BARHEBREUS (Syrian Bar Ebrhraya, Gerighor (Yuhannan Abu’l Farag, ibn al- ‘Ibri)—Syrian theologian, philosopher, historian, physician, and writer, a Jacobite bishop, b. 1226 in Melitene (today Malatia in eastern Turkey), d. July 30, 1286 in Maragha (south-west Iran).

In Antioch, to which he fled in 1243 from a Mongol invasion, and in Tripoli, he received a rhetorical, philosophical, theological, and medical education. When he was 19 he began the life of a hermit. In 1246 he was consecrated as a bishop by the monophysite patriarch Ignatius II and then changed his christened name of John to Gregory. He was the bishop of Gubos, of Lacabene (from 1247), and by the nomination of the patriarch Dionysius, of Aleppo (from 1252, but he had to wait until 1258 to occupy the See). In 1264 Patriarch Ignatius III raised Barhebreus to the position of Maphrian (or Primate, a dignitary with ecclesial and civil authority) and gave him authority over the Jacobites in the Persian kingdon. His seat was the cloister of Mar Mattai near Mosul.

He wrote philosophical, theological, historical, linguistic, astronomical, medical, and literary works. In Menarat que (Candlestick of temples) he presented 12 principles upon which the Church is based; in Awsar rase (Treasury of mysteries) he presented a commentary on all the books of the Sacred Scriptures based on the works of the Fathers of the Church, ecclesial writers, monophysites, and Nestorians. In Ketaba dehuddaje (Book of regulations) he presented civil and ecclesial legal rules. He presented teachings for those in religious life in Ketaba d’iuna (Book of the dove). He related the history of the whole world, from creation to 1285, in the form of a chronicle (Syrian and ecclesial). In the chronicle he discussed political, religious, and ecclesial matters of the Near East. He showed the greatest erudition in the encyclopedic Hewat hekmata (Cream of wisdom) which reflected the theological and philosophical views of the time (manuscripts of this work have been preserved in several European libraries). This work refers to an early encyclopedia of this type by Avicenna called Book of healing (as-Sifa). It is composed of four parts devoted in turn to logical, physics, metaphysics, and practical philosophy. They summarize the works of Aristotle in an analogous manner to the works of Avicenna. The Aristotelian works Barhebreus summarized are Organon (including Porphyry’s Introduction), Physics, De caelo et mundo, and De generatione et corruptione. Barhebreus wrote his own treatise The Book of Signs and Stimuli after the model of Avicenna’s treatise.

A. Baumstark, Geschichte der syrischen Literatur, Bo 1922, repr. B 1968, 312–320; E. Hernan, DHGE VI 792–794; P. Sbath, Traité sur l’âme par B., K 1928; G. Furlani, La psicologia di B. secondo il libro “La crema della sapienza”, Rivista degli studi orientali (1931); F. Nau, DThC II 401–406; J. Heller, EJud III 1074–1075; M. Jugie, Teologia dogmatica christianorum orientalium ab Ecclesia catholica dissidentium, P 1926–1935; V 474–478; H. F. Janssens, L’Entretien de la Sagesse, introduction aux oeuvres philosophiques de B., Lg-P 1937; G. Furlani, La versione siriaca del “Kitab al-Isarat wat-tanbihat” di Avicenna, Rivista degli studi orientali (1945), 89–101; T. Nöldeke, Orientalische Skizzen, Hi–NY 1974.

Donat Nowicki, Lech Szyndler

<--Go back