Mar Gregory Abu al-Faraj of Melitene, maphrian of the East, known as Bar Hebraeus (d. 1286) – BIOGRAPHIES OF SYRIAN SCHOLARS AND WRITERS – Mor Ignatius Aphram Barsoum – Translated : By Dr. Matti Moosa

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Mar Gregory Abu al-Faraj of Melitene, maphrian of the East, known as
Bar Hebraeus
(d. 1286)

Abu al-Faraj, nicknamed “Jamal al-Din,” son of the deacon Taj al-Din Aaron the physician, the son of Tuma (Thomas) of Melitene known as Bar Hebraeus393 is a very famous learned man and one of the great philosophers and theologians of the Orient as well as the world.394 Certainly, he is the most luminous star that ever shown in the firmament of the Syrian nation395 and his encyclopedic knowledge makes him all the more unique and unequalled.

He was born at Melitene in 1226 to a noble Christian family.396 In an article397 written by us we have refuted the allegation of Orientalists who claimed that the term Hebraeus is evidence that he was of Jewish origin and that his father was a convert to Christianity. The truth is that he was called Hebraeus because either one of his grandfather or he himself was born during a crossing of the River Euphrates. It is sufficient proof to cite a line of poetry which he composed about this, his nickname. He stated:
If our Lord (Christ) called himself a Samaritan,
Do not be ashamed if people call you Bar Hebraeus (Son of a Hebrew).
For the origin of this application is the River Euphrates
And not a disgraceful doctrine or the Hebrew language.398
Let then those who arbitrarily hold this view change their traditional mistake.

Bar Hebraeus studied Syriac, Church rites, the Holy Scripture and the Commentaries of the Church Fathers on them, under proficient masters in his own country. He also studied medicine under his father. At the end of 1243 his father left with his family for Antioch because of civil disturbances in his own country. Abu al-Faraj took this opportunity to study whatever he could of sciences under other teachers he found. In 1244 he became disenchanted with worldly things and became a monk renowned for his piety. He pursued his study of medicine, rhetoric and logic under master Jacob the Nestorian in Tripoli. When he achieved fame, Patriarch Ignatius III liked him and ordained him a priest and then a bishop for Jubas in 1246 and called him Gregory. Later he was transferred to the diocese of Laqbin and then Aleppo where he completed his philosophical and theological studies and mastered the Arabic language. On January 19, 1264 he was elevated to the Maphrianate of the East. He spent the next twenty-two years and few months traveling between Nineveh, St. Matthew’s monastery, Baghdad, Mosul, Maragha and Tabriz, ministering to the believers and treating favorable circumstance for the Church in both religious and secular domains. He had great favor with the kings of the Moguls because of his knowledge, competence and his excellent handling of things and people. He chose pious and qualified monks and ordained twelve of them bishops. He built two churches, two monasteries and two diocesan homes for the bishops and an inn. Nevertheless, he never stopped learning and entering into discussions with the learned men of his time. Wherever he went, he became the focus of attention for the educated. At the library of Maragha he studied philosophical commentaries in Arabic. He also read all of the philosophical and medical writings of Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and used them as his authority after the writings of Aristotle. They had a great influence on his own writings. Then he studied the Persian language thoroughly and found time to look into the different books of asceticism. Through God’s Providence he was successful in everything he did until his death at Maragha on July 30, 1286 – being sixty years of age. All the Christian sects were stunned by his death and mourned his passing. His holy body was conveyed to the Monastery of St. Matthew, where his grave is still the object of reverence. He was described as “The Ocean of Wisdom,” “The Light of East and West,” “The Prince of Learning Men,” “The Greatest Sage,” “The Holy Father” and “The Most Learned Man Possessing Divine Knowledge.”

