Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century/Jacobus Baradaeus, bp. of Edessa
Jacobus (15) or James Baradaeus (Al Baradai, Burdoho, Burdeono, Burdeana, or Burdeaya, also Phaselita, or Zanzalus), ordained by the Monophysites bp. of Edessa (c. A.D. 541), with oecumenical authority over the members of their body throughout the East. By his indomitable zeal and untiring activity this remarkable man rescued the Monophysite community from the extinction with which persecution by the imperial power threatened it, and breathed a new life into what seemed little more than an expiring faction, consecrating bishops, ordaining clergy, and uniting its scattered elements in an organization so well planned and so stable that it has subsisted unharmed through all the many political and dynastic storms in that portion of the world, and preserves to the present day the name of its founder as the Jacobite church of the East. Materials for his Life are furnished by two Syriac biographies by his contemporary, John of Asia, the Monophysite bp. of Ephesus ordained by him, printed by Land (Anecdota Syriaca, vol. ii. pp. 249–253, pp. 364–383), and by the third part of the Eccles. History of the same author (Payne Smith's trans. pp. 273–278, 291).
The surname Baradaeus is derived from the ragged mendicant's garb patched up out of old saddle-cloths, in which, the better to disguise his spiritual functions from the unfriendly eyes of those in power, this indefatigable propagator of his creed performed his swift and secret journeys over Syria and Mesopotamia.
James Baradaeus is stated by John of Ephesus to have been born at Tela Mauzalat, otherwise called Constantina, a city of Osrhoëne, 55 miles due E. of Edessa, towards the close of 5th cent. His father, Theophilus Bar-Manu, was one of the clergy of the place. In pursuance of a vow of his parents, James, when two years old, was placed in that monastery under the care of abbat Eustathius, and trained in Greek and Syriac literature and in the strictest asceticism (Land, Anecdot. Syr. t. ii. p. 364). He became remarkable for the severity of his self-discipline. Having on the death of his parents inherited their property, including a couple of slaves, he manumitted them, and made over the house and estate to them, reserving nothing for himself (ib. 366). He eventually became a presbyter. His fame spread over the East and reached the empress Theodora, who was eagerly desirous of seeing him, as one of the chief saints of the Monophysite party of which she was a zealous partisan. James was with much difficulty induced to leave his monastery for the imperial city. Arriving at Constantinople, he was received with much honour by Theodora. But the splendour of the court had no attractions for him. He retired to one of the monasteries of the city, where he lived as a complete recluse. The period spent by him at Constantinople—15 years, according to John of Ephesus—was a disastrous one for the Monophysite body. Justinian had resolved to enforce the Chalcedonian decrees universally, and the bishops and clergy who refused them were punished with imprisonment, deprivation, and exile. Whole districts of Syria and the adjacent countries were thus deprived of their pastors, and the Monophysites were threatened with gradual extinction. For ten years many churches had been destitute of the sacraments, which they refused to receive from what were to them heretical hands. The extreme peril of the Monophysites was represented to Theodora by the sheikh Harith, and by her instrumentality the recluse James was drawn from his cell and persuaded to accept the hazardous and laborious post of the apostle of Monophysitism in the East. A considerable number of Monophysite bishops from all parts of the East, including Theodosius of Alexandria, Anthimus the deposed patriarch of Constantinople, Constantius of Laodicea, John of Egypt, Peter, and others, who had come to Constantinople in the hope of mitigating the displeasure of the emperor and exciting the sympathies of Theodora, were held by Justinian in one of the imperial castles in a kind of honourable imprisonment. By them James was consecrated to the episcopate, nominally as bp. of Edessa but virtually as a metropolitan with oecumenical authority. The date is uncertain, but that given by Assemani (A.D. 541) is probably correct. The result proved the wisdom of the choice. Of the simplest mode of life, inured to hardship from his earliest years, tolerant of the extremities of
hunger and fatigue, "a second Asahel for fleetness of foot" (Abulpharagius), fired with an unquenchable zeal for what he regarded as the true faith, with a dauntless courage that despised all dangers, James, in his tattered beggar's disguise, traversed on foot the whole of Asia Minor, Syria, Mesopotamia, and the adjacent provinces, even to the borders of Persia, everywhere ordaining bishops and clergy, by his exhortations or his encyclical letters encouraging his depressed co-religionists to courageously maintain their faith against the advocates of the two natures, and organizing them into a compact spiritual body. By his indefatigable labours "the expiring faction was revived, and united and perpetuated. . . . The speed of the zealous missionary was promoted by the fleetest dromedaries of a devout chief of the Arabs; the doctrine and discipline of the Jacobites were secretly established in the dominions of Justinian, and each Jacobite was compelled to violate the laws and to hate the Roman legislator" (Gibbon, vol. vi. p. 75, ed. 1838). He is stated to have ordained the incredible number of 80,000 clergy. John of Ephesus says 100,000 (Land, Anecdot. Syr. ii. 251), including 89 bishops and two patriarchs. His wonderful success in reviving the moribund Monophysite church aroused the emperor and the Catholic bishops. Orders were issued and rewards offered for his apprehension. But, in his beggar's garb, aided by the friendly Arab tribes and the people of Syria and Asia, he eluded all attempts to seize him, and lived into the reign of Tiberius. The longer of the two Lives of James, by John of Ephesus (Land, u.s. pp. 364–383), must be consulted for the extent and variety of his missionary labours and for the miracles which illustrated them.
