If you believe in free will, you might not believe the Bible…

free-will-1

The Conversation

One of the biggest issues that people have to face when they get into discussions about predestination and election is what does the Bible have to say about free will.[1] As soon as the topic of predestination comes up, someone almost immediately asks the question: “What about free will?”

And at that point things go in a very predictable way. The person who believes in a Calvinist or Lutheran view of predestination, which says that the ultimate reason why a person is saved and will persevere to the end is because God chose them to be saved before the foundation of the world, will say, “Well, the Bible is pretty clear that we as human beings don’t have free will.” And the person they’re speaking with says, “That’s absolutely ridiculous! Of course we have free will!”

In my experience, when most people end up in conversations like this, neither side really understands what the term “free will” when it comes to this topic. And I have to admit that I’ve been pretty bad in explaining what the term free will means in this context. Part of the reason, of course, has to do with the way that free will is often explained: most explanations that I’ve heard are either way too complicated or they’re just plain confusing. But the main reason is that the term “free will” is used in a very specialized way when it comes to the topic of predestination – you can’t just look up the word in a dictionary and expect to find what it means in this context.

What Does Free Will Mean?

So what does the term “free will” actually mean in this context? Well, here is a very simple explanation:

The issue of freewill has to do with whether or not a person can come to saving faith in Christ on their own apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. If you say that a person can come to saving faith in Christ apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, you believe in free will; if you say that a person can’t come to saving faith in Christ apart from the Holy Spirit, you don’t believe in free will.

And that’s all that’s meant by the term “free will” when it comes to salvation: the issue is whether or not the Holy Spirit is necessary to bring someone to saving faith in Christ.

Biblical Passages

When the issue is understood in that way, it’s pretty clear that the Bible says that we as human beings don’t have free will, at least not in this very specific sense – we need the Holy Spirit to work on our hearts before we can come to saving faith in Christ. Let me give you a couple of examples:

(a) John 6:44 – No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him and I will raise him up at the last day.  (NIV)

In this case we can assume that the Father draws people through the Holy Spirit. Either way, a person isn’t coming to saving faith in Christ on their own.

(b) Romans 8:7 – The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. (NIV)

This is talking about a person who isn’t saved, a person who doesn’t have the Holy Spirit, a person who is still ruled by the sinful nature. That’s the contrast that’s being made in this passage. Unless the Holy Spirit does something to change this, the person won’t submit their lives to God.

(c) 1 Corinthians 2:14 – The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. (NIV)

In this case “the man without the Spirit” is the person whose heart hasn’t been opened up by the Holy Spirit. To them the message of the cross is foolishness – unless the Holy Spirit does something to change that.

And we could go on to other passages as well.

But these passages make it clear that we as human beings are spiritually dead, that we have hard hearts, and that we are in rebellion against God. When left to ourselves we won’t accept the message of the gospel and we can’t accept the message of the gospel – unless the Holy Spirit does something to change our hearts.

This is something that every Christian should believe regardless of what they believe about predestination or election – if you don’t believe this, you don’t believe what the Bible has to say about human beings. This is something that Calvinists, confessional Lutherans, and Arminians all believe. Arminians are often accused of believing in free will. But real Arminians who know their theology actually agree with Calvinists and confessional Lutherans on this issue: real Arminians don’t believe in free will either. Roger Olson, for example, prefers to use the term “freed will,” which is a much better way of describing the Arminian position on this issue.[2]

The Real Areas of Disagreement

So what are the real areas of disagreement when it comes to the issue of free will? Let me suggest two areas:

(1) How far does the Holy Spirit open up a person’s heart? Does he only open up a person’s heart part of the way so they can make a free choice one way or the other or does he open up a person’s heart all of the way and guarantee that they will come to saving faith in Christ?

(2) And the second issue is this: Does the Holy Spirit do this for only some people or for everyone who hears the message of the gospel? How this question is answered will depend on how the first question is answered.

Conclusion

So does the Bible teach free will? No – the Holy Spirit has to work on a person’s heart and draw them to Christ, otherwise they won’t come to saving faith in Christ. If more people understood what the term free will really means in discussions like this, we might save a lot of time arguing about something we should all actually agree with and be able to deal with the real differences when it comes to these issues.

[1] Rom. 8:29-30; 9:1-29; 11:1-6; 1 Cor. 1:26-31; Eph. 1:4-12; 1 Thess. 1:4-5.

[2] See Roger Olson’s excellent presentation on the broader issue here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0RWF_XByMM

Pascal’s Wager and the Gay Christian Debate

Gambling With WatermarkPascal’s Wager is an argument that has to do with the existence of God.  It basically lays out four scenarios to show why believing in God is “the best bet”:

The first scenario says that if someone doesn’t believe in God and God doesn’t exist, then they haven’t lost anything.

The second scenario says that if someone believes in God and God doesn’t exist, then they also haven’t lost anything.

The third scenario says that if someone believes in God and God does, in fact, exist, then they’ve gained something of infinite value.

The fourth scenario says that if someone doesn’t believe in God and God does exist then they’ve lost everything.

Now there definitely are a few problems with Pascal’s Wager (e.g. Which God are we talking about?  Is that all that’s required to be a Christian? What if being a Christian results in you being tortured and killed, etc.) but I think that most people get the point.

Now to the subject at hand.  Over the past couple of weeks I’ve seen a lot of comments on Facebook and blogposts that say that it’s perfectly okay for someone to be a Christian and involved in a same-sex sexual relationship – as long as it’s a loving, committed, and monogamous same-sex sexual relationship.  Thankfully, now that same-sex marriage has been legalized in the United States (it’s been legal here in Canada for ten years now), we should be able to stop saying “loving, committed, monogamous,” etc. and just say “same-sex sexual relationships in the context of marriage”.

In the vast majority of cases, the arguments that I’ve heard are pretty weak – what can you expect from Facebook?  They know what they want to believe but they really haven’t thought through the issues very well. But there are some people, of course, who have thought through the issues and have done some serious reading on the issue.  In my experience, they’re in the minority.  And, just in case anyone asks, anyone who uses the “shellfish” or “mixed fabrics” argument or says “doesn’t the Bible say ‘judge not'” is in the former category.  Back to the point – this post is for both groups – those who have thought it through and those who haven’t – and anyone else who’s interested.

To be up front, I personally don’t think it’s consistent for a person to be a Christian and involved in a same-sex sexual relationship just like it’s inconsistent for a person to be a Muslim and believe in the deity of Christ.  I find most of the exegetical arguments of people like Matthew Vines, James Brownson, and Jack Rogers fairly weak, though some of the theological arguments they offer are much stronger and make you think.  I’m definitely open to debating those points but in this post I want to do something a little bit different.  Just to be clear, though, I don’t think that same-sex attraction is a choice, I don’t think that same-sex attraction can be “fixed”, and I don’t think that Christians should force their views about marriage on non-Christians, especially in the legal sphere.  Just need to get that out of the way just in case anyone makes any assumptions.  (If you do have a question about what I believe, ask or ask for clarification, don’t assume.)

In this post I want to look at the issue in a way that’s similar to Pascal’s Wager.  In this case we’re going to assume: (a) that God exists; (b) that heaven (or the New Creation) and hell are real and eternal; (c) that the Bible is the inspired, authoritative, and inerrant Word of God; and (d) that for a person to be a genuine Christian they need to repent of their sins, put their faith in Christ, and commit their lives to living for him.  Each of these points can be disputed but, for now, we’re going to assume that they’re true.  And even if you don’t think they’re true, pretend that they’re true for the sake of argument.

Here are the four possibilities:

1. If I say that same-sex sexual relationships are okay for Christians and they are, in fact, okay for Christians,[1] I will probably gain a few gay or gay-affirming converts to Christianity. More importantly, I will spare gay Christians a life of loneliness, depression, shame, and struggle. That being said, I also might lose a few converts from Islam or from cultures that disapprove of same-sex sexual relationships because approving same-sex sexual relationships might be a bridge too far for them.

2. If I say that same-sex sexual relationships are not okay for Christians and they are, in fact, okay for Christians, I may lose a few gay-affirming converts, a few same-sex attracted Christians, and condemn same-sex attracted Christians to a life of singleness and celibacy. But, if they listen to what I say, those same-sex attracted Christians will be saved for eternity and may even be rewarded for denying themselves for what they believed was God’s will.

3. If I say that same-sex sexual relationships are not okay for Christians but they turn out not to be okay for Christians, I may lose a few gay-affirming converts, a few same-sex attracted Christians, and make things difficult for same-sex attracted Christians but, in the end, those who listen to what I say will be saved for all of eternity. The price of singleness is high, but the price of losing eternity in the new creation is even higher (assuming 1 Cor. 6:9 applies to all same-sex sexual relationships).

4. If I say that same-sex sexual relationships are okay for Christians and it turns out that they’re not okay for Christians (a la 1 Cor. 6:9), I might end up gaining a few gay or gay-affirming converts, but, in the end, anyone who listens to me and involves themselves in a same-sex sexual relationship will be condemned for eternity. I realize that not everyone believes that and some people think that that’s absolute nonsense – but stick with the scenario. On top of that, I’ll lose converts from Islam or from cultures that disapprove of same-sex sexual relationships.  There will probably also be some severe consequences in terms of how Christians interpret their Bibles and view the inspiration, authority, and inerrancy of Scripture.

Now it’s clear to me that, based on all of these scenarios, that the safest course of action, if the four assumptions at the beginning are true, is to say that same-sex sexual relationships are not okay for Christians.  There are lots of factors that are involved and they shouldn’t be minimized, but saying that same-sex sexual relationships are okay for Christians does the most damage from an eternal perspective if same-sex sexual relationships turn out not to be okay for Christians.

Now I wouldn’t say that we should decide our theology based on reasoning like this.  The point is that no matter where we come out on this debate, we need to think through the consequences and be willing to take responsibility for those consequences if we’re wrong.  We’re with issues that have consequences in the here and now and consequences for eternity.  That at least warrants a better argument than, “The Bible also says you shouldn’t eat shellfish” or “Doesn’t the Bible say ‘judge not'”!  And for those of us who believe it’s inconsistent for a person to be a Christian and be involved in a same-sex sexual relationship, we need to make sure that we don’t minimize the consequences of what we say either.

I would be interested in hearing any feedback.  Please stick to the scenarios that were given and remember that this is an inter-Christian debate – we’re not talking about forcing our beliefs on non-Christians, we’re talking about what individual churches and Christians should believe and practise.

[1] From God’s perspective and from the perspective of the final judgment.

Please Don’t Bomb on How You Read Articles – Wilshire on Authentein in 1 Timothy 2:12

A few weeks ago I wrote a response to an article on the Junia Project’s website called, “Defusing the 1 Timothy 2:12 Bomb”.  After looking at the comment section below the article I realized that I probably should have included a longer discussion of the verb αὐθεντεῖv (authentein).  At the time I thought that this would have detracted from the main point I was trying to make so I added a quick footnote to give a little bit more information.  For a while I’ve been toying with writing a separate entry on the issue but, because there wasn’t a lot of discussion in the article about it (again, the discussion was in the comment section below) and because I’m super busy, I decided not to write it.  As it turns out, the author just recently posted some of the comments from the comment section in a new entry and added some comments of her own – so I decided that maybe I should write a separate post after all. (P.S. Don’t be offended by the title – I had to get the word “bomb” in there somewhere!)

There is basically one point I want to make in this entry: If you’re going to cite a scholarly article, make sure that you actually understand what the article is saying.  My concern here isn’t whether you’re complementarian or egalitarian (you can be an egalitarian and still agree with what I’m saying): my main concern is that people have the right information and that they know how to use it properly.  And, I have to say, the information in this new post is a little bit misleading.  I’m not saying that it’s misleading on purpose – but the result is the same.

The article that I believe has been misinterpreted and misapplied is Leland Wilshire’s article, “The TLG Computer and Further Reference to ΑΥΘΕΝΤΕΩ in 1 Timothy 2:12” (NTS 34, 120-134).  Based on Wilshire’s article, one commenter wrote the following:

“Meanings for authentein in the TLG between 200 B.C. and 200 A.D. (a 400 year span with the New Testament period at its center) include the following:

– “doer of a massacre”
– “author of crimes”
– “perpetrators of sacrilege”
– “supporter of violent actions”
– “murderer of oneself”
– “sole power”
– “perpetrator of slaughter”
– “murderer”
– “slayer”
– “slayer of oneself”
– “authority”
– “perpetrator of evil”
– “one who murders by his own hand”

(Polybius, Diodorus Siculus, Philo, psuedo-Clement, Appian of Alexander, Irenaeus, Harpocration, Phrynicus, as cited in Wilshire, 2010).”

