Eliya of Nisibis Eliya bar Shinaya (975–1046) [Ch. of E.]

Metropolitan of Nisibis and author. Eliya d-Ṣoba or bar Shinaya was born in Shenna (North Iraq) and studied in the St. Michael’s monastery near Mosul. In 1002, he was ordained bp. of Beth Nuhadra and, in 1008, metropolitan of Nisibis. The majority of Eliya’s works were written in Arabic. His Chronography (maktbānut zabne) is bilingual, Arabic and Syriac, and consists of two parts: Part I opens with lists of names of secular and ecclesiastical leaders, followed by a chronological series of mostly short entries on ecclesiastical and political events, covering the years AD 25–1018, with careful indication of Syriac (East and West) and Muslim-Arabic sources. Part II consists of conversion tables of feasts and years according to different eastern calendars.

The report of his discussions with Abū al-Qāsim al-Maghribī, minister at the court of the Marwānids in Diyarbakır (see Amid), though written in Arabic, is important because of Eliya’s reflections on the Syriac language and culture. He tries to demonstrate the superiority of the Syriac language with a number of syntactical and lexicographical arguments as well as by referring to the fact that the Muslims have many scientific works translated from Syriac, whereas the Syrians do not have a single science borrowed from the Arabs. His argumentation is partly based on observations made by Ḥunayn b. Isḥāq in the 9th cent. and is no longer valid for his own period. His remark about the absence of translations of Arabic among the Syrians is contradicted by his chronicle which gives Syriac translations of fragments of Arabic historiographical works. He also argues that the Syriac script is ‘more beautiful, accurate and useful’ than the Arabic script. We may have an example of his own Syriac handwriting in the only surviving ms. of his chronicle, ms. London, Brit. Libr. Add. 7197, written as early as 1019. His interest in Syriac grammar — and the relation between Syriac and Arabic — also appears from his Syriac-Arabic dictionary and Syriac grammar.

Eliya of Nisibis was also active in the field of liturgical poetry, which became partly inserted into later liturgical compilations such as the ‘Abū Ḥalīm’ or the book of Gewargis Warda. According to ʿAbdishoʿ of Nisibis, Eliya is also the author of a no longer extant four-volume canonical collection in Syriac; the part on the law of inheritance is preserved in an Arabic translation by ʿUbaydallāh b. Bakhtishūʿ. His interest in canonical matters also appears from his Letter on the election of Cath. Ishoʿyahb IV. Other letters, in Syriac and Arabic, ascribed to him by ʿAbdishoʿ of Nisibis, are lost.


  • Baumstark, Literatur, 287–8.
  • E.  Brooks (Part I) and J.-B. Chabot (Part II), Eliae Metropolitae Nisibeni Opus Chronologicum (CSCO 62–63; 1909–10). (Syr. of the Chronicle with LT)
  • B.  Haddad, Iliyya bar Shinaya. Turgmana — al-Tarjuman (Nuhadra/Dehok, 2007).
  • L. J.  Delaporte, La chronographie d’Élie bar Šinaya, métropolitain de Nisibe (Bibliothèque de l’École des Hautes Études, Sciences historiques et philologiques 181; 1910). (FT of Chronicle)
  • Graf, GCAL, vol. 2 (1947), 177–89.
  • P.  de  Lagarde, Praetermissorum libri duo (1879), 1–96. (Dictionary)
  • S. Kh.  Samir, Foi et culture en Iraq au XIe siècle. Elie de Nisibe et l’Islam (Variorum Collected Studies Series CS 544 ; 1996).
  • E.-I. Yousif, Les chroniqueurs syriaques (2002), 345–76.
  • B.  Vandenhoff, ‘Ein Brief des Elias bar Šināja über die Wahl des Katholikos Išoʿjahb IV’, OC 11 (1913), 58–81, 236–262.
  • W.  Witakowski, ‘Elias BarShenaya’s Chronicle’, in Syriac polemics. Studies in honour of G. J. Reinink, ed. W. J. van Bekkum et al. (OLA 170; 2007), 219–37.

| Eliya of Nisibis |


Front Matter A (73) B (53) C (26) D (36) E (27) F (5) G (30) H (22) I (31) J (15) K (11) L (12) M (56) N (19) O (3) P (28) Q (11) R (8) S (71) T (39) U (1) V (5) W (3) X (1) Y (41) Z (4) Back Matter
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