Book 4  Continuation .....................

VI.— The ‘Maliarpha’ of Ptolemy

What has been said above will no doubt have impressed the reader with the fact that the writers who mention Calamina take it to be the name of the place in India where our Apostle died and was buried; yet they were mistaken as to the name. It is but natural that the reader should further inquire whether there is any mention in ancient geography of the town Mailapur (Anglicè, Mylapore) where the tomb of the Apostle, from the evidence produced in a preceding chapter, is known to exist.

The author of the Periplus, of the end of the first or beginning of the second century, the earliest geographer who treats somewhat fully of India (see the edition by McCrindle, London, 1879, pp.140-144) ends his description of the maritime shores of India with the two gulfs of Manar and Palk. It is true he gives some three names which are found in the vicinity of the estuary of the Cauvery, but he has no detailed account of the eastern coast of the peninsula, and passes on to mention Masalia, the present Masulipatam, as a landmark. It would seem that he never travelled beyond the gulf of Manar. It is needless, therefore, to look to him for any information regarding the Mylapore of ancient days.

We may next turn to Ptolemy. Mr. McCrindle has also given an English translation of the section of his text with a commentary regarding India (Ancient India as described by Ptolemy, London, 1885). The information regarding Southern India, for reasons quite independent of the editor’s industry, leaves much to be desired. In tracing the geography of the Alexandrian cartographer for the Northern, Eastern, and Western sections of India, McCrindle had received very considerable aid from work which had been done by M.Vivien de Saint-Martin; this help now failed him. Three Mémoires sur la géographie de l’Inde by the Frenchman were published, but the fourth, which was to take up the geography of Southern India—though promised and referred to in the third—was unfortunately never published.88

The withdrawal of this help brought with it another disadvantage. Saint-Martin possessed a wealth of knowledge of the geography of ancient India, and displayed a rare genius in tracing up details of the Vedic and Puranic, or Sanscrit, geography. McCrindle had now to fall back on what aid Colonel Yule could supply; and he, excellent as he was in all appertaining to the geography of the Middle Ages and of Arab travellers, was unable to supplement what help the Frenchman had given. It will therefore not appear surprising if the result of McCrindle’s work covering this section is not found conclusive to recall the memory of the Mylapore of ancient days.

Ptolemy’s Geography from McCrindle:—

‘Book VII.— Description of the furthest parts of Greater Asia according to the existing provinces and satrapies.

‘13. Paralia, specially so called, the country of the Toringoi.

Mouth of the river Khabêris.

Khabêris, an emporium.

Sabouras, an emporium.

‘14. The Arounarnoi [Arvarnoi].

Podukê, an emporium.

Melange, an emporium.

Mouth of the river Tyna.


Manarpha [or Manaliarpha], a mart.

‘15. Maisolia, &c.’

The point to be ascertained is whether the reading Manarpha, or Manaliarpha, a mart, represents the sole, or even the best reading of this passage in Ptolemy.

(1) The oldest edition we consulted was indeed a tall, venerable edition89 in fol. max. of 1513, folio 49 (1st col.):—


In ea quae proprie dicitur Paralia Soretorum

swrhtwn maritima.

Chaberis cabhriV civitas.

Chaberi cabhrou flu. osti.

Sobura soboura emporium

Aruarnorum arouarnwn.

Podyca podukh emporium.

Melanga melaggh emporium.

Tynae tuna flu. osti.

Cottis kottiV

Maliarpha maliarfa emporium.

Mesoliae maiswliaV.


(2) The second is Erasmus’ first and separate edition of the entire Greek text: Claudii Ptolemaei Alexandrini de geographia libri octo, Basileae, mdxxxiii, in 8vo (Bibl. Nationale, Paris), p.409:—


ThV idiwV paloumainhV paraliaV


cabhrou pot. ekbolai

cabhriV emporion

sabouraV emporion


podwkh emporion

melaggh emporion

Thnna pot. ekbolai


manarfa emporion


(3) The third is a Lyons’ edition of mdxxxv in fol: Bilibaldi Pirkeymheri translatione ad Graeca et prisca exemplaria in Michaele Villanouano jam primum recepti (libri octo), Lugduni (the Bibl. Casanatensis, Rome). A second edition of Lyons of 1541 gives an identical text in the passage:—



Poduca emporium

Melange emporium

Tynae flu. ostia


Maliarpha emporium


(4) The fourth is a Latin edition : Geographia universalis vetus et nova complectens—Claudii Ptolemaei Alex. enarrationes, libri viii, Basileae Henricum Petrum Mense Martio anno mdxl in 4o:—


Poduca emporium

Melange emporium

Tynae flu. ostia


Maliarpha emporium


(5) The fifth is an Italian translation from a Greek text: La Geographia di Claudio Tolomeo Alessandrino, tradotto dal Greco da M. Giero Ruscelli, Venetia, apresso Giordano Ziletti, mdlxxiiii, Lib. vii, Tavola x d’ Asia, p.312:—


Di quello che propriamente si chiama maritima de’ soringi—

89a * Caberi mercato [ Cachel

Bocca del fiume Cabero

* Sobura mercato [ Zael

De gli Aruari

Poduca mercato

* Melange mercato [ Magapara

Bocca del fiume Tinna


Maliarfa mercato

Et il luogo onde sciolgono coloro che navigano in Crisa.

(6) The sixth is an edition of 1605: Claudii Ptolemaei Alexandrini Geographiae libri octo Graeco-Latini per Gerardum Mercatorem a Petro Montano iterum recogniti, Francofurti, Amsterodami, fol. 1605, p. 169 ( Ist col.):—


In ea quae proprie dicitur Paralia sive

littoralis Toringorum

. . . . . . .


Puduca emporium

Melange emp.

* Tynnae flu. ostia [al. Tynae


* Manarpha emporium [al. Maliarpha


Greek text, p.169, 2nd col.:—

ThV idiwV kaloumenhV paraliaV

. . . . . .


podwkh emporion

melaggh emporion

tunna pot. ekbolai


manarfa emporion


(7) The seventh is the edition of Peter Bertius, printed in 1618: Bataviae, in fol., giving in full the Greek text and Latin translation (the Library of St.Geneviève, Paris).

Page 198, Ist col., Lat. version:—


In ea quae proprie dicitur paralia sive

littoralis Toringorum [Soringorum

Chaberi flu. ostia

Chaberis emporium

Saburas [Palat. Sobura emporium

Arvarorum [Pal. Aruarnorum

Podoce [Pal.poduce emporium

Melange emporium

P.199, 2nd col:—

Tynnae flu.ostia


Manarpha [Pal.Manaliarpha emporium


Greek text, p.198 f. 2nd col.:—

cabhrou potamon ekbolai

cabhriV emporion

SabouraV [Pal. Swboura emporion

        Aroarwn [Pal. Arouarnwn

Podwkh [Pal. Pwdoukh emporion

Melaggh emporion

Tunna potamou ekbolai


Manarfa [Pal. Manaliarfa emporion


The preceding are the older editions we found useful to consult; we met with others, but they were reprints. There is only one modern print of the entire Greek text, that published by Carolus Fr.A.Nobbe, a stereotyped edition, printed in three separate 18mo vols. at Leipsic, 1843-45; it is a reprint of the Greek text of Peter Bertius of Amsterdam, 1618, quoted above. McCrindle’s translation is based on Nobbe’s reprint.

Of critical editions of the text there are two, both incomplete. The earlier was prepared by Fred William Wilberg, printed at Essendiae, 1838-45, in 4to, and issued in six fasciculi; it gives the readings of seven MSS collated by the editor, and of the readings of two others supplied to him; the edition goes only to the end of the sixth book. The second was by Alfred Fermin Didot, Paris, 1883, in 4to, for which some twenty codices were collated; it is also equipped with ample information in notes. The edition was to have been completed; in three volumes, two for text, and a third for maps. Only the first volume was published, giving the first three of the eight books of the geography. Lately, a Paris firm (Librairie de Paris, Rue Jacob 56) published the maps of the three first books as part ii. of first volume. It thus becomes clear that we have no critical text for the seventh and eighth books of Ptolemy’s Geography. India is treated in the seventh.

The text first quoted, given by McCrindle, takes us back eventually to that of Peter Bertius. It will be useful to quote what he has written in the preface to that edition, on the intrinsic merit of the text he publishes: Quum.....Hundius nostram operam ad novam Ptolemaei editionem efflagitaret, recepi eam in me et ope codicis Graeci in quo Fredericus Sylbergus varias lectiones Palatinorum codicum sua manu curiose admodum adnotaverat, non tantum Graeca infinitis locis auxi et restitui, sed etiam Latina maxima sui parte interpolavi..... Est ubi Latinus codex plura habet quam Graecus; est ubi Graecus plura quam Latinus: est ubi ita inter se dissidunt ut quid sequaris vix scias. This gives a fair idea of the value of this text based on a single Greek MS. supplemented by readings from two or three Palatine codices.

We place before the reader an analysis of the readings of texts given above in regard to the passage which refers to our Mailapur:—

Gr. Maliarfa A

 " Manarfa BFG

 " Manaliarfa G

Lat. Maliarpha ACDF

 " Manarpha FG

 " Manaliarpha G

Ital. Maliarfa E

The readings Manarfa and Manarpha are identical, so they will be grouped together: the readings Maliarfa and Manaliarfa —Maliarpha, Manaliarpha, and Maliarfa will be similarly grouped.

For the first set we have texts BFG and FG.

For the second we rely upon AG and ACDF and G and E.

This gives (5) five readings for the root Manarpha and (8) eight for the root Maliarpha. This leaves a sufficient preponderance to show that, though the present text offers a variant, the balance of weight is for the root Maliarpha, taking together Greek text printed, and independent translations from the Greek.

