occupied by the Armenian
army of observation, where previously the Euphrates had been defended
against the attempts of Cassius: this new town is called Edessa. Abgar
removed to it his court, which was at Medzpine, all his gods, Naboc, Bel,
Patnicagh, and Tarata, the books of the schools attached to the temples,
and even the royal archives.
After this, Archavir being dead, Ardaches, his son, reigns over the
Persians. Though it is not in the order of the history with respect to
time, nor even the order according to which we have begun these annals,
yet, as we are treating of descendants of the king archavir, even of the
blood of Ardaches his son, we will, to do honour to these princes, place
them, by anticipating the time, near to Ardaches, in order that the reader
may know that they are of the same race, of the race of the brave Archag;
then we will indicate the time of the arrival of their fathers in Armenia,
the Garenians and the Sourenians, from whom St. Gregory and the Gamsarians
are descended, when, following the order of events, we come to the reign of
the king under whom they appeared.
Abgar did not succeed in his plans of revolt; for, troubles having
arisen amongst his relatives in the Persian kingdom, he set out at the head
of an army to allay and bring to an end the dissension.
III. ABGAR COMES INTO THE EAST, MAINTAINS ARDACHES UPON THE THRONE OF
PERSIA; RECONCILES HIS BROTHERS FROM WHOM OUR ILLUMINATOR AND HIS RELATIONS
Abgar, having gone to the East, finds on the throne of Persia
Ardaches, son of Archavir, and the brothers of Ardaches contending against
him: for this prince thought to reign over them in his posterity, and they
would not consent to it. Ardaches therefore hems them in on all sides,
hangs the sword of death over their heads; distractions and dissension were
between their troops and their other relations and allies: for King
Archavir had three sons and one daughter; the first of these sons was King
Ardaches himself, the second Garene, the third Sourene; their sister, named
Gochm, was wife of the general of all the Ariks, a general chosen by their
Abgar prevails on the sons of Archavir to make peace; he arranges
between them the conditions and stipulations: Ardaches is to reign with his
posterity as he proposed, and his brothers are to be called Bahlav, from
the name of their town and their vast and fertile country, so that their
satrapies shall be the first, higher in rank than all the satrapies of
Persia, as being truly a race of king. Treaties and oaths stipulated that
in case of the extinction of male children of Ardaches, his brothers should
come to the throne; after the reigning race of Ardaches, his brothers are
divided into three races named thus: the race of Garene Bahlav, the race of
Sourene Bahlav, and the race of their sister, the race of Asbahabied
Bahlav, a race thus called from the name of the domain of her husband.
St. Gregory is said to have sprung from the race Sourene Bahlav, and
the Gamsarians from the race Garene Bahlav. We will relate in the sequel
the circumstances of the coming of these personages, only mentioning their
names here in connection with Ardaches, in order that you may know that
these great races are indeed the blood of Vagharchag, that is to say, the
posterity of the great Archag, brother of Vagharchag.
Everything being thus arranged, Abgar takes with him the letter of the
treaties, and returns to his dominions; not in perfect health, but a prey
to severe suffering.
IV. ABGAR RETURNS FROM THE EAST; HE GIVES HELP TO ARETAS IN A WAR
AGAINST HEROD THE TETRARCH.
When Abgar had returned from the East, he learnt that the Romans
suspected him of having gone there to raise troops. He therefore made the
Roman commissioners acquainted with the reasons of his journey to Persia,
as well as the treaty concluded between Ardaches and his brothers; but no
credence was given to his statement: for he was accused by his enemies
Pilate, Herod the tetrarch, Lysanias and Philip. Abgar having returned to
his city Edessa leagued himself with Aretas, king of Petra, and gave him
some auxiliary troops under the command of Khosran Ardzrouni, to make war
upon Herod. Herod had in the first instance married the daughter of Aretas,
then had repudiated her, and thereupon taken Herodias, even in her
husband's lifetime, a circumstance in connection with whiCh he had had John
the Baptist put to death. Consequently there was war between Herod and
Aretas on account of the wrong done the daughter of Aretas, Being sharply
attacked, Herod's troops were defeated, thanks to the help of the brave
Armenians; as if, by divine providence, vengeance was taken for the death
of John the Baptist.
