The Greek and Eastern Churches/Part 2/Division 4/Chapter 2

CHAPTER II

THE SYRIAN NESTORIANS

Zachariah of Mitylene, Chronicle (Eng. trans. in "Byzantine Texts," 1899); Asseman, Biblioth. Oriental. tome iv.; Gibbon, Decline and Fall, chap, xlvii.; Badger, Nestorians and their Ritual, 1862; The Book of Governors; The Historia Monastica of Thomas, bishop of Marga, a.d. 840, edited from Syrian manuscripts, etc., by G. Wallis Budge, 1893; Etheridge, Syrian Churches, 1846; Nöldeke Geschichte der Persen.

The rise and progress of the Nestorians offers us one of the greatest surprises in history. By condemning them as heretics the council of Ephesus (a.d. 431) unwittingly gave them their opportunity. Church councils have succeeded in crushing movements which had not obtained much popular support. But no decree of a council has ever destroyed a powerful heresy. The great days of Arianism came after it had been anathematised by the Nicene Council. The case of Nestorianism is even more significant. The triumph of the Arians was due to imperial patronage; but the Nestorians were not favoured with that encouragement. Cast out of the empire, they brought fresh life to the Syrian Church beyond its borders, and stimulated an enthusiastic missionary movement which rapidly spread eastward like a prairie fire, covering wide areas of Central Asia.

Cyril of Alexandria had snatched a victory at Ephesus by a stroke of smart tactics;[1] but he was too astute a politician to deceive himself with the supposition that this had ended his difficulties. Having secured the condemnation of Nestorius, he was not unwilling to conciliate the arch-heretic's friends and supporters, the most important of whom was John, the patriarch of Antioch, whom he had affronted by hurrying through the council's discussions before the arrival of that important personage. But the negotiations began on the Nestorian side under the influence of an august power to which all parties paid deference. The emperor interfered as peacemaker, and at his command Paul of Emesa, who had belonged hitherto to the Nestorian party, visited Cyril at Alexandria (a.d. 432), and explained the Syrian view in such a way as to allow of the uniting of the two natures in Christ while each retained its individuality pure and unmixed. A compact was now made, according to which Cyril assented to this statement, while John and his party were to acquiesce in the condemnation of Nestorius—the Jonah cast out to end the storm. His disciples were called Simonians, his books burned, and the heretic himself driven away first to Petra, then to the Fayûm oasis.

After this the centre of Nestorianism passes over to Edessa. Ibas, a presbyter in that church, and according to some accounts the head of the theological school, now an important seat of learning, had been present at the council of Ephesus as a supporter of Nestorius. Rabbulas, his bishop, had also been there, and at first friendly to the Nestorian position; but he had subsequently gone over decidedly to the other side. In making this change, however, he did not carry his people with him, and Ibas, as leader of the Nestorian party at Edessa, had the great majority of the church with him. Ibas then wrote a letter, of which much was made later, to Maris, then or later bishop of Hardaschir in Persia, in which he gave a graphic account of the council of Ephesus and also defined his position—on the one hand condemning Nestorius for approaching the Unitarianism of Paul of Samosata, and on the other hand condemning Cyril for Apollinarianism; both inaccurate charges. Rabbulas died in the year 435 (or 436), and Ibas was then carried to the bishopric by the voice of the popular party which he represented. The case was now serious, for although he had repudiated Nestorius, the newly appointed bishop of Edessa was the leading living supporter of essential Nestorianism. He had translated the works of Theodore of Mopsuestia, the real author of the heresy. Thus that system came to have its headquarters at Edessa under the patronage of the chief ecclesiastic of the Eastern Syrian Church. Four disaffected presbyters now headed a party in opposition, and compelled Domnus, who had succeeded his uncle John in the patriarchate of Antioch, and was friendly to Ibas, reluctantly to summon a synod for hearing the charges against him. Some of them were trivial, as that he used inferior wine at the Eucharist, but among them was the grave accusation of Nestorianism. However, nothing was decided, and the case was postponed. The presbyters then resorted to Constantinople and appealed to the emperor, who ordered a trial by an imperial commission of bishops at Tyre—of course quite contrary to ecclesiastical rules and rights. These commissioners endeavoured to effect a reconciliation. But the peace they secured on the spot did not last. The Eutychian party was now rising in power. When Ibas returned home he found the minds of his flock poisoned with adverse notions. Under orders from Constantinople, Chæreas, the civil governor of Osrhoene, arrested him on the charges the presbyters had urged against him. Monks and nuns of the opposing party joined in the hue and cry, eager to hound him to death. He was a "second Judas"; an "enemy of Christ"; an "offshoot of Pharaoh." "To the fire with him and all his race!" they cried. Ibas was removed by the emperor's soldiers, but as only a synod could depose him, this was subsequently done by "the robber council" at Ephesus, where he was again denounced by the fierce monks as a "second Judas" and "veritable Satan." Subsequently, at the council of Chalcedon (a.d. 451), under the new emperor, Marcian, he was pardoned on condition that he anathematised both Nestorius and Eutyches, and accepted the Tome of Leo, Nevertheless he had not changed his views, and his people knew it. To this day he is anathematised as a Nestorian by the Jacobites in their profession of faith.

