Hiba Ibas (d. 457)

Bp. of Edessa. Hiba must have been active in the School of Edessa from the second or third decade of the 5th cent. Both the E.- and W.-Syr. traditions see him as one of the driving forces behind the translation of Theodore of Mopsuestia’s works from Greek into Syriac, which was carried out at the School and may have begun during Theodore’s lifetime (d. 428).

Around the time of the Nestorian controversy (428–31), Hiba parted ways with Bp. Rabbula of Edessa. The latter became a staunch defender of Cyril of Alexandria, the main authority for the Syr. Miaphysites, while Hiba represented the Antiochene dyophysite tradition. In 433 Hiba wrote a famous letter to a certain Mari, ‘the Persian’, in which he bitterly complained about Rabbula’s actions against the writings of Theodore, who increasingly was seen as the teacher of Nestorius. In the mid-430s Edessa must have been evenly divided between Miaphysites (followers of Cyril) and Dyophysites (standing in Theodore’s tradition), for after Rabbula’s death (436), Hiba was elected as the latter’s successor. Even though the campaign against Theodore continued in Constantinople, Syria, and Armenia, the situation in Edessa under Hiba’s tenure was relatively quiet. As bp., Hiba is credited with building activities. In 448, however, Hiba became one of the main targets of the strict Miaphysites, who in the synod of Ephesus in 449 (later known as the ‘Robber Synod’) succeeded in deposing him, mainly on the grounds of making too strict a distinction between the divinity and humanity in Christ. Two years later, Hiba’s letter to Mari was officially read at the Council of Chalcedon (451), and Hiba was rehabilitated as bp. of Edessa, a position he was able to hold until his death.

Nearly a century after his death, Hiba’s name returned to the center of the Christological discussions. In an attempt to win Miaphysite acceptance of the Council of Chalcedon, the emperor Justinian in an edict of 543/4 condemned Hiba’s letter to Mari. Since the letter was seen as sympathetic to Theodore and Nestorius, it was considered a stumbling block for the anti-Chalcedonians. Justinian’s condemnation of Hiba’s Letter, as one of the ‘Three Chapters’, subsequently was taken over and affirmed by the Council of Constantinople (553). This did not, however, lead to the reconciliation between Chalcedonians and Miaphysites.

Except for Hiba’s letter to Mari, which exists in Greek (in all likelihood translated from the Syriac original), no other works by Hiba have been preserved.


  • CPG 6500–6501.
  • G. G.  Blum, Rabbula von Edessa. Der Christ, der Bischof, der Theologe (CSCO 300; 1969), 196–203.
  • R.  Doran, Stewards of the poor: The Man of God, Rabbula, and Hiba in fifth-century Edessa (2006).
  • M.  van Esbroeck, ‘Who is Mari, the addressee of Ibas’ letter?’, JTS ns 38 (1987), 129–35.
  • N.  Garsoïan, L’église arménienne et le grand schisme d’Orient (CSCO 574; 1999), 108–10 and passim.
  • R.  Price, The Acts of the Council of Chalcedon, vol. 2 (2005), 258–309. (Sessions 9–10, concerning Hiba; ET, including his Letter)
  • R.  Price, The Acts of the Council of Constantinople of 553, vol. 1 (2009), 88–98. (On the Letter of Ibas to Mari the Persian)
  • C.  Rammelt, Ibas von Edessa. Rekonstruktion einer Biographie und dogmatischen Position zwischen den Fronten (2008).
  • E.  Schwartz, Acta Conciliorum Oecumenicorum, II.1.3 (1935), 32–35. (Letter to Mari)

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