That sounds pretty bad!  The use of the verb αὐθεντεῖv (authentein) in 1 Timothy 2:12 has to be coloured by these meanings!  But there’s a problem – when you read Wilshire’s article carefully (the article is reprinted in the book cited by the commenter) , all of these meanings are actually for the noun αὐθέντης (authentes), not for the verb αὐθεντεῖv (authentein).  Part of the problem is that Wilshire doesn’t make that point as clear as he should have in the article and you might only notice it if you read Greek.  He refers again and again to αὐθεντέω (the verb) and its cognates but when you actually look at the examples he cites they are virtually all from the cognates, especially αὐθέντης (authentes).  After rereading his article tonight I could only find one example (p. 128) where the verb has anything to do with murder (I’m willing to be corrected if anyone can find more).  That’s what we call an anomaly – because every other example of the verb simply refers to having authority.

So the real question that needs to be answered is this: does the meaning of αὐθέντης (authentes) have any bearing on how αὐθεντεῖv (authentein) should be understood in 1 Timothy 2:12?  Wilshire simply assumes that it is relevant but doesn’t provide any arguments.  However, when you look at the evidence that Wilshire himself has accumulated the answer is clear – it is completely irrelevant.

There are two reasons.  First, for some reason or other αὐθέντης (authentes) seems to have developed a different semantic range from the verb αὐθεντεῖv (authentein).  αὐθέντης (authentes) may have been used to mean “murderer” but αὐθεντεῖv (authentein) (with one exception) was never used to mean “to murder” (it’s the exception that needs to be explained).   Second, even if it could mean “to murder” in some contexts, it definitely does not mean “to murder” in 1 Timothy 2:12.  No one would actually argue that.  What they do argue is that because αὐθεντεῖv (authentein) can mean “to murder” in some contexts that this colours the meaning that the word has in all contexts, including 1 Timothy 2:12.  That’s a classic example of illegitimate totality transfer – importing all of the meanings that a word can have into one particular instance.  The reality is that the issue of whether or not αὐθεντεῖv (authentein) can be used to mean “to murder” in some contexts is irrelevant.  The only thing that matters is what connotations αὐθεντεῖv (authentein) has by itself when used in contexts similar to 1 Timothy 2:12.  Based on the evidence in Wilshire’s article, αὐθεντεῖv (authentein) doesn’t typically have those kinds of “negative” connotations – it simply means to have authority over someone else.

There is much more I could say based on some of the other things that were said in the post but I think this is enough for now.  Again, this issue has nothing to do with whether you’re egalitarian or a complementarian – that’s not the point.  The point is that we need to make sure that we understand what we’re reading properly and that we use that information responsibly.  That’s the only way that the conversation can really move forward.

Rearming the 1 Timothy 2:12 Bomb (kind of) – A Response to an Article from the Junia Project

This morning I read an article on the Junia Project’s website called “Defusing the 1 Timothy 2:12 Bomb”.  The article provides three steps for “cutting the wire” of arguments that use 1 Timothy 2:12 to exclude women from teaching or having leadership over men in the church.  In this post I want to offer a point-by-point response to the arguments that the author makes in this article.  The point of this post is not to show that women shouldn’t be able to teach or have authority over men in the church – that’s a totally different issue.  The point of this post is to show that the particular arguments used in this article should not be used to make the point the author is trying to make.  We’ll look at each point one at a time and see where the mistakes are made.

1. The Rendering of the Verb αὐθεντεῖv (authentein)

At the beginning of the article the author makes two points about how the verb αὐθεντεῖv (authentein) should be translated in 1 Timothy 2:12.  First, the author says that the verb αὐθεντεῖv (authentein) is not the normal word used for authority in the church in Paul.  On the basis of this the author concludes that Paul’s concern must be “something other than the legitimate use of authority”.  Rather than referring to exercising authority in general, the word should be understood to communicate the idea of “domineering” (cf. the translation of 1 Timothy 2:12 in the Vulgate).   The second point that the author wants to make about this verb is that it is used to form a hendiadys with the verb διδάσκειν (didaskein, “to teach”).  A hendiadys is a construction where two words are connected by a conjunction but one word is actually meant to modify the meaning of the other word.  So, according to the author, when these two verbs are combined it should be translated, “to teach in a domineering way”.

Let’s deal with these issues one at a time.  First, the fact that this isn’t Paul’s normal word for exercising authority in the church doesn’t mean that Paul’s concern must have been for something other than the legitimate exercise of authority.  If someone were to argue that point it would have to be based on (a) the usage of this word in other writers around the time of Paul and (b) the immediate context of 1 Timothy 2:12.  When you look at how αὐθεντεῖv (authentein) is used by other writers it is clear that it simply means “to have authority over someone else”.[1]  It doesn’t refer to the use of authority in a domineering way by itself: there would have to be something else in the context to make it clear that that was the case.

So the real question, then, is whether or not there is anything in the context of 1 Timothy 2:12 that would indicate that Paul is speaking about exercising authority in a domineering way.  The answer is that there is nothing in the immediate context that would indicate that this is the case.  In this context the verb simply means “to have authority over someone else”.  [For a discussion of Wilshire’s article on αὐθεντεῖv (authentein) see my entry here].

[Incidentally, the Vulgate’s translation of this passage does not support the idea that αὐθεντεῖv (authentein) means “to be domineering” in this context.  The Latin verb used here is dominor.  While it’s true that the English word “domineering” ultimately derives from this word, in Latin this word simply means “to have authority over someone else” in this context.]

Second, although this author is not the only one to suggest that διδάσκειν (didaskein, “to teach”) and αὐθεντεῖv (authentein) form a hendiadys, it is difficult to reconcile the resulting meaning with what Paul says right afterward.  In the second part of 1 Timothy 2:12, Paul says that rather than teaching or exercising authority over men in the church, women should be silent (ἡσυχίᾳ) .  He is not simply forbidding teaching that’s domineering or even teaching that’s simply authoritative (the normal way of understanding the hendiadys in this verse) – he is forbidding all teaching.  The second part of the verse seems to preclude any possibility of teaching, whether domineering, authoritative, or otherwise.  Whether this was merely a temporary injunction based on the current situation in Ephesus or if it was Paul’s usual practice is another issue.  The point is that this second part of the verse strongly speaks against simply understanding αὐθεντεῖv (authentein) to only refer to a particular kind of teaching.

2. Singular vs. Plural

The author suggests the possibility that in 1 Timothy 2:12 Paul is only thinking of a particular woman rather than women in general based on the abrupt shift from the plural (“women”) in verses 9 to 10 to the singular (“woman”) in verses 11 to 15.

This is a very bizarre way of looking at the text.  There are two issues with this point.  First, if Paul were thinking about a particular woman, he probably would have used the definite article (“the”) in front of the word “woman”.  The fact that there is no article indicates that he is speaking about women in general.  And even if there were a definite article, Paul would have had to mention her earlier on in the letter for anyone to know who he was talking about.  As virtually every New Testament scholar would recognize, Paul’s use of the singular here without the definite article refers to women in general.

Second, regardless of what one thinks about Paul’s reasoning in the verses that follow (2:13-15), why on earth would he have to use that kind of argument to get one particular woman to be quiet?  That makes no sense at all; his reasoning is too general.  So it is completely misguided to think that Paul’s shift to the singular means that he is speaking about one particular woman.  Even to mention this as a serious possibility shows a lack of understanding of how the language works.

3. The Use of the Present Tense

The author suggests the possibility that because Paul uses the present tense of the verb ἐπιτρέπω (epitrepo – “to allow, permit”) that he actually means, “I am not currently permitting a woman to…”.

Again, there are two problems with this.  First, the author is reading way too much into Paul’s use of the present tense.  The present tense can’t be used to communicate that kind of meaning by itself – Paul would have had to use an adverb or an adverbial phrase to modify its meaning.  It may well be that this was only a temporary rule but this cannot be determined on the basis of the tense that Paul used.  Any standard Greek Syntax book would make that clear.

Second, if Paul really did mean “I am not currently permitting” this wreaks havoc on the author’s understanding of the verbs mentioned in point 1 above.  Did Paul really mean, “I am not currently permitting women to teach men in a domineering way” with the possibility that this might be allowed in the future?  She can’t have it both ways.

4. Permanent Restriction vs. Temporary Measure

The author argues that there is no evidence in the text to indicate that Paul was establishing a restriction that was meant for all time.  She appeals to contextual evidence (i.e. false teaching in Ephesus) to indicate that Paul’s instruction was related to false teaching.

Once again, there are a number of problems with the point the author is trying to make.  First, this understanding does not match up with her interpretation of διδάσκειν (didaskein, “to teach”) and αὐθεντεῖv (authentein) mentioned in point 1.  Is she saying that the command for women not to teach in a domineering way is not a permanent restriction?  Might that be permitted in the future?  If the problem is false teaching, why is Paul only concerned about their demeanor while teaching?  Again, the author can’t have it both ways.

Second, while the background of false teaching is definitely important, there is nothing in the immediate context that would indicate that this is why Paul formulated this rule.  If the present tense of ἐπιτρέπω (epitrepo – “to allow, permit”) can be used for anything it is to show that not permitting women to teach or to have authority over men was Paul’s usual practice (the customary present).  If he were laying down a specific directive for the church in Ephesus, Paul would have used the imperative – “Stop permitting a woman to teach or have authority over a man!” – not the present tense.  No doubt Paul had false teaching in mind when he was addressing this issue but the way he words things makes it seem as though he is appealing to his common practice rather than imposing something novel and merely temporary.

Third, there is a real hermeneutical issue with the way the author words her point (hermeneutics in the sense of figuring out how the text applies to our present situation).  If we need an explicit statement to indicate that Paul’s instructions were meant to be permanent, we would be in big trouble.  All of Paul’s letters were meant for particular situations.  Figuring out if and how a passage applies today is much more complicated than appealing to something like this (I hope I misunderstood her argument here).  It may well be that Paul’s restriction – even if this was his usual practice – does not apply to churches today.  But there are much better arguments that could be used than this one.

5. Doctrine Built on a Hapax Legomenon

According to the author, it is dangerous to build doctrine on a hapax legomenon (a word that only occurs once in a particular author’s writings).  The word that she is referring to, of course, is αὐθεντεῖv (authentein), which only occurs here in Paul.

There are two problems with this as it applies to 1 Timothy 2:12.  First, even though αὐθεντεῖv (authentein) only occurs once in Paul, the basic meaning is clear based on its usage in other writers from around the same time.  Scholars do this kind of comparative work all of the time, even with words that occur more than once in a particular corpus.  An author’s particular use of a word, of course, is determinative, but it goes without saying that how other authors use the word is relevant – especially if the usage is fairly standard.  And that seems to be the case with this word.

Second, even if the meaning of αὐθεντεῖv (authentein) were unclear, the meaning of the word διδάσκειν (didaskein, “to teach”) is perfectly clear.  Since it is unlikely that these verbs form a hendiadys, the prohibition against teaching would still be clear.  [Also, if the author thinks this word is so unclear, why argue earlier that it means “domineering?]

Third, I find it very unlikely that scholars who argue that 1 Timothy 2:12 is normative for the church today base their arguments strictly on this passage.  But that’s another issue.

6. Consistency With the Rest of the Passage

The author suggests that it is inconsistent to say that Paul’s instructions about women’s dress in 1 Timothy 2:9 is culturally relative while 1 Timothy 2:12 is applicable for all time.

I honestly don’t see how this is inconsistent, regardless of which position a person takes on 1 Timothy 2:12.  Paul makes it clear what his real concern in 1 Timothy 2:9 is – that women dress modestly, with decency and propriety.  Then he gives a number of examples of what he considers to be immodest: braided hair, wearing gold or pearls, and wearing expensive clothing.  A good argument could be made that the specifics are not the issue; the real issue is the principle.  It should be clear that 1 Timothy 2:12, regardless of where a person comes out on the issue, is a different kind of thing altogether. One could make the argument that Paul’s argument in 1 Timothy 2:12 is culturally conditioned and, therefore, not normative for the church today, but that is a much more complicated argument than arguing that the specifics in 1 Timothy 2:9 are culturally conditioned.  I hope that it’s clear that the charge of inconsistency in this case is overly simplistic.

7. Consistency With The Author’s Teaching Elsewhere

According to the author, if 1 Timothy 2:12 is a general prohibition about women teaching or having authority over men, it would be inconsistent with Paul’s teaching elsewhere.  For example, Romans 16 mentions women in leadership positions, 1 Corinthians 11 mentions women prophesying in the church, and 1 Timothy 2:1-10 (1 Corinthians 11 would have been better) implies that women were allowed to pray in public in the church, going against what Paul said about being silent.

