Ante-nicene fathers



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Syrian

Hebrew

October


Tishri prior

Tishri, or Ethanim

November

Tishri posterior

Bull, or Marcheshvan

December

Canun prior

Chisleu

January

Canun posterior

Tebeth

February

Shubat

Shebat

March

Adar

Adar

April

Nisan

Nisan

May

Ajar

Zif, or Iyar

June

Chaziran

Sivan

July

Tamuz

Tammuz

August

Ab

Ab

September
A Note by the Translator.—The following list of the Syrian names of months, in use in the empire and during the era of the Seleucidae, several of which have been mentioned in these Documents, is taken from Caswinii Calendarium Syriacum, edited in Arabic and Latin by Volck, 1859. The later Hebrew names also are here added for comparison. It must, however, be noticed that “the years employed in the Syrian Calendar, were, at least after the incarnation, Julian years, composed of Roman months.” (See L’Art de verifier les dates: Paris, 1818, tom. i. p. 45.) The correspondence with the Hebrew months, therefore, is not so dose as the names would indicate, since these commenced with the new moons, and an intercalary month, Veadar, following their twelfth month Adar, was added.

The Teaching of the Apostles.1

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At that time Christ was taken up to His Father; and how the apostles received the gift of the Spirit; and the Ordinances and Laws of the Church; and whither each one of the apostles went; and from whence the countries in the territory of the Romans received the ordination to the priesthood.

In the year three hundred and2 thirty-nine of the kingdom of the Greeks, in the month Heziran,3 on the fourth4 day of the same, which is the first day of the week, and the end of Pentecost5 —on the selfsame day came the disciples from Nazareth of Galilee, where the conception of our Lord was announced, to the mount which is called that of the Place of Olives,6 our Lord being with them, but not being visible to them. And at the time of early dawn our Lord lifted up His hands, and laid them upon the heads of the eleven disciples, and gave to them the gift of the priesthood. And suddenly a bright cloud received Him. And they saw Him as He was going up to heaven. And He sat down on the fight hand of His Father. And they praised God because they saw His ascension according as He had told them; and they rejoiced because they had received the Right Hand conferring on them the priesthood of the house of Moses and Aaron.

And from thence they went up to the city, and7 proceeded to an upper room—that in which our Lord had observed the passover with them, and the place where the inquiries had been made: Who it was that should betray our Lord to the crucifiers? There also were made the inquiries:8 How they should preach His Gospel in the world? And, as within the upper room the mystery of the body and of the blood of our Lord began to prevail in the world, so also from thence did the teaching of His preaching begin to have authority in the world.

And, when the disciples were cast into this perplexity, how they should preach His Gospel to men of strange tongues9 which were unknown to them, and were speaking thus to one another: Although we are confident that Christ will perform by our hands mighty works and miracles in the presence of strange peoples whose tongues we know not, and who themselves also are unversed in our tongue, yet who shall teach them and make them understand that it is by the name of Christ who was crucified that these mighty works and miracles are done?—while, I say, the disciples were occupied with these thoughts, Simon Cephas rose up, and said to them: My brethren, this matter, how we shall preach His Gospel, pertaineth not to us, but to our Lord; for He knoweth how it is possible for us to preach His Gospel in the world; and we rely on His care for us, which He promised us, saying: “When I am ascended to my Father I will send you the Spirit, the Paraclete, that He may teach you everything which it is meet for you to know, and to make known.”

And, whilst Simon Cephas was saying these things to his fellow-apostles, and putting them in remembrance, a mysterious voice was heard by them, and a sweet odour, which was strange to the world, breathed upon them;10 and tongues of fire, between the voice and the odour, came down from heaven11 towards them, and alighted and sat on every one of them; and, according to the tongue which every one of them had severally received, so did he prepare himself to go to the country in which that tongue was spoken and heard.And, by the same gift of the Spirit which was given to them on that day, they appointed Ordinances and Laws—such as were in accordance with the Gospel of their preaching, and with the true and faithful doctrine of their teaching:—

1. The apostles therefore appointed: Pray ye towards the east:12 because, “as the lightning which lighteneth from the east and is seen even to the west, so shall the coming of the Son of man be: ”13 that by this we might know and understand that He will appear from the east suddenly.14

2. The apostles further appointed: On the first day of the week let there be service, and the reading of the Holy Scriptures, and the oblation:15 because on the first day of the week our Lord rose from the lace of the dead and on the first day of the week He arose upon the world, and on the first day of the week He ascended up to heaven, and on the first day of the week He will appear at last with the angels of heaven.16

3. The apostles further appointed: On the fourth17 day of the week let there be service: because on that day our Lord made the disclosure to them about His trial,18 and His suffering, and His crucifixion, and His death, and His resurrection; and the disciples were on account of this in sorrow.19

4. The apostles further appointed: On the eve of the Sabbath,20 at the ninth hour, let there be service: because that which had been spoken on the fourth day of the week about the suffering of the Saviour was brought to pass on the same eve; the worlds and creatures trembling, and the luminaries in the heavens being darkened.

5. The apostles further appointed: Let there be elders and deacons, like the Levites;21 and subdeacons,22 like those who carried the vessels of the court of the sanctuary of the Lord; and an overseer,23 who shall likewise be the Guide of all the people,24 like Aaron, the head and chief of all the priests and Levites of the whole city.25 6. The apostles further appointed: Celebrate the day of the Epiphany26 of our Saviour, which is the chief of the festivals of the Church, on the sixth day of the latter Canun,27 in the long number of the Greeks.28

7. The apostles further appointed: Forty29 days before the day of the passion of our Saviour fast ye, and then celebrate the day of the passion, and the day of the resurrection: because our Lord Himself also, the Lord of the festival, fasted forty days; and Moses and Elijah, who were endued with this mystery, likewise each fasted forty days, and then were glorified.

8. The apostles further appointed: At the conclusion of all the Scriptures other let the Gospel be read, as being the seal30 of all the Scriptures; and let the people listen to it standing upon their feet: because it is the Gospel of the redemption of all men.

9. The apostles further appointed: At the completion of fifty31 days after His resurrection make yea commemoration of His ascension to His glorious Father.

10. The apostles appointed: That, beside the Old Testament, and the Prophets, and the Gospel, and the Acts (of their exploits), nothing should be read on the pulpit in the church.32

11. The apostles further appointed: Whosoever is unacquainted with the faith of the Church and the ordinances and laws which are appointed in it, let him not be a guide and ruler; and whosoever is acquainted with them and departs from them, let him not minister again: because, not being true in his ministry, he has lied.

12. The apostles further appointed: Whosoever sweareth, or33 lieth, or beareth false witness, or hath recourse to magicians and soothsayers and Chaldeans, and putteth confidence in fates and nativities, which they hold fast who know not God,—let him also, as a man that knoweth not God, be dismissed from the ministry, and not minister again.

13. The apostles further appointed: If there be any man that is divided in mind touching the ministry, and who follows it not with a steadfast will34 , let not this man minister again: because the Lord of the ministry is not served by him with a stedfast will; and he deceiveth man only, and not God, “before whom crafty devices avail not,”35

14. The apostles further appointed: Whosoever lendeth and receiveth usury,36 and is occupied in merchandise and covetousness, let not this man minister again, nor continue in the ministry.

15. The apostles further appointed: That whosoever loveth the Jews,37 like Iscariot, who was their friend, or the pagans, who worship creatures instead of the Creator,—should not enter in amongst them and minister; and moreover, that if he be already amongst them, they should not suffer him to remain, but that he should be separated from amongst them, and not minister with them again.

16. The apostles further appointed: That, if any one from the Jews or from the pagans come and join himself with them, and if after he has joined himself with them he turn and go back again to the side on which he stood before, and if he again return and come to them a second time,—he should not be received again; but that, according to the side on which he was before, so those who know him should look upon him.

17. The apostles further appointed: That it should not be permitted to the Guide to transact the matters which pertain to the Church apart from those who minister with him; but that he should issue commands with the counsel of them all, and that that only should be done which all of them should concur in and not disapprove.38

18. The apostles further appointed: Whenever any shall depart out of this world with a good testimony to the faith of Christ, and with affliction borne for His name’s sake, make yea commemoration of them on the day on which they were put to death.39

19. The apostles further appointed: In the service of the Church repeat ye the praises of David day by day: because of this saying: “I will bless the Lord at all times, and at all times His praises shall be in my mouth; ”40 and this: “By day and by night will I meditate and speak, and cause my voice to be heard before Thee.”

20. The apostles further appointed: If any divest themselves of mammon and run not after the gain of money, let these men be chosen and admitted to the ministry of the altar.

21. The apostles further appointed: Let any priest who accidentally puts another in bonds41 contrary to justice receive the punishment that is right; and let him that has been bound receive the bonds as if he had been equitably bound.

22. The apostles further appointed: If it be seen that those who are accustomed to hear causes show partiality, and pronounce the innocent guilty and the guilty innocent, let them never again hear another cause: thus receiving the rebuke of their partiality, as it is fit.42

23. The apostles further ordained: Let not those that are high-minded and lifted up with the arrogance of boasting be admitted to the ministry: because of this text: “That which is exalted among men is abominable before God; ”and because concerning them it is said: “I will return a recompense upon those that vaunt themselves.”

24. The apostles further appointed: Let there be a Ruler over the elders who are in the villages, and let him be recognised as head of them all, at whose hand all of them shall be required: for Samuel also thus made visits from place to place and ruled.43

25. The apostles further appointed: That those kings who shall hereafter believe in Christ should be permitted to go up and stand before the altar along with the Guides of the Church: because David also, and those who were like him, went up and stood before the altar.44

26. The apostles further appointed: Let no man dare to do anything by the authority of the priesthood which is not in accordance with justice and equity, but in accordance with justice, and free from the blame of partiality, let all things be done.

27. The apostles further appointed: Let the bread of the Oblation be placed upon the altar on the day on which it is baked, and not some days after—a thing which is not permitted.All these things did the apostles appoint, not for themselves, but for those who should come after them—for they were apprehensive that in time to come wolves would put on sheep’s clothing: since for themselves the Spirit, the Paraclete, which was in them, was sufficient: that, even as He had appointed these laws by their hands, so He would guide them lawfully. For they, who had received from our Lord power and authority, had no need that laws should be appointed for them by others. For Paul also, and Timothy,45 while they were going from place to place in the country of Syria and Cilicia, committed these same Commands and Laws of the apostles and elders to those who were under the hand of the apostles, for the churches of the countries in which they were preaching and publishing the Gospel.

The disciples, moreover, after they had appointed these Ordinances and Laws, ceased not from the preaching of the Gospel, or from the wonderful mighty-works which our Lord did by their hands. For much people was gathered about them every day, who believed in Christ; and they came to them from other cities, and heard their words and received them. Nicodemus also, and Gamaliel, chiefs of the synagogue of the Jews, used to come to the apostles in secret, agreeing with their teaching. Judas, moreover, and Levi, and Peri, and Joseph, and Justus, sons of Hananias, and Caiaphas46 and Alexander the priests—they too used to come to the apostles by night, confessing Christ that He is the Son of God; but they were afraid of the people of their own nation, so that they did not disclose their mind toward the disciples.

And the apostles received them affectionately, saying to them: Do not, by reason of the shame and fear of men, forfeit your salvation before God, nor have the blood of Christ required of you; even as your fathers, who took it upon them: for it is not acceptable before God, that, while ye are, in secret, with His worshippers, ye should go and associate with the murderers of His adorable Son. How do ye expect that your faith should be accepted with those that are true, whilst ye are with those that are false? But it becomes you, as men who believe in Christ, to confess openly this faith which we preach.47

And, when they heard these things from the Disciples, those sons of the priests, all of them alike, cried out before the whole company of the apostles: We confess and believe in Christ who was crucified, and we confess that He is from everlasting the Son of God; and those who dared to crucify Him do we renounce. For even the priests of the people in secret confess Christ; but, for the sake of the headship among the people which they love, they are not willing to confess openly; and they have forgotten that which is written:48 “Of knowledge is He the Lord, and before Him avail not crafty devices.”

And, when their fathers heard these things from their sons, they became exceedingly hostile to them: not indeed because they had believed in Christ, but because they had declared and spoken openly of the mind of their fathers before the sons of their people.

But those who believed clove to the disciples, and departed not from them, because they saw that, whatsoever they taught the multitude, they themselves carried into practice before all men; and, when affliction and persecution arose against the disciples, they rejoiced to be afflicted with them, and received with gladness stripes and imprisonment for the confession of their faith in Christ; and all the days of their life they preached Christ before the Jews and the Samaritans.

And after the death of the apostles there were Guides and Rulers49 in the churches; and, whatsoever the apostles had committed to them and they had received from them, they continued to teach to the multitude through the whole space of their lives. They too, again, at their deaths committed and delivered to their disciples after them whatsoever they had received from the apostles; also what James had written from Jerusalem, and Simon from the city of Rome, and John from Ephesus, and Mark from Alexandria the Great, and Andrew from Phrygia, and Luke from Macedonia, and Judas Thomas from India:50 that the epistles of an apostle51 might be received and read in the churches that were in every place, just as the achievements of their Acts, which Luke wrote, are read; that hereby the apostles might be known, and the prophets, and the Old Testament and the New;52 that so might be seen one truth was proclaimed in them all: that one Spirit spoke in them all, from one God whom they had all worshipped and had all preached. And the divers countries received their teaching. Everything, therefore, which had been spoken by our Lord by means of the apostles, and which the apostles had delivered to their disciples, was believed and received in every country, by the operation53 of our Lord, who said to them: “I am with you, even until the world shall end; ”the Guides disputing with the Jews from the books of the prophets, and contending also against the deluded pagans with the terrible mighty-works which they did in the name of Christ. For all the peoples, even those that dwell in other countries, quietly and silently received54 the Gospel of Christ; and those who became confessors cried out under their persecution: This our persecution to-day shall plead55 on our behalf, lest we be punished, for having been formerly persecutors ourselves. For there were some of them against whom death by the sword was ordered; and there were some of them from whom they took away whatsoever they possessed, and let them go.56 And the more affliction arose against them, the richer and larger did their congregations become; and with gladness in their hearts did they receive death of every kind. And by ordination to the priesthood, which the apostles themselves had received from our Lord, did their Gospel wing its way rapidly into the four quarters of the world. And by mutual visitation they ministered to one another.

1. Jerusalem received the ordination to the priesthood, as did all the country of Palestine, and the parts occupied by the Samaritans, and the parts occupied by the Philistines, and the country of the Arabians, and of Phoenicia, and the people of Caesarea, from James, who was ruler and guide in the church of the apostles which was built in Zion.

2. Alexandria the Great, and Thebais, and the whole of Inner Egypt, and all the country of Pelusium,57 and extending as far as the borders of the Indians, received the apostles’ ordination to the priesthood from Mark the evangelist, who was ruler and guide there in the church which he had built, in which, he also ministered.