The form Maliarpha contains the two essential ingredients of the name Malia-pur, which would be the form known or reported to the Greek geographers. A Greek desinence, as customary in such cases, has been introduced, so in place of pur or phur (which may represent a more ancient form of pronunciation) we have the Greek termination pha; nor has the sound r of the Indian name disappeared, but it has passed to the preceding syllable of the word. If we take into consideration the inaccurate reproduction of Indian names in Ptolemy’s present text, it is almost a surprise that so much of the native sound of the name is yet retained. We will not refer to the map which accompanies Ptolemy’s Geography, wherein the name Maliarpha emporium is found, for it might be said that it is the result of subsequent manipulation of these charts; but it is significant to point out that these maps place ‘Maliarpha’ where the present Mylapore would be shown.

The identification which we have followed up so far had been pointed out by D’Anville, the French geographer of the eighteenth century (see his Géographie Ancienne abrégée, Paris 1788, ch.ix.p.330- 331); as also by Paulinus à Sto. Bartholomeo, the Carmelite missionary of the West Coast (India Orientalis Christiana, Romae, 1794, p.126)



In opposition to the claim of the Apostle Thomas to be the first who conveyed the light of the Gospel to India proper, the claims of others have been put forward from time to time by ancient and modern writers. It will in consequence be necessary, in order to clear up all doubt on the subject, to look carefully into all such claims, and examine the credentials adduced on behalf of each.

1.— St. Pantaenus

The first in chronological order is St.Pantaenus, who is supposed to have left for his mission a.d. 189-190.90 This claim is put forward by no less an authority than the father of Church history, Eusebius, the Bishop of Caesarea, a.d. 265-340. The Roman Martyrology (ed.ut supr.) has the following entry on the 7th of July: ‘At Alexandria [the feast or commemoration] of St. Pantaenus, an apostolic man and endowed with every knowledge, whose zeal and love for the word of God was so great that, inflamed by the fervour of his faith and piety, he went forth to peoples secluded in the farthest recesses of the East to preach the Gospel of Christ; and returning finally to Alexandria, he slept in peace under Antoninus Caracalla’ [a.d. 211-217].

The Martyrology does not specify the field of his missionary labours; and for most of his authentic history we have to depend upon some short notices by his disciple, Clement of Alexandria, and a fuller account by Eusebius (Eccl. Hist., bk.v.chap. x., Eng. trans. by C.f. Cruse, London, 1851, p. 178) : ‘About the same time [i.e. in the first year of Commodus, a.d. 180, when Julian succeeded Agrippinus in the see of Alexandria, as shown in preceding chapter (apud Euseb.) the school of the faithful was governed by a man distinguished for his learning, whose name was Pantaenus; as there had been a school of sacred literature established there from ancient times, which has continued down to our own times, and which we have understood was conducted by men able in eloquence and the study of divine things. For the tradition is, that this philosopher was then in great eminence, as he had been first disciplined in the philosophical principles of those called Stoics. But he is said to have displayed such ardour, and so zealous a disposition, respecting the divine word, that he was constituted a herald of the Gospel of Christ to the nations of the East, and advanced even as far as India. There were even there yet many evangelists of the word, who were ardently striving to employ their inspired zeal after the apostolic example to increase and build up the divine word. Of these, Pantaenus is said to have been one, and to have come as far as the Indies. And the report is, that he there found his own arrival anticipated by some who there were acquainted with the Gospel of Matthew, to whom Bartholomew, one of the Apostles, had preached, and had left them the same gospel in the Hebrew, which was also preserved until this time. Pantaenus, after many praiseworthy deeds, was finally at the head of the Alexandrian school commenting on the treasures of divine truth, both orally and in his writings.’91

Eusebius tells us that, according to tradition, Pantaenus reached India, but does not specify the India he refers to. The general impression produced on the mind of the reader by the text quoted would be that the reference is to India proper; and were it not for the mention made of the Gospel of St.Matthew left by the Apostle Bartholomew there would be no substantial clue to test the correctness of the impression. But this will be found sufficient to identify the India to which Pantaenus went.

The solution of the doubt demands that a country be found to which Bartholomew had gone, known under the name of India, and a people who could make intelligent use of the Gospel of Matthew left there by the former. A further point for investigation is offered by the text of the gospel.

The opinion now universally accepted is that this was written in the current Aramaic, then prevailing in Palestine, for the special benefit of the new converts in Judea. Flavius Josephus has a striking passage which bears on the language question of the Jews at his time. We take it from the preface written by him to his The Wars of the Jews, or The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (published and revised in Greek, a.d.93; Eng. trans. by William Whiston, London, 1870,vol.i.p.551). In section I he says: ‘I have proposed to myself, for the sake of such as live under the government of the Romans, to translate these books into the Greek tongue, which I formerly composed in the language of our country and sent to the Upper barbarians’ [he is here using the term in the Roman and Greek sense]. In section 2 he adds: ‘I thought it therefore an absurd thing to see the truth falsified in affairs of such great importance, and to take no notice of it; but to suffer those Greeks and Romans that were not in the wars to be ignorant of these things, and to read either flatteries or fictions, while the Parthians, and the Babylonians, and the remotest Arabians, and those of our nation beyond the Euphrates, with the Adiabeni, by my means know accurately both whence the war began, what miseries it brought upon us, and after what manner it ended.’

Josephus does not tell us in what language his history of the Jewish wars was written, but styles it ‘ the language of our country.’ The Hebrew had long before his time ceased to be the colloquial language of the Jews. About 600 years B.C. the Aramaic is supposed to have begun to supersede it; this takes us to the period of Jewish captivity. Aram, the fifth son of Sem, is the supposed ancestor of the people inhabiting both borders of the Euphrates; and the land on both borders, in Biblical language, is called ‘Aram,’ more so Syria proper and Arabia petraea. The language of Aram gradually expanded itself over the whole of the western countries, and was, in the Persian period, the official language of these provinces. The Jews, having learned it during their captivity, as the bilingual texts of the books of Daniel and Ezra attest brought it back with them to Palestine as their colloquial tongue. Hebrew therefore does not answer to what Josephus terms ‘the language of our country’: the more so as he says the language was understood by ‘the Parthians, and the Babylonians, and the remotest Arabians, and those of our nation beyond the Euphrates, with the Adiabeni.’ The language here referred to by Josephus can be no other than the Aramaic, and it is now generally admitted to have been the language of his text. Similarly, the language in which Matthew’s Gospel was written was the Aramaic tongue spoken by Christ and His Apostles. Yet the term Hebrew, applied by older writers to the text of that gospel found by Pantaenus, demands a word of explanation.

The Chaldaic form of the Aramaic dialect, used to the east of the Euphrates and in which some books of the Old Testament were written, is found in the Hebrew text of the Scriptures, written in Hebrew letters, though the language is not Hebrew, but Aramaic or Syriac: hence the language itself with reference to such books came, in a general way, to be termed Hebrew, sometimes Chaldaic, and, in our old English form, Chaldee. The text found by Pantaenus is stated by Eusebius to be written Ebraíwn grammasi-‘in Hebrew characters’; the translation by Vallesius renders it Hebraicis litteris; Rufinus, in his Latin translation of Eusebius’ history, uses the terms Hebraicis scriptum literis; Jerome (De viris illustr., cap. xxxvi.), referring to the same codex, expresses himself, quod Hebraicis litteris scriptum. This strict exactness of expression adopted by these three learned writers may represent the fact that the writing was in Hebrew characters, but ought not to be extended to the language of the text.92 The gospel then in question being in the Aramaic, there would be no object or use for it in India proper, whereas in the India at the extreme section of Arabia, where dwelt large numbers of Jews with the Sabaeans, it would be read, understood, and be of service to keep up the faith preached by Bartholomew after his departure. It is to this India Pantaenus must have gone.

Proof based on ecclesiastical grounds that Pantaenus’ mission from Alexandria was to the Homeritae is offered by Assemani. We learn from Jerome that Pantaenus was sent to ‘India’ by his bishop St. Demetrius, the successor of Julian, c.189. If the faith was taken to the Homeritae from Alexandria, the church would be ecclesiastically linked, and would look up to that see as the head centre of its faith and jurisdiction. Had it come to them from another quarter they would not go to Alexandria, but to the other see whence the Christian faith and practice had come. This is a point beyond all dispute. It is on this well-known principle that the learned Assemani argues(Bibl.Or., tom. iv. p. 602): Ex his dictis patet Homeritarum, &c. Liquet etiam christianos Homeritas olim Alexandrino Patriarchae subjectos fuisse, qui et ordinatos a se episcopos illuc mittebat. The case of the Homeritae is exactly on the same lines as that of the Abyssinian Church, as we shall see shortly; and, earlier, as was shown previously (cf. the opening of chapter II.), the prelates of the Assyrian or Chaldean Church acknowledged a connection and a dependence from that of Antioch. So the Church of the Homeritae in the ancient land of the Sabaeans— Arabia Felix, now EI Yemen, the land of ‘the Queen of the south’ to which our Blessed Lord referred, adapting his language to popular ideas, that ‘she came from the ends of the earth’ (Matt. xii. 42), which idea is found also expressed by a classical author (Tacitus, Historiar., lib. v.c. 6): Terra finesque, quae ad Orientem vergunt, Arabia terminantur—because of the mission of Pantaenus from Alexandria, who revived the dying embers of the primitive faith implanted by Bartholomew, looked to that see for a long period as the centre of its ecclesiastical dependence.

Tillemont (Mémoires Hist. Eccl., tom. i.p. 387), summing up the result of his researches regarding the preaching of the Apostle Bartholomew, says: ‘We have most certain evidence that he preached in the country which the ancients called the Indies, and which can be no other than Arabia Felix.... He took to those Indies the Gospel of St. Matthew written in Hebrew, and St.Pantaenus after a hundred years found it there.’