Let’s start off with Romans 16.  There are two verses that are usually pointed to in order to support the argument that women were generally permitted to teach or have authority over men: Romans 16:1 and Romans 16:7.  Romans 16:1 refers to Phoebe as a deaconess.  Apparently she is the one who delivered Paul’s letter to the church in Rome.  There is nothing, however, in this designation to indicate that she taught publically in church services or that she had authority over men.  If the Apostolic Constitutions and the Didascalia (writings from the patristic period) are any indication, the primary role of deaconesses was to serve other women.  They would assist in female baptisms, hand out aid from the church to poor women, and serve other women in church meetings (see John McGuckin’s A-Z of Patristic Theology).  Of course things could have been different for deaconesses in the New Testament but it seems unlikely.

I agree that Romans 16:8 speaks about a female apostle (whatever that term means here).  But there are two issues that need to be made clear.  First, the word “apostle” isn’t being used in the same sense as “the Twelve”.  That’s not because Junia is a woman – the same holds true for Barnabas being called an apostle.  Paul makes a clear distinction between the Twelve and other people who are called apostles.  Second, even if Junia was an apostle in the same sense as Barnabas or even Paul (more of a missionary designation), it would still have to be argued that her exercise of this office involved teaching and having authority over men.  It seems more likely that Junia would have ministered to other women in contexts where it would have been inappropriate for a male “apostle”.  The burden of proof is heavily on the side of the person taking up the contrary position.  So Romans 16 doesn’t really seem to be a problem.

What about 1 Corinthians 11, where it speaks about women prophesying in the church?  I would argue quite strongly that both in the Old and New Testaments there is a clear distinction between teaching and prophesying.  The difference between teaching and prophesying is that prophecy comes directly from God without any intermediary while teaching doesn’t.  When someone prophesies, they are receiving a message directly from God; when someone teaches they are basing their message on scripture.  In the Old Testament, only men (specifically priests and Levites) could teach; but there are several examples of female prophets.  We may think that this is a fine distinction that shouldn’t really matter but that’s the way things are presented in the Old Testament.  Something similar seems to be the case in the New Testament.  This makes sense based on what can be seen in the New Testament and based on the fact that a good percentage of early Christians were Jewish.  So Paul seems to have been okay with women prophesying while men are present but he does not permit women to teach (assuming 1 Timothy 2:12 reflects Paul’s normal practice).

As for women praying in the church, this doesn’t seem very relevant for 1 Timothy 2:12.  1 Timothy 2:12 is about women teaching in the church so when Paul says that they are to be silent he must be talking about silence with respect to teaching men.

8. Consistency With Jesus’s Teaching

The final point that the author makes is that Jesus never limited women’s roles to a secondary position in the church even when he had the chance to do so.  If 1 Timothy 2:12 was a general prohibition of women teaching or having authority over men in the church, Paul would be going against the pattern that Jesus established.

While it’s true that women play an extremely important role in the ministry of Jesus (they supported him financially, they didn’t abandon Jesus when he was being crucified, and they were the first ones to witness to the resurrection), the plain fact is that Jesus chose twelve male apostles even when he had the opportunity to choose female apostles.  This is not to say that this definitively establishes a pattern for how things should be for all times and all places – but it does mean that there is no contradiction between 1 Timothy 2:12 and Jesus’s teaching.

Conclusion

Again, my point is not to argue that women should not be allowed to teach or have authority over men in the church today – my point is that these are not the best arguments to do that.  Whenever we’re trying to argue a point from the biblical text, we need to make sure that we don’t skew the evidence to favour the position that we hold to, regardless of what position that is.  That’s one reason why I respect Krister Stendahl so much.  Krister Stendahl was one of the most influential New Testament scholars of the 20th century.  He was also influential in the movement to allow women’s ordination in the Church of Sweeden, but he did not do this at the expense of exegetical integrity (see the discussion in James Barr’s, The Concept of Biblical Theology and Stendahl’s own writings).  His conclusion was that Paul did forbid women to teach or have authority over men as a general rule.  For him, that’s simply where the evidence from the New Testament pointed him.  But, in the end, he did conclude that, given the cultural situation today, women should be allowed to be ordained today.  His commitment to understanding what the text actually says, regardless of what he might have wanted the text to say, is a good example for all of us to follow, regardless of which side of the fence we land on when it comes to the role of women in the church today.


[1] See especially the detailed analysis in George W. Knight III, “ΑΥΘΕΝΤΕΩ in Reference to Women,” NTS 30 (1984): 143-157.  See also Leland Edward Wilshire, “The TLG Computer and Further Reference to ΑΥΘΕΝΤΕΩ in 1 Timothy 2:12,” NTS 34 (1988): 120-134.  The evidence that Wilshire presents is vast and, in my opinion, ultimately supports the position being presented here.  Wilshire argues at the end that the use of this word doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the church offices in 1 Timothy 3.  However, this argument – which is extremely brief and somewhat incomplete – is not really based on the study that makes up the bulk of the argument.  He does make mention of the fact that αὐθεντεῖv (authentein) is not the normal word used for authority but doesn’t really come to a conclusion on what the significance of that might be.  It is important, though, to be careful how one uses the lexical information in Wilshire’s study.  It is important to note that the evidence listed in Wilshire’s study where the word has negative connotations (“murderer”, etc.) are from a related noun, not the verb itself, which is extremely important.  And even if the verb could be used to mean something like this, which it doesn’t, it would be illegitimate to suggest that it has violent connotations simply because in some writers it is used to refer to murder (which it doesn’t, of course).  The author of the article on the Junia Project and several others make this mistake in the comment section of the article.  She lists negative meanings from Wilshire’s article, not noting that they come from the noun, not the verb, and suggests that these all need to be taken into account when trying to understand 1 Timothy 2:12.  This is a classic example of illegitimate totality transfer.  It is not good enough to simply cite a scholarly article; the article itself needs to be understood properly and the information in the article needs to be used properly.

Origen’s Spiritual Interpretation of the Story of Lot and his Daughters

Origen’s Origen Picturespiritual level of meaning refers to truths found in scripture that were only discernible after the coming of Christ.  Quite frequently they deal with the transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant and why Jews failed to recognize the significance of Christ’s coming.  Origen’s spiritual level of interpretation often comes in the story-as-symbol form that we see in his moral level of interpretation.

Origen begins his discussion of the spiritual meaning of the story of Lot and his daughters by dismissing a spiritual interpretation which said that Lot represented Jesus and that the two daughters represented the two Testaments.[1]  Origen rejects this because of its lack of coherence.  If Lot represents Christ then one would have to say that Christ’s descendants, like the Ammonites and the Moabites, would not be able to enter the church of the Lord until the third or fourth generation (cf. Deut. 23:3).  Such a conclusion would be absurd.  So Origen suggests that Lot represents the Law.[2]  Lot’s wife represents the Jews who escaped from Egypt during the Exodus but looked back at the simple things they enjoyed in Egypt and wanted to go back.  Since the people looked back, the Law left them behind.

Next, Origen explains the spiritual significance of Zoar, a city which was small and yet not small.  Here Zoar also represents the Law.  It is small when the Jews interpret it on a purely literal level and observe the Sabbaths, the new moons, circumcision, and the food laws.  It is not small when it is understood on a spiritual level.

Origen next moves to Lot’s ascension of the mountain.  Just as Lot ascended the mountain, so the Law was embellished by the building of the temple.  But the temple became a den of thieves and this is why Lot and his daughters dwelled in a cave.

Origen then goes on to identify Lot’s daughters with the two sisters mentioned in Ezekiel 23:4, which represent Judah and Samaria, making Judah and Samaria the daughters of the Law.  The efforts of the two daughters to get their father drunk is compared to the Jews covering up the spiritual knowledge of the Old Testament.  The Law never intended to beget children who only understood the Law literally.  These children, like the Ammonites and the Moabites, will never enter the church of the Lord unto the third or fourth generation or forever (cf. Deut. 23:3).  The number three (i.e. third generation) was given because of the Trinity, the number four (i.e. the fourth generation) was given because of the gospels, and forever was added to indicate the time up to when the fullness of the Gentiles would believe.

What can we say about Origen’s spiritual interpretation of this text?  First, Origen is right to note a parallel between Lot’s wife looking back at Sodom and the Israelite’s looking back with longing on their life in Egypt.  One could even argue that this allusion was actually intended by the author of this text, given the fact that Genesis was written to function as scripture for later Israelites.  However, it is unnecessary to say that Lot represents the Law in this case, though such an attribution makes sense given the salvation-historical character of Origen’s spiritual level of interpretation.  Perhaps this insight is better understood to belong to the moral meaning of this text.

Second, although Origen’s interpretation of Zoar is creative, spiritually insightful, and even poetic, it is based on a misunderstanding of the text: “it is not small” is a question in Hebrew – it should be translated “is it not small?” – rather than a statement.

Third, Origen was right to reject the identification of Lot with Jesus and his two daughters with the two testaments.  However, his identification of Lot with the law, the daughters with Israel and Judah, and the mountains with the temple is also problematic.  There is no reason to connect Lot with the law or the mountains with the temple.

In terms of moral application, it is more likely Lot is used as an example of what happens when the Israelites interact too closely with the inhabitants of the land: they will have more of and impact on you than you will have on them.  The behavior of Lot’s daughters testify to that fact.  Lot and his daughters probably flee to the cave to protect themselves from the destruction that was taking place behind them or simply for shelter.  There is a verbal connection between this cave and the den of thieves of Jeremiah 7 and the gospels but there is no reason to make this connection here.  The identification of the daughters with those who only interpret the Law literally is somewhat arbitrary.  The lesson that is to be learned from the daughters is a moral lesson rather than a spiritual one.

Origen’s interpretation of the numbers three and four is likewise arbitrary. Origen justifies this type of interpretation by pointing to Galatians 4:24-31, where the Apostle Paul uses the story of Sarah and Hagar to illustrate the difference between those who try to remain with the Old Covenant after Christ has come and those who have embraced the New.  The difference between what Paul is doing and what Origen is doing is that Paul’s comments were not made in the course of preaching on the book of Genesis.  Paul was simply using the language of Genesis to illustrate a point he was presently trying to make.[3]  Paul also avoids trying to make every detail of the book of Genesis fit into the new narrative that he had created.  Although it is important to look for the spiritual level of interpretation, not every text was meant to speak about the things Origen would like them to speak about.

Origen’s methods for interpreting and appropriating the text of the Old Testament as Christian Scripture are much like the character of Lot in the story of Lot and his daughters: it is somewhere between the perfect and the doomed.  Origen rightly emphasizes the importance of the literal meaning of the text but his own interpretation of the literal meaning is often distorted by his training in Greek philosophy, by mistakes that were made in the Septuagint’s rendering of the Hebrew text, and by simple exegetical mistakes.  Origen rightly emphasizes that the Old Testament should be used to give moral guidance for Christians today but his commitment to this truth often led him to find lessons that are too far removed from the plain-sense meaning of the text.  In the same way, Origen rightly points out that the Old Testament contains truths that have only now become apparent through the coming of Christ. but this belief caused him to find teachings that may be true in themselves but are difficult to justify.  Like Lot’s wife, if our hearts become too attached to Origen’s exegesis we ourselves may end up sharing her fate and never move on to the mountains of insight actually intended by the Spirit.  But if we reject the spirit of Origen’s interpretation, we may end up like Lot’s daughters.

Nevertheless, Origen gives us great insight into how the text of the Old Testament speaks to the church today.  Moreover, he is an example for the church today because he never ceased to struggle to find meaning in the Old Testament for Christians.  Origen struggled with the text and would not let it go until he received a blessing; he kept on struggling until, through the text, he met face to face with God.  Origen is both a positive and negative example of what it means to appropriate the Old Testament as Christian Scripture.  So, when learning at his feet, the church should test everything, hold on to the good and avoid every kind of evil, and leave behind what is doomed and, in hope, move on toward what is perfect.

Mark Francois


[1] Origen, “Genesis Homily V,” 117-18.
[2] This is followed in the text by a fascinating note from Rufinus that explains that the identification of Lot with the law is legitimate because, even though the word for law in Latin is feminine, the word for law in Greek is masculine.
[3] Cf. James Barr, Holy Scripture: Canon, Authority, Criticism (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1983), 70. “The business of the New Testament is not primarily to tell what the Old Testament really means, but to declare a new substance which for the Old was not yet there, although it was understood that it had prophesied its future coming.  The task of the New Testament was not primarily to interpret the Old, but to interpret that new substance.  It is more correct to say that the Old Testament was used to interpret the situations and events of the New.  In spirt of the massive use of the Old Testament  and its network of meaning, the New Testament is more like creative literature than lie exegesis.”

