Syriac Timeline
5th Century

Syriac Timeline (401-500 A.D.)




402 or 403 AD

Flourished the great Greek exegete, Theodore, bishop of Mopsuestia.


403 AD

Died Flavian Patriarch of Antioch. He was succeeded by Porphyrius who sat until AD 413.

[50], p. 255

403 AD

A council was convened at Constantinople where the future of John Chrysostom bishop of Constantinople was threatened. Present at this council was an important Syriac author, Maroutha bishop of Maipherqat or Martyropolis.

[58], p. 34

403 or 404 AD

`Absamia Qashisha (i.e. `Absamia the church elder) was the son of a sister of Ephrem of Nisibis. he composed some midrashe (i.e. hymns) and other discourses concerning the Hun's invasion of the Roman territory.


404 AD

Died John Chrysostom, bishop of Constantinople.

[60], p. 58

c. 404 AD
(400 – 410 AD)

In Edessa around AD 404 or 405 the Syrian professor Daniel co-operated with the Armenian ascetic and scholar Mashtoc` who was sponsored by Sahak the Armenian catholicos (AD 378 – 438) to invent a new script and translate the bible into Armenian for the first time. A life of Mashtoc` was written by his disciple Koriwn. Mashtoc` seems to have been aided in the work of translation by two other disciples of his; Eznik of Kolb and Hovsep.

At about this time the Persian school in Edessa was founded, probably by Qiyore. Another report in [38] mentions that the Georgian version of the gospel was translated in Edessa at the same time.

Syrian Orthodox Church website.
[33], p. 150
[38], pp. 47, 144, 151
[44], pp. 8, 13

c. 407 – c. 450 AD

Flourished Eznik of Kolb, or Koghbatsi bishop of Bagrewand. Eznik had been a pupil of Mashtoc` according to the life of Mashtoc` written by Koriwn. Kolb was a village in the Armenian province of Ayrarat. Eznik was a distinguished Armenian theologian and scholar. According to the Armenian historians Koriwn, and T'eodoros K'rt'enawor, (c. AD 600 – 675) and the Armenian textual evidence, the first Armenian New Testament was created from Syriac, not Greek and that a second translation was created after the Council of Ephesus between AD 433 and 436, (which see).

Textual Evidence: T'eodoros says in his 'Apology against Mayragometsi' written in AD 635 that the first Armenian translation from Syriac contained the passage about the 'bloody sweat', (Lk22v43-44). These verses are contained in the Diatessaron, the Curetonian and the Peshitta, but are omitted in the Sinaitic Old Syriac and Codex Alexandrinus in Greek. T'eodoros says that the second Armenian translation made from a Byzantine text did not include these verses. Therefore, the source of these verses is unlikely to be either Alexandria or Constantinople. Instead, these verses are found in Syriac, in the Old Latins and Codex Bezae, and so originate from the Syro-Latin (or 'western') text of the gospels. This result is typical of many other textual variants found in the Armenian, (for example see [43], p. 20) . Thus, the textual evidence suggests that the first Armenian translation was indeed made from a Syriac text, not a Greek text.

The historian Koriwn also says that between AD 407 and 412 Eznik and a colleague called Hovsep were sent to Edessa 'for the purpose of translating and writing down the holy books from Syriac into Armenian'. Thus, Eznik was one of the Armenians directly involved in the first translation of Syriac works into Armenian and perhaps the New Testament also, (although this exceeds the evidence just quoted). As well as translating, Eznik also wrote in his native Armenian. One of his original Armenian theological works was called, 'A treatise on God'.

[43], pp. 14, 16, 19, 20
[44], pp. 8, 9, 12

408 AD

Theodosius II became the Byzantine emperor. He reigned until AD 450.

[50], p. 276

1st August
409 AD

Paqida bishop of Edessa died, [41], [50] and he was succeeded by Diogenes, [41].

[50], p. 255

411 AD

East Syrian catholicos Ishaq of Kashkar held the very first East Syrian synod in Seleucia Ctesiphon, the capital city of Persia. This occurred in the month 'Later Kanun' = January in the eleventh year of the reign of Yezdegerd I, king of Persia which ended 31st July AD 411. Mentioned during this synod was the East Syrian Acacius, bishop of Amid, not to be confused with his contemporary, Acacius bishop of Alleppo. I translate the only NT quotation cited in this synod which was quoted from an Old Syriac copy of Philippians 2v3, 'With honour a man will reckon his companion as better than him', [50], p. 29, line 18, (cf. the Peshitta: 'Each man shall reckon his companion as better than him.').

Present at this council was Maroutha bishop of Maipherqat or Martyropolis, [58].

[50], pp. 254, 257
[58], p. 34

January 411 AD to 31st July 411 AD

Died East Syrian catholicos Ishaq of Kashkar. He was succeeded by Ahai. Ishaq died after the synod, but within the same 11th year of the reign of Yezdegerd I, king of Persia.

[50], p. 254 note 1

411 AD

A manuscript from Edessa dated 411 AD (the earliest dated manuscript in Syriac) was written. It contains the Syriac version of Eusebius' history of the Church, the Clementine Recognitiones and a work by Titus of Bostra. According to [38] the 'Recognitiones' contains scripture readings in marked agreement with the Peshitta, (unlike the underlying Greek text which the translator used which has readings more akin to the Old Syriac). This dated manuscript is itself a copy of an earlier Syriac manuscript. This demonstrates that the Peshitta had been in existence for some time by the time our manuscript was copied in AD 411. This manuscript provides us with the earliest evidence for the use of the Peshitta New Testament.