Rufinus, the priest of Aquileia, in his own portion of the history of the Church added to his translation of Eusebius’ text (Hist. Eccl., lib.i.c.9, col.478, Migne, P.L., tom. xxi.), writes: ‘In the division of the world made by the Apostles for the preaching of the word of God, by drawing lots, while different provinces fell to different Apostles, Parthia fell to Thomas, to Matthew Ethiopia, and the adjacent India on this side (citerior) is said to have been assigned to Bartholomew.’ [ The sequel of this quotation will be given in treating of the claims of Frumentius.] As to Ethiopia there ought to be no question; it is the Ethiopia of the ancients which was known as the land of Kus,93 not Abyssinia, to which country, in more modern times, the name Ethiopia was confusedly attached. Matthew the Apostle, then, preached the faith in ancient Ethiopia; it was sometimes called the India ‘interior,’ and would so appear to those who wrote of it from Egypt or Palestine. This is precisely the case with Rufinus, who, born c. 345, died 410, had lived between Egypt and Palestine from 374 to 398, spending the last ten or eleven years of his life in Italy when he published his works, most of which were probably written while in the East, for during the last troubled years of his life he would neither have had the leisure nor time sufficient to compose what has come down to us under his name (see Bardenhewer, Les Péres de l’ Eglise, ii.pp. 360-61). In the above quotation he tells us that while Matthew went to Ethiopia, ‘the adjacent India on this side’ was assigned to Bartholomew. This clearly designates the lower extremity of Arabia, on the opposite shore of the Red sea, and so in a manner adjacent to Ethiopia. This further implies that, according to Rufinus, the Apostle’s mission was to the Sabaei, who inhabited the lower extremity of Arabia.

Should there be any doubt as to the correctness of this inference, it ought to be completely removed by what Socrates says, dealing with the same subject (Hist. Eccl., lib. i. cap. 19, col. 126, Migne, P. Gr.-L., tom. lxvii.): Cum apostoli praedicationis causa ad gentes profecturi, eas inter se sortito dividerent, Thomas quidem Parthiae, Matthaeus vero Aethiopiae apostolatum sortitus est,94 Bartholomaeo India quae Aethiopiae confinis est, obtigit. ‘ When the Apostles about to disperse among the nations to preach ( the faith), divided these among themselves by lot, Thomas obtained the apostolate to Parthia, Matthew to Ethiopia; to Bartholomew fell that India which is near to (bordering on) Ethiopia.’

The mission field of St. Pantaenus, then, was not to ‘the India of the Brahmans’ as St.Jerome, deceived by appearances, has stated.95

We may here appropriately add a few words regarding the copy of the Gospel of Matthew found years later with the body of St.Barnabas on the island of Cyprus. A general impression prevails that the copy was written in Hebrew. the roman Martyrology under 21 September, the feast of St.Matthew the Evangelist, says: Hujus evangelium Hebraeo sermone conscriptum, ipso revelante, inventum est una cum corpore beati Barnabae apostoli, tempore Zenonis imperatoris. The reader will notice that the earlier expression used by historians, Hebraicis litteris scriptum, is here changed into ‘ Hebraeo sermone.’ But such was not the case. It has often occurred to us to question the accuracy of this statement. The view which impelled us to the doubt arose from the fact that Barnabas’ preaching, from what can be ascertained from the canonical books, was to Greek- speaking populations, and he himself was a Cypriote. Of what use then would the original Aramaic text of that gospel be to him? Satisfactory evidence is forthcoming that places the subject in a clear light.

Theodore Lector, in the first half of the sixth century (Excerpta Hist. Eccl., lib. ii. ed. valles, Moguntiae, 1679, and Migne, P. Gr.-L. tom. lxxxvi. ia, col. 183), says: Barnabae apostoli reliquiae in Cypro suo sub arbore siliqua repertae sunt: super cujus pectore erat evangelium Matthaei

ipsius Barnabae manu descriptum. Qua de causa Cyprii obtinuerunt ut metropolis ipsorum libera esset ac sui juris, nec Antiochenae sedi amplius subjaceret. Id evangelium Zeno deposuit in palatio in aede sancti Stephani. Further details are given in the Bolland. Acta SS. Junii, tom.ii., where is published the Laudatio S. Barnabae Apostoli auctore Alexandro Monacho Cyprio (c.iv.n.41, p.450). Invenerunt etiam evangelium supra Barnabae pectus impositum... and n.44,p.451: evangelium illud in urbe constantinopolim attulerunt. Erant autem libri tabellae thyinis lignis compositae. Evangelium illud imperator in manus sumpsit, et deosculatus est, auroque multo exornatum in palatio suo reposuit, ubi ad hodiernum usque diem servatur, et in magna quinta Paschae feria quotannis in palatii oratorio Evangelium ex eo libro recitatur. This writer lived during the reign of Justinian, 518-527.

A Bollandist Father, in a subsequent volume (Septr.,, quoting this passage, draws the obvious conclusion: ‘Haec lectio demonstrat Graece scriptum fuisse illud exemplar’: and this offers a fresh proof that Matthew’s Gospel from the Aramaic, called also Hebrew, had been translated into Greek in the first century. A further conclusion also follows that this gospel existed as a distinct work, and had been used by Barnabas in the first century.

II. — St. Frumentius

We proceed to examine the credentials of the next supposed Apostle of India. The Roman Martyrology places the feast of St. Frumentius on the twenty-seventh of October. ‘Among the Indians [the feast] of Saint Frumentius, bishop, who first there while a captive, later ordained a bishop by St. Athanasius, preached the Gospel in that province.’ Rufinus informs us that he personally received from the lips of Edesius, the Saint’s relative and fellow-captive, the narrative he hands down. There seems no doubt in this case that Rufinus thought he was dealing with India proper. These are his words:—

‘Between which [ the " citerior India" of St. Bartholomew previously quoted] and Parthia placed midway, but a long way in the interior [ which would probably imply to the south] lies India the Farther, inhabited by peoples of many and divers tongues, and which, as remote, no ploughshare of apostolic preaching had touched, but which, from some similar cause, in the days of Constantine, received the first seeds of the faith.

‘ A certain Metrodorus, a philosopher, impelled by a desire to travel through the world and see the different countries thereof, is said to have penetrated into Farther India. Meropius of Tyre, also a philosopher, anxious to emulate his example, desired for similar reasons to visit India. He took with him two young relatives whom he was training to liberal culture; the younger of these was named Edesius, while the elder bore that of Frumentius. Having completed his travels and seen all he wished, and picked up what information he wanted, while on his return, the ship put into port to take in water and provisions. It is the custom of the barbarians of those parts that when intelligence reaches them from their neighbours that peace with the Romans is broken, they attack all Romans whom they find in their country and kill them. The philosopher’s ship is invested, and all the ship’s company are put to death together with him. The boys are discovered under a tree learning their lessons; touched by their youth, the barbarians bring them to the prince.

‘Edesius is made a cupbearer at court, while Frumentius, who appeared possessed of greater intelligence and ability, is raised to the office of treasurer and secretary by the ruler: they were both held in esteem and regard by the prince. The king before his death gave the young strangers their liberty and freedom to act as they liked, leaving behind a widow and a young son. But the queen begged them, as being the most trustworthy in the kingdom, to remain and help her in the government of the country until her son came of age. She was specially desirous of retaining the services of Frumentius, who displayed conspicuous and sufficient ability to govern the kingdom, while the younger, though of a simpler mind, displayed fidelity and goodness of heart. Frumentius while holding the government of the country, God moving his mind and heart, sought out from among the Roman traders such as were Christians, authorised and encouraged them to erect places of worship in different parts where Romans could, according to their usage, assemble for prayer. This he himself did to a much greater extent, and encouraged others as well to follow his example, helping them in every way by grants of sites for the erection of these churches, and all else that was necessary; and he displayed the greatest interest to sow there the germs of Christian faith.

‘ When the young prince had attained manhood, the two strangers decided on leaving in spite of entreaties to remain. Having faithfully handed over everything, they took leave of the queen and her son and returned to our world. Edesius hastened to Tyre to see his parents and relations, but Frumentius, deeming it unbecoming to conceal the work of the Lord, went to Alexandria. There he explained the state of things and disclosed what had been done to promote the cause of religion. He urged the bishop to select a worthy person and commission him to the charge of the many Christians now gathered together, and of the churches which had been erected.

‘Athanasius, who had recently been ordained to the office he held, having duly weighed and considered in the assembly of the clergy what was said and had been done, "Whom else," he exclaimed, "shall we find endowed as thou with the spirit of God, and competent to do what is required?" Having ordained96 him, he bid him with God’s blessing return whence he had come. On his return to India as bishop, so great were the favours of grace God bestowed upon him, that the wonders of the apostolic age were seen anew, and an immense number of these people were converted to the faith. It is since then that India has had a Christian people, churches, and priesthood. These things,’ adds Rufinus, ‘we have not picked up from popular rumour, but heard them from the lips of Edesius, afterwards an ordained priest of Tyre, who had formerly been the companion of Frumentius.’ (Rufinus, Histor.Eccl., lib. i., cap.9,col.478-480, Migne, P.L., tom. xxi.)

Had we no other source of information which could throw light on the scene of Frumentius’ apostolic labours, we would be forced to admit, however it might seem on other grounds, that the events described may have taken place in some part of India remote from that of the labours of the Apostle Thomas, and of which, owing to some unexplainable cause, no local trace or memory had survived. But fortunately we possess the means of identifying the India of Frumentius by the testimony of St.Athanasius himself and of the Emperor Constantius. The imperial letter, addressed to two97 princes of the Auxumitae (Abyssinians), is unanimously assigned to the year 356. The emperor demands of them that Frumentius, who had been consecrated and sent by Athanasius, be sent back to Egypt to render an account of his faith and doings to George (the Arian intruder in the see of Alexandria) and to the bishops of Egypt, who would test his fitness and the validity of the consecration he had received. St. Athanasius incorporates the letter which had come to his knowledge in his defence (Apologia) addressed to the emperor. Both the comment and the letter are given below.98

Lequien (Oriens Christiana, vol.ii.col.643-44) makes the remark that Constantius’ letter to the princes, written for the purpose of effecting the expulsion of Frumentius from Abyssinia and of his being sent to George, the intruder, was sent at the suggestion of the same George, known as of Cappodocia, then the second Arian intruder into the see of Alexandria, appointed to supersede Athanasius by a Synod of some thirty bishops held at Antioch. He captured the see by the aid of the Roman military garrison, but subsequently met his death at the hands of the populace, owing to his tyrannical conduct, in an insurrection that took place in the following reign of Julian the Apostate.

