Life of Mar Aba – chapter 22

22. Then the blessed one came to the village which is the centre of magianism.  When he came to them, they said, “It has never happened, that a Christian came into this village and spent the night here.  But now the leader of the Christians has been sent to us, so that we give him a house and he live with us.”  Those who were gathered there from the various provinces were at once angry, and boasted at once, “We will dispute with him and convert him to magianism.”  But God altered their feeling against him, and they came to greet him. And when they heard the divine wisdom that was in him, they came constantly with their arguments to him and disputed with the holy one, and through God’s grace he dissolved their objections, countered their reasonings and refuted their errors.  Often also they sought to kill him; but God limited their wickedness and confined them to peace.  When they stopped disputing with him and just asked him about God and the world, good and evil, the resurrection, the judgement to come and the life ever after in Christ, the Master spoke with them and taught them about all this.  They marvelled at his spirit-filled words and closeness to God.  Some disputed about this with each other, some with their teachers.  Also many magians came from other places, to hear the teaching of the Master and to see how he behaved.  For everywhere they called him the god of the place because of his spirit-filled teaching, his compassion for the poor and his care for the sick.  But he had no financial dealings with any of them, and although the local Rad and the gentleman of the place said that he might satisfy his needs from them, he would not do so.  Many believed in him.  For thus did God turn their evil into good.


10 thoughts on “Life of Mar Aba – chapter 22

  1. It’s normal for Roger to be digitizing or translating things. He’s got a whole website full of patristic literature and other literature involved with early Christianity. What’s wrong with him doing a bit of it on his blog?

    You don’t have to agree with it; you don’t even have to read it. It’s a blog project, on a blog full of all sorts of postings on all sorts of topics. Skip all the bits you don’t like, and read the bits you do.

  2. Thank you for your query, Kinship. I’m sorry if it puts you off. Perhaps others will be wondering this also. Can I ask what you look for here? (It’s mostly historical or patristic stuff here, with some things on free speech, and some on Christian things)

    The truth is that I have nothing to do at work (long political story), and I am trying to stop myself going insane. A chapter or two of Mar Aba fills the gap from time to time.

    At the same time, I came across this Syriac text which is really important for historical purposes. It’s the major source for how the Persian kings changed their attitude to their Christian minority in the mid-to-late 6th century. Previously they just persecuted them for not being Zoroastrians. But by 550 there were so many that the King of Kings suddenly realised that they were not going to go away, and that a new approach was needed. And the evidence of it appears here.

    The other reason I did it was that someone said that chapter 3 contained evidence that Marcionite heretics were known as “Christians” in that area, while Christians were called something else. It does say this; but then it’s used as evidence for things in the 2nd century, whereas it’s clearly not written much before 600 AD. My thought was to make the text available. As Maureen says, that’s what I do.

  3. Sorry, perhaps I didn’t make clear that no English translation exists of the life of Mar Aba. I’m making one. That’s what each post is; a chapter as I do it.

  4. @Roger–thanks for the explanation and now it gives me a reason to read what you are doing. it makes sense now. I have put a link to your website on mine as I have liked your work in the past, I just didn’t want to be put off by the lack of the purpose of your work.

    Now one question, why do you call the persian king, king of kings?

  5. That’s the title the text gives for the chap. I imagine it’s what they called themselves. Modesty isn’t the thing, if you’re an oriental potentate. 🙂

  6. Probably not. I was just curious. I will try to find time to read your translation now that I have a better idea of what you are doing.

  7. What struck me about this story is how similar in form it is with many such stories from earlier centuries, except for one point: here, no obvious show of power, it’s all in the debate. As MacMullen and others have taught us to look for, demonstrations of power are staples of mission and conversion stories (even the Book of Acts).

    Not having read more than this chapter (and for the project, my thanks, esp. for the note about the old Bauer claim, if that’s what you mean), for all I know, the other chapters fill in such stuff. But I imagine that the balance of what counts as convincing (mien & aspect; words; powers; steadfastness in torture; &c.) will say a lot about the background of and audience for this text.

  8. I think we have to be cautious in several directions.

    Some similarities are inevitable, in the way that all biographies have similarities because human lives tend to go in a similar direction.

    But then there are the similarities that indicate a stock story is being told once again and that there is nothing historical in all this. This is the curse of hagiography, of course.

    This particular chapter is mainly hagiographical, if I’m any judge.

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