3. India,58 and all the countries belonging to it and round about it, even to the farthest sea, received the apostles’ ordination to the priesthood from Judas Thomas, who was guide and ruler in the church which he had built there, in which he also ministered there.

4. Antioch, and Syria, and Cilicia, and Galatia, even to Pontus, received the apostles’ ordination to the priesthood from Simon Cephas, who himself laid the foundation of the church there,59 and was priest and ministered there up to the time when he went up from thence to Rome on account of Simon the sorcerer, who was deluding the people of Rome with his sorceries.60

5. The city of Rome, and all Italy, and Spain, and Britain, and Gaul, together with all the rest of the countries round about them, received the apostles’ ordination to the priesthood from Simon Cephas, who went up from Antioch; and he was ruler and guide there, in the church which he had built there, and in the places round about it.61

6. Ephesus, and Thessalonica, and all Asia, and all the country of the Corinthians, and of all Achaia and the parts round about it, received the apostles’ ordination to the priesthood from John the evangelist, who had leaned upon the bosom of our Lord; who himself built a church there, and ministered in his office of Guide which he held there.

7. Nicaea, and Nicomedia, and all the country of Bithynia, and of Inner Galatia,62 and of the regions round about it, received the apostles’ ordination to the priesthood from Andrew, the brother of Simon Cephas, who was himself Guide and Ruler in the church which he had built there, and was priest and ministered there.

8. Byzantium, and all the country of Thrace, and of the parts about it as far as the great river,63 the boundary which separates from the barbarians, received the apostles’ ordination to the priesthood from Luke the apostle, who himself built a church there, and ministered there in his office of Ruler and Guide which he held there.

9. Edessa, and all the countries round about it which were on all sides of it, and Zoba,64 and Arabia, and all the north, and the regions round about it, and the south, and all the regions on the borders of Mesopotamia, received the apostles’ ordination to the priesthood from Addaeus the apostle, one of the seventy-two apostles,65 who himself made disciples there, and built a church there, and was priest and ministered there in his office of Guide which he held there.

10. The whole of Persia, of the Assyrians, and of the Armenians, and of the Medians, and of the countries round about Babylon, the Huzites and the Gelae, as far as the borders of the Indians, and as far as the land66 of Gog and Magog, and moreover all the countries on all sides, received the apostles’ ordination to the priesthood from Aggaeus, a maker of silks,67 the disciple of Addaeus the apostle.

The other remaining companions of the apostles, moreover went to the distant countries of the barbarians; and they made disciples from place to place and passed on; and there they ministered by their preaching; and there occurred their departure out of this world, their disciples after them going on with the work down to the present day, nor was any change or addition made by them in their preaching.

Luke, moreover, the evangelist had such diligence that he wrote the exploits of the Acts of the Apostles, and the ordinances and laws of the ministry of their priesthood, and whither each one of them went. By his diligence, I say, did Luke write these things, and more than these; and he placed them in the hand of Priscus68 and Aquilus, his disciples; and they accompanied him up to the day of his death, just as Timothy and Erastus of Lystra, and Menaus,69 the first disciples of the apostles, accompanied Paul until he was taken up to the city of Rome because he had withstood Tertullus the orator.70

And Nero Caesar despatched with the sword Simon Cephas in the city of Rome.71



1 The Teaching of Simon Cephas2 In the City of Rome.3

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In the third4 year of Claudius Caesar, Simon Cephas departed from Antioch to go to Rome. And as he passed on he preached in the divers countries the word of our Lord. And, when he had nearly arrived there,5 many had heard of it and went out to meet him, and the whole church received him with great joy. And some of the princes of the city, wearers of the imperial headbands,6 came to him, that they might see him and hear his word. And, when the whole city was gathered together about him, he stood up to speak to them, and to show them the preaching of his doctrine, of what sort it was. And he began to speak to them thus:—

Men, people of Rome, saints of all Italy, hear ye that which I say to you. This day I preach and proclaim Jesus the Son of God, who came down from heaven, and became man, and was with us as one of ourselves, and wrought marvellous mighty-works and signs and wonders before us, and before all the Jews that are in the land of Palestine. And you yourselves also heard of those things which He did: because they came to Him from other countries also, on account of the fame of His healing and the report of the marvellous help He gave;7 and whosoever drew near to Him was healed by His word. And, inasmuch as He was God, at the same time that He healed He also forgave sins: for His healing, which was open to view, bore witness of His hidden forgiveness, that it was real and trustworthy. For this Jesus did the prophets announce in their mysterious sayings, as they were looking forward to see Him and to hear His word: Him who was with His Father from eternity and from everlasting; God, who was hidden in the height, and appeared in the depth; the glorious Son, who was from His Progenitor, and is to be glorified, together with His Father, and His divine Spirit, and the terrible power of His dominion. And He was crucified of His own will by the hands of sinners, and was taken up to His Father, even as I and my companions saw. And He is about to come again, in His own glory and that of His holy angels, even as we heard Him say to us. For we cannot say anything which was not heard by us from Him, neither do we write in the book of His Gospel anything which He Himself did not say to us: because this word is spoken in order that the mouth of liars may be shut, in the day when men shall give an account of idle words at the place of judgment.

Moreover, because we were catchers of fish,8 and not skilled in books, therefore did He also say to us: “I will send you the Spirit, the Paraclete, that He may teach you that which ye know not; ”for it is by His gift that we speak those things which ye hear. And, further, by it we bring aid to the sick, and healing to the diseased: that by the hearing of His word and by the aid of His power ye may believe in Christ, that He is God, the Son of God; and may be delivered from the service of bondage, and may worship Him and His Father, and glorify His divine Spirit. For when we glorify the Father, we glorify the Son also with Him; and when we worship the Son, we worship the Father also with Him; and when we confess the Spirit, we confess the Father also and the Son: because in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Spirit, were we commanded to baptize those who believe, that they may live for ever.

Flee therefore from the words of the wisdom of this world, in which there is no profit, and draw near to those which are true and faithful, and acceptable before God; whose reward also is laid up in store, and whose recompense standeth sure. Now, too,9 the light has arisen on the creation, and the world has obtained the eyes, of the mind, that every man may see and understand that it is not fit that creatures should be worshipped instead of the Creator, nor together with the Creator: because everything which is a creature is made to be a worshipper of its Maker, and is not to be worshipped like its Creator. But this One who came to us is God, the Son of God, in His own nature, notwithstanding that He mingled10 His Godhead with our manhood, in order that He might renew our manhood by the aid of His Godhead. And on this account it is right that we should worship Him, because He is to be worshipped together with His Father, and that we should not worship creatures, who were created for the worship of the Creator. For He is Himself the God of truth and verity; He is Himself from before all worlds and creatures; He is Himself the veritable Son, and the glorious fruit11 which is from the exalted Father.

But ye see the wonderful works which accompany and follow these words. One would not credit it: the time lo! is short since He ascended to His Father, and see how His Gospel has winged its flight through the whole creation—that thereby it may be known and believed that He Himself is the Creator of creatures, and that by His bidding creatures subsist. And, whereas ye saw the sun become darkened at His death, ye yourselves also are witnesses. The earth, moreover, quaked when He was slain, and the veil was rent at His death. And concerning these things the governor Pilate also was witness: for he himself sent and made them known to Caesar,12 and these things, and more than these, were read before him, and before the princes of your city. And on this account Caesar was angry against Pilate because he had unjustly listened to the persuasion of the Jews; and for this reason he sent and took away from him the authority which he had given to him. And this same thing was published and known in all the dominion of the Romans. That, therefore, which Pilate saw and made known to Caesar and to your honourable senate, the same do I preach and declare, as do also my fellow-apostles. And ye know that Pilate could not have written to the imperial government of that which did not take place and which he had not seen with his own eyes; but that which did take place and was actually done—this it was that he wrote and made known. Moreover, the watchers of the sepulchre also were witnesses of those things which took place there: they became as dead men; and, when those watchers were questioned before Pilate, they confessed before him how large a bribe the chief-priests of the Jews had given them, so that they might say that we His disciples had stolen the corpse of Christ. Lo! then, ye have heard many things; and moreover, if ye be not willing to be persuaded by those things which ye have heard, be at least persuaded by the mighty-works which ye see, which are done by His name.

Let not Simon the sorcerer delude you by semblances which are not realities, which he exhibits to you, as to men who have no understanding, who know not how to discern that which they see and hear. Send, therefore, and fetch him to where all your city is assembled together, and choose you some sign for us to do before you; and, whichever ye see do that same sign, it will be your part to believe in it.

And immediately they sent and fetched Simon the sorcerer;13 and the men who were adherents of his opinion said to him: As a man concerning whom we have confidence that there is power in thee to do anything whatsoever,14 do thou some sign before us all, and let this Simon the Galilaean, who preaches Christ, see it. And, whilst they were thus speaking to him, there happened to be passing along a dead person, a son of one of those who were chiefs and men of note and renown among them. And all of them, as they were assembled together, said to him: Whichever of you shall restore to life this dead person, he is true, and to be believed in and received, and we will all follow him in whatsoever he saith to us. And they said to Simon the sorcerer: Because thou wast here before Simon the Galilaean, and we knew thee before him, exhibit thou first the power which accompanieth thee.15

Then Simon reluctantly drew near to the dead person; and they set down the bier before him; and he looked to the fight hand and to the left, and gazed up into heaven, saying many words: some of them he uttered aloud, and some of them secretly and not aloud. And he delayed a long while, and nothing took place, and nothing was done, and the dead person was lying upon his bier.

And forthwith Simon Cephas drew near boldly towards the dead man, and cried aloud before all the assembly which was standing there: In the name of Jesus Christ, whom the Jews crucified at Jerusalem, and whom we preach, rise up thence. And as soon as the word of Simon was spoken the dead man came to life and rose up from the bier.

And all the people saw and marvelled; and they said to Simon: Christ, whom thou preachest, is true. And many cried out, and said: Let Simon the sorcerer and the deceiver of us all be stoned. But Simon, by reason that every one was running to see the dead man that was come to life, escaped from them from one street to another and from house to house, and fell not into their hands on that day.

But the whole city took hold of Simon Cephas, and they received him gladly and affectionately; and he ceased not from doing signs and wonders in the name of Christ; and many believed in him. Cuprinus,16 moreover, the father of him that was restored to life, took Simon with him to his house, and entertained him in a suitable manner, while he and all his household believed in Christ, that He is the Son of the living God. And many of the Jews and of the pagans became disciples there. And, when there was great rejoicing at his teaching, he built churches there, in Rome and in the cities round about, and in all the villages of the people of Italy; and he served there in the rank of the Superintendence of Rulers twenty-five years.17

And after these years Nero Caesar seized him and shut him up in prison. And he knew that he would crucify him; so he called Ansus,18 the deacon, and made him bishop in his stead in Rome. And these things did Simon himself speak; and moreover also the rest, the other things which he had in charge, he commanded Ansus to teach before the people, saying to him: Beside the New Testament and the Old let there not be read before the people19 anything else:20 which is not right.

And, when Caesar had commanded that Simon should be crucified with his head downwards, as he himself had requested of Caesar, and that Paul’s head should be taken off, there was great commotion among the people, and bitter distress in all the church, seeing that they were deprived of the sight of the apostles. And Isus the guide arose and took up their bodies by night, and buried them with great honour, and there came to be a gathering-place there for many.

And at that very time, as if by a righteous judgment, Nero abandoned his empire and fled, and there was a cessation for a little while from the persecution which Nero Caesar had raised against them. And many years after the great coronation21 of the apostles, who had departed out of the world, while ordination to the priesthood was proceeding both in all Rome and in all Italy, it happened then that there was a great famine in the city of Rome.22

Here endeth the teaching of Simon Cephas.

Acts of Sharbil,1

Who Was a Priest of Idols, and Was Converted to the Confession of Christianity in Christ.2

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In the fifteenth year of the Sovereign Ruler3 Trajan Caesar,4 and in the third year of King Abgar the Seventh,5 which is the year 416 of the kingdom of Alexander king of the Greeks, and in the priesthood of Sharbil and Barsamya,6 Trajan Caesar commanded the governors of the countries under his dominion that sacrifices and libations should be increased in all the cities of their administration, and that those who did not sacrifice should be seized and delivered over to stripes, and to the tearing of combs, and to bitter inflictions of all kinds of tortures, and should afterwards receive the punishment of the sword.

Now, when the command arrived at the town of Edessa of the Parthians, there was a great festival, on the eighth of Nisan, on the third day of the week: the whole city was gathered together by the great altar7 which was in the middle of the town, opposite the Record office,8 all the gods having been brought together, and decorated, and sitting in honour, both Nebu and Bel together with their fellows. And all the priests were offering incense of spices and libations,9 and an odour of sweetness was diffusing itself around, and sheep and oxen were being slaughtered, and the sound of the harp and the drum was heard in the whole town. And Sharbil was chief and ruler of all the priests; and he was honoured above all his fellows, and was clad in splendid and magnificent vestments; and a headband embossed with figures of gold was set upon his head; and at the bidding of his word everything that he ordered was done. And Abgar the king, son of the gods, was standing at the head of the people. And they obeyed Sharbil, because he drew nearer to all the gods than any of his fellows, and as being the one who according to that which he had heard from the gods returned an answer to every man.



And, while these things were being done by the command of the king, Barsamya, the bishop of the Christians, went up to Sharbil, he and Tiridath the elder and Shalula the deacon; and he said to Sharbil, the high priest: The King Christ, to whom belong heaven and earth, will demand an account at thy hands of all these souls against whom thou art sinning, and whom thou art misleading, and turning away from the God of verity and of truth to idols that are made and deceitful, which are not able to do anything with their hands—moreover also thou hast no pity on thine own soul, which is destitute of the true life of God; and thou declarest to this people that the dumb idols talk with thee; and, as if thou wert listening to something from them, thou puttest thine ear near to one and another of them, and sayest to this people: The god Nebu bade me say to you,” On account of your sacrifices and oblations I cause peace in this your country; ”and: Bel saith, “I cause great plenty in your land; ”and those who hear this from thee do not discern that thou art greatly deceiving them—because “they have a mouth and speak not, and they have eyes and see not with them; ”it is ye who bear up them, and not they who bear up10 you, as ye suppose; and it is ye who set tables before them, and not they who feed you. And now be persuaded by me touching that which I say to thee and advise thee. If thou be willing to hearken to me, abandon idols made, and worship God the Maker of all things, and His Son Jesus Christ. Do not, because He put on a body and became man and was stretched out on the cross of death, be ashamed of Him and refuse to worship Him: for, all these things which He endured—it was for the salvation of men and for their deliverance. For this One who put on a body is God, the Son of God, Son of the essence of His Father, and Son of the nature of Him who begat Him: for He is the adorable brightness of His Godhead, and is the glorious manifestation of His majesty, and together with His Father He existed from eternity and from everlasting, His arm, and His right hand, and His power, and His wisdom, and His strength, and the living Spirit which is from Him, the Expiator and Sanctifier of all His worshippers. These are the things which Palut taught us, with whom thy venerable self11 was acquainted; and thou knowest that Palut was the disciple of Addaeus the apostle. Abgar the king also, who was older than this Abgar, who himself worshippeth idols as well as thou, he too believed in the King Christ, the Son of Him whom thou callest Lord of all the gods.12 For it is forbidden to Christians to worship anything that is made, and is a creature, and in its nature is not God: even as ye worship idols made by men,13 who themselves also are made and created. Be persuaded, therefore, by these things which I have said to thee, which things are the belief of the Church: for I know that all this population are looking to thee, and I am well assured that, if thou be persuaded, many also will persuaded with thee.14

Sharbil said to him: Very acceptable to me are these thy words which thou hast spoken before me; yea, exceedingly acceptable are they to me. But, as for me, I know that I am outcast from15 all these things, and there is no longer any remedy for me. And, now that hope is cut off from me, why weariest thou thyself about a man dead and buried,16 for whose death there is no hope of resuscitation? For I am slain by paganism, and am become a dead man, the property of the Evil One: in sacrifices and libations of imposture have I consumed all the days of my life.

