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Nestorius, The Bazaar of Heracleides (1925) Preface to the online edition

Here are a few notes compiled from Bedjan and Nau, which may supplement the information in the translation presented here.  

I. Life of Nestorius (by Paul Bedjan)

Bedjan gives a summary of the life of Nestorius.  Material in quotes is from a Syriac Life supposed by Nestorius himself, which he found in a Persian manuscript, and of which he says,  "it was made from manuscript 134 of the library of the American missionaries at Ourmiah.  The manuscript was written in 1558 AD."  Page references are to this manuscript.  I have translated Bedjan's words fairly literally.

Nestorius was born at Maras in Turkey (then Germanicia, in the province of Syria Euphratensis).  His teacher was Theodore, bishop of Mopsuestia.  He embraced the monastic life at Antioch, where he had been ordained priest.

When he was called to the see of Constantinople in 428, he delayed his journey for two days, which he spent with his master.  On their parting, Theodore said to him, "My son, I know you; I know that no woman has ever brought into the world a man so zealous as you; this is why I counsel you to moderate your zeal against the opinions of others . . . I rejoice in your enthusiasm, but I will be grieved if you perish at the hands of wicked men."

Nestorius made the presumptuous reply, "Master, why do you speak thus?  If I lived in the times of our Lord, he would answer you: 'do you others also wish to depart?'  The advent of our Lord is all we need to eat; the stomach that can digest this is nourished; that which does not is uncomfortable."

After he arrived at Constantinople he was consecrated bishop on 10th April 428, and, ascending his episcopal throne for the first time, he addressed the following famous words to the emperor, "Sire, give me your empire purged of heretics and I will give you the kingdom of Heaven.  Give me power over the heretics, and I, I will subjugate the Persians who make war on you."

"The inhabitants of the city, hearing this bombast, were very annoyed.  But Nestorius, five days later, gave the order to set fire to the churches of the Arians.  Many houses also were caught in the flames, which was a great affliction to the people."

Nestorius boasts however of being very patient with the heretics.

"He abolished the circus games, the theatres, prohibited shouting, singing, dancing and the other amusements to which the Romans were devoted.  This made him hated in the city.

"After Nestorius had the ornaments which the emperor's sister Pulcheria had given to the church removed, under the pretext that she had not completed what she had promised, she lent her influence to Cyril against him.  Nestorius then had the portrait of her which was painted in the church effaced."

Nestorius says that he resigned as bishop of Constantinople.  This is confirmed by the author of his life, who adds, "the tribune John was sent to Ephesus and presented the resignation to the emperor, who accepted it, and the seven bishops then returned home."

"After his resignation, he obtained as a great favour permission to return to his monastic cell at Antioch, and stayed there for four years.  He was not unknown: his convent was close to the city, and the inhabitants visited him for instruction.  The patriarch John became jealous of his popularity and wrote to the emperor. 'A woman cannot be the wife of two husbands,' he says symbolically, 'that is to say, a city cannot have two bishops.  If Nestorius is to reside here, order that I be sent elsewhere.'  The emperor, at the instigation of his sister Pulcheria, then sent him [Nestorius] into exile at the Oasis," in the Thebaid.

The history of the church does not mention this jealousy of John of Antioch, but it tells of the evil that the insubordination of Nestorius caused in the people who were sent to him, an insubordination in which he behaved increasingly like a heresiarch. This led the patriarch and the bishops of the East to make peace and union with those of Alexandria, a year after the Council of Ephesus, in condemning Nestorius and his teaching.

"After the death of Theodosius, Marcian was chosen emperor;  he recalled Nestorius and the 26 bishops who were exiled at the same time with him.  To his friends, who urged him to return, Nestorius replied, 'The desert pleases me by its aridity.'" (p.521)

The church histories and this Syriac biography agree that Nestorius only held the see of Constantinople for 3 years; he lived in a cell at Antioch then for 4 or 5 years; in exile in the Thebaid for 15 years.  In the Bazaar he speaks of the death of Theodosius on the 28th July 450 AD.  The author of his life, together with Zacharias Rhetor (according to Philoxenus of Mabbug, Assemani, Bibliotheca Orientalis II, p. 40, 55) pretends that he was called to the council convoked on the 17th May 451 AD.  If we believe these statements, Nestorius must have lived in Africa from 436 to 451, which would be the year of his death.

