Nonos of Nisibis Nonnus (d. after 861) [Syr. Orth.]
Polemicist, scholar, and deacon. Details concerning Nonos’s life appear in several Syriac, Arabic, Armenian, and Georgian works. These sources focus on four incidents. The most celebrated is Nonos’s disputation with Theodoros Abū Qurra. Ca. 815 Nonos’s relative Abū Rāʾiṭa, the Miaphysite Bp. of Tagrit, sent Nonos to the court of the Armenian prince Ashot Msaker to debate against the Melkite Abū Qurra. Later chronicles often attribute Armenia’s continuing support of the Miaphysite cause to Nonos’s success in this encounter. Nonos next appears in 827 or 828 at the Council of Reshʿayna where his testimony resulted in the council deposing Philoxenos bp. of Nisibis. It is unclear what the charges against Philoxenos were; a letter from the Patr. Dionysios of Tel Maḥre simply refers to ‘abominations.’ From both external sources and from Nonos’s own writings we learn that, under the Abbasid Caliph al-Mutawakkil, Nonos was imprisoned from ca. 856 until 861. Also with him were Toma, the E.-Syr. Metropolitan of Beth Garmai, and Toma’s brother Theodosios, who had recently become cath. Nonos wrote his four surviving Syriac works while in prison. After al-Mutawakkil’s death, Nonos was released. The final recorded incident in Nonos’s life is his attendance at the Armenian council of Shirakawan in 862.
Five texts by Nonos remain extant. The longest is his Commentary on John, preserved in Armenian. In 1920 Crakhean published an edition of this text based on two mss. now found in Venice. According to the incipit, Nonos originally composed his commentary in Arabic. The Syriac ms. London, Brit. Libr. Add. 14,594 which Mushe of Nisibis obtained for the monastery of Dayr al-Suryān in 932 provides the sole witness to Nonos’s Syriac writings. This manuscript preserves: 1. an apologetic treatise on the trinity and the incarnation; 2. a four-discourse work written against the metropolitan Toma; 3. Nonos’s response to an anonymous inquiry regarding trinitarian and incarnational theology; and 4. a letter responding to christological questions sent to Nonos by a monk named Yuḥanon. In 1948 Van Roey published an edition and Latin translation of the first of these works in which Nonos provides brief answers to the theological challenges raised most frequently by contemporary Muslims. Nonos’s other Syriac works remain unedited.
- D. D. Bundy, ‘The commentary of Nonnus of Nisibis on the prologue of John’, in Actes du premier congrès international d’études arabes chrétiennes, ed. K. Samir (OCA 218; 1982), 123–33.
- Kh. H. Crakhean, Commentary of the Gospel of John by Nonnus, Vardapet of Syria [Armenian] (Treasures of Armenian Literature Ancient and Modern 7; 1920).
- S. H. Griffith, ‘The apologetic treatise of Nonnus of Nisibis’, ARAM 3 (1991), 115–38.
- H. G. B. Teule, ‘Nonnus of Nisibis’, in Christian-Muslim relations, ed. Thomas and Roggema, 743–45.
- A. Van Roey, Nonnus de Nisibe. Traité apologétique (1948).
- A. Van Roey ‘La liberté du Christ dans la doctrine de Nonnus de Nisibe’, in SymSyr I , 471–85.
How to Cite This Entry
Footnote Style Citation with Date:
Michael Philip Penn, “Nonos of Nisibis,” 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/Nonos-of-Nisibis.
Bibliography Entry Citation:
Penn, Michael Philip. “Nonos of Nisibis.” 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/Nonos-of-Nisibis.
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