Mushe of Nisibis (first half of 10th cent.) [Syr. Orth.]

Scribe, abbot of Dayr al-Suryān, collector of mss. Mushe’s presence in Dayr al-Suryān, the ‘Monastery of the Syrians’ in the Egyptian Wadi al-Natrun, is attested from the beginning of the 10th cent., when he worked as a scribe (903/4) and was instrumental in the donation to the monastery of a 6th-cent. biblical ms. (ms. London, Brit. Libr. Add. 12,142) by a Tagriti family (906/7). A  few years later, he was abbot (riš dayro) and was in charge of a major renovation project in the main church. This is recorded in two inscriptions dated 914 and 926/7. Mushe’s name may perhaps also be found in a majestic Coptic inscription inside the dome of the church, which reads: Papa Moyses pi-hikoymenos ‘Papa Moses the hegoumenos’. The latest mention of Mushe as abbot is found in a note dated 943/4 (ms. London, Brit. Libr. Add. 14,525, f. 1v).

Shortly after 926/7, Mushe traveled to Baghdad in order to appeal, on behalf of the Egyptian monasteries, against new taxes imposed by Caliph al-Muqtadir. The information provided by notes in Syriac mss. is corroborated by the Muslim historian al-Maqrīzī, though he does not mention Mushe by name. In the course of the long negotiation process in Baghdad, which turned out to be successful, Mushe traveled around collecting mss. for the library of Dayr al-Suryān. In 931/2, he returned with 250 mss. These mss., bought or received as gifts in Tagrit, Reshʿayna, Ḥarran, and many other locations in Mesopotamia, at once made Dayr al-Suryān into a major treasure house of Syriac Christian culture. Even though Syriac mss. arrived at Dayr al-Suryān both before and after Mushe, his was by far the largest single addition to the library. In each of the 250 mss. Mushe himself wrote a lengthy note recording the acquisition (in this process he more than once erased older notes, thereby destroying evidence of the ms.’s previous history). The fact that more than seventy of these notes have survived to the present day lends credibility to the reported number of 250. In the course of the 18th and 19th cent., most of the Syriac mss. from Dayr al-Suryān were transferred to major western libraries. A small collection, however, still exists in the monastery today. As the most well-known representative of the Syrian abbots and of the Syrian and Coptic monks who collected, produced, and preserved Syriac mss. in Dayr al-Suryān, Mushe played a unique role in providing present-day Syriac scholars with an impressive number of sources of very great antiquity.

See Fig. 89 and 90.


  • M. J.  Blanchard, ‘Moses of Nisibis (fl. 906–943) and the library of Deir Suriani’, in Studies in the Christian East in memory of Mirrit Boutros Ghali, ed. L. S. B. MacCoull (1995), 13–24.
  • F.  Briquel Chatonnet, A. Desreumaux, A. Binggeli, ‘Un cas très ancien de garshouni? Quelques réflexions sur le manuscrit BL Add. 14644’, in Loquentes linguis. FS F. A.   Pennacchietti, ed. P. G.  Borbone et al. (2006), 141–47.
  • S. P.  Brock, ‘Without Mushē of Nisibis, where would we be? Some reflections on the transmission of Syriac literature’, in SymSyr VIII, 15–24.
  • H. G.  Evelyn White, The monasteries of the Wâdi ’n Natrun, vol. 2. The history of the monasteries of Nitria and Scetis (1932), esp. 337–8 and 439–58.
  • K.  Innemée and L. Van Rompay, ‘La présence des Syriens dans le Wadi al-Natrun (Égypte). À propos des découvertes récentes de peintures et de textes muraux dans l’Église de la Vierge du Couvent des Syriens’, ParOr 23 (1998), esp. 186–9.
  • J.  Leroy, ‘Moïse de Nisibe’, in SymSyr I, 457–70.

How to Cite This Entry

Lucas Van Rompay , “Mushe 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,

Footnote Style Citation with Date:

Lucas Van Rompay , “Mushe 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),

Bibliography Entry Citation:

Van Rompay, Lucas. “Mushe 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.

A TEI-XML record with complete metadata is available at /tei.

Show more information...

| Mushe of Nisibis |


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
URI   TEI/XML   Purchase  

Resources related to 13 other topics in this article.

See more ...
Show Other Resources