Assemani correctly denies this famous invitation of Nestorius to the council.  The idea was an invention of the Monophysites, in hatred of the Catholic Church and St. Leo, who sought to represent all that happened there as Nestorian.  In fact the celebrated council of Chalcedon again condemned Nestorius as a heretic.

The Bazaar speaks explicitly of the death of Theodosius (p. 506), but makes no mention of Marcian who succeeded him on the 24th August, that is to say 27 days later.  Had Nestorius really been invited to Chalcedon, he would certainly have boasted of it in his writings, as despite repeated condemnations over 20 years, he continued always to complain that he was being misrepresented!

On the next to last page of the Bazaar, the author speaks of the Vandal barbarians who had invaded Sicily and even Rome.  He adds with the air of a prophet that they will return, that Leo will be obliged to give them the sacred vessels with his own hands, and that he will see with his own eyes the princesses, the daughters of the emperor, led into captivity.  Here Nestorius, who knew the celebrated letter of Leo and who speaks at such length of the Robber-synod of Ephesus in 449, is silent about Marcian, silent about the Council of Chalcedon at which he was again condemned, and mentions only two invasions of Rome by the barbarians.  History tells us that Attila invaded Italy in 452, and was turned back by Leo; that Genseric came from Africa via Sicily and pillaged Rome in 455 and captured two imperial princesses.  For these reasons it is necessary to believe that these great events were added after the event by a forger who wanted to give the halo of a prophet to the founder of the sect.  In the manuscript, indeed, this last chapter has the title "Prophecy."

All this leads us to suppose that Nestorius died in 450 or 451.

A longer biography is given by Nau, with references.

II. The manuscript

The information that we have is rather unsatisfactory.  Bedjan writes:

Nestorius wrote in Greek.  His works were condemned to be burned, so only a few sermons and letters have reached us, in either Greek or Latin.  In the catalogue of Syriac writers drawn up by Ebedjesu, bishop of Nisibis, at the end of the 13th century, we see that Nestorius' work On Tragedy, his Heracleides, his letter to Come, his liturgy, a volume of letters, and another of sermons still existed in Syriac translation.  Today only his liturgy and the Bazaar survive.

The title of the Bazaar must be translated: Liber inscriptus: Mercatura Heraclidis Damasceni, scriptus a D. Nestorio.  "Tegourta" which is translated "Bazaar" is no doubt the translation of the Greek πραγματεια which signifies "mercatura" and also "tractatus" (philosophiae vel theologiae) [i.e. treatise of philosophy or theology].

A single manuscript of the Syriac translation of the Bazaar survived to the end of the 19th century, at which time it was found in the library of the Nestorian patriarch.  That dignitary had found it necessary for his own safety to base himself at Kotchanes in the mountains of Kurdistan. Bedjan tells us that the Syriac translation was made around 535 at the time of the patriarch Paul,  and according to notes in the copy of it at Ourmiah (ms. 147), it was about 800 years old.  The manuscript was mutilated.  This mainly happened in 1843, during a famous massacre carried out by a Kurdish chief and Turkish official, Bader Khan Bey, against the Christians.  Bedjan tells us that he has met survivors of the massacre himself in Persia.

Based upon the blank pages in the manuscripts which I have seen myself and some small notes of the copyist, I calculate that in the text as far as p. 146 of my edition some 55 pages of text are missing; to page 161, 42 pages are missing; to page 209, 36 pages are missing.  This calculation can only be approximate.  Also there are some passages where a number of lines have been left blank, and in other places small sections are unreadable through age.

A copy was made from this manuscript by the priest Ouchana in 1889, secretly and in haste, for the library of the American missionaries at Ourmiah.  Two copies were made from this copy. One was made for Cambridge, and the other for Strasbourg.  I have both of these here with me.  In addition, I have obtained a third manuscript from Kurdistan, one part of which was written at Van and the other at Kotchanes directly from the famous manuscript of the patriarch.  Because I received both parts from Van, I have referred to them both under the same name [of Van].