V. ABGAR SENDS PRINCES TO MARINUS; THESE DEPUTIES SEE OUR SAVIOUR
CHRIST; BEGINNING OF THE CONVERSION OF ABGAR.
At this period Marinus, son of Storoge, was raised by the emperor to
the government of Phoenicia, Palestine, Syria, and Mesopotamia. Abgar sent
to him two of his principal officers, Mar-Ihap prince of Aghtznik, and
Chamchacram chief of the house of the Abahouni, as well as Anan his
confidant. The envoys proceed to the town of Petkoupine to make known to
Marinus the reasons of Abgar's journey to the East, showing him the treaty
concluded between Ardaches and his brothers, and at the same time to call
upon Marinus for his support. The deputies found the Roman governor at
Eleutheropolis; he received them with friendship and distinction, and gave
this answer to Abgar: "Fear nothing from the emperor on that account,
provided you take good care to pay the tribute regularly."
On their return, the Armenian deputies went to Jerusalem to see our
Saviour the Christ, being attracted by the report of His miracles. Having
themselves become eye-witnesses of these wonders, they related them to
Abgar. This prince, seized with admiration, believed truly that Jesus was
indeed the Son of God, and said: "These wonders are not those of a man, but
of a God. No, there is no one amongst men who can raise the dead: God alone
has this power." Abgar felt in his whole body certain acute pains which he
had got in Persia, more than seven years before; from men he had received
no remedy for his sufferings; Abgar sent a letter of entreaty to Jesus: he
prayed Him to come and cure him of his pains. Here is this letter:--
VI. ABGAR'S LETTER TO THE SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST.
"Abgar, son of Archam, prince of the land, to Jesus, Saviour and
Benefactor of men, who has appeared in the country of Jerusalem, greeting:-
"I have heard of Thee, and of the cures wrought by Thy hands, without
remedies, without herbs: for, as it is said, Thou makest the blind to see,
the lame to walk, the lepers to be healed; Thou drivest out unclean
spirits, Thou curest unhappy beings afflicted with prolonged and inveterate
diseases; Thou dost even raise the dead. As I have heard of all these
wonders wrought by Thee, I have concluded from them either that Thou art
God, come down from heaven to do such great things, or that Thou art the
Son of God, working as Thou dost these miracles. Therefore have I written
to Thee, praying Thee to condescend to come to me and cure me of the
complaints with which I am afflicted. I have heard also that the Jews
murmur against Thee and wish to deliver Thee up to torments: I have a city
small but pleasant, it would be sufficient for us both."
The messengers, the bearers of this letter, met Jesus at Jerusalem, a
fact confirmed by these words of the Gospel: "Some from amongst the heathen
came to find Jesus, but those who heard them, not daring to tell Jesus what
they had heard, told it to Philip and Andrew, who repeated it all to their
The Saviour did not then accept the invitation given to Him, but He
thought fit to honour Abgar with an answer in these words:--
VII. ANSWER TO ABGAR'S LETTER, WHICH THE APOSTLE THOMAS WROTE TO THIS
PRINCE BY COMMAND OF THE SAVIOUR.
"Blessed is he who believes in me without having seen me! For it is
written of me: ' Those who see me will not believe in me, and those who do
not see me will believe and live.'
As to what thou hast written asking me to come to thee, I must accomplish
here all that for which I have been sent; and, when I shall have
accomplished it all, I shall ascend to Him who sent me; and when I shall go
away I will send one of my disciples, who will cure thy diseases, and give
life to thee and to all those who are with thee." Anan, Abgar's courier,
brought him this letter, as well as the portrait of the Saviour, a picture
which is still to be found at this day in the city of Edessa.