Origen’s Literal Interpretation of the Story of Lot and His Daughters

OrigenIn the introduction to his fifth homily on the book of 1 Samuel, Origen makes the following observations about the usefulness of stories interpreted on the literal level: “There are stories that do not touch us, and there are others that are a necessary basis for our hope.  I say ‘stories,’ because we have not yet arrived at elevated interpretations useful to every person who knows how to make them or who hears them.  Among stories there are some that are useful to everyone, some not to everyone.  Take for example, the story of Lot and his daughters (Gen. 19:30-8): if it teaches something useful in an elevated sense, God knows, as does that person who has received the gift of grace to expound these matters.  As for the usefulness of the story itself, it would take quite a search to find it!  Indeed, what profit can I find from the story of Lot and his daughters?[1]

In many ways, the question that Origen asks at the end of this quotation is essentially the question that he asks for all three levels of interpretation: “What profit can I find from the story of Lot and his daughters?”  In this quotation, Origen seems to be suggesting that the story of Lot and his daughters is not useful to Christians when interpreted exclusively on the basis of the literal sense.  Any possible benefit from this story, it would seem, would have to be found on the moral or spiritual levels.  This does not mean, however, that Origen placed no value on the literal meaning of the text.  Origen’s point is that the story by itself is incapable of edifying believers without careful theological reflection.  Origen recognizes the simple fact that this story, like most stories in the Old Testament, does not explicitly state how believers can benefit from it.  The problem is compounded by the fact that the story was written before the coming of Christ, which means that any specifically Christian interpretation or application would lie well beneath the surface-level meaning of the texts.

Despite these caveats, Origen expends a great deal of effort trying to come to terms with the literal meaning of this text.  Origen does this because the moral and spiritual levels of interpretation are based on the literal level of interpretation.  This principle applies both to Origen’s interpretation as well as to Celsus’s interpretation of the story.  On the literal level, Celsus saw a level of immorality that far exceeded similar immorality found in Greek sources.  Celsus concluded that Lot’s sexual relations with his daughters met with divine approval in the book of Genesis and that Lot and his daughters were presented as models to emulate.[2]  These conclusions go beyond the literal meaning of the text and are somewhat analogous to Origen’s moral level of interpretation.  Celsus uses this as evidence for the mendacity of Judaism and Christianity.  Origen is quick to point out, however, that Celsus’ moral interpretation is based on a misunderstanding of the literal level of the text.  So the literal level of interpretation is vital for a proper understanding of the moral and spiritual levels of the text.

Origen’s literal level of interpretation may be examined under five headings, each corresponding to a major interpretive issue that Origen discovered in the literal level of the text: (1) Why was Lot was rescued from Sodom? (2) Why did Lot flee to Zoar rather than to the mountains? (3) Why was Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt? (4) Why did Lot’s daughters commit incest with their father? and (5) Why did Lot say that Zoar was small but not small?[3]  Each of these issuess will be discussed in turn according to Origen’s exegesis in Contra Celsum and his fifth homily on the book of Genesis and will be critiqued, when necessary, according to a close reading of the biblical text.

So, firstly, why was Lot rescued from Sodom?  According to Origen, Lot was rescued from Sodom because of the hospitality he showed to the angels who were sent to destroy the city.[4]  Origen knew from 2 Peter 2:6-9 and from Abraham’s prayer in Genesis 18:16-33 that Lot was a righteous man.[5]  However, the only evidence for Lot’s righteousness in the book of Genesis is the hospitality he showed toward the angels.  So Origen concluded that Lot was rescued because of the hospitality he showed toward strangers while the Sodomites were destroyed because they closed their doors to strangers.

Later on, however, Origen attributes Lot’s rescue to Abraham’s intercession rather than to Lot’s personal character.[6]  This tension in Origen’s explanation may be explained as follows.  First, when Origen attributed Lot’s rescue to the hospitality he showed to strangers it was in the context of an exhortation to his hearers not to close their doors to strangers.  So Origen emphasized the role played by Lot’s hospitality in his rescue to drive home the application he was making for his audience.  Second, the two explanations that Origen gives for why Lot was rescued from Sodom are grounded within the text itself.  While it is true that the biblical narrator attributes Lot’s rescue to the intercession of Abraham (Gen. 19:29), it is also true that God would not have rescued Lot if he had not been a righteous man since Abraham’s intercession was grounded on the belief that there were righteous people in the city (Gen. 18:23).  Origen seems to acknowledge both truths in the way he words his explanation: “For even the fact that he escaped from Sodom, as the Scripture indicates, belongs more to Abraham’s honor than to Lot’s merit.”[7]  It is not a matter of one explanation being true and the other explanation being false; it simply means that one explanation has priority over the other.  The angels went down to see if the outcry made against Sodom was true but they also went down to see if there were any righteous people in the city in answer to Abraham’s prayer.[8]  Lot was the only one they found.  So the reasons Origen gives for why Lot was rescued from Sodom, though worded somewhat clumsily for rhetorical effect, accurately represent the reasons given in the text itself.

The second issue Origen deals with is why Lot fled to Zoar rather than to the mountains.[9]  According to Origen, Lot fled to Zoar because he did not deem himself worthy to flee to the mountains.[10]  Origen’s explanation is based on his interpretation of Psalm 121:1 where the Psalmist says, “I lift my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from?”  For Origen, only the perfect –in the case of Psalm 121, the Psalmist – can look to the mountains for God’s help.[11]  Lot was “somewhere in the middle between the perfect and the doomed” because he was not wicked enough to perish with the inhabitants of Sodom but he was not righteous enough to flee right away to the mountains to dwell with Abraham.[12]  If Lot had been righteous, he would never have departed from Abraham (Gen. 13:1-13) and he would never have chosen to live in Sodom (Gen. 13:10-13).  Furthermore, even though Sodom was once like the paradise of God, it fell through sin and became like the land of Egypt (Gen. 13:10).  Thus it was impossible for Lot to go directly from the sinfulness of Sodom to the mountains reserved for the righteous.  So Lot humbly asked the angels to allow him to flee to Zoar, which lies somewhere between Sodom and the mountains.

Although Origen’s explanation seems to go beyond the literal level of the text, it should be remembered that Origen believed that Scripture ultimately had only one author so passages from one book could be used to illuminate the meaning of passages in other books.  Origen is using the literal meaning of Psalm 121:1 to illuminate the literal meaning of this passage.  Thus, Origen’s appeal to Psalm 121:1 remains on the literal level and is something quite different from his moral and spiritual levels of interpretation.

However, Origen’s explanation is not justified by a close reading of the story itself or of Psalm 121:1.  In Psalm 121:1 the Psalmist is looking for help to come from the mountains but, in Genesis 19, Lot was told to flee to the mountains.  Lot’s request to flee to Zoar rather than to the mountains was motivated by fear and lack of trust in God rather than piety.  The angels told Lot to flee to the mountains so he would not be swept away (Gen. 19:17).  But Lot said, “No, my lords, please!  Your servant has found favour in your eyes, and you have shown great kindness to me in sparing my life.  But I can’t flee to the mountains; this disaster will overtake me, and I’ll die” (Gen. 19:18-19).  Lot failed to recognize that God was in control of the disaster that was about to overtake Sodom and that he was more concerned with rescuing him than he was with destroying the city.  The words the angels spoke to Lot concerning Zoar would have been true had he fled to the mountains instead: “But flee there quickly, because I cannot do anything until you reach it” (Gen. 19:22).

Origen’s explanation also runs into serious difficulties when one considers that the sinful actions of Lot’s daughters took place when they were in the mountains.  If only the perfect can find their help in the mountains then the actions of Lot and his daughters are difficult to explain.  This difficulty may be mitigated somewhat by Origen’s understanding of why Lot’s daughters committed incest with their father.  But this will be discussed further on.

There are also difficulties with Origen’s explanation of Genesis 13:10.  Origen takes this verse to mean that Sodom was once morally pure like the conditions that prevailed in the Garden of Eden but that it plunged into wickedness and became like the land of Egypt.  However, Genesis 13:10 makes it clear that the region surrounding Sodom was like the garden of the LORD and like the land of Egypt because the land was well watered.

Despite these difficulties, Origen’s explanation does capture something true about the character of Lot as he is depicted in both the Old and the New Testaments.  He was “somewhere between the perfect and the doomed.”  Although he was a righteous man who “was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard” (2 Peter 2:8), the “dwellings of Sodom” should not have pleased him.[13] As we will see later on, Lot’s decision to dwell in Sodom would have devastating consequences for him and his family.

The third issue that Origen deals with is why Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt.  Origen notes that, while Lot was fleeing from Sodom, the two angels commanded him not to look backward on the destruction that was consuming Sodom.  But Lot’s wife violated the “imposed law” and, as a result, was transformed into a pillar of salt.[14]  When Origen looks at the punishment that was given to Lot’s wife for looking backward, he considers the punishment to be somewhat excessive.  Simply looking backward at Sodom and the terrifying destruction that was consuming it does not seem to be a crime worthy of being punished by death.  Origen is probably right to see a deeper meaning to the death of Lot’s wife.  This will be discussed further when we look at Origen’s moral level of interpretation.

The fourth issue that Origen deals with is why Lot’s daughters committed incest with their father.  As was stated earlier, Celsus objected to this story because the actions of Lot’s daughters were worse than the Thyestian sins.  Celsus is referring to the story of Atreus and Thyestes in Greek mythology.[15]  Thyestes and Atreus were sons of Pelops, the king of Pisa.  Thyestes committed adultery with Atreus’s wife and tried to usurp Atreus’s throne.  Atreus retaliated by killing three of Thyestes’s children and by serving them to him as food without his knowledge.  When Atreus revealed what he had done, Thyestes consulted an oracle to see how he might get his revenge.  The oracle said that he could get his revenge by producing a child through his own daughter.  So Thyestes slept with his daughter and his daughter bore a son who eventually killed Atreus and gave the kingdom over to Thyestes.  Celsus considered the incest committed by Lot’s daughters to have been worse than the incest committed by Thyestes, presumably because Lot’s daughters were proud of what they had done.[16]

Origen defends the actions of Lot’s daughters by appealing to Greek philosophy.[17]  The Stoics believed that actions could be good, bad, or indifferent.  The determining factor in whether or not an action is good or bad is its motivation.  The Stoics believed that it was morally indifferent for a man to commit incest with his daughter if the rest of the human race had been destroyed.  Origen argues that Lot’s daughters were doing the same thing.  They had heard that the world would end by fire so, when they saw the fire that was raining down on Sodom, they believed that they were the only human beings to survive.  So, out of necessity, they slept with their father so that the human race would not be destroyed.  Scripture neither applauds nor condemns the daughters’ actions.  Stoic philosophy would then seem to justify the actions of Lot’s daughters.

In his fifth homily on Genesis, Origen makes a similar argument to defend the integrity of the story.  He begins by pointing out that Lot did not participate in the incest willingly by that he was deceived by his daughters and taken by stealth.[18]  Since he did not consent to what his daughters did he was not guilty of lust or in taking pleasure in his daughters’ actions.  Origen notes that the text itself seems to excuse him when it says that he did not realize when his daughters lay down or when they arose (Gen. 19:33, 38).   But Origen notes that Lot was not totally free from guilt because his daughters would not have been able to carry out their plans if he had not first become drunk.  Lot is “somewhere between the sinners and the just”[19] or, as he said earlier, “somewhere in the middle between the perfect and the doomed”[20] because he descended from the same family as Abraham but took up residence in Sodom.  It is in this context that Origen states that Lot was saved more for the sake of Abraham than for his own merit.[21]

Origen’s evaluation of Lot’s culpability in the actions of his daughters seems to fit with the evidence found in the biblical text.  Origen is a close reader of the biblical text so he is aware that the narrator does not want to present Lot as being a willing party to his daughters’ actions.  But the narrator also wants to make it clear that Lot was somehow responsible for what his daughters had done.  Origen is right to point out that Lot’s daughters would not have carried out their plans if he had not become drunk.  But the text seems to go further than this and suggest that Lot’s daughters would never have formulated such a wicked plan if Lot had not taken up residence in Sodom.  Lot believed that he could keep himself from being contaminated by the sinfulness of Sodom but he did not realize the effect that living in Sodom had on his wife and children.[22]  This is suggested by the ominous parenthetical clause in Genesis 13:13.  After noting that Lot had pitched his tent near Sodom the narrator states that the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning in grievous ways against the LORD.  Later Israelites who read this story were probably supposed to learn from the story of the consequences of associating too closely with the people who lived in the land they were about to enter (Cf. Deut. 7:1-6).  Particularly relevant is Moses’s command in Deuteronomy 7:3-4: “Do not intermarry with them.  Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods, and the LORD’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you.”  Although the book of Genesis says nothing about Lot’s daughters turning to other gods, it is clear that, having escaped the fire that rained down on Sodom, they took all that was wicked and shameful about Sodom with them.[23]  This evaluation will have implications for how Origen’s defense of Lot’s daughters should be viewed.

