Papa bar ʿAggai (d. between 327 and 335) [Ch. of E.]

Bp. of Seleucia-Ctesiphon. Elected around the middle of the 3rd cent., Papa’s tenure is said to have lasted until a few years after the Council of Nicea (325). Bar ʿEbroyo reports that either Papa himself or his disciple and later successor Shemʿon bar Ṣabbaʿe attended the Council of Nicea, but there is no corroboration for this claim. Widely discussed in many sources, both Syriac and Arabic, is an event that took place most likely around 325. All sources agree that there was a conflict between Papa and some other Syriac bishops in the Persian Empire. It may have had to do with Papa’s efforts to establish his primacy, or with the way in which he exerted his power as the bp. of the empire’s leading city. The main spokesman of Papa’s opponents was Miles, bp. of Susa (martyred in 345). The Acts of Miles speak about the incident in terms very unfavorable to Papa; the report by Bp. Agapetos of Beth Lapaṭ, which is included in the Synod of Dadishoʿ (424), takes Papa’s side and is negative about Miles; Bar ʿEbroyo’s summary report is neutral and dispassionate. Upset about the accusations that Miles brought forth against him at the synod, Papa is said to have struck the Gospel book in front of him, either in an act of despair or in contempt and defiance. As a result his hand was paralyzed. The sources disagree about whether Papa subsequently was deposed and about how long he lived after the incident. Agapetos used the incident around Papa in his defense of Cath. Dadishoʿ and described the conflict as resulting from the rebellion by Miles and others (similar, in his view, to the rebellion in Dadishoʿ’s day). Agapetos mentioned, and even quoted from, letters from the West, which were sent in Papa’s support and led to his rehabilitation. Bar ʿEbroyo also knew of these letters, but doubted their authenticity and pointed to Cath. Yawsep as their possible author. These letters, expressing support for Papa, are preserved among a collection of 8 letters (some written by Papa and others addressed to him), transmitted in the Synodicon Orientale and translated into German by Braun. They are attributed to Yaʿqub of Nisibis, Ephrem, and ‘the Western Fathers’. In Demonstration XIV, traditionally attributed to Aphrahaṭ, the author complains about the abusive leadership in the Church and about the crowned head who was rejected by his own people and found support with foreign leaders. Some scholars (most recently Fiey) have seen this as a description of Papa’s leadership. If indeed Papa were the subject of this diatribe, the traditional date for this Demonstration (343/4) would have to be rejected, and the text would have to be separated from the original list of Aphrahaṭ’s twenty-two Demonstrations. The author’s view on Papa would be closer to that expressed in the Acts of Miles than to the one endorsed by Agapetos in the Synod of 424.


  • Braun, Synodicon Orientale, 50–3.
  • Chabot, Synodicon Orientale, 46–8 (Syr.), 289–92 (FT).
  • M.-L. Chaumont, La christianisation de l’empire iranien. Des origines aux grandes persécutions du IVe siècle (CSCO 499; 1988), 137–47.
  • J.-M.  Fiey, ‘Notule de littérature syriaque. La Démonstration XIV d’Aphraate’, LM 81 (1968), 449–54.
  • J.-M.  Fiey, Jalons (CSCO 310), 72–5.
  • Labourt, Le christianisme dans l’empire perse, 18–28.
  • W.  Schwaigert, ‘Miles und Papa: Der Kampf um den Primat. Ein Beitrag zur Diskussion um die Chronik von Arbela’, in SymSyr V, 393–402.
  • W.  Schwaigert, Das Christentum in Hūzistān im Rahmen der frühen Kirchengeschichte Persiens bis zur Synode von Seleukeia-Ktesiphon im Jahre 410 (1989), 63–102.
  • Westphal, Untersuchungen, 60–7.

How to Cite This Entry

Lucas Van Rompay , “Papa bar ʿAggai,” 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 , “Papa bar ʿAggai,” 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. “Papa bar ʿAggai.” 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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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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