Dionysios bar Ṣalibi (d. 1171) [Syr. Orth.]

Metropolitan of Amid, and prolific Syr. Orth. author. A biography, by Patr. Michael Rabo, is unfortunately lost. He was probably born in Melitene, which was an important meeting point for Syriac and Greek cultures in the 12th cent. His baptismal name was Yaʿqub. His earliest work was a refutation of a book written by Yuḥanon of Mardin, who had claimed that the fall of Edessa to the Seljuks in 1144 took place against God’s will. At Yuḥanon’s request, the patr. put Yaʿqub (still a deacon) under an interdict, but later, once he had read Yaʿqub’s work, lifted this and appointed him bp. of Marʿash (Germanikia), with the episcopal name Dionysios (1148). After the capture of Marʿash by the Armenians in 1156 he returned to Melitene. In 1164/5, he was offered the see of Amid but declined it, though was later persuaded to accept, after Michael had become patr. (Oct. 1166). At Amid Dionysios restored the church of the Yoldat Aloho.

Dionysios died in November 1171, and was buried on the south side of the church of the Yoldat Aloho in Amid, alongside two patriarchs (Michael, Chronicle, III, 344–5). He must have been at least 50 years old, and perhaps considerably more. He was succeeded as bp. by his synkellos Abraham who, however, died shortly afterwards (Michael, Chronicle, III, 354).

Two slightly conflicting lists of his works survive, one in Michael’s Chronicle (III, 344–5), the other separately (printed in Assemani, BibOr, vol. 2, 210–11). Many of the works named in these lists do not survive, while those that do survive have so far only partly been published.

Main extant works:

1. Commentaries on the Old Testament. Dionysios was the first Syr. Orth. writer to provide a commentary on the entire Bible. He draws on a great variety of earlier commentators, both Greek (in Syriac translation) and Syriac, including commentators from the Ch. of E. Much of the commentary on the OT was arranged in two parts, ‘material’ (suʿronoʾit) and ‘spiritual’ (ruḥonoʾit). Of the OT commentaries only those on Psalms 73–82 (ed. S. D. Ryan, Dionysius bar Salibi’s Factual and Spiritual Commentary on Psalms 73–82 [Cahiers de la Revue Biblique 57; 2004]) and the ‘spiritual’ commentary on Qohelet (based on the Syro-Hexapla, rather than the Peshitta) have so far been published (W. Strothmann, GOFS 31, 1988). The commentaries on other OT books remain unpublished, though some have been studied in dissertations. The oldest ms. was copied in 1189, only 18 years after his death (for mss., see A. Vööbus, in ZAW 84 [1972], 246–9).

2. Commentaries on the New Testament. The Commentaries on Matt., Mark, Luke, Acts, Catholic Epistles, and Apocalypse have been published by I. Sedlacek, J.-B. Chabot, and A. Vaschalde, with LT: Gospels, I.1 (CSCO 15–16; 1906); I.2 (CSCO 77, 85; 1915, 1922); II.1 (CSCO 95, 98; 1931, 1933); II.2 (CSCO 113–4; 1939, 1940); Acts, Catholic Epistles, and Apocalypse (CSCO 53, 60; 1909, 1910). The Comm. on John was later published (without tr.) by R. Lejoly (1975). That on the Pauline Epistles remains unpublished (for mss., see A. Vööbus in Abr Nahrain 9 [1969/70], 39–42). The commentary on the Apocalypse preserves some quotations from the otherwise lost treatise of Hippolytus against Gaius.

3. Commentary on the Liturgy, ed. with LT by H. Labourt (CSCO 13–14; 1903). There is an ET by B. Varghese, Dionysius Bar Salibi. Commentary on the Eucharist (Kottayam, 1998). Besides the commentary on the Eucharistic liturgy just mentioned, Dionysios also commented on the baptismal service and the Myron (ed. with ET by B. Varghese, Dionysius Bar Salibi. Commentary on Myron and Baptism [Moran Etho 29; 2006]).