Meanwhile the Nestorian movement was spreading farther north and east. Rabbulas had expelled a scholar Barsumas, who was connected with the theological school at Edessa, and who then went to Nisibis in Persian territory, where he became bishop (a.d. 435). There he established a theological school which was essentially Nestorian in character. The original Syrian school at the capital was never purged of Nestorianism. Thus there were now two seats of learning from which the obnoxious tenets were disseminated, till the Edessa school was finally suppressed by the emperor in the year 489 on account of its heresy. Like the Huguenots after the revocation of the edict of Nantes, who brought the silk trade to England, like the Pilgrim Fathers who carried the best of Puritan energy out of England to found a new world, the Nestorians came to Mesopotamia with the arts and crafts of life. Carpenters, smiths, weavers, the best of the artisan class, they came to start industries and lay the foundations of manufacturing prosperity in the land of their adoption. Then the expulsion of Nestorians from the great school at Edessa—"the Athens of Syria," as Gibbon calls it—led to the propagation of their teaching in the remote regions of their travels. They did not go merely as exiles. As in the story of the Jerusalem Christians driven from their homes by the persecution of Herod, their very troubles converted them into missionaries. At home they were denounced as heretics; abroad, where no rumours of miserable doctrinal disputes were heard, they simply journeyed as enthusiastic missionaries of the gospel. And they were wonderfully successful, winning converts in one district after another as they penetrated further and yet further into the unknown lands of Asia.

In the first place this influx of Nestorians gave a great impulse to Christianity in Persia. Two influences combined to make that successful. The mere increase in numbers, the infusion of fresh blood, and the zeal and devotion of men who were exiles for their faith, stimulated the churches which they found beyond the Euphrates into vigour, and led to the planting of new churches. Then, further, their advent changed the policy of the Persian government towards the Christians. In former times this had been adverse, sometimes to the extent of carrying on devastating persecutions.[2] The Magi had roused opposition to the Christians on religious grounds, in the interest of Zoroastrianism, and the kings had been ready to resort to violence because they had regarded the Church in Persia as an ally of their standing enemy the Roman Empire. But now the case was different. It is true that at first the renewed vigour of Persian Christianity produced by the advent of the Nestorians provoked a fresh outbreak of persecution under King Firuz or Peroz (a.d. 465). But since it was directed against the Catholics it went on the old lines of oppressing the clients and suspected allies of the orthodox Byzantine Church, which was closely associated with the Byzantine government. Before long, however, the original Christians joined hands with the Nestorians, and the newcomers, fusing themselves into the ancient Church, effectually leavened it with their doctrine, so that the Persian Church became Nestorian. By yielding so completely to the influence of the immigrants, the Christians of Persia came under the ecclesiastical ban of excommunication which had been pronounced by the Catholic Church at Ephesus and reiterated at Chalcedon. They were all heretics out of communion with Rome, and also with Constantinople, Antioch, and Alexandria. Accordingly they ceased altogether to be in any way politically dangerous to Persia as friends and allies of the empire. On the contrary, the Persian government and the Nestorian Church saw a common enemy in the Byzantine Empire. It was to their interest to draw together in mutual self-defence against attacks from the dreaded foe. The Magian opposition, which rested on other grounds, would not be affected by this change in the political kaleidoscope. But a spirit of conciliation leading to mutual concessions softened the antagonism here also. Perhaps under the influence of Zoroastrianism, which recognised only good in nature and considered the source of evil to be a spiritual power, the Nestorians abandoned the rigour of Catholic asceticism. At a synod held in the year 499, presided over by Babæus, the metropolitan of Seleucia and Ctesiphon, they abolished all clerical celibacy, even permitting bishops to marry. It was reported of them by the orthodox as a great scandal that some of them married repeatedly. Second marriages were always looked upon with disfavour in the orthodox Church; though permitted to the laity, they were absolutely forbidden to the clergy. In the Greek Church the bishops were celibate, while the parish popes were required to be married, but only once. But now among the Nestorians not only were the bishops permitted to marry, but if they lost a first wife, to marry again, and thus to have a licence in the matter not even permitted to the lower clergy in the main body of the Eastern Church. The situation was regarded with professional horror among the orthodox bishops. The arrangement seems to have worked well in the Persian Church, for that Church continued to flourish and expand. It was virtually identical with the Syrian Church at Edessa, although not always under the same civil government. Now we saw that Aphraates advocated celibacy as a condition of baptism.[3] How far this view had been adopted by the main body of the Eastern Syrian Christians cannot be determined from the scanty information at our disposal. But at all events it seems clear that a great change must have come over that church when under Nestorian influences for it to have acquiesced in, and apparently adopted, the daring innovation of the complete abolition not only of baptismal celibacy, but even of clerical celibacy.[4] This liberty has since been abolished in the Nestorian Church, which has assimilated its custom to that of the Greek Church, in requiring its bishops to be without wives. The precise time when marriage was prohibited to the higher clergy has not been ascertained. The catholicos Mar Abd Yeshua, writing in the seventh century, has a chapter on marriage and virginity, in which no restriction is assigned to clerical marriage. A work called Bebboreetha, by Schlémon, the metropolitan of Bosra, refers to several wives of patriarchs. Another work states that the metropolitan of Nisibis about the twelfth century, himself a married man, convened a synod which decreed that bishops should be allowed to marry.[5] This shows that there were opponents of episcopal marriage in the Syrian Church at that time, although they proved only to be a minority who could be thwarted by a synod.

