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A SYNOPSIS OF GREEK PHILOSOPHY BY BAR 'EBHRAYA. 

By Richard J. H. Gottheil, Ph. D., 
Columbia College, New York City. 



In his " Lamp of the Holy Things " Bar 'Ebhraya has given us a compendium 
of his logical, physical, metaphysical, and theological writings. In its general 
construction it is very similar to the "Book of the Bee" and to the "Causa 
Causarum" attributed to Ya'kubh 'Urhaya (ZDMG. xv. 648). The "M'narath 
Kudhse " is perhaps one of the least known of the larger works of Bar 'Ebhraya. 1 
MS. copies of it are quite rare. 2 At some future date I hope to edit the whole of 
it. It is especially interesting as giving us a picture of the state of science in 
Syria during the thirteenth century. It furnishes also important additions to our 
Syriac lexicon, and has not been sufficiently excerpted by Quatremere for the 
" Thesaurus Syriacus." In a small publication, I have already edited the chapter 
on plants and their medicinal properties. 3 The following contains the chapter on 
the Greek philosophers, taken from the Berlin MS. It is much more scientific 
than the accounts in the Syriac Chronicle and Arabic "Historia Dynastorum." 
I do not think that Bar 'Ebhraya has himself gone very deeply into Grecian 
philosophy. It is probably based upon some such synopsis as those of Aristotle 
in the first book of the " Metaphysics," Plutarch in Eusebius, " Prepar. Evan." 
xiv. 14, and Stobaeus, " Eclogae Physicae," 1. 12. The names are written too 
correctly for it to have come from an Arabic source ; though Bar 'Ebhraya has 
otherwise drawn largely from Ibn Abi Oseibia, El Kifti and Sa'id (Steinschneider, 
"Al Earabi," pp. viii, 152, 154, 157). In what connection this synopsis stands to 
one mentioned by Kenan in his " Phil. Peripat. apud Syros " (Steinschneider, loc. 
cit., p. 128) I am unable to say, as I have no means of consulting that book. 

Through the kindness of Professor Sachau and Herr Stud. Miiller in Berlin 
my copy has been once more collated with the MS. 

MS. Sachau 81, fol. 22a. 

■ "-V)*'. pp] ) -.'VlN >QJ0 (t) jJ^Z&iO i^-5 fM *So ^OfflOiD? W0LS . Vr> 



i Journal Asiatique, 1834, p. 461, contains a description of the work. Assemani (B. O. II. 234) 
does not say much. A short extract will be found in Frothingham's " Stephen bar Sudaili," p. 63. 

2 Vatican (B. O., Joe. cit,), Paris (anc. fonds MS. 121), Berlin (Sachau MS. 81). Arabic transla- 
tions exist in Paris, the British Museum, and the Bodleian. 

3 "A List of Plants and their Properties," etc. Berlin, 1886. For private circulation only. 



250 Hebeaica. 

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A Synopsis of Gbebk Philosophy by Bak 'Ebhraya. 251 

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Second foundation, on the nature of this universe. In it there are a preface 
and three chapters. 

I. Preface. Many and different opinions were [current] among the ancients 
regarding the nature of this universe. For some of them assumed water to be the 
one moving principle, as Thales of Miletus, 1 he who first originated philosophy. 
For he saw that all life springs from the moisture of seed, and that all plants 
draw their nourishment from it, and by means of it grow ; and that from [damp 2 ] 
vapors Are, the sun, and the stars are nurtured. The poet Homer also sings 
(sabbah) in the same strain when he calls Oceanus and Tetheus, i. e., the sea and 
moisture, the parents of all existing things. 3 Others again have posited {ridypi) 
air [as the first principle], as Anaximenes and Diogenes. They said that the soul 
of everything that lives is preserved by air ; and that wind and air preserve this 
world. 4 Others posited fire, as Hippasus, and Heracleitus and Theophrastus. 
They affirmed that it is heat which brings forth all things, and causes them to 
grow ; and that, when this [fire] goes out, the world also ceases to be. Some of 
them posit one moving principle, as Xenophanes. This one denied all generation 
and destruction ; 5 and one affirms that the essence of all things is altogether un- 
changeable. Parmenides says that the principle [of all things] is one, immovable ; 
but one only in the concept (X6yo()fi On this account he affirmed it to be limited. 
Milissus posits the one, identical in number and in substance. He affirmed it to 
be infinite. Some of them (i. e., the philosophers) assumed many elements. Of 



