This comprehensive study offers a critical, comparative analysis of the sources available on Bardaisan and a reinterpretation of his thought. The study highlights the profound points of contact between Bardaisan, Origen, and their schools; the role of Plato’s Timaeus and Middle Platonism in Bardaisan’s thought, and Stoicism. Bardaisan’s thought emerges as a deeply Christian one, depending on the exegesis of Scripture read in the light of Greek philosophy. Positive ancient sources present him as a deacon or even a presbyter, as an author of refutations of Marcionism and Gnosticism, and as a confessor of the faith during persecution.
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After the presentation of the status quaestionis and open problems, and of the methodological guidelines of the present investigation, there comes a critical and comparative analysis of the sources on Bardaisan (Julius Africanus and Didymus; Hippolytus; Porphyry; the Liber Legum Regionum; the Acts of Thomas; Eusebius; Gregory of Nyssa; Diodore of Tarsus; the Vita Abercii; Jerome; the Dialogue of Adamantius; Ephrem; Epiphanius (thence Augustine and the Praedestinatus); Sozomen, Theodoret, and Nicephorus; Movses Xorenac‘i; Rabbula of Edessa; the Chronicon Edessenum and other Syriac Chronicles; Philoxenus of Mabbug; Isho‘dad of Merw; Jacob of Edessa; the cosmological accounts: Barhadbshabba Bar Konai, Abu Qurra, Moses Bar Kepha, (Ps.) John of Dara, Agapius, Michel the Syrian, Barhebraeus, Mu‘taman, comparisons with Ephrem and Ps. Maruta; other biographical and/or doxographical accounts), which allows for a reinterpretation of his thought.
The contribution of this study to research lies in pointing out profound points of contact between Bardaisan, Origen, and their schools; the right evaluations of the fragments preserved by Porphyry; the role of Plato’s Timaeus and Middle Platonism in Bardaisan’s thought, in addition to Stoicism. A critical assessment of the reliability of the sources undermines the picture of a Gnostic and heretic Bardaisan. Some charges against him (like those, similar, against Origen) prove unfounded. Bardaisan’s thought emerges as a deeply Christian thought, depending on the exegesis of Scripture, read in the light of Greek philosophy (an enterprise accomplished by Philo earlier, and in Bardaisan’s day by Origen). Positive ancient sources present him as a deacon or even a presbyter, as an author of refutations of Marcionism and Gnosticism, and as a confessor of the Christian faith during a persecution. It is telling that the most positive sources on Bardaisan are authors belonging to the Origenian tradition.
Ilaria Ramelli holds two Masters degrees in early Christianity and History of Philosophy, a Ph.D. in Classics, and a postdoctorate in Late Antiquity. She received two Agostino Gemelli Awards (1996, 1997) for the best Catholic-University graduate and the 2006 Marcello Gigante Classics International Award. She was Assistant in Roman History, in Historiography, then Professor of History of the Roman Near East, and has been Assistant of Ancient Philosophy at the Catholic University, Milan, since 2003.