Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Yet Another Eighth Century Syrian Witness to the Council of Ancyra Held During Hadrian's Reign to Purge the Church of Heresies

This letter a vellum MS. found in a vellum MS. found in a monastery in the Tur ' Abdin region of Turkey referenced in A. Mingana, "The Early Spread of Christianity in Asia and the Far East: A New Document," Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 9 (1925): 297-371, pp. 360-7.

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The reader can adjust the Google map above to see how close in proximity the discovery is to the Zuqnin monastery.  Mingana dates the text from the period between 730 - 790 CE.

Mingana also noticed that the text draws upon earlier written traditions like those found in documents preserved in the British Museum and British Library 14643:

Although apparently not by Philoxenus the document is very ancient; the MS. Add. 14529 of the British Museum, ascribed by Wright to the seventh or eighth Christian century, contains that section of it which deals with Nestorius and Eutyches, and as such it has been edited by P. Martin in his Introductio practica ad studium linguae Arameae, 1873, and translated by J. Tixeront in Revue de l'Orient Chretien, 1903, 623-630. Short fragments of this very section of the text are also to be seen in Brit. Mus. Add. 17193 and 17134 (pp. 338 and 998 in Wright's Catalogue). The text, however of the British Museum MS. contains deep variants and many omissions when compared with that which we are translating in the present study, It more generally resembles the structure of British Library MS 14643 as opposed to the references which emerge from the Zuqnin Chronicle.

As we can see quite clearly, the tradition that a council was convened against heresy in Ancyra at the time of Hadrian is not a 'mistake' on the paper of the later chroniclers.  The tradition not dates to the eighth century, it certainly goes back much further.  Indeed it was an establish fact - as certain as the Council of Nicaea - that a similar council occurred during the reign of Hadrian.

Here is Mingana's English translation from the Early Spread of Christianity in the Far East, the John Ryland library p. 398:

The Letter of Mar Philoxenos of Mabbug sent by him to Abi 'Afr, military Governor of Hirta of Nu'man, in which is contained the story of the accursed and anathematized Nestorius.

To the one who is noble, pure, and God loving, like Abraham; to the one ~ho gives his wealth in alms to the poor, like Job; to the one who delIvers the lambs bought with the blood of Christ from the heresy of the Nestorians which is a second Jezebel, like Obadiah: Abi 'Afr, the military Governor of Hirta of Nu'man; from Philoxenus, Bishop of Mabbug, many greetings in God Jesus Christ.

Because you asked me in your letter to inform you of what has been established in the Church of the Greeks by the holy Doctors, I wnte you what follows and bring to your notice the fact that the holy Fathers gathered together from time to time and threw away false heresies from the Church of God.

In the days of the Emperor Hadrian Sabellius rose against the Church of God, and he blasphemed and said that there was only one person in the Trinity, and because of that Mary was the mother of the Trinity, and passion, death and crucifixion belonged to the Trinity, and that the Body and the Blood which we receive from the altar were of the Trinity. Forty-three Bishops assembled in Ancyra of Galatia, and anathematised from the Church of God the feeble-minded Sabellius because he did not wish to recant his impiety.

In the days of the Emperor Valerianus Paul of Samosata rose against the Church of God, and called the living Son of God a just man only, like one of those just men that were in the world before Him. The Bishops gathered together at Antioch and anathematised Paul of Samosata, and threw him away from the Church of God because he did not wish to recant. In the days of the victorious Emperor Constantine the accursed serpent Arius rose against the Church of God, and called the Son of God a creature. Three hundred and eighteen Fathers congregated in NiclI!a and anathematised Arius and drove him out of the Church of God, because he did not desist from his impiety. These holy Fathers established the true faith and laid down various Canons.

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