4. Commentary on Evagrius’s Centuries. The Syriac text (from a Berlin ms.) has been edited by Mor Julius Çiçek (Glane/Losser; 1991).

5. Commentary on Aristotle’s logical works (Organon). This commentary covers Porphyry’s Eisagoge (‘Introduction’) and the first three books of the corpus of Aristotle’s logical works, namely, Categories, Interpretation, and Analytics I–II. The work was completed in 1148, shortly after Dionysios had become bp. of Marʿash. Dionysios states that his purpose was to provide an abbreviation of previous commentators. At the end of the work he complains about the barbarity and ignorance shown by the Syriac translator of Analytics  II. The work survives, not quite complete, in ms. Cambridge Gg. 2.14 (unpublished).

6. Polemical Works. Of his polemical works only the treatises against the Armenians (ed. A. Mingana, in Woodbrooke Studies 4 [1931], with ET), the Melkites (ed. Mingana, in Woodbrooke Studies 1 [1927], with ET), the Jews (ed. de Zwaan, 1906; text only), and the Muslims (J. P. Amar, CSCO 614–5; 2005) have been published. There are important studies of the last by A. Mingana ( BJRL 9 [1925], 188–240, on Qurʾān quotations) and S. H. Griffith ( SymSyr IV, 353–65). An analysis of the treatise against the Nestorians was given by F. Nau in ROC II.4 (1909), 298–320.

7. Anaphoras. Three anaphoras attributed to Dionysios are known, but only the first (which is also sometimes attributed to Dionysius the Areopagite) has been published (e.g., Pampakuda editions of 1976, 1986; ed. Çiçek, 1985; LT in E. Renaudot, Liturgiarum Orientalium Collectio [1847], vol. 2, 448–52).

8. Canons. The penitential canons associated with Dionysios’s name survive in many different forms, whose interrelationships are studied by A. Vööbus in Kanonessammlungen, vol. IB (CSCO 317; 1970), 405–39; for other canons attributed to Dionysios see Kanonessammlungen, vol. IA, 240–53.

Lost works:

1. Commentaries on the doctrinal works of Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, Basil, Dionysius the Areopagite, Severus, Peter of Kallinikos.

2. On Providence: written in response to Yuḥanon of Mardin’s work, after the fall of Edessa in 1144.

3. Chronicle: The preface for this is preserved by Michael (Chronicle, III, 257). Though he had intended to write a world chronicle, he only had time to deal with contemporary history.

4. Two 12-syllable memre on the two captures of Edessa, mentioned by Michael (Chronicle, III, 267).

5. Three discourses on the destruction of Marʿash by the Armenians (Chronicle, III, 314).

6. Two memre on an episode where a Maphrian was imprisoned for his judgement over the betrothal of a Christian daughter of a Christian who had converted to Islam (the episode is related by Bar ʿEbroyo, Eccl. Hist., II, 347–51).

7. A Book of Theology.

8. Letters.

9. Collection of chants.

Sources

  • Baumstark, Literatur, 295–7.
  • Assemani, BibOr, vol. 2, 156–211.
  • G.  Blum, in TRE , vol.9 (1982), 6–9.
  • R.  Ebied, ‘Dionysius bar Salibi’s polemical treatises’, Harp 20 (2006), 73–86.


How to Cite This Entry

Sebastian P. Brock, “Dionysios bar Ṣalibi,” in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay, https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Dionysios-bar-Salibi.

Footnote Style Citation with Date:

Sebastian P. Brock, “Dionysios bar Ṣalibi,” in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay (Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018), https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Dionysios-bar-Salibi.

Bibliography Entry Citation:

Brock, Sebastian P. “Dionysios bar Ṣalibi.” In Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition. Edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay. Digital edition prepared by David Michelson, Ute Possekel, and Daniel L. Schwartz. Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018. https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Dionysios-bar-Salibi.

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