John bar Penkaye

From Encyclopedia of Syriac Literature
Jump to navigationJump to search

John or Iohannan bar Penkaye was an East Syriac (Nestorian) writer of the late 7th century. His surname indicates that his parents came from Fenek, on the Tigris (east of Tur Abdin). He was a monk at the monastery of Mar John of Kamul, and later at the monastery of Mar Bassima. Later writers confuse him with John Saba (John of Dalyatha). [1]


A number of his works have come down to us. Most of them have never been published and are extant only in manuscripts.

Ktaba d-rish melle or Summary history of the world

This is in 15 books. (ET, FT of book 15).

  • Books 1-4 cover from creation to Herod the Great
  • Book 5 is on demons
  • Book 6-8 are largely on typology in the Old Testament
  • Book 9 is about the cults of pagan people. It includes important information on Zoroastrianism.
  • Books 10-13 are on the life of Christ, and of his disciples.
  • Book 14 covers history from there up to the Arab conquest.
  • Book 15 covers the period to the last decades of the 7th century, and so is contemporary. Few such sources are known.


  • Addai Scher, Notice sur la vie et les oeuvres de Yohannan bar Penkaye, Journal Asiatique, ser. 10. vol. 10 (1907), p.161-178. Available online from (search for Journal Asiatique).


  1. S. Brock, A brief outline of Syriac Literature, Moran Etho 9, Kottayam, Kerala: SEERI (1997), pp.56-57