The efforts made to oust Frumentius from his see and to capture it for the benefit of Arianism, failed of effect in spite of the full weight of imperial support,99 as will be shown more fully in treating of the next case.

III.—Theophilus the Indian

We now leave "India citerior," the Arabia Felix of the ancients, and the India of Frumentius, Abyssinia, to deal with a third mission which is also said to be connected with India. This is the mission which the Emperor Constantius equipped and sent, before a.d.356, c. 354, at the head of which he placed a certain Theophilus, called the Indian. The emperor, who in 350 had subdued one rival, and later crushed the usurper Magnentius, thus becoming the sole ruler of the Roman empire, set his heart on establishing Arianism even in the churches outside the boundaries, as he had supported it in those within the empire. This was the impelling motive that suggested the despatch of the mission assigned to Theophilus. Philostorgius100 is the sole historian of this event.

‘Constantius,’ he records, ‘sent an embassy to the people formerly known as the Sabaeans, but now the Homeritae,’ to whom the Apostle Bartholomew had previously preached the faith, revived as we have seen by Pantaenus. ‘These [Sabaei] are Abraham’s issue by Chittura [Ketura]. The country was known to the Greeks as "Arabia Magna" and "Arabia Felix," extending to the farthest ocean. Saba was their capital, whence once went forth the Queen of Sheba to see Solomon.’ The race, he adds, practises circumcision on the eighth day, and is mixed up with a large number of Jews residing among them. It was to these that Constantius sent the mission. The historian notes carefully the object, ‘that they might be brought over to the true faith,’ which shows clearly that the chief object held in view was to ensnare these Christians into the fold of Arianism. An ostensible object set forth was that of obtaining permission from the ruler of the country to erect churches for the benefit of Roman subjects frequenting those lands for purposes of trade, as also for natives who might be converted. The mission was amply supplied with funds for the erection and equipment of the churches that were to be built.

Theophilus, who was at the head of the mission, is called ‘the Indian.’ Of him the historian says, qui Constantino imperium administrante, admodum juvenis obses a Divaeis missus fuerat ad Romanos—‘Theophilus, while very young, was sent an hostage to the Romans during the reign of Constantine [the Great].’ The island home of Theophilus is by the historian named DibouV and the inhabitants Dibhnvn; the Latin form in which these names are reproduced is Divu or Divus, that of the inhabitants Divaei. Ammianus Marcellinus, a contemporary historian, a.d.362, makes mention of islands with a similar name (History, bk. xxii. ch.3): Legationes undique solito ocius concurrebant; hinc Transtigritanis pacem obsecrantibus et Armeniis, inde nationibus indicis certatim cum donis optimates mittentibus ante tempus ab usque Divis et Serendivis. — ‘Legations were coming in from everywhere earlier than usual’[ the occasion is the accession of Julian the Apostate, the reference is to the sending of legations by border nations on friendly terms on the accession of a new emperor, and the historian, Ammianus, it should be remembered, is a pagan]; ‘on the one hand the nations across the Tigris and the Armenians asking for peace, on the other hand’ [what follows is Yonge’s transl., Bohn ed.] ‘the Indian tribes vied with each other, sending nobles loaded with gifts even from the Maldive islands and Ceylon.’

That the Maldives were specially designated by the name reproduced from the Greek text of Philostorgius, besides the support received from a contemporary writer just quoted, is amply upheld by a long series of quotations given by Colonel Yule and Burnell (Hobson- Jobson; A Glossary of Anglo-Indian Colloquial Words, new edition by William Crooke, London, 1903):—

Maldives: The proper form of this name appears to be Male- diva....The people of the islands formerly designated themselves and their country by a form of the word for "island," which we have in the Sanscrit dvipa and the Pali dipo. We find this reflected in the Divi of Ammianus [the Greek of Philostorgius has already given DibouV ] and in the Diva and Diba-jat (Pers. plural) of old Arab geographers, whilst it survives in letters of the eighteenth century addressed to the Ceylon Government (Dutch) by the Sultan of the Isles who calls his own kingdom Divehi Rajje, and his people Divehi mihun.

‘Year 851, Yule refers to the Arab geographers, Relations, &c., traduit par Reinaud, Paris, 1841, vol.i.p.45; these give the islands the name Dibajat (see also Discours préliminaire same vol. p.xxxiii.)

‘Year 1030, By Al. Beruni (in Reinaud’s Fragmans, p. 124) those of one class are called Diva-Kurah (or the Cowrie Divahs) because of the cowries which are gathered from coco-branches planted in the sea; the others are called Diva-Kaubar, from the word Kaubar, which is the name of the twine made from the coco-fibres with which vessels are stitched.

‘Year 1343, Ibn Batuta, tom. iv.p.110 ff, speaks of his arriving from Calicut at the island called Dhibat-al-Mahal.’

All these passages refer to the Maldives.

As to the modern name of the islands, the Maldives, Yule has the following:—

‘Something like the modern form first appears in Ibn Batuta; he calls them Mahal-dives, and says they were so called from the chief group Mahal, a palace.... But Pyrard de Laval, the author of the most complete account existing [of these islands] also says that the name of the island was taken from Malé. This name is given by Cosmas Indicopleustes to the coast of Malabar, and it is most probably this same name that enters into the composite Maldives.’

With reference to the true bearing of Ammianus’ passage—ab usque Divis et Serendivis—a further remark may be offered that it has reference to the Maldive group generally, that the object of the passage is to show that delegations also hastened from the Indian peoples, even from the Divi and the Serendivi, pointing to them as the outer extremes of India in the natural order in which they would occur.

There is a remark made by the historian regarding Theophilus which has an important bearing in fixing his island home. He has told us that Theophilus, while very young, was sent to the Romans as ‘a hostage’; most probably he was not the only hostage demanded from the islanders. Now it may be asked, for what purpose would the Roman power demand hostages for good behaviour from these islanders? Most probably the precaution was taken as a check on the piratical habits of the dwellers who would pillage and rob vessels crossing to India, from the east coast of Arabia or viâ Socotra, which happened to have stranded on those coral reefs. This would also be the route of the entire Indian commerce bound westward, which in those days passed chiefly through Alexandria and was thence diffused through the empire, while the route through Persia continued to be closed during the long wars between that country and the empire. The same predatory habits have prevailed down to our times; for though the Maldives are now better controlled by the Collector at Calicut, who is the representative of British authority to the petty Sultan of the island and his suzerain the Rajah, or the Bebee, of Cannanore, the same cannot even now be said of the inhabitants of the adjoining group, the Laccadives, who more than once of late years have forced the British authorities to send punitive expeditions to exact reparation and inflict punishment for pillage committed on stranded ships. The last occurrence of the sort happened within the last couple of years. The mention that Theophilus was an ‘Indian,’ in the sense of the historian, and that he was surrendered as a hostage to the Romans, are two points which of themselves would point to the group of the Maldives as his home. The Laccadives would hardly have been inhabited at so early an age; besides the two form but one continuous group of coral reef formations in those seas.

To return to Philostorgius’ account. The youth received his education while among the Romans, having lived long with them; he became conspicuous for his piety and embraced the monastic profession. From the approval bestowed on his faith and the mention that he had received deacon’s orders from Eusebius [of Nicomedia], the court prelate, there can be no doubt that Theophilus had embraced the Arian heresy. Photius, the abbreviator of the narrative, here inserts an observation of his own: ‘This refers to the past, but when he was appointed to this mission he received episcopal consecration at the hands of those of his communion.’ Philostorgius continues: ‘Theophilus was successful in his mission to the Homeritae.’ Among other presents which he took with him for the rulers and chiefs, he embarked also ‘two hundred superb Cappadocian horses.’ The king was converted by the legate’s preaching, and built of his own accord three churches. Philostorgius here takes notice of the large proportion of Jews in the country and of their strong opposition to Christians; on this occasion though, owing to the great success of Theophilus’ mission, ‘the usual Jewish fraud and malice,’ he adds, ‘was compelled to conceal itself in deepest silence.’ One of the churches erected was at the metropolis Tapharon,101 another at the Roman emporium projecting on the outer sea named Adane,102 the third in that part of the country — ubi Persicum est emporium103 celebre, in ostio maris Persici quod inibi est, situm— ‘where the celebrated Persian emporium at the entrance of the Persian Gulf is situated.’

Under such happy circumstances Theophilus arranged matters among the Homeritae to the best advantage. He consecrated the three new churches and supplied them with ornaments; then he sailed for his native island, one of the group of the Maldives, as indicated above. The narrative continues: ‘Thence he sailed to other parts of India and reformed many things which were not rightly done among them; for they heard the reading of the Gospel in a sitting posture, and did other things which were repugnant to the divine law; and having reformed everything according to holy usage, as was most acceptable to God, he also confirmed the dogma of the Church.’ This denotes an attempt to introduce his heretical tenets. The Arian historian’s last remark has justly excited the indignation of Photius: ‘Nor with regard to divine worship,’ as this impious historian remarks, ‘ was any emendation necessary, as from the earliest antiquity they had continuously believed the Son to be of a different substance from the Father.’

To ascertain which were the above ‘other parts of India’ Theophilus visited, it will be as well to follow the sequel of the narrative given by Photius. Philostorgius then makes him leave Arabia and proceed to Abyssinia: ‘From this Arabia Magna Theophilus proceeds to the Ethiopians, who

are named Auxumitae. They dwell on the first shore of the Red Sea, which the ocean there forms, indenting the continent.’ So the journey does not take Theophilus to Socotra; but on his return to ‘Arabia Magna,’ after the visit to ‘other parts of India’ from his island home, he is sailing straight through the Straits of Bab-el Mandeb and entering the Red Sea. This disposes of the myth of a modern writer, who makes Theophilus a native of Socotra, quite forgetful of the fact, as will presently appear, that he never visited the island, according to Philostorgius (Milne-Rae’s Syrian Church in India, p.98).

