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Bible Dictionaries

A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography

Bardaisan, Syrian Theologian

Bardaisan ( Bardesanes ). A Syrian theologian, commonly reckoned among Gnostics. Born at Edessa a.d.155, and died there a.d.222-223. His theology as known to us is doubtless a mere fraction of his actual theology. His reception of the Pentateuch, which he seemed to contradict, is expressly attested, and there is no reason to suppose that he rejected the ordinary faith of Christians as founded on the Gospels and the writings of the apostles, except on isolated points. The more startling peculiarities of which we hear belong for the most part to an outer region of speculation, which it may easily have seemed possible to combine with Christianity, more especially with the undeveloped Christianity of Syria in the 3rd cent. The local colour is everywhere prominent. In passing over to the new faith, Bardaisan could not shake off the ancient glamour of the stars, or abjure the Semitic love of clothing thoughts in mythological forms. Scarcely anything survives of his writings, for a Dialogue concerning Fate, extant in Syriac under the title "Book of the Laws of the Countries," is by his disciple Philip. The 56 Hymns of Ephrem Syrus against Heresies are intended to refute the doctrines of Marcion, Bardaisan, and Mani, but Ephrem's criticism is harsh and unintelligent. On the whole, whatever might have come to Bardaisan through Valentinianism might as easily have come to him directly from the traditions of his race, and both alternatives are admissible. It is on any supposition a singular fact that the remains of his theology disclose no traces of the deeper thoughts which moved the Gnostic leaders. That he held a doctrinal position intermediate between them and the church is consistent with the circumstances of his life, but is not supported by any internal evidence. On this, as on many other points, we can only deplore our ignorance about a person of singular interest.—(From H. in D. C. B. 4-vol. ed.; cf. Bardenhewer, p. 78.)

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Bibliography Information
Wace, Henry. Entry for 'Bardaisan, Syrian Theologian'. A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hwd/b/bardaisan-syrian-theologian.html. 1911.

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