Syrian Orthodox Church website.
[33], p. 165
[38], p. 52

411 AD

Died Diogenes bishop of Edessa, [53] and Rabbula became bishop of Edessa in his stead. Rabbula started out as an ally of the see of Antioch, but later changed his allegiance to that of Alexandria, (see under AD 432-435). During his tenure, Rabbula converted the synagogue in Edessa into a church. This very interesting detail from [41] shows that a strong Jewish community had once lived in Edessa.

[38], pp. 46-47, 179-182
[53], p. 24

412 AD

Cyril, (nephew of Theophilus the previous bishop) became bishop of Alexandria. [41] says this event occurred in AD 409 or 410, and says that the third flood of Edessa happened the following year.

[5], p. 81

413 AD

A third disastrous flood destroys the walls of Edessa and floods the city.

[33], pp. 124, 156

9th August
415AD to
8th August
416 AD

Mar Yahb-alaha I became catholicos of the east, succeeding Ahai in the 17th year of Yezdegerd I, king of Persia. He sat five years and died c. AD 420.

[50], p. 276

9th August
419 AD to
8th August
420 AD

An East Syrian synod was held by Yahb-alaha I, in the 17th year of the reign of Yezdegerd I, king of Persia and in the fifth year of catholicos Yahb-alaha.

[50], p. 276

420 AD, [50]

Died the Persian king Yezdegerd I. He was succeeded by his son Wurharen or Bahram V. There was a severe persecution of Christians at the end of Bahram's reign. Many Christians fled from Persia into Roman territory at that time, (see below).

[27], part II/2 p. 40
[35], p. 109
[37] pp. xii, 535-539
Hatch 'Album', p. 177
[50], pp. 276, 285

9th August
AD 419 to
8th August
AD 420

Died Mar Yahb-alaha I catholicos of the east. He was briefly succeeded by Ma`na, but Ma`na died before September AD 420. There then followed a period of uncertainty as the new Persian king tried to impose his nominee Marabokt or Pharabokt as catholicos of the east. This period lasted until the election of catholicos Dadisho` in AD 422.

[50], pp. 276, 286 note 2

c. 420 AD

Or a little before, died Maroutha bishop of Maipherqat or Martyropolis. Maroutha was a mediator between the churches in the Persian empire with those in the Byzantine west. His death began the isolation of the eastern churches who rapidly went their own way, [58]. This separation was exacerbated by frequent wars between the Byzantine and Persian empires. Further impetus was given to the separation of the eastern churches by the doctrinal decisions made at the Council of Ephesus in September AD 431, (which see).

Therefore, this date marks a very important break point between the history of the Syriac gospel texts used in the Syriac speaking areas of the Byzantine and Persian empires. At this date, both sides were using similar Old Syriac gospel texts of various kinds. However, the looming attempts by Rabbula and Theodoret to suppress the Diatessaron in the west, will have had little or no effect in the east due to the imperial wars which broke out in AD 421. Similarly, the Catholic Councils of AD 431, 449 and 451 which exerted a very strong Hellenizing influence upon the Syriac gospel texts used in the western areas, had no effect whatever on the Syriac gospel texts used by the churches in Persia. This historical scenario created a textual time-capsule for the Syriac gospel in Persian territory. This period of isolation lasted for centuries and it ended only gradually. After AD 420, the first significant contact occurred in c. AD 550 when the scholarly Catholicos, Mar Abha I visited the west and began to revise the scriptures, including the NT. However, for political reasons, the influence of western Hellenized gospel texts in eastern areas was limited until after the Islamic conquests of Persia and Syria between AD 642 and 645.

[50], p. 255 note 2
[58], p. 34

420 or 421 AD

The monk Eutychius arose who denied the incarnation.


420 or 421 AD

Jacob of Beth Laphat in Persia, also called 'Jacob the mutilated' was murdered by Bahram V, king of Persia. Jacob was martyred by being cut to pieces.

Hatch 'Album', p. 177

420-438 AD

A severe persecution was instigated by Bahram king of Persia from AD 420-438, in which Simon son of Sabbagheen the bishop in AD 429, Bar Baashameen the bishop, Mar Behnam and his sister Sarah and the 40 cavalries, Yahanna son of Najjareen, St. James Muqatta and Mar Ahodemeh were all martyred.


421 AD

War between the Roman emperor Theodosius II and the Persian ruler Bahram V. Peace was re-established in 422 AD.

[35], p. 109

421 AD

Died Ya`qob the recluse of Salah in Tur `Abdin, [48]. Ya`qob's Syriac biography is preserved in only a few manuscripts; BL Add. 12174 number 71, [48] a fragment can also be found in Add. 14732 folio 1a and another copy in Mingana Syr 252 E. Both Mingana and Wright say that Ya`qob flourished at the time of Julian the Apostate which would date this part of the narrative to about AD 362.

[46], volume 1, p. 508
[48], volume 3, p. 1135

420 and 422 AD

Dadisho` became east Syrian catholicos. According to Eliya who became metropolitan of Nisibis in AD 1008, Dadisho` sat for 35 years and died in AD 457.

[50], p. 286 note 2

423 AD
(Vööbus gives the date as 425)

Theodoret became (non-Arian) bishop of Cyrrhus on the Euphrates in upper Syria in AD 423 and he sat until AD 450. During his episcopacy, he sought out and found more than 200 copies of the Diatessaron, which he 'collected and put away, and introduced instead of them the Gospels of the four evangelists'. He also wrote a history of the church, which has survived, (see under 440 AD).

Theodoret tells us indirectly, that more than 200 copies of the Diatessaron were in use in his diocese at this time.

