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Bardaisan of Edessa

(1966) Drijvers, Hendrik Jan Willem

In 1855 W. Cureton published his Spicilegium Syriacum from the Syriac Ms. BM add. 14,658 of the sixth or seventh century, containing the "Book of the Laws of Countries". The latter seemed to him to be the lost Syriac original of Bardai$an of Edessa's famous treatise on Fate. Since then, scholarly attention has again been directed upon this intriguing figure.l So far, the shock of often diametrically opposed opinions has not resulted in a generally accepted view of the life and teaching of Bardaisan. Thus G. Widengren could remark that a modern monograph on Bardaisan was lacking, which did not prevent him from making a critical examination of H. H. Schaeder's essay on Bardaisan, and styling it a makeshift for the desired monograph.2 A year later this lack ...was not yet supplied, and O. Klima calls Bardai$an "eine ziemlich anigmatische Personlichkeit", whose full teaching is unfortunately not yet exactly known.3
In these circumstances both the motive for and the justification of the present investigation will be clear enough; however, all the riddles
of Bardasan's personality will certainly not be solved, if indeed this be possible, while some parts of his teaching will still, we fear, remain unknown. 'What can be carried out, is a survey of the history of research regarding Bardaisan until the present time, and a new examination of all the available sources, with the addition of those which had escaped attention or have never been confronted with the others. After this, a fresh attempt may be made to portray the life and teaching of Bardaisan and to determine his place in the religious and cultural life of Edessa in the second half of the second century of our era. All the cultures and religions which have exercised their influence in that town will require discussion in this comparative review, for Edessa was one of the points of contact between East and West, and for centuries was a centre of cultural exchange and mutual influence. In the historical account all the points of controversy concerning the life and doctrine of Bardaisan will emerge, examination and comparison of the sources will supply new data or permit of new combinations, whereupon we may attempt a sketch of Bardaisan's life and teaching in the setting of his time. The history of the group that took his name will also need some attention, the more so as it has become evident that there were differences within this group during the centuries of its existence, while all claimed to be Bardaisan's spiritual heirs.
Research regarding Bardaisan may be divided into three periods. Each of these is distinguished from the others either by a specific approach to the problem or by the scholars who dominated each period. The first period exemplifies this with its almost bewildering number of publications. ...

Zie: Chapter 1

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