Archive for the ‘miracles’ Tag

Michael the Great on the Conversion of the Georgians   2 comments

Below is an English translation of Michael the Great‘s (d. 1199) short section on the conversion of the Iberians/Georgians. In the main he follows the narrative as in Rufinus‘ continuation of EusebiusEcclesiastical History and in Socrates, but not exactly. Neither Michael nor his historiographic predecessors give the name Nino to the female missionary-hero of the story, but in hagiographic tradition she is the one who brings Christianity to Georgia and performs the miracles related in the story.

I am in the course of preparing a study on this passage with commentary and full comparison of the known versions of the story, but for now, here is a bare and rough English translation. (Here are both the Syriac text and the translation in PDF.) As always, comments and questions are welcome.

Also during the time of Constantine, Georgia (Iberia) believed in Christ thus.
A certain pious woman was taken captive by [the people of] outer Georgia, which is near the Euxenian sea (they are far away from the Iberians of Spain). It happened that the son of their kingling got sick, and his mother cared for him with all manner of their customs, but to no avail. She then asked that captive woman for his healing, since she had seen her holy life, and the woman set him down on her hair blanket and said, “May Christ, who healed many, heal this child!” And immediately he got better.
After this, the king’s wife herself got sick, and she took refuge with the captive woman and came to her, and thus at that hour she was healed. When it became known, she taught all of them belief in the Christ of God. The king sent her gifts of honor, and she did not accept, but said, “This is a gift of honor: that the king should profess and trust in Christ,” but he did not accept. Some days thereafter he went out to hunt, and clouds and storm were upon them, and they were close to dying, and there was no avail. He took refuge with the god of the captive woman, together with his word; the cloud vanished and it was calm weather.
So when he returned he gathered all the people and commanded that they confess in Christ and that a temple be built. They began with the pattern that the holy woman had shown them, and when a great marble column was stuck by the influence of demons and they were unable to erect it, the woman prayed and it hung in the air by itself, and as they were looking at it with wonder and praise, it stood up on the pedestal where they had wished to erect it. (This miracle is known to this day.) Then the Georgians sent to Constantine the Emperor and took a bishop, priest(s), and clergy. Thus they believed and were baptized.

Another manuscript of the Syriac Life of Barṣawmā   4 comments

While the industrious François Nau published a summary, with Syriac excerpts and French translation, of the sixth-century Life of Barṣawmā (d. 458), the full text has, to my knowledge never been published. According to Nau (ROC 18 [1913] 272 n. 1), three Syriac copies of the work, all incomplete, are known to exist: BL Add. 12174, 14732, and 14734, and this information does not seem to have had cause for emendation in the intervening century. Now, however, a new witness to this long and interesting text can be added to the list: Church of the Forty Martyrs 256, pp. 378-477. The text comes almost at the end of a 500-page codex. The main hand is a distinct Serṭo that is very easy to read, and vowels are present here and there. The last page of the manuscript (513), which is written in a different hand than the majority of the book, has the date 1982 AG, that is, 1670/1 CE. This scribe says, “Don’t blame me because I messed it up, since the exemplar was in Arabic,” a statement that must refer to the text at the very end (on Moses), which the scribe apparently translated from Arabic into Syriac, and not to the Life of Barṣawmā. This copy of the Life of Barṣawmā is unfortunately missing a few folios at the end, but it goes to miracle no. 96 (out of 99 or 100). While of dubious historical value, the story most certainly possesses other qualities customarily met with in hagiographic literature, including just plain entertainment!


J.M. Fiey, Saints syriaques (Princeton, 2004), no. 79 (pp. 49-50).

F. Nau, “Résumé de monographies syriaques,” Revue de l’Orient chrétien 18 (1913): 270-276, 379-389; 19 (1914): 113-134, 278-289. (These and a host of other important articles are available here.)

L. Van Rompay, “Barṣawmo,” in Sebastian Brock, Aaron Butts, George Kiraz, and Lucas Van Rompay, eds., Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage (Piscataway, 2011).

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