Bar Hebraeus Open this page in a new tab

Gregorius Abu’l-Faraj (1225/6-1286 CE), commonly known as ‘Bar Hebraeus’ (Bar 'Ebhraya), or the ‘Son of the Jew’, was born in Malatiyah (Melitene) to a Jewish father (who had supposedly converted to Christianity) known as Aaron the Physician (Budge, 1932:xvi-xvii). After the Mongols sacked Bar Hebraeus’ hometown of Malatiyah, the Mongol General Shawer Nawin fell ill and Aaron took care of his condition. This led to the family moving to Antioch where Bar Hebraeus continued his studies and, at the age of 17, became a Jacobite monk and a hermit (Budge, 1932:v). Bar Hebraeus later went to Tripoli in Phoenicia to further his studies and eventually became the Bishop of Gubos. He then moved to Lakabhin where he was also a Bishop and, after that, moved to Aleppo (Budge, 1932:xvii-xviii). In 1264 CE, Bar Hebraeus was elected Maphrian (Primate) of the East (Budge, 1932:xix). Besides his Chronicle, Bar Hebraeus wrote other books on philosophy, religion, grammar, science, and, possibly, medicine. He was also a lecturer in Mathematics and Astronomy (Budge, 1932:vii and wikipedia). His translations of Greek and Arabic texts indicates fluency in multiple languages besides Syriac and, presumably, Hebrew (Budge, 1932:vii). Bar Hebraeus traveled widely and died in Maraga, Persia, and was buried at the Mar Mattai Monastery, near Mosul (Budge, 1932:xxviii-xxxi and wikipedia). He is also known by the Latinized name Abulpharagius.

Bar Hebraeus began his studies to write his Chronicle in the great library at Maraghah only intending to write a history of the last eighty years continuing the Chronicle of Michael the Syrian which ends in 1196 CE (Budge, 1932:v). However, once he completed his 80 year history, he worked backwards, and using the Chronicle of Michael the Great [aka Michael the Syrian] as a foundation, he compiled his great work dealing with the profane history of the world from "the Creation" to the year of his death in 1286 CE (Budge, 1932:vii).