More from the Chronicle of Zuqnin

A couple of days ago I wrote a post on this 8th century Syriac world chronicle.  Someone was suggesting that it is one of the earlier Christian referrences to Mohammed, although this looks doubtful.

Part IV, which starts just before the Moslem period, is online with French translation here:

although unless you’re in the US, Google show you only the snippet view. p.4-5 of the French mention Mohammed, although this can hardly be an early mention. (p. 51 of the PDF).  Here’s the opening section of part IV of the Chronicle of Zuqnin, from the French of Chabot.  The dates are in Years of the Greeks (Anno Graecorum), but Chabot has added AD to them.

This chronicle begins with the origin of the world and runs until the birth of Abraham and the kingdom of Ninus who founded Nineveh and reigned fifty-two years. But the patriarch Abraham was born in the forty-second year of the reign of Ninus, according to the testimony of Eusebius from whom we have borrowed the materials of this history until the times of the faithful Emperor Constantine.

From that time, until Theodosius the Younger, we followed the Novatian Socrates.

From the Emperor Theodosius to Justinian, that is to say until the year 885 of the Greeks, we have been guided by John, bishop of Asia.

From that time until the year in which we are now, that is to say the year 1086 of Alexander, 158 of the Hegira, we have found no-one who, like the ancient writers, has carefully described the history and the cruel disasters that occurred in the time of our fathers or our own, including the storm of tribulation that we have suffered because of our sins when we were delivered into the hands of the Assyrians and Barbarians.

However, to preserve the memory of those calamitous times and the cruel affliction that the earth has suffered today from the Assyrians – whom the prophet means when he says: “Assyria is the rod of my fury, the stick of my indignation is in their hands, I will send them to a deceiving nation and give them orders affecting the people of my vengeance,”– we have made known the rod, the stick of the Lord, which he has delivered to Assur to punish the earth, and which has even appeared in the sky for several days. Perhaps those who come after us will tremble, will fear the Lord, and walk before him in justice, lest they themselves come as we are into the hands of this rapacious wolf.

It is written: “Tell your son,” and again: “Ask your father and he shall teach you; ask your ancestors and they will tell you.” Now, after we travelled through many countries and did not find an accurate history of events but only the annotation of some particular facts, we formed the plan to unite in order in one book the things we have learned from elderly eyewitnesses or which we have seen ourselves. Whoever finds [this book] and looks with contempt should know that these so various events did not take place in one place or in one kingdom, nor in a single region. If then he meets another chronicle that does not agree with this, let him remember that earlier writers themselves do not agree among themselves, but one minimises, another exaggerates, one writing on ecclesiastical history, another on other topics.

It matters little to wise and God-fearing men [to know] whether an event happened a year or two earlier or later, but it suffices to know the punishments of past generations so as to distance themselves from inequity for fear of attracting the same troubles.

Take care of yourself and fear the Lord your God, lest he send these afflictions on you.

We will begin in the year 898.

Year 898, the emperor Justinian died and Justinian IV reigned with Tiberius Caesar.

Year 901 (589-590), Justinian died and Tiberius reigned alone.

Year 902 (590-591), the holy patriarch of Antioch, Peter, died.

Year 905 (593-594), Tiberius died. He had for successor Maurice, who reigned eight years.

Year 912 (600-601), in the middle of the day there was great darkness: the stars rose and appeared as during the night. They remained around three hours, after which the darkness disappeared and the day shone as before. – This year Maurice died. Another Maurice and Theodosius reigned for twelve years.

Year 914 (602-003), Narses, the general of the Persians, captured Edessa. After entering the city, he had the bishop Severus seized and stoned, who died in his surplice.

Year 915(603-604), holy Athanasius was made patriarch of Antioch.

Year 916 (604•605), Edessa was taken.

Year 923 (611-612), Maurice was put to death with Theodosius, his son, and Phocas reigned eight years.

Year 928 (616-617). The emperor Phocas ordered that all the Jews living under his dominion should receive baptism. He sent the prefect George to Jerusalem and into all of Palestine to constrain them to receive baptism. The latter came down [into the country] and gathered all the Jews of Jerusalem and its environs. The principals among them came into his presence. He challenged them, “Are you the servants of the emperor?” – “Yes”, they replied. He responded, “The lord of the earth has ordered that you should be baptised.” – They kept silent and didn’t reply a word. The prefect demanded of them, “Why don’t you say anything ?” One of the principals among them, named Jonas, replied, “We will consent to do everything that the lord of the earth has ordered ; but the present thing we cannot do, because the time of holy baptism has still not come.” The prefect, hearing these words, went into a violent rage; he got up, struck Jonas in the face, and said to him, “If you are servants, why don’t you obey your master?” Then he ordered them to be baptised and forced them all, willing or not, to receive baptism.

At that time James the Jew, Athanasius, patriarch of Antioch, John, bishop of the Arabs, Simeon, [bishop] of Harran, and Cyriacus [bishop] of Amida, were famous.

Year 932(620-621) The Arabs captured Palestine and [the whole region] as far as the great river Euphrates. The Romans retreated and passed into the eastern region of the Euphrates, of which the Arabs also made themselves masters.

These had as their first king one of them named Mohammed, whom they called the Prophet, because he had diverted them from various religions, had taught the existence of one God, Creator of the Universe and given them laws, when they were addicted to the worship of demons and the worship of idols, especially trees. Because he taught them the unity of God, under his leadership they triumphed over the Romans, and as he gave them laws according to their desires, they called him Prophet and Messenger of God also. The people were very sensual and carnal. They despised and rejected any legislation that did not aim at the satisfaction of their desires, that they had been given by either Mohammad or any other God-fearing man, but they received ones that were to the satisfaction of their will and their desires, even when it was imposed upon them by the vilest of them. They said: “It has been established by the Prophet and Messenger of God,” and even “So God commanded him. ”

Mohammed governed them for seven years.

Year 933 (621-622), the emperor of the Romans, Phocas, died, and Heraclius reigned in his place for thirty-one years.

Year 934 (622-623), Mar Cyriacus, bishop of Amida, died, he had Mar Thomas for successor.

Year 937 (625-626), the stars of the sky spun about and headed northwards, like ????. They gave the Romans a terrible omen of defeat and the invasion of their lands by the Arabs, which in fact came about very shortly afterwards, and without delay.

Year 938 (626-627), the king of the Arabs died, i.e. their prophet, Mohammed, and Abubekr reigned over them for five years.

Year 940 (628), the emperor of the Romans, Heraclius, began to construct the great church of Amida.


4 thoughts on “More from the Chronicle of Zuqnin

  1. “Year 937 (625-626), the stars of the sky spun about and headed northwards, like…”

    Perhaps “like arrows,” unless you’ve already seen that and concluded otherwise.

    Don’t know what this might have been, but the eclipse of 10 March 601 A.D. seems to match the three hours’ darkness of 901.

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