VIII. PREACHING OF THE APOSTLE THADDAEUS AT EDESSA; COPY OF FIVE
After the ascension of our Saviour, the Apostle Thomas, one of the
twelve, sent one of the seventy-six disciples, Thaddaeus, to the city of
Edessa to heal Abgar and to preach the Gospel, according to the word of the
Lord. Thaddaeus came to the house of Tobias, a Jewish prince, who is said
to have been of the race of the Pacradouni. Tobias, having left Archam, did
not abjure Judaism with the rest of his relatives, but followed its laws up
to the moment when he believed in Christ. Soon the name of Thaddaeus
spreads through the whole town. Abgar, on learning of his arrival, said:
"This is indeed he concerning whom Jesus wrote to me;" and immediately
Abgar sent for the apostle. When Thaddaeus entered, a marvellous appearance
presented itself to the eyes of Abgar in the countenance of the apostle;
the king having risen from his throne, fell on his face to the earth, and
prostrated himself before Thaddaeus. This spectacle greatly surprised all
the princes who were present, for they were ignorant of the fact of the
vision. "Art thou really," said Abgar to Thaddaeus, "art thou the disciple
of the ever-blessed Jesus? Art thou he whom He promised to send to me, and
canst thou heal my maladies?" "Yes," answered Thaddaeus; "if thou believest
in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the desires of thy heart shall be
granted." "I have believed in Jesus," said Abgar, "I have believed in His
Father; therefore I wished to go at the head of my troops to destroy the
Jews who have crucified Jesus, had I not been prevented by reason of the
power of the Romans."
Thenceforth Thaddaeus began to preach the Gospel to the king and his
town; laying his hands upon Abgar, he cured him; he cured also a man with
gout, Abdu, a prince of the town, much honoured in all the king's house. He
also heated all the sick and infirm people in the town, and all believed in
Jesus Christ. Abgar was baptized, and all the town with him, and the
temples of the false gods were closed, and all the statues of idols that
were placed on the altars and columns were hidden by being covered with
reeds. Abgar did not compel any one to embrace the faith yet from day to
day the number of the believers was multiplied.
The Apostle Thaddaeus baptizes a manufacturer of silk head-dresses,
called Attaeus, consecrates him, appoints him to minister at Edessa, and
leaves him with the king instead of himself. Thaddaeus, after having
received letters patent from Abgar, who wished that all should listen to
the Gospel of Christ, went to find Sanadroug, son of Abgar's sister, whom
this prince had appointed over the country and over the army. Abgar was
pleased to write to the Emperor Tiberius a letter in these words:--
Abgar's letter to Tiberius.
"Abgar, king of Armenia, to my Lord Tiberius, emperor of the Romans,
"I know that nothing is unknown to your Majesty, but, as your friend, I
would make you better acquainted with the facts by writing. The Jews who
dwell in the cantons of Palestine have crucified Jesus: Jesus without sin,
Jesus after so many acts of kindness, so many wonders and miracles wrought
for their good, even to the raising of the dead. Be assured that these are
not the effects of the power of a simple mortal, but of God. During the
time that they were crucifying Him, the sun was darkened, the earth was
moved, shaken; Jesus Himself, three days afterwards, rose from the dead and
appeared to many. Now, everywhere, His name alone, invoked by His
disciples, produces the greatest miracles: what has happened to myself is
the most evident proof of it. Your august Majesty knows henceforth what
ought to be done in future with respect to the Jewish nation, which has
committed this crime; your Majesty knows whether a command should not be
published through the whole universe to worship Christ as the true God.
Safety and health."
Answer from Tiberius to Abgar's letter.
"Tiberius, emperor of the Romans, to Abgar, king of the Armenians,
"Your kind letter has been read to me, and I wish that thanks should be
given to you from me. Though we had already heard several persons relate
these facts, Pilate has officially informed us of the miracles of Jesus. He
has certified to us that after His resurrection from the dead He was
acknowledged by many to be God. Therefore I myself also wished to do what
you propose; but, as it is the custom of the Romans not to admit a god
merely by the command of the sovereign, but only when the admission has
been discussed and examined in full senate, I proposed the affair to the
senate, and they rejected it with contempt, doubtless because it had not
been considered by them first. But we have commanded all those whom Jesus
suits, to receive him amongst the gods. We have threatened with death any
one who shall speak evil of the Christians. As to the Jewish nation which
has dared to crucify Jesus, who, as I hear, far from deserving the cross
and death, was worthy of honour, worthy of the adoration of men--when I am
free from the war with rebellious Spain, I will examine into the matter,
and will treat the Jews as they deserve."
