Solving the Ninth-Century West Syrian Synoptic Problem

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Yonatan Moss
Flavia Ruani



Within the rich literary tradition of the West Syrian (i.e., Syriac Orthodox) Church, two ninth-century authors stand out thanks to a curious problem. The authors are the bishops John of Dara, who lived in the first half of the century, and Moses bar Kepha, who died in northern Iraq in 903. The problem is the literary relationship between several of the texts transmitted in their names. Applying a three-pronged approach to this synoptic problem, this article offers a path toward a solution. On the basis of biographical, stylistic, and philological arguments, it is argued that at least one text that goes under John’s name, On Heretics, was not in fact written by him. The author of that text, likely operating in the tenth century, drew heavily from Moses bar Kepha’s treatise On Paradise, while reshaping the material from Moses, and also incorporating additional material from other sources.

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