Shubḥalmaran (d. 620?) [Ch. of E.]

Writer on ascetic life and biblical commentator; metropolitan of Beth Garmai, whose see city was Karka d-Beth Slokh, now Kirkuk, to the south of the upper Lesser Zab river, and approx. 170 km. south-east of Mosul and 250 north of Baghdad. The last known bp. of that see for the Sasanian period, he was a contemporary of Grigor I, cath. 605–ca. 609, of the monastic reformer and theologian Babai the Great, and of the biblical commentator Barḥadbshabba. He was noted among his ascetical and literary contemporaries for his virtue of life and for his writings, and his name is included in the lists of ascetical writers in Mesopotamia catalogued by ʿAbdishoʿ bar Brikha and Ishoʿdnaḥ of Baṣra.

Shubḥalmaran was one of a group, including the monk Mar Gewargi of Izla, who in 612 successfully urged on the monarch Khusrau the Victorious (r. 590–628) the rightness of the ‘orthodox’ (i.e., E.-Syr.) cause, though without persuading him to restore the Catholicate, suspended after the death of Grigor I. However, he failed in his attempts to thwart the schemes of Gabriel of Shingar, the court physician, to appropriate church property. Gabriel’s vengeful intrigues to pay off old scores on this and other accounts, moral and theological, resulted in his lifetime exile and the martyrdom of Gewargi as a convert from Mazdaism.

A collection of Shubḥalmaran’s writings on ascetic life and on the end times are preserved with others by Abraham of Nathpar and Barḥadbshabba in the 9th-cent. ms. Brit. Libr. Or. 6714. One folio is found in ms. Paris, Bibl. Nat. Ar. 6725, and another in ms. Birmingham, Mingana Syr. 631. Quotations from his exegetical works are to be found in Sabrishoʿ bar Pawlos.

The folios in the Brit. Libr. ms. do not provide one single work, ‘The Book of Gifts’, but a collection of pieces on the themes of self-denial and spiritual combat. Fols. 1–30r present ‘The Book of Gifts’ and describe 15 virtues (gifts) which cumulatively form the crowning virtue of Love. Fols. 30r–41v contain 13 ‘Chapters concerning wise admonitions’; Fols. 41v–54r give 22 ‘More warnings and admonitions’ set out alphabetically; Fols. 54r–60r contain ‘Further chapters ... for brethren to live in accord’; Fols. 60r–62r contain ‘Revelations about the assembly of believers’. Fol. 62r-v provide ‘Dark sayings of our Lord and Paul about the last time’, and Fols. 62v–73r ‘Revelations about the last time’. The texts on ff. 60r–73r are also to be found in Sinai, New Finds, Syr. M20N.

Shubḥalmaran provides his letters (e.g., on reluctance to be an ascetic), portraits of virtue (e.g., voluntary renunciation and humility), and precepts or canons (e.g., for communal sleeping arrangements and for solitary household management) in response to the problems brought by these expressions of asceticism: he does not write for the pure solitaries. His writings are characterised by a large use of scripture, quoted directly or allusively, and a sharp turn of phrase to express spiritual and social perspicacity. In Syriac monasticism he stands at a stage when pragmatic use of scripture and good sense shaped ascetic life, rather than speculative and philosophical concepts. These came with the influence of the philosopher monk Evagrius and his Syriac adaptors. These, e.g., Yawsep Ḥazzaya, patterned the kinds of ascetic life into a progression which matched stages between the created and the uncreated order: Shubḥalmaran is closer to Aphrahaṭ, and fits into the context of the traditional monasticism of his contemporaries associated with the Monastery at Mt. Izla.


  • Baumstark, Literatur, 133.
  • D. J.  Lane, Šubḥalmaran. The Book of gifts (CSCO 612–3; 2004).

| Shubḥalmaran |


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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