Skip to main content

Bar-Hebraeus (Gregorius Ibn Al-Ibri)


Jacobite Syrian theologian and writer; b. Melitene (modern Malatya, Turkey), Armenia, 1226; d. Maragheh, Iranian Azerbaijan, July 30, 1286.

Called Bar-Hebraeus (son of a Hebrew father), Gregory Aboul Faradj received the name John at baptism. He was educated in philosophy, theology, and medicine by his father, a converted Jewish physician, and a coterie of scholars. He emigrated to Antioch in Syria with his family before the Mongol invasions and spent several years in solitude as a hermit. He traveled to Tripoli and studied logic and medicine under James the Nestorian. He took the name of Gregory when he was consecrated bishop of Gouba by the Jacobite Patriarch Ignatius II (Sept. 14, 1246). The next year he changed to the See of Laqabin and was promoted to the metropolitan See of alep by Patriarch Denis of Antioch, whose candidacy he supported (1252) against the claims of John Bar Madani.

When the Mongols conquered Baghdad and took possession of Syria, Gregory approached their chief, Hulagu, to negotiate the proper treatment of Christians. He was taken prisoner, however, and Alep was sacked. Before the martyrdom of Denis, Bar-Hebraeus had made peace with Patriarch Bar Madani; and he played a part in the selection of Ignatius III as patriarch of Antioch in 1264. Bar-Hebraeus was consecrated maphrian of Tagrit (the patriarchal vicar-general of the Jacobite Church, recognized by the Moslem governor) at Sis, Cilicia, in the presence of the Armenian king, Het'um; in 1273 he succeeded in healing a schism in the Jacobite Church caused by the influential physician Simon.

As maphrian, Bar-Hebraeus visited the various communities of the Jacobite Church in western Armenia and in Baghdad; he used their libraries, encouraged their pastors, and entered into amicable relations with the Nestorian leaders. In 1277 he visited his see at Tagrit, which had been sacked by the Tartars. It was the first time in 60 years that a maphrian had been able to visit the city. In 1282 he journeyed to Tabriz to give the new Mongol Prince Ahmed assurance of his loyalty and submission to the civil ruler.

In 1284 the partisans of the physician Simon elected him as the new patriarch without awaiting the arrival of Bar-Hebraeus; the latter accepted the fait accompli in the interest of ecclesiastical unity. He died at Maragheh while the Nestorian Patriarch Yabalaha was present in the city, and he was interred in the monastery of Mar-Mattai at Mosul with Byzantine, Nestorian, and Jacobite prelates in attendance.

Of vast erudition, Bar-Hebraeus won the respect of the various Christian churches and of the Mohammedans by his learning and amiability. Among his principal writings was a synthesis or encyclopedia of philosophy called the Cream or Science of Sciences, in which he commented on every branch of human knowledge in the Aristotelian tradition, with compendia on logic, physics, metaphysics, and practical philosophy culled from Aristotle and the Syrian and Arabic authors. He wrote voluminous commentaries on the Old and New Testament published under the title, Storehouse of Mysteries, utilizing the works of both Nestorian and Jacobite exegetes. He controlled the peshitta version of the Scriptures with Greek, Hebrew, Septuagint, Armenian, and Coptic versions; and he supplied materials for the recovery of the Hexapla of origen. In his Lamp of the Sanctuary he gave a systematic exposition of Jacobite doctrine: he wrote an Ethics whose moral philosophy was greatly influenced by Al Gazali. His ascetical treatise was called the Book of the Dove, a directory for monks, and he wrote a Nomocanon of ecclesiastical legislation that still plays a part in Oriental canon law.

As a historiographer, he produced a chronicle as a universal history whose first section, Chronicon Syriacum, dealt with secular events to the Mongol invasions; and whose second section, Chronicon Ecclesiasticum, in its first subdivision gave a history of the patriarchs of the Old Testament followed by those of the New Testament, namely the patriarchs of Antioch and the western Syrian Church. Its second subdivision covered the patriarchs of the Oriental Syrian Church to 1285. His brother Barsauma continued this account to 1288, and an anonymous author continued it to 1496.

Bar-Hebraeus followed the history of michael i the Syrian for the earlier centuries, but in both method and originality he surpassed his model, supplying first-class material for the later centuries. He made an Arabic synopsis of the work that he supplemented with information useful for a Moslem readership under the title A History of the Dynasties. He also composed a large grammar called the Book of Splendors, monographs on science and medicine, and liturgical, didactic, and polemical poetry that conformed to the artistic tastes of the Syrian culture. He wrote his own autobiography, and his death notice was supplied by his brother Barsauma.

Bibliography: e. herman, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques 6:79294. j. s. assemani, Bibliotheca orientalis 2:244, 468. j. gÖttsberger, Bar-Hebraeus und seine Scholien zur heiligen Schrift (Freiburg 1900). p. bedjan, Barhebraei Ethicon seu Moralia (Paris 1878); Barhebraei Chronicon syriacum (Paris 1890); Barhebraei nomocanon (Paris 1898). g. cardahi, Bar Hebraeus's Book of the Dove together with Some Chapters of His Ethicon, tr. a. wensinck (Leiden 1919). j. b. abbeloos and t. j. lamy, Chronicon ecclesiasticum, 3 v. (Louvain 187277). p. sbath, Traité sur l'âme par Barhébraeus (Cairo 1928). w. wright, A Short History of Syriac Literature (London 1894) 26581. a. baumstark, Geschichte der syrischen Literatur (Bonn 1922) 31220. i. ortiz de urbina, Patrologia syriaca 2079.

[f. x. murphy]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Bar-Hebraeus (Gregorius Ibn Al-Ibri)." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . 18 Jan. 2019 <>.

"Bar-Hebraeus (Gregorius Ibn Al-Ibri)." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . (January 18, 2019).

"Bar-Hebraeus (Gregorius Ibn Al-Ibri)." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved January 18, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.