Barhadbeshabba of Halwan

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Barhadbeshabba of Halwan was an East Syriac writer of the early 7th century. He was bishop of Halwan (=Holwan), and a signatory of the synod of the Catholicos Gregory in 605. He is possibly the same as Barhadbeshabba `Arbaya, although they are usually distinguished.[1]

Life and work

Barhadbeshabba studied under Henana, in the School of Nisibis. During his time at the school (and sometime after 581) he composed the Cause of the Foundation of the Schools, a history of the Schools of Edessa and Nisibis that begins with a treatment of epistemology and is grounded in a survey of earlier educational establishments in the Bible, Greece, Egypt, and Persia.

The history concludes with the headship of Henana (ca.572-ca. 610), whom Barhadbeshabba views favorably. The Anonymous Chronicle edited by I. Guidi describes Barhadbeshabba as "famous for writing books" (p. 22).

After becoming Bp. of Holwan in the mountains N.E. of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, Barhadbeshabba attended the synod called by the newly elected Catholicos Gregory in 605 and was a signatory of the canons formulated there (Synodicon Orientale, 471-9).

Identity with Barhadbeshabba `Arbaya?

Many have identified Barhadbeshabba with his namesake, Barhadbeshabba `Arbaya, who was a teacher at the School of Nisibis during the time of Henana. It is possible that a Barhadbeshabba from the region of Beth Arbaye came to Nisibis and was eventually consecrated Bp. of Holwan, in which case the two are actually one and the same person, as some scholars believe. Several manuscripts identify the author of Foundation of the Schools as Barhadbeshabba `Arbaya, even though 'Abdisho bar Brika, Catalogue of Syriac Writers makes no such connection, omitting any mention of Foundation or of Barhadbeshabba of Holwan per se. Their identification is supported by their contemporaneity, their mutual connection to Nisibis and Henana, the common subject matter of their surviving works, and the lack of positive evidence to the contrary, though it is far from certain that they are one and the same person.


  • BibOr. 3.1.169
  • Cause de la fondation des ecoles, ed. with French translation by A. Scher, PO 4 (1907) 317-404
  • L'histoire de Barhadbsabba 'Arbaya, ed. with French translation by F. Nau, PO 9 (1913), 489-677; 23 (1932), 179-343
  • Synodicon Orientale ou recueil de synodes nestoriens, ed. J. B. Chabot (1902), 471-9
  • Chronicum anonymum, ed. I. Guidi, in Chronica minora I (CSCO 1; 1903)
  • A. Baumstark, Geschichte der syrischen Literatur (1922),136
  • A. Voobus, History of the School of Nisibis (CSCO 266; 1965) 280-2, 294-6
  • J. M. Fiey, Jalons pour une histoire de l'Eglise en Iraq (CSCO 310; 1970), 25-6.
  • Addai Ibrahim Scher (ed), Cause de la fondation des ecoles / Barhadbsabba 'Arbaya, Eveque de Halwan (VIe siecle) ; texte syriaque publie et traduit par Addai Scher. Turnhout, Belgium : Editions Brepols (1971).


  1. The majority of this article is material by Jeff W. Childers.