MĀRMĀRI, the Christian apostle, considered as the first missionary in the Arsacid Empire.

The Acts of this saint were written (and are known only) in Syriac after the end of the Sasanian period (cf. Abbeloos, 1885, pp. 42-138; Bedjan, 1890, pp. 45-94; Raabe, 1893), i.e., in about the 8th century in Babylonia. The oldest manuscript was found in a monastery in Alqosh, north of the Mosul plain (Abbeloos, 1883, pp. 143-44). The author of the Acts of Mār Māri was probably a monk from the monastery of Dorqonie, near Seleucia-Ctesiphon, where the relics were kept (Jullien and Jullien, 2003b, pp. 16-17). The text relates in 34 sequences the history of the Christianization of the Tigris valley and as far east as Fārs. Mār Māri, considered as one of the Seventy, the disciples of Christ referred to in the New Testament (Lk 10:1), is sent to the Babylonian lands by Addaï, the apostle of Edessa - and the first five paragraphs are devoted to the Doctrina Addaï (Jullien and Jullien, 2003a, pp. 13-17; 2003b, pp. 18-22; 2003c, pp. 41-46; cf. Desreumaux, 1997). The narrative presents precise and reliable information, e.g., Iranian background (Chaumont, 1988, pp. 16-29; Jullien and Jullien, 2003c, pp. 5-24), gerousia assembly in Hellenistic Seleucia (Cumont, 1893, pp. 373-78). From Edessa and Nisibis, Māri travels through Arzanene, the region of the Zabs, Bēth-Garmay, and Bēth-Aramāyē, and preaches in the Royal Towns. His mission ends in Mesene, Bēth-Huzāyē, and Persia, at the boundaries of the missionary area of the apostle Thomas.

Through the Acts, we can infer a re-reading of the Christian origins of the Syro-oriental Church. At this time, Christians were confronted with Manichaean and Marcionite proselytism (Jullien and Jullien, 2003c, pp. 72-102; cf. Fiey, 1970, pp. 183-88). Keys to interpretation enable us to discover the author’s deep intentions; e.g., Māri appears as the antithesis of Māni. This account also gives new details about the Dosthean baptist movement, established near Kaškar, testified to essentially by Theodorus Bar Konaï (Hespel and Draguet, 1981, p. 345; Idem, 1982, p. 257; Jullien and Jullien, 2002, pp. 51-54). On the other hand, this text justifies the claims of the Seleucia-Ctesiphon episcopal see to its sovereignty and independence.

The Acts were probably used for liturgical purposes as they end with a commemorative celebration at the apostle’s shrine. The Anaphora of Addaï and Māri (Botte, 1965, pp. 89-106; Macomber, 1966, pp. 335-71; Gelston, 1992, pp. 29-41; Jammo, 1995, pp. 106-107) is explicitly mentioned under this name in the 11th century by Ebn al-Ṭayyeb (Hoenerbach and Spies, 1957, p. 93). In the Syro-oriental tradition, the apostle is generally presented at the head of the patriarchal lists of Seleucia-Ctesiphon (Nau, 1912, pp. 232-33; Elisha of Damascus, see Assemani, 1728, p. XVII; Māri ebn Sulaymān, see Gismondi, 1899, p. 3; ‘Awdišō’, see Mai, 1838, p. 154; Budge, The Book of the Bee, 1886, p. 103; Bar Hebraeus, see Abbeloos and Lamy, 1872, pp. 15-20; ‘Amr, see Gismondi, 1897, p. 1). At present, Mār Māri is still the historical and liturgical reference for the Christian communities of Iraq, Iran, and their diaspora, the Assyro-Chaldaeans.



J.-B. Abbeloos, “Deux manuscrits chaldéens inexplorés,” Le Muséon 2/1, 1883, pp. 143-44.

Idem, “Acta Sancti Maris Assyriae Babyloniae ac Persidis Seculo I apostoli aramaice et latine,” Analecta Bollandiana 4, 1885, pp. 42-138.

