John bar Penkaye

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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.

Ktâbâ d-rêš mellê 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.<ref name="BrockOutline">


  • 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).
  • S. P. Brock, (book 15), Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam, 9 (1987), reprinted in Studies in Syriac Christianity (1992), chapter 2. <ref name="BrockOutline">
  • Hubert Kaufhold, Anmerkungen zur Textüberlieferung der Chronik des Johannes bar Penkaye, Oriens christianus 87 (2003) pp.65-79. (Reference found on the web)
  • Jean-Louis Simonet, Les citations des Actes des Apôtres dans les chapitres édités du Ketaba deres melle de Jean Bar Penkaye, Le Muséon: Revue d'Études Orientales (ISSN 0771-6494) vol. 114 (2001) pp.97-119.


  1. S. Brock, A brief outline of Syriac Literature, Moran Etho 9, Kottayam, Kerala: SEERI (1997), pp.56-57, 135