Gregory Bar-Hebræus (son of a Hebrew) Abu Ab-Foraj Ibu Harun, Jacobite Syrian historian, physician, philosopher and theologian; born at Malatia, Asiatic Turkey, 1226; died at Moragha, Persia, 1286. Gregory first studied medicine under his father Aaron, who embraced Christianity, and was probably baptized in his youth. This accounts for his not being conversant with Hebrew, though he was well acquainted with Jewish doctrines. He was successively Bishop of Guba (1246), of Lakaba (1247), and of Aleppo (1253). In 1264 he was named “Mafriana,” or Primate of the Eastern Jacobites, with his seat at Tekrit on the Tigris. Gregory was a prolific writer on theology, philosophy, ethics, history, grammar, medicine, mathematics and astronomy.
Some of his works were written in Arabic, but most of them in Syriac. He was the last great Syriac writer, though he is important rather as a collector than as an independent writer. He is best known for his Syriac grammar, “Ketaba de Semhe,” his “Chronicle” in two parts, ecclesiastical and political; his “Menarat Kudshe,”[ 26] a compendium of theology, philosophy, medicine, physics and metaphysics, and his scholia on the Old and the New Testament (Auzar Raze). In the last-named he occasionally cites readings from the Samaritan text; it is interesting to note that in a scholium to 2 Kings xvii. 28, he says: “The Law (i.e. text of the Pentateuch) of the Samaritans does not agree with that of the Jews, but with the Septuagint.” He occasionally cites opinions of the Jews, e.g., on Ps. viii. 2, on the Shem Hamephorash (the name Jehovah). In the introduction to his commentary on Job he mentions as a writer the priest Asaph (brother of Ezra the Scribe), who identifies Job with Jobab. In speaking of the Apocryphal account of the death of Isaiah, he cites “one of the Hebrew books” as authority. (Nestle Marginalien ii. 48). [From Bernstein: Some Jewish Witnesses]
During this period, we hear little of Jewish Christians in the Eastern Church, but undoubtedly there were a considerable number among the Nestorians and Jacobites. One name, however, is outstanding of a man who was greatly honored by his contemporaries and is still held in the highest esteem, Gregory Abu’l Faraj, surnamed Bar-Hebraeus, Maphrian (Primate) of the Eastern Church. [Schonfield: History of Jewish Christianity]
Born at Melitena in 1226, Gregory was the son of a Jewish physician name Aaron, who seems to have embraced Christianity. In his early childhood he already gave promise of greatness, and besides mastering the Greek, Syriac and Arabic languages, he also studied philosophy, theology and medicine. His father was instrumental in curing a disease from which Saurnavinus, a Tartar general, was suffering; and this led to the migration of the family to Antioch. Here Gregory commenced the life of an anchorite, and was visited in his cave by Mar Ignatius, Patriarch of Saba,  who was to become his great friend and supporter. It was Ignatius who ordained him Bishop of Gubos, on September 14, 1246, when he was only twenty years of age. After many other preferments, it was Ignatius again who created him Maphrian of the eastern Church with his scat at Tagrit on the Tigris, about A.D. 1266.
W.E.W. Carr in a short biography150 writes of Gregory that:
During his forty years’ episcopate, he was never known to have received a farthing from anyone. When the faithful brought purses of money to him as a means of expressing their thanks, he always refused to receive them, and if they were left in his chamber he would always say to the first of his disciples who happened to come: “Take these things out of my sight.”
He possessed the Jewish whole-heartedness and love of thoroughness in the discharge of his work. He was a man whose religious zeal was founded upon conviction which had only taken root in his soul after the deepest upheavals and fierce struggles with despair and unbelief. He knew how to tackle the most delicate situations in the spirit of the true gentleman. He was possessed of a saving sense of humor and knew the importance of the occasional relaxation of the mind from the strain imposed by work and study. While his own mind was clear and resolute on the matter of the doctrine and discipline of the church, theological and ecclesiastical disputes were his abomination.