The Nestorian Church in Eastern Syria and Persia was organised under an archbishop usually known as the catholicos; and in the year 498 the catholicos assumed the title of "Patriarch of the East." He was fully justified in wearing this proud title. As a Nestorian heretic he was entirely free from the patriarchate of Antioch, which from time to time had claimed to exercise jurisdiction over Mesopotamia, but which had now cut off and anathematised all his Church. On the other hand, the wide and continuous extension of Christianity in the Far East as a result of the labours of the Nestorian missionaries was giving him an immense extent of patriarchal territory, for all the converts in the new districts were taught to look to the catholicos as their ecclesiastical head. The seat of the patriarchate was at the twin-cities of Seleucia and Ctesiphon, one of which was on the western and the other on the eastern bank of the Tigris. These cities together formed the centre of trade and travel between Europe and Western Asia on one side, and India and China on the other. Caravans with Oriental products destined to minister to the luxury of more prosperous nations, came back from visits to the industrious populations of those mysterious distant empires of which as yet Europe knew little, and displayed their wares in the bazaars of this great emporium. It was a magnificent centre for the missionary Church that was now beginning to enter on its great task of carrying the gospel to the Far East.

At first the reinvigorated Syrian Christians repudiated the name Nestorian. This was not because they were unwilling to accept the doctrines taught by Nestorius, but simply because they had no connection with the deposed patriarch of Alexandria. They had learnt the scheme of Christology with which his name was associated more from the writings of Theodore, its real founder and Nestorius's teacher, and from others of the same school. But they were not willing to have their position represented even in this way. They did not regard themselves as persons won over to a new doctrine. They maintained that the ideas now anathematised by the Greek Church were genuine, original Christian truths. Accordingly the catholicos Ebed-Jesu declared that it might rather be said that Nestorius followed them than that they were led by him.[6]

We must not suppose that the Nestorian tide of immigration entirely swept away the ascetic ideal, which had been so very marked as to be almost Marcionite in some quarters, at all events during the earlier days of the Church of Edessa. We have a remarkable testimony to the contrary in the chronicle of a Nestorian monk now available for the English reader. This is the Book of Governors, written by Thomas, bishop of Marga, and dated in the year 840, which Dr. Wallis Budge has edited in the Syriac, translated into English, and published. Thomas has here done for the Syrian monks what Palladius did for the Egyptian monks. His work is worthy of a place by the side of the Paradise[7] for its first-hand account of ancient monasticism. It gives us valuable information about an important part of the Nestmian Church at the most obscure period of its history. In reading the book we are brought right back into the atmosphere of this old Syrian monasticism, and are able to see the real, human, distinctive figures of a large number of its representative men, and to examine the manners and customs of their communities with much detail.[8]

Syrian monasticism originated in Egyptian monasticism—the scene and centre of the earliest ascetic life in the Church. It appears to have begun with Awgin, who sprang from an Egyptian family residing on an island near the spot where Suez now stands, and who was originally a pearl fisher. This man became a disciple of Pachomius. He subsequently settled at Nisibis, and there gathered about him a number of ascetics. The date of his death is given as a.d. 363. The one monastery founded by Awgin is credited with having sent out no less than seventy-two missionaries. We may regard him as the St. Columba of Syrian monasticism.