i Through a clerical error MS. has "Melltene," the well-known city in Cappadocia; Hist. 
Dynast., p. 50, correctly Miletus. 

2 Wabh"lebge* dh c mayya ? nal avrb to Qep/idv en tovtov yiyvdftevov. Arist. Metaph. 1. 3. 

a II. XIV. 102: 'Qneav6v re -&eav yiveatv, nal /jr/ripa Tqdvv. In his Hist. Dynast. Bar 'EbhrSyft 
tells us that Theophilus of Edessa, who died in 786, translated Homer into Syriae (Lagarde, Sym- 
mieta, 1. 106). Severus of Tegrit mentions it also (Ibid.). Bar 'All (Payne Smith eol. 2081) cites 
the expression "mayya dhaggale" probably from the same source. Cf . also Ibn Abi Useibia, I. 
185, 1. 25. 

* The words of Anaximenes himself. Stobseus, Eclogarum physic, 1. 296 : olov r) ^rvxh $ tffierepa 
arjp ovaa avyKparel ^paQ Kal b^ov rbv n6(?fiov Trvevfia ndi wqp ■Ktpitxu. 

5 aevofavqc oiire yevemv ovre <p&opav airoTieiTrei. Freudenthal, Ueber die Theologie des 

Xenophanes, p. 46 Zeller, A Hist, of Greek Phil., I. p. 566. 

6 The sense here is very obscure. I think that Bar 'Ebhraya means Parmenides to say that 
the one is identical with itself. Zeller, 1. c, p. 586. 



A Synopsis of Gbeek Philosophy by Bab 'Ebhbaya. 253 

these there were those wno assumed infinite i/wm/^ep^, as Anaxagoras. 1 He said 
that when these parts {/tipy) collide with one another and again separate from one 
another, generation and destruction are completed. The active cause of existence 
he affirmed to be the vovg. Lucippus also assumed infinite elements, but [said] 
that they differ [from one another] and possess real Being, and that " Being is not 
more real than not-Being." 2 Democritus again assumes infinite principles round 
in form (oxf/pa), which can be divided off mentally, not in reality. Epicurus, 
again, says of the [first] principles that they are infinite [in number], indivisible, 
and are set in motion in an infinite vacuum, and that they possess magnitude, 
shape and gravity. 

Others posited the principles as finite, as Empedocles. This [philosopher] 
set up the four elements as principles, and the mingling (/«?<£■) [of the elements], 
which is generation, he calls love (qMtw), and [their] separation (<5ia%fctS;te), which 
is destruction, [he calls hate (veino^)]? Aristotle posits three principles, ifai, eldo? 
and deprivation (a-ripr/me).* He also assumes elements for the arkpriaig, because the 
destruction of every eldoc is the cause of another eldoc. The Stoics said that the 
Deity (o #e<Sc ) and the Mi? are the [material] principles, the one as working force 
(to ttowvv) the other as passive (to ■ko.cxov) and receptive, i. e., father and mother. 
Some Stoics posited five elements,— god, the soul (fox^t), v%y, time (Kp6vo$) and vac- 
uum (nev6v). 

