Life of Mar Aba – chapter 29

29.  On the morning of the (following) day, when the blessed one in the company of the Christians went to the court in order to thank the King of Kings, the aforementioned magians sought for a way to kill him.  They were afraid to seize him openly on account of the number of believers accompanying him, in case there should be an uproar when they approached him, and decided to send the Rad and the Ainbed to arrest him secretly.  That day there was heavy rain, and so they went into the hunting lodge at a place called the Birdhouse, near the (palace of) the King of Kings.  The magians send to him, as if they wanted to speak to him.  After he entered, they closed the door so that no-one could follow him and said to the blessed one: “Ever since you became a Christian, you have converted many magians into Christians, and you cannot be allowed to live (longer).”  Some said, “He should be thrown to the lions.”  Some said, “He should be strangled.” Others said, “We’ll throw him into a well so that he dies there, without the Christians knowing.”

This seems more like standard hagiographical material to me.  The author has already made clear that the King of Kings is not in favour of extreme measures, and the Magians would certainly not proceed in this way — as has already been seen — without his approval.  So I suspect this chapter is fiction.

But it is hard to tell.  How can we extract useful historical information from texts of this kind, in some kind of structured and objective way? 

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