Abgar writes another letter to Tiberius.
"Abgar, king of the Armenians, to my lord Tiberius, emperor of the
"I have received the letter written from your august Majesty, and I
have applauded the commands which have emanated from your wisdom. If you
will not be angry with me, I will say that the conduct of the senate is
extremely ridiculous and absurd: for, according to the senators, it is
after the examination and by the suffrages of men that divinity may be
ascribed. Thus, then, if God does not suit man, He cannot be God, since God
is to be judged and justified by man. It will no doubt seem just to my lord
and master to send another governor to Jerusalem in the place of Pilate,
who ought to be ignominiously driven from the powerful post in which you
placed him; for he has done the will of the Jews: he has crucified Christ
unjustly, without your order. That you may enjoy health is my desire."
Abgar, having written this letter, placed a copy of it, with copies of
the other letters, in his archives. He wrote also to the young Nerseh, king
of Assyria, at Babylon:--
Abgar's letter to Nerseh.
"Abgar, king of the Armenians, to my son Nerseh, greeting:--
"I have received your letter and acknowledgments. I have released
Beroze from his chains, and have pardoned his offences: if this pleases
you, give him the government of Nineveh. But as to what you write to me
about sending you the physician who works miracles and preaches another God
superior to fire and water, that you may see and hear him, I say to you: he
was not a physician according to the art of men; he was a disciple of the
Son of God, Creator of fire and water: he has been appointed and sent to
the countries of Armenia. But one of his principal companions, named Simon,
is sent into the countries of Persia. Seek for him, and you will hear him,
you as well as your father Ardaches. He will heal all your diseases and
will show you the way of life."
Abgar wrote also to Ardaches, king of the Persians, the following
Abgar's letter to Ardaches.
"Abgar, king of the Armenians, to Ardaches my brother, king of the
"I know that you have heard of Jesus Christ the Son of God, whom the
Jews have crucified Jesus who was raised from the dead, and has sent His
disciples through all the world to instruct men. One of His chief
disciples, named Simon, is in your Majesty's territories. Seek for him, and
you will find him, and he will cure you of all your maladies, and will show
you the way of life, and you will believe in his words, you, and your
brothers, and all those who willingly obey you. It is very pleasant to me
to think that my relations in the flesh will be also my relations, my
friends, in the spirit."
Abgar had not yet received answers to these letters when he died,
having reigned thirty-eight years.
IX. MARTYRDOM OF OUR APOSTLES.
After the death of Abgar, the kingdom of Armenia was divided between
two: Ananoun, Abgar's son, reigned at Edessa, and sister's son, Sanadroug,
in Armenia. What took place in their time has been previously told by
others: the apostle's arrival in Armenia, the conversion of Sanadroug and
his apostasy for fear of the Armenian satraps, and the martyrdom of the
apostle and his companions in the canton of Chavarchan, now called Ardaz,
and the stone opening to receive the body of the apostle, and the removal
of this body by his disciples, his burial in the plain, and the martyrdom
of the king's daughter, Santoukhd, near the road, and the apparition of the
remains of the two saints, and their removal to the rocks--all
circumstances related by others, as we have said, a long time before us: we
have not thought it important. to repeat them here. In the same way also
what is related of the martyrdom at Edessa of Attaeus, a disciple of the
apostle, a martyrdom ordered by Abgar's son, has been told by others before
The prince who reigned after the death of his father, did not inherit
his father's virtues: he opened the temples of the idols, and embraced the
religion of the heathen. He sent word to Attaeus: "Make me a head-dress of
cloth interwoven with gold, like those you formerly used to make for my
father." He received this answer from Attaeus: "My hands shall not make a
head-dress for an unworthy prince, who does not worship Christ the living
Immediately the king ordered one of his armed men to cut off Attaeus'
feet. The soldier went, and, seeing the holy man seated in the chair of the
teacher, cut off his legs with his sword, and immediately the saint gave up
the ghost. We mention this cursorily, as a fact related by others a long
while ago. There came then into Armenia the Apostle Bartholomew, who
suffered martyrdom among us in the town of Arepan. As to Simon, who was
sent unto Persia, I cannot relate with certainty what he did, nor where he
suffered martyrdom. It is said that one Simon, an apostle, was martyred at
Veriospore. Is this true, or why did the saint come to this place? I do not
know; I have only mentioned this circumstance that you may know I spare no
pains to tell you all that is necessary.
