Peter the Iberian

Peter the Iberian (Georgian: პეტრე იბერი, romanized: p'et're iberi) (c. 417-491) was a Georgian royal prince, theologian and philosopher who was a prominent figure in early Christianity and one of the founders of Christian Neoplatonism. Some have claimed that he is the author known conventionally as Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite.[3]

Peter the Iberian
Peter the Iberian, Jerusalem fresco.jpg
Fresco of Peter the Iberian at the Georgian Orthodox Monastery of the Cross in Jerusalem, reflecting local popularity not supported by the official Orthodox stance
Bishop of Majuma
Bornc. 417
Kingdom of Iberia
Died2 December,[1] 491
Venerated inOriental Orthodox Churches
Feast27 November & 1 December (Syriac Christianity)[2]

His accomplishments include founding the first Georgian monastery in Bethlehem and becoming the bishop of Majuma near Gaza. The oldest Georgian Bir el Qutt inscriptions mention Peter with his father.


He was born into the royal Chosroid dynasty of the Kings of Iberia (Eastern Georgia)[4] and was initially named Murvan (alternatively, Nabarnugios), Prince of Iberia (Kartli). His father, King Bosmarios of Iberia, invited noted philosopher Mithradates from Lazica to take part in Murvan's education. For a time, the child was kept hidden so as not to be delivered as a hostage to the Persians.[5]

In 429, at the age of about twelve, the prince was sent as a political hostage to Constantinople to ensure the loyalty of Iberia to the Byzantines rather than to the Persians.[6] Here he received a brilliant education under a personal patronage of the Roman empress Aelia Eudocia, wife of Theodosius II.

According to his biographer, John Rufus, Peter refused to write to or receive letters from home lest it undermine his ascetic discipline.[4] When he was about twenty, the young prince, together with his mentor Mithradates, left the palace and escaped to make a pilgrimage to Palestine, where he became a monk at Jerusalem under the name of Peter. In 430, he founded his own monastery at Bethlehem (later known as the Georgian Monastery of Bethlehem). In 445, he was ordained as a priest. Accompanied by Mithradates (now called John), he traveled across several countries of the Near East and finally settled in Majuma near Gaza.

In 452, he was consecrated bishop of Majuma by Patriarch Theodosius. He only served for six months before some Christians were banished by the decree of the local ruler. Peter escaped to Egypt, where he found refuge in the Enaton, but returned to Palestine a decade later. He gained numerous followers and disciples. According to the medieval sources, he was an author of several famous religious works. However, none of them survived to be written under the name of Peter.

He died at Yavneh-Yam, port of ancient Iamnia, in 491 and was buried in his monastery near Gaza.[4]

Position vs. Chalcedonian creedEdit

Various eastern Churches believe that he deviated from the Chalcedonian doctrine. These Churches affirm that Peter the Iberian was a Miaphysite and an anti-Chaldeonian, whereas this view is not shared by some individuals in the Georgian Orthodox Church. Although his biographies do not discuss this issue, some of the scholars who side with the Armenian sources accept the idea that he was an anti-Chaldeonian, while others do not. For example, David Marshall Lang believes in the possibility that he was a Monophysite,[7] while Shalva Nutsubidze [8] and Ernest Honingmann [9] believe that he was a Neoplatonic philosopher. [10]

Status in the Orthodox ChurchEdit

Some Georgian Orthodox clerics have spoken of Peter as an Orthodox saint, despite him being commonly associated with Monophysite viewpoints. Following a push for his canonization, the issue was brought before the Holy Synod of the Georgian Orthodox Church in 2010, but ultimately the Synod did not canonize him, putting the issue on hold.[11] Around the same time, prolific Georgian Orthodox author Edisher Chelidze wrote a book titled On Peter the Iberian, denouncing the attempts to canonize Peter by pointing out the gravity of his anti-Chalcedonian leanings given the Orthodox position, and saying that such a move would be tantamount to canonizing Arius or Nestorius.[12]

Chelidze's views, as well as the lack of an affirmative decision by the synod, were in line with the synodal letter which Patriarch Sophronius of Jerusalem addressed to the Second Council of Constantinople in 553, in which he declared Peter anathema, calling him "the defilement from Iberia of barbarian mind, who introduced another headless heresy among the Headless Ones."[13] This synodal letter was approved by the Third Council of Constantinople in 681,[14] considered ecumenical by the Orthodox Church, and thus the official status of Peter of Iberia in Orthodoxy has been, and remains, that of a heretic.