Following are his writings:

1. Ausar Roze (Storehouse of Secrets) which is a large and significant book containing a philological, literal and spiritual commentary on the Books of the Old and New Testaments. He wrote it after thorough study of the Scriptures based on the Pshitto and the Septuagint translation, the translations used by Origen, the Harclean, the Coptic, Armenian and Nestorian translations, together with the Qarqafta vocalization of the Scriptures. He also mentioned his preference of the Septuagint to the Pshitto version. His commentary covers all the books of the Old Testament including the apocryphal books of wisdom and the Maccabees and the New Testament except Revelation. In his interpretation he cited as authorities Hippolytus, Africanus, Origen, Julius, Eusebius, Athanasius, St. Ephraim, Basil, Gregory Nazianzen, Gregory of Nyssa, Epiphanius, Chrysostom, Cyril, Hesychius, the Areopagite, Jacob of Saruj, Philoxenus of Mabug, Severus of Antioch, Daniel of Salh, Jacob of Edessa and George Bishop of the Arabs. He mentioned only once Didymus, Theodore of Mapsuestia, David bar Paul (in his commentary on the Gospel according to St. Matthew) and Patriarch Michael. In these commentaries he produced ideas of his own, criticizing some ideas of the Fathers. He finished this book on December 15, 1271. In a second copy, which was transcribed from the original written by the author in 1354, and which I believe is today in London, it is stated that he finished this book in 1277. However, the first date is more correct. Martin Springling, the American scholar said, “Bar Hebraeus is the greatest writer in all the history of Syriac literature and surely the most learned man of his age. In his Storehouse of Secrets he devoted all his knowledge to the Holy Scripture. The theologian, the historian, the anthropologist and the philosopher will find a wealth for his research in this comprehensive work written by this notable man of the thirteenth century.”399
There are more than twenty copies of this magnificent book, the oldest of which is one transcribed in 1275 in the lifetime of the author.400 Another copy is in Berlin transcribed in 1298,401 and one other at our library is thought to have been transcribed at the beginning of the fourteenth century. The Orientalists, Springling and Graham gathered photographic copies of these manuscripts and published the first volume in three hundred ninety-three pages of the book ending with Second Samuel in 1931.
2. Mnorath Qudshe (The Lamp of the Sanctuaries), is a very profound and large book in five hundred large-size pages. In it he dealt in great detail with the positive and negative theological sciences, supported by testimonies from Holy Scripture, Christian authorities and the natural sciences (by citing the writings of Aristotle and Galen). He defended the truth of Christianity, refuted the falsehood of misleading men, destroyed the arguments of Sophists and challenged the ideas of Aristotle when they contradicted the Orthodox faith. He divided this book into twelve parts or heads as follows: knowledge, the existence of God, the creation of the world, the Trinity and the Oneness of God, the mystery of the Incarnation, Angels, Devils, the human soul, priesthood, fate and destiny, Resurrection and Paradise. He made it mandatory for theology students. In 1909 we found an old copy of this book at the bishop’s residence in Jazirat ibn Umar in the handwriting of the deacon Yuhanna (John) Saru of Bartulli, the pupil of the author, completed in 1275. This copy was lost in the calamities of World War I. There are ten old copies of this book.402 In 1930 Jean Bachus translated the first two heads into French and published them. In 1661 the deacon Sergius, son of Bishop Yuhanna Ghurayr of Damascus translated it into Arabic, a translation which is a mixture of good and bad quality. Afterwards many copies of it were spread throughout the countries.403

