Acts of Mar Mari

Acta Maris

Standard abbreviation: Acts Mari

Other titles: Acts of Mari; the Story of Mar Mari, the Apostle

Clavis numbers: BHO 610

Categories: Apocryphal Acts; Hagiography

Related literature: Doctrine of Addai, Acts of Thomas, Liber Turris, Liturgy of Addaeus and Maris

Compiled by Jacob A. Lollar, Florida State University (jlollar@fsu.edu)

Citing this resource (using Chicago Manual of Style): Lollar, Jacob A. “Acts of Mar Mari.” e-Clavis: Christian Apocrypha. Accessed DAY MONTH YEAR.  http://www.nasscal.com/e-clavis-christian-apocrypha/acts-of-mar-mari/.

Posted November 2017.

1. SUMMARY

The Acts of Mar Mari is a continuation of the Doctrine of Addai and records the introduction of Christianity into Persia. The narrative claims that Mari was a disciple of Addai (ch. 6) and was sent to evangelize Mesopotamia. The narrative begins with a summary of the Doctrine of Addai—the epistolary correspondence between Jesus and King Abgar of Edessa, followed by Addai’s evangelization of Edessa. Mar Mari is then commissioned to evangelize Mesopotamia (6–7). He converts Nisibis, setting up a monastery-school there (7) and then moves on to various regions and cities in Mesopotamia. He casts out demons who have animated statues, he heals people, particularly children (9, 12–13), from various maladies, and he converts city after city until he finally reaches Seleucia (19).

The story reaches its apogee at Seleucia, where Mar Mari comes into conflict with the king and the Zoroastrian magi (19–29). There is a famous scene in which Mari is invited into a convocation of three assemblies, one for children, one for young people, and one for elders (19). Franz Cumont famously argued that these three assemblies were vestiges of a tripartite Greek assembly of the gerousia, ephēboi, and the neoi. Mari is invited into the assembly of elders and becomes a familiar member. He uses the assembly as a platform for preaching the gospel and performing miracles in front of the city’s elders (20–21). When his turn comes to plan the dinner festivities, he throws such a good party that people invite him to speak and preach to them. While he is met with some resistance, he performs a miracle by extinguishing the cultic fire (24). He acquires many converts and works for a year to turn to the whole city to Christianity (25).

Mari ultimately convinces the kings of both Seleucia and Ctesiphon of the validity of Christianity. King Aphrahat of Seleucia (a serious anachronism) converts, but Artaban II (18–38 C.E.) requires more convincing. He says that if Mari can heal his sister then he will believe in the Christian God (26). Mari agrees and goes to heal the king’s sister, Qunni. On the way, he heals a ferryman named Dausti and converts him (27). Mari finally reaches Dayr Qunni, named after the king’s sister, about 90 km south of Baghdad on the east bank of the Tigris River. There he heals the king’s sister and both of them convert to Christianity, solidifying the conversion of Seleucia-Ctesiphon (28–29).

The rest of the narrative traces Mari’s activity in various Eastern regions including Beth-Aramaye, Beth-Parsaye, and Beth-Huzaye (30–31). He eventually “detects the traces of Saint Thomas the Apostle,” bringing the Acts of Mar Mari into line with earlier apostolic traditions about the evangelization of the east (32). At Qunni, a church is built in Mar Mari’s honor where he comes at the end of his life (33–34). There he appoints his disciple Papa (another serious anachronism) to be his successor. The commemoration of Mari at Dayr-Qunni appears to be the occasion for which the final form of the text was commissioned.

The Acts of Mar Mari contains clear polemics against idolatry and Zoroastrianism. Several anti-Jewish statements occur, as well as an implicit critique of Manichaeism—Mar Mari follows a very similar itinerary to the Prophet Mani in his missionary journeys.

