Ecclesiastical history

  • Ecclesiastical history
  • ܐܩܠܣܣܛܩܐ
    (’eqlisisṭiqā, Ecclesiastical history)
Period covered:
At least ca. 750-850
State of Preservation:
  • Ecclesiastical history
The two passages quoted by Elias of Nisibis refer to the years 765 and 768, and concern George Boktisho, the physician of the caliph al-Mansur. A more detailed version of the same two episodes is found in Bar Ebroyo's Chronicle (Bedjan 1890: 125-126; Budge 1932: 115-116), without any mention of the source. The very same passages are quoted by the Muslim physician and historian Isa Ibn Abi Usaibiah (1203-1270) in his 'History of the physicians', and ascribed to a certain 'Pethyon the Translator'. To him Usaibiah ascribes 11 more passages, all concerning physicians coming from the Boktisho family and ranging from the reign of al-Mansur (754-775) to the reign of the al-Mutawakkil (847-861). Graf (1947: 120-121) identified the author quoted by Usaibiah with 'Petyon the son of Job', a ninth-century Christian-Arab author known for his Arabic translations of Biblical books. Whether Usaibiah used the same work quoted by Elias of Nisibis and Bar Ebroyo, or an expanded version of it that ended up being ascribed to 'Petyon the son of Job' (maybe because of the homonymy with the original author) is difficult to ascertain. The identification of the Pethyon quoted by Elias with the eighth-century East-Syrian patriarch proposed by Baethgen (1884: 2) is proven wrong by Wright's objection (1894: 195) that the Catholicos Pethyon died in 740, whereas the passages by Pethyon quoted by Elias of Nisibis refer to the years 765 and 768. The name was apparently widespread, since in the same period three different people called Pethyon are attested just in the letters of the patriarch Timotheus I (Baudoux 1935; Berti 2009). Berti (2014: 26-32) discusses the possible identification of the author quoted by Elias of Nisibis with one of them, Pethyon of Elam, as well as his relation to the Pethyon quoted by Ibn Abi Usaibiah.
Edition - Translation:
  • F. Baethgen (1884) Fragmente syrischer und arabischer Historiker (Abhandlungen für die Kunde des Morgenlandes, 8.3). Leipzig.
  • C. Baudoux (1935) 'À propos de la lettre du patriarche Timothée au prêtre et docteur Péthion'. Annuaire de l'Institut de Philologie et d'Histoire Orientale 3: 37-40.
  • P. Bedjan (1890) Gregorii Barhebraei Chronicon Syriacum. Paris.
  • V. Berti (2014) L'au-delà de l'âme et l'au-deça du corps: Morceaux d'anthropologie chrétiennes de la mort dans l'église syro-orientale (Paradosis, 57). Fribourg.
  • V. Berti (2009) Vita e studi di Timoteo I (m. 823), patriarca cristiano di Baghdad: Ricerche sull'epistolario e sulle fonti contigue (Studia Iranica: Cahiers, 41). Paris.
  • E.W. Brooks (1910) (ed.) Eliae metropolitae Nisibeni opus chronologicum. Volume One (Corpus scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium, 62: Scriptores Syri, 21). Paris - Leipzig.
  • E.W. Brooks (1910) (tr.) Eliae metropolitae Nisibeni opus chronologicum. Volume One (Corpus scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium, 62: Scriptores Syri, 23). Paris - Leipzig.
  • E.W. Budge (1932) (tr.) The Chronography of Gregory Abû'l Faraj, the son of Aaron, the Hebrew physician, commonly known as Bar Hebraeus, being the first part of his political history of the world. London.
  • L.I. Conrad (1991) 'Syriac perspectives on Bilād al-Shām during the Abbasid period'. In: Bilād al-Shām during the Abbasid period: Fifth International Conference on the history of Bilād al-Shām, ed. M.-S. Adnan al-Bakhit - R. Schick. Amman: 1-44.
  • M. Debié (2015) L'écriture de l'histoire en syriaque: Transmissions interculturelles et constructions identitaires entre hellénisme et Islam (Late antique history and religion, 12). Leuven - Paris - Bristol: 617.
  • J.-M. Fiey (1980) Chrétiens syriaques sous les Abbasides surtout à Baghdad: 749-1258 (Corpus scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium, 420: Subsidia, 59). Leuven: 43.
  • G. Graf (1947) Geschichte der christlichen arabischen Literatur. Volume Two. Vatican City.
  • R. Hoyland (1997) Seeing Islam as others saw it: A survey and evaluation of Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian writings on early Islam (Studies in Late Antiquity and early Islam, 13). Princeton: 393 n. 22.
  • A. Müller (1882) Ibn Abī Uṣaybi'a: 'Uyun al-anba' fi ṭabaqat al-aṭibba'. Volume One. Cairo.
  • W. Wright (1894) A short history of Syriac literature. London: 194-195.