Now, during the first Council of Ephesus in AD 431 (i.e. only eight years after this date) we know that there were about 34 Syriac bishoprics. Thus, by simple multiplication we can estimate that within these Syriac speaking areas, at the very least, there were 6,800 copies of the Diatessaron in circulation around AD 423. This estimate is likely to be on the low side. It does not allow for the fact that copies kept further east, outside Roman territory would not have been destroyed beforehand as they may have been in Cyrrhus. Also, the estimate does not take into account copies owned by thousands of Syrian monks scattered all over the orient. However, this estimate does provide some quantitative idea of the popularity and dissemination of the Diatessaron single gospel text-type at about this time.

Secondly, how did all these Diatessarons get into the hands of Theodoret's parishoners in the first place? We get a clue from Theodoret's and Rabbula's actions. They considered the single gospel type, old hat. We can easily imagine that the clerics wanted to use the Greek four gospel format which they had begun to use much earlier in around AD 325. But, even though the clerics considered the Diatessaron obsolete, there were still many copies in circulation. The sheer numbers of Diatessaron codices extant around 423 AD indicate that there was an earlier time when the Diatessaron was used by the clerics also. This impression is born out by the number of Diatessaron gospel quotations still to be found within the traditional liturgical books of all the Syriac churches.

Thirdly, the evidence from Rabbula and Theodoret demonstrates that the Syrian clergy began to actively collect and destroy copies of the Diatessaron at this time. This suppression was a milestone in the history of the Syriac gospel text.

[35], p. 98:note
[38], p. 41
[42], p. 60

5th cent.

Isaac of Antioch described the horrific paganism practised in Beth Hur near Nisibis, (this included the sacrifice of virgins).

[29], p. 109

423 - 436 AD

Rabbula, who was bishop of Edessa from 411 AD to 435 AD (d. 436 AD) instructed his priests to 'Take care that in all the churches the four 'separated' gospels should be available and read.' This episcopal canon refers to the gospels as Euangelion daMepharreshe or 'the separated gospels'.

Generally at this time we see that the four gospel type was the rule in early Syrian Orthodox ecclesiastical circles. The Diatessaron, or single gospel type, is not even mentioned. Even so, judging by the writings of the clerics from this period and our two surviving manuscripts, many readings from the Diatessaron were preserved within the Old Syriac separate gospels. There is no evidence that any attempts were made to remove these older readings until much later.

Mentioned in an auction catalogue of Wm. H. Robinson Ltd, London (1934?) found in [20].
[33], p. 165
[42], p. 60

424 AD

Mar Dadisho` catholicos of the east, held a synod at 'Markabta of the Arabs', [50] which according to Rassam was also known as Al-Hira, [60]. At this synod, the East Syrians became administratively independent from the patriarchate of Antioch whilst they continued in the Antiochene theological tradition, [60].

Chabot, [50] took the trouble to account for all the bishops mentioned in this synodal record and he notices that a number of cities were represented by two bishops each. Based on other evidence uncovered here, (see under AD 244, 255, 260, 340 above) two bishops were required in certain places in Persia because there were two parallel Christian communities deported there by the Persian kings from Syria in the third century AD; One group spoke Greek where the services were in Greek, and another group spoke Syriac, where the services were in Syriac. At this synod, the diocese in Persia which had two parallel Christian communities served by two different bishops were; Beth Laphat, Shushterin, Pherat, Rima and Nehargour. These Christian exilic communities in Persia seem to have preserved the social structures they had when they left Syria in the third century AD.

[50], pp. 285, 617, 618 note 1
[60], pp. 43, 64

428 AD

Emperor Theodosius II appointed Nestorius, a monk from Antioch, to be the Patriarch of Constantinople. Nestorius added another twist to the christological tangle, maintaining that Mary was the 'bearer of Christ', not the 'bearer of God'.

Whilst western theologians were arguing about the nature of the divinity of Yeshu`a, several important factions within the Antiochene tradition were busy arguing about the nature of his humanity. One Antiochene faction thought that the whole nature of Yeshu`a was from heaven and that the virgin Mary merely bore him; Hence the virgin Mary was described as 'Theotokos' or the 'God bearer'. This faction later became known as the Syrian Orthodox faith. Another Antiochene faction believed that the humanity of Yeshu`a was from the virgin Mary and that the divinity of Yeshu`a was from heaven; Hence the virgin Mary was described as 'Christotokos' or the 'bearer of Christ'. Later, the faction believing in this two-nature christology became known as the Church of the East.

[7], p. 50

428 AD

Death of Theodore, bishop of Mopsuestia. Theodore wrote many commentaries on the NT, fragments of which survive in Greek and in Syriac translation. For this reason, in Syriac writings he is often called 'The Interpreter'. He also wrote a commentary on the Nicene creed which survives in Syriac. Theodore's Antiochene theology was highly influential during his own lifetime and it remains the ideological foundation of the Church of the East today.

[52], p. 59

428 AD

Ended the Arsacid dynasty of Armenian kings.

[44], p. 4

428 or 429 AD

Flourished Andrew bishop of Samosata. (See also under AD 432.)

The following year, either AD 429 or 430, the same source says that 'dust fell from heaven'.


Before the winter of 431 AD

The Greek works written by Diodorus of Tarsus and Theodore of Mopsuestia were translated into Syriac by one of the schools at Edessa before 435 AD, [33]. There is another record cited in [38] that Rabbula burnt the writings of Theodore of Mopsuestia. This must have happened after Rabbula switched sides from Antioch to Alexandria in the winter of AD 431, so the translations of Theodore and Diodore into Syriac must have existed before then, probably during the lifetime of Theodore, who died in AD 428. Another record in [38] again, states that Theodore was translated into Syriac by Qiyore or Kiyoré, the director of the theological school at Edessa who died in AD 437.