And, when Barsamya the bishop heard these things,17 he fell down before his feet, and said to him: There is hope for those who turn, and healing for those that are wounded. I myself will be surety to thee for the abundant mercies of the Son Christ: that He will pardon thee all the sins which thou hast committed against Him, in that thou hast worshipped and honoured His creatures instead of Himself. For that Gracious One, who extended Himself on the cross of death, will not withhold His grace from the souls that comply with His precepts and take refuge in His kindness which has been displayed towards us. Like as He did towards the robber, so is He able to do to thee, and also to those who are like thee.

Sharbil said to him: Thou, like a skilful physician, who suffers pain from the pain of the afflicted, hast done well in that thou hast been concerned about me. But at present, because it is the festival to-day of this people, of every one of them, I cannot go down with thee to-day to the church. Depart thou, and go down with honour; and to-morrow at night I will come down to thee: I too have henceforth renounced for myself the gods made with hands, and I will confess the Lord Christ, the Maker of all men.

And the next day Sharbil arose and went down to Barsamya by night, he and Babai his sister; and he was received by the whole church. And he said to them: Offer for me prayer and supplication, that Christ may forgive me all the sins that I have committed against Him in all this long course of years. And, because they were in dread of the persecutors, they arose and gave him the seal of salvation,18 whilst he confessed the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.19

And, when all the city had heard that he was gone down to the church, there began to be a consternation among the multitude; and they arose and went down to him, and saw him clad in the fashion of the Christians.20 And he said to them: May the Son Christ forgive me all the sins that I have committed against you, and all in which I made you think that the gods talked with me, whereas they did not talk; and, forasmuch as I have been to you a cause of abomination, may I now be to you a cause of good: instead of worshipping, as formerly, idols made with hands, may ye henceforth worship God the Maker. And, when they had heard these things, there remained with him a great congregation of men and of women; and Labu also, and Hafsai, and Barcalba, and Avida, chief persons of the city. They all said to Sharbil: Henceforth we also renounce that which thou hast renounced, and we confess the King Christ, whom thou hast confessed.

But Lysanias,21 the judge of the country, when he heard22 that Sharbil had done this,23 sent by night24 and carded him off from the church. And there went up with him many Christians. And he sat down, to hear him and to judge him, before the altar which is in the middle of the town, where he used to sacrifice to the gods. And he said to him: Wherefore hast thou renounced the gods, whom thou didst worship, and to whom thou didst sacrifice, and to whom thou wast made chief of the priests, and lo! dost today confess Christ, whom thou didst formerly deny? For see how those Christians, to whom thou art gone, renounce not that which they have held,25 like as thou hast renounced that in which thou wast born. If thou art assured of the gods, how is it that thou hast renounced them this day? But, if on the contrary thou art not assured, as thou declarest concerning them, how is it that thou didst once sacrifice to them and worship them?

Sharbil said: When I was blinded in my mind, I worshipped that which I knew not; but to-day, inasmuch as I have obtained the clear eyes of the mind, it is henceforth impossible that I should stumble at carved stones, or that I should any longer be the cause of stumbling to others. For it is a great disgrace to him whose eyes are open, if he goes and falls into the pit of destruction.

The judge said: Because thou hast been priest of the venerable gods, and hast been partaker of the mystery of those whom the mighty emperors26 worship, I will have patience with thee, in order that thou mayest be persuaded by me, and not turn away from the service of the gods; but, if on the contrary thou shall not be persuaded by me, by those same gods whom thou hast renounced I swear that, even as on a man that is a murderer, so will I inflict tortures on thee, and will avenge on thee the wrong done to the gods, whom thou hast rebelled against and renounced, and also the insult which thou hast poured upon them; nor will I leave untried any kind of tortures which I will not inflict on thee; and, like as thine honour formerly was great, so will I make thine ignominy great this day.

Sharbil said: I too, on my part, am not content that thou shouldest look upon me as formerly, wheel I worshipped gods made with hands; but look thou upon me to-day and question me as a Christian man renouncing idols and confessing the King Christ.

The judge said: How is it that thou art not afraid of the emperors, nor moved to shame by those who are listening to thy trial, that thou sayest, “I am a Christian”? But promise that thou wilt sacrifice to the gods, according to thy former custom, so that thy honour may be great, as formerly—lest I make to tremble at thee all those who have believed like thyself.

Sharbil said: Of the King of kings I am afraid, but at any king of earth I tremble not, nor yet at thy threats towards me, which lo! thou utterest against the worshippers of Christ: whom I confessed yesterday, and lo! I am brought to trial for His sake to-day, like as He Himself was brought to trial for the sake of sinners like me.

The judge said: Although thou have no pity on thyself, still I will have pity on thee, and refrain from cutting off those hands of thine with which thou hast placed incense before the gods, and from stopping with thy blood those ears of thine which have heard their mysteries, and thy tongue which has interpreted and explained to us their secret things. Of those gods lo! I am afraid, and I have pity on thee. But, if thou continue thus, those gods be my witnesses that I will have no pity on thee!

Sharbil said: As a man who art afraid of the emperors and tremblest at idols, have thou no pity on me. For, as for me, I know not what thou sayest: therefore also is my mind not shaken or terrified by those things which thou sayest. For by thy judgments shall all they escape from the judgment to come who do not worship that which is not God in its own nature.

The judge said: Let him be scourged with thongs,27 because he has dared to answer me thus, and has resisted the command of the emperors, and has not appreciated the honour which the gods conferred on him: inasmuch as, lo! he has renounced them.

And he was scourged by ten men, who laid hold on him, according to the command of the judge.

Sharbil said: Thou art not aware of the scourging of justice in that world which is to come. For thou wilt cease, and thy judgments also will pass away; but justice will not pass away, nor will its retributions come to an end.

The judge28 said: Thou art so intoxicated with this same Christianity, that thou dost not even know29 before whom thou art judged, and by whom it is that thou art scourged—even by those who formerly held thee in honour, and paid adoration to thy priesthood in the gods. Why dost thou hate honour, and love this ignominy? For, although thou speakest contrary to the law, yet I myself cannot turn aside from the laws of the emperors.

Sharbil said: As thou takest heed not to depart from the laws of the emperors, and if moreover thou depart from them thou knowest what command they will give concerning thee, so do I also take heed not to decline from the law of Him who said, “Thou shalt not worship any image, nor any likeness; ”and therefore will I not sacrifice to idols made with hands: for long enough was the time in which I sacrificed to them, when I was in ignorance.

The judge said: Bring not upon thee punishment30 in addition to the punishment which thou hast already brought upon thee. Enough is it for thee to have said, “I will not sacrifice: ”do not dare to insult the gods, by calling them manufactured idols whom even the emperors honour.

Sharbil said: But, if on behalf of the emperors, who are far away and not near at hand and not conscious of those who treat their commands with contempt, thou biddest me sacrifice, how is it that on behalf of idols, who lo! are present and are seen, but see not, thou biddest me sacrifice? Why, hereby thou hast declared before all thy attendants31 that, because they have a mouth and speak not, lo! thou art become a pleader for them: dumb idols “to whom their makers shall be like,” and “every one that trusteth upon them” shall be like thee.

The judge said: It was not for this that thou wast called before me—that, instead of paying the honour which is due, thou shouldst despise the emperors. But draw near to the gods and sacrifice, and have pity on thyself, thou self-despiser!

Sharbil said: Why should it be requisite for thee to ask me many questions, after that which I have said to thee: “I will not sacrifice”? Thou hast called me a self-despiser? But would that from my childhood I had had this mind and had thus despised myself,32 which was perishing!

The judge said: Hang him up, and tear him with combs on his sides.—And while he was thus torn he cried aloud and said: It is for the sake of Christ, who has secretly caused His light to arise upon the darkness of my mind. And, when he had thus spoken, the judge commanded again that he should be torn with combs on his face.

Sharbil said: It is better that thou shouldest inflict tortures upon me for not sacrificing, than that I should be judged there for having sacrificed to the work of men’s hands.

The judge said: Let his body be bent backwards, and let straps be tied to his hands and his feet; and, when he has been bent backwards, let him be scourged on his belly.

And they scourged him in this manner, according to the command of the judge.

Then he commanded that he should go up to the prison, and that he should be east into a dark dungeon. And the executioners,33 and the Christians who had come up with him from the church, carried him, because he was not able to walk upon his feet in consequence of his having been bent backwards. And he was in the gaol many days.

But on the second of Ilul,34 on the third day of the week, the judge arose and went down to his judgment-hall by night; and the whole body of his attendants was with him; and he commanded the keeper of the prison, and they brought him before him. And the judge said to him: This long while hast thou been in prison: what has been thy determination concerning those things on which thou wast questioned before me? Dost thou consent to minister to the gods according to thy former custom, agreeably to the command of the emperors?

Sharbil said: This has been my determination in the prison, that that with which I began before thee, I will finish even to the last; nor will I play false with my word. For I will not again confess idols, which I have renounced; nor will I renounce the King Christ, whom I have confessed.

The judge said: Hang him up by his right hand, because he has withdrawn it from the gods that he may not again offer incense with it, until his hand with which he ministered to the gods be dislocated, because he persists in this saying of his.

And, while he was suspended by his hand, they asked him and said to him: Dost thou consent to sacrifice to the gods? But he was not able to return them an answer, on account of the dislocation of his arm. And the judge commanded, and they loosed him and took him down. But he was not able to bring his arm up to his side, until the executioners pressed it and brought it up to his side.

The judge said: Put on incense, and go whithersoever thou wilt, and no one shall compel thee to be a priest again. But, if thou wilt not, I will show thee tortures bitterer than these.

Sharbil said: As for gods that made not the heavens and the earth, may they perish from under these heavens! But thou, menace me not with words of threatening; but, instead of words, show upon me the deeds of threatening, that I hear thee not again making mention of the detestable name of gods!

The judge said: Let him be branded with the brand of bitter fire between his eyes and upon his cheeks.

And the executioners did so, until the smell of the branding reeked forth in the midst of the judgment-hall: but he refused to sacrifice.

Sharbil said: Thou hast heard for thyself from me, when I said to thee “Thou art not aware of the smoke of the roasting of the fire which is prepared for those who, like thee, confess idols made by hands, and deny the living God, after thy fashion.”

The judge said: Who taught thee all these things, that thou shouldest speak before me thus—a man who was a friend of the gods and an enemy of Christ, whereas, lo! thou art become his advocate.

Sharbil said: Christ whom I have confessed, He it is that hath taught me to speak thus. But there needeth not that I should be His advocate, for His own mercies are eloquent advocates for guilty ones like me, and these will avail to plead35 on my behalf in the day when the sentences shall be eternal.

The judge said: Let him be hanged up, and let him be torn with combs upon his former wounds; also let salt and vinegar be rubbed into the wounds upon his sides. Then he said to him: Renounce not the gods whom thou didst formerly confess.

Sharbil said: Have pity on me and spare me again from saying that there be gods, and powers, and fates, and nativities. On the contrary, I confess one God, who made the heavens, and the earth, and the seas, and all that is therein; and the Son who is from Him, the King Christ.

The judge said: It is not about this that thou art questioned before me—viz.: what is the belief of the Christians which thou hast confessed; but this is what I said to thee, “Renounce not those gods to whom thou wast made priest.”

Sharbil said: Where is that wisdom of thine and of the emperors of whom thou makest thy boast, that ye worship the work of the hands of the artificers and confess them, whilst the artificers themselves, who made the idols, ye insult by the burdens and imposts which ye lay upon them? The artificer standeth up at thy presence, to do honour to thee; and thou standest up in the presence of the work of the artificer, and dost honour it and worship it.

The judge said: Thou art not the man to call others to account for36 these things; but from thyself a strict account is demanded, as to the cause for which thou hast renounced the gods, and refusest to offer them incense like thy fellow-priests.

Sharbil said: Death on account of this is true life: those who confess the King Christ, He also will confess before His glorious Father.

The judge said: Let lighted candles37 be brought, and let them be passed round about his face and about the sides of his wounds. And they did so a long while.

Sharbil said: It is well that thou burnest me with this fire, that so I may be delivered from “that fire which is not quenched, and the worm that dieth not,” which is threatened to those38 who worship things made instead of the Maker: for it is forbidden to the Christians to honour or worship anything except the nature of Him who is God Most High. For that which is made and is created is designed to be a worshipper of its Maker, and is not to be worshipped along with its Creator, as thou supposest.

The governor said: It is not this for which the emperors have ordered me to demand an account at thy hands, whether there be judgment and the rendering of an account after the death of men; nor yet about this do I care, whether that which is made is to be honoured or not to be honoured. What the emperors have commanded me is this: that, whosoever will not sacrifice to the gods and offer incense to them, I should employ against him stripes, and combs, and sharp swords.

Sharbil said: The kings of this world are conscious of this world only; but the King of all kings, He hath revealed and shown to us that there is another world, and a judgment in reserve, in which a recompense will be made, on the one hand to those who have served God, and on the other to those who have not served Him nor confessed Him. Therefore do I cry aloud, that I will not again sacrifice to idols, nor will I offer oblations to devils, nor will I do honour to demons!

The judge said: Let nails of iron be driven in between the eyes of the insolent fellow, and let him go to that world which he is looking forward to, like a fanatic.39

And the executioners did so, the sound of the driving in of the nails being heard as they were being driven in sharply.

