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Jacob Baradaeus

Jacobus Baradaeus
Born c. late 5th century
Tela Mauzalat
Died July 30, 578(578-07-30)
Occupation Bishop of Edessa
Predecessor Addi of Edessa
Successor Severus of Edessa
Parents Father: Theophilus Bar-Manu

Jacob Baradaeus[1] (died July 30, 578) was Bishop of Edessa from 543 until his death. One of the most important figures in the history of the Syriac Orthodox Church, and the Oriental Orthodox churches generally, he was a defender of the Miaphysite movement in a time when its strength was declining. His instrumental efforts in reorganizing and revitalizing the community gave it its alternate name, the Jacobites.


  • Biography 1
  • Name 2
  • Early life 3
  • Works 4
  • Problems 5
  • Death 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Jacobus was ordained by the Middle East. Materials for his life are furnished by two Syriac biographies by his contemporary, John of Ephesus, whom Jacobus ordained bishop of Ephesus, printed by Land,[2] and by the third part of the Ecclesiastical History of the same author.[3]


His surname Baradaeus is derived from the ragged mendicant's garb patched up from old saddle blankets, in which he disguised his spiritual functions from the eyes of the authorities, while he carried out his journeys through Syria and Mesopotamia.[4]

Early life

John of Ephesus reports that Jacobus was born at Tela Mauzalat (Tell Mawzalto), otherwise called Constantina, a city of Osrhoene, 55 miles to the east of Edessa, near the close of the 5th century. His father, Theophilus Bar-Manu, was a priest in Tela Mauzalat. In obedience to his parent's vow, Jacobus was placed at the age of two in the local monastery under the care of abbot Eustathius, and trained in Greek and Syriac literature and in the strictest asceticism.[5] He became remarkable for the severity of his self-discipline. Having on the death of his parents inherited their property, including a couple of slaves, he manumitted them, and made over the house and estate to them, reserving nothing for himself.[6] He eventually became a presbyter. His fame spread, reaching the Byzantine empress Theodora, who eagerly desired to meet him, as one of the chief figures of the anti-Chalcedonian movement. James was with much difficulty convinced to leave his monastery for Constantinople. Arriving at the imperial capital, he was received with much honor by Theodora. But the splendor of the court had no attractions for him, and he retired to one of the monasteries of the city, where he lived as a complete recluse.[4]


While he dwelled at Constantinople — 15 years, according to John of Ephesus — the anti-Chalcedonians suffered greatly. Justinian I had resolved to enforce the decrees of the Council of Chalcedon, and those bishops and clergy who refused to obey these decrees Justinian punished with imprisonment, deprivation, and exile. Whole districts of Syria and the adjacent countries were thus deprived of their pastors, and the Monophysite were threatened with gradual extinction. For ten years many churches had been destitute of sacraments, which they refused to receive from those they considered heretics. The extreme peril of the Monophysites was represented to Theodora by the Ghassanid king al-Harith, and she persuaded Jacobus to leave his cell and accept the hazardous and laborious task of rebuilding the Antiochian church. A considerable number of Monophysite bishops from all parts of the East, including Theodosius of Alexandria, Anthimus the deposed patriarch of Constantinople, Constantius of Laodicea, John of Egypt, Peter and others, who had come to Constantinople in the hope of mitigating the displeasure of the emperor and increasing the sympathies of Theodora, were held by Justinian in one of the imperial fortresses under house arrest. They consecrated Jacobus to the episcopate, nominally as bishop of Edessa, but virtually as a metropolitan with ecumenical authority.[4]

The date of Jacobus's consecrated is uncertain, but that given by [8]

Jacobus is said to have ordained the incredible number of 80,000 clergy. John of Ephesus says 100,000,[9] including 89 bishops and two patriarchs. His remarkable success in reviving the moribund Syriac Orthodox church alarmed the emperor and the Chalcedonian bishops, who offered rewards for his arrest. But dressed in his beggar's garb, and aided by the friendly Arab tribes as well as the people of Syria and Asia, he eluded all attempts to seize him, living into the reign of Tiberius II Constantine. The longer of the two Lives of Jacobus, by John of Ephesus,[10] recounts the extent and variety of his missionary labours and his miracles.[4]


However, Jacobus failed miserably when he attempted to govern the vast and heterogeneous body he had created and organized. The simplicity and innocence of his character, as chronicled by his contemporary John of Ephesus,[11] disqualified him for rule, and put him in the power of "crafty and designing men about him, who turned him every way they chose, and used him as a means of establishing their own powers." His troubles with the bishops he had ordained clouded the closing years of Jacobus' long life. John of Ephesus records the blows, fighting, murders and other deeds "so insensate and unrestrained that Satan and his herds of demons alone could rejoice in them, wrought on both sides by the two factions with which the believers — so unworthy of the name — were rent", provoking "the contempt and ridicule of heathens, Jews, and heretics".[12]