Named historical figures and characters: Abdu, Abgar, Adar, Adda, Addai, Ahazia, Anasimos, Aphrahat (king of Seleucia), Ardashir (I/III), Artaban II, Dausti, Daway, Ebed, Jesus Christ, Job, Laqna, Malkišo, Mari, Mary (Virgin), Nimrod, Papa (bishop), Paul (apostle), Peter (apostle), Philippus, Phratia, Qardway, Qunni, Satan, Shahgird, Thomas (apostle), Tiberius (emperor), Tubana, Tumis, Zaradosh.

Geographical Locations: Abad, Armenia, Arzen, Athor, Babylon, Bel-abad, Beth-Arabaye, Beth-Aramaye, Beth-Garmai, Beth-Huzaye, Beth-Laphat, Beth-Parsaye, Beth-Zabdai, Brugia, Caesarea-Philippi, Ctesiphon, Darabad, Dasen, Dayr-Qunni, Edessa, Erbil, Gawar, Gelala, Gokhay, Jerusalem, Karkha, Kashkar, Kokhe, Ledan, Maishan, Media, Mesopotamia, Nazareth, Nineveh, Nisibis, Persia, Qardu, Ra‘amsis, Radan, Rome, Seleucia, Shafla, Shahqirt, Shaushtara, Susa, Tartarus, Tigris, Wartan-Qard, Waziq, Zab (river), Zawzan.

2. RESOURCES

“Hagiography.” Syri.ac: An annotated bibliography of Syriac resources online. Administrators: Jack Tannous and Scott Johnson (contains links to versions and a list of known manuscripts). Link: http://syri.ac/hagiography

“Liturgy of Addai and Mari.” Nestorian. Compiled by J.F. Goggin.

3. BIBLIOGRAPHY

3.1 Manuscripts and Editions

3.1.1 Syriac

Alqoš, Notre-Dame des Semences (1881)

Ṣṭ  Unidentified manuscript used by Bedjan

H  Rome, Biblioteca Apostolica, Vita Beati Maris (17th cent.) – This source is identified by Abbeloos as a copy of Mar Mari that had been in the possession of Cardinal Howard, who died in 1694.

K  Khayyath de Diyarbakir (1881) ~ copy of Ko

Ko  Koï (?) (13th cent.)

M  Mosul, Chaldean Patriarchate, 86 (1711/1712)

S  Berlin, Staatsbibliothek zum Berlin, Syr. 75 (Sachau 222) (1881)

V  Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica, Vat. sir. 597 (17th cent.)

Baghdad, Library of the Chaldean Monastery, 622 (olim Alqoš, Notre-Dame des Semences)

Baghdad, Library of the Chaldean Monastery, 624 (olim Alqoš, Notre-Dame des Semences)

Baghdad, Library of the Chaldean Monastery, 628 (olim Alqoš, Notre-Dame des Semences, Scher 96/Vosté 214) (1885)

Baghdad, Library of the Chaldean Monastery, 630 (olim Alqoš, Notre-Dame des Semences, Vosté 217) (1891)

Baghdad, Library of the Chaldean Monastery, 636 (olim Alqoš, Notre-Dame des Semences)

Baghdad, Library of the Chaldean Monastery, shelf no. not provided (olim Alqoš, Notre-Dame des Semences, Scher 112/Vosté 215) (1885)

Urmia, Oroomiah College, 103 (1715) ~ now lost

Urmia, Oroomiah College, 160 (1890) ~ now lost

Jullien and Jullien provide this reconstruction of the MS history (Les Actes des Mār Māri, 10):

Abbeloos, Joannes Baptista. “Acta Sancti Maris, Assyriæ, Babyloniae ac Persidis seculo I apostoli.” AnBoll 4 (1885): 43–138 (editio princeps based on A and K).

Baumstark, Anton. Geschichte der syrischen Literatur: mit Ausschluß der christlich-palästinensichen Texte. Bonn: Verlag, 1922 (lists several manuscripts, p. 28 n. 5).

Bedjan, Paulus, ed. Acta martyrum et sanctorum. 4 vols. Paris/Leipzig: Otto Harrassowitz, 1890-1897 (edition based on A and Ṣṭ, vol. 1, pp. 45–94).