Sharbil said: Thou hast driven in nails between my eyes, even as nails were driven into the hands of the glorious Architect of the creation, and by reason of this did all orders of the creation tremble and quake at that season. For these tortures which lo! thou art inflicting on me are nothing in view of that judgment which is to come. For those “whose ways are always firm,” because “they have not the judgment of God before their eyes,”40 and who on this account do not even confess that God exists—neither will He confess them.

The judge said: Thou sayest in words that there is a judgment; but I will show thee in deeds: so that, instead of that judgment which is to come, thou mayest tremble and be afraid of this one which is before thine eyes, in which lo! thou art involved, and not multiply thy speech before me.

Sharbil said: Whosoever is resolved to set God before his eyes in secret, God will also be at his right hand; and I too am not afraid of thy threats of tortures, with which thou dost menace me and seek to make me afraid.

The judge said: Let Christ, whom thou hast confessed, deliver thee from all the tortures which I have inflicted on thee, and am about further to inflict on thee; and let Him show His deliverance towards thee openly, and save thee out of my hands.

Sharbil said: This is the true deliverance of Christ imparted to me—this secret power which He has given me to endure all the tortures thou art inflicting on me, and whatsoever it is settled in thy mind still further to inflict upon me; and, although thou hast plainly seen it to be so, thou hast refused to credit my word.

The judge said: Take him away from before me, and let him be hanged upon a beam the contrary way, head downwards; and let him be beaten with whips while he is hanging.

And the executioners did so to him, at the door of the judgment-hall.

Then the governor commanded, and they brought him in before him. And he said to him: Sacrifice to the gods, and do the will of the emperors, thou priest that hatest honour and lovest ignominy instead!

Sharbil said: Why dost thou again repeat thy words, and command me to sacrifice, after the many times that thou hast heard from me that I will not sacrifice again? For it is not any compulsion on the part of the Christians that has kept me back from sacrifices, but the truth they hold: this it is that has delivered me from the error of paganism.

The judge said: Let him be put into a chest41 of iron like a murderer, and let him be scourged with thongs like a malefactor.

And the executioners did so, until there remained not a sound place on him.

Sharbil said: As for these tortures, which thou supposest to be bitter, out of the midst of their bitterness will spring up for me fountains of deliverance and mercy in the day of the eternal sentences.

The governor said: Let small round pieces of wood be placed between the fingers of his hands,42 and let these be squeezed upon them vehemently.43

And they did so to him, until the blood came out from under the nails of his fingers.

Sharbil said: If thine eye be not satisfied with the tortures of the body, add still further to its tortures whatsoever thou wilt.

The judge said: Let the fingers of his hands be loosed, and make him sit upon the ground; and bind his hands upon his knees, and thrust a piece of wood under his knees, and let it pass over the bands of his hands, and hang him up by his feet, thus bent, head downwards; and let him be scourged with thongs.

And they did so to him.

Sharbil said: They cannot conquer who fight against God, nor may they be overcome whose confidence is God; and therefore do I say, that “neither fire nor sword, nor death nor life, nor height nor depth, can separate my heart from the love of God, which is in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The judge said: Make hot a ball of lead and of brass, and place it under his armpits.

And they did so, until his ribs began to be seen.

Sharbil said: The tortures thou dost inflict upon me are too little for thy rage against me—unless thy rage were little and thy tortures were great.

The judge said: Thou wilt not hurry me on by these things which thou sayest; for I have room in my mind44 to bear long with thee, and to behold every evil and shocking and bitter thing which45 I shall exhibit in the torment of thy body, because thou wilt not consent to sacrifice to the gods whom thou didst formerly worship.

Sharbil said: Those things which I have said and repeated before thee, thou in thine unbelief knowest not how to hear: now, supposest thou that thou knowest those things which are in my mind?

The judge said: The answers which thou givest will not help thee, but will multiply upon thee inflictions manifold.

Sharbil said: If the several stories of thy several gods are by thee accepted as true, yet is it matter of shame to us to tell of what sort they are. For one had intercourse with boys, which is not right; and another fell in love with a maiden, who fled for refuge into a tree, as your shameful stories tell.

The judge said: This fellow, who was formerly a respecter of the gods, but has now turned to insult them and has not been afraid, and has also despised the command of the emperors and has not trembled—set him to stand upon a gridiron46 heated with fire.

And the executioners did so, until the under part of his feet was burnt off.

Sharbil said: If thy rage is excited at my mention of the abominable and obscene tales of thy gods, how much more does it become thee to be ashamed of their acts! For lo! if a person were to do what one of thy gods did, and they were to bring him before thee, thou wouldest pass sentence of death upon him.

The judge said: This day will I bring thee to account for thy blasphemy against the gods, and thine audacity in insulting also the emperors; nor will I leave thee alone until thou offer incense to them, according to thy former custom.

Sharbil said: Stand by thy threats, then, and speak not falsely; and show towards me in deeds the authority of the emperors which they have given thee; and do not thyself bring reproach on the emperors with thy falsehood, and be thyself also despised in the eyes of thine attendants!

The judge said: Thy blasphemy against the gods and thine audacity towards the emperors have brought upon thee these tortures which thou art undergoing; and, if thou add further to thine audacity, there shall be further added to thee inflictions bitterer than these.

Sharbil said: Thou hast authority, as judge: do whatsoever thou wilt, and show no pity.

The judge said: How can he that hath had no pity on his own body, so as to avoid suffering in it these tortures, be afraid or ashamed of not obeying the command of the emperors?

Sharbil said: Thou hast well said that I am not ashamed: because near at hand is He that justifieth me, and my soul is caught up in rapture towards him. For, whereas I once provoked Him to anger by the sacrifices of idols, I am this day pacifying Him by the inflictions I endure in my person: for my soul is a captive to God who became man.

The judge said: It is a captive, then, that I am questioning, and a madman without sense; and with a dead man who is burnt, lo! am I talking.

Sharbil said: If thou art assured that I am mad, question me no further: for it is a madman that is being questioned; nay, rather, I am a dead man who is burnt, as thou hast said.

The judge said: How shall I count thee a dead man, When lo! thou hast cried aloud, “I will not sacrifice? ”

Sharbil said: I myself, too, know not how to return thee an answer, since thou hast called me a dead man and yet turnest to question me again as if alive.

The judge said: Well have I called thee a dead man, because thy feet are burnt and thou carest not, and thy face is scorched and thou holdest thy peace, and nails are driven in between thine eyes and thou takest no account of it, and thy ribs are seen between the furrows of the combs and thou insultest the emperors, and thy whole body is mangled and maimed with stripes and thou blasphemest against the gods; and, because thou hatest thy body, lo! thou sayest whatsoever pleaseth thee.

Sharbil said: If thou callest me audacious because I have endured these things, it is fit that thou, who hast inflicted them upon me, shouldest be called a murderer in thy acts and a blasphemer in thy words.

The judge said: Lo! thou hast insulted the emperors, and likewise the gods; and lo! thou insultest me also, in order that I may pronounce sentence of death upon thee quickly. But instead of this, which thou lookest for, I am prepared yet further to inflict upon thee bitter and severe tortures.

Sharbil said: Thou knowest what I have said to thee many times: instead of denunciations of threatening, proceed to show upon me the performance of the threat, that thou mayest be known to do the will of the emperors.

The judge said: Let him be torn with combs upon his legs and upon the sides of his thighs.

And the executioners did so, until his blood flowed and ran down upon the ground.

Sharbil said: Thou hast well done in treating me thus: because I have heard that one of the teachers of the Church hath said,47 “Scars are on my body, that I may come to the resurrection from the place of the dead.” Me too, who was a dead man out of sight, lo! thine inflictions bring to life again.

The judge said: Let him be torn with combs on his face, since he is not ashamed of the nails which are driven in between his eyes.

And they tore him with combs upon his cheeks, and between the nails which were driven into them.

Sharbil said: I will not obey the emperors, who command that to be worshipped and honoured which is not of the nature of God, and is not God in its nature, but is the work of him that made it.

The judge said: Like as the emperors worship, so also worship thou; and that honour which the judges render, do thou render also.

Sharbil said: Even though I insult that which is the work of men and has no perception and no feeling of anything, yet do not thou insult God, the Maker of all, nor worship along with Him that which is not of Him, and is foreign to His nature.

The judge said: Does this your doctrine so teach you, that you should insult the very luminaries which give light to all the regions of the earth?

Sharbil said: Although it is not enjoined upon us to insult them, yet it is enjoined upon us not to worship them nor honour them, seeing that they are things made: for this were an insufferable48 wrong, that a thing made should be worshipped along with its Maker; and it is an insult to the Maker that His creatures should be honoured along with Himself.

The judge said: Christ whom thou confessest was hanged on a tree; and on a tree will I hang thee, like thy Master.

And they hanged him on a tree49 a long while.

Sharbil said: As for Christ, whom lo! thou mockest—see how thy many gods were unable to stand before Him: for lo! they are despised and rejected, and are made a laughing-stock and a jest by those who used formerly to worship them.

The judge said: How is it that thou renouncest the gods, and confessest Christ, who was hanged on a tree?

Sharbil said: This cross of Christ is the great boast of the Christians, since it is by this that the deliverance of salvation has come to all His worshippers, and by this that they have had their eyes enlightened, so as not to worship creatures along with the Creator.

The governor said: Let thy boasting of the cross be kept within thy own mind, and let incense be offered by thy hands to the gods.

Sharbil said: Those who have been delivered by the cross cannot any longer worship and serve the idols of error made with hands: for creature cannot worship creature, because it is itself also designed to be a worshipper of Him who made it; and that it should be worshipped along with its Maker is an insult to its Maker, as I have said before.

The governor said: Leave alone thy books which have taught thee to speak thus, and perform the command of the emperors, that thou idle not by the emperors’ law.

But Sharbil said: Is this, then, the justice of the emperors, in whom thou takest such pride, that we should leave alone the law of God and keep their laws?

The governor said: The citation of the books in which thou believest, and from which thou hast quoted—it is this which has brought upon thee these afflictions: for, if thou hadst offered incense to the gods, great would have been thine honour, like as it was formerly, as priest of the gods.

Sharbil said: To thine unbelieving heart these things seem as if they were afflictions; but to the true heart “affliction imparts patience, and from it comes also experience, and from experience likewise the hope”50 of the confessor.51

The governor said: Hang him up and tear him with combs upon his former wounds.

And, from the fury with which the judge urged On the executioners, his very bowels were almost seen. And, lest he should die under the combs and escape from still further tortures, he gave orders and they took him down.

And, when the judge saw that he was become silent and was not able to return him any further answer, he refrained from him a little while, until he began to revive.

Sharbil said: Why hast thou had pity upon me for even this little time, and kept me back from the gain of a confessor’s death?52

The governor said: I have not had pity on thee at all in refraining for a little while: thy silence it was that made me pause a little; and, if I had power beyond the law of the emperors, I should like to lay other tortures upon thee, so as to be more fully avenged on thee for thine insult toward the gods: for in despising me thou hast despised the gods; and I, on my part, have borne with thee and tortured thee thus, as a man who so deserves.

And the judge gave orders, and suddenly the curtain53 fell before him for a short time; and he settled and drew up the sentence54 which he should pronounce against him publicly.

And suddenly the curtain was drawn back again; and the judge cried aloud and said: As regards this Sharbil, who was formerly priest of the gods, but has turned this day and renounced the gods, and has cried aloud “I am a Christian,” and has not trembled at the gods, but has insulted them; and, further, has not been afraid of the emperors and their command; and, though I have bidden him sacrifice to the gods according to his former custom, has not sacrificed, but has treated them with the greatest insult: I have looked into the matter, and decided, that towards a man who doeth these things, even though he were now to sacrifice, it is not fit that any mercy should be shown; and that it is not fit that he should any longer behold the sun of his lords, because he has scorned their laws. I give sentence that, according to the law of the emperors, a strap55 be thrust into the mouth of the insulter, as into the mouth of a murderer, and that he depart outside of the city of the emperors with haste, as one who has insulted the lords of the city and the gods who hold authority over it. I give sentence that he be sawn with a saw of wood, and that, when he is near to die, then his head be taken off with the sword of the headsmen.

And forthwith a strap was thrust into his mouth with all speed, and the executioners hurried him off, and made him run quickly upon his burnt feet, and took him away outside of the city, a crowd of people running after him. For they had been standing looking on at his trial all day, and wondering that he did not suffer under his afflictions: for his countenance, which was cheerful, testified to the joy of his heart. And, when the executioners arrived at the place where he was to receive the punishment of death, the people of the city were with them, that they might see whether they did according as the judge had commanded, and hear what Sharbil might say at that season, so that they might inform the judge of the country.

And they offered him some wine to drink, according to the custom of murderers to drink. But he said to them: I will not drink, because I wish to feel the saw with which ye saw me, and the sword which ye pass over my neck; but instead of this wine, which will not be of any use to me, give me a little time to pray, while ye stand. And he stood up, and looked toward the east,56 and lifted up his voice and said: Forgive me, Christ, all the sins I have committed against Thee, and all the times in which I have provoked Thee to anger by the polluted sacrifices of dead idols; and have pity on me and save me,57 and deliver me from the judgment to come; and be merciful to me, as Thou wast merciful to the robber; and receive me like the penitents who have been converted and have turned to Thee, as Thou also hast turned to them; and, whereas I have entered into Thy vineyard, at the eleventh hour, instead of judgment, deliver me from justice: let Thy death, which was for the sake of sinners, restore to life again my slain body in the day of Thy coming.

And, when the Sharirs of the city heard these things, they were very angry with the executioners for having given him leave to pray.

And, while the nails were remaining which had been driven in between his eyes, and his ribs were seen between the wounds of the combs, and while from the burning on his sides and the soles of his feet, which were scorched and burnt, and from the gashes of the combs on his face, and on his sides, and on his thighs, and on his legs, the blood was flowing and running down, they brought carpenters’ instruments, and thrust him into a wooden vice, and tightened it upon him until the bones of his joints creaked with the pressure; then they put upon him a saw of iron, and began sawing him asunder; and, when he was just about to die, because the saw had reached to his mouth, they smote him with the sword and took off his head, while he was still squeezed down in the vice.

And Babai his sister drew near and spread out her skirt and caught his blood; and she said to him: May my spirit be united with thy spirit in the presence of Christ, whom thou hast known and believed.

And the Sharirs of the city ran and came and informed the judge of the things which Sharbil had uttered in his prayer, and how his sister had caught his blood. And the judge commanded them to return and give orders to the executioners that, on the spot where she had caught the blood of her brother, she also should receive the punishment of death. And the executioners laid hold on her, and each one of them severally put her to torture; and, with her brother’s blood upon her, her soul took its flight from her, and they mingled her blood with his. And, when the executioners were entered into the city, the brethren and young men58 ran and stole away their two corpses; and they laid them in the burial-place of the father of Abshelama the bishop, on the fifth of Ilul, the eve of the Sabbath.