The question will now arise, To what ‘other parts of India’ did Theophilus sail when he left his island home? We may, on the same basis, shape the question differently: To what ‘other parts of India’ could he have gone from his home in the Maldives? Geographically there are but two places—Ceylon and the Malabar coast, both at a short sail from the Maldives.

Of Ceylon, apart from the consideration that Ceylon was well known to Romans and Greeks under the name of Serendivus and Taprobana, and would have been mentioned by its distinctive name if the reference was to that island, we have no authority based on history, that Christians existed on the island at the middle of the fourth century, the date of the mission we are dealing with. When we hear of Ceylon, almost a hundred and eighty years later, from Cosmas indicopleustes, who visited it after the first quarter of the sixth century (he was writing his book in 535) he mentions the presence of Christians and of clerics. The passage (Migne, P. Gr.-L., tom. Ixxxviii.col.446) reads : ‘There exists on the island, which is named Sielediva by the Indians and called Taprobona by the Greeks, a Christian Church of strangers from Persia, also a priest ordained in Persia and sent there, also a deacon with other ecclesiastical ministry [clerics]. The natives, however, and the kings are of a different religion.’104

This distinctly shows that such Christians as Cosmas found in Ceylon were a colony of Persian traders with Persian clergy to attend to their spiritual wants. This system has been kept up in the large Indian seaport trading centres even to our times, Armenians taking the place of the Persian clergy. As to native converts, Cosmas pointedly says there were none. We are thus justified in inferring that ‘the other parts of India’ visited by the emperor’s legate does not apply to Ceylon. This forces upon us the one remaining conclusion that ‘the other parts of India’ visited by Theophilus can be no other than the Malabar coast on which he found the organisation of a native Christian church which the subsequent narrative discloses. Nor will this take the reader by surprise: he knows already some details of the Apostolate of Saint Thomas in India; he has learnt of his martyrdom, of the existence of his primitive tomb at Mylapore on the east coast; and he is acquainted with the traditions of the Saint-Thomas Christians on the west coast, who, as also the former Christians of Socotra, lay claim to be the descendants of the converts of the Apostle. If then, he learns of Theophilus’ visit to that coast about the year 354, and of his finding there a Christian church in working order, it will be nothing more than what he is prepared to expect. The English translation of the passage in which the historian mentions the visit paid to these Christians by the imperial legate has been given above; we reproduce here the Latin version by Valesius: Ad alias Indiae regiones perrexit, multaque quae apud illos non rite fiebant, emendavit. Nam et lectiones Evangelii audiebant sedentes, et alia quaedam peragebant quibus divina lex repugnabat. Verum cum Theophilus singula juxta sanctiorem ritum, Deoque magis acceptum correxisset, Ecclesiae quoque dogma confirmavit (Migne, P. G.-L., tom.Ixv.col.482-490). The statement implies (1) a resident congregation of the faithful, (2) church services regularly held at which the gospels were read, and (3) consequently a ministering clergy. This discloses a Christian community constituted in parochial form; and if there be any doubt as to whether the congregation be indigenous or foreign, such doubt (4) ought to be set aside by the peculiar custom found among them, mentioned by the historian, and referred to below, which Theophilus is said to have reformed.

At this period the Christians on this coast must have held the faith unadulterated. But the case was quite different at the period of Cosmas’ visit before 535. Nestorianism, in the person of its author, was condemned, close upon a century after Theophilus’ visit, in the Council of Ephesus, 431; Theodosius, in 435, passed a law against Nestorianism; and in the year 496, Acacius, the Catholicus of Seleucia, died peacefully. With him ended the series of the Catholic occupants of that see. Babaeus, a fervent Nestorian, succeeded him. He, in 499, held a synod authorising marriage among the clergy and monks, and condemning celibacy (Assemani, Bibl. Oriental., tom. iv. pp. 80,83). So with the close of the fifth century Nestorianism had captured all the Catholic churches within the kingdom of Persia. Thus this heresy early in the sixth century would have installed itself in all the churches of the Farthest East, dependent as they were from the see of Seleucia; all intercourse, besides, with those within the Roman empire was severed by the active part the kings of Persia took in hindering such communication.105

Philostorgius, in referring to the visit paid to the Christians in ‘the other parts of India’ by Theophilus, mentions as a custom prevailing among them that they remained seated while the gospel was being read at the liturgy.106 The habit of the west coast people of sitting down on the floor as often as permissible is quite characteristic, and it may be that it also extended to their remaining in that posture at the reading of the gospel. The propensity to ‘squat’ which the incident indicates would only be applicable to an indigenous, and would not apply to a foreign, congregation. As to what other, if any, abuses were suppressed it is needless to speculate, for were they of any importance the historian would not have omitted to mention them, as his propensity to enlarge upon and magnify the success of Theophilus’ mission is too apparent. Photius is quite right in stigmatising as a piece of impudence the further statement that these Christians had all along held the Arian belief, denying the equality of substance in the Son and the Father.

After mentioning the departure, as above, of the mission for Abyssinia, the writer proceeds to give the configuration of the Red Sea. It ‘extends for a great length and divides itself into two gulfs; one lies towards Egypt, and is named Clysma from the place where it ends, and across this gulf the Israelites passed dryshod on their departure from Egypt. The other gulf extends to Palestine by the city known from remote antiquity as Aila [Elath]. At the outer bay of this sea [viz., to the south] to the left dwell the Auxumitae, so named from Auxum their capital. Before, however, reaching the Auxumitae, to the east, in the outer sea, dwell Syrians also so called by the inhabitants.’ This refers to the island of Socotra, and we shall find that it was not visited by Theophilus. These Syrians, he says, were placed there by Alexander, having been removed from Syria; even in his day they made use of the Syriac language and were quite dark in complexion; ‘but Theophilus did not go so far,’ he adds. This passage is quoted by geographers as relating to Socotra. Indicopleustes has a similar passage (Topographia, lib.iii., Migne, ut supr., col. 170): Similiter [ i.e. there are Christians ] in insula quae dioscoridis vocatur, in eodem mari Indico sita, cujus incolae Graece loquuntur, suntque coloni a Ptolomaeis Alexandri Macedonis successoribus istuc deportati, clerici reperiuntur ex Perside, ubi ordinantur, eodem transmissi: ibi etiam christianorum multitudo versatur. Cui insulae adnavigavi, neque tamen eo discensum feci. Verum cum quibusdam ejus incolis Graece loquentibus colloquia miscui qui in Aethiopiam [ Auxum?] proficiscebantur.

As to the visit paid to Abyssinia by the imperial mission, we are simply told in a couple of lines that Theophilus went there, arranged affairs suitably and returned to the Roman dominions. This excessive curtness discloses the utter failure of the embassy to the petty princes of the Auxumitae, where St.Frumentius at the time was firmly established.

Of Theophilus we learn from Photius’ epitome this further detail, that on his return he was honourably received by the emperor, but obtained no appointment to any episcopal see. Suidas, however, in his Lexicon (ed. Bernhardy, Graece et Latine, Halis et Brunsvigae, 1853, ad verb. QeofiloV, col.1150), has saved the last portion of the narrative: ‘Theophilus on his return from India fixed his residence at Antioch; he was in charge of no particular church, but acted as a bishop at the service of all, so that all freely went to him as if he were their bishop [which could only be true in regard to the scattered Arians living in the vicinity of Antioch] since the emperor held him in great respect: wherever he went he was cordially received and held in esteem for his virtues.’




Certain writers have suggested, while others have alleged that Thomas, a disciple of Manes who sent him, it is said, to India, has been mistaken for St. Thomas the Apostle. The purpose of this chapter is to show that there are no grounds for the supposition that the said Thomas ever went to India, and consequently less for the allegation.

St. Epiphanius, the bishop of Constantia, in Cyprus, a.d. 315-402, has fortunately left us a very full and complete account of the tenets of Manes, an arch-propagator of falsehood. These tenets wrought for a long time much mischief and loss to the Church, and were the cause of large numbers of her members falling away at different periods, seduced by the attraction of a double principle of good and evil, coeval and eternal—a doctrine which seems to have always had a special fascination for weak humanity, since it is found to be a principle permeating nearly all primitive religions.

The authority of St. Epiphanius does not rank high with some; they consider he was not sufficiently cautious in accepting and testing the sources of his information. In the case of Manes and his disciples, however, Epiphanius specifies his authorities, which are almost all obtained first hand, and he largely utilises the contents of the contemporary historical document which fortunately had come down to us entire in a Latin translation, while that in Greek, one time much diffused, exists only in fragmentary quotations.

In his book ‘Against Heresies,’107 dealing with false teachings, both prior and subsequent to the birth of Christ down to his own times, the bishop of Constantia deals very fully with the errors of Manes and the doings of his followers. The name of this teacher of a new religion, rather than the originator of a new heresy, was Cubricus; he was the bondsman of a loose woman who had inherited great riches and who had made him a freedman. At her death he inherited all she possessed. Cubricus, by origin a Persian, then assumed the name of Manes, and commenced to build up a system for his peculiar philosophical and religious ideas; he at the same time enrolled a small band of followers. While so engaged, he heard of the serious illness of the son of the king of Persia. Blinded with pride and ambition, he believed he could discover some remedy, or a charm that would enable him to cure the young prince, from the books of one Scythianus and a certain Terbinthus, who had studied the art of Indian magic, and were the former lovers of his late mistress. Manes had come into possession of these, together with the riches left by the deceased men. This, at one stroke, would raise him to prominence and place the project he contemplated under high patronage. So he went to the Court and offered his services to restore the prince to health. The offer was accepted, but he failed in his efforts, and the young prince succumbed under his treatment. The king, attributing the death to Manes, and enraged at the loss and imposture which had been practised upon him, cast Manes into prison.

Manes had previously heard of Christianity and of its diffusion over the world, and he bethought himself that it would be as well for him to obtain a more accurate knowledge of this religion. With this object he sent some of his disciples of Judea to obtain for him the books of the Old and New Testament. When the disciples returned with the sacred Scriptures they found their master deprived of liberty; they, however, obtained access to him in prison and delivered the books.

