Rabbula of Edessa

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Rabbula was the bishop of Edessa, in Mesopotamia, from 411 to 435. A follower of the theology of the Alexandrian school during the Christological controversies of the fifth century, he opposed the views of Theodore of Mopsuestia and the Antiochian school.


Rabbula was born about the year 350 in Kenneschrin, near Aleppo, Syria. His father was a pagan priest although his mother was a devoted Christian. While still a pagan, he received a Greek centric education and became a civil-servant. After his marriage he converted to Christianity partly through a involvement with a case of miraculous healing and partly through the teaching and influence of Bishops Eusebius of Kenneschrin, and Acacius of Aleppo.

With his conversion in Palestine, Rabbula became ardent in his practice of Christian asceticism. Selling his possessions and separating from his wife and kinsfolk, he began a monastic life, first at a monastery and then as a solitary hermit. In 411, Rabbula was chosen to succeed Bishop Diogenes of Edessa after his death, a position he accepted with fervor. Not abandoning his ascetic life, Bp. Rabbula energetically provided for the poor and suffering in his diocese. He began a reform program through his composition of a rule for his clergy and monastics. He strongly contested the influences of the pagans and Jewish groups, and particularly of the Gnostic sects that followed Oriental dualistic philosophies of contending good and evil deities.

Initially, a supporter of the Antiochian school in Christology, Rabbula developed an admiration for Cyril of Alexandria a leader among the anti-Nestorian theologians. He translated Cyril’s treatises on the nature of Christ from Greek into Syriac, notably “Concerning the Right Faith.” These theological polemics brought Rabbula in conflict the prominent Nestorian proponents in Edessa and Antioch. He translated the New Testament in Syriac, known as the Peshitta.

Rabbula reposed on August 8, 435 and was succeeded by Ibas of Edessa who had opposed him concerning his stand against the views of Nestorius and Theodore of Mopesuestia but later reconciled himself with Cyril.

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Rabbula of Edessa
Preceded by:
Bishop of Edessa
411 - 435
Succeeded by:
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