3. Kthobo d-Zalge (The Book of Rays), is a compendium of the Lamp of the Sanctuaries in ten parts. They are as follows: the creation in six days, theological science, the Incarnation of the Word-God, the Angels and evil spirits, the soul, priesthood or offices of ordination, Baptism, the Chrism, the Eucharistic service, free will and fate and destiny, the end of the two worlds (the small and the big), together with the beginning of the new world and Paradise. His sources were the Doctors Athanasius, Ephraim, Basil, Gregory Nazianzen (The theologian), Gregory of Nyssa, Eugrius, Chrysostom, Cyril, the Ariopagite, Jacob of Saruj, Philoxenus of Mabug, Severus of Antioch, Jacob of Edessa, and Moses bar Kipha. Occasionally, he quoted the two books of the Testament of our Lord, Clemis of Rome, Mithodius, Gregory Thaumaturgus, Julius, Titus of Bosra, Epiphanus, Theophilus, Proclus, Sergius of Ras Ayn, Severus Sabukht and Bar Sobto. Of the non-Orthodox he quoted Theodore of Mopseustia, Theodoret and John of Baysan. If, in these two books, he had avoided detailed treatment of some subject matter of physicians copied from Aristotle, he would have been much better. This book consists of three hundred thirty-eight small-size pages. There are nine old copies and a new one at our library. It has been translated into very poor Arabic by a belated translator.

4. Hewath Hekhmtho (The Cream of Wisdom) on philosophy (comprising the whole Aristotelian discipline). It is one of his best writings. It consists of two huge volumes covering nine hundred fifty-one pages. The first volume contains the Logic in nine books as follows: the Isagoge, Categories, On Interpretation, Prior Analytics, Posterior Analytics, Topics, Sophistical Refutations, Rhetoric and Poetics. The volume consists of three hundred sixty-five pages. At the end of it he stated: “This is all that we could find of the teaching of our great master, the philosopher Aristotle, On Poetry. It seems to me that some part of it is still missing but extant. Either that part was not translated from the Greek or from Syriac or from the Arabic or has been translated but did not reach us. If God wills, and I live long enough I will write a comprehensive book on this art with full treatment of the different techniques of rhetoric such as harmonizing between two opposites, Paranomasia, metaphor, analogy and others.” The second volume on Physics consists of two sections. The first section is in eight books: 1) The Physics, in five parts, dealing with the natural body in general such as element, form, the nature of motion, the condition of change, the finite and the infinite, the connection of motions and the infinity with a first mover at rest and infinite which has no parts nor magnitude. 2) On The Heavens, in five parts, viz., the heavenly bodies and the sub-luminary bodies, the four elements, their nature, movements and fixations and a definition of wisdom. 3) On Generation and Corruption, in four parts, in which he discussed the condition of the universe, corruption, the courses of coming-into-being and passing away, and absolute alterations and the number of the eternal bodies subject to alteration. 4) The Book of Minerals in which he discusses the condition of solid objects, minerals, mountains, springs, the movement of the earth and the position of the universe. 5) The Book of Meteorology, in four parts, in which he discussed the conditions and motions which influences the four elements before they come together, also the influence of the heavens, meteors, clouds, thunder, wind, earthquakes, oceans and mountains on these elements. 6) The Book of Plants, in four parts, on living plants. 7) The Book of Animals, in six parts, in which he discusses the nature of animals and the condition of the animal world. 8) The Book of Soul, in fours parts, discussing the knowledge about the soul, the faculties of the soul, the movement of the soul, especially in man. He also discusses other related subjects, such as medicine, the discipline of stars, astrology, talismans and alchemy.
The second section of the second volume is in five books, viz., On Philosophy, in eight parts, Theology or Metaphysics in six parts, which constitute the theoretical subjects of this part. They are followed by the practical subjects, viz., the Nicomachean Ethics, Economics, in three parts and Politics, in three parts. In Chapter Three of part two he discussed the characteristics of nations. This volume consists of two hundred thirty-three chapters in five hundred eighty-six pages.
There are two old copies of the first volume, one in Florence,404 slightly imperfect, and the other in Oxford,405 and four new copies: one in Kandanat (Malabar), the second one in Aleppo, the third one in the Sayyida Monastery406 and the fourth in Birmingham.407 There are also two old copies of the second volume: one in our library completed in the lifetime of the author. It is the first copy to be transcribed from the author’s copy which he finished at the end of 1285 or the beginning of 1286. The second copy is at the Chaldean library in Amid.408 There are also two new copies: one in Birmingham409 and the other one at our library.
5.The Book of Tegrath Tegrotho (Mercatura Mercaturarism) a medium-size book on dialectics and philosophy in three books.410 It is an abridgement of his book The Cream of Wisdom. He compiled it before 1276. There are six copies of it411 the oldest transcribed on May 20, 1276. There is a statement in a copy transcribed by the metropolitan Ephraim Qawme that this book was translated into Arabic but we do not have a book by this name in Arabic.412