Next, Origen moves on to discuss the culpability of Lot’s daughters for their actions.  Origen’s discussion in his homily is quite similar to the discussion found in Contra Celsum but his arguments from Greek philosophy are missing.  However, even though Origen’s philosophical arguments are not explicitly stated, they clearly lie beneath Origen’s evaluation of the two daughters.  He begins his discussion by saying that it is important to consider the intentions of Lot’s daughters.  This goes back to the distinction that the Stoics made between good, bad, and indifferent actions based on a person’s intentions.  Origen argues that the daughters believed that the end of the world had come and that they did not know that it was only Sodom and the surrounding region that had been destroyed.  They had seen their mother killed and fire raining down on the city.  They had heard about the destruction that occurred during the time of Noah and believed themselves to be in a similar situation.  Thus they believed that it was their responsibility to repopulate the earth.[24]  The evil that would have been caused by not perpetuating the human race would have been more evil than deceiving their father and committing incest with him.  Indeed, their deception was somewhat commendable because Lot would have been tormented had he knowingly committed this sin.  Origen goes so far to say, though he hesitates, that Lot’s daughters were nobler than some Christian women because they did not continue to have sexual relations with their father once they had conceived while many Christian women continue to have sexual relations with their husbands even after they have conceived.[25]  So Origen acknowledges that what they did was wrong but he notes that their guilt was somewhat mitigated by the evil they believed would have taken place if they had not done so.

Although Origen’s discussion of the actions of Lot’s daughters has much to commend it, a closer reading of the text would seem to indicate that the motivations of Lot’s daughters were much more sinister.[26]  When Lot’s older daughter said to the younger daughter that “there was no man in the land to come to them as is the custom throughout the earth” (Gen. 19:31, my translation), there is no reason to think that she believed that the world had come to an end and that the only way to perpetuate the human race was through her father.  She knew that Zoar had been spared the destruction that overtook Sodom and the angels made it clear that the destruction was only intended for the cities in the plain (Gen. 19:13, 17).  When she said that there was “no man on the earth,” as Origen understood it, she meant that there was no one in the vicinity to become their husbands.  It should be noted that the older daughter prefaced her words by saying “our father is old,” which probably means that her father would have been unable to secure husbands for her and her sisters as was the custom in that day.[27]  The two daughters did not get their father drunk to spare his conscience but to make him do unconsciously what he would never have done while sober.  It would not be unjust to consider their actions as constituting an act of rape.  Although Celsus may in fact have been right when he said that the actions of Lot’s daughters were worse than the Thyestian sins, the text does not present these actions as something to be emulated but as something to be avoided.  These are the consequences that happen when the righteous choose to make their dwelling with the wicked.

The final interpretive issue that Origen deals with in his interpretation of the story of Lot and his daughters is why the text says that Zoar is small but not small (Gen. 19:20).  This is an obvious contradiction when the verse is read in this way.  Drawing from Plato’s Republic, Origen says that a city can be small and not small because the lives of a great number of people are held together in one place.[28]  Origen also sees a deeper meaning in these words but this will be discussed further on when we look at Origen’s spiritual level of interpretation.  Origen’s explanation is creative but unnecessary.  The second part of Lot’s statement should be construed as a question because the Hebrew text begins with the interrogative marker.  The text would then read, “Look!  This city is close enough for me to flee to and it is quite small.  Let me escape to there.  Is it not quite small?” (Gen. 19:20, translation mine).  Lot mentions the smallness of the city twice in order to convince the angels that sparing the small number of people in this city would be a small price for allowing him to flee there.  So Origen’s interpretation of the literal level is simply based on a misunderstanding.


 

[1] Origen, “Homily 5 on 1 Samuel,” 200.

[2] p. 206-7.  p. 220. “For the Word does not want us to emulate those who did these things in respect of their physical acts, as they are commonly supposed, but

[3] Origen’s excursus on the eschatological fate of Sodom will not be discussed because it is a digression from his exegesis of the story of Lot and his daughters.

[4] Origen, “Genesis Homily V,” 112.

[5] Origen does not mention these passages but it is safe to assume that they were influential in his thinking.

[6] Origen, “Genesis Homily V,” 115.

[7] Origen, “Genesis Homily V,” 115.

[8] For Origen’s explanation for the apparent ignorance of God toward Sodom’s sin see Homily IV, 110.  Origen sees this as God giving the people of Sodom an opportunity to repent, an opportunity which only Lot took.

[9] The Septuagint, followed by the Vulgate, transliterates in the Hebrew word ṣôʿar as sēgōr.  This is because the Hebrew letter ayin used to represent two Proto-Semitic phonemes, one of which sounded similar to the Greek letter gamma.  When the Septuagint of Genesis was translated, these two phonemes were still distinguished.  Zoar, the form found in most English Bibles, is based on later pronunciation.  For the sake of simplicity, we will use the form found in English Bibles.

[10] Origen, “Genesis Homily V,” 112-13.

[11] See above for a discussion of what Origen means by the perfect.

[12] Origen, “Genesis Homily V,” 112-13.

[13] “Homily 5,” 112-13.

[14] “Homily 5,” 114.

[15] For the story of Atreus and Thyestes see Apollodorus, The Library of Greek Mythology, trans. Robin Hard (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 145-46.

[16] This can be seen in the names given to their sons.

[17] Origen, Contra Celsum, IV.45, 220-21.

[18] Origen, “Genesis Homily V,” 114-16.

[19] Origen, “Genesis Homily V,” 115.

[20] Origen, “Genesis Homily V,” 113.

[21] Origen, “Genesis Homily V,” 115.

[22] Cf. Origen’s statements about the effect that Sodom had on Lot (“Genesis Homily V,”115).  “Drunkenness deceives him whom Sodom did not deceive.  He whom the sulphurous flame did not burn is burned by the flames of women.”  This will be discussed further in the section on Lot’s moral interpretation of the story.

[23] Cf. C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume I, The Pentateuch, trans. James Martin (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1872), 237.  “If it was not lust, therefore, which impelled them to this shameful deed, their conduct was worthy of Sodom, and shows quite as much as their previous betrothal to men of Sodom, that they were deeply imbued with the sinful character of that city.”  Some recent commentators have viewed the actions of Lot’s daughters more favourably but this seems to go against the grain of the text and the message that Israel would likely have taken from this story.  Modern interpreters need to recognize, with Origen, that the authors of the biblical text and those responsible for incorporating this story into scripture had a moral purpose in mind and not just an historical.

[24] This interpretation seems to have been quite prevalent during the Patristic period in both Jewish and Christian writings.  See, for example, Ephrem the Syrian, “Commentary on Genesis,” in Ephrem the Syrian: Selected Prose Works, trans. Edward G. Matthews, Jr. and Joseph P. Amar, ed. Kathleen McVey (FOTC 91; Washington, D. C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1994), 162 and footnote 398.

[25] Origen, “Genesis Homily V,” 117.

[26] One of the difficulties with interpreting motivations in Biblical narrative is they are rarely spoken of explicitly.  Cf. Gerhard von Rad, Genesis: A Commentary, OTL, rev. ed., trans. John H. Marks (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1972); trans. of Das erste Buch Mose, Genesis, 9th ed. ATD 2-4 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1972), 223.  “As in the case of all these narrative, in spite of the coarse material, the emphases are always nicely put, and no judgment is expressed concerning the happenings.  The reflective reader must make his own judgments.”

[27] Cf. Gordon Wenham, Genesis 16-50 (WBC 2; Waco: Word, 1987), 61.

[28] Origen, Genesis, Homily V,“ 118, n. 31.

The Anonymous Chronicle of Edessa Up to 1234 – Sections 94-110 of the Secular History (Translation)

*Note – Translation by Mark Francois

94 – Concerning the beginning of the kingdom of the Arabs and concerning Muhammad, their leader, he who by them was called a prophet and apostle of God.

     In the year nine hundred and thirty-three of the Greeks,[1] twelve of Herakleios,[2] and thirty-three of Khusro[3], a man whose name was Muhammad, from the tribe of the Qurayshites,[4] went out into the land of Yathrib[5] and said to himself that he is a prophet.  It is fitting, therefore, to know the general reputation of all the Muslims,[6] who are called Arabs.  From the general reputation of this prosperous Arabia, which is the land of their dwelling, it is situated, as it were, from north to south from the Euphrates River as far as the southern sea and from west to east from the Red Sea to the bay of the Persian Sea.  They were called by a variety of names, as it were, from the tribes of their forefathers.[7]

     Therefore this Muhammad, about whom we have been speaking,[8] while he was in the stature and height of youth, began to go up and down from Yathrib, his city, to Palestine in the business of buying and selling.  While he was busy in that same place, he perceived the confession of One God, which seemed good in his eyes.  When he went to his fellow-tribesmen,[9] he laid[10] this confession before them.  And after he had persuaded a few people, they went out to him.  With this [confession] he also brought up before them the goodness of the land of Palestine, saying: “This land is good and prosperous because of the confession which was given in that one God.”  He added, “If you listen to me, God will also give you a good land, which flows with milk and honey.”  And because he wanted to confirm his word, he led troops of those who had obeyed him to [Palestine].  He began to go up to the land of Palestine and would plunder, take captive, and take spoil.  And he returned carrying [plunder] without injury and he did not fall short of the promise which he made to them.

     And so the love of possessions caused the work to become a custom for him.  So they again went up, plundering and then returning.  And when those who had still not followed him saw those who were subject to him, who had flourished exceedingly[11] in a multitude of riches, therefore, without compulsion, they were seduced to be subject to him.[12]

     After these things, when the men who were with him had increased and the army became great, he no longer permitted them to plunder and he dwelt in Yathrib, his city, in honour.  And when they were sent out again, that which was in Palestine was not sufficient for them to remain only [there] but they also went afar, openly killing, taking captives, destroying, and taking spoil.  And this was not sufficient for them so they made them tributaries[13] and subjects.

     Thus little by little they grew strong and spread abroad and they increased to the point where they had subjugated almost[14] all of the land of the Romans[15] and also the kingdom of the Persians under their power.[16]

     So then, their principality became an established kingdom.  And by gradual succession, from one man to another, it became excessively strong through those who ruled it as leaders, as it was pleasing to the judgments of God, who wanted to chasten us for our sins.

95 – Concerning their confession and their laws. 

     Therefore, since we have spoken about the motivation, origin, and  the movement of Muhammad, the first king of the Arabs, we should therefore also speak about the laws which he laid down for them, which he said had been given to him by God.

     He taught them as follows: That they should believe[17] in only one God, the maker of all things, not calling him Father, Son, nor Spirit but a deity with only one face and only one substance, “neither being begotten nor begetting,” and that he has no consort.  He accepts Moses and his writing and he accepts the gospel,[18] besides the fact that he does not believe that Christ was crucified.

     Now concerning Christ, [Muhammad] thought that he was a righteous and honourable man among the prophets; that he was born from a virgin without intercourse like Adam, who was created from the earth by the word of God; but he did not accept that he was crucified but that he [himself][19] performed miracles and raised the dead.  And when the Jews laid [their] hands on him, another man was transformed into his image to them and they crucified him, but Christ was taken up to the fourth heaven while [still] alive.[20]  And there he remains[21] until the end and he shall come[22] a second time to the earth and will judge human beings on the day of the resurrection according to the commandment of God.

     [The Muslims] believe in the resurrection and in the punishment of deeds.  [Muhammad] believed in a perceptible,[23] and very crass,[24] Paradise: food, drink, as well as intercourse with beautiful concubines, lying down on golden beds and _________ ___________[25] carpets, and rivers of milk and honey.

     They also believe in an end to the torment which everyone suffers according to the sins they have committed.   They then go out from there to paradise.  He also began to permit a man to marry as many free[26] women as he wants legally and as many maidservants as he finds it is right [for him to take].  He [also permitted] a man to divorce his wife: he shall give her a certificate of divorce according to the law of Moses.

