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Bardesanes

At a Glance
Treatise
Genre:
(2/5) **
Reliability of Dating:
(2/5) **
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Greek
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Ancient Translations:
Modern Translations:

Estimated Range of Dating: 180-220 A.D.

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Information on Bardesanes

Eusebius of Caesarea writes of Bardesanes (H. E. 4.30):

In the same reign, as heresies were abounding in the region between the rivers, a certain Bardesanes, a most able man and a most skillful disputant in the Syriac tongue, having composed dialogues against Marcion's followers and against certain others who were authors of various opinions, committed them to writing in his own language, together with many other works. His pupils, of whom he had very many (for he was a powerful defender of the faith), translated these productions from the Syriac into Greek. Among them there is also his most able dialogue On Fate, addressed to Antoninus, and other works which they say he wrote on occasion of the persecution which arose at that time. He indeed was at first a follower of Valentinus, but afterward, having rejected his teaching and having refuted most of his fictions, he fancied that he had come over to the more correct opinion. Nevertheless he did not entirely wash off the filth of the old heresy. About this time also Soter, bishop of the church of Rome, departed this life.

J. Quasten writes (Patrology, vol. 1, pp. 263-264):

While all other writings perished, the dialogue Concerning Fate or Book of the Laws of the Countries, which Eusebius mentions, survived in its original Syriac. The author, however, is not Bardesanes but his disciple Philip, although Bardesanes is the chief speaker in the dialogue, who answers the questions and problems of his followers regarding the characters of men and the position of the stars. According to Ephrem the Syrian Bardesanes is the creator of Syrian hymnody, because he composed one hundred and fifty hymns in order to spread his doctrine. His success was so tremendous that Ephrem in the second half of the fourth century had to combat this sect of Bardesanes by composing hymns himself. Some scholars were of the opinion that the beautiful poem, The Hymn of the Soul, in the apocryphal Acts of Thomas (cf. above, page 139) was composed by Bardesanes. But this remains very doubtful, especially since the contents of this famous hymn do not show any sign of Bardesanian Gnosis. The Arab Ibn Abi Jakub in his list of sciences entitled Fihrist from the end of the tenth century attributes to Bardesanes three other writings, of which one dealt with Light and Darkness, a second with The Spiritual Nature of Truth, and a third with The Movable and the Immovable.

The Syriac text with English translation of Concerning Fate was published by W. Cureton in Spicilegium Syriacum in 1855. Please contact me if you have access to this work.

Bardesanes was born in 154 CE, became a Christian c. 180 CE, and died in 222/223 CE.

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