I wrote these Acts on paper—I, Marinus, and Anatolus, the notaries; and we placed them in the archives of the city, where the papers of the kings are placed.59

This Barsamya,60 the bishop, made a disciple of Sharbil the priest. And he lived in the days of Binus,61 bishop of Rome; in whose days the whole population of Rome assembled together, and cried out to the praetor62 of their city, and said to him: There are too many strangers in this our city, and these cause famine and clearness of everything: but we beseech thee to command them to depart out of the city. And, when he had commanded them to depart out of the city, these strangers assembled themselves together, and said to the praetor: We beseech thee, my lord, command also that the bones of our dead may depart with us. And he commanded them to take the bones of their dead, and to depart. And all the strangers assembled themselves together to take the bones of Simon Cephas and of Paul, the apostles; but the people of Rome said to them: We will not give you the bones of the apostles. And the strangers said to them: Learn ye and understand that Simon, who is called Cephas, is of Bethsaida of Galilee, and Paul the apostle is of Tarsus, a city of Cilicia. And, when the people of Rome knew that this matter was so, then they let them alone. And, when they had taken them up and were removing them from their places, immediately there was a great earthquake; and the buildings of the city were on the point of falling down, and the city was near being overthrown. And, when the people of Rome saw it, their turned and besought the strangers to remain in their city, and that the bones might be laid in their places again. And, when the bones of the apostles were returned to their places, there was quietness, and the earthquakes ceased, and the winds became still, and the air became bright, and the whole city became cheerful. And when the Jews and pagans saw it, they also ran and fell at the feet of Fabianus, the bishop of their city, the Jews crying out: We confess Christ, whom we crucified: He is the Son of the living-God, of whom the prophets spoke in their mysteries. And the pagans also cried out and said to him: We renounce idols and carved images, which are of no use, and we believe in Jesus the King, the Son of God, who has come and is to come again. And, what ever other doctrines there were in Rome and in all Italy, the followers of these also renounced their doctrines, like as the pagans had renounced theirs, and confessed the Gospel of the apostles, which was preached in the church.Here end the Acts of Sharbil the confessor.

Further, the Martyrdom of Barsamya,1

the Bishop of the Blessed City Edessa.

In the year four hundred and sixteen of the kingdom of the Greeks, that is the fifteenth year of the reign of the sovereign ruler, our lord, Trajan Caesar, in the consulship of Commodus and Cyrillus,2 in the month Ilul, on the fifth day of the month, the day after Lysinus,3 the judge of the country, had heard the case of Sharbil the priest; as the judge was sitting in his judgment-hall, the Sharirs of the city came before him and said to him: We give information before thine Excellency concerning Barsamya, the leader of the Christians, that he went up to Sharbil, the priest, as he was standing and ministering before the venerable gods, and sent and called him to him secretly, and spoke to him, quoting from the books in which he reads in the church where their congregation meets, and recited to him the belief of the Christians, and said to him, “It is not right for thee to worship many gods, but only one God, and His Son Jesus Christ”—until he made him a disciple, and induced him to renounce the gods whom he had formerly worshipped; and by means of Sharbil himself also many have become disciples, and are gone down to the church, and lo! this day they confess Christ; and even Avida, and Nebo,4 and Barcalba, and Hafsai, honourable and chief persons of the city, have yielded to Sharbil in this. We, accordingly, as Sharirs of the city, make this known before thine Excellency, in order that we may not receive punishment as offenders for not having declared before thine Excellency the things which were spoken in secret to Sharbil by Barsamya the guide of the church. Thine Excellency now knoweth what it is fight to command in respect of this said matter.

And, immediately that the judge heard these things, he sent the Sharirs of the city, and some of his attendants with them, to go down to the church and bring up Barsamya from the church. And they led him and brought him up to the judgment-hall of the judge; and there went up many Christians with him, saying: We also will die with Barsamya, because we too are of one mind with him in respect to the doctrine of which he made Sharbil a disciple, and in all that he spoke to him, and in all the instruction that Sharbil received from him, so that he was persuaded by him, and died for the sake of that which he heard from him.

And the Sharirs of the city came, and said to the judge: Barsamya, as thine Excellency commanded, lo! is standing at the door of the judgment-hall of thy Lordship;5 and honourable chief-persons of the city, who became disciples along with Sharbil, lo! are standing by Barsamya, and crying out, “We will all die with Barsamya, who is our teacher and guide.”

And, when the judge heard those things which the Sharirs of the city had told him, he commanded them to go out and write down the names of the persons who were crying out, “We will die with Barsamya.” And, when they went out to write down the names of these persons, those who so cried out were too many for them, and they were not able to write down their names, because they were so many: for the cry kept coming to them from all sides, that they “would die for Christ’s sake along with Barsamya.”

And, when the tumult of the crowd became great, the Sharirs of the city turned back, and came in to the judge, and said to him: We are not able to write down the names of the persons who are crying aloud outside, because they are too many to be numbered. And the judge commanded that Barsamya should be taken up to the prison, so that the crowd might be dispersed which was collected together about him, lest through the tumult of the multitude there should be some mischief in the city. And, when he went up the gaol, those who had become disciples along with Sharbil continued with him.

And after many days were passed the judge rose up in the morning and went down to his judgment-hall, in order that he might hear the case of Barsamya. And the judge commanded, and they brought him from the prison; and he came in and stood before him. The officers said: Lo, he standeth before thine Excellency.

The judge said: Art thou Barsamya, who hast been made ruler and guide of the people of the Christians, and didst make a disciple of Sharbil, who was chief-priest of the gods, and used to worship them?

Barsamya said: It is I who have done this, and I do not deny it; and I am prepared to die for the truth of this.

The judge said: How is it that thou wast not afraid of the command of the emperors, so that, when the emperors commanded that every one should sacrifice, thou didst induce Sharbil, when he was standing and sacrificing to the gods and offering incense to them, to deny that which he had confessed, and confess Christ whom he had denied?

Barsamya said: I was assuredly6 made a shepherd of men, not for the sake of those only who are found, but also for the sake of those who have strayed from the fold of truth, and become food for the wolves of paganism; and, had I not sought to make Sharbil a disciple, at my hands would his blood have been required; and, if he had not listened to me, I should have been innocent of his blood.

The judge said: Now, therefore, since thou hast confessed that it was thou that madest Sharbil a disciple, at thy hands will I require his death; and on this account it is right that thou rather than he shouldest be condemned before me, because by thy hands he has died the horrible deaths of grievous tortures for having abandoned the command of the emperors and obeyed thy words.

Barsamya said: Not to my words did Sharbil become a disciple, but to the word of God which He spoke: “Thou shalt not worship images and the likenesses of men.” And it is not I alone that am content to die the death of Sharbil for his confession of Christ, but also all the Christians, members of the Church, are likewise eager for this, because they know that they will secure their salvation before God thereby.

The judge said: Answer me not in this manner, like Sharbil thy disciple, lest thine own torments be worse than his; but promise that thou wilt sacrifice before the gods on his behalf.

Barsamya said: Sharbil, who knew not God, I taught to know Him: and dost thou bid me, who have known God from my youth, to renounce God? God forbid that I should do this thing!

The judge said: Ye have made the whole creation disciples of the teaching of Christ; and lo! they renounce the many gods whom the many worshipped. Give up this way of thinking,7 lest I make those who are near tremble at thee as they behold thee to-day, and those also that are afar off as they hear of the torments to which thou art condemned.

Barsamya said: If God is the help of those who pray to Him, who is he that can resist them? Or what is the power that can prevail against them? Or thine own threats—what can they do to them: to men who, before thou give commandment concerning them that they shall die, have their death already set before their eyes, and are expecting it every day?

The judge said: Bring not the subject of Christ before my judgment-seat; but, instead of this, obey the command of the emperors, who command to sacrifice to the gods.

Barsamya said: Even though we should not lay the subject of Christ before thee, yet the sufferings of Christ are portrayed indelibly8 in the worshippers of Christ; and, even more than thou hearkenest to the commands of the emperors, do we Christians hearken to the commands of Christ the King of kings.

The judge said: Lo! thou hast obeyed Christ and worshipped him up to his day: henceforth obey the emperors, and worship the gods whom the emperors worship.

Barsamya said: How canst thou bid me renounce that in which I was born? when lo! thou didst exact punishment for this at the hand of Sharbil, and saidst to him: Why hast thou renounced the paganism in which thou wast born, and confessed Christianity to which thou wast a stranger? Lo! even before I came into thy presence thou didst thyself give testimony on the matter beforehand, and saidst to Sharbil: The Christians, to whom thou art gone over, do not renounce that in which they were born, but continue in it. Abide, therefore, by the word, which thou hast spoken.

The judge said: Let Barsamya be scourged, because he has rebelled against the command of the emperors, and has caused those also who were obedient to the emperors to rebel with him.

And, when he had been scourged by five men, he said to him: Reject not the command of the emperors, nor insult the emperors’ gods.

Barsamya said: Thy mind is greatly blinded, O judge, and so also is that of the emperors who gave thee authority; nor are the things that are manifest seen by you; nor do ye perceive that lo! the whole creation worships Christ; and thou sayest to me, Do not worship Him, as if I alone worshipped Him—Him whom the watchers9 above worship on high.

The judge said: But if ye have taught men to worship Christ, who is it that has persuaded those above to worship Christ?

Barsamya said: Those above have themselves preached, and have taught those below concerning the living worship of the King Christ, seeing that they worship Him, and His Father, together with His divine Spirit.10

The judge said: Give up these things which your writings teach you, and which ye teach also to others, and obey those things which the emperors have commanded, and spurn not their laws—lest ye be spurned by means of the sword from the light of this venerable sun.

Barsamya said: The light which passeth away and abideth not is not the true light, but is only the similitude of that true light, to whose beams darkness cometh not near, which is reserved and standeth fast for the true worshippers of Christ.

The judge said: Speak not before me of anything else instead of that about which I have asked thee, lest I dismiss thee from life to death, for denying this light which is seen and confessing that which is not seen.

Barsamya said: I cannot leave alone that about which thou askest me, and speak of that about which thou dost not ask me. It was thou that spakest to me about the light of the sun, and I said before thee that there is a light on high which surpasses in its brightness that of the sun which thou dost worship and honour. For an account will be required of thee for worshipping thy fellow-creature instead of God thy Creator.

The judge said: Do not insult the very sun, the light of creatures, nor set thou at nought the command of the emperors, nor contentiously resist the lords of the country, who have authority in it.

Barsamya said: Of what avail is the light of the sun to a blind man that cannot see it? For without the eyes of the body, it is not possible for its beams to be seen. So that by this thou mayest know that it is the work of God, forasmuch as it has no power of its own to show its light to the sightless.

The judge said: When I have tortured thee as thou deservest, then will I write word about thee to the Imperial government, reporting what insult thou hast offered to the gods, in that thou madest a disciple of Sharbil the priest, one who honoured the gods, and that ye despise the laws of the emperors, and that ye make no account of the judges of the countries, and live like barbarians, though under the authority of the Romans

Barsamya said: Thou dost not terrify me by these things which thou sayest. It is true, I am not in the presence of the emperors to-day; yet lo! before the authority which the emperors have given thee I am now standing, and I am brought to trial, because I said, I will not renounce God, to whom the heavens and the earth belong, nor His Son Jesus Christ, the King of all the earth.

The judge said: If thou art indeed assured of this, that thou art standing and being tried before the authority of the emperors, obey their commands, and rebel not against their laws, lest like a rebel thou receive the punishment of death.

Barsamya said: But if those who rebel against the emperors, even when they justly rebel, are deserving of death, as thou sayest; for those who rebel against God, the King of kings, even the punishment of death by the sword is too little.The judge said: It was not that thou shouldest expound in my judgment-hall that thou wast brought in before me, because the trial on which thou standest has but little concern with expounding, but much concern with the punishment of death, for those who insult the emperors and comply not with their laws.

Barsamya said: Because God is not before your eyes, and ye refuse to hear the word of God; and graven images that are of no use, “which have a mouth and speak not,” are accounted by you as though they spake, because your understanding is blinded by the darkness of paganism in which ye stand—

The judge interrupting said: Leave off those things thou art saying, for they will not help thee at all, and worship the gods, before the bitter tearings of combs and harsh tortures come upon thee.

Barsamya said: Do thou too leave off the many questions which lo! thou askest me, and give command for the stripes and the combs with which thou dost menace me: for thy words will not help thee so much as thy inflictions will help me.

The judge said: Let Barsamya be hanged up and torn with combs.

And at that very moment there came to him letters from Alusis11 the chief proconsul, father of emperors.12 And he commanded, and they took down Barsamya, and he was not torn with combs; and they took him outside of the hall of judgment.

And the judge commanded that the nobles, and the chief persons, and the princes, and the honourable persons of the city, should come before him, that they might hear what was the order that was issued by the emperors, by the hand of the proconsuls, the rulers of the countries under the authority of the Romans. And it was found that the emperors had written by the hand of the proconsuls to the judges of the countries:13 “Since our Majesty commanded that there should be a persecution against the people of the Christians, we have heard and learned, from the Sharirs whom we have in the countries under the dominion of our Majesty, that the people of the Christians are persons who eschew murder, and sorcery, and adultery, and theft, and bribery and fraud, and those things for which the laws of our Majesty also exact punishment from those who commit them. We, therefore, in our impartial justice, have commanded that on account of these things the persecution of the sword shall cease from them, and that there shall be rest and quietness in all our dominions, they continuing to minister according to their custom and no man hindering them. It is not, however, towards them that we show clemency, but towards their laws, agreeing as they do with the laws of our Majesty. And, if any man hinder them after this our command, that sword which is ordered by us to descend upon those who despise our command, the same do we command to descend upon those who despise this decree of our clemency.”

And, when this command of the emperor’s clemency was read, the whole city rejoiced that there was quietness and rest for every man. And the judge commanded, and they released Barsamya, that he might go down to his church. And the Christians went up in great numbers to the judgment-hall, together with a great multitude of the population of the city, and they received Barsamya with great and exceeding honour, repeating psalms before him, according to their custom; there went also the wives of the chief of the wise men. And they thronged about him, and saluted him, and called him “the persecuted confessor,” “the companion of Sharbil he martyr.” And he said to them: Persecuted I am, like yourselves; but from the tortures and combs of Sharbil and his companions I am clean escaped.14 And they said to him: We have heard from thee that a teacher of the Church has said, “The will, according to what it is, so is it accepted.”15 And, when he was entered into the church, he and all the people that were with him, he stood up and prayed, and blessed them and sent them away to their homes rejoicing and praising God for the deliverance which He had wrought for them and for the Church.

And the day after Lysinas16 the judge of the country had set his hand to these Acts, he was dismissed from his authority.

I Zenophilus and Patrophilus are the notaries who wrote these Acts, Diodorus and Euterpes,17 Sharirs of the city, bearing witness with us by setting-to their hand, as the ancient laws of the ancient kings command.

