Solving the Ninth-Century West Syrian Synoptic Problem

Yonatan Moss, Flavia Ruani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)581-606
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of the American Oriental Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Authors’ note: We would like to express our gratitude to Noam Maeir and Christina Sawatzki for their help on various aspects relating to this article . Work on this article was supported in part by the Azrieli Foundation and the Israel Science Foundation, Grant No . 771/19 . We have presented research that led to this article in conferences, workshops, and lectures in Zikhron Yaakov (Israel), Frankfurt a . M ., Bern, Aarhus, Paris, and Leuven . We thank the participants at those events for their helpful comments . Finally, we are highly appreciative of the JAOS anonymous readers for their careful and thorough reviews of this article, from which we benefited greatly.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 American Oriental Society. All rights reserved.


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