A footnote thanks the Rev. Bethune-Baker for loaning the Cambridge copy to Bedjan.  

It is quite unclear how a copy could be written at Van unless a further copy had been made sometime, or else the manuscript had travelled there.  Bedjan's words are repeated by Driver and Hodgson. Francois Nau's introduction, p.xxii ff, elaborates the story and supplies additional detail.

The unique manuscript preserved at Kotchanes belongs to the 11th or 12th century. ...

From this manuscript, a copy was taken in secret and in haste in 1889 by the priest Auscha`nâ, for the library of the American missionaries at Ourmiah, cf. infra, p. 4 note 5.  All the copies derive from this copy of Ourmiah, apart from that (V) which P. Bedjan had made, part at Van (coming from Kotchanes) and part at Kotchanes itself.

From the Ourmiah copy there were made:

1. A copy for the university of Strasbourg by the efforts of the abbé H. Goussen, cf. Martyrius Sahdona's Leben und Werke, Lepizig, 1897, p. 15, note 1, and the analysis of A. Baumstark in Oriens Christianus, t. III (1903), p. 517-520.

2. Two copies for Messrs. Parry and Jenks, the first of whom was the leader and the other a member of the English mission at Ourmiah.  [A footnote tells us that while the US mission was founded in 1836, there was a mission sent out from England around 1890 by the Archbishop of Canterbury at the request of the Nestorian patriarch].  Jenks' copy was first placed at the disposal of Bethune-Baker, and was translated for him by one of his friends in order to be used for his book, Nestorius and his teaching.  

Jenks' copy is currently in Cambridge University Library.  Parry's copy was donated to the British Library.  In common with so many manuscripts at that institution since WW1, it has been effectively unavailable to those who could use it.  Nau continues:

3. A copy in 1899 for Rendel Harris, which can now be found at Harvard college in the USA.  Cf. Bethune-Baker, loc. cit. p. xiv-xv.

Bethune-Baker's book (Cambridge, 1908) is online at google book, although only to US readers.  Bethune-Baker tells us (p.xiv-xv) that:

...I learn from Mr. O. H. Parry, the head of the Archbishop of Canterbury's Mission to the Assyrian Christians at Urmi ... that members of the mission had long been acquainted with the book, and that several copies had been made.

Mr. D. Jenks, a former member of the mission (1892-99) was the first to learn of the MS [the copy in the American library at Ourmiah] and to procure a copy of it.  A copy was also obtained by Dr. Rendel Harris in 1899.  (This copy is now, I understand, at Harvard.)  Mr. Parry himself has had a copy by him for the last seven years and has made a translation of part of it. ... Mr Jenks, now a member of the House of the Sacred Mission, ... brought [his copy] back with him to England in 1899 and has kindly placed his copy at my disposal for use in this fresh examination of the teaching of Nestorius.

A friend, who is an expert Syriac scholar, has been good enough to make a translation of it for me, and it is his translation which I have used whenever the book is referred to or quoted.  ... I should have wished his name to appear on the title page.  But his standpoint on matters concerning the church and church doctrine is not the same as mine.  He would not treat the subject as a whole as I have treated it, nor would he wish to associate himself with all the inferences which I have drawn from the fresh evidence which is now available.

SPCK announced ca. 1920 that a translation prepared by Norman McLean, also a Cambridge don would be forthcoming, so I think that we may presume that he was the anonymous friend referred to.  No such work was published, however.  The whereabouts of this translation are now unknown.  I queried whether it had been deposited at Cambridge University Library, but they have little by McLean other than a couple of letters.

Nau adds:

In 1903 the manuscript at Strasbourg (S) had already been copied and vocalised by Fr. Bedjan, and the abbé Ermoni began to translate the work into Latin from this copy.  He halted after completing around a third of the work and had to abandon it at that point.  ... It was in 1909 that Fr. P. Bedjan asked me to translate the Book of Heraclides from the proof-sheets of his edition.