According to Barhadbashaba, 'Foundation of the schools' Qiyore was responsible for the translation of Theodore's works into Syriac and the same source says he died in AD 437, [38], p. 81 and [47].

[33], p. 166
[38], pp. 48, 81
[47] volume 3, p. 434

September 431 AD
(AG 742)

The first council of Ephesus, (also called the third ecumenical council).

Background: Whilst western theologians were arguing about the nature of the divinity of Yeshu`a, several important factions within the Antiochene tradition were busy arguing about the nature of his humanity. One Antiochene faction thought that the whole nature of Yeshu`a was from heaven and that the virgin Mary merely bore him; Hence the virgin Mary was described as 'Theotokos' or the 'God bearer'. This faction later became known as the Syrian Orthodox faith. Another Antiochene faction believed that the humanity of Yeshu`a was from the virgin Mary and that the divinity of Yeshu`a was from heaven; Hence the virgin Mary was described as 'Christotokos' or the 'bearer of Christ'. Later, the faction believing in this two-nature christology became known as the Church of the East.

Nestorius patriarch of Constantinople was condemned as a heretic by Cyril, bishop of Alexandria and around 200 bishops, (including the bishop of Rome). They condemned Nestorius in absentia, (they did not listen to his defence because they did not wait for him to arrive!). Cyril also had his doctrine declaring Mary as 'Theotokos' or 'God-bearer' affirmed at the same time. After the Council of Ephesus the East Syrians separated themselves. The East Syrians, whilst they accepted the Nicaean Council and the creed continued in the Antiochene tradition they had inherited from Apostolic times, [7]. Even though the East Syrians continued in the Antiochene tradition, they remained administratively separated from Antioch, see under AD 424, [60]. Another reason for the separation of the East Syrian church at this time was political. The Christians in Persia were being severely persecuted because the kings of Persia suspected that the Christians were in league with their Byzantine enemies.

In a rival council attended by 34 bishops Cyril, bishop of Alexandria was condemned for propagating the errors of Apollinarius. The attack on Cyril was by Antiochene party led by John, Patriarch of Antioch. At this time, Rabbula bishop of Edessa was in the Antiochene party and he signed two letters denouncing Cyril, [38].

[7], pp. 50 – 51, 59
[38], volume 1, p. 67
[38], volume 2, p. 8
[60], p. 64

Winter 431 – 432 AD

Bishop Rabbula of Edessa switched his allegiance from Antioch to Alexandria and befriended Cyril, bishop of Alexandria; The was the same person that he and his colleagues from Antioch had condemned at the council of Ephesus a few months before in September AD 431. He became a close friend of Cyril and a vociferous opponent of the East Syrians. We even have documentary evidence that he resorted to persecuting the East Syrians who were living in Edessa.

[38], volume 1, pp. 67-68
[38], volume 2, p. 8

432 – 435 AD

Rabbula used the Old Syriac and not the Peshitta. In [38] Vööbus proves this by demonstrating how Rabbula inserted readings known from the Old Syriac Evangelion daMepharreshe four gospels into a translation he made of one of Cyril's Greek letters, where the underlying Greek of Cyril's letter cannot account for the biblical text Rabbula used. All this shows that the Evangelion daMepharreshe was in use by the sees of Antioch and Edessa in AD 431. This clarifies Rabbula's own rule, or canon which states, “Let the presbyters and deacons take care that in all the churches there should be the Evangelion daMepharreshe and it be read.” Vööbus shewed that;
1. The four gospels stipulated by Rabbula were the Old Syriac four gospels, not the Peshitta.
2. That Rabbula was suppressing the Diatessaron or 'mixed' gospel during his episcopate, at the same time as Theodoret was doing the same thing, (see under AD 425 above).

[38], pp. 46-47, 67, 69, 179-182

c. AD 432

At this time lived the early East Syrian writer Andrew bishop of Samosata because he wrote a letter to Rabbula, bishop of Edessa which survives, [46], column 1113. This letter was certainly written between AD 431 when Rabbula switched his allegiance from Antioch to Cyril patriarch of Alexandria, and AD 435 when Rabbula died. Rabbula wrote a reply to Andrew, which also survives in a London Syriac MS and Andrew wrote another letter to Alexander bishop of Mabbog dated AD 432, in which he mentions Rabbula's persecution of the East Syrians. Andrew was also denounced in a treatise written by Cyril patriarch of Alexandria, [46], column 639.

[24], p. 48
[46], volume 1, columns 639, 1113

433 to 436 AD

The Armenian historian Koriwn says that a second Armenian translation of the New Testament was created after the Council of Ephesus between AD 433 and 436, but this time the Armenian was translated from Greek text brought from Constantinople to Armenia. This second translation was again sponsored by the Armenian Catholicos Sahak and accomplished by the scholar Eznik of Kolb, (or Koghbatsi) who had previously created the first Armenian edition of the gospels from the Old Syriac, (see under AD 400 – 410). This report by Koriwn is supported by the evidence of a surviving letter written by Eznik from his residence in Constantinople to Mashtoc`. In his letter, Eznik mentions Maximianos who was bishop of Constantinople, (he died in AD 434).

We have some strong circumstantial evidence here.
1. The revision of the Armenian gospel translation using a Byzantine Greek text.
2. The actions of Rabbula bishop of Edessa and those of Theodoret bishop of Cyrrhus to suppress the Diatessaron and promote the four gospel format.

