Also extant in Syriac is the Book of the Laws of Diverse Countries, a dialogue on fate in various different versions, accounts of Bardesanes’ cosmological ideas. W. Cureton, “Bardaisan – The Book of the Laws of Countries”, in Spicilegium syriacum, A. Merx, Bardesanes von Edessa nebst einer Untersuchung über das. Owing to political disturbances in Edessa, Bardesanes and his parents moved for of Ani in Armenia and tried to spread the Gospel there, but with little success.

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Please help support the mission of New Advent and get the full contents of this website as an instant download. Bar-Daisan Syrian Gnostic or, more correctly, a Syrian poet, astrologist, and philosopherb. To indicate the city of his birth his parents called him “Son of the Daisan”, the river on which Edessa is situated.

On account of his foreign extraction he is sometimes referred to as “the Parthian” by Julius Africanusor barvesanes Babylonian ” by Porphyrius ; and, on account of his later important activity in Armenia”the Armenian”, by Hippolytus. His pagan parentsNuhama and Nah ‘siram, must have been people of rank, for their son was educated with the crown-prince of the Osrhoenic kingdom, at the court of Abgar Manu VIII. Julius Africanus says that he saw Bardesanes, with bow and arrow, mark the outline of a boy’s face with gospell arrows on a shield which the boy held.

Owing to political disturbances in EdessaBardesanes and his parents moved for a while to Hierapolis Mabuga strong centre of paganism. Here the boy was brought up in the house of a heathen priest Anuduzbar. In this schoolno doubt, he learnt all the intricacies of Babylonian astrologya training which permanently influenced his mind and proved the bane of his later life. At the age of twenty-five he happened to hear the homilies of Hystaspes, the Bishop of Edessa ; he received instruction, was baptizedand even admitted to the diaconate or the priesthood.

He was clearly no ascetic, but dressed in Oriental finery “with berylls and caftan”, gospsl to St. His acceptance of Christianity was perfectly sincere; nor do later stories, that he left the Catholic Church and joined the Valentinian Gnostics out of disappointed ambitiondeserve much credit. His royal friend became probably afteri.

Bardesanes showed great literary activity against Marcion and Valentinus, the Gnostics of the day. But unfortunately, with the zeal of a convert anxious to use his previous acquirements in the service of the newly found truthBardesanes mixed his Babylonian pseudo-astronomy with Christian dogma and thus originated a Christian sectwhich was vigorously combated by St. Thus the Osrhoenic kingdom, after years’ existence, came to an end.

Though he was urged by a friend of Caracalla to apostatizeBardesanes stood firm, saying that he feared not death, as he would in any event have to undergo it, even though he should now submit to the emperor. At the age of sixty-three he was forced to take refuge in the fortress of Ani in Armenia and tried to spread the Gospel there, but with little success.

He died tospel the age of sixty-eight, probably at Edessa. Writings Bardesanes apparently was a voluminous author. Though nearly all his works have perished, we find notices of the following: Whether this Antoninus is merely a friend of Bardesanes or barsesanes Roman emperor and, in the latter case, which of the Bardedanes is meant, is matter of controversy.


These psalms became famous in the history of Edessa ; their words and melodies lived for generations on the lips of the people. Ephrem composed hymns in the same pentasyllabic metre and had them sung to the same tunes as the psalms of Bardesanes, these latter gradually lost favour.

Of these, however, only the “Hymn on the Soul” is generally acknowledged to be by Bardesanes, the authorship of the others is doubtful.

Bardaisan |

Though marred by many obscurities, the beauty of this hymn on the soul is very striking. The soul is sent from its heavenly home to the earth, symbolized by Egyptto obtain the pearl of great price. In Egypt it forgets for a while its royal parentage and glorious destiny.

It is reminded thereof by a letter from home, succeeds in snatching a raiment of light, it returns to receive its rank and glory in the kingdom of its father. They are referred to by St. Ephrem, and amongst them was a treatise on light and darkness. A fragment of an astronomical work by Bardesanes was preserved by George, Bishop of the Arab tribes, and republished by Nau in “Bardesane l’astrologue” etc.

Moses of Chorene History of G. He wrote all in Syriac, but his book was afterwards translated into Greek”. Though the correctness of this statement is not quite above suspicion, it probably has a foundation in fact. Bardesanes obtained his information from the Hindu ambassadors to the Emperor Eliogabalus.

Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series II/Volume I/Church History of Eusebius/Book IV/Chapter 30

A few extracts are preserved by Porphyry and Stobaeus Langlois, Fragm. This famous dialogue, the oldest remnant not only of Bardesanite learning, but even of Syriac literature, if we except the version of Holy Writis not be Bardesanes himself, but by a certain Philip, his disciple. The main speaker, however, in the dialogue is Bardesanes, and we have no reason to doubt that what is put in his mouth correctly represents his teaching.

Excerpts gsopel this work are extant in Greek in Euseb. A complete Syriac text was first published from a sixth- or seventh-century manuscript in the British Museum, by Cureton, in his “Spicilegium Syriacum” London,and recently by Nau.

It is disputed whether the original was in Syriac or in Greek; Nau is decided and rightly in favour of the former. Against a questioning disciple called Abida, Bardesanes seeks to bospel that man’s action are not entirely necessitated by Fate, as the outcome of stellar combinations. From the fact that the same laws customs, and gpspel often prevail amongst all persons living in a certain district, or, though locally scattered, living under the same traditions, Bardesanes endeavours to show that the position of the stars at the birth of individuals can have but little to do with their subsequent conduct.

Hence the title “Book of the Laws of the Countries. As early as Hippolytus Philos. Hilgenfeld in wrote an able defence of this view, based mainly on extracts from St.

Ephrem, who devoted his life to combating Bardesanism in Edessa. But the strong and fervent expressions of St. Ephrem against the Bardesanites of his day are not a fair criterion of the doctrine of their master. The extraordinary veneration of his own countrymen, the very reserved, and half-respectful allusion to him in the early Fathers, and above all barvesanes “Book of the Laws of the Countries” suggest a milder view of Bardesanes’s aberrations.

He cannot be called a Gnostic in the proper sense of the word. He believed in an Almighty GodCreator of heaven and earth, whose will is absolute, and to whom all things are subject.


God endowed man with freedom of will to work out his salvation. This world He allowed to be a mixture of good and evillight and darkness. All things, even those which we now consider inanimate, have a measure of liberty.

In all of them the light has to overcome the darkness. After six thousand years this earth shall have an end, and bbardesanes world without evil shall take its place. To Bardesanes the sun, moon, and planets were living beings, to whom, goxpel Godthe government of this world was largely entrusted; and though man was free, he was strongly influenced for good or for evil by the constellations.

Bardesanes’ catechism must have been a strange mixture of Christian doctrine and references to the signs of the Zodiac. Misled by gospep fact that “spirit” is feminine in Syriac, he seems to have held erroneous views on the Trinity. He apparently denied the Resurrection of the Bodybut thought Our Lord’s body was endowed with incorruptibility as with a special gift.

School Bardesanes’s son Harmonius strayed farther from the path of orthodoxy. Educated at Athenshe added to the Chaldee bardesanse of his father Greek errors concerning the soulthe birth and destruction of bodies, and bardesajes sort of metempsychosis. A certain Marinus, a follower of Bardesanes, is refuted in the “Dialogue of Adamantius”. This Marinus, a dualist, held the oof of a two-fold primeval being; bardedanes the devilaccording to him is not created by God.

He was also a Docetist, as he denied Christ’s birth of a woman. Ephrem, the Bardesanites of his day were given to many puerilities and obscenities. Sun and Moon were considered male and female principles, and the ideas of heaven amongst the Bardesanites were not without an admixture of sensuality. Ephrem’s zealous efforts to suppress this powerful heresy were not entirely successful. Rabbula, Bishop of Edessa infound it flourishing everywhere. Its existence in the seventh century is attested by Jacob of Edessa ; in the eighth by George, Bishop of the Arab tribes; in the tenth by the historian Masudi; and even in the twelfth by Shashrastani.

Bardesanism seems to have degenerated first into Valentinianism and then into common Manichaeism.

The last-named writers states: The light causes the good, deliberately and with free pf ; the darkness causes the evilbut by force of nature and necessity. They believe that light is a living thing, possessing knowledgebardesanws, perception, and understanding; and from it movement and life take their source; but that darkness is dead, ignorantfeeble, rigid, and soulless, without activity and discrimination; and they hold that the evil within them is the outcome of their nature and is done without their co-operation” [Haarbrucker tr.

Halle,I, ]. Paris, ; Bardenhewer, Gesch. Freiburg,I, sqq. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company, This article was transcribed for New Advent by Susan Birkenseer.

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