Peter's Vita was written by his disciple, John Rufus (John of Beth Rufina), later his successor as bishop of Maiuma.[6]

  • The so-called Syriac version of John Rufus' in Greek original, dates back to the 8th century
  • The so-called Georgian version originally written by Peter's contemporary, Zacharias Rhetor, bishop of Mytilene, in Greek has been preserved as a manuscript of c. 13th century.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Bishop Anania Saint Petre Iberi 2015, Tbilisi
  2. ^ Peter the Iberian The Syriac Biographical Dictionary
  3. ^ Sh. Nutsubidze. "Mystery of Pseudo-Dionys Areopagit (a monograph), Tbilisi, 1942; E. Honigmann, Pierre l'Iberian et les ecrits du Pseudo-Denys l'Areopagita. Bruxelles, 1952.
  4. ^ a b c Horn, Cornelia B. and Phenix, Robert R., The Lives of Peter the Iberian, Theodosius of Jerusalem, and the Monk Romanus, Society of Biblical Lit, 2008 ISBN 9781589832008
  5. ^ Lives and Legends of the Georgian Saints, (David Marshall Lang, trans.)
  6. ^ a b ""Peter the Iberian", Kofsky, Aryeh" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-06. Retrieved 2013-01-17.
  7. ^ Lang, D M. "Peter the Iberian and his biographers." Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 1951: 158-168
  8. ^ Georgia, 1942
  9. ^ Belgium, 1952
  10. ^ Horn (2006), p. 167
  11. ^ Screenshot of press release from Georgian Patriarchate
  12. ^ "ედიშერ ჭელიძე - პეტრე იბერის თაობაზე". Retrieved 2021-02-04.
  13. ^ Sophronius of Jerusalem (0553). Synodal Letter Of Sophronius to Constantinople II.
  14. ^ "CHURCH FATHERS: Third Council of Constantinople (A.D. 680-681)". Retrieved 2021-02-04.


Further readingEdit

  • David Marshall Lang, "Peter the Iberian and His Biographers". Journal of Ecclesiastical History, vol. 2 (1951), pp 156–168
  • Jan-Eric Steppa, John Rufus and the World Vision of Anti-Chalcedonian Culture, (Gorgias Press, 2002), xxvii + 199 pp. ISBN 1-931956-09-X
  • Ernest Honigmann, Pierre l'iberian et les ecrits du Pseudo-Denys l'Aréopagite, Bruxelles, 1952 (French)
  • Petre Iberi. Works, Tbilisi, 1961 (Georgian)
  • Shalva Nutsubidze. Mystery of Pseudo-Dionys Areopagit, Tbilisi, 1942 (Georgian, English summary)
  • Shalva Nutsubidze. Peter the Iberian and problems of Areopagitics. - Proceedings of the Tbilisi State University, vol. 65, Tbilisi, 1957 (Russian)
  • A. Kofsky. "Peter the Iberian and the Question of the Holy Places," Cathedra 91 (1999), pp. 79–96 (Hebrew).
  • Besik Khurtsilava. The inscriptions of the Georgian Monastery in B'ir el-Qutt and their chronology,"Christianity in the Middle East", № 1, Moscow, 2017, pp. 129–151
  • ქართული ლიტერატურის ქრესტომათია. ტ. I შედგ. ს. ყუბანეიშვილის მიერ. ტ. I. თბ. 1944.
  • ძველი ქართული აგიოგრაფიული ლიტერატურის ძეგლები, ი. აბულაძის რედაქციით, II ტ. თბ. 1967.
  • ძველი ქართული აგიოგრაფიული ლიტერატურის ძეგლები, IV, ე. გაბიძაშვილის და მ. ქავთარიას რედაქციით, ტ. თბ. 1968 .
  • ცხოვრება პერტე იბერისა, ასურული რედაქცია გერმანულიდან თარგმნა, გამოკვლევა, კომემტარები და განმარტებითი საძიებლები დაურთო ი. ლოლაშვილმა, თბილისი, 1988.
  • პეტრე იბერიელი (ფსევდო-დიონისე არეოპაგელი). შრომები. თარგმ. ეფრემ მცირისა. ს. ენუქაშვილის გამოც. თბ. 1961.
  • შ. ნუცუბიძე. პეტრე იბერი და ანტიკური ფილოსოფიური მემკვიდრეობა. შრომები. ტ. V. თბ. 1975.
  • ს. ყაუხჩიშვილი. ბერძნული ლიტერატურის ისტორია. ტ. III. თბ. 1973.
  • Н. Марр. Житие Петра Ивера, царевича—подвижника и епископа Мойюмского V века. Православный палестинский сборник. 1896 г. т. 16.
  • მ. თარხნიშვილი, ახლად აღმოჩენილი ქართული მონასტერი ბეთლემში, ბედი ქართლისა, 16, 1954.
  • გ. წერეთელი, უძველესი ქართული წარწერები პალესტინიდან, თბილისი, 1960.