By the aid of large bribes, we are informed, Manes was able to make his escape, and took up his abode on the borderland between the Persian and Roman territories. While thus at a place named Arabion he heard of Marcellus, a Christian of high repute, wealth, and authority, living within the Roman boundaries of Mesopotamia. He bethought himself that if he succeeded in inducing a person of such distinction to adopt his principles, it would assure him a firm footing and the prestige necessary to propagate them. In doubt how to make his first advances, he hesitated whether he should meet Marcellus personally, or first open the way by letter; judging the latter course the safer, he wrote to him. This letter of Manes, setting forth his double principle ruling the world, coupled with some tincture of Christianity, is given by Epiphanius.

It so happened that when Turbo, the messenger and adherent of Manes, brought the letter to Marcellus, Archelaus, the bishop of Cascara (Kaskar) in Mesopotamia, lying in the outskirts of Seleucia, was paying him a visit. On reading it Marcellus, a religious man, was so taken by surprise at the nature of the contents that he communicated them to the bishop. They decided eventually that a reply should be sent. It is here reproduced as a sample of an Eastern non-committal message.

‘Marcellus, the nobleman, to Manes, known to him by letter, greetings.

‘I read the letter you wrote and have entertained Turbo with my customary hospitality. But the meaning of the letter I cannot understand, unless, perhaps, you come personally and explain by word of mouth everything, as by your letter you promise. Farewell.’

The reply was sent expeditiously by one of Marcellus’ servants, Turbo being unwilling to undertake the return journey. While awaiting Manes’ appearance, the bishop and Marcellus closely examined Turbo, who willingly unfolded to them all that he knew of his master’s teaching, and in the meanwhile removed to the bishop’s residence. Archelaus was thus able to draw up a statement of the tenets of the new false religion, which enabled him to nip in the very bud Manes’ attempt to introduce it among the faithful. The bishop’s statement of Manes’ false principle; his refutation of it at a public discussion held with him at the residence of Marcellus; his letter to the priest of a village of his diocese where Manes after the previous disputation attempted to propagate his errors (this letter was written in reply to one from the priest himself asking the bishop to solve some difficulties proposed by Manes, or to come personally and refute them); an account of a second disputation between Manes and the bishop at the village in question; an address by the bishop to the people on the subject of Manes; and finally, particulars of his death — all these have been fortunately preserved for us in the Latin translation mentioned above.108 We have thus first-hand knowledge of the errors of this man and of some of his disciples.

After this double defeat at the bishop’s hands, the King of Persia, hearing of Manes’ whereabouts, had him captured in the village where the second dispute took place. He was ordered to be executed, and his skin stuffed with straw was hung up outside the city gates, as Socrates, the Church historian, who wrote about 450, mentions.109 The tragic death of the author did not, however, kill his errors.

St. Epiphanius concluding the narrative (Oper.c.,col.47) says: ‘This man so died and left the disciples I have mentioned, Adda, Thomas, and Hermeas, whom before his death he had sent to different places. Hermeas, with whom many are acquainted, went to Egypt; nor indeed is this heresy so old as to prevent those who had spoken to Hermeas, the disciple of Manes, from narrating to us what concerned him. Adda went to the further region [which here implies the countries east of the Euphrates], Thomas to Judea, and from these the sect has acquired vigour and growth down to our days.’ In the Latin version of the Acta disputationis Archelai episcopi, at the close of the eleventh chapter (division by the editor Zacagnus) we have the following: Haec est omnis doctrina quam tradidit tribus discipulis suis et jussit eos in tres mundi plagas proficisci. Adda partes sortitus est Orietis; Thomas vero Syrorum terras suscepit; Hermas vero ad Aegyptum projectus est, et usque in hodiernum ibi degut, dogmatis hujus gratia praedicandi. ‘This forms the entire body of his teaching which he (Manes) handed down to his three disciples, ordering them to proceed to three different countries of the world. Of whom Adda was destined to the East, Thomas went to the land of Syria, and Hermas to Egypt, and up to this day they dwell there to propagate these doctrines.’ In the Acta, at a later stage, Archelaus again mentions these three disciples of Manes (chapter 1iii): Tunc visum est ei mittere discipulos suos cum his quae conscripserat in libellis ad superioris illius Provinciae loca, et per diversas civitates et vicos ut haberet aliquos se sequentes et Thomas quidem partis Aegypti voluit occupare, Addas vero Scythiae, solus autem Hermas residere cum eo elegit. In this second passage missions are assigned to two only, Thomas, who is sent to Egypt, and Addas, to Scythia. Epiphanius had the document before him from which he quoted, and of which St. Jerome (De viris illustr., cap. 1xxii.) says :‘Written originally in the Syriac they are in the hands of many in a Greek translation.’ But Epiphanius had also almost contemporary witness, as we have seen, of the preaching of these disciples, and has told us that Thomas’s mission was to Judea and not to Egypt, while of the mission to Egypt he had good oral evidence that Hermeas was sent there; this latter statement, as well as the general agreement between the first statement in the Acta and that given by Epiphanius show that there is some vagueness in Archelaus’ later passage. It remains, however, clear that there is no mention of India, and that Thomas was never sent to that country.

The learned Petavius adds that ‘he (Archelaus) was the first to oppose this monstrous heresy, and is therefore worthy of special praise, and he wrote an account of the disputation he had with the impostor and disclosed all the secrets of this nefarious superstition. From this narrative of Archelaus all others who have given the history or handed down the tenets held by this heretic have drawn their materials.’110

We said above that certain writers — who have not looked into the evidence of the case — have alleged that one of the disciples of Manes went to India, and that this gave rise to the supposition that the Apostle Thomas had not preached the faith there. On what foundation does this allegation rest? There is a passage in Theodoret111 (died 457-458): Habuit autem hic Manes ab initio discipulos tres Aldam, Thomam, et Hermam. Et Aldam quidem ad praedicandum misit in Syriam, ad Indos vero Thomam. As the Acta disputationis and Epiphanius, both older authorities than Theodoret, agree perfectly on the missions assigned to the three disciples of Manes, Theodoret’s statement must give way to the former.112 There remains one remark to offer. Theodoret is at fault in the name of the disciple Adda, whom he calls ALDA in place of ADDA. Bearing in mind that the MSS existing in the fifth century were mostly written in uncial letters, the change is easily explained — the bottom stroke of the D was overlooked. Theodoret or his amanuensis must have had a faulty manuscript before them, or mis-read the same. This would also explain how Thomas comes to be sent to India. Epiphanius, in the quotation given above, has in the Greek text QwmaV epi thu Iondaion, it is easy to see how the last word might be hastily read or transcribed Indiau. This appears to be a reasonable explanation of the inaccuracy of Theodoret’s statement (see Assemani, Bibl. Or., tom. iv.p. 28).113


A CriticAL analysis of the acts of
thomas the apostle



When dealing with the question raised by these Acts, of the historical existence of the King of the Indians named Gondophares, we were able to show (see Chapter 1.) that the statement is amply supported by historical evidence. This ought to offer encouragement to proceed a step further and to inquire whether the Acts contain other points of reliable history.

1. Criteria

Before doing so, we deem it advisable to ask the reader to follow us through a few preliminary remarks, which a closer study of the Acts has shown should be kept in mind while endeavouring to discriminate between what may be termed the kernel, or main facts of the narrative, contained in the present form of the Acts, and the ample enlargements the text has undergone. For this purpose we should first of all place ourselves in the circumstances of the age when they were most likely written; examine the channels then available for the transmission of news between distant countries; take into consideration whether the story was written on the spot where the events took place, or if the narrative came to be committed to writing in a far distant country from that in which the scenes occurred.

Should the latter be the case, and that the facts had to be obtained at second-hand, passing from mouth to mouth and travelling over long distances before reaching the place where they took concrete form in writing, it is clear that a great many precautions are necessary to ensure a reliable rendering of the events. Few are the instances in the early ages when travellers have given us their experiences at first hand. Most of the narratives which have survived and have reached us show that they are based on unwritten reports. Having then, often, nothing better than hearsay reports to go upon, the writer, after carefully examining the facts put before him, would have to choose what he can accept, and exclude what he feels bound to reject. Similarly he will have to depend on his own judgment in setting and co-ordinating them as to time and place.

He has yet a further difficulty to surmount; he has to clothe them in his own language. Any one who has made the experiment of putting hearsay narratives on record, is conscious of the danger he lies under of unwittingly stating what is inaccurate, or of giving a wrong meaning or colour to what he reports. The difficulty increases very considerably when he happens to be unacquainted with the country he deals with and its customs and usages. In such a case, however painstaking, he is morally certain to be led into inaccurate statements. Unknown perhaps to himself, he will alter the sequence of events when not interdependent, or he will misplace them geographically or chronologically — showing them as having occurred in one part of the country when they may have taken place in quite another, or at a different period.

Dealing with oral reports coming from afar and not received at first hand, one has to bear in mind that all this dislocation and distortion of the story may already have happened before the narrative reaches him, owing to its having passed through different oral channels.

2. Are the Acts a Romance ?

It may be asked, What object is served by placing these different criteria before the reader?

If the Acts of Thomas are to be taken as pure romance, like a large portion of the present-day literature, then, indeed, these preliminary remarks would be out of place; for we would not be dealing with facts having any historical basis, but with a work of fiction. But if they are taken to contain a record of historical, or partly historical, events of an early age, then the reader will find, from what will come before him, that the above criteria are absolutely necessary to guide him in forming a sound opinion on the merits or demerits of the story as a whole, or of its component parts, where analysis enables us to separate its different elements.

3. Two Different Ancient Views of the Same

What is the history of these Acts?

They are, by Catholic writers of great authority, such as SS. Augustine and Epiphanius and some others, said to have been used by the Manichaeans and by several branches of the early Gnostic sects, to have been read in their assemblies, and to have practically replaced the Holy Scriptures among them. This discloses the fact that they were made use of by these sects for a doctrinal purpose, in order to set up some theory or tenet of their own which they sought to inculcate on their followers and propagate among others. A novel written expressly for the purpose would answer as well; it would then hold, as incrusted fossils, the doctrinal features embedded in the narrative, but it would be the pure outcome of imagination. Of the present Acts of Thomas it can be said that, in a certain sense, they have been dramatised and utilised for a similar purpose, and how far this is true we shall have an opportunity to judge in the sequel.