Harrak, Amir, ed. The Acts of Mār Mārī the Apostle. WGRW 11. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2005 (edition based on A with variants from S and Ṣṭ).

Jullien, Christelle and Florence Jullien, eds. Les Actes de Mār Māri. CSCO 602–603, Syr. 234–235. Leuven: Peeters, 2003 (edition based on A with comparisons to K, S, and V).

Raabe, Richard, Die Geschichte des Dominus Mâri, eines Apostels des Orients. Aus dem Syrischen übersetzt und untersucht. Leipzig: J.C. Hinrichs, 1893 (edition based on S, with comparison to A).

3.2 Modern Translations

3.2.1 Arabic

Abūnā, Albert. Šuhadā’ al-mašriq. Baghdad: Maṭba‘at al-Khulūd, 1985.

Scher, Addai. Kitāb sīrat ’ašhar šuhadā’ al-mašriq al-qiddīsīn. 2 vols. Mosul, 1900–1906.

3.2.2 English

Harrak, Amir, ed. The Acts of Mār Mārī the Apostle. SBL WGRW 11. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2005.

3.2.3 French

Jullien, Christelle and Florence Jullien, eds. Les Actes de Mār Māri. CSCO 602–603, Syr. 234–235. Leuven: Peeters, 2003.

__________, trans. Les Actes de Mar Mari, l’apôtre de la Mésopotamie. Apocryphes 11. Turnhout: Brepols, 2001.

3.2.4 German

Raabe, Richard. Die Geschichte des Dominus Mâri, eines Apostels des Orients. Aus dem Syrischen übersetzt und untersucht. Leipzig: J.C. Hinrichs, 1893

3.2.5 Italian

Ramelli, Ilaria L. Atti di Mar Mari. Testi del Vicino Oriente antico 7.2. Brescia: Paideia, 2008.

3.2.6 Latin

Abbeloos, Joannes Baptista. “Acta Sancti Maris, Assyriæ, Babyloniae ac Persidis seculo I apostoli.” AnBoll 4 (1885): 43–138.

3.3 General Works

Abbeloos, Joannes Baptista. “Deux manuscrits chaldéens inexplorés.” Le Muséon 2.1 (1883): 143–14.

Cumont, Franz. “Notes sur un passage des Actes de S. Mâri.” Revue de l’instruction publique en Belgique 36 (1893): 373–78.

Elevanal, Thomas. “Some of the Characteristics of the Anaphora of the Apostles Mar Addai and Mar Mari.” Christian Orient 8 (1987): 27–36.

Harrak, Amir. “The Assembly of Seleucia on the Tigris according to the Syriac Acts of Mār Mārī.” Pages 109–18 in Ideologies as Intercultural Phenomena: Proceedings of the Third Annual Symposium of the Assyrian and Babylonian Intellectual Heritage Project, Held in Chicago, USA, October 27-31, 2000. Edited by Antonio C.D. Panaino and Giovanni Pettinato. Melammu Symposia 3. Milano: Università di Bologna / Istituto Italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente, 2002.

Horn, Cornelia B. “From the Roman East into the Persian Empire: Theodoret of Cyrrhus and the Acts of Mar Mari on Parent-Child Relationships and Children’s Health.” Pages 257–88 in Children and Family in Late Antiquity: Life, Death and Interaction. Edited by Christian Laes, Katariina Mustakallio, and Ville Vuolanto. Interdisciplinary Studies in Ancient Culture and Religion 15. Leuven: Peeters, 2015.

Jullien, Christelle and Florence Jullien. “Les Actes de Mār Māri: une figure apocryphe au service de l’unité communautaire.” Apocrypha 10 (1999): 177–93.

__________. “Édesse dans les Actes de Mâr Mâri.” Pages 167–82 in Apocryphité: histoire d’un concept transversal aux religions du livre. En hommage à Pierre Geoltrain. Edited by Simon Claude Mimouni and Constantinos Macris. Bibliothèque de l’École des Hautes Études, Sciences Religieuses 113. Turnhout: Brepols, 2002.