     He also taught that they should pray fives times per day, washing themselves as an absolute necessity[27] before prayer.  The fast is thirty days per year, a fixed month, which is called Ramadan.  After they have fasted during the day they are permitted to eat all night.[28]

     They administer circumcision to the males and females who are among them.  At the time of prayers their worship is [directed] toward Yemen.  That writing was also composed, which he, Muhammad, said had been poured out by God upon his minds through an angel and he himself brought it through his tongue to the hearing of human beings. They call it holy scripture..

96 – Concerning what was happening in the world in the year of the coming of Muhammad.

     In that[29] year Shahrbaraz subdued Ankara of Galatia as well as many islands of the sea and he committed many murders.  And Khusro became harsh and exalted himself and magnified himself in the victories.  Who is able to make lamentations for what human beings suffered at this very time!  What suffering!  What murder!  How many lamentable captives!  How much plundering![30]  How much rape!  How many bitter requisitions!  How many harsh tributes!  How many stones,[31] stone tables, marble pillars from churches, and windows of gold and silver went to Persia.[32]

     At that very time all of the silver which had adorned that great church of Edessa was stripped and was sent to Persia, to King Khusro, because of the enmity which seduced the house of Cyrus, the ruler of Edessa, and the people of the city.  By that enmity (because the people who were not instructed among the Edessans envied him) and according to their evil behaviour they denounced him to Khusro.  So he took all of the property[33] of all of the churches[34] of Edessa and the property of the cathedral church.  He stripped off the silver that overlaid the chapel (which is above the altar), its forty pillars, all of the columns (which are in front of the altar), and the bishop’s throne[35] (which is in the middle of the church).  And the weight of the silver was found to be one thousand and twelve pounds and he sent it to Khusro.

97 – Concerning the decree which went out from Khusro that Edessa should go down into captivity.[36]

     In the eighteenth year of the kingship of Herakleios,[37] Khusro decreed that Edessa should go down into captivity to Persia.  He wrote to the Marzban,[38] the ruler of Edessa, that he should do this immediately.  The Marzban was quiet, sweet, and compassionate and it pleased him that it should not immediately and altogether go down into captivity but [only] gradually because he was expecting forgiveness to come from the King.  So he began to send them one district at a time.[39]  And after the new was heard by Herakleios, he went town to Persia and, because of this, Edessa stopped going down into captivity.  However, two of these districts went down to the Euphrates and came as far as Dastgerd.[40]  Some of the nobles of the city also went down, one of whom was Sergius, the son of Iwannis the Ras9payite (the one whom we mentioned above), who was led into captivity with his mother at this time.[41]  In this very year the sun was eclipsed and half of the light of its sphere departed from October until June so that people said, “Its sphere will never be restored.”

98 – Concerning the siege of the Persians against Constantinople.

     In the year nine hundred and thirty-six,[42] and fourteen of Herakleios, and thirty-six of Khusro, and three of Muhammad, Khusro sent out Shahrbaraz and Kardigan, the leaders of the Persian Armies, with large armies and with the equipment of the instruments of war.  So they came and besieged Constantinople, targeting the western region of the city,  remaining against it for a period of nine months.  (And King Herakleios was in the city).[43]  And they were being weighed down by the Persians but, afterward, the Persians revolted against their king and they made a peace treaty with Herakleios because of the way which [their king] led.  For Shahrbaraz, the general, was being slandered[44] as follows: “He reviles the king and calls him a proud and evil person,[45] and [says] that he glorifies himself in the victories of others.”  So Khusro wrote to Kardigan, the leader of the army along with Shahrbaraz, that he should lay hold of Shahrbaraz and behead him.  As for the messenger who carried the letter, when he reached Galatia the Romans seized him and those with him who were responsible for transporting him.  When [the Romans] had bound him, they sent him to King Herakleios.  And so he came to the capital city without the knowledge[46] of the Persian pickets.[47]

     When Herakleios learned exactly why [the messenger] had been sent,[48] he secretly sent word to Shahrbaraz and assured him with oaths that he was summoning him for a reason that would be advantageous to him.  So he had [Shahrbaraz] brought to him.  Then Herakleios showed Shahrbaraz the letters of Khusro to Kardigan.  He also had the messenger brought and he placed him before [Shahrbaraz].  And when Shahrbaraz saw him he recognized him.  And when he read the letters and learned from the messenger [their] genuineness, he went out from the presence of Herakleios and went to the encampment and thought about[49] how it would be proper for him to act.  So he put together in his mind a good and cunning stratagem[50] which would be advantageous [for him] to do.  Now [Herakleios] had altered the letter of Khusro and wrote another in its place and added in it that certain illustrious, famous, and renowned Persian commanders of Khusro, three hundred, should be killed with him.

     And so [Shahrbaraz] placed a seal upon the letter and sealed it.  He sent word for the Persian commander and Kardigan with them to assemble.  And after the letter was read before the commanders, Shahrbaraz said to Kardigan, “Is it pleasing to you that you should do this?  What do you say?  And you, O commanders, what do you say?”  Those commanders, filled with anger, started to insult Khusro and dishonoured him.  They agreed among themselves[51] to make a treaty of peace with Herakleios and to give him whatever he would ask of them so that they might have a protector against being destroyed by Khusro.[52]

     And so they sent word to Herakleios and made an agreement and a peace treaty with him.  They gave him hostages to rectify the agreement which was [made] between them, those whom [Herakleios][53] had chosen from the sons and brothers of the Persians, the son of Shahrbaraz also having been among them.  The agreement was that the Persians should break camp and depart from the city.  So Herakleios took the Roman Army and went out to make war with Khusro and the Persians marched from Europe toward Asia.

     Herakleios sent word to the king of the Khazars to send him forty thousand troops from the region of Caspia to help him.[54]  Khagan, the king, sent word to him: “Look!  I am sending them [and] they will come to you at the place which you want.”  Herakleios promised Khagan that he would give him his daughter Eudokia in marriage.

     At that very time Herakleios became enflamed with the desire of the lust of the flesh.  He made light [of God] and treated God, the law of the church, and the law of nature with contempt, for he took Martina, the daughter of his brother, for himself as a wife.  Heraklonas, an illegitimate son, was born to him by her besides those who were born to him by his first wife.

99.  The Descent of Herakleios to Persia.
     Herakleios marched from the capital city with a great army and he made his journey across Armenia.  And wherever he went he brought out the Persians from the cities and brought them under the authority of the Romans.  When Khusro heard that Shahraraz and the Persian Armies had revolted against him and that Herakleios had set out to go to his territory, he became troubled and his soul was brought low.  On account of this the majority of the Persian Armies in the western territories, in Syria, Palestine, and Egypt, scattered.  Nevertheless he assembled an army, as many as he [could] find, and he placed over them a leader, a man whose name was Ruzbihan.  And he ordered him to go and meet Herakleios and to engage him in battle.  So Ruzbihan left and went toward Assyria so that he might engage in battle with Herakleios.  The majority of the Armies of the Armenians, the Persians, and the Khazars (which were sent by Khagan) followed Herakleios from Armenia and they came to plunder in the region of Media and in the territory of Azerbaijan.

     And when Ruzbihan heard that Herakleios had come, he hastened[55] to meet him at the river which is in the region of Assyria, which is called Zab.  And they fought a severe battle and they caused the Persians to flee.[56]  The majority of them were killed and Ruzbihan, the leader of the army was [also] killed.  And the Romans took possession of their dwelling places.

     And when King Khusro heard that his armies had been defeated, he fled from the capital city and left behind his stores and all of his treasures.  He was in a fortress, that is _____,[57] which he built to the east of Ctesphon, about a two hour’s journey.  Herakleios chased after him and he entered his fortress.  He seized and plundered everything that was there in the royal palaces.  And he set the fortress on fire[58] and plundered and destroyed all of Assyria.[59]

100 – Concerning the death of Khusro and the reign of his son.

     Shiroe, the son of Khusro, was imprisoned in Assyria by his father.  When he learned about the flight of his father from Herakleios, he went out from Assyria and chased after his father Khusro.  He killed him on the ninth of Shebat[60] and he succeeded him.  That Khusro reigned thirty-eight years.

     Herakleios the king, after his victory and [after] his plundering of the kingdom of Khusro,[61] he returned to pass the winter near Assyria in Armenia so that he could return to pursue Khusro.  He had still not heard[62] about his murder by his son.

     After Shiroe took the kingdom he sent word to inform Herakleios about the murder of his father and he made a peace treaty and agreement with him.  As a result, Herakleios took over all of the territories which at one time had belonged to the Romans.  The Persians would have to remain within their former borders and those who were [living][63] among them in the western territories would have to cross over to Persia.

     Shiroe [began] to reign over Persia in the nineteenth year of Herakleios and the seventh of Muhammad.[64]  At that time Herakleios marched from the east to go to Syria.  He sent Theodore, his brother, before him so that he might bring out the Persians who were dwelling in the cities according to the agreement which was made, first of all, between him and Shahrbaraz and later between him and Shiroe.

101 – Concerning the arrival of Theodore to Edessa.

     Theodore, the brother of the king, passed through the cities of Mesopotamia and he announced to the Persians who were living in them that they should depart and go out to their own territory.  They had also known ahead of time from the letters of Shahrbaraz[65] and of Shiroe about the peace treaty which was established between the Romans and the Persians.  When the king followed his brother,[66] he came and set Roman governors and garrison in the cities.

     When Theodore came to Edessa he explained to the Persians who were in it about what had happened and about the coming of the king, those Persians despised him and would not agree to his words.  They answered him: “We do not recognize[67] Shiroe and we will not surrender[68] the city to the Romans.  The Jews who were dwelling in Edessa were also standing with the Persians upon the city wall because they are the enemy of Christians and because they wanted to find favour with the Persians.[69]  They insulted the Romans and mocked Theodore and shouted bitter abuses at him.  Then Theodore waged a severe battle against the city and pressed it with shots from a catapult.  And when the Persians who were in the city were pressed they brought terms of a covenant to them so that they might go out and depart to their territory.  A Jewish man, whose name was Joseph, was afraid that his people might be destroyed.[70]  He hurled himself from the city wall and marched to Herakleios.  And he met him at Tella of Mauzelat and he entered to him and begged him, [trying to] persuade him that the folly of his people should be forgiven, for they had insulted his brother Theodore.  So he sent word to him not to take vengeance on them.  When Theodore entered Edessa and had authority over it and had brought out the Persians so that they might go to their territory, he sent word to assemble all the Jews who had insulted him.  And when he had begun to kill them and plunder their houses, suddenly Joseph the Jew came, carrying the letter of the king which commanded his brother not to molest them.[71]

102 – Concerning the coming of Herakleios to Edessa.

     Then Theodore marched from Edessa and crossed the Euphrates.  He came to Mabug[72] in order to bring out the Persians who were in Syria and Phoenicia.

     In those days king Herakleios came to Edessa and he stayed in the palace which is above the place of the source of the spring.  And when he went down one day to take the Eucharist in the Cathedral, he met Isaiah, the Metropolitan of the city.  Either from the great fervor of his zeal or, what is true to say, from his innocence and lack of training, he did not permit him to take the Eucharist.  He said, “If you do not anathematize in writing the Synod of Chalcedon and the Tome of Leo, I will not give you the Eucharist.”[73]  From that time forward that king became inflamed with rage.  He drove the bishop from the church and handed it over to the Chalcedonians, those who held to his confession.[74]

     During that time the  honoured nobles in Edessa were the family of the house of Ras9paye, the family of the house of Tellmah9raye, the family of the house of Qozma the son of Arabi, and the family of the house of Nalar.   As for them, the property – all of the gold, silver, the gardens, the millstones, the chambers, and the baths – had been granted to the Cathedral by them and their fathers.  But they were not able to stand against the command of the king.  They waited so that when the king went away and travelled to Byzantium,[75] they would return to the church with the Bishop and take it over.  But God – the [God] of vengeance, the one who rules over human kingdoms[76] on earth, who gives them to whomsoever he wills and he sets over it the humblest of people – when he saw that the measure of the sins of the Romans, who behaved with every manner of cruelty against our people and our churches and our profession was close to perishing, he stirred up, induced, and brought the descendants of Ishmael from the land of the south.  They were despised and worthless, that is to say, they were not well-known among the peoples of the earth.  But he obtained redemption for us by their hands and in this way we benefitted not a little because we were delivered from the tyrannical kingdom of the Romans.  We suffered harm[77] by the fact that the catholic churches[78] – which were taken away[79] from our people during the oppression of Herakleios and were handed over to the Chalcedonians, those who held to his confession – continued to remain in their possession up to the present time.  For when the cities accepted terms when they were taken by storm and were subjugated to the Arabs, [the Arabs] gave to each of the confessions whatever churches they found in their possession.[80]  And in this way the Cathedral of Edessa was taken away from the Orthodox and also that of Haran and, little by little, each one [was taken away] – [from] the west until Jerusalem.  All of the cities of Mesopotamia were delivered because persecution began from Edessa, as we have shown.