Bedjan continues:

These various copies have allowed me to verify the text, to fill up accidental gaps, and to compensate, to a certain degree, for the absence of the ancient manuscript, of which I have not been able to have knowledge.  ...

The Cambridge copy is of a very nice calligraphy and is the only one that is vocalised, although often in a very defective manner.  The proper names are mispronounced, especially towards the beginning. [Problems with the name Sophronius] Sophronius, bishop of Tella, was excommunicated at the Robber council led by Disocorus as a partisan of Nestorius.

A footnote adds that the details about Sophronius can be found in Assemani, B.O. t. 1, pp. 202, 402.  He was the cousin of Ibas, it is said.  He was reintroduced at Chalcedon, after which he was obliged to anathemise Nestorius. (Labbe, t. IV, 623 D).

In the different copies we can see that each has tried to reproduce the old manuscript, and each has placed the second folio where the first should be, and vice-versa.  The copyists through an excess of scrupulousness have followed this false pagination.  I have placed the pages back in their natural order.

During the First World War there were very significant losses of manuscripts.  The library at Ourmiah was destroyed, although a few books were saved.  Presumably the ancient ms. of Kotchanes was also lost.  The whereabouts of the Van copy is also unknown to me.  The Strasbourg and Cambridge copies still exist.  If anyone has any additional information, I would be most glad to hear of it.

Roger Pearse
30th September 2006


The industrious Steven Ring has discovered that a catalogue of the Syriac manuscripts at Harvard is now online.  This of course includes Ms. 95, the Liber Heraclidis, from which I digest the following:

Title :  Liber Heraclidis. Syriac 
Title :  Te'gurta d-Heraqlidos : manuscript, 1899. 
Location :  Houghton library MS Syriac 95 
Finding aids :  Goshen-Gottstein, 76; Titterton, Syriac manuscripts in the Semitic Museum, 176. 
Description : 1 v. (280 p.) ; 37 cm. 
Provenance :  Bookplate of former owner J. Rendel Harris with his number (87). Purchased by the Harvard Semitic Museum in 1905 (accession no. 4023). Semitic Museum deposit, ca. 1959.
Notes: Title from colophon, p. 279. This also gives the scribe's name, the priest David from ʻAnbi in Tergawar. It also states that the ms. was copied from a ms. written by Oshana Saru in March 1889 in Kochanes. 

A subscription by Oshana Saru in the original ms. is copied on a front flyleaf by W. A. Shedd. This explains that he left blank spaces corresponding to damage in the ms. from which he worked, and that he added vowels. 

Written in a neat East Syriac hand, with vowels, in black with occasional red. 

Bound in half tan calf and cloth by Wilsons of Cambridge. 

Cite as :  MS Syriac 95. Houghton Library, Harvard University. 
References :  Baumstark, 117. 

This is indeed, then, the Rendel Harris copy.  The vague descriptions give way to specific information here about scribes and copies.  Thus this is not a direct copy of the ancestor Kotchanes manuscript.  Steven is going to Harvard; I will ask him to look at this manuscript.

28th July 2007


Paul Bedjan, Nestorius: le livre d'Heraclide de Damas.  Leipzig (1910).

F. Nau, Nestorius: le livre d'Heraclide de Damas, traduit en Français.  Paris (1910)

The Syriac life of Nestorius is presented by Maurice Brière, La legende syriaque de Nestorius, revue de l'orient chrétien (1910), and reprinted separately by A. Picard & fils, Paris (1910).

Luise Abramowski, Untersuchungen zum Liber Heraclidis des Nestorius. / CSCO 242, Subs. 22. Louvain, 1963, pp. I-II ff.  I owe this reference to Nikolai Seleznyov in the HUGOYE-L email list, but I have not seen the volume.  This apparently states that the original Ms was lost during the First World War.

H.Goussen, Martyrius-Sahdona's Leben und Werke (Leipzig, 1897). I owe this reference to Nikolai Seleznyov in the HUGOYE-L email list, but I have not seen the volume.  On p.15 the author apparently mentions the Ms & its copying.

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