__________. “Une source inattendue sur le baptisme babylonien: les Actes de Mar Mari.” Studia Iranica 31.1 (2002): 47–60.

__________.  Aux origines de l’église de Perse: les Actes de Mar Mari. CSCO 604, Subs. 114. Louvain: Peeters, 2003.

__________.  “Communauté et dissidence: un cas d’espèce chez les Syriens orientaux de Perse. Réflexions à travers les Actes de Mar Mari.” Pages 307–34 in Les communautés religieuses dans le monde gréco-romain. Essais de définition. Edited by Nicole Belayche and Simon Claude Mimouni. Bibliothèque de l’Ecole des Hautes Etudes, Sciences Religieuses 117. Turnhout: Brepols, 2003.

Jullien, Christelle, Florence Jullien, and Françoise Briquel-Chatonnet. “Traces d’un ancien rite assyrien dans les Actes de Mar Mari?” Semitica 51 (2003): 65–71.

Jullien, Christelle. “À propos de Ilaria Ramelli (a cura di) Atti di Mar Mari’.” Le Muséon 122.1–2 (2009): 219–29.

Jullien, Florence. “Figures fondatrices dans les apocryphes syriaques.” Pages 97–110 in Les apocryphes syriaques. Edited by Muriél Debié, Christelle Jullien, Florence Jullien, and Alain Desreumaux. Études syriaques 2. Paris: Geuthner, 2005.

Pérès, Jacques-Noël. “L’intérêt des apocryphes syriaques dans la pensée et la théologie syriaques.” Pages 205–15 in Les apocryphes syriaques. Edited by Muriél Debié, Christelle Jullien, Florence Jullien, and Alain Desreumaux. Études syriaques 2. Paris: Geuthner, 2005.

Ramelli, Ilaria L. “La Doctrina Addai e gli Acta Maris: note storico-letterarie sui loro rapporti intertestuali.” AION 65 (2005): 75–102.

__________. “The First Evangelization of the Mesopotamian Regions in the Syriac Tradition: The Acta Maris as a Continuation of the Doctrina Addai.” Antiguo Oriente 3 (2005): 11–54.

__________.  “The Narrative Continuity Between the Teaching of Addai and the Acts of Mari: Two Historical Novels?” Pages 411–50 in Narratives of Egypt and the Ancient Near East: Literary and Linguistic Approaches. Edited by Fredrik Norland Hagen, J. Johnston, W. Monkhouse, Kathryn Piquette, and J. Tait. OLA 189. Leuven: Peeters, 2011.

__________.  “Two Syriac ‘Apocryphal Acts of Apostles’: The Doctrina Addai and the Acta Maris.” Pages 77–94 in In Mari Via Tua: Philological Studies in Honour of Antonio Piñero. Edited by Israel M. Gallarte Jesús Peláez. EFN 11. Córdoba: El Almendro, 2016.

Saint-Laurent, Jeanne-Nicole. Missionary Stories and the Formation of the Syriac Churches. Transformation of the Classical Heritage 55. Oakland, California: University of California Press, 2015.

Tubach, Jürgen. “Die Akten des Mari und ihre Intention.” Pages 1232–38 in Akten des XII. Internationalen Kongresses für Christliche Archäologie, Bonn 22.–28. September 1991. Edited by Josef Engemann. Studi di Antichità Cristiana 52 / Jahrbuch für Antike und Christentum, Ergänzungsband 20.1–2. Città del Vaticano: Pontificio Istituto di Archeologia Cristiana / Münster: Aschendorff, 1995.

van Vossel, Vincent. “Mari en Kokhe.” Het Christelijk Oosten 50 (1998): 185–210.

Wood, Philip. ‘We Have No King But Christ’: Christian Political Thought in Greater Syria on the Eve of the Arab Conquest (c. 400–585). Oxford Studies in Byzantium. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Zarzeczny, Rafal. “The Syrian Story of Mār Māri (BHO 610) as an Apocriphic Evidence of the Alleged Beginnings of Evangelization in the Area of Preset-day Iraq.” Studia Bobolanum 2 (2010): 67–92.