Gregory was very much impressed with the way in which his life seemed to have been marked out in exact periods. “The year in which Saturn and Jupiter were in conjunction in Aquarius,” he wrote, “was that in which I was born. Again, twenty years later, when they were in conjunction in Libra, I was consecrated Bishop. After another twenty years, when they were in conjunction in Gemini, I attained the rank of Maphrian, and after another twenty years, when they are again in conjunction in Aquarius, I think my time has come to depart this life.” Nor was he mistaken, for he passed away on July 30, 1286. His last words to his disciples were: “Abide in love, and be not separated from each other, for when ye are gathered together in charity, I will be in the midst of you.” His funeral at Maraga was on a vast scale, all shops were closed, and everyone vied with the other to pay him a last tribute. The sterling qualities of his mind have been perpetuated in a whole catalogue of scholarly works, of which perhaps the best known are his Syriac Chronicle and his Syriac Grammar.
Prayer: Thank you Lord for this leading light, both spiritually and in his studies, in the Church of the East, of which we in the West are largely ignorant. Help us to learn from his wisdom and explore further the riches of this part of the Body of Messiah that retained its semitic background, language and character until the present day. In Yeshua’s name we pray. Amen.
However his meditations were interrupted and the worldly affairs of the Syrian Orthodox Church25 soon came to dominate his earthly life. Leaving Antakya he travelled south with Salibah bar YaFqub Wagih, to the coastal city of Tripoli where they studied rhetoric and medicine under YaFqub of the Church of the East.
From Tripoli they were summoned by the Patriarch Ignatius II to be consecrated as bishops of Akko and of Gubos near Malatya. Bar Hebraeus was ordained as Bishop of Gubos on the Festival of the Day of the Redeeming Cross, 14 September 1246 CE at the age of twenty. Many years later, approaching death, the then ageing Maphrian, saw great astrological significance in this date which along with his birth in 1226 CE, his appointment as Maphrian and his expected and actual death in 1286CE he had found reflected in the stars.
From Wikipedia –
Works by Bar Hebraeus
The Candelabra of the Sanctuary (Mnorat Qudsho)
This work in 12 books is a theological compendium. Here are the titles of the books:
- On knowledge, straightforwardly
- On the nature of the universe
- On theology (i.e. on the Trinity)
- On the incarnation of God the Word
- On knowledge of the heavenly beings, namely the angels
- On the earthly priesthood
- On the evil spirits, or demons
- On the rational soul
- On freewill and liberty, and on fate, determinism and the end
- On the resurrection of the dead
- On the end, on judgement, and on the reward of the good and the evil
- On the paradise of Eden
There is a French translation of books 1-4 and 6-12 (all in the PO series); a German translation of book 5 by R. Kohlhaas (1959).
This is a medium-size compendium of theology, divided into 10 parts:
- On the Creation in six days
- On theology (i.e. on the Trinity)
- On the incarnation
- On angels
- On evil spirits
- On the soul
- On priesthood
- On freewill and the end
- On the end of the two worlds, microcosm and macrocosm, and on the beginning of the New World
- On Paradise
There is a French translation of this (N. Sed, PO 41).
The Treasure of Mysteries (`Osar Roze)
This is a systematic collection of notes, rather than a commentary, on all the books of the Syriac bible. There is a strong interest in philological and textual questions. An English translation exists of the Pentateuch and New Testament portions: Genesis-2 Sam.: M. Sprengling and W. C. Graham (1931); Gospels W.E.Carr (1925)
The Nomocanon / Book of Guides (Ktobo d-Hudoye)
This is a collection of Canon Law, arranged by subject for convenience of use. The work is in 40 chapters. The early ones concern church matters and the later ones secular law: inheritance, business dealings, interest, irrigation rights, theft, homicide, etc. A Latin translation exists: A. Mai, Scriptorum Veterum Nova Collectio 10:2 (1838) 1-268.
The Book of Ethics (Ktobo d-Itiqon)
This work has the subtitle, “On excellence of conduct, according to the opinion of the desert fathers and the tested teachers.” The work is in four discourses. The first two deal with exterior knowledge (‘the work of the limbs’) and the latter two with interior knowledge (‘the work of the heart’).