X. REIGN OF SANADROUG; MURDER OF ABGAR'S CHILDREN; THE PRINCESS
Sanadroug, being on the throne, raises troops with the help of the
brave Pacradouni and Ardzrouni, who had exalted him, and goes to wage war
upon the children of Abgar, to make him self master of the whole kingdom.
Whilst Sanadroug was occupied with these affairs, as if by an effect of
divine providence vengeance was taken for the death of Attaeus; for a
marble column which the son of Abgar was having erected at Edessa, on the
summit of his palace, while he was underneath to direct the work, escaped
from the hands of the workmen, fell upon him and crushed his feet.
Immediately there came a message from the inhabitants of the town,
asking Sanadroug for a treaty by which he should engage not to disturb them
in the exercise of the Christian religion, in consideration of which, they
would give up the town and the king's treasures. Sanadroug promised, but in
the end violated his oath. Sanadroug put all the children of the house of
Abgar to the edge of the sword, with the exception of the daughters, whom
he withdrew from the town to place them in the canton of Hachdiank. As to
the first of Abgar's wives, named Helena, he sent her to his town at
Kharan, and left to her the sovereignty of the whole of Mesopotamia, in
remembrance of the benefits he had received from Abgar by Helena's means.
Helena, pious like her husband Abgar, did not wish to live in the midst
of idolaters; she went away to Jerusalem in the time of Claudius, during
the famine which Agabus had predicted; with all her treasures she bought in
Egypt an immense quantity of corn, which she distributed amongst the poor,
a fact to which Josephus testifies. Helena's tomb, a truly remarkable one,
is still to be seen before the gate of Jerusalem.
XI. RESTORATION OF THE TOWN OF MEDZPINE; NAME OF SANADROUG; HIS DEATH.
Of all Sanadroug's doings and actions, we judge none worthy of
remembrance except the building of the town of Medzpine; for, this town
having been shaken by an earthquake, Sanadroug pulled it down, rebuilt it
more magnificently, and surrounded it with double walls and ramparts.
Sanadroug caused to be erected in the middle of the town his statue holding
in his hand a single piece of money, which signifies: "All my treasures
have been used in building the town, and no more than this single piece of
money is left to me."
But why was this prince called Sanadroug? We will tell you: Because
Abgar's sister, Otaea, while travelling in Armenia in the winter, was
assailed by a whirlwind of snow in the Gortouk mountains; the tempest
separated them all, so that none of them knew where his companion had been
driven. The prince's nurse, Sanod, sister of Piourad Pacradouni, wife of
Khosran Ardzrouni, having taken the royal infant, for Sanadroug was still
in the cradle, laid him upon her bosom, and remained with him under the
snow three days and three nights. Legend has taken possession of this
circumstance: it relates that an animal, a new species, wonderful, of great
whiteness, sent by the gods, guarded the child. But so far as we have been
informed, this is the fact: a white dog, which was amongst the men sent in
search, found the child and his nurse; the prince was therefore called
Sanadroug, a name taken from his nurse's name (and from the Armenian name,
dourk, a gift), as if to signify the gift of Sanod.
Sanadroug, having ascended the throne in the twelfth year of Ardaches,
king of the Persians, and having lived thirty years, died as he was
hunting, from an arrow which pierced his bowels, as if in punishment of the
torments which he had made his holy daughter suffer. Gheroupna, son of the
scribe Apchatar, collected all these facts, happening in the time of Abgar
and Sanadroug, and placed them in the archives of Edessa.
Taken from "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published
by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland, beginning in
1867. (ANF 8, Roberts and Donaldson). The digital version is by The
Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.