Two other monasteries are known to have been instituted in Mesopotamia before the end of the fourth century. Therefore by the time of Thomas this Eastern Syrian monasticism was already more than four hundred years old. Meanwhile it had been absorbed in the great Nestorian movement that had taken over the Church in Mesopotamia. So Thomas was a Nestorian and the monks about whom he wrote were Nestorians, although it would be difficult to discover the fact from his book, which is far removed from theological controversies.

Thomas tells us that he came to the monastery of Bêth ʿAbhê when a young man, in the year a.d. 832; and his book is concerned with the monks and chiefly the governors of this monastery. It has since disappeared and the exact site of it has not been recovered, though it is known to have been situated somewhere among the mountains not far from the Upper or Great Zab, on its right bank, in a bleak region where fruit trees could not be cultivated. According to Thomas, the monastery was founded by Rabban Jacob, originally a monk of Mount Izla (a.d. 595 or 596); but inasmuch as this man found some monks there, we must conclude that it was a more ancient centre for a group of ascetics' huts or caves. Under Jacob and his successors it grew into a very important monastery. It would seem that its inmates were men of high social position, and that they cultivated learning as well as asceticism. Many of them belonged to noble Persian and Arab families. The library contained a large collection of books, among which was Thomas's favourite work, the Paradise of Palladius, translated in the seventh century by Anan Isho, a monk of the great monastery of Izla, near Nisibis, who had made a pilgrimage to the Scetic desert, the home of ancient asceticism. The daily services were seven in number—just before sunset, at dusk, at midnight, at daybreak, and through the day; and at these services lessons from the Old and New Testaments were read, collects said, and hymns, anthems, and responses sung. This was the general custom in Nestorian monasteries, which followed in the main the usual monastic routine observed in other branches of the Eastern Church. There was no set and recognised scheme of music. Each monastery or church had its own tunes. The monastery was supported partly by endowments and partly by the labour of its monks. Soon after the time of Thomas it began to decline, owing to oppressive Mohammedan taxation and also through the violent aggression of the Arabs, who seized neighbouring land and villages. Thomas obtained his information through being secretary to Mar Abraham, the governor of the monastery in his day. Subsequently he became bishop of Marga—from which fact he comes to be known as "Thomas of Marga"; and later still he was honoured with the title of "Metropolitan of Bêth Garmai."

After his apology and introduction, Thomas begins his narrative with an account of the monastery of Mount Izla and the unfortunate happenings there which led to Jacob's removal to Bêth ʿAbhê. This story is important both on its own account and for the light it throws on the circumstances of the times. The monks were allowed to live in scattered cells and more or less widely separated villages, although under the common rule of the governor. Even then the lack of communication is remarkable. It was found that the monks in one of these outlying villages were married. According to one account, a visitor saw the children playing about in the street. The domestic life was carried on without fear or reproach, and this comfortable arrangement continued for a number of years without any attempt at stopping it. At length the scandal was discovered by a monk named Elijah, a fierce, uncompromising ascetic, who determined to have what he described as "the gangrene" cut away. So the story stands in Thomas's book. But it is scarcely possible to believe that the village had been so completely hidden that no rumour of its doings had got abroad. The reasonable explanation is that this was known and was connived at by the governor all along.