6. Kthobo da-Swodh Suphia (Book of the Speech of Wisdom), a small book, in four parts, on dialectics and philosophy. He wrote it after 1275. Herman Janus published it based on twenty-four copies: the oldest are two, one in Chicago, transcribed in 1299, and the other is in London, transcribed about 1330.413 He translated it into French and published it in 1937. In 1940 we published an excellent Arabic translation of it which we think was made shortly after the author’s death, according to a copy transcribed in 1608,414 after we revised and collated it with the original and corrected some of the errors of the French translator.

7. Kthobo d-Bobotho (Book of the Pupils of the Eyes). It is a small book on the art of logic and philosophy, in seven parts comprising no more than forty pages.415

8. Two treatises On the Human Soul, one short and the other long, which he wrote in excellent Arabic. The first one consists of sixty-two chapters in twenty-six pages,416 the other, twenty-six chapters in seventy-four pages.417 He wrote the latter in response to the request of Dionysius Angur, metropolitan of Melitene before 1252. It was first published in 1928. We found in West New York a magnificent accentuated copy of it completed at the end of the thirteenth century and the beginning of the following century. We republished it in Hims in 1938, commented on it and corrected the mistakes of the first publisher, who relied on recent copies.

9. Kitab al-Isharat wa al-Tanbihat (The Book of Indications and Prognostications) by Ibn Sina, on the art of logic and philosophy. He translated this book into excellent Syriac in response to the request of the priest Shimun (Simon) Thomas the Easterner, chief physician of Hulago before 1278. It indicates his mastery of the Syriac language as well as of translation. He mentioned it in his Chronicle in Syriac.418 This noteworthy translation has not been alluded to by contemporary writers on Arab philosophy. There is an old copy of this translation at the Florence library transcribed by Yuhanna Bachus of Bartulli in 1278.419 There are also five more copies.420 This manuscript consists of two hundred eighteen large-size pages written in fine script.

10. Kitab Zubdat al-Asrar (The Cream of Secrets) on philosophy, by Athir al-Din al-Abhari (d. 1266), which he translated from Arabic into Syriac. It has been lost.
Know that Bar Hebraeus studied philosophy by himself. He comprehended Aristotle’s philosophy thoroughly and followed his method in the first volume of his Cream of Wisdom according to the sequence of his writings. He concentrated on the text rather than on the additions which were made by writers during the fifteen centuries after Aristotle. Unlike all of our learned men who treated physics, he studied the texts of Aristotle’s writings along with the new systematic collections of writings whether in their original or in translation. Some Orientalists are of the opinion that he studied Aristotle’s book On the Soul in its original Greek because he accentuated several Greek terms a matter that has never been done by our writers.421 It is not unlikely that he knew Greek, although evidence for this is lacking. However, it is not improbable that such a brilliant man could have learned Greek during his long stay in Syria. In Arabic he studied, other than the works of Ibn Sina, those by the philosophers Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, (d. 1210), and his contemporaries, al-Abhari, Najm al-Din al-Qazwini, Nasir al-Din al-Tusi (d. 1276), who discussed these subjects with him. The ideas of Ibn Sina had tremendous influence on him, as we have already mentioned. Praising Ibn Sina he stated: “When Ibn Sina

took Aristotle’s talent, he not only increased it five times but more than fifty times.”422 In the Organon and Physics as well as in the Metaphysics he followed in the footsteps of Aristotle. He did not deviate his course except when he followed Ibn Sina’s doctrine. In fact, he preferred Ibn Sina’s ideas on the soul and its relations to the body. In the second volume he treated subjects in more conformity with the principles of theology as they were known in the thirteenth century. We have already mentioned that death did not give him a chance to write a philosophical book which would contain his creative ideas.

