Life of Mar Aba – chapters 3 and 4

More from the Life of the Nestorian patriarch, Mar Aba I, ca. 550 AD.  The anonymous biographer has already explained that Mar Aba was originally a Persian pagan who held a senior administrative post.

3.  When the blessed one looked at the habit (σχῆμα), which was chaste and (not) colourful (?), he became doubtful whether he was perhaps not a Son of the Covenant, but a Marcionite or a Jew, and he asked him, “Are you a Jew?”  He said, “Yes”. Again he spoke, “Are you a Christian?” He said, “Yes”.  Again he spoke, “Do you worship the Messiah?” He said, “Yes”. 

The blessed one was very angry at this answer by the student and said, “How can you be Jew, Christian and Messianist (meschîchâjâ) ?”  For by “Christian” he meant, after the local custom, the Marcionites. 

The student said, “In private I am a Jew.  I worship the living God and believe in his Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit.  I avoid idolatry and all uncleanness.  I am a Christian in truth, not like those the Marcionites lead astray and call themselves Christians.  Because “Christian” is a Greek word, which means in Syriac “Messianist”.  And if you ask me, “Do you worship the messiah?”, I worship him in truth and I avoid all evil for the sake of true life.”

 4.  When the blessed one heard this, he rejoiced in his spirit.  He recognised the wisdom and humility of the student, the disciple of Christ.  Again he got into the boat and sat down, and the student also got on.  And since the blessed one stopped despising the student, the wind also ceased; the waves of the Tigris calmed; they went across and came ashore.  As both  got out, the student said, “What did it cost you, that I came across with you?”  The blessed one wondered at his calm, and very much regretted insulting him.  He went to him and fell down before him, and said, “I ask you by the living and true God, forgive me for this sin committed against you.”  The student said, “The Lord has commanded us Christians, to retain anger against no-one, and never to return evil for evil.”  Then they drew near each other, greeted one another, and parted.


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