James failed miserably when he attempted to govern the vast and heterogeneous body he had created and organized. The simplicity and innocence of his character, as described by his contemporary John of Ephesus (H. E. iv. 15), disqualified him for rule, and put him in the power of "crafty and designing men about him, who turned him every way they chose, and used him as a means of establishing their own powers." His unhappy dissensions with the bishops he had ordained clouded the closing portion of James's long life. The internecine strife between the different sections of the Monophysite party is fully detailed by John of Ephesus, who records with bitter lamentation the blows, fighting, murders, and other deeds "so insensate and unrestrained that Satan and his herds of demons alone could rejoice in them, wrought on both sides by the two factions with which the believers—so unworthy of the name—were rent," provoking "the contempt and ridicule of heathens, Jews, and heretics" (H. E. iv. 30). For a full account see John of Ephesus, op. cit. (Payne Smith's trans. pp. 48 sqq., 81 sqq., 274 sqq.).
One of these party squabbles was between James and the bps. Conon and Eugenius, whom he had ordained at Alexandria—the former for the Isaurian Seleucia, the latter for Tarsus—who became the founders of the obscure and short-lived sect of the "Cononites," or, from the monastery at Constantinople to which a section of them belonged, "Condobandites" (John of Ephesus, H. E. 31, v. 1–12; trans. u.s. pp. 49–69). Each anathematized the other, James denouncing Conon and his companion as "Tritheists," and they retaliated by the stigma of "Sabellian."
A still longer and more widespreading difference arose between James and Paul, whom he had ordained patriarch of Antioch (H. E. i. 41, p. 81). Paul and the other three leading bishops of the Monophysites had been summoned to Constantinople under colour of taking measures for restoring unity to the church, and, proving obstinate in the adherence to their own creed, were thrown into prison for a considerable time and subjected to the harshest treatment. This prolonged persecution broke their spirit, and one by one they all yielded, accepting the communion of John the patriarch of Constantinople and the "Synodites," as the adherents of the Chalcedonian decrees were contemptuously termed by their opponents, "lapsing miserably into the communion of the two natures" (ib. i. 41, ii. 1–9, iv. 15). Paul, stung with remorse for his cowardice, escaped into Arabia, taking refuge with Mondir, son and successor of Harith. On hearing of his defection James at once cut Paul off from communion; but at the end of three years, on receiving the assurance of his contrition, his act of penitence was laid before the synod of the Monophysite church of the East, and he was duly and canonically restored to communion by James, who notified the fact by encyclic letters (ib. iv. 15). Paul's rehabilitation caused great indignation among the Monophysites at Alexandria. They clamoured for his deposition, which was carried into effect by Peter, the intruded patriarch, in violation of all canonical order; the patriarch of Antioch (Paul's position in the Monophysite communion) owning no allegiance to the patriarch of Alexandria (ib. iv. 16). James allowed himself to be persuaded that if he were to visit Alexandria the veneration felt for his age and services would bring to an end the unhappy dissension between the churches of Syria and Egypt, and though he had denounced Peter, both orally and in writing, he was induced not only to hold communion with him but to draw up instruments of concord and to give his formal assent to the deposition of Paul, only stipulating that it should not be accompanied by any excommunication (ib. 17). The intelligence was received with indignation and dismay in Syria on James's return. The schism which resulted between the adherents of James and Paul, A.D. 576, "spread like an ulcer" through the whole of the East, especially in Constantinople. In vain did Paul entreat James to discuss the matters at issue between them calmly, promising to abide by the issue. In vain did Mondir put himself forward as a peacemaker. James shrank from investigation, and caused an obstinate refusal to be returned to all overtures of accommodation (ib. 20, 21). Wearied out at last, and feeling the necessity for putting an end to the violence and bloodshed which was raging unchecked, James suddenly set out for Alexandria, but never reached it. On the arrival of his party, including several bishops, at the monastery of
Cassianus or Mar-Romanus on the Egyptian frontier, a deadly sickness attacked them, and James himself fell a victim to it, July 30, 578. His episcopate is said to have lasted 37 years, and his life, according to Renaudot (Lit. Or. ii. 342), 73 years.
A liturgy bearing the name of "Jacobus Bordayaeus" is given by Renaudot (Lit. Or. t. ii. pp. 332–341), who confuses him, as Baronius does (ad ann. 535), with Jacobus Baradaeus. That this liturgy is correctly assigned to the Jacobite church is proved by the special memorial of their founder, "memento Domine omnium pastorum et doctorum ecclesiae orthodoxae . . . praecipue vero Jacobi Bordaei," as well as by the special condemnation of those who "impiously blasphemed the Incarnation of the Word, and divided the union in nature (unionem in natura) with the flesh taken from the holy mother of God" (ib. 337, 338). The Catechesis, the chief dogmatical formulary of the Jacobites, "totius fidei Jacobiticae norma et fundamentum" (Cave, Hist Lit. i. 524), though adjudged to be his by Cave, Abraham Ecchellensis, and others, together with the Encomium in Jacobitas, and an Arabic Homily on the Annunciation, are discredited by Assemani on philological and chronological grounds.