That such a condition of things could have been going on quite openly, unmolested and unrebuked for years, in connection with a monastery, must strike the reader who has only been accustomed to monasticism in the Roman Catholic and orthodox Churches as simply amazing. It was not so remarkable in Mesopotamia, for it was quite in line with the Nestorian disregard of asceticism which allowed the marriage of bishops. But now comes this stern censor denouncing the married monks with the spirit of a Hildebrand, or like a Nehemiah commanding the Israelites to send away their foreign wives. He expostulates with the governor for not having stopped the scandal, "while in this Divine inheritance Sodom is being raised to life again, and Geba rebuilt."[9] The upshot is that the offending monks with their wives and children were expelled and their huts burned. But this was not all. Not so far away there lived the holy Rabban Mar Jacob, whom Thomas characterises as "the most meek and humble of all men, who knew not that any sin besides his own existed in creation, whose eye was pure, and who never perceived wickedness in his neighbour."[10] Was there ever a more lovely description of a Christian soul than this account of the seventh century Nestorian monk among the mountains of Eastern Syria? He was as different as possible from the fierce Elijah, and that self-elected reformer charged Jacob with conniving at the abomination. Although the good man had known nothing of it, according to Thomas, or had never suspected harm in it, as we may more probably conclude, he was driven from the monastery almost broken-hearted. After wandering al)out for a time Jacob came to Bêth ʿAbhê. But this expulsion of a perfectly innocent man was not to be taken lightly. The monks made a great commotion at the injustice of it, and many of them left in indignation to become the founders of various other monasteries at Nineveh, Erzerûm, and the country lying between the upper and lower Zab rivers, till, as Thomas says, "they filled the country of the East with monasteries, and convents, and habitations of monks, and Satan who had rejoiced at their discomfiture was put to shame."[11]

The second abbot of Bêth ʿAbhê was John, an author of some repute, who left a chronicle, rules for novices, maxims, etc. He was succeeded by Paul, who lived through a good part of the troublous times of King Khusrau's wars with the Greeks and witnessed a persecution of the Christians. In the year 647 Isho-yahbh became catholicos, and he greatly enriched the monastery, building a splendid church and addiug other accessories. A second Hyppolytus, he was the author of a "Refutation of Heretical Opinions." Some of the monks were rigid ascetics in spite of the laxity of Nestorianism. Thomas tells us that Cyriacus the eighteenth abbot used to stand all night with one knee "bent like a camel," and fastened with a leather strap. It is more edifying to learn how earnestly the necessity of labour was insisted on. Thus in Canon i. of Mar Abraham we read, "Quietness then is preserved by these two causes, namely, constant reading and prayer, or by the labour of the hands and meditation"; and he adds, "Let us flee from idleness, which is a thing that causeth loss, being firmly persuaded that, if we allow it to remain it will be impossible for us either to bear leaves or to yield fruit, if indeed it happen not that we be altogether cut off from the life of the fear of God."[12]

Thomas narrates how the catholicos Isho-yahbh, accompanied by some of his bishops, was sent by the Persian King Sheroe[13] to endeavour to bring about peace with the Byzantine Greeks. In connection with this embassy he tells a story which reflects as little credit on his own sense of honesty as on that of the head of his Church. While "these holy men," passing through the city of Antioch, were resting in one of the churches, the catholicos observed a white casket marked with the sign of the cross, which contained bones and portions of the bodies of the blessed apostles. Observing what mighty deeds were wrought by these relics, Isho-yahbh prayed earnestly that he might have the treasure to take to his own country. Having vexed and tortured himself with all manner of schemes to get hold of it and not being able to succeed, notwithstanding his Oriental subtlety, he put the matter in the hands of God to protect him while he did his best to secure the coveted casket. Then he stole it and carried it back with him to Persia. Thomas does not express the least disapproval of this transaction. On the contrary, he tells his story with gusto, evidently ascribing it to the honour of the catholicos that his trust in God enabled him to accomplish the theft.

The monastery of Bêth ʿAbhê was subsequently disturbed by the Euchites. The branch of these people, the "praying monks," in Syria, there called Messalians, cherished a severe doctrine of original sin together with little faith in the efficacy of sacraments. Everybody was born with a demon united to his soul, which prompted him to evil and which was not exorcised by baptism, that rite only clipping off the offence of actual transgressions "as with shears while the root of the evil still remained behind."[14] The remedy was prayer, constant, uninterrupted prayer. The consequence was that the Euchites abandoned labour, ceased to work for their bread like other monks, lived by begging, lay about in the streets, and spent much of their time in sleep. Women mixed with men in the wandering companies of the Euchites, and charges of immorality amounting to promiscuous intercourse were brought against them on that account, but apparently on no other evidence.[15] Neander calls them "the first mendicant Friars."[16] They are said to have believed that prayer drove out the demons as spittle, mucus from the nose, or in the form of a serpent or a sow with a litter of pigs. But probably these absurdities resulted from taking their metaphors literally. A more dangerous and not improbable error was the perfectionism to which they inclined. And yet, like Wesley's doctrine of Christian perfection, this may have been a stimulating ideal rather than a vain boast. The first leader of the party was a layman of Mesopotamia named Adelphius. Flavian, the patriarch of Antioch, induced him when an old man to make a confidant of an aged bishop who was really a spy. The Euchite doctrine being thus meanly extracted, Adelphius and his followers were beaten, excommunicated, and banished. From Syria they went to Pamphylia. Condemned over and over again by various local synods, they persisted, and flourished in spite of scorn and hatred. The council of Ephesus confirmed the synod's condemnation of the party, and anathematised a Messalian book called Asceticus. Subsequently the Euchites had a leader named Lampetus, after whom they were sometimes called Lampetians; later still they were called Marcianists, after a leader of the party in the sixth century named Marcian. They lingered on till they mingled with the Bogomiles.[17] In the fourteenth century there was a revival of Euchite ideas and practices among the monks of Mount Athos.

