The region known in Syriac as Beth Qaṭraye includes not only the peninsula of Qaṭar, but also its hinterland Yamāma, and the entire coast of northeast Arabia as far as the peninsula of Musandam, in present-day Oman, along with the islands. Christianity must have reached Beth Qaṭraye no later than the 4th cent. Eliya, bp. of Mashmahig, was present at the first Synod of the Ch. of E., in Seleucia-Ctesiphon (410), while another bp. of Mashmahig was deposed and excommunicated at the same synod. From the 6th cent. onwards, in addition to Mashmahig, there were bishops in Dayrin, Mazun, Hagar, and Ḥaṭṭa. Initially they were under the control of the metropolitan of Rev Ardashir, in Fars, until Beth Qaṭraye obtained its own metropolitan, whose existence is attested only in 676.
Most of the information on Beth Qaṭraye pertains to the early Islamic period. Among the correspondence of Cath. Ishoʿyahb III (649–59), five letters deal with troubles in Beth Qaṭraye. The background is the rebellion of metropolitan Shemʿon of Rev Ardashir against the cath. ; this triggered an uprising among the bishops of Beth Qaṭraye, who likewise turned their back on the cath. Among Ishoʿyahb III’s preserved letters one is addressed to the bishops, two to the Christians in general, and two to the monks. Although the details are not known, the rebellion had come to an end in 676, when Cath. Gewargis (659–80) went to Beth Qaṭraye for a local synod. Very little is known of the subsequent history of Beth Qaṭraye; Christianity may have disappeared from the region after the 9th cent.
In the 6th and 7th cent., Christian Beth Qaṭraye produced a number of important Syriac authors. Most well-known among them is the ascetic and mystical author Isḥaq of Nineveh, who was born and lived for some time in Beth Qaṭraye, before Cath. Gewargis took him to Beth Aramaye. After a short-lived episcopate in Nineveh, he withdrew to eremitic life in Beth Huzaye. Another very important ascetic author from this region is Dadishoʿ Qaṭraya. Among the various authors designated as Gabriel Qaṭraya in the sources, there is a biblical interpreter, who was a teacher in Seleucia-Ctesiphon in the mid-7th cent., and a commentator on the liturgy, who lived in the first half of the 7th cent. The latter Gabriel’s work on the liturgy probably was the main source for the short commentary attributed to Abraham Qaṭraya bar Lipeh. Another biblical interpreter frequently quoted in later sources is Aḥob Qaṭraya.
While Christians in Beth Qaṭraye used Syriac as their literary and liturgical language, Persian and Arabic must have existed in the region as well. This linguistic complexity is reflected in a few dozen glosses, explicitly identified as being in the ‘language of Beth Qaṭraye’ (in some cases the adverb qaṭrāʾit is used) and preserved in later works, esp. in biblical commentaries and in the Lexicon of Bar Bahlul. Some of these glosses are attributed to the biblical interpreters Gabriel and Aḥob Qaṭraya. While some can be identified as Aramaic, others point to a Persian (Pahlavi or proto-Neo-Persian) or to an Arabic origin. Users of this language must have been among the readers and writers of Syriac texts in Bet Qaṭraye.
Christians from Beth Qaṭraye also served as translators. The Persian translator for the (undoubtedly Arabic speaking) Laḥmid king al-Nuʿmān III (579–601) is said to have been a Christian from Beth Qaṭraye. A monk from Beth Qaṭraye is credited with the translation from Persian into Syriac of the Law Book of Shemʿon of Rev Ardashir.
- J. Beaucamp and C. Robin, ‘L’évêché nestorien de Mâšmâhîg dans l’archipel d’al-Bahrain (Ve–IXe siècle)’, Dilmun. New Studies in the Archaeology and early History of Bahrain , ed. D. T. Potts (Berliner Beiträge zum Vorderen Orient 1; 1983), 171–96.
- S. P. Brock, ‘Syriac writers from Beth Qaṭraye’, ARAM 11–12 (1999–2000), 85–96.
- S. Brock, ‘From Qatar to Tokyo, by way of Mar Saba’, ARAM 11–12 (1999/2000), 475–84.
- R. A. Carter, ‘Christianity in the Gulf during the first centuries of Islam’, Arab Archaeology and Epigraphy 19 (2008), 71–108.
- R. Contini, ‘La lingua del Bēt Qaṭrāyē’, in Mélanges David Cohen, ed. J. Lentin and A. Lonnet (2003), 173–81.
- J.-M. Fiey, ‘Diocèses syriens-orientaux du Golfe Persique’, in Mémorial Mgr. Gabriel Khouri-Sarkis (1898–1968), 209–19.
- J. F. Healey, ‘The Christians of Qatar in the 7th century A.D.’, in Studies in Honour of C. E. Bosworth, ed. I. R. Netton, vol. 1 (2000), 222–37.
- D. T. Potts, The Arabian Gulf in Antiquity, vol. 2. From Alexander the Great to the coming of Islam (1990).
How to Cite This Entry
Footnote Style Citation with Date:
Lucas Van Rompay, “Beth Qaṭraye,” 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/Beth-Qatraye.
Bibliography Entry Citation:
Van Rompay, Lucas. “Beth Qaṭraye.” 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/Beth-Qatraye.
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