- (9 chapters) on liturgical prayer, manual work, scripture reading, vigils, singing psalms, fasts, pilgrimage. There is a French translation of this by H. Teule, CSCO Syr. 218-9 (1993).
- (6 chapters) on foods, marriage and celibacy, the cleansing of the body, the different ages of man, manual work, commerce and almsgiving.
- (12 chapters) “On the purification of the soul from the base passions”.
- (16 chapters) “On the adornment of the soul with excellent qualities”. The main model used by Barhebraeus for this portion was theIhya `ulum al-din by al-Ghazali (d. 1111 AD).
The Book of the Dove (Ktobo d-Yawno)
This short work in four chapters describes the various forms of the ascetic life. Chapter four contains material from his own experiences. An English translation exists of this work: A.J.Wensink (1919)
A commentary on the book of Holy Hierotheos
No info on this
The Book of the Cream of Wisdom (Ktobo d-He’wat Hekmto)
This is a vast encyclopedia of Aristotelean philosophy, in four books.
- On Logic, in 9 parts, following the order of Aristotle’s logical works (theOrganon) as studied from at least the 6th century. I.e. 1. Porphyry’s Eisagogue or Introduction’ Categories; 3. On Interpretation (Peri Hermenias); 4. Prior Analytics; 5. Apodeiktike, or Posterior Analytics; 6. Topics; 7. Sophistics; 8. Rhetorics; 9. Poetics.
- On the physical world, in 13 parts
- On metaphysics, in 2 parts
- On practical philosophy, covering Aristotle’s Ethics, Economics, and Politics, and also dealing with physiognomy.
Considerable use is made of Ibn Sina’s (Avicenna’s) Shifa` and (for the fourth book) of al-Tusi’s Ahlq-e Nasiri. He also preserves a number of quotations from otherwise lost Greek writers. Only excerpts of this work have been published.
The Book of the Conversation of Wisdom (Ktobo da-Swod Sufya)
This is his middle-sized treatise on logic, the physical world and philosophy. A French translation exists by H. F. Janssens (1937)
The Book of the Treatise of Treasures (Ktobo d-Tegrat Tegroto)
This is a treatise on logic, the physical world and philosophy.
The Book of the Pupils (of the eye) (Ktobo d-Boboto)
This is a summary introduction to logic.
Ecclesiastical History / Chronicum Ecclesiasticum
This work is in two parts. The first deals with the patriarchs of Antioch and the more westerly area, up to 1285 AD. The second deals with areas to the east, including both the Nestorian Catholicoi and the Maphrians of the Syrian Orthodox. There is also an autobiographical section. A Latin translation exists of this: J. Abbeloos and T.J.Lamy (1872-7).
Chronicle / Chronicum Syriacum
This summary Chronicle covers from Creation to his own day. There is an English translation of this by E.A.W. Budge (1932), although in the Hugoye list it is said to be full of errors.
Book of the Dynasties
This is an Arabic adaptation of the Chronicle, made at the request of a Moslem friend. A German translation of this in two volumes exists, according to Graf.
The Book of Splendours (Ktobo d-Semhe)
This is Barhebraeus’ largest work on grammar. A German translation exists of this: A. Moberg (1907-13)
The Book of Grammar (Ktobo d-Gramatiqi)
This is a grammar, written in seven syllable metre.
The Book of Sparks (Ktobo d-Balsusyoto)
This is a short grammar.
The Book of Intellectual Ascent (Ktobo d-Suloqo Hawnonoyo)
This work deals with astronomy, and was composed in 1279. A French translation exists: F. Nau, (1899-1900)
The Book of Laughable Stories (Ktobo d-Tunoye Mgahkone)
This is a collection of short stories and sayings from earlier sources. Much use was made of a work by Abu Sa`d al-Abi (d. ca. 1030 AD). An English translation exists of this work, by E.A.W.Budge (1897)
As well as the grammar in verse, Barhebraeus wrote a considerable number of poems. The longest is On Wisdom
- An anaphora
Historia Compendiosa Dynastiarum Authore Gregorio abul-Pharajio Malatiensi Medico, Historiam Complectens Universalem, a Mundo Condito, Usque Ad Tempora Authoris, Res Orientalium Accuratissime Describens Arabice Edita & Latine Versa Ab Edvardo Pocockio BAR HEBRAEUS (ABU’L FARAJ) (Translated Edward POCOCKE) Oxford: R. Hall & Ric. Davis(1663). Arabic text, Latin trans.
Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Gafiqi (d.1165), The abridged version of the book of simple drugs of Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Ghafiqi / by Gregorius Abu’l-Farag (Barhebraeus). Edited from the only two known manuscripts with an English translation, commentary and indices, by Max Mayerhof and G.P. Sobhy. Publisher: Cairo : al-Ettemad Printing Press (1932)
Bar Hebraeus’s Book of the dove : together with some chapters from his Ethikon, translated by A. J. Wensinck ; with an introduction, notes and registers. Series: Publication of the De Goeje Fund; 4. Publisher: Leyden:E. J. Brill (1919). pp. cxxxvi, 151p.
Barhebraeus’ scholia on the Old Testament, edited by Martin Sprengling … and William Creighton Graham. Series: University of Chicago. Oriental Institute publications, v. 13. The University of Chicago press (1931) A facsimile reproduction of the Syriac manuscript, “Ausar raze,” “Florence. Medicean lib. 230,” copied by John of Sarw in 1278, with notes and collation, and a complete English translation.
Chronicon ecclesiasticum, quod e codice musei Britannici descriptum conjuncta opera ediderunt, Latinitate donarunt annotationibusque … illustrarunt J.B. Abbeloos et T. Lamy. Publisher: Lovanii : Peeters, (1872-1877) 3 vols. Syriac and Latin.
The chronography of Gregory Abû’l Faraj the son of Aaron, the Hebrew physician, commonly known as Bar Hebraeus, being the first part of his political history of the world. Translated from the Syriac by Ernest A. Wallis Budge. London : OUP (1932) 2 vols. Vol.1 English translation, Vol. 2 Syriac.
Bar Hebraeus, tr. Ernest Wallis Budge, The Chronography of Abu’l-Faraj Bar Hebraeus. Oxford University Press, 1932; reprint APA – Philo Press, Amsterdam, 1976.
Bar Hebraeus, ed. B. Abbeloos & Th. I. Lamy, (Chron. Eccl). Gregorii Bar Hebraei Chronicon Ecclesiasticum. 3 vols. Louvain, 1872, 1877.
Bar Hebraeus, tr. A. J. Wensinck, Bar Hebraeus’s Book of the Dove. E. J. Brill, Leyden, 1919.
Bar Hebraeus, Eng. tr. H. Teule, Gregory Bar Hebraeus’ Ethicon, Memra I. Lovanii in Aedibus E. Peeters, 1993. CSCO vol. 534-535. Scriptores Syri t. 218-219. 2 vols.
Bar Hebraeus, tr. E.A. Wallis Budge, The Laughable Stories. Luzac & Co., London 1897; reprint AMS Press, New York, 1976.
Gregory Bar-Hebraeus’s Commentary on the Book of Kings from His Storehouse of Mysteries: A Critical Edition With an English Translation, Introduction & Notes (Studia Semantica Upsaliensia, 20) tr. Assad Sauma. (2003), 390 pp. Publisher: Uppsala Universitet. ISBN: 9155456057
The Storehouse of Mysteries or Bar-Hebraeus: A Commentary on the Gospels from Horreum Mysteriorum, tr. Wilmot Eardley. (2003) Publisher: Trubner & Co. ISBN: 184453085X
- George LANE,An Account of Gregory Bar Hebraeus Abu al-Faraj and His Relations with the Mongols of Persia, Hugoye 2.2 (1999). Excellent biographical discussion.
- W. BUDGE,The Life of Bar Hebraeus From Introduction to Budge, E.A.W. (1932). (Trans.) The Chronography of Gregory Abu’l Faraj, The Son of Aaron, The Hebrew Physician Commonly Known as Bar Hebraeus Being the First Part of His Political History of the World. London: Oxford University Press.
- Sebastian Brock,A brief outline of Syriac Literature(1997), p.75-…, ….