This evidence suggests that the revision of the Armenian gospel and the suppression of the Syriac Diatessaron became imperative following the first council of Ephesus. It shows that the first Council of Ephesus acted as a strong Hellenizing influence on the Oriental churches. So, this council would seem to have been a milestone in the history of the gospel text in both Armenian and in Syriac.

[43], p. 14
[44], p. 15

August 7th 435 AD

Bishop Rabbula of Edessa died. He was succeeded by Hiba (also known as Ibas). Rabbula had switched allegiance from Antioch to Alexandria. However, Hiba was an Antiochene bishop elected by the Antiochene clergy of Edessa. Hiba wrote a letter to Mari the Persian, extracts of which survive in Mingana 69, f. 14a [46], a MS of the 7th century.

Two different anonymous biographies of Rabbula survive from about this time, one in Syriac and another which survives only in Greek translation from an original Syriac work. The one surviving in Syriac, provides us with a few gospel quotations. These quotations were definitely taken from the Peshitta. However the other biography preserved only in a Greek translation, contains Old Syriac gospel quotations taken from an Evangelion daMepharreshe.

[33], pp. 93, 183
[7], p. 71
[38], pp. 46, 69, 73
[42], pp. 14, 23 – 25
[46], volume 1, column 175

436 AD

Died Acacius bishop of Aleppo aged 110 years. This bishop is not to be confused with Acacius, bishop of Amid who was his contemporary.

[50], p. 255

437 AD

Died Qiyore or Kioré, the Head of the theological school at Edessa. According to an ancient history of the Syrians written by Barhadbashabba, Qiyore began translating the works of Theodore of Mopsuestia into Syriac before 431 AD. According to Barhadbashabba, Qiyore was succeeded as director (Syriac 'Rabban') by Mar Narsai, who was an exceptional poet and a founding father of the Church of the East, [54].

[38], volume 1, p. 81
[38], volume 2, p. 11
[54], p. ix

438 AD

Death of Sahak, Armenian Catholicos

[44], p. 8

438 or 440 AD

Died Barham V, king of Persia. He was succeeded by his son Yasdegerd II.

[37] p. xii
Hatch 'Album', p. 177

c. 440 AD

Theodoret bishop of Cyrrhus wrote his 'Historia Religiosa'.

[35], p. 104:note

443 AD

Church historian Sozomon was writing his church history.

[35], p. 96:note

444 AD

An Armenian church council was held at Shahapivan.

[44], p. 4

444 or 445 AD

Dioscurus became bishop of Alexandria.


448 AD

Massacres of Christians occurred in the year 448, in modern day Kirkuk. The Persian King, Yasdegerd II began persecuting Assyrians (and Armenians, in Azerbaijan) throughout Persia. Ten bishops and 153,000 clergy and laity were murdered.

(Greek historian Sozomen via Patriarch, Shah, and Caliph, pp. 25.) via [14].
[37] p. 559

449 AD

Second Council of Ephesus. The monophysite theology of Bishop Cyril of Alexandria was approved in a motion proposed by his successor Dioscurus. However, bishops Flavianus of Constantinople, Domnus of Antioch, Irenaeus of Tyre, Hiba of Edessa, Eusebius of Dorylaeum, Daniel of Haran, Sophronius of Tela, and Theodoret of Cyrrhus were all anathematized and deposed! The acts of this synod are preserved in Syriac, (BL. Add. 14530, Mingana Syr 580). This Syriac text contains many gospel quotations which cannot be explained from the Greek original text and can only be explained from the Old Syriac gospel witnesses. Therefore, we have an official Syrian Orthodox church document which shows that an Old Syriac gospel text was the officially sanctioned gospel text in AD 449.

Syrian refugees in Sweden website
[38], p. 76
[7], p. 51
[42], pp. 29 – 44

449 AD

An Armenian church council was held at Artashat. Eznik of Kolb was present at this council in his capacity as bishop of Bagrewand.

[44], pp. 4, 15

449 AD

Barsauma, later East Syrian metropolitan of Nisibis was studying at the Persian school in Edessa.

[50], p. 308 note 1

450 AD

Died the Byzantine emperor, Theodosius II.

[50], p. 276

450 AD

Nonnus became bishop instead of Hiba who had been deposed by the second council of Ephesus. This was a very short episcopate, because after two years in exile, Hiba was reinstated and sat again until his death in AD 457.

[33], p. 95

450 AD

Simon of Arshem lived at this time.


451 AD

The battle of Avarayr was fought between the Persians and the Armenians. The Armenians won.

[44], p. 10

451 AD

Council of Chalcedon. At the start of the Council there were two major christological views; Monophysite and Diophysite. The Council further confused this situation by generating its own christology, essentially a fudge of the two original views backed by the Byzantine state that neither side going into the council was prepared to accept.

Prior to the council of Chalcedon there were two Syrian christological factions:
1. Some Syrian Christians believe in Diophysitism, 'two-nature doctrine' believing that Jesus had two natures, (human and Divine) not one. Diophysite beliefs ceased to be tolerated in the Roman empire after the Council of Chalcedon.
2. This intolerance was pushed by Dioscurus, bishop of Alexandria who espoused the Monophysite position that Jesus was entirely God in one nature, though incarnate, (in-flesh). Dioscurus was also deposed by this council.

The following fudged 'explanation' of a third christology was produced by the Council of Chalcedon: He (Christ) is one and the same Son, perfect in humanity, true Godhead and true manhood, confessed in two natures free of all separateness, inter mixture, confusion, mingling, change and transformation: the difference in natures is in no way abolished due to the unity. On the contrary, the typical characteristics of each nature are preserved and both are united in one person and in one figure (after Karlsson 1991:18).

