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Bardaisan of Edessa: A Reassessment of the Evidence and a New Interpretation


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.
Publisher: Gorgias Press LLC
Availability: In stock
SKU (ISBN): 978-1-60724-074-7
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Publication Status: In Print

Publication Date: Oct 19,2009
Interior Color: Black
Trim Size: 6 x 9
Page Count: 402
Language: English
ISBN: 978-1-60724-074-7
$208.00
$124.80

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.

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.

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Contributor Biography

Ilaria Ramelli

Ilaria Ramelli, MA; MA; Ph.D.; has been Professor of Roman Near Eastern History, and Assistant in Ancient Philosophy (Catholic University, since 2003); she is also Senior Visiting Professor of Greek Thought, as well as of Church History, Senior Fellow (Durham), academic and scientific consultant, research director, and member of directive boards of scholarly journals and series. She has written many books and articles on Patristics, ancient philosophy, and late antiquity in outstanding scholarly series and journals and received prestigious academic prizes.

  • Dedication Page (page 5)
  • Table of Contents (page 7)
  • Preface (page 11)
  • 1 By way of Introductory Essay: Methodological Guidelines (page 17)
  • 2 Critical and Comparative Analysis of the Sources (page 45)
    • 1 The Very First Possible Witness: Clement (page 45)
    • 2 Two Early Witnesses Close to Origen and Very Appreciative of Bardaisan: Africanus and Didymus (page 46)
      • 2.1 Julius Africanus Acquaintance with both Bardaisan and Origen (page 46)
      • 2.2 The Origenian Didymus the Blind: The Most Appreciative Source on Bardaisan (page 56)
    • 3 Hippolytus (page 62)
    • 4 The Liber Legum Regionum (page 70)
    • 5 Porphyry and the Utmost Importance of His Fragments from Bardaisan: The Cosmic Christ, Middle-Platonism, and a Christian Reading of the Timaeus (page 107)
      • 5.1 The Fragments from Bardaisans De India in Porphyrys De Styge (page 107)
      • 5.2 Bardaisans Work in Porphyrys De Abstinentia (page 124)
    • 6 Achilles Tatius and the Knowledge of Bardaisan in Late-Second-Century Alexandria (page 126)
    • 7 The Acts of Thomas (page 127)
    • 8 A Very Positive Witness: the Origenian Eusebius (page 131)
    • 9 The Origenian Gregory of Nyssa and His Own Work Against Fate (page 138)
    • 10 Diodore of Tarsus and His Closeness to Origens Eschatology and Refutation of Fate (page 142)
    • 11 Bardaisans Fight Against Marcionism (page 161)
    • 12 Jeromes Parallel Turn: From Admirer to Criticizer of both Origen and Bardaisan (page 164)
    • 13 The Dialogue of Adamantius and the Portrait of a Bardaisanite (page 168)
    • 14 Ephrem between Documentation and Misunderstandings (page 172)
    • 15 Transition: The Transformation and Worsening of Bardaisans Image (page 254)
    • 16 Epiphanius Information: A Mixed BagŽ (page 255)
    • 17 Two Heresiological Accounts Deriving from Epiphanius (page 261)
    • 18 Sozomen (page 262)
    • 19 Theodorets Account (page 266)
    • 20 Interesting Clues in a Very Appreciative Armenian Witness: Moses of Chorene (page 269)
    • 21 Philoxenus of Mabbug, an Anonymous, Ishodad, and the Assimilation of Bardaisan to Valentinus or Mani (page 303)
    • 22 Rabbula and Theodoret (page 307)
    • 23 Appreciation of Bardaisan in a Local Source: the Chronicon of Edessa (page 312)
    • 24 The Cosmological TraditionsŽ: Importance and Methodological Guidelines. Barhadbshabba Arbaya, Plus Comparisons with (Ps.) Maruta and Jacob of Edessa (page 314)
    • 25 Theodore Bar Konai (page 328)
    • 26 Theodore Abû Qurra (page 338)
    • 27 Moses Bar Kepha (page 339)
    • 28 (Ps.) John of Dara (page 347)
    • 29 Agapius and the So-Called Third CosmologicalTradition (page 352)
    • 30 Michael the Syrians Cosmological Testimony (page 353)
    • 31 Barhebraeus Cosmological Account (page 354)
    • 32 Mutaman ad-Dawla (page 355)
    • 33 From the Cosmological TraditionsŽ to Other Doxographies and the Biographical Accounts. Masudis Biographical Information (page 355)
    • 34 The Fihrist and Arabic Sources on Bardaisans Anti-Dualism (page 358)
    • 35 Michael the Syrians Biographical Account (page 366)
    • 36 Barhebraeus (page 374)
    • 3 Conclusions and Contribution to Research (page 379)
    • Essential Bibliographical References on Bardaisan (page 381)
    • Index (page 389)
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