This18 Barsamya, bishop of Edessa, who made a disciple of Sharbil, the priest of the same city, lived in the days of Fabianus, bishop of the city of Rome. And ordination to the priesthood was received by Barsamya from Abshelama, who was bishop in Edessa; and by Abshelama ordination was received from Palut the First; and by Palut ordination was received from Serapion, bishop of Antioch; and by Serapion ordination was received from Zephyrinus, bishop of Rome; and Zephyrinus of Rome received ordination from Victor of the same place, viz., Rome; and Victor received ordination from Eleutherius; and Eleutherius received it from Sorer; and Soter received it from Anicetus; and Anicetus received it from Dapius;19 and Dapius received it from Telesphorus; and Telesphorus received it from Xystus;20 and Xystus received it from Alexander; and Alexander received it from Evartis;21 and Evartis received it from Cletus; and Cletus received it from Anus;22 and Anus received it from Simon Cephas; and Simon Cephas received it from our Lord, together with his fellow-apostles, on the first day of the week, the day of the ascension of our Lord to His glorious Father, which was the fourth day of Heziran,23 which was is the nineteenth24 year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, in the consulship of Rufus and Rubelinus, which year was the year 341; for in the year 309 occurred the advent25 of our Saviour in the world, according to the testimony which we ourselves have found in a correct register26 among the archives, which errs not at all in whatever it sets forth.

Here endeth the martyrdom of Barsamya, bishop of Edessa.

Elucidation

I

See p. 665, note 4. Also, p. 685, note 1, of Barsamya.



I Found at the Armenian Convent of St. Lazarus, near Venice, a version of the Letter of Abgar, translated into French “from the Armenian version of the fifth century,” and published in 1868, which is now before me. It ascribes the original to Laboubnia, and adds: “The name Léroubna, mentioned only by Moses of Chorène, was not repeated after him by any one else, save, perhaps, Mekhitar d’ Airivank (one of our chroniclers of the thirteenth century), who puts him among our historians, between Tatien and Mar Ibas Gadina, but without affirming whether he knew him only by name or also by his writings.” The editor goes on to speak of his correspondence with Dr. Cureton (a.d. 1864) which is referred to in27 , supra. He notes the incomplete and mutilated character of the Syriac copies used by Cureton, and congratulates himself on the entire and integral condition of the Armenian, which he found in 1852 in the Imperial Library at Paris, as Codex No. 88, mss.Armen. Here the name of the author is given as Laboubnia, and agrees with the Syriac. The interpolations he regards as made after the fourth century.

Martyrdom of Habib the Deacon.1

————————————

In the month Ab,2 of the year six hundred and twenty of the kingdom of Alexander the Macedonian, in the consulate of Licinius and Constantine,3 which is the year in which he4 was born, in the magistracy5 of Julius and Barak, in the days of Cona.6 bishop of Edessa, Licinius made a persecution against the Church and all the people of the Christians, after that first persecution which Diocletian the emperor had made. And Licinius the emperor commanded that there should be sacrifices and libations, and that the altars in every place should be restored, that they might bum sweet spices and frankincense before Zeus.

And, when many were persecuted, they cried out of their own accord: We are Christians; and they were not afraid of the persecution, because these who were persecuted were more numerous than those who persecuted them.

Now Habib, who was of the village of Telzeha7 and had been made a deacon, went secretly into the churches which were in the villages, and ministered and read the Scriptures, and encouraged and strengthened many by his words, and admonished them to stand fast in the truth of their belief, and not to be afraid of the persecutors; and gave them directions.

And, when many were strengthened by his words, and received his addresses affectionately, being careful not to renounce the covenant they had made, and when the Sharirs of the city, the men who had been appointed with reference to this particular matter, heard of it, they went in and informed Lysanias, the governor who was in the town of Edessa, and said to him: Habib, who is a deacon in the village of Telzeha, goes about and ministers secretly in every place, and resists the command of the emperors, and is not afraid.

And, when the governor heard these things, he was filled with rage against Habib; and he made a report, and sent and informed Licinius the emperor of all those things which Habib was doing; he wished also to ascertain8 what command would be issued respecting him and the rest of those who would not sacrifice. For although a command had been issued that every one should sacrifice, yet it had not been commanded what should be done to those who did not sacrifice: because they had heard that Constantine, the commander9 in Gaul and Spain, was become a Christian and did not sacrifice. And Licinius the emperor thus command Lysanias the govern or: Whoever it is that has been so daring as to transgress our command, our Majesty has commanded that he shall be burned10 with fire; and that all others who do not consent to sacrifice shall be put to death by the sword.

Now, when this command came to the town of Edessa, Habib, in reference to whom the report had been made, was gone across the river to the country of the people of Zeugma,11 to minister there also secretly. And, when the governor sent and inquired for him in his village, and in all the country round about, and he was not to be found, he commanded that all his family should be arrested, and also the inhabitants of his village; and they arrested them and put them in irons, his mother and the rest of his family, and also some of the people of his village; and they brought them to the city, and shut them up in prison.

And, when Habib heard what had taken place, he considered in his mind and pondered anxiously in his thoughts: It is expedient for me, said he, that I should go and appear before the judge of the country, rather than that I should remain in secret and others should be brought in to him and be crowned with martyrdom because of me, and that I should find myself in great shame. For in what respect will the name of Christianity help him who flees from the confession of Christianity? Lo! if he flee from this, the death of nature is before him whithersoever he goes, and escape from it he cannot, because this is decreed against all the children of Adam.

And Habib arose and went to Edessa secretly, having prepared his back for the stripes and his sides for the combs, and his person for the burning of fire. And he went immediately12 to Theotecna,13 a veteran14 who was chief of the band of attendants15 on the governor; and he said to him: I am Habib of Telzeha, whom ye are inquiring for. And Theotecna said to him: If so be that no one saw thee coming to me, hearken to me in what I say to thee, and depart and go away to the place where thou hast been, and remain there in this time of persecution; and of this, that thou camest to me and spakest with me and that I advised thee thus, let no one know or be aware. And about thy family and the inhabitants of thy village, be not at all anxious: for no one will at all hurt them; but they will be in prison a few days only, and then the governor will let them go: because against them the emperors have not commanded anything serious or alarming. But, if on the contrary thou wilt not be persuaded by me in regard to these things which I have said to thee, I am clear of thy blood: because, if so be that thou appear before the judge of the country, thou wilt not escape from death by fire, according to the command of the emperors which they have issued concerning thee.

Habib said to Theotecna: It is not about my family and the inhabitants of my village that I am concerned, but for my own salvation, lest it should be forfeited. About this too I am much distressed, that I did not happen to be in my village on the day that the governor inquired for me, and that on my account lo! many are put in irons, and I have been looked upon by him as a fugitive. Therefore, if so be that thou wilt not consent to my request and take me in before the governor, I will go alone and appear before him.

And, when Theotecna heard him speak thus to him, he laid hold of him firmly, and handed him over to his assistants,16 and they went together to conduct him to the judgment-hall of the governor. And Theotecna went in and informed the governor, and said to him: Habib of Telzeha, whom thine Excellency was inquiring for, is come. And the governor said: Who is it that has brought him? and where did they find him? and what did he do where he was? Theotecna said to him: He came hither himself, of his own accord, and without the compulsion of any one, since no one knew anything about him.

And when the governor heard this, he was greatly exasperated against him; and thus he spoke: This fellow, who has so acted, has shown great contempt towards me and has despised me, and has accounted me as no judge; and, because he has so acted, it is not meet that any mercy should be shown towards him; nor yet either that I should hasten to pass sentence of death against him, according to the command of the emperors concerning him; but it is meet for me to have patience with him, so that the bitter torments and punishments inflicted on him may be the more abundant, and that through him I may terrify many others from daring again to flee.

And, many persons being collected together and standing by him at the door of the judgment-hall, some of whom were members of the body of attendants, and some people of the city, there were some of them that said to him: Thou hast done badly in coming and showing thyself to those who were inquiring for thee, without the compulsion of the judge; and there were others, again, who said to him: Thou hast done well in coming and showing thyself of thine own accord, rather than that the compulsion of the judge should bring thee: for now is thy confession of Christ known to be of thine own will, and not from the compulsion of men.

And those things which the Sharirs of the city had heard from those who were speaking to him as they stood at the door of the judgment-hall—and this circumstance also in particular, that he had gone secretly to Theotecna and that he had not been willing to denounce him, had been heard by the Sharirs of the city—everything that they had heard they made known to the judge.

And the judge was enraged against those who had been saying to Habib: Wherefore didst thou come and show thyself to the judge, without the compulsion of the judge himself? And to Theotecna he said: It is not seemly for a man who has been made chief over his fellows to act deceitfully in this manner towards his superior, and to set at nought the command of the emperors, which they issued against Habib the rebel, that he should be burned with fire.

Theotecna said: I have not acted deceitfully against my fellows, neither was it my purpose to set at naught the command which the emperors have issued: for what am I before thine Excellency, that I should have dared to do this? But I strictly questioned him as to that for which thine Excellency also has demanded an account at my hands, that I might know and see whether it was of his own free will that he came hither or whether the compulsion of thine Excellency brought him by the hand of others; and, when I heard from him that he came of his own accord, I carefully brought him to the honourable door of the judgment-hall of thy Worship.17

And the governor hastily commanded, and they brought in Habib before him. The officers said: Lo! he standeth before thine Excellency,

And he began to question him thus, and said to him: What is thy name? And whence art thou? And what art thou?

He said to him: My name is Habib, and I am from the village of Telzeha, and I have been made a deacon.

The governor said: Wherefore hast thou transgressed the command of the emperors, and dost minister in thine office of deacon, which thou art forbidden by the emperors to do, and refusest to sacrifice to Zeus, whom the emperors worship?

Habib said: We are Christians; we do not worship the works of men, who are nothing, whose works also are nothing; but we worship God, who made the men.

The governor said: Persist not in that daring mind with which thou art come into my presence, and insult not Zeus, the great boast of the emperors.

Habib said: But this Zeus is an idol, the work of men. It is very well for thee to say that I insult him. But, if the carving of him out of wood and the fixing of him with nails proclaim aloud concerning him that he is made, how sayest thou to me that I insult him? since lo! his insult is from himself, and against himself.

The governor said: By this very thing, that thou refusest to worship him, thou insultest him.

Habib said: But, if because I do not worship him I insult him, how great an insult, then, did the carpenter inflict on him, who carved him with an axe of iron; and the smith, who smote him and fixed him with nails!

And, when the governor heard him speak thus he commanded him to be scourged without pity. And, when he had been scourged by five men, he said to him: Wilt thou now obey the emperors? For, if thou wilt not obey them, I will tear thee severely with combs, and I will torture thee with all kinds of tortures, and then at last I will give command concerning thee that thou be burned with fire.

Habib said: These threats with which lo! thou art seeking to terrify me, are much meaner and paltrier than those which I had already settled it in my mind to endure: therefore18 came I and made my appearance before thee.

The governor said: Put him into the iron cask19 for murderers, and let him be scourged as he deserves. And, when he had been scourged, they said to him: Sacrifice to the gods. But he cried aloud, and said: Accursed are your idols, and so are they who join with you in worshipping them like you.

And the governor commanded, and they took him up to the prison; but they refused him permission to speak with his family, or with the inhabitants of his village, according to the command of the judge. On that day was the festival of the emperors.

And on the second of Ilul the governor commanded, and they brought him from the prison. And he said to him: Wilt thou renounce the profession thou hast made20 and obey the command which the emperors issue? For, if thou wilt not obey, with the bitter tearings of combs will I make thee obey them.

Habib said: I have not obeyed them, and morever it is settled in my mind that I will not obey them—no, not even if thou lay upon me punishments still worse than those which the emperors have commanded.

The governor said: By the gods I swear, that, if thou do not sacrifice, I will leave no harsh and bitter sufferings untried with which I will not torture thee: and we shall see whether Christ, whom thou worshippest, will deliver thee.

Habib said: All those who worship Christ are delivered through Christ, because they worship not creatures along with the Creator of creatures.

The governor said: Let him be stretched out and be scourged with whips, until there remain not a place in his body on which he has not been scourged.

Habib said: As for these inflictions, which thou supposest to be so bitter with their lacerations,21 out of them are plaited crowns of victory for those who endure them.

The governor said: How call ye afflictions ease, and account the torments of your bodies a crown of victory?

Habib said: It is not for thee to ask me concerning these things, because thine unbelief is not worthy to hear the reasons of them. That I will not sacrifice I have said already, and I say so still.

The governor said: Thou art subjected to these punishments because thou deservest them: I will put out thine eyes, which look upon this Zeus and are not afraid of him; and I will stop thine ears, which hear the laws of the emperors and tremble not.

Habib said: To the God whom thou deniest here belongs that other world; and there wilt thou be made to confess Him with scourgings, though thou hast again denied Him.

The governor said: Leave alone that world of which thou hast spoken, and consider anxiously now, that from this punishment to which lo! thou art being subjected there is no one that can deliver thee; unless indeed the gods deliver thee, on thy sacrificing to them.

Habib said: Those who die for the sake of the name of Christ, and worship not those objects that are made and created, will find their life in the presence of Cod;22 but those who love the life of time more than that—their torment will be for ever.

And the governor commanded, and they hanged him up and tore him with combs; and, while they were tearing him with the combs, they knocked him about. And he was hanging a long while, until the shoulder blades of his arms creaked.

The governor said to him: Wilt thou comply even now, and put on incense before Zeus there?23

Habib said: Previously to these sufferings I did not comply with thy demands: and now that lo! I have undergone them, how thinkest thou that I shall comply, and thereby lose that which I have gained by them?

The governor said: By punishments fiercer and bitterer than these I am prepared to make thee obey, according to the command of the emperors, until thou do their will.

Habib said: Thou art punishing me for not obeying the command of the emperors, when lo! thou thyself also, whom the emperors have raised to greatness and made a judge, hast transgressed their command, in that thou hast not done to me that which the emperors have commanded thee.

The governor said: Because I have had patience with thee, therefore hast thou spoken thus, like a man that brings an accusation.

Habib said: Hadst thou not scourged me, and bound me, and torn me with combs, and put my feet in fetters,24 there would have been room to think that thou hadst had patience with me. But, if these things take place in the meanwhile, where is the patience towards me of which thou hast spoken?

The governor said: These things which thou hast said will not help thee, because they all go against thee, and they will bring upon thee inflictions bitterer even than those which the emperors have commanded.

Habib said: Had I not been sensible that they would help me, I should not have spoken a single word about them before thee.

The governor said: I will silence thy speeches, and at the same time as regards thee pacify the gods, whom thou has not worshipped; and I will satisfy the emperors in respect to thee, as regards thy rebellion against their commands.