After the council of Chalcedon, the Syrian orthodox church endured severe persecution from the Chalcedonian Byzantine Caesars for 200 years until the Muslim invasion.

The Armenian bishops decided to build alliances with the Monophysites of Syria and Egypt and to reject the council of Chalcedon. They accepted instead the outcomes of the first council of Ephesus of AD 431 and the tome of Proclus.

[7], pp. 52, 194
Syrian refugees in Sweden website[22]
[44], p. 11

c. 452 AD

Simeon Stylites (d. AD 460, see below) writes a letter to John Patriarch of Antioch concerning Nestorius, showing that he did not accept the Council of Chalcedon.

CUL Add. 3280, [40], pp. 849 – 850

451 or 452 AD

Flourished Mar Isaac, a composer, an author and an abbot.


452 AD
[33] has 451 AD

Birth of Mar Ya`qob of Serug, the son of a priest. Ya`qob was a learned Syriac writer and poet. He wrote vast quantities of metrical works and around 40 of his letters also survive.

[17], p. 189
[33], p. 170

7th February
457 AD

Leo was proclaimed the Byzantine Roman emperor.

[70], p. 103, note 2

457 AD and
24th July 457 AD

Hormezed III became king of Persia in 457 AD and then Firuz son of Yazdgard II became king of Persia. [50] has that the 27th year of Firuz began on 24th July AD 483. This means that Firuz became king on the 24th July 457. ([37] has AD 457 to 459)

[37] p. xii
Hatch 'Album', p. 177
[50], p. 312 note 3

457 AD

Died Dadisho` catholicos of the east in his 35th year of office.

[50], p. 286 note 2

457 AD

The Byzantine Roman emperor Leo embraced the Chalcedonian creed. The date is given as AG 769 which began in October AD 457, [70]. Given the historical circumstances, this event probably occurred in October AD 457.

[70], p. 103

28th October
457 AD

Death of the Antiochene bishop Hiba (or Ibas) of Edessa, [70] who was succeeded (for a second time) by Nona or Nonnus a Chalcedonian catholic [33], who had been a monk [38]. At about this time there were three schools in Edessa; The Armenian, the Persian and the Syrian schools, [33] [38].

[33], pp. 95, 184
[38], pp. 72, 83, 146
[50], p. 300 note 4
[70], p. 114 note 9

October to December
457 AD

The allies if bishop Hiba were all expelled from the Persian school of Edessa, [54]. Those expelled included several very important founders of the Church of the East; Ma`na, who had translated some of Theodore of Mopsuestia's works, [50] and Diodore of Tarsus' works [70] and Barsauma, who later became metropolitan of Nisibis, [50] and Paul and Mar Narsai who by that time had been the director of the Persian School at Edessa for 20 years, [54]. Also expelled was Theodoret bishop of Qyrrus, [70]. According to the Nestorian Chronicle, this Ma`na became metropolitan of Persia, [70] but there was also another Ma`na who became bishop of Rew-Ardashir and who appears in the records of the synod held by Acacius, catholicos of the east in AD 486, [50]. Paul became bishop of Karka diLedan and is mentioned in a letter by Barsauma, [50]. Narsai went on to establish the School of Nisibis in Persia, (upon a small school founded earlier by Shem`on Gramqaya, [70]) where he became the director. This academy was to become very influential and historically significant. Many important clergymen and scholars of the East Syrian tradition would later receive their education at this school.

According to `Abdisho` Metropolitan of Nisibis, (d. AD 1318) and reported in the Nestorian Chronicle, [70] and in Siman 1984, Mar Narsai wrote 360 memre (metrical homilies) in Syriac, a liturgy, liturgical hymns, antiphons (called Sugithe), an exposition of the liturgy and of baptism as well as commentaries on various books of the OT. It appears likely to the present author, that Narsai's liturgical works may be preserved within the East Syrian Hudhra and to a certain extent also, in the Beth Gaza. About 80 of Narsai's 360 memre survive. Forty-seven of these memre and nine Sughithe were edited by Mingana, 'Homiliae et Carmina', Mosul, 1905. Other memre have been edited by Bedjan (1901), McLeod (1979), Siman (1984), and Frishmann (1992). Mar Narsai had two disciples; Abraham who lived a long time and only died in AD 569 and Yohannan, [70]. Abraham was the second director of the School of Nisibis and seems to have been responsible for it's great enlargement in the first half of the 6th century AD and a great many literary works, [70]. Yohannan also authored a number of works including a discourse on the death of the Persian king Kusraw Qawad who died on 12th July
531 AD.

[30], p. 20.
[33], p. 166
[42], p. 46
[50], pp. 300 note 4, 308 note 1, 538 note 3
[54], p. ix f.
E. P. Siman, 'Narsai..' Cariscript, Paris 1984, p. 2
[70], pp. 104, 114 - 116.

460 AD

Bishop Nona of Edessa founds an infirmary for lepers outside the south wall of the city.

[33], p. 148

2nd September
460 AD

Shem`on Estonaya, (Simon Stylites) a Syrian Orthodox ascetic of Qal'at-Sem'an died. His precepts and admonitions were edited by Bedjan from a 6th century manuscript, BL. Add. 14,484. These contain gospel quotations taken from an Old Syriac manuscript [38].

[24], pp. 55 – 56
[38], p. 155
Bedjan, “Acta sanctorum” vol. IV pp. 507ff.