One of these factional squabbles was between Jacobus and the bishops Conon and Eugenius, whom he had ordained at Alexandria — the former for the Isaurian Seleucia, the latter for Tarsus — who became the founders of the obscure and short-lived sect of the "Cononites", or, from the monastery at Constantinople to which a section of them belonged, "Condobandites".[13] Each anathematized the other, James denouncing Conon and his companion as "Tritheists", and they retaliated by the stigma of "Sabellian".[4]

A still longer and more wide-spreading difference arose between Jacobus and Paul the Black, whom he had ordained patriarch of Antioch.[14] Paul and the other three leading bishops of the Syriac Orthodox Church had been summoned to Constantinople, allegedly to restore unity to the imperial church, but remaining stalwart in the adherence to their own creed, were thrown into prison for a considerable time and subjected to the harshest treatment. This broke their spirit, and one by one they all yielded, accepting the communion of John Scholasticus, the patriarch of Constantinople, and the "Synodites", as the adherents of the Chalcedonian decrees were contemptuously termed by their opponents, "lapsing miserably into the communion of the two natures".[15] Paul escaped into Arabia, taking refuge with al-Mundhir, son and successor of al-Harith. On hearing of his defection, Jacobus at once excommunicated Paul, but at the end of three years, Jacobus presented Paul's penitence before the synod of the Syriac Orthodox Church, and he was duly and canonically restored to communion.[16] Paul's rehabilitation caused great indignation among the Copts at Alexandria, who clamoured for his deposition, which was carried into effect by Peter, the intruded patriarch, in violation of all canonical order; the patriarch of Antioch (Paul's position in the Monophysite communion) owning no allegiance to the patriarch of Alexandria.[17]

Jacobus was persuaded that if he were to visit Alexandria the veneration felt for his age and services would bring to an end the rift between the churches of Syria and Egypt, and though he had denounced Peter, at arrival in Alexandria he was convinced not only to hold communion with Peter but to draw up papers documenting his formal assent to the deposition of Paul, only stipulating that it should not be accompanied by any excommunication.[18] This compromise was unfavorably received in Syria on Jacobus' return. The schism which resulted between the adherents of James and Paul, AD 576, "spread like an ulcer" through the whole of the East, especially in Constantinople. Both Paul and the phylarch al-Mundhir vainly attempted to seek a resolution with Jacobus, but Jacobus shrank from investigation, and refused all overtures of accommodation.[19]


Wearied out at last, and feeling the necessity to end the violence and bloodshed which was raging unchecked, Jacobus suddenly set out for Alexandria, but never reached it. His party reached the monastery of Cassianus or Mar-Romanus on the Egyptian frontier, where a deadly sickness attacked them, and claiming the life of Jacobus, July 30, 578. His episcopate is said to have lasted 37 years, and his life, according to Renaudot, 73 years.[20]


  1. ^ Sometimes referred to as James. Other spellings of his surname include Al Baradai, Bar'Addai, Burdoho, Burdeono, Burdeana, or Burdeaya, also Phaselita, or Zanzalus.
  2. ^ Venables 1911 cites Anecdota Syriaca, vol. ii. pp. 249–253, pp. 364–383.
  3. ^ Venables 1911 cites in the translation of Robert Payne Smith, pp. 273–278, 291.
  4. ^ a b c d e Venables 1911.
  5. ^ Venables 1911 cites Land, Anecdot. Syr. t. ii. p. 364.
  6. ^ Venables 1911 cites Land, Anecdot. Syr. t. ii. 366
  7. ^ Venables 1911 cites Abulpharagius
  8. ^ Venables 1911 cites Edward Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
  9. ^ Venables 1911 cites Land, Anecdot. Syr. ii. 251.
  10. ^ Venables 1911 cites Land, u.s. pp. 364–383.
  11. ^ Venables 1911 cites H. E. iv. 15.
  12. ^ Venables 1911 cites H. E. iv. 30. and states that for a full account see John of Ephesus, op. cit. (Payne Smith's trans. pp. 48 sqq., 81 sqq., 274 sqq.).
  13. ^ Venables 1911 cites John of Ephesus, H. E. 31, v. 1–12.
  14. ^ Venables 1911 cites H. E. i. 41.
  15. ^ Venables 1911 cites H. E. i. 41, ii. 1–9, iv. 15.
  16. ^ Venables 1911 cites H. E. iv. 15.
  17. ^ Venables 1911 cites H. E. iv. 16.
  18. ^ Venables 1911 cites H. E. iv. 17.
  19. ^ Venables 1911 cites H. E. iv. 20, 21.
  20. ^ Venables 1911 cites Lit. Or. ii. 342.

  • St. Yacoub Burdono

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