Habib said: I am not afraid of the death with which thou seekest to terrify me; for, had I been afraid of it, I should not have gone about from house to house and ministered: on which account I did so minister.25

The governor said: How is it that thou worshippest and honourest a man, but refusest to worship and honour Zeus there?

Habib said: I worship not a man, because the Scripture26 teaches me,27 “Cursed is every one that putteth his trust in man; ”but God, who took upon Him a body and became a man, Him do I worship, and glorify.

The governor said: Do thou that which the emperors have commanded; and, as for that which is in thy own mind, if thou art willing to give it up, well; but, if thou art not willing, then do not abandon it.

Habib said: To do both these things is impossible: because falsehood is contrary to truth, and it is impossible that that should be banished from my thoughts which is firmly fixed in my mind.

The governor said: By inflictions bitter and severe will I make thee dismiss from thy thoughts that of which thou hast said, It is firmly fixed in my mind.

Habib said: As for these inflictions by which thou thinkest that it will be rooted out of my thoughts, by means of these it is that it grows within my thoughts, like a tree which bears fruit.

The governor said: What help will stripes and combs give to that tree of thine? and more especially at the time when I shall command fire against it, to burn it up without pity.

Habib said: It is not on those things at which thou lookest that I look, because I contemplate the things which are out of sight; and therefore I do the will of God, the Maker of all things, and not that of an idol made with hands, which is not sensible of anything whatever.

The governor said: Because he thus denies the gods whom the emperors worship, let him be torn with Combs in addition to his former tearings: for, amidst the many questions which I have had the patience to ask him, he has forgotten his former tearings.

And, while they were tearing him, he cried aloud and said: “The sufferings of this time are not equal to that glory which shall be revealed in “28 those who love Christ.

And, when the governor saw that even under these inflictions he refused to sacrifice, he said to him: Does your doctrine so teach you, that you should hate your own bodies?

Habib said: Nay, we do not hate our bodies: the Scripture distinctly teaches us, “Whosoever shall lose his life shall find it.”29 But another thing too it teaches us: that we should “not cast that which is holy to dogs, nor cast pearls before swine.”30

The governor said: I know that in speaking thus thy sole object is that my rage and the wrath of my mind may be excited, and that I may pronounce sentence of death against thee speedily. I am not going, then, to be hurried on to that which thou desirest; but I will have patience: not; indeed, for thy relief, but so that the tortures inflicted on thee may be increased, and that thou mayest see thy flesh failing off before thy face by means of the combs that are passing over thy sides.

Habib said: I myself also am looking for this, that thou shouldst multiply thy tortures upon me, even as thou hast said.

The governor said: Submit to the emperors, who have power to do whatsoever they choose.

Habib said: It is not of men to do whatsoever they choose, but of God, whose power is in the heavens, and over all the dwellers upon earth; “nor is there any that may rebuke His hands31 and say to Him, ‘What doest Thou? ’”

The governor said: For this insolence of thine, death by the sword is too small. I, however, am prepared to command the infliction upon thee of a death more bitter than that of the sword.

Habib said: And I, too, am looking for a death which is more lingering than that of the sword, which thou mayest pronounce upon me at any time thou choosest.

And thereupon the governor proceeded to pass sentence of death upon him. And he called out aloud before his attendants, and said, whilst they were listening to him, as were also the nobles of the city: This Habib, who has denied the gods, as ye have also heard from him, and furthermore has reviled the emperors, deserves that his life should be blotted out from beneath this glorious Sun, and that he should not any longer behold this luminary, associate of gods; and, had it not been commanded by former emperors that the corpses of murderers should be buried, it would not be right that the corpse of this fellow either should be buried, because he has been so insolent. I command, that a strap be put into his mouth, as into the mouth of a murderer, and that he be burned by a slow lingering fire, so that the torment of his death may be increased.

And he went out from the presence of the governor, with the strap thrust into his mouth; and a multitude of the people of the city ran after him. And the Christians were rejoicing, forasmuch as he had not turned aside nor quitted his post;32 but the pagans were threatening him, for refusing to sacrifice. And they led him forth by the western archway, over against the cemetery,33 which was built by34 Abshelama,35 the son of Abgar. And his mother was clad in white, and she went out with him.

And, when he was arrived at the place where they were going to burn him, he stood up and prayed, as did all those who came out with him; and he said: “O King Christ, since Thine is this world, and Thine the world to come, behold and see, that, while I might have fled from these afflictions, I did not flee, in order that I might not fall into the hands of Thy justice: may this fire, in which I am to be burned, serve me for a recompense before Thee, so that I may be delivered from that fire which is not quenched; and receive Thou my spirit into Thy presence, through Thy Divine Spirit, O glorious Son of the adorable Father!” And, when he had prayed, he turned and blessed them; and they weeping gave him the salutation, both men and women; and they said to him: Pray for us in the presence of thy Lord, that He would cause peace among His people, and restoration to His churches which are overthrown.

And, while Habib was standing, they dug a place, and brought him and set him within it; and they fixed up by him a stake. And they came to bind him to the stake; but he said to them: I will not stir from this place in which ye are going to burn me. And they brought fagots, and set them in order, and placed them on all sides of him. And, when the fire blazed up and the flame of it rose fiercely, they called out to him: Open thy mouth. And the moment he opened his mouth his soul mounted up. And they cried aloud, both men and women, with the voice of weeping.

And they pulled and drew him out of the fire, throwing over him fine linen cloths and choice ointments and spices. And they snatched away some of the pieces of wood which had been put for his burning, and the brethren and some persons of the laity36 bore him away. And they prepared him for interment, and buried him by Guria and Shamuna the martyrs, in the same grave in which they were laid, on the hill which is called Baith Allah Cucla,37 repeating over him psalms and hymns, and conveying his burnt body affectionately and honourably to the grave. And even some of the Jews and pagans took part with the Christian brethren in winding up and burying his body. At the time, too, when he was burned, and also at the time when he was buried, there was one spectacle of grief over spreading those within and those without; tears, too, were running down from all eyes: while every one gave glory to God, because for His name’s sake he had given his body to the burning of fire.

The day on which he was burned was the eve of the Sabbath,38 the second of the month Ilul—the day on which the news came that Constantine the Great had set out from the interior of Spain, to proceed to Rome, the city of Italy, that he might carry on war with Licinius, that emperor who at this day rules over the eastern portion of the territories of the Romans; and lo! the countries on all sides are in commotion, because no man knows which of them will conquer and continue in his imperial power. And through this report the persecution slackened for a little while from the Church.

And the notaries wrote down everything which they had heard from the judge; and the Sharirs of the city wrote down all the other things which were spoken outside the door of the judgment-hall, and, according to the custom that existed, they reported to the judge all that they had seen and all that they had heard, and the decisions of the judge were written down in their Acts.

I, Theophilus, who have renounced the evil inheritance of my fathers, and confessed Christ, carefully wrote out a copy of these Acts of Habib, even as I had formerly written out those of Guria and Shamuna,39 his fellow-martyrs. And, whereas he had felicitated them upon their death by the sword, he himself also was made like them by the fire in which he was burnt, and received his crown. And, whereas I have written down the year, and the month, and the day, of the coronation of these martyrs, it is not for the sake of those who, like me, were spectators of the deed, but with the view that those who come after us may learn at what time these martyrs suffered, and what manner of men they were; as they may learn also from the Acts of the former martyrs, who suffered in the days of Domitianus and of all the other emperors who likewise also raised a persecution against the Church, and put a great many to death, by stripes and by tearing with combs, and by bitter inflictions, and by sharp swords, and by burning fire, and by the terrible sea, and by the merciless mines. And all these things, and things like them, they suffered for the hope of the recompense to come.

Moreover, the afflictions of these martyrs, and of those of whom I had heard, opened the eyes of me, Theophilus, and enlightened my mind, and I confessed Christ, that He is the Son of God, and is God. And may the dust of the feet of these martyrs, which I received as I was running after them at the time when they were departing to be crowned, procure me pardon for having denied Him, and may He confess me before His worshippers, seeing that I have confessed Him now!

And at the twenty-seventh question which the judge put to Habib, he gave sentence against him of death by the burning of fire.

Here endeth the martyrdom of Habib the deacon.

Martyrdom1 Of the Holy Confessors

Shamuna, Guria, and Habib, from Simeon Metaphrastes.2

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In the six hundredth year from the empire of Alexander the Macedonian, when Diocletian had been nine years sovereign of the Romans, and Maximian was consul for the sixth time, and Augur son of Zoaras was praetor, and Cognatus was bishop of the Edessenes, a great persecution was raised against the churches in all the countries which were under the sway of the Romans. The name of Christian was looked upon as execrable, and was assailed and harassed with abuse; while the priests and the monks,3 on account of their staunch and unconquerable stedfastness, were-subjected to shocking punishments, and the pious were at their wits’ end with sadness and fear. For, desiring as they did to proclaim the truth because of their yearning affection for Christ, they yet shrunk back from doing so for fear of punishment. For those who took up arms against true religion were bent on making the Christians renounce Christianity and embrace the cause of Saturn and Rhea, whilst the faithful on their part laboured to prove that the objects of heathen worship had no real existence.

At this period it was that an accusation was preferred before the judge against Guria and Shamuna. The former was a native of Sarcigitua, and the latter of the village of Ganas; they were, however, both brought up at Edessa—which they call Mesopotamia, because it is situated between the Euphrates and the Tigris: a city previously to this but little known to fame, but which after the struggles of its martyrs obtained universal notoriety. These holy men would not by any means spend their lives in the city, but removing to a distance from it, as those who wished to be remote from its turmoils, they made it their aim to be manifest to God only. Guria’s purity and lovingness were to him a precious and honourable possession, and from his cultivation of the former the surname of the pure was given him: so that from his name you would not have known who he was, but only when you called him by his surname. Shamuna devoted his body and his youthful and active mind to the service of God, and rivalled Guria in excellence of character. Against these men an indictment was laid before the judge, to the effect that they not only pervaded all the country round about Edessa with their teaching and encouraged the people to hold fast their faith, but also led them to look with contempt on their persecutors, and, in order to induce them to set wholly at nought their impiety, taught them agreeably to that which is written: “Trust not in princes—in the sons of men, in whom is no safety.”4 By these representations the judge was wrought up to a high pitch of madness, and gave orders that all those who held the Christian religion in honour and followed the teaching of Shamuna and Guria, together with those who persuaded them to this, should be apprehended, and shut up in safe keeping. The order was carried into effect; and, seizing the opportunity, he had some of them flogged, and others tortured in various ways, and induced them to obey the emperor’s command, and then, as if he were behaving kindly and mercifully, he allowed others to go to their homes; but our two saints, as being the ringleaders and those who bad communicated their piety to others, he ordered to be still further maltreated in prison. They, however, rejoiced in the fellowship of martyrdom. For they heard of many in other provinces who had to pass through the same conflict as themselves: among them Epiphanius and Petrus and the most holy Pamphilus, with many others, at Caesarea in Palestine; Timotheus at Gaza; at Alexandria, Timotheus the Great; Agapetus at Thessalonica; Hesychius at Nicomedia; Philippus at Adrianopolis; at Melitina Petrus; Hermes and his companions in the confines of Martyropolis: all of whom were also encircled with the crown of martyrdom by Duke5 Heraclianus, along with other confessors too numerous for us to become acquainted with. But we must return to the matters of which we were before speaking.

Antonius, then, the governor of Edessa, having permitted others to return to their homes, had a lofty judgment-seat erected, and ordered the martyrs to be brought before him. The attendants having done as they were bidden, the governor said to the saints: Our most divine emperor commands you to renounce Christianity, of which you are followers, and to pay divine honour to Jupiter by offering incense on the altar. To this Shamuna replied: Far be it from us to abandon the true faith, whereby we hope to obtain immortality, and worship the work of men’s hands and an image! The governor said: The emperor’s orders must by all means be obeyed. Guria answered: Our pure and divine faith will we never disown, by following the will of men, who are subject to dissolution. For we have a Father in heaven whose will we follow, and He says: “He that shall confess Me before men, him will I also confess before My Father who is in heaven; but he that shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father and His angels.”6 The judge said: You refuse, then, to obey the will of the emperor? But can you for a moment think, that the purposes of ordinary men and such as have no more power than yourselves are to be really carried into execution, while the commands of those who possess supreme power fall to the ground? They, said the saints, who do the will of the King of kings spurn and reject the will of the flesh. Then, on the governor’s threatening them with death unless they obeyed, Shamuna said: We shall not die, O tyrant, if we follow the will of the Creator: nay rather, on the contrary, we shall live; but, if we follow the commands of your emperor, know thou that, even thought thou shouldest not put us to death, we shall perish miserably all the same.

On hearing this, the governor gave orders to Anovitus the jailor to put them in very safe keeping. For the mind which is naturally inclined to evil cannot bear the truth, any more than diseased eyes the bright beams of the sun. And, when he had done as he was commanded, and the martyrs were in prison, where many other saints also had been previously shut by the soldiers, the Emperor Diocletian sent for Musonius the governor of Antioch and ordered him to go to Edessa and see the Christians who were confined there, whether they were of the common or of the sacred class, and question them about their religion, and deal with them as he should see fit. So he came to Edessa; and he had Shamuna and Guria first of all placed before the tribunal of judgment, and said to them: This, arid no less, is the command of the lord of the world, that you make a libation of wine and place incense on the altar of Jupiter. If you refuse to do so, I will destroy you with manifold punishments: for I will tear your bodies to pieces with whips, till I get to your very entrails; and I will not cease pouring boiling lead into your armpits until it reaches even to your bowels; after that, I will hang you up, now by your hands, now by your feet, and I will loosen the fastenings of your joints; and I will invent new and unheard of punishments which you will be utterly unable to endure.

Shamuna answered: We dread “the worm,” the threat of which is denounced against those who deny the Lord, and “the fire which is not quenched,” more than those tortures which thou hast set before us. For God Himself, to whom we offer rational worship, will, first of all, strengthen us to bear these manifold tortures, and will deliver us out of thy hands; and, after that, will also give us to rest in a place of safety, where is the abode of all those who rejoice. Besides, it is against nothing whatever but the body that thou takest up arms: for what possible harm couldst thou do to the soul? since, as long as it resides in the body, it proves superior to torture; and, when it takes its departure, the body has no feeling whatever left. For, “the more our outward man is destroyed, the more is our inward man renewed day by day;7 for by means of patience we go through with this contest which is set before us. The governor, however, again, with a kind of protestation, in order that, in case they did not obey, he might with the more justice punish them, said: Give up your error, I beg you, and yield to the command of the emperor: ye will not be able to endure the tortures. The holy Guria answered: We are neither the slaves of error, as thou sayest, nor will we ever obey the command of the emperor: God forbid that we should be so weak-minded and so senseless! For we are His disciples who laid down His life for us, so manifesting the riches of His goodness and His love towards us. We will, therefore, resist sin even to death, nor, come what may, will we be foiled by the stratagems of the adversary, by which the first man was ensnared and plucked death from the tree through his disobedience;8 and Cain was persuaded, and, after staining his hands with his brother’s blood, found the rewards of sin to be wailing and fear. But we, listening to the words of Christ, will “not be afraid of those that kill the body but are not able to kill the soul: ”Him rather will we fear “who is able to destroy our soul and body.”9 The tyrant said: It is not to give you an opportunity of disproving my allegations by snatches of your own writings that I refrain from anger and show myself forbearing; but that you may perform the command of the emperor and return in peace to your homes.