We have also to consider that there are other Catholic writers, as St. Ephraem, and later St.Gregory of Tours, not to mention others of lesser weight, who recognise as historical, incidents mentioned in the Acts; and the latter also informs us of the existence of a narrative which he describes as historia passionis eius [Thomae] — according to which the Apostle Thomas suffered martyrdom in India. This can be no other than the Passio B. Thomae, which is an abbreviated form of the story, of which a fuller account exists also in Latin, under the name De Miraculis B. Thomae.

we are thus face to face with two facts: one, that certain PráxeiV or Periódoi or Márturion - Acta and Passio of the Apostle were monopolised by certain heretics for the purpose of propagating their tenets; the other that a certain history of his martyrdom in India does exist, and is referred to as containing a historical narrative concerning the Apostle.

4. Gnostics and the Acts

To clear up the point whether the Gnostic sects set up a composition of their own — in other words, a romance to disseminate their errors under the shadow of the Apostle’s great name — it will be as well to ascertain first if there be any other preexisting story or acts of a martyr used by them at an early age for any similar purpose. If this be found to be the case, it will almost be safe to conclude, even on this ground alone, that the same had occurred in the case of the Acts of Thomas. This is precisely what we find has happened. The acts of a virgin martyr of the apostolic age have been tampered with and adapted for doctrinal purposes by these heretics. They are the Acts of St. Thecla, a convert of the Apostle Paul and of about the middle of the first century. Treatment of this side issue follows in Nos.13-15.

5. Reasons in Support

A pre-existing book held in esteem and veneration would suit the purpose of these sects much better than any new production; hence the reason for utilising the Acts of a martyr, and more so those of an Apostle, is obvious. There is the prestige of the name which would at once attract readers while concealing the design. In the primitive ages of the Church the books which were read by Christians were the Scriptures and the Acts of Martyrs, for in those days of persecution the fervour of their faith urged them to prepare themselves to undergo, when called upon, every sort of torture to secure the martyr’s crown, and for this purpose the reading of the Passiones Martyrum was the most effective help. Such acts, then, would be the most convenient channel heretics could employ for the purpose of spreading their tenets. A third reason which may be suggested is that it would not be a book that could be cast back at them as their own composition; and if the false principle was cautiously allowed to drip through the web of the narrative, as is the case with the Acts of Thomas, it would easily pass undetected, and hence be more easily absorbed and assimilated.

6. Criteria Applicable to the Acts

Under the circumstances described above, in which the early Acts were compiled, as will appear in the sequel, the reader will perceive the utility of keeping in mind what we have so far discussed, and of applying these criteria to the present Acts of Thomas. The criteria are fully applicable to a composition like this, which, as will be seen, originated in Mesopotamia; it recorded events that must have taken place in India, which was connected to the former by commerce, was difficult of access, while the channel of communication would have been oral—through travellers.


Preliminary Questions

7. Abdias, his Compilation

The first edition of a compilation which contained the ‘passiones’ and ‘ Miracula’ of the Apostles was published by Frederick Nausea, under the title ‘Anonymi Philalethi Eusebiani in vitas miracula passionesque apostolorum Rapsodiae, Coloniae,1531.’ Wolfangus Lazius published almost the same collection, but it is not known from what text, with the title ‘ Abdiae Babyloniae episcopi et apostolorum discipuli de historia certaminis apostolici libri x, Julio Africano, cujus subinde meminit Hieronymus, interprete, Basiliae 1552’; the preface bears the date of 1551. That by Nausea now represents a codex that no longer exists, probably it was used up in printing that edition. The one by lazius, though inaccurately entered in the new Catalogue of the Bibliothèque now being printed, may be detected under the name ‘Abdias’ by the date of the year 1552: it was printed repeatedly, both at Cologne and at Paris, until the edition ‘ Codex Apocryphus Novi Testamenti, Hamburgi, 1703,’ by J.A. Fabricius, in two volumes, superseded it. Fabricius, in 1719, issued a second enlarged edition in three volumes, also at Hamburg.

Max Bonnet, who made a special study of this class of writings bearing chiefly on the Apostles, and issued, as we shall have occasion to note, critical editions of some, holds that Nausea’s edition gives a faithful rendering of the original text, while lazius has given himself some freedom in his editing of the same. See his remarks in preface to St. Gregory of Tours ‘Liber de Miraculis Beati Andreae apostoli’ (Opera Gregorii Turonensis, tom. i. pt. ii. p.824, forming vol. i., of scriptores Rerum Merovingicarum, Hannoveriae, 1885, in 4to).

We reproduce the heading of the first book of Lazius, the rest repeat the same at each life: ‘Historiae apostolorum auctore Abdia Babiloniae episcopo et ipsorum apostolorum discipulo, quam ex Hebraica lingua in Latinam Africanus vertit.’ It will scarcely be necessary to warn the reader that the name of Africanus has been gratuitously introduced; but we have also the name of Abdias and mention of the Hebrew language. A modern editor of some of these apocryphal (anonymous) writings, published in an important series, scoffs at the mention of Hebrew on the title-page: he was unaware that it offered him an early hint that some of the texts it gives are of Semitic origin. During the Middle Ages and later the ‘Chaldee’ as of old and the Chaldean as now, representing the Assyrian form of the Aramaean or syriac language, was commonly termed Hebrew, and the writing was often reproduced in Hebrew characters, as may to this day be observed in the case of the books of the Old Testament composed in Chaldaic.

It has been asked, What proof is there that some of the texts came from a Semitic source, or that there ever was such a person as Abdias? To the former of these two questions incidental references as well as direct proof will be forthcoming, but to the second an answer may here be given. The Eusebian text of what is termed by some ‘The Abgar Legend’ offers us a name almost the same in the Greek form. This Rufinus, in his ancient Latin version of that history, corroborates. The Eusebian text (Hist. Eccl., lib. i.c.xiii. col. 127, Migne,P.Gr.-L., tom.xx., Eusebii, tom.ii.) recites that, after the cure of Abgar by the messenger sent by Judas Thomas the Apostle, namely, Thaddeus the Apostle, it continues: ‘Nec vero ipsum solummodo (curavit) sed et Abdum quemdam Abdi filium,’ &c. The Greek text (col. 128) gives the name AbdoV. Dr. Schwartz’s critical ed. of Euseb. H.E., Leipsic, 1903, Part I., p.94, gives — alla kai Abdon ton tou Abdou. Rufinus (in a valuable edition of his Latin translation, published per Beatum Rhenanum—apud inclytam Basileam An. MDXXIII.— under the title Avtores Historiae Ecclesiasticae, p.22) translates: ‘Non solum autem illum sed et Abdon quemdam Abdiae [al.Abdei], filium,’ &c. Theodore Mommsen’s crit. text of Rufinus’ translation, published with Schwartz’s text, ut supr., p.95, reproduces a verbal reflection of the Greek text— ‘sed et Abdum quendam Abdae filium.’ Cureton (Ancient Syriac Documents, London, 1864), in his English rendering of an ancient Syriac version of a fragment of Eusebius’ history, translates the same passage: ‘not himself only, but also Abdu, son of Abdu,’ &c. The Syriac of the Doctrine of Addai the Apostle, edited with text, translation, and notes, by George Phillips, London, 1876, gives the corresponding passage of the same narrative, p.8: ‘And also with respect to Abdu,’ &c. We may then infer that the Semitic form of the name is Abdu; this Eusebius rendered in Greek AbdoV ; and Rufinus, at the end of the fourth or beginning of the fifth century, gives the Latin form of the same name as Abdos, Abdias, and Abdeus.

In Eusebius’ text ‘Thaddeus the Apostle’ is described ‘one of the seventy.’ The Eusebian narrative is taken, as he expressly states, from the Syriac; it must be from the same Edessan document from which the Doctrine of Addai takes its narrative, and this in Phillips, translation of the Syriac text, p.5, reads, ‘Judas Thomas sent to Abgar Addai the Apostle, who was one of the seventy-two Apostles.’ If we turn to St. Jerome, we find him stating most positively (P.L., tom. xxvi., Hieron., tom.vii., Commentar. in Matth., col. 61): ‘Thaddaeum apostolum ecclesiastica tradit historia missum Edessam ad Abgarum regem Osroenae,’ &c. The Syriac text of Addai offers evidence to show that the text contained at first the words ‘Addai the Apostle’; but it, to later Eastern ideas, would appear strange and undignified that one Apostle should depute another to perform a certain work for him, so the title ‘Apostle’ is retained and an insertion is intercalated to meet the difficulty—‘who is one of the seventy-two Apostles;’ a form of expression quite unusual, hence savouring of being an addition by a later hand. Eusebius curtails it to ‘one of the seventy.’ The true reading is confirmed also by the above-quoted assertion of Jerome, that ‘ecclesiastical history hands down that the Apostle Thaddeus was sent to King Abgar of Edessa,’ where, after curing him, he cured also Abdias, the son of Abdias: ‘Addai’ is the Aramaic form of the name Thaddeus.

So we have not only the name, but we can see the probability that this Abdias, cured by a miracle, may have attached himself to the person of the Apostle Thaddeus. This latter inference we shall presently find supported by one of the texts of the short histories of the apostles in the collection above mentioned. We take our quotation from Nausea’s edition (Passio sanctorum Apostolorum Simonis et Judae, fol. lxxii.): ‘ordinaverunt autem in civitate illa [Babylon] episcopum nomine Abdiam’; it then adds, ‘qui cum ipsis venerat a Judaea,’ &c, which latter insertion would be by way of an inference. Lazius, in his edition of the text, does not leave it to be inferred, as in that given by Nausea, that the name of the city was Babylon, but expressly inserts the name. It should further be borne in mind that the Apostles James, son of Alpheus (Matt. x.3), and Thaddeus, named Jude by Luke (vi.16), and Simon the Canaanean, were brothers; for the two former we have the authority of Matthew and Luke, and for Simon the constant tradition of the Western and Eastern Churches. Jude-Thaddeus suffered martyrdom in Persia with his brother Simon; the joint feast is kept on 28th October. Jude-Thaddeus could therefore have appointed Abdias bishop of Babylon.