If the charge of immorality—so common in the case of heretics and so generally baseless—was a cruel libel, the only serious objection to these Euchites in the eyes of the modern world would be their idleness. But their slighting the sacraments, to which is to be added the fact that they objected to the choral services of the Church, would be quite enough to account for their condemnation by their contemporaries. We may regard them, however, as simple pietists, in some way allied to Puritanism, in some respects anticipating Quaker views, in some degree approaching the modern devotees of what has been called "the higher life." Somewhat similar to the Euchites were the Eustathians, followers of Eustathius, bishop of Sebaste in Armenia, who broke up homes, and induced husbands, wives, children, and servants to go off with the wandering bands. They would partake of no sacrament administered by a married priest. For the same reason they would not meet for worship in the house of a married man.

  1. See p. 96.
  2. See p. 299.
  3. See p. 472.
  4. See Lea, Clerical Celibacy, vol. i. pp. 98, 99.
  5. Badger, vol. ii. pp. 180, 181.
  6. Etheridge, The Syrian Churches, p. 72. Etheridge states that even to-day they object to the title "Nestorian." But Badger cites instances of the use of it in more modern times. For example, in the year 1609 Mar Abd Yeshua drew up "the orthodox creed of the Nestorians," stating that he did so "in the blessed city of Khlât in the church of the blessed Nestorians" (The Nestorians and their Ritual, vol. i. p. 178). Layard states that the name was first given by the Roman Catholic missionaries (Nineveh and its Remains, vol. i. p. 259); but Badger shows that it had been used earlier.
  7. See p. 153.
  8. The first question that rises on the perusal of such a book—so new to most English-speaking students of Church history—is that of its genuineness and freedom from interpolations. It abounds in miracles; but that was only to be expected. No monkish chronicle of the ninth century could have been free from miracle, and any non-miraculous chronicle of this period would be ipso facto spurious. It is somewhat disconcerting, however to find that the four MSS. out of which Dr. Budge has constructed his text are all modern. These MSS. are (a) British Museum, Oriental, 2,316, probably written in the early part of the seventeenth century; (b and c) MS. in Dr. Budge's possession, both written in 1888; (d) Vat., in the Vatican library, No. clxv., written a.d. 1663. We see then that of the four MSS. on which Dr. Budge relies, the two oldest were written in the seventeenth century, and the other two in the year 1888. Dr. Budge does not indicate in any way the sources of the latter, though surely it should be possible to discover what these were. In addition, he mentions three other MSS., now in Europe, which he does not date and which apparently he has not collated. Dr. Budge is satisfied that the text has not been tampered with, because his four MSS. agree—except for ordinary various readings. But that fact is no proof that they might not all be derived from a common source which was not sound. A better ground of assurance in the substantial genuineness of the documents is their internal characteristics. (1) The narrative fits into the circumstances of the times. (2) The writer does not hesitate to record what is discreditable to his monks— a point in favour of an early date. A later Syrian writer would be likely to suppress discreditable incidents. On the whole, therefore, probably we may accept this book as Thomas's genuine record. If anybody would take the trouble to apply the principles of the Higher Criticism to it, he might lead us to a more conclusive verdict.
  9. Book of Governors, Book i. chap. x.
  10. Ibid. chap. xii.
  11. Ibid. chap. xiv.
  12. Ibid. vol. i. Introd. p. cxxv.
  13. Thomas calls him "the good King Sheroe." In point of fact, although overtures of peace had been made to Heraclius by Sheroe, it was the Queen Boran, daughter of Khusrau Parwey who despatched the embassy. See Budge, The Book of Governors, vol. ii, p. 125, note 2.
  14. Timotheus, De recept. hær. i. 2.
  15. See Epiphanius, Hær. 80.
  16. Church Hist. vol. iii. section iv. i.
  17. See p. 225.