464 AD

Peshitta Syriac MS of the Torah dated 464 AD preserved in the British Library - Add. 14,425

Wright, “Catalogue”

465 or 466 AD

Pope Leo built Callinicus in Osrhoene, and named it after himself, 'Leontopolis'.


469 - 473 AD

Ya`qob of Serug studies the scripture at a school in Edessa, (Ya`qob was a Syrian Orthodox Christian and a prolific Syriac author and poet who later became bishop of Serug).

Presumably, Ya`qob went to the Syrian School, rather than the Persian or Armenian schools which existed in Edessa at this time.

[33], p. 170
[42], p. 55

471 AD

Bishop Nona of Edessa was succeeded by bishop Cyrus.

[33], p. 95

471 AD
Layard has AD 474

The Byzantine emperor Leo died and Zeno or Zenon became emperor. He reigned for 17 years, [70]. According to Layard, Zeno reigned until AD 491, but both sources agree that he reigned 17 years.

[70], p. 105

480 AD

Taking advantage of the divided Syrian church, the Persian rulers attacked the Syrian Orthodox Church. In these campaigns hundreds of bishops and priests and thousands of Syrian lay people were massacred, including the catholicos Babaweih. According to the account, Babaweih was crucified, [37], [70].

For Barsauma, East Syrian metropolitan of Nisibis who lived at this time see [37] and below under AD 484.

[37] pp. 631-634
[70], p. 101

481 or 482 AD

During the 25th year of Firuz king of Persia which began on the 24th July AD 481 Baboui the catholicos of the east held a synod in which he outlawed marriage to one's mother or a brother's wife and polygamy.

[70], p. 100

483 AD

The Persians had a treaty obligation to return Edessa to Roman control, but of course they did not. This caused unrest during the reign of Roman emperor Zenon.

[7], p7.

484 AD
(Nisan, 27th year of Firuz, king of Persia)

Barsauma holds a synod of Beth Lapat or Laphat (the Persian Jundishapur) in opposition to Baboui the catholicos of the east. The East Syrian prelates under Barsauma's leadership, blessed the memory of Theodore of Mopsuestia (a theologian who wrote in Greek) and condemned all other doctrines, Monophysite and orthodox, of all churches under Roman rule. It is interesting to note that the same synod legalized the marriage of priests and bishops. Barsauma himself inaugurated this policy by marrying a nun. He missed becoming metropolitan of Persia with the death of his friend King Firuz and the accession of a more moderate King Balash or Walesh, son of Yazdgard on 23rd July AD 484, (he reigned until AD 488) [50]. Balash overlooked Barsauma for the post of catholicos and appointed Aqaq (also known as Acacius) in his stead, (see below).

[37] p. xii
[38], p. 128
[50], pp. 300 notes 1, 3, 5, p. 308 note 1, 475 note 3

23rd July
484 AD

Walesh or Balash son of Yazdgard became king of Persia. He succeeded Peroz or Firuz who had died in this year.

[50], p. 300 note 1, p. 308 note 1
[70], pp. 118, note 2, 122

485 AD
([25] says AD 488)

Petrus Fullo replaced the deposed Calandion as Patriarch of Antioch.

Philoxenus, (also called Xenaias in Greek and Aksanaya = 'Stranger' in Syriac writings) was consecrated bishop of Mabbug (now Membij) by Petrus Fullo patriarch of Antioch. He was born in the village of Tahal in the region of Beth Garmai in Persia. Afterward, his parents moved the family away due to persecution from the pagans and the family then settled in Tur `Abdin where Philoxenus became a monk of great learning and reputation. He went on to teach students in the Monasteries of Qartamin and Tell `Ada [53]. Another less detailed and less reliable book by the same author 12 years earlier says that he studied the scriptures at Edessa, [42]. Philoxenus wrote more than 80 Syriac works which survive today. He wrote with a polished literary style upon gospel topics and often quoted the gospels. We know that he used the separate gospels, because he wrote commentaries on Luke and John. Nevertheless, his gospel quotations show that the separate gospel codex he was using was an Old Syriac codex with some accommodations to the Peshitta, but certainly not the Peshitta itself. We also discover that his Old Syriac gospels differed significantly from the Curetonian and Sinaitic codices and we observe from his quotations of non-canonical material, that Philoxenus also knew the Diatessaron gospel.

According to tentative statements in [42] he was born around AD 430 and studied at Edessa during the episcopate of Hiba, (AD 435 – 457). However, this chronology may be about 30 years too early, as it would require that Philoxenus was about 93 years old when he was martyred in AD 523.

[42], pp. 45 – 46
[25], p. 167
[28], p. 21
[33], p. 165
[53], p. 51

485 AD

Mar Acacius or Aqaq succeeded Babai or Baboui as catholicos of the east in the month Ab in the second year of Walesh, king of kings = August 485 AD.

[50], p. 531

486 AD

Mar Acacius or Aqaq catholicos of the east held a synod at Seleucia-Ctesiphon in the month Shabat, in the second year of Walesh king of Persia, = February AD 486. This synod was important as the Church of the East formulated it's first christological creed, [60]. About this time, Acacius was chosen by Balash the king as ambassador to the Byzantine emperor Zeno. Mar Acacius sat until his death in AG 807 = October AD 495 to September AD 496.

[38], p. 128
[50], pp. 300 f., 300 note 3, 301 note 1, 312
[60], pp. xxv, xxx, 36

488 AD

Died Abba Esha`ya also known as Isaiah of Scete. Isaiah of Scete wrote mystical works, including 'The book of the merchant', some of which can be found in a west Syrian MS; Mingana Syr 410 A, dated about AD 1300. Other earlier and important MSS containing works by Isaiah of Scete include; BL Add 12170 dated AD 604 and Cod. Vat. Syr. 122 dated AD 769. An edition may exist in print edited by R. Draguet, CSCO vols 293, 294, dated 1968.

