Synodicon Orientale [Ch. of E.]

Collection of reports and canons of the synods of the Ch. of E. held between the years 410 and 775/6. This collection of synods is only one part of a much larger collection of canonical and juridical texts, which is transmitted in a single 13th- or 14th-cent. ms. (Alqosh Syr. 169), accessible to Western scholars in a number of later copies. The larger collection has sometimes been called the ‘great Synodicon’ (‘Das grosse Synodikon’ in Selb’s description, consisting of 80 items, see p. 59–63). The more limited collection, the Synodicon Orientale proper, covers nos. 28–41 of Selb’s list. It is this more limited collection that has been edited by Chabot and translated by both Braun (GT) and Chabot (FT) under the title Synodicon Orientale. Within the ms. itself, the title ‘Book of synods’ (Ktābā d-swnhdw) is used a few times, either for the collection of E.-Syr. synods or, as a pars pro toto, for the entire collection. The collection of synods is specifically introduced with the term swnhdyqw (plur.) ‘synodical texts’ (Braun: ‘Synodalacten’; Chabot: ‘décisions synodales’).

Chabot divides the entire collection into three parts (covering 840 pages in the Borgia ms.). The part edited by him, the Synodicon Orientale proper, is the second (p. 242–561). The first part (p. 1–242; nos. 1–27 in Selb’s list) contains texts attributed to the apostles along with canons and related literature of the early Greek synods; it also includes the 73 pseudo-Nicene canons attributed to Marutha of Maypherqaṭ and some other texts relevant to the early history of the Ch. of E., such as the correspondence related to Papa bar ʿAggai. The third part (p. 561–840; nos. 42–80 in Selb’s list) contains additional materials pertaining to Cath. Mar Aba I and Ḥenanishoʿ  II; extracts from Greek theological writings; the monastic canons of Abraham of Kashkar and his successor Dadishoʿ on Mount Izla; the canons of the School of Nisibis; several lawbooks associated with the names of Cath. Ḥenanishoʿ I (late 7th cent.), Cath. Timotheos I (d.  823), Cath. Ishoʿ bar Nun (d. 828), ʿAbdishoʿ bar Bahrīz (early 9th cent.), Shemʿon of Rev Ardashir (7th or 8th cent.), and Ishoʿbokht (8th cent.); the Syro-Roman Lawbook; letters of Cath. Timotheos I; a document concerning Nestorios of Beth Nuhadra; treatises on hereditary law by Cath. Eliya I (d. 1049), Gewargis of Arbela (late 10th cent.), and Eliya of Nisibis (bar Shinaya, d.  1046). The presence, at the very end of the collection, of a concluding note under the name of Cath. Eliya I, may suggest that the collection received its final redaction during his tenure (1028–49), even though the exact role of this note — in a damaged part of the original ms.  — and Eliya’s involvement in the collection have been debated (Kaufhold 1983, 727–30). Several items of the collection remain unpublished.

The second part of the collection, the Synodicon Orientale proper, contains reports of the synods, along with the canons (and in some cases confessions of faith, lists of signatures, and relevant letters), of the following synods: Cath. Isḥaq (410); Cath. Yahbalaha (420); Cath. Dadishoʿ (424, no canons); Cath. Aqaq (486, followed by a note on the 484 Synod of Barṣawma of Nisibis, with a reference to letters by Barṣawma provided in an appendix); Cath. Babai (497, no canons); Cath. Aba I (544, followed by several documents); Cath. Yawsep I (554); Cath. Ḥazqiel (576); Cath. Ishoʿyahb I (585); Cath. Sabrishoʿ I (596, no canons); Cath. Grigor I (605); Cath. Gewargis I (676, followed by an important theological letter); and Cath. Ḥenanishoʿ II (775). There is reason to assume that this collection, focused on the synods between 410 and 775 (the Synodicon Orientale in the narrower sense), originated independently from the other documents of the larger collection. Given the time period covered, it is likely that it was put together ca. 800, possibly under the instigation of Cath. Timotheos I, whose interest in matters of church legislation and canon law is well attested. This collection then became one of the main components of the larger collection, created at a later period in time. The Synodicon Orientale is an extremely valuable source for the study of the history and the theology (Brock) of the Ch. of E. in the Sasanian and early Islamic period, even if the later redactors may occasionally have updated the terminology or introduced minor changes, according to their perspective (Fiey).

The textual transmission is based on a single ms.: Alqosh Syr. 169 (Vosté; or no. 90 in an earlier checklist by A. Scher), the writing of which seemed to Scher (who is followed by Vosté) to be ‘prior to the 14th cent.’. This ms. presently is kept in the Monastery of the Chaldeans in Baghdad (Ms. 509; cf. Kaufhold 2005, 230). Mgr. Joseph David brought a 19th-cent. copy to Rome in 1869. This two-volume copy became ms. Museo Borgiano K. VI, 4 and 3, and was later incorporated into the Vatican Library as Borg. Syr. 82 and 81. Among the first scholars to study it was I. Guidi (1889), followed by O. Braun. The latter prepared a German translation of the second part of the collection (Synodicon Orientale), which appeared in 1900. J.-B. Chabot, while he was planning an edition of the same part, was able to use a second copy of the Alqosh ms., which subsequently became ms. Paris, Bibl. Nat. Syr. 332 (dated 1895). This contains the Synodicon Orientale only, not the larger collection. A number of other copies, complete or incomplete, exist (Selb, 64–6 and Kaufhold 1983, 730–1). While for the Synodicon Orientale no other mss. beyond ms. Alqosh Syr. 169 and its descendants are extant, for a number of the sections of the larger collection additional mss. are available or a parallel transmission exists in an Arabic collection under the name of Īlīyā al-Jawharī (ca. 900) and in Ibn al-Ṭayyib’s Fiqh al-Naṣrāniyya (Kaufhold 1976, 24–5).

    Primary Sources

    • Braun, Synodicon Orientale.
    • Chabot, Synodicon Orientale.

    Secondary Sources

      Brock, ‘The christology of the Church of the East’, 125–42.
    • Fiey, Jalons, esp. 17–18.
    • I.  Guidi, ‘Ostsyrische Bischöfe und Bischofssitze im V., VI. und VII. Jahrhundert’, ZDMG 43 (1889), 388–414.
    • Kaufhold, Die Rechtssammlung des Gabriel von Baṣra, 24–31.
    • Kaufhold, Review of W.  Selb, Orientalisches Kirchenrecht, vol.  1, Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte 100 (1983), 724–35.
    • Kaufhold, ‘Die syrische Rechtsliteratur’, in Sources syriaques, I. Nos sources: Art et littératures syriaques, ed. M.  Atallah et al. (2005), 211–35.
    • W.  Selb, Orientalisches Kirchenrecht, vol. 1. Die Geschichte des Kirchenrechts der Nestorianer (von den Anfängen bis zur Mongolenzeit) (Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, phil.-hist. Klasse, Sitzungsberichte 388; 1981), 59–71.
    • J.  Vosté, Catalogue de la Bibliothèque syro-chaldéenne du couvent de Notre-Dame des semences près d’Alqoš (Iraq) (1929), 63–6. (extracted from Angelicum 5 [1928], but with separate page numbering)

How to Cite This Entry

Lucas Van Rompay, “Synodicon Orientale,” 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,

Footnote Style Citation with Date:

Lucas Van Rompay, “Synodicon Orientale,” 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),

Bibliography Entry Citation:

Van Rompay, Lucas. “Synodicon Orientale.” 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.

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