Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Stewards of the Poor: The Man of God, Rabbula, and Hiba in Fifth-Century Edessa

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Stewards of the Poor: The Man of God, Rabbula, and Hiba in Fifth-Century Edessa

Article excerpt

Stewards of the Poor: The Man of God, Rabbula, and Hiba in Fifth-Century Edessa. Translations and introductions by Robert Doran. [Cistercian Studies Series, 208.] (Kalamazoo, Michigan: Cistercian Publications. 2006. Pp. xx, 204. Paperback.)

This work provides modern English translations of five important documents that have significant hagiographical and theological value for understanding Edessa, a strategic city in the Syriac part of the Byzantine Empire. For the most part, they highlight the lives and religious attitudes of the city's two bishops during the first half of fifth-century: Rabbula (c. 4ll-c. 436) and Hiba (perhaps better known as Ibas, c. 436 to 449 and 451-457). The first three works, two Syriac and a Greek version, are variations in the legendary story of an early popular ascetic known as the "Man of God." His saintly life, even in its variants, captivated the minds of Syriac, Greek, and Latin Christians and inspired them to care for the poor as visible manifestations of Christ. This "Man of God" eventually became linked with the name of St. Alexius. The two remaining translations are the Life of Rabbula whose life as bishop was totaUy dedicated (if one can believe the accounts) to being a caring steward for the poor. He was also an uncompromising opponent of both Hiba and the School of Antioch's theological approach to Christ. The final work contains the Acta of the Second Council of Ephesus (449) that records the condemnatory statements made against Hiba, his controversial letter to Mari, and the reasons why he was deposed as bishop and imprisoned.

If I may judge from the emendations that Doran offers to the Syriac text I know first-hand, his translations of the Syriac and the Greek originals can be considered close and accurate. He offers a general and then individual introductions to each work that are well researched, informative, and critical in a truly balanced way. In his commentary Doran stresses the views of Rabbuia and Hiba, especially as they confront each other regarding the religious governance of Edessa and their estimation of Theodore of Mopsuestia. …

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