Bar Hebraeus° (or Bar ʿEbhraya or Ibn al- ʿIbri), Joha-Nan

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BAR HEBRAEUS° (or Bar ʿEbhraya or Ibn al- ʿIbri), JOHA-NAN

BAR HEBRAEUS° (or Bar ʿEbhraya or Ibn al- ʿIbri ), JOHA-NAN (later: Gregorius or Abu al Faraj ; 1226–1286), the last of the important writers in Syriac. He was the son of an apostate Jewish physician, Aaron (hence the appellation Son of the Hebrew), and knew Hebrew. Born in Malaṭīya (in Asia Minor) he went with his father to Antioch, where he became a monk. He also pursued secular studies, at first under his father's tutelage and later with a Nestorian scholar in Tripoli (Syria). In 1246 he was ordained Jacobite (Monophysite) bishop of Gubos (near Mulafryn) and assumed the name Gregorius. In 1252 he was appointed Maphriyan (archbishop) of Mesopotamia and Persia. Bar Hebraeus traveled widely, supervising the congregations of his church. He died at Maghāra in Azerbaijan.

Bar Hebraeus was a prolific writer. His commentary Oẓar Razei ("Treasury of Secret Wisdom") on the Old and New Testaments, reveals the influence of traditional Jewish exegesis. In addition to theological works such as Ḥokhmat Ḥokhmeta, which contains a systematic exposition of Aristotle's teaching, he also wrote on Syriac grammar and composed a Syriac Chronicle, a history of the world from creation to his own time, in two parts: ecclesiastical history and secular history. It was translated into English by E.A.W. Budge in 1932, and became widely known. Bar Hebraeus also wrote many poems and compiled a collection of entertaining stories (English translation, Oriental Wit and Wisdom, or the Laughable Stories, 1889). In addition, he translated Arabic works into Syriac (including the philosophical work of *Avicenna, Kitāb al-Ishārāt), and also wrote works in Arabic, including an abridgment of the secular portion of his Chronicle with some revisions and addenda, and an epitome of the large work of al-Ghāfikī on medications (part published in the original with an English translation, with a commentary by M. Meyerhof and G.P. Sohby, 1932).


A. Baumstark, Geschichte der syrischen Literatur (1922), 312–20; G. Graf, Geschichte der christlichen arabischen Literatur, 2 (1947), 272–81; Brockelmann, Arab Lit, 1 (1898), 349–50, 591; W. Wright, Short History of Syriac Literature (1894), 265–81.

[Eliyahu Ashtor]