These words did not at all shake the resolution of the martyrs; but, approaching nearer: What, said they, does it matter to us, if thou art angry, and nursest thine anger, and rainest tortures upon us like snow-flakes? For then wouldst thou be favouring us all the more, by rendering the proof of our fortitude more conspicuous, and winning for us a greater recompense. For this is the crowning point of our hope, that we shall leave behind our present dwelling, which is but for a time, and depart to one that will last forever. For we have “a tabernacle not made with hands”10 in heaven, which the Scripture is accustomed also to call “Abraham’s bosom,” because of the familiar intercourse with God with which he was blessed. The governor, seeing that their firmness underwent no change, forthwith left off speaking and proceeded with the threatened punishments, giving orders to the jailor Anuinus that they should be severally hung up by one hand, and that, when their hands were dislocated by having to bear the entire weight of the body, he should further suspend a heavy stone to their feet, that the sense of pain might be the sharper. This was done, and from the third hour to the eighth they bore this severe torture with fortitude, uttering not a word, nor a groan, nor giving any other indication of a weak or abject mind. You would have said that they were suffering in a body which was not theirs, or that others were suffering and they themselves were nothing more than spectators of what was going on.

In the meantime, whilst they were hanging by their hands, the governor was engaged in trying other cases. Having done with these, he ordered the jailor to inquire of the saints whether or not they would obey the emperor and be released from their torture; and on his putting the question to them, when it was found that they either could not or would not return an answer, he ordered that they should be confined in the inner part of the prison, in a dark dungeon, dark both in name and in reality, and that their feet should be made fast in the stocks. At dawn of day, their feet were loosened from the confinement of the stocks; but their prison was close shut up, so that not a single ray even of sunlight could make its way in; and the jailors were ordered not to give them a bit of bread or a single drop of water for three whole days. So that, in addition to all the rest, the martyrs were condemned to a dark prison and a long privation of food. When the third day arrived, about the beginning of the month of August, the prison was opened to admit light, but they were detained in it stir up to the 10th of November. Then the judge had them brought up before his tribunal: Has not all this time, said he, sufficed to induce you to change your minds and come to some wholesome decision? They answered: We have already several times told thee our mind: do, therefore, what thou hast been commanded. The governor forthwith ordered that Shamuna should be made to kneel down on one side11 and that an iron chain should be fastened on his knee. This having been done, he hung him up head downwards by the foot with which he had made him kneel; the other he pulled downwards with a heavy piece of iron, which cannot be described in words: thus endeavouring to rend the champion in twain. By this means the socket of the hip-bone was wrenched out of its place and Shamuna became lame. Guria, however, because he was weak and somewhat pale, he left unpunished: not that he regarded him with friendly eyes—not that he had any compassion on his weakness; but rather by way of sparing for another opportunity one whom he was anxious to punish: lest perchance, as he said, through inadvertence on my part he should be worn out before he has undergone the torments in reserve for him.

By this time two hours of the day had passed since Shamuna had been hung up; and the fifth hour had now arrived, and he was still suspended on high—when the soldiers who stood around, taking pity upon him, urged him to obey the emperor’s command. But the compassion of sinners had no effect upon the saint. For, although he suffered bitterly from the torture, he vouchsafed them no answer whatever, leaving them to lament at their leisure, and to deem themselves rather, and not him, deserving of pity. But, lifting his eyes to heaven, he prayed to God from the depth of his heart, reminding Him of the wonders done in old time: Lord God, he said, without whom not even a poor little sparrow falls into the snare; who didst cheer the heart of David amid his afflictions; who gavest power to Daniel even against the lions; who madest the children of Abraham victorious over the tyrant and the flame: do Thou now also, O Lord, look on the war which is being waged against us, acquainted as Thou art with the weakness of our nature. For the enemy is trying to turn away the workmanship of Thy right hand from the glory which is with Thee. But regard Thou us with looks of compassion, and maintain within us, against all attempts to extinguish it, the lamp of Thy commandments; and by Thy light guide our paths, and vouchsafe us the enjoyment of that happiness which is in Thee: for Thou art blessed for ever, world without end. Thus did he utter the praise of the Umpire of the strife; and a scribe who was present took down in writing what was said.

At length the governor ordered the jailor to release him from his punishment. He did so, and carried him away all faint and exhausted with the pain he suffered, and they bore him back to his former prison and laid him down by the side of the holy Guria. On the 15th of November, however, in the night, about the time of cock-crowing, the judge got up. He was preceded by torches and attendants; and, on arriving at the Basilica, as it is called, where the court was held, he took his seat with great ceremony on the tribunal, and sent to fetch the champions Guria and Shamuna. The latter came in walking between two of the jailors and supported by the hands of both: for he was worn out with hunger and weighed down with age: nothing but his good hope sustained him. Guria, too, had also to be carried in: for he could not walk at all, because his foot had been severely galled by the chain on it. Addressing them both, the advocate of impiety said: In pursuance of the permission which was granted, you have, doubtless, consulted together about what it is expedient for you to do. Tell me, then, whether any fresh resolution has been come to by you, and whether you have in any respect changed your mind in regard to your former purpose; and obey the command of the most divine emperor. For thus will you be restored to the enjoyment of your property and possessions, yea of this most cheering light also. To this the martyrs reply: No one who is wise would make any great account of continuing for a little while in the enjoyment of things which are but transient. Sufficient for us is the time already past for the use and the sight of them; nor do we feel the want of any of them. That death, on the contrary, with which thou art threatening us will convey us to imperishable habitations and give us a participation in the happiness which is yonder.

The governor replied: What you have said has filled my ears with great sadness. However, I will explain to you what is determined on: if you place incense on the altar and sacrifice to the image of Jupiter, all will be well, and each of you will go away to his home; but, if you still persist in disobeying the command of the emperor, you will most certainly lose your heads: for this is what the great emperor wills and determines. To this the most noble-minded Shamuna replied: If, thou shalt confer upon us so great a favour as to grant us deliverance from the miseries of this life and dismissal to the happiness of the life yonder, so far as in us lies thou shalt be rewarded by Him who lays out our possessions on what is for our good. The governor replied to this somewhat kindly, as it seemed, saying: I have patiently endured hitherto, putting up with those long speeches of yours, in order that by delay you may change your purpose and betake yourselves to what is for your good, and not have to undergo the punishment of death. Those who submit, said he, to death which is only for a time, for the sake of Christ, will manifestly be delivered from eternal death. For those who die to the world live in Christ. For Peter also, who shines so brightly among the band of apostles, was condemned to the cross and to death; and James, the son of thunder was slain by Herod Agrippa with the sword. Moreover, Stephen also was stoned, who was the first to run the course of martyrdom. What, too, wilt thou say of John the Baptist? Thou wilt surely acknowledge his distinguished fortitude and boldness of speech, when he preferred death rather than keep silence about conjugal infidelity, and the adulteress received his head as a reward for her dancing?

Again the governor said: It is not that you may reckon up your saints, as you call them, that I bear so patiently with you, but that, by changing your resolution and yielding to the emperor’s commands, you may be rescued from a very bitter death. For, if you behave with such excessive daring and arrogance, what can you expect but that severer punishments are in store for you, under the pressure of which you will be ready even against your will to do what I demand of you: by which time, however, it will be altogether too late to take refuge in compassion? For the cry which is wrung from you by force has no power to challenge pity; whilst, on the other hand, that which is made of your own accord is deserving of compassion. The confessors and martyrs of Christ said: There needs not many words., For lo! we are ready to undergo all the punishments thou mayest lay upon us. What, therefore, has been commanded thee, delay not to perform. For we are the worshippers of Christ the true God, and (again we say it) of Him of whose kingdom there shall be no end; who also is alone able to glorify those in return who glorify His name. In the meantime, whilst these things were being said by the saints, the governor pronounced sentence against them that they should suffer death by the sword. But they, filled with a joy, beyond the power of words to express, exclaimed: To Thee of right belongeth glory and praise, who art God of all, because it hath pleased Thee that we should carry on to its dose the conflict we have entered upon, and that we should also receive at Thy hands the brightness that shah never fade away.

When, therefore, the governor saw their unyielding firmness, and how they had heard the final sentence with exultation of soul, he said to the saints: May God search into what is being done, and be witness that so far as I was concerned it was no wish of mine that you should lose your lives; but the inflexible command of the emperor to me compels me to this. He then ordered a halberdier to take charge of the martyrs, and, putting them in a carriage, to convey them to a distance from the city with some soldiers, and there to end them with the sword. So he, taking the saints out at night by the Roman gate, when the citizens were buried in profound slumber, conveyed them to Mount Bethelabicla on the north of the city. On their arrival at that place, having alighted from the carriage with joy of heart and great firmness of mind, they requested the halberdier and those who were under his orders to give them time to pray; and it was granted. For, just as if their tortures and their blood were not enough to plead for them, they still by reason of their humility deemed it necessary to pray. So they raised their eyes to heaven and prayed earnestly, concluding with the words: God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, receive in peace our spirits to Thyself. Then Shamuna, turning to the halberdier, said: Perform that which thou hast been commanded. So he kneeled down along with Guria, and they were beheaded, on the 15th of November. This is the account of what happened to the martyrs.

But forasmuch as the number sought for a third in order that in them the Trinity might be glorified, it found, oh admirable providence! Habib—at a subsequent time indeed: but he also, along with those who had preceded him, had determined to enter on the journey, and on the very day12 of their martyrdom reached his consummation. Habib, then, great among martyrs, was a native of the same place as they, namely of the village of Thelsaea;13 and he had the honour of being invested with the sacred office of the diaconate. But, when Licinius swayed the sceptre of the Roman empire and Lysanias had appointed governor of Edessa, a persecution was again raised against the Christians, and the general danger threatened Habib. For he would go about the city, teaching the divine Scriptures to all he met with, arid courageously seeking to strengthen them in piety. When this came to the ears of Lysanias, he gave information of it to the Emperor Licinius. For he was anxious to be himself entrusted with the business of bringing the Christians to trial, and especially Habib: for he had never been entrusted with it before. The emperor, then, sent him a letter and commanded him to put Habib to death. So, when Lysanias had received the letter, search was made everywhere for Habib, who on account of his office in the Church lived in some part of the city, his mother and some of his relations residing with him. When he got intelligence of the matter, fearing lest he should incur punishment for quitting the ranks of martyrdom, he went of his own accord and presented himself to a man who was among the chief of the body-guard, named Theotecnus, and presently he said: I am Habib for whom ye are seeking. But he, looking kindly at him, said: No one, my good man, is as yet aware of thy coming to me: so go away, and look to thy safety; and he not concerned about thy mother, nor about thy relations: for they cannot possibly get into any trouble. Thus far Theotecnus.

But Habib, because the occasion was one that called for martyrdom, refused to yield to a weak and cowardly spirit and secure his safety in any underhand way. He replied, therefore: It is not for the sake of my dear mother, nor for the sake of my kinsfolk, that I denounce myself; but I have come for the sake of the confession of Christ. For Io! whether thou consent or no, I will make my appearance before the governor, and I will proclaim my Master Christ before princes and kings. Theotecnus, accordingly, apprehensive that he might go of his own accord to the governor, and that in this way he might himself be in jeopardy for not having denounced him, took Habib and conducted him to the governor: Here, said he, is Habib, for whom search has been made. When Lysanias learned that Habib had come of his own accord to the contest, he concluded that this was a mark of contempt and overweening boldness, as if he set light by the solemn dignity of the judicial seat; and he had him at once put on his trial. He inquired of him his condition of life, his name, and his country. On his answering that he was a native of the village of Thelsaea, and intimating that he was a minister of Christ, the governor immediately charged the martyr with not obeying the emperor’s commands. He insisted that a plain proof of this was his refusal to offer incense to Jupiter. To this Habib kept replying that he was a Christian, and could not forsake the true God, or sacrifice to the lifeless works of men’s hands which had no sensation. The governor hereupon ordered, that his arms should be bound with ropes, and that he should be raised up high on a beam and torn with iron claws.14 The hanging up was far more difficult to bear than the tearing: for he was in danger of being pulled asunder, through the forcible strain with which his arms were stretched out.

In the meantime, as he was hanging up in the air, the governor had recourse to smooth words, and assumed the guise of patience. He, however, continued to threaten him with severer punishments unless he should change his resolution. But he said: No man shall induce me to forsake the faith, nor persuade me to worship demons, even though he should inflict tortures more and greater. On the governor’s asking him what advantage he expected to gain from tortures which destroyed his whole15 body, Habib, Christ’s martyr, replied: The objects, of our regard do not last merely for the present, nor do we pursue the things that are seen; and, if thou too art minded to turn thy look towards our hope and promised recompense, possibly thou wilt even say with Paul: “The sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which is to be revealed in us.”16 The governor pronounced his words to be the language of imbecility; and, when he saw that, notwithstanding all the efforts he made, by turns using smooth words and assuming the part of patience, and then again threatening him and menacing him with a shocking17 death, he could not in either way prevail with him, he said, as he pronounced sentence upon him: I will not inflict on thee a sudden and speedy death; I will bring on thy dissolution gradually by means of a slow fire, and in this way make thee lay aside thy fierce and intractable spirit. Thereupon, some wood was collected together at a place outside the city on the northward, and he was led to the pile, followed by his mother, and also by those who were otherwise by blood related to him. He then prayed, and pronounced a blessing on all, and gave them the kiss in the Lord; and after that the wood was kindled by them, and he was cast into the fire; and, when he had opened his mouth to receive the flame, he yielded up his spirit to Him who had given it. Then, when the fire had subsided, his relatives wrapped him in a costly piece of linen and anointed him with unguents; and, having suitably sung psalms and hymns, they laid him by the side of Shamuna and Guria, to the glory of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, who constitute a Divine Trinity, which cannot be divided: to whom is due honour and worship now and always, and for evermore, Amen. Such was the close of the life of the martyr Habib in the time of Licinius, and thus did he obtain the privilege of being laid with the saints, and thus did he bring to the pious rest from their persecutions. For shortly afterwards the power of Licinius waned, and the rule of Constantine prospered, and the sovereignty of the Romans became his; and he was the first of the emperors who openly professed piety, and allowed the Christians to live as Christians.

History of Armenia.

Moses of Chorene.1

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I.2



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