103 – Concerning the death of Shiroe and concerning the murder of his son and the reign of Sharbaraz.

     When Herakleios marched from Edessa, he crosses the Euphrates and went as far as Jerusalem.  And he went from [Jerusalem] to Antioch and from there he returned to Mabug.  Then Shiroe, the King of the Persians, died and his son, whose name was Ardashir, was made king.  And after he had ruled a short time, Shahrbaraz killed him and he reigned in his place.  And he confirmed the covenants and the oaths which had been established between him and the Romans and he wrote letters to the Persians who were in Egypt and Palestine so that they might depart and come down to Persia. So in the year nine hundred and forty-one, nineteen of Herakleios, and five of Muhammad, no one remained among the Persians who had not crossed over the Euphrates.  And war broke out in Persia and some were inclined towards Shahrbaraz and some were with Kardigan.

     Shahrbaraz sent word to Herakleios and he sent him a Roman army.  He waged war with Kardigan and killed him and the kingdom of the Persians remained with Shahrbaraz the king.  Therefore Herakleios desired from Shahrbaraz that they should return the cross of the crucifixion which was taken away from Jerusalem by him when he captured it in the sixth year of Herakleios.  So Shahrbaraz gladly returned the cross of the crucifixion with honoured nobles.  When they brought it, Herakleios was in Mabug.  Those who were carrying the cross came to him and he went out to meet it and received it with a procession.

     At that time the Patriarch Athanasius approached Herakleios when they brought it into Mabug.  He came to him with twelve bishops.  And look, we have written about this subject in the book of Ecclesiastical Subjects.

104 – Concerning the murder of Shahrbaraz and concerning the things which happened[81] in that time.

     In the year nine hundred and forty-two,[82] twenty of Herakleios, and nine of Muhammad, Shahrbaraz was killed by one of the relatives of Khusro.  Then Boram, the daughter of Khusro, ruled over the Persians a short time and then she died and Azarmidokht, her sister, ruled in her place.

     During this year Athanasius the Patriarch departed.[83]

     And after two years a tumult broke out among the Persian people, for some of them wanted to make Yazdgerd, the son of Khusro, king while others were pleased with a man whose name was Hormizd.  And Yazdgerd ,the boy, ruled with his sister Azarmidakht.

105 – Concerning the death of Muhammad, the leader and first king of the Muslims.

     In the year nine hundred and forty-three[84] and twenty-one of Herakleios, Muhammad, the king of the Arabs, died after he had governed the kingdom for ten years.  And he commanded at his death that Abu Bakr should reign over the Arabs, the one who was the father of his wife Aisha.  Now Muhammad was descended by his family from Ishmael the son of Abraham, to whom Hagar gave birth.  Now these are Ishmael’s sons:[85] the first-born, Nebaioth; Kedar, Adbeel,[86] Mibsam, Misma, Dumah,[87] Massa, Hadad,[88] Tema, Yetur,[89] Naphish, Kedemah, and Aqid.[90]  Now this Aqid brought forth Hemel; Hemel [brought forth] Salaman; Salaman [brought forth] Nabat; Nebat brought forth Hamisah; Hamisah brought forth Dod; Dod brought forth Od; Od brought forth Adin; Adin brought forth Maad; Maad brought forth Nazar; Nazar brought forth Rabiah; Rabiah brought forth Mourad; Mourad brought forth Elis; Elis brought forth Modrekah; Modrekah brought forth Kuzimah; Kuzimah brought forth Anan; Anan brought forth Nadar; Nadar brought forth Malak; Malak brought forth Pur; Pur brought forth Galab; Galab brought forth Luay; Luay brought forth Kaab; Kaab brought forth Kilab; Kilab brought forth Qusayy; Qussay brought forth Abd  Kalif; Abd Kalif brought forth Hashim; Hashim brought forth Abd Almuttalib; Abd Almuttalib brought forth Abdullah and his twelve other brothers.  And Abdullah brought forth Muhammad, the one who was the head and first king as he have mentioned.

106 – Concerning the reign of Abu Bakr.

     After the death of Muhammad Abu Bakr became king.  In the first year which he reigned he sent out the Arab armies, an army of thirty thousand, to the land of Syria so that they might conquer it.  And he placed four generals over them.  The first was Abu Ubaida, son of Jarrah, whose name was Amr son of Abudullah son of Jarrah.  The second general was Amr son of Saiid the son of As.  The third general was Shurhabil[91] son of Hassana.  The fourth general was Yazid son of Abu Sufyan.  And he sent with them an army of about twelve thousand Yemanites.  The leader of the Yemenites was Abu Alkulab.  And when the Arab armies went out from their city, Abu Bakr went out with them so that he might pass through them.  And he charged them saying, “When you enter that land, you shall not kill: not an old man, not a small boy, and not a woman.  You shall not bring a stylite down from his place.  You shall not harm the monks, for they have separated themselves to God in order to serve [him].  You shall not cut down trees and you  shall not devastate the agriculture.  You shall not tear apart the domestic animals: neither a heard nor a flock.  As for every city and people which receives you, establish a peace treaty [with them] and make promises to them.  Let them be governed according to their laws and according to the deeds which they had before our time.  Let them offer tribute according to the regulation which is established between you [and them].[92]  Let them remain in their confessions and in their territory.  As for those who do not receive you, wage war with them.  Conduct yourselves circumspectly by all of the upright commands and laws which were given to you by God through our prophet so that you might not anger God.”

107 – Concerning the things that the Arabs did when they went out and concerning the coming of Herakleios to Antioch.

     When the armies which were sent by Abu Bakr went out, they went on that desert road which is to the south of Damascus and he entered the region of Moab.  And when Herakleios heard, he sent word to assemble the armies of the Romans and the Christian Arabs to himself while he was in Damascus.  And he commanded and admonished them to guard the cities[93] and he sent them to attack the Arabs[94] in order to drive them away from the territory.  And Herakleios himself marched with a great army to Antioch.

     As for the four generals who were sent by Abu Bakr: the first, as we have said, went to the land of Moab and toward Palestine; the next one toward Egypt and Alexandria; the third against the Persians; and the next against the Arab Christians who were under the command of the Romans.

108 – Concerning the defeat of the Romans in Palestine before the Arabs.

     The general who came with the Arab Armies to Palestine was set in battle against Sergius, the Patrician, the one who had been in Caesarea of Palestine, [the one] to whom the city and the territory was entrusted by Herakleios.  When he became aware of the coming of the Arab Armies he gathered to himself the armies that were present and he sent for five thousand foot-soldiers from the people of Samaria so that his people might resist the attack of the Arab people.  When the Arabs heard of this  plan of Sergius, they assembled together and waited in ambush for the Romans so that they might attack them by a stratagem when they were not aware and destroy them.  While the Romans were travelling they came to the place where the Arab ambush had been set up[95]  – and they were still not aware of them.  [The foot-soldiers] asked Sergius the Patrician to allow them to rest a little from the labor and the exhaustion which the majority of the foot-soldiers were experiencing.[96]  The Patrician was not persuaded but, when he learned that the enemy[97] was near, he commanded that the horns should be sounded and that the drums should beat.  And they prepared themselves to attack them.  The Arabs armed themselves mightily and went out from the ambushes.  They came against them with shouting and great anger and attacked them.  They met the Samaritans first, those who had gone out first, and they were overpowered before the Arabs and all of the Samaritans were destroyed and perished.  And when the Patrician saw these things he retreated to a refuge so that he might be delivered from the sword.  And the Arabs chased after him and, like sickles to blades, they cut them down.  And Sergius the Patrician fell from his horse and those who followed him drew near to him and set him upon the horse.  And after he had remained awhile on the horse he fell a second time.  And those who were with him took[98] [him] and set him [on his horse again].  And after he had gone a little forward he fell on the ground a third time.  And when they were preparing to set him [upon the horse] again he said to them, “Leave me alone[99] and save yourselves.  Why should you and I drink the cup of death together?”  After they had left him and had departed from him a little while, those who were chasing him seized him violently and killed him in his place.  They likewise pursued and killed the Romans[100] until it was evening.  And none of them escaped except a few who hid themselves among trees, hedges, and vineyards and they entered Caesarea.

110[101] – Concerning the going up of Theodore, the brother of the king, against the Arabs.

     When Herakleios the king heard about the killing of Sergius the Patrician and also about the defeat of the Romans, including the Samaritans, he commanded Theodore his brother and [Theodore] gathered all of the Romans who were with him in Mesopotamia[102] and all those who were west of the Euphrates.  And when all of them were present together with him and the army became strong they proceeded to go out with eager pride and great haughtiness, relying upon the great number of men and the glory of the weapons, so that in every place where they camped they roused up exultation, joy, drinking, and music.  They thrust out the lip and shook the head saying, “What are the Arabs to us?  Are they not like dead dogs?”  And when they came to the district of Emessa, to the village of Gousit, a certain man, a Chalcedonian stylite, was standing upon a pillar.  Theodore approached him and fell into his society.  And after they had spoken many words to each other, that Stylite said to Theodore: “Do[103] you promise that when you return in peace and victory from the battle that you will blot out the Monophysites[104] and bring them low with a sentence of harsh judgments?”  Theodore the patrician answered him saying, “As for me, apart from these things which were sought by you, I resolved that I would deal with those Monophysites with persecutions and evil things.”  An orthodox servant, who was standing there -when he heard these things he burned zealously.  The reason why he was not able to speak was fear of the one who was the ruler.

     When they marched from there, they came in great pride and haughtiness to the place where the Arabs were encamped.  And they set up their camp in the vicinity of the camp of the Arabs and they waited, dwelling opposite each other.  And they threatened and were being threatened from the month of Iyar[105] till the former Tishrin.[106]  Then suddenly the sides were set against each other in battle array.  And after the first hour the Romans gathered their strength against the Arabs and the Arabs turned toward them.  [The Romans] shook to and fro and were afraid.  The heart of the Romans was broken and their hands were paralyzed.  So they turned their backs to flee but not even in flight were they able to escape because they had been deserted by divine providence.  They were trodden under foot by the foot-soldiers of their enemies and [their enemies] destroyed them with the sword.  No one escaped except Theodore, who escaped with a few.

     That man, the faithful servant whom we mentioned – when he saw Theodore before his eyes, whom terror had seized and darkness had bound, he took heart and said to him, “What do you say [now], O Theodore?  Where are the promises of that stylite which you made?  Well done!  Look!  You have returned with a good name and the news of the victory has been brought by you to the king!” Patricius heard but he did not answer.  So after the entire Roman army was destroyed Theodore fled to the king.  The Arabs returned to the camp, the tents, and all the fortifications of the Romans.  And they obtained gold, silver, splendid clothes, slaves, and female slaves without number.  And they increased in many riches and they abounded in possessions.


[1] I.e. the Seleucid Calendar, beginning in 311-310 BCE, thus 622/623 CE.

[2] Herakleios ruled from 610-641 C.E. (Dignas and Winter, Rome and Persia in Late Antiquity, 45).

[3] Khusro II ruled from 590-628 C.E. (Ibid., 42).

[4] Muhammad’s tribe.

[5] Modern Medina.

[6] Syr. ܛܝܝ̈ܐ.  This term was originally used for a particular Arab tribe, the Tay, but was then used to identify any Arab or Muslim.

[7] Syr.ܕܩܕ̈ܡܝܐ .  Substantivized masculine plural adjective meaning “ancient ones” and, thus, “ancestors”.

[8] Syr. ܕܐܡ̣ܪܢܢ.  Peal perfect 1cpl with a 1cpl enclitic independent personal pronoun joined to the end of the word.  This word forms a relative clause with the resumptive pronoun being unstated.

[9] Syr. ܒܢ̈ܝ ܫܪܒܬܗ.  “Son(s) of” is a common Semitic construction indicating membership in a particular class.

[10] Syr. ܣ݁ܐܡ ܗܘܐ.  This is a compound tense consisting of the peal msg active participle of the verb ܣܘܡ and the enclitic peal perfect 3msg of the verb ܗܘܐ, indicating repeated action in the past.  See Takamitsu Muraoka, Classical Syriac (2nd rev. ed.; Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2005), §86.

