Life of Mar Aba – chapter 30

Here is another chapter of the 6th century hagiographical life of the East Syriac patriarch, Mar Aba I. 

The text is valuable as it was clearly written in the Persian realm, and with knowledge of the political change going on in the mid-6th century.  This is the period in which the Sassanid monarchs begin to see the Nestorian Christians as a possible counter-balance to the power of the Zoroastrian clergy, rather than as alien intruders.  The anti-heretical policies of Justinian, where Mar Aba himself had had to flee from Constantinople, facilitated this change.  

The Magians were always a threat to any ruler on the Persian throne, and Chosroes II can have had no objection to entangling them in endless religious disputes instead.  When Mar Aba died, the same Persian ruler promptly appointed his own man as patriarch rather than allowing an election.

Mar Aba has been in exile.  He has returned, after an assassination attempt, and is now engaged in a political battle at court with the Magians.  The latter are determined to have him executed on one pretext or another if they can; but the King of Kings blows hot and cold on each of their initiatives.

30.  While they devised these things, the Christian people came up and went about everywhere in the belief that he had been crowned[1], or that he was about to be crowned.  But God in his mercy delivered him from their hands.  By his secret work he inspired one of the great men of the empire to stand up before the King and say, “King of Kings, best of men, may you live in eternity and may your majesty reign forever.  The Christian people who are in your empire are a strong, great people, an innumerable multitude, and also useful for the service of the government.  If this man, their leader, is put to death, it injures them greatly and your empire suffers no small damage.”  When the King of Kings in his benevolence heard this from this man, it pleased him and his whole court, so that they would not hear the petition (τάγμα) of the Magians, and he ordered that the holy one of Christ must not be killed.

We need not doubt that the unnamed noble spoke what he knew the King already wanted to have said in public.

  1. [1]I.e. martyred.

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