Theodore Bar Konai

Theodore Bar Konai (Syriac: ܬܐܕܘܪܘܣ ܒܪ ܟܘܢܝ‎) was a distinguished Syriac exegete and apologist of the Church of the East who seems to have flourished at the end of the eighth century. His most famous work was a book of scholia on the Old and New Testaments.

Life and worksEdit

Bar Konai appears to have lived during the reign of Timothy I (780–823), Patriarch of the Church of the East, though some scholars have placed him a century later. Assemani identified him with a bishop named Theodore, the nephew of the patriarch Yohannan IV (900–5), who was appointed to the diocese of Lashom in Beth Garmaï in 893, and his dating was followed by Wright.[1] Chabot and Baum and Winkler, however, both place him at the end of the eighth century.[2]

Theodore was the author of the Scholion (Kṯāḇā d-ʾeskoliyon), a set of scholia on both the Old and New Testaments (edited between 1908 and 1912 by the celebrated scholar Addai Scher), believed to have been written circa 792. The Scholia offer an apologetic presentation in nine chapters, similar to a catechism, of East Syrian Christianity, and contain a valuable overview, in a tenth and eleventh chapter, of heretical doctrines and non-Christian religions such as Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism and Islam, with which Theodore sharply disagreed.[3]

Theodore was also the author of an ecclesiastical history, a treatise against Monophysitism, a treatise against the Arianism, a colloquy between a pagan and a Christian, and a treatise on heresies.[4] His Church History contains some interesting details of the lives of the Patriarchs of the Church of the East.[5] He is the latest author to mention Gilgamesh before his rediscovery in the 19th century.[6] He lists him twice in somewhat garbled forms, as tenth and twelfth in a list of twelve kings who reigned between Peleg and Abraham.[7]


  1. ^ Assemani, BO, ii. 440 and iii. 1, 198, Wright, Syriac Literature, 222
  2. ^ Chabot, Syriac Language and Literature; Baum and Winkler, Church of the East, 63
  3. ^ Baum and Winkler, Church of the East, 63
  4. ^ Chabot, Syriac Language and Literature
  5. ^ Baum and Winkler, Church of the East, 63
  6. ^ Jean Bottéro, L'Epopée de Gilgamesh, Le grand homme qui ne voulait pas mourir (L'aube des Peuples, Gallimard, 1992).
  7. ^ Andrew R. George, The Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic: Introduction, Critical Edition and Cuneiform Texts, Vol. 1 (Oxford University Press, 2003), p. 61.


  • Assemani, J. S., Bibliotheca Orientalis Clementino-Vaticana (4 vols, Rome, 1719–28)
  • Chabot, J. B., 'Syriac Language and Literature', Catholic Encyclopedia (New York, 1912)
  • Baum, Wilhelm; Winkler, Dietmar W. (2003). The Church of the East: A Concise History. London-New York: Routledge-Curzon. ISBN 9781134430192.
  • Wright, W., A Short History of Syriac Literature (London, 1894)

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