Pythagoras, the son of Mnesarchus, the Samian, he who first gave the name phi- 
losophy to philosophy, 5 made numbers the elements of this universe ; saying that the 
compound numbers come from the simple ones, and that there is nothing simpler 
than number, because it is bereft of all nature, and that every nature, since num- 
ber necessarily belongs to it, is compound, 6 and not simple. He asserts, further, 
that the first number is the active force (koiiitmSv), and the second the receptive 
(vlr;). The full number is ten (<Wc), because it cannot be added to, but we [com- 
mence again to] count from it. The number four (TerpaKTve) is its [i. e., ten's] 
foundation ; for by means of it [the ten] is made full ; namely, by [the addition 
of] one, and two, and three, and four. Atticus, in the first chapter of the book 
Philicus [Phillipus?] says that Plato thought [there were] four elements,— vovg, 
which is the active force, or deity, praise be to his goodness; the receptacle 
(Soxeiov ?) or vXri, which he also calls the receptive mother 7 and eK/iayeiov ■ 8 the image 



i Arist. Metaph. 1. 3. 

s Aristotle, Metaph. 1. 4, of which our words are a translation: Sib ica.1 obftiv fiaXkov to iv 
tov /irj ovto( elval $amv, 

s A clerical omission in MS. 

* Stobseus, Belogae FhyMcae, I. ch. xn. Schahrastani, " Kitab al-Milal wan-Nihal," II. 317. 
Aaron ben Elia, " '§s hayylm," ed. Delitzsch, p. 326. 

« In the Hist. Dynast., p. 51, this has become, " Some say that the first one who philosophized 
was Pythagoras." 

6 In the MS. this word occurs twice; but see HUt. Dynast., p. 84. 

7 Timeeus, 51 A. « Timseus, 50 D. 



254 Hebbaica. 

[of the thing generated, i. e., cuj>o/wi,ovfievov] or elSog, which he calls the archetype, say- 
ing that in its likeness the different substances were created ; and motion (Kim/ate) 
or sonl, which until then had existed without knowledge in the Vkn as the first 
principle, and [which] had been brought into motion confusedly and not according 
to order (oto/ctuc). 1 In the book Timseus, Plato himself says that these [principles] 
are three,— being, Soxeiov, and vovc , a treble triad, and [one which] existed before 
the heavens. 2 Moreover, he called elSoc God, 3 and Soxeiov vat;; motion or soul 
[he called] generation. And in one place also he says there are two principles, 
combining the deity and elSo( into one, and vkn and motion into one. Syrianus 
(MS. Sibarius ?), to whom Plotinus attached himself, and Boe'thus (MS. BUTUS), 
to whom Longinus (MS. LUKGS), the teacher of Porphyrius, was attached, have 
said much about the opinions of Plato ; but we omit them, in order that this ex- 
position be not prolonged. Of the rest, Bardaisan posited five principles or 
beings, 4 — fire, and wind, and water, and light, and darkness; Mani, however, 
only two,— goodness and evil. 5 And because all these profane [writers] attributed 
eternity and not generation to this world, being in opposition to the holy church, 
which does not attribute to it eternity, but generation, i. e., temporal beginning, 
holding its generation to be true, but denying its eternity, we refute them in a 
body, as we do all their frightful doctrines. A separate treatise, however, is 
necessary against every one of these heresies on a larger scale than in this writing. 



i Timseus, 693, ravra a-ranTcx; exovra 6 debe, kta, 

s Timaeue, 52 D, ov re nal x^P av *<" ytvsoiv elvai rpia rpixv Kal "V'" ovpavbv yevea&ac. 

s Head, "karg 'allaha ladhSa." 

* Cureton, Spie. Syr., p. 3, etc. Cf. also Payne Smith, s. v. " Schahrastani," 1. 194; Aaron ben 
Elia, p. 310; Bardesandes von Edessa von Dr. A. Merx, Halle, 1863; Bardesanes der Letzte Gnos- 
tlker, Leipzig, 1864; W. B. Smith, Kinship and Marriage in early Arabia, p. 220; Pliigel, Mani, 
seine Lehre und seine Schriften, p. 161. MS. or. Berlin Saohau 302 contains a short extract from 
Bardaisan. Aprem,[however (B. 0. 1. 131), has seven instead of five. 

5 Titus von Bostra, ed. Lagarde, 6:1. Flugel, loc. cit., p. 177.