11. Kthobo d-Hudoye (Nomocanon or Book of Directions), is one of his books famous for its excellence. It consists of five hundred forty-one pages in forty parts: 1) the Church and its administration, 2) Baptism, 3) the Holy Chrism, 4) the Eucharist, 5) fasting and feasts, 6) funerals, 7) office of priesthood, 8) property and marriage, 9) wills, 10) inheritance, 11) selling and buying, 12) credit, 13) mortgage, 14) damages, 15) reconciliation, 16) transmission of money, 17) bail, 18) partnership, 19) power of attorney, 20) admission, 21) deposit materials, 22) loaning of objects, 23) gifts, 24) religious bequests, 25) pre-emption, 26) loans, 27) sharecropping, 28) desolate lands, 29) leans, 30) the finding of lost things, 31) the finding of lost children, 32) the liberation of slaves, 33) larceny, 34) felonies, 35) the slaughtering of game, 36) oaths, 37) vows, 38) litigations and legal powers, 39) testimony and witnesses, 40) the case without exception. This book consists of one hundred forty-seven chapters. His sources were the canons ascribed to the Apostles and which are reproduced in the eight books of Clemis, the Doctrine of Addai, the Councils of Ancyra, New-Caesarea, Nicea, Antioch, Gangara, Loadicia, Constantinople, Seleucia and Chalcedon as well as the works of Clemis, Dionysius of Athens, Cyprian, Dionysius of Alexandria, Eustathius, Athanasius, Basil, Theologos, Eugrius of Constantinople, Rabula, Cyril of Alexandria, Timothy, Philoxenus of Mabug, John of Talla, Severus of Antioch, a letter of certain bishops to the abbots of two monasteries in the village Linsus in Cilicia, Theodosius of Alexandria, Cyriacus of Amid, Jacob of Edessa, from whom he took forty-two canons, our patriarchs of Antioch George I, Cyriacus, Dionysius I, John IV, Ignatius II, Michael I and the Decrees of Byzantine emperors and finally unknown sources together with his own ideas. He called it the book of Hudoye423 which became the constitution of the Church. This book indicates the wide authority the bishops had in trying the civil cases among their parishioners. It has been praised by European authorities like Cardinal Mai.424 There are eight copies of this book: the oldest is at the Jerusalem library and was finished at the beginning of the fourteenth century.425 In 1895 Bedjan published it according to the Paris manuscript transcribed in 1488. A long time ago it was translated into Latin but the translation is marred with mistakes. At the end of the sixteenth century it was translated into poor Arabic.

12. The Ethikon (Ethics) containing religious obligations which he began with the obligations of prayer and adorned with eight supplicatory prayers, the different kinds of behavior supported by testimonies from Holy Scripture and the wisdom of Egyptian ascetics and their chronicles. It is a satisfying source for pious men. He finished this book at Maragha on July 15, 1279. It consists of four treatises subdivided into parts and chapters. The first treatise is on the training of the body, the second on the methods of maintaining the body, the third on the purification of the soul from improper affections and the fourth which is by far the longest, in sixteen chapters, on the adorning of the soul with virtues. The book consists of four hundred twenty pages. There are four old copies of this book, the oldest of which is at the Chaldean library in Mosul. It was completed in 1292.426 This book was published by Bedjan in 1898 and was translated into poor Arabic by the monk David of Hims. A copy of this translation is at Oxford.427
13. Kthobo d-Yawno (The Book of the Dove). A compendium in the training of ascetics. He wrote it at the suggestion of some lovers of asceticism after he had written the Ethikon. It consists of four parts, the first one on the bodily service in the monastery, the second one on the psychic service which is accomplished in the cell, the third on the spiritual quest of the perfect and the fourth on the author’s progress in knowledge. Some terms communicated to him in revelation (which are about eighty in number). The whole book consists of eighty pages. The author states that he called it The Dove as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. This book was translated into Arabic about 1299 under the title Kitab al-Warqa fi Ilm al-Irtiqa. I saw its well-written introduction in the handwriting of Abu al-Hasan ibn Mahruma of Mardin. There is an old copy of it at the University of Chicago, written in 1290, and another copy at Oxford.428 To it was appended a chapter on the Youthfulness of the Mind, which is the beginning of a story the author was writing on his way to Maragha, but death precluded its completion.429 The book was published by Bedjan and then by the monk Yuhanna Dulabani in 1916.430

