Simon of Beth Arsham203 (d. 540)

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Simon of Beth Arsham203
(d. 540)

One of the most eminent church dignitaries who fought for the Orthodox faith, his fame spread at the beginning of the sixth century. His life story was written by John of Ephesus, who conversed with him for a long time and had this to say about him:204
“He (Simon) was a priest well-versed in the science of religion and a habitual reader. He was also a zealous, fluent and keen disputant, who devoted his life to support the Orthodox truth. He opposed the Nestorians and refuted them by his proofs. Also he disputed with the Manicheans, the Marcians and the Daysanites in Persia and the Eutychians. In fact, he was called ‘The Persian Disputant.’ He preached Christianity in Hirat al-Naman, where many Arabs responded to his call, and a church was built by their notables. He also converted to Christianity three chiefs of the Magians and baptized them, but they were martyred. He journeyed to the land beyond Persia and brought the faith to heathens and Magians. For his efforts, the bishops of the East rewarded him by investing him shortly before 503 with the episcopate of the town of Beth Arsham situated on the Tigris near Seleucia. He fought the good fight for the cause of religion and in support of the Orthodox believers, but was detained in Nisibin for seven years, an adversity which he endured with patience. After his release, he journeyed for seven more years to many countries and visited Constantinople three times. He was chosen by the Emperor Anastasius to be a delegate to the Persian King, to discuss with him the removal of affliction from the believers. The purpose of his third journey to Constantinople was to see the Empress Theodora, but he died, an old man, at the capital around 540.”

Mar Simon wrote many books and treatises in refutation of heretics. He also wrote many letters on the Faith, addressed to the believers in all countries. Of these we have two lengthy and magnificent letters. In the first one, he incorporated the detailed conditions of Barsouma of Nisibin and the rise of the heresy of Nestorius and its spread into Persia and the closing down of the School of Edessa. Written in 511, this letter is considered the oldest document about these two events. In the second letter, addressed to Simon, abbot of the Gabbul Monastery in 524, he related that he had accompanied the envoy of Emperor Justin I to al-Mundhir, King of the Lakhmide Arabs of al-Hira.205 He and the envoy met the King at Ramlah. They learned from him that he had received a letter from Masruq, the Jewish King of the Himyarites, stating in detail the torture which he inflicted upon the Christians of Najran, capital of al-Yaman and his slaughter of them. Upon his return to al-Hira, Simon learned the details of the martyrdom of the nobles of Najran, the chief and noblest of whom was al-Harith ibn Kab. Simon urged the bishop to contact the emperor in order to lift the affliction from the Christians in al-Yaman and Tiberias. This letter was quoted by the historians Zachariah, Dionysius and Michael the Great.206 Simon also composed a liturgy which has been ascribed by some scribes to Philoxenus.

49- Simon of Beth Arsham203 (d. 540)