[11] Syr. ܕܐܫܬܪܬܚܘ.  Eshtaphal perfect 3mpl, of the verb ܪܬܚ,  meaning “to acquire opulence/power, to flourish exceedingly, to be made to abound, etc.”

[12] Syr. ܠܫܘܥܒܕܗ.  Lit. “to his subjection”.  The pronominal suffix is in an objective genitival relationship to the noun and is thus the agent of the verbal action.

[13] Syr. ܡܣ̈ܩܝ ܡܐܕܬܐ.  Lit. “the ones who carry up tribute”.  ܡܣ̈ܩܝ is an aphel active participle mpl in the construct state from the verb ܣܠܩ.

[14] Syr. ܒܨܝܪ ܩܠܝܠ.  Msg passive participle of the verb ܒܨܪ (to take away) plus the adjective ܩܠܝܠ (little).  This idiom means “almost,” “partly,” or “about”.

[15] I.e. the Byzantines.

[16] Lit. “beneath their hands,” referring to the power of the Muslims.

[17] Syr. ܕܢܘܕܘܢ.  Aphel imperfect 3mpl of the verb ܝܕܐ.

[18] I.e. the stories about Jesus.

[19] The word “himself” has been added to the translation above to highlight the contrast between belief in Christ as a miracle-worker and belief in Christ as one who was crucified.  The Muslims believed that Christ healed and gave life to the dead so he was not able to be killed..

[20] For a chart summarizing Muslim views of the crucifixion of Jesus see Martin Bauschke, Stein des Anstoßes: Die Christologie des Korans und die deutsch-sprachige Theologie (Köln: Böhlau, 2000), 172.  The views summarized in this chart are based on various interpretations of Sūra 4.157

[21] Syr. ܐܝܬܘܗܝ.

[22] Syr. ܘܥܬܝܕ ܕܢܐܬܐ.  ܥܬܝܕ is the Peal passive participle of the verb ܥܬܕ and it is used to express the future tense.

[23] Syr. ܡܬܪܓܫܢܐ.  “That which is perceptible to the senses.” It may also be translated by the word “visible”.

[24] Syr. ܥܒܝܐ.  This word can simply mean “material” but it usually has a negative connotation, as the following context suggests.

[25] I could not find these words in Brockelmann or the large version of Payne Smith.  They must be adjectives describing the material out of which the carpets were made.

[26] I.e. a woman who is not a slave.

[27] Syr. ܩܛܝܪܐܝܬ ܡܢ ܐܢܢܩܝ.  Lit. “necessarily from necessity.”

[28] Syr. ܡܦܣ ܠܗܘܢ.  Lit. “it is permitted to them.”

[29] Lit. “this” but English idiom require the use of the remote demonstrative pronoun.

[30] Syriac is plural.

[31] This series begins with the partitive use of the preposition ܡܢ.

[32] Syr. ܠܒܝܬ ܦܖ̈ܣܝܐ.  Lit. “house of Persia.”  ܒܝܬ is often used in Syriac denote the land of particular peoples.

[33] Syr. ܩܡܠܐܘܢ = ܩܡ̈ܠܐ.

[34] Syr. ܕܗܝ̈ܟܠܐ.

[35] Syr. ܒܐܡܐ = ܒܝܡܐ.

[36] Compare the Chronicle of Theophanes Confessor and “the Roman Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars”

[37] 628 C.E.  See introduction.

[38] Military commander on the border regions of the Sassanid Empire.

[39] Syr. ܚܕ ܚܕ ܫܘܩܐ.

[40] Near Baghdad, the royal seat of Khusro II.

[41] See J. B. Segal, Edessa, 154, 203.

[42] 626 C.E.

[43] This sentence, as well as the previous sentence in the Syriac text, begins with the word ܘܟܕ, which seems to be introducing a parenthetical clause.  For Herakleios’ presence in Constantinople during the siege see the introduction.

[44] Syr. ܐܬܐܟܠܘ ܩܪ̈ܨܘܗ ܕܫܗܪܒܪܙ.  Lit. “The broken morsels of Shahrbaraz were eaten.”  This is an idiomatic expression meaning “to slander”.  Cf. Daniel 3:8 (וַאֲכַלוּ קַרְצֵיהוֹן).  The same idiom is also used in Akkadian (kars9ī x akālum).

[45] Syr. ܡܫܩܠܐ ܘܒܝܫ ܕܘܒܪܐ.  ܕܘܒܪܐ may refer to a person’s manner of life.

[46] Syr. ܟܕ ܠܐ ܐܪܓܫ.  Lit. “without making it known.”

[47] Syr. ܟܡ̈ܐܢܐ.  Lit. “those lying in wait” or “ambushes”.  “Pickets” is an appropriate translation because it is the normal practice of armies to post pickets in ambush to prevent people from entering or leaving the place they are besieging.

[48] Syr. ܠܥܠܬܐ ܕܡܛܠܬܗ̇ ܐܫܬܕܪ.  Lit. “the occasion because of which he was sent.”

[49] Syr. ܘܦܠܚ ܚܘܫܒܐ.  Lit. “Made a thought”.

[50] Syr. ܨܢܥܬܐ ܕܚܪܥܘܬܐ ܫܦܝܪܬܐ.  Lit. “a good stratagem of cunning”.  The word “cunning” stands in an attributive genitival relationship to the “stratagem”.  “Good” is an attributive adjective modifying “stratagem”.  Thus “good and cunning stratagem”.

[51] Syr. ܘܫܪܬ̇ ܒܝܢܬܗܘܢ.  Lit. “It was established among them.”

[52] Syr. ܥܠ ܐܒܕܢܗ ܕܟܣܪܘ.  Lit. “against the destruction of Khusro.”  “Khusro” is in an subjective genitival relationship to “destruction”.  In other words, Khusro is the agent of the verbal idea conveyed by the noun.

[53] Syr. ܡܠܟܐ.

[54] See Dingas and Winter, Rome and Persia in Late Antiquity, 46.

[55] Syr. ܣܪܗܒ.  This is the Saphel perfect, 3msg, of ܪܗܒ.

[56] Syr. ܘܐܦܢܝܘ ܚܨܐ ܦܪ̈ܣܝܐ.  Lit. “they caused the Persians to turn the back.”

[57] Syr. ܣܩܪܬܐ.  The only definition in the standard dictionaries is “red paint” but the context would seem to suggest some sort of fortress.

[58] Syr. ܘܠܚܣܢܐ ܐܘܩܕܗ ܒܢܘܪܐ.  Lit. “and he set the fortress on fire with fire.”

[59] Syr. ܒܝܬ ܐܪ̈ܡܝܐ.

[60] The month from the new moon of February to the new moon of March.

[61] Syr. ܘܒܙܬܐ ܕܡܠܟܘܬܗ ܕܟܣܪܘ.  Lit. “and the plundering of the kingdom of Khusro.”

[62] Syr. ܫܡܝܥ ܗܘܐ ܠܗ.  Lit. “It was not heard by him.”

[63] Syr. ܕܐܝܬ ܗܘܐ ܡܢܗܘܢ ܒܐܬܪ̈ܘܬܐ ܕܡܥܪܒܐ.  Lit. “who had been among them in the territories of the west.”

[64] 628-629 C.E.

[65] See section 103 below.

[66] Lit. “in the footsteps of his brother.”

[67] Syr. ܠܐ ܝ̇ܕܥܝܢܢ.  This is a compound tense formed with the masculine plural active participle of the verb ܝܕܥ and the personal pronoun ܚܢܢ suffixed to the word.  This construction is used to form the simple present.

[68] Syr. ܠܐ ܡܫܠܡܝܢܢ.  See the previous footnote.  I have translated this construction as a future for the sake of English idiom.

[69] Syr. ܘܕܢܫܬܦܪܘܢ ܠܦܪ̈ܣܝܐ.  Lit. “and so that they might be pleasing to the Persians.”

[70] Syr. ܕܚܠ ܥܠ ܐܒܕܢܐ ܕܒܢ̈ܝ ܥܡܗ.  Lit. “He feared about the destruction of the sons of his people.”  “Sons of his people” simple refers to the Jews who were living in Edessa.  They are the recipients of the verbal idea communicated by the noun “destruction” (it is in an objective genitival relationship to the word “destruction”) so the phrase may be translated as it is above in order to make this more explicit.

[71] Cf. Segal, Edessa, 103-104.

[72] Modern Manbij in Syria.

[73] J. B. Segal, Edessa: ‘The Blessed City,’ 99.

[74] Syr. ܒܢ̈ܝ ܬܘܕܝ̇ܬܗ.  Lit. “the sons of his confession.”

[75] Syr. ܠܒܝܬ ܪ̈ܘܡܝܐ.  This phrase, literally “the house of the Romans,” refers to the “land of the Romans,” in other words, Byzantium.

[76] I have translated the singular noun ܡܠܟܘܬܐ as a plural to emphasize the proverbial nature of this section.  This section is taken from the book of Daniel.

[77] Syr. ܐܙܕܡܝܢܢ.  I could not find this word in the dictionary but the root is evidently ܙܡܝ.  The closest word that I could find in the dictionary was the word ܙܝܡܝܐ, which comes from the Greek word zhmi&a, meaning “harm, injury, misfortune.”  This leads me to believe that the Greek word from which the verb in question is derived is zhmio&w, which means “to punish, fine”.  The verb in question would then be a Ethpeal perfect 1cpl plus the 1cpl personal pronoun.

[78] I.e. the cathedral churches.

[79] Syr. ܕܬܢܣܒ̈ܝܢ.  This particular form occurs several times in the following context.  The ending is a rare form of the 3fpl perfect.  See Muraoka §44.

[80] Syr. ܒܐܝܕ̈ܝܗ̇.  Lit. “in its hands,” emphasizing the possessions of the individual confessions.

[81] Syr. ܕܓܕ̈ܫܝ.  This is another rare form of the 3fpl perfect.  See Muraoka, §44.

[82] 640 C.E.

[83] I.e. he died.

[84] 631 C.E.

[85] See Genesis 25:12-15.  I have followed the renderings of these names in the Hebrew Bible.  Differences in spelling in this chronicle are also reflected in the Peshitta.

[86] Syr.ܐܪܒܠ.

[87] Syr. ܪܘܡܐ.

[88] Syr. ܚܕܪ.

[89] Syr. ܢܛܘܪ.

[90] This name is neither found in the Hebrew Bible nor in the Peshitta.

[91] Syr. ܫܪܚܒܫ.  The note in Chabot’s edition says to read ܫܪܚܒܝܠ.

[92] Syr. ܒܝܢܬܟܘܢ.

[93] Syr. ܠܢܛܘܪܬܐ ܕܡܕܝ̈ܢܬܐ.  Lit. “for the keeping of the cities.”

[94] Syr. ܠܐܘܪܥܐ ܕܛܝ̈ܝܐ.  Lit. “for the attacking/meeting of the Arabs.”

[95] Syr. ܘܐܬܘ ܠܕܘܟܬܐ ܐܝܕܐ ܕܒܗ̇ ܐܝܬܘܗܝ ܗܘܐ ܟܡܐܢܐ ܕܛܝ̈ܝܐ.  Lit. “They came to the place in which the ambush of the Arabs was.”

[96] Syr. ܡܢ ܥܡܠܐ ܘܛܘܪܦܐ ܒܗ̇ܝ ܕܣܘܓܐܗܘܢ ܪ̈ܓܠܝܐ ܐܬܝܗܘܢ ܗܘܘ.  Lit. “from the labor and exhaustion in which the majority of the foot-soldiers were.”

[97] Syr. ܒܥ̈ܠܕܒܒܐ.  Lit. “the enemies”.

[98] Syr. ܐܬܠܒܟܘ.  Payne Smith only provides passive meanings for this verb but the context would seem to require an active meaning.

[99] Syr. ܫܘܒܩܘܢܝ.  This is a peal imperative 2mpl with a 1csg pronominal suffix.

[100] Syr. ܒܪ̈ܘܡܝܐ.  The preposition indicates the sphere in which the killing took place, i.e. “among the Romans,” but it may be left untranslated.

[101] The text skips from section 108 to section 110.

[102] Syr. ܓܙܝܪܬܐ.  This word means “island” or “enclosed space” and, according to Brockelmann’s Syriac lexicon, is another word for Mesopotamia.

[103] As in Hebrew, questions may be introduced by the word “if”, similar to the use of the word “ob” in German to ask questions.

[104] Syr. ܒܝܬ ܣܐܘܝܪܐ.  This expression refers to the followers of Severus.

[105] May.

[106] October.