14. The Ecclesiastical History in two volumes. The first one contains the history of the patriarchs of Antioch from Peter, the head of the Apostles, till the year 1285. The second contains the history of the Catholici and Maphrians of the East, beginning with St. Thomas the Apostle and ending with his lengthy autobiography to the year of his death. He also recorded in it the chronicles of the Nestorian Catholici according to their historian Mari ibn Sulayman. At the beginning of this history he included biographies dating back to the first three centuries, which cannot be substantiated. This book has old copies in the Vatican,431 Oxford432 and Jerusalem.433 It consists of six hundred thirty-three pages. It was translated into Latin and published by Abeloos and Lamy in 1877-1879 with an introduction whose warp and weft are made of mistakes and falsifications.

15. World History, beginning from the creation till the year 1285. In it he incorporated the history of the world, states and learned men, with great precision and accuracy. His sources were the histories of Jacob of Edessa, Michael the Great and Syriac, Arabic and Persian histories which he found at the library in Maragha. Copies of this history are found in the aforementioned libraries. It was published by Bedjan in 1890 and was also translated into English and published by Budge in 1932.

16. Tarikh Mukhtasar al-Duwal, is a compendium of his world history which he translated into Arabic shortly before his death in response to the request of certain Muslim learned men in Maragha. He finished it – except for three pages – in one month. He incorporated into it useful information concerning Arab learned men drawn from Arabic histories, some of which he quoted verbatim, excluding events of concern to Christian learned men. He arranged his work according to the histories of ten Kingdoms, i.e., the ancient patriarchs, the judges and kings of Israel, the Chaldean kings, the Persians, the Greeks, the pagans, the Christianized Romans and Greeks, the Muslim Arabs and the Moghul. The book consists of five hundred twenty-two pages and has six copies: in Florence,434 Paris,435 London and Oxford. It was first published by Pocock, who also translated it into Latin in 1663. It was also translated into German by Bauer in 1783 and was published by the monk Anton Salhani in 1890.

17. Kthobo d-Semhe (The Book of Lights), undeniably the best written Syriac grammar. He wrote it at the request of certain students of grammar and arranged it according to the grammatical principles of both the Eastern and Western Syrians, incorporated into it new principles as well as ones adopted from the Arabs. He divided it into four parts: on the noun, on the verb, on the article and on the collective. It became a constitution for the grammarians and students. It consists of three hundred fifty-two pages and has many copies, the oldest one in Florence.436 Other copies are in Zafaran,437 London,438 New Jersey,439 Jerusalem,440 Oxford,441 Boston,442 and our library.443 It was published by Martin and then by Axel Moberg in Paris in 1922.

18. Kthobo da-Grammatiki or Introduction to Grammar, is written in verse in the heptasyllabic meter. He composed it in Baghdad in two weeks, with comments and marginal notes. It has many copies, the oldest is at the University of Chicago.444 One is at Florence in the handwriting of the monk Daniel445 and one is at our library.446 These copies do not contain the Arabic comments which were made by later grammarians. Other copies are in Birmingham,447 Zafaran which is an invaluable copy,448 Paris,449 and Jerusalem.450 This book has been published by Martin.