This date for Isaiah of Scete = Abba Esha`ya seems to be very uncertain and far too late. He was quoted by John of Apamea in his 'Treatise on stillness' in the early 5th century and by Dadisho` Qatraya who wrote a commentary upon Abba Esha`ya's asceticon in c. AD 690. Dadisho` says that Esha`ya lived before Cyril bishop of Alexandria, [64] who became bishop in AD 412. This evidences suggest that Abba Esha`ya lived in the second half of the 4th century.

[64], translation p. 94
Date gleaned from:

22nd July
488 AD

Kawad I son of Firuz became king of Persia, [50]. ([50] records that the 4th year of Kawad began on 22nd July AD 491, hence he became king on 22nd July AD 488.)

His brother Zmasuf or Zamasp overthrew him a little later (in AD 496) and reigned 30 years in his place. Then Kawad killed Zamasp and returned to the kingdom.

[37] p. xii
[50], p. 312 note 5

489 AD

Bishop Cyrus persuaded the Byzantine emperor Zeno to order the closure of the Persian School at Edessa, [33].

[33], pp. 95, 166

c. 490 AD

Kawad king of Persia ordered every religion of his empire to prepare a written treatise explaining their beliefs for presentation to himself. The treatise on Christianity was written by Elisha who was then a doctor in the School of Nisibis and a colleague of Mar Narsai. This treatise was translated into Persian by Acacius and presented to Kawad and was preferred by him over the other submissions he received.

[70], pp. 126f.

491 AD

The Byzantine emperor Zeno died and Anastasius succeeded him. Anastasius was more sympathetic to the Syrian Orthodox cause and the teachings of Severus Patriarch of Antioch than Zeno had been.

[33], p. 98
[70], p. 118

494 AD

Pope Galasius officially rejects the authenticity of the correspondence between Abgar and Jesus.

[33], p. 75

496 AD
(544 of the era of Antioch)

Syriac dedication inscription of a church building in Basufan, Syria.

[30], p. 31

20th July
496 AD

Zamasp overthrew his brother Kawad and imprisoned him without killing him and became king of Persia in his place, (see above under AD 488). The second year of Zamasp began on the 20th July AD 497, which means that he became king 20th July AD 496. After 2 years Kawad escaped to the Turks and returned soon afterwards to overthrow his brother as resume his reign.

[50], p. 310, p. 312 note 5
[70], pp. 125 note 5, 127f.

AG 807 =
October AD 495 to
September AD 496

Died Mar Acacius catholicos of the east.

[50], p. 300 note 3

October to November
(AG 809)
([24] has 498 AD)

Babhai son of Hormizd became East Syrian catholicos and held a synod in November of the second year of the reign of Zamasp, king of Persia, (counted from 20th July AD 496) and in AG 809, [50], p. 311 note 2. This means he took office between October and November AD 497. He sat for 5 years, [24], [50], perhaps not quite until his death in AD 502 or 503 [50] or AD 503, [24]. Babhai was a married man and he remained married after his elevation. He was the secretary of the Marzban of Beyth Aramaye and had been a disciple of Mara of Tahal. After 5 years in office, (or so, see below under AD 505) Babhai was succeeded by Shila, [50]. (NB: When this Aramaic name is found in the Greek NT, it is written as 'Silas') .

[24], p. 80
[50], pp. 310, 311 note 2, 315 note 1

6th June
498 AD

Cyrus bishop of Edessa died. He was succeeded by Peter.


498 AD

Edessa, by then mostly pagan again, is preached to by Philoxenus bishop of Mabbug.

Philoxenus was the author of many very influential and historically important letters which were all written around this time.
Philoxenus corresponded with Patricius or Patrick of Edessa, (see the critical edition cited opposite). This letter has historically important references about the origins of the Messalian movement in the 4th century and it also includes many textually important quotations from an Old Syriac gospel.
Philoxenus wrote to the Monks of Amid, [53]. This letter still lies in the manuscripts; BL Add. 17193, f. 69b, Vatican Syriac 126, f. 392a, Cambridge Add. 2023 f. 237b This letter was so influential it was used as the basis for a monastic rule.
Philoxenus wrote to the Monks of Bet Gogal, [53]. This text can be found in Vatican Syriac 136, f. 53a. Apparently the text is only visible using ultra violet light.

[28], pp. 21-2
Hatch, “Album” p. 158
Lavenant, René s.j. ‘La lettre a Patricius de Philoxène de Mabboug’ Patrologia Orientalis Tome XXX, Fasc. 5, No 147, Publ.: Brepols, Turnhout, Belgium 2003.
[53], p. 52

498 AD

Byzantine emperor Anastasias remits the four-yearly tax normally paid in the empire, including Edessa, then part of the Byzantine empire. This was probably in response to a great earthquake that caused massive devastation and loss of life over a wide area, [41]. A great comet 'like a spear' was also seen form many days during January AD 499.

[28], p. 22

498 AD

After 2 years of imprisonment, Kawad escaped to the Turks and returned to Persia soon afterwards, overthrew his brother and resumed his reign as king of Persia.

[70], p. 127

9 am
2nd June
500 AD

Occurred an eclipse of the sun. According to the Nestorian Chronicle, the earthquake occurred after the eclipse not before, [70].

[70], p. 119

c 500 AD

Lived Mar Narsai, an important East Syrian theologian and writer and John of Bet-Rabban a teacher at the School of Nisibis.

[32], paras 30 - 31