Idem and T. J. Lamy, GregoriiBarhebraei Chronicon ecclesiasticum I, Louvain, 1872.

J. S. Assemani, Bibliotheca Orientalis III/2, Rome, 1728.

J. Assfalg, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche VII, 1962, p. 24, s.v. "Māri”; ibid. VI, new ed., 1997, p. 1318.

P. Bedjan, Acta Martyrum et Sanctorum syriace I, Paris, 1890, pp. 45-94.

B. Botte, “Problèmes de l’Anaphore syrienne des apôtres Addaï et Mari,” L’Orient Syrien 10/1, 1965, pp. 89-106.

E. A. W. Budge, The Book of the Bee, Oxford, 1886.

M.-L. Chaumont, La christianisation de l’empire iranien, CSCO 499, Subsidia 80, Louvain, 1988.

F. Cumont, “Notes sur un passage des Actes de S. Mari,” Revue de l’instruction publique en Belgique 36, 1893, pp. 373-78.

A. Desreumaux, Histoire du roi Abgar et de Jésus, Apocryphes 3, Turnhout, 1993.

Idem, “Doctrine de l’apôtre Addaï,” in F. Bovon and P. Geoltrain, eds., Ecrits apocryphes chrétiens, Paris, 1997, pp. 1473-1525.

J. M. Fiey, “Les marcionites dans les textes historiques de l’Eglise de Perse,” Le Muséon 83, 1970, pp. 183-88.

A. Gelston, The Eucharistic Prayer of Addaï and Mari, Oxford, 1992.

H. Gismondi, Maris, Amri et Slibae De patriarchis nestorianorum commentaria, Pars altera, Rome, 1897; ibid., Pars prior, Rome, 1899.

R. Hespel and R. Draguet, Théodore Bar Koni. Livre des Scolies. Mimrè I-V, CSCO 431, Script. Syr. 187, Louvain, 1981; ibid., CSCO 432, Script. Syr. 188, Louvain, 1982.

W. Hoenerbach and O. Spies, Ibn aṭ-Ṭaiyib. Fiqh an- naṣrānīya, CSCO 168, Script. Ar. 19, Louvain, 1957.

S. Jammo, “Le Quddasha des apôtres Addaï et Mari. Un lien avec l’époque apostolique,” Istina 40, 1995, pp. 106-20.

C. Jullien and F. Jullien, “Une source inattendue sur le baptisme babylonien: les Actes de Mār Māri,” Stud. Ir. 31/1, 2002, pp. 47-60.

Idem, Les Actes de Mār Māri, CSCO 602, Script. Syr. 234, Louvain, 2003a; ibid., CSCO 603, Script. Syr. 235, Louvain, 2003b.

Idem, Les Actes de Mār Māri. Aux origines de l’Eglise de Perse, CSCO 604, Subsidia 114, Louvain, 2003c.

J. Kelaita, The Liturgy of the Church of the East, Mosul, 1928.

W. F. Macomber, “The Oldest Known Text of the Anaphora of the Apostles Addaï and Mari,” OCP 32, 1966, pp. 335-71.

Idem, “The Ancient Form of the Anaphora of the Apostles,” in N. Garsoïan, T. Mathews and R. Thomson, eds., East of Byzantium: Syria and Armenia in the Formative Period, Washington DC, 1982, pp. 73-88.

A. Mai, Scriptorum veterum nova collectio X, Rome, 1838.

F. Nau, La Didascalie des douze apôtres, Paris, 1912.

R. Raabe, Die Geschichte des Dominus Mâri, Leipzig, 1893.

V. Van Vossel, “Mari en Kokhe,” Het christelijk Oesten 50, 1998, pp. 185-210.


February 14, 2005

(Florence Jullien)

Originally Published: July 20, 2005

Last Updated: July 20, 2005