19. Kthobo d-Balsisutho (The Book of the Spark), which is a third book on grammar left unfinished by the author. It is said that it was a large book. However, in his list of books it is called a compendium. This book is lost, but the author mentioned it at the end of his former book.

20. Kthobo d-Suloqo Hawnonoyo (The Ascent of the Mind), on astronomy and cosmography. He wrote it in 1279 in response to the request of the priest Shamoun Thomas the Easterner. In it he discussed astronomy scientifically and illustrated it with pictures and geometrical diagrams. This book is in two parts: the first one consists of eight sections, and the second, of seven sections. It covers two hundred fifty-seven pages. It was translated into French by Francis Nau according to four copies in Paris, Oxford and Cambridge in 1895. The oldest of these copies was transcribed in the fourteenth century.

21. A commentary on Euclid’s book on geometry which he completed in 1272 and mentioned in his Ecclesiastical History.451

22. A commentary on the Megiste of Ptolemy,452 on astronomy and the movement of the celestial bodies, which he completed in Maragha in 1273. He commented on it after he informed Muhyi al-Din ibn Muhammad ibn Abi al-Shukr al-Maghribi the Andalusian (Spanish) of a summary of its themes and contents and added into it an explanation of the neglected introduction of the book. He also unraveled its obscure passages. He mentioned the name of the author at the beginning of the book with great praise.453

23. A book containing a set of astronomical tables, an astronomical almanac for fixing the movable feasts. This book is lost.

24. A translation from Arabic into Syriac of De Medicamentis Simplificus, simple medicines, their potency and perfection. It is lost to us also.

25. Another large but lost book containing all of the medical theories known at the time.

26. An unfinished Syriac translation of four tracts of the Canon by Ibn Sina which is also lost.

27. A selection in Arabic of Al-Adwiya al-Mufrada (Book of Simple Medicines) by Abu Jafar Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Khulayd al-Ghafiqi the Andalusian (d. 560 A.H./1164 A.D.). It is stated in it that: “This book has been selected by the unique man of his age, the most learned and pious Holy Father, the revealer of truths, the unraveler of intricate matters, Gregorius, Maphrian of the East. May God complete his happiness and confirm his eminence.”

Bar Hebraeus selected this book from three volumes to make the knowledge about drugs more accessible. At the end of the book he stated, “Gregorius the Maphrian, a humble servant in need of the mercy of God said, ‘Therefore, in this abridgement I decided to restrict myself to the selection and description of medicines, particularly the most famous and potent, with the exclusion of oral medicines and ointments. Despite the small size and comprehensiveness, it turned out to be beneficial and far-reaching in this art.'” A copy of this book in one hundred forty-six pages was found in Dar al-Kutub (The National Library) in Cairo No. 1032, written in an ordinary script in the time of the author at the end of Rabi al-Awwal, 684 A.H./1285 A.D. Dr. Max Mayerhoff and George Subhi translated forty-three pages of it into English and published them in 1932, covering only the letter A. We have spotted eleven mistakes in their introduction. How better it would be if they had vocalized the text. This book has a second copy.454

28. A book On the Benefits of the Members of the Body in Arabic. In it he compiled in details all of the ideas of physicians regarding pharmaceutics. This useful book is lost.

29. A commentary in Arabic on the Aphorism of Hippocrates. A small book, it has a single copy in our library transcribed by the physician Hidayat Allah Chalabi, the Syrian, in 1640, which we found in Damascus in 1938.

30. A commentary in Arabic on the Medical Questions by Hunayn ibn Ishaq the Physician, reaching up to the part on antidotes which is about two-thirds of the book. It was left unfinished because of his death. It is contained in our previously mentioned copy .