That no direct evidence has come down to us from other sources that Abdias was the first bishop of that city proves nothing. Even in the case of large and important places within the Roman empire we possess no list of the early bishops, much less need we expect to find those of cities outside the empire recorded and handed down in some prominent record. Yet we have here a mention, the rejection of which cannot be warranted on the sole ground that it is found in an anonymous writing. On the other hand, it will appear obvious that during the Apostolic age, when a sufficient number of conversions to the faith demanded the nomination of a bishop, the selection would fall on some well-tried disciple who had accompanied an Apostle and had been trained in such a school, and not on a neophyte, however zealous and fervent. The ‘non-neophytum’ principle (1 Tim.iii.6) would naturally be enforced.

No texts in the Syriac have yet appeared which would cover anything like the ground of the Latin compilation published under the name of Abdias. Many manuscripts still remain to be printed; as to whether such writings in Syriac cover a large field we have yet to learn, since no collection of the existing Syriac texts has yet appeared. There is, however, hope that in the near future this want will be supplied. The editors of the new series, Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium, J.B. Chabot, J. Guidi, H. Hyvernat, and B.Carra de Vaux, propose to publish eastern works written by Christians in the following languages : Syriac, Ethiopic, Coptic, Arabic, and, perhaps later, Armenian may also be included. The series will embrace four sub-heads for each language. Under the sub-head Apocrypha Sacra for Syriac, four volumes are reserved for writings bearing on the New Testament, treating of the Blessed Virgin, the Apostles, and the Cross. These may give us the supplementary texts. It will hence be wise to keep an open mind on the subject, the more so as recent researches have singularly re-habilitated many a piece of early ecclesiastical literature which had been placed under ban by a long succession of savants.

8. Acts of Thomas, Original Language

Selecting the Acts of Thomas for special treatment — which are also incorporated in the Abdias Latin collection — it will be necessary to ascertain in what language they were originally written. The Semitic text of the Acts of Thomas has been fortunately submitted to scrutiny and compared with its Greek representative to ascertain the primitive language of the composition. The work has been done by Professor F.C. Burkitt, who has found the Syriac to be beyond doubt the original text. We therefore recommend to the reader in search of such technical proof the Professor’s Early Christianity outside the Roman Empire, Cambridge, 1899, pp.63-79; Journal of Theological Studies, for 1900, pp.280-290; ibid., for 1902, p.95.

The different copies of the Acts now extant give us no fair idea of what the original short form of the narrative must have been. The large amount of unnecessary incidents, and yet more the redundant discourses put into the mouths of persons brought on the scene, of which the Syriac offers the most exaggerated form, can by no means have formed part of the original composition.

9. The Syriac Text of the Acts

A complete copy of the Syriac text of these Acts of Thomas exists in the British Museum in Add. MS 14,645, dated 936, edited by Dr. Wright, Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles, London, 1871, in two volumes, one of text and the other giving the English translation by the editor. Of those published in the former, the Acts of John the Evangelist, and on his Decease; on Matthew and Andrew, as also that of Thomas, are in Syriac. There are besides three other copies of our text which have come from the East: one was procured by Sachau and is in Berlin — a modern transcript; a second copy, probably taken from the same original also, is at Cambridge; the third, also a modern transcript as we believe, was procured for the Borgian Museum, Rome, by the late Syrian Archbishop of Damascus, David, together with a large number of other Syriac MSS, some of which were copies. All these latter have now passed to the Vatican Library with the other MSS which had been collected either by the founder, Cardinal Borgia, or by the late Cardinal Barnabò. Besides Wright’s edition of the text, the Rev. Paul Bedjan has also given a separate edition in vol.iii. of his Acta Martyrum et Sanctorum, Leipsic-Paris, 1892, incorporating readings from the Borgian MS. This edition contains several additions to Wright’s text taken from the Berlin MS (Duval, Litt. Syriac, 2nd edition, 1900, p.98, note).

Fragments of these Acts, from a palimpsest Sinaitic codex, have been read and published, with an English translation by Mr.Burkitt, in Appendix vii. to Studia Sinaitica, No.ix., text and translation, London, 1900, Clay & Sons, edited by Agnes Smith Lewis; also Horae Semiticae, Nos.iii. and iv., text and translation, Cambridge University Press, edited by the same lady. The text yielded by the palimpsest, of which only eight pages were found decipherable, would cover the space of about five pages of Wright’s edition. Burkitt holds these fragments to be 400 years older than any known text; this would give us a.d. 936- 400=a.d. 536, or the second quarter of the sixth century. The reader should, however, be warned that the learned Professor worked on photos taken by Mrs. Lewis, and had not the opportunity of handling the original sheets.

A small poem in Syriac of the Acts of Judas Thomas by a Nestorian of the eighteenth century, Giwargis of Alkosh, will be found in P.Cardahi’s Liber Thesauri de arte poetica Syrorum, p.130.

10. The Greek Version

The best edition of the Greek and Latin versions has been given by Professor Max Bonnet, of Montpellier, Acta Thomae: Graece partim cum novis codicibus contulit, partim primus edidit Latine recensuit, Lipsiae, 1883.114 The Greek text is found entire in only one codex, Paris-Graec. 1510 (olim. 2452); this Bonnet discovered and has reproduced. He considers the MS to be of the eleventh century; the catalogue marks it of the twelfth.

11. The Latin Versions

Of the Latin versions Bonnet says (praef.xiii.): ‘Acta Thomae latina habemus bina, pleniora altera altera breuiora, neutra ex alteris hausta.’ The third statement that they are independent of each other is of considerable importance, as this implies that they descend from independent sources. The former of these versions, ‘on the authority of the codices,’ is called De Miraculis Thomae, the other Passio Thomae. The difference of names is important. St. Gregory of Tours, a.d. 590, knew only the latter—Thomas Apostolus secundum historiam Passionis ejus.115 The point is of importance for more than one reason, and will turn up again for consideration. Bonnet terms the version ‘Passio’ (p.xiii.) ‘minoris pretii librum.’ This is true in two ways, it is not as good a compilation as the other De Miraculis, and is written in an inferior style; but he remarks ‘sed a multis deinceps lectum.’ The ruggedness of its style may also be a reason for holding it as the more ancient version of the two, even apart from the witness of Gregory of Tours. Bonnet admits further that there may have been from the beginning two Latin versions of the Acts, as there were two of Hermas’s book, Pastor; and, we may add, as there were of the letters of St.Ignatius of Antioch, as well as of other early writings.

Anyhow, note should be taken of the fact that St. Gregory, who had made a special study of early literature of this class, and to which he himself was a large contributor, does not mention the present compilation De Miraculis.

Of the Acts of Thomas, the shorter version, Passio, was the first that was printed. Boninus Mombritius included it in his Sanctuarium, tom.ii.folio 333, Mediolani, c. Anno 1480.

The book De Miraculis was first edited by Frederick Nausea, Coloniae, 1531, and next by Wolfangus Lazius, Basileae, 1552; it was reprinted by J.A. Fabricius in his Codex Apocryphus N.T., Hamburgi, 1703 and 1719.

12. Other Versions

Besides the above work, one somewhat similar is found also in Ethiopic. Mr. Malan gave an English translation of it under the title Conflicts of the Apostles. Mr. E.A. Budge published the same work with the title—The Contendings of the ApostlesGadla Hawarsjat, London, 1901, in 2 vols., text and English translation. Budge found Malan’s edition unsatisfactory, as it reproduced a modern faulty MS; the text which he published comes from two MSS, formerly belonging to King Theodore of Abyssinia, brought from Magdala in 1868. The MSS are probably of the fifteenth and seventeenth century; the oldest known MS is at paris, and is dated a.d. 1379. Dr.M.R. James has also published some writing called Acts of Thomas, but this is said to be a different work. We have had no opportunity of consulting the Ethiopic versions; but it may be taken as a general rule that similar versions offer very little help in reconstructing the text of an ancient work—The didascalia of the Apostles, published by Thomas Platt, Ethiopic text and translation, may be cited as a case in point — since they are never first-hand translations, based frequently on a prior Arabic version, and are comparatively of modern date. We take from Mr. W.R. Philipp’s paper, The connexion of St. Thomas the Apostle with India, printed in the Indian Antiquary of 1903, what will give some idea of the contents of the Ethiopic Acts of Thomas given in Mr. Budge's work. There seem to be two narratives. The first of these takes the reader down to Act vi. of the Syriac text (see No.24). The other comprises two sections; the first is styled ‘The Preaching of Saint Thomas in India.’ It appears to be a garbled account, of which some details are taken from the known Acts, and others, to a certain extent, invented. The second section contains ‘The Martyrdom of Saint Thomas in India.’ This portion appears to be based on a new narrative, the new names retaining some semblance to the older ones of the known Acts; the story can give no help in elucidating the syriac text.

An Arabic edition, text and translation of the Conflicts or Contendings, has been lately issued by Mrs. Agnes Smith Lewis, under a new title, The Mythological Acts of the Apostles (Horae Semiticae, Nos.iii.and iv.ut supr.). The Arabic is supposed to represent a Coptic text, of which up to the present only fragments are known to exist . As this Arabic text gives a version of the doings of the Apostle Thomas, the Coptic most probably contained it. The Ethiopic version mentioned above now turns out to be, as we surmised, a translation from this Arabic text.

The manuscript of an Armenian version is at Berlin; the text is unpublished and consequently not available for comparison with the present text of the Syriac. Armenian versions, however, are often more helpful, and bear a closer relation to older originals. Even in literature of this class the Armenian has been found serviceable; it has been employed with advantage along with the Syriac version in the study of some Acts, as the reader will have occasion to see.

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