31. A brief commentary on the Book of Hierotheos, whose author is anonymous. It is a small book consisting of one hundred twenty-two chapters in one hundred ninety pages. He wrote a commentary on it – in response to the request of certain monks. Bar Hebraeus has nothing to do with some of the pantheistic ideas it contained. This book has copies in London,455 one of which he used in his commentary. Other copies are in our library, Paris, Berlin456 and Zafaran.

32. An anthology containing thirty odes together with more than a hundred short pieces ranging between two and ten lines of poetry. Composed in the twelve-syllabic meter, most of these poems are on description, wisdom, communication with friends, praise, satire and eulogies. One of these poems is on the long absence of a friend, apologizing for the delay in delivering his gift to him. Alluded to in it are the injustices which befall the Christians. Others are on the love of knowledge, the purification of the soul, the vanity of loving this world, a soliloquy on the soul and a ninety-six line ode on the marvellous creation of the heavens, the different ideas of people concerning created beings and the nature of the rational soul. In this ode he apologized for his renunciation of worldly things and pleasure and his contentedness in possessing necessary things such as food, clothes and lodging, for the sake of happiness in the world to come. Other odes are on in sixty lines on divine love, which he likened unto wine, wisdom’s scolding of the ignorant and three hundred five line philosophical ode on perfection which he composed in Baghdad in 1277. In response to the desire of a certain prince named Shams al-Din, he composed an ode based on this ode, on perfection. So also did Yeshu Yab and other Chaldean writers, but what they wrote was a distortion of this ode.457 As to his odes on the description of Spring, praise, eulogy and wisdom, especially his ode on Divine Wisdom in one hundred sixty lines we have already mentioned these in chapters 8 and 9. Although his anthology contains many masterpieces, it also contains the poor and weak poems which he composed while still young and perhaps had no time to revise later.

This anthology has two copies, one at Oxford458 and the other at Birmingham.459 It was first published by the Maronite monk Augustine Shababi in 1877. The priest Gabriel Qirdahi published the ode on Divine Wisdom. The monk-priest Yuhanna Dulabani did well by publishing it in a neat edition in 1929 at Jerusalem. It does not include two odes in the heptasyllabic meter: one on the Trinity460 and the other, a lengthy historical and dogmatic ode composed about 1282, at the behest of the Catholicos Denha I. This ode was published by Chabot.461

33. A liturgy beginning with “Merciful thou art O Lord and thy mercy is for all the peoples.” This liturgy which bears his name is obviously his.462 Another liturgy which begins thus: “O, Immortal and Gracious” is in fact not his, but belongs to Gregory of Bartulli as has been already mentioned. In 1282 Bar Hebraeus also abridged the liturgy of St. James, the brother of the Lord which is known as the short liturgy. On January 29, 1282 he has also written a commentary on the service of the Blessing of the Water on the Epiphany.463

34. The Book of Humorous Stories in twenty chapters covering forty pages, contains the chronicles of some sages, kings, teachers, ascetics, physicians, rich men, misers, artisans as well as tales told through animals. There is an imperfect copy of this book at Constantinople, transcribed in 1605.464 The monk Louis Cheikho published on old vocalized Arabic copy of this book, transcribed in the same year.

35. An insignificant treatise on the interpretation of dreams which he wrote in his youth.

36. An eloquent homily in Arabic on Palm Sunday. We found a copy of it in Azekh and published it.465 According to information given in the book it seems that he wrote many treatises, propitiatory prayers and letters, all of which have been lost except his letter to the patriarch Nimrud.467

Bar Hebraeus was also proficient in the Armenian and Persian languages468 and a master of the Syriac language, comprehending all of its aspects. Furthermore, he was proficient in the Arabic language. His Syriac style is very powerful, lucid and attractive. Whenever his reader dived in his books he found unique and precious pearls. He would end his reading by bowing his head in great reverence to the prince of writers, the king of learned men and without exception, the most famous Syrian scholar.

236. Mar Gregory Abu al-Faraj of Melitene, maphrian of the East