John bar Penkaye; Syriac: ܝܘܚܢܢ ܒܪ ܦܢܟܝ̈ܐ Yōḥannān bar Penkāyē, was a East Syriac Nestorian Christian writer of the late 7th century. He lived at the time of fifth caliph of the Umayyad dynasty Abd al-Malik. His surname indicates that his parents came from Feneq, on the Tigris (east of Tur Abdin). He was a monk at the monastery of Mar John of Kamul, and later at the monastery of Mar Bassima. Later writers confuse him with John Saba (John of Dalyatha).
A number of his works are still in existence. Most of them have never been published and are extant only in manuscripts.
John bar Penkaye, Summary of World History (Rish melle) (2010), book 15:
When the kingdom of the Persians came to an end, in the days of their king Khosro 1, the kingdom of the children of Hagar at once gained control over more or less the whole world, for they took the whole kingdom of the Persians. overthrowing all their warriors who prided themselves in the arts of war.
We should not think of the advent (of the children of Hagar) as something ordinary, but as due to divine working. Before calling them, (God) had prepared them beforehand to hold Christians in honour, thus they also had a special commandment from God concerning our monastic station, that they should hold it in honour. Now when these people came, at God's command, and took over as it were both kingdoms, not with any war or battle, but in a menial fashion, such as when a brand is rescued out of the fire; not using weapons of war or human means. God put victory into their hands in such a way that the words written concerning them might be fulfilled, namely, 'One man chased a thousand and two men routed ten thousand'! How, otherwise, could naked men, riding without armour or shield, have been able to win, apart from divine aid, God having called them from the ends of the earth so as to destroy, by them, a sinful kingdom, and to bring low, through them. the proud spirit of the Persians.
Only a short period passed before the entire world was handed over to the Arabs; they subdued all the fortified cities, taking control from sea to sea 2, and from East to West – Aigyptos and the whole of Mesrin, and from Crete to Cappadocia, from Yahelman 3 to the gates of Alan, Armenians, Syrians. Persians, Byzantines, Egyptians and all the intermediary regions: their hand was upon everyone, as the prophet says. Only half the Byzantine empire was left by them.
Who can relate the carnage they effected in Greek territory, in Kush, in Spain, and in other distant regions, taking captive their sons and daughters and reducing them to slavery and servitude. Against those who had not ceased in times of peace and prosperity from fighting against their Creator, there was sent a barbarian people who had no pity on them.
Having reached thus far, however, in the narrative, let us end this book here, and give praise to Father, Son and Holy Spirit for ever, Amen. ...... When he saw that there was no amendment, he raised a barbarian kingdom against us, a people who would not hear supplications, who knew no compromise, no peace, and disdained flattery and meanness. Its delight was in shedding blood without reason, and its pleasure laying hands on everything. Its passion was raiding and stealing, and its food hatred and anger; it was never appeased by offerings made to it. When it had prospered and done the will of Him who sent it, it had taken possession of all the kingdoms of the earth, had subjected brutally all the peoples and brought their sons and daughters into a bitter slavery, had avenged in them the opprobrium of God the Word, and the blood of the martyrs of Christ shed through no fault of their own, then our Lord was satisfied and rested, and He agreed to give grace to his people. So the Lord, to punish the sons of Hagar 9 for the ravages they had made, gave them two leaders from the beginning of their kingdom and divided them into two sections. This was so that we might understand the word that was spoken by our Saviour. But they were united until they had subjected the whole earth, but when they returned to tranquility and rested from war, they fought one another.
Those in the West said: “superiority is due to us, and the king must be chosen from among us.” Those of the East contradicted them and claimed that it was to them that this was due. As a result of this contention, they came to blows. When they had settled the business according to their methods, the victory fell to the Westerners called Ummayyads , and this after a great slaughter that took place between them. A man among them named Mu`awiya , took the reins of government of the two empires: Persian and Roman. Justice flourished under his reign, and a great peace was established in the countries that were under his government, and allowed everyone to live as they wished. They had received, as I said, from the man who was their guide , an order in favour of the Christians and the monks. Similarly because of his guidance they held to the worship of one God, according to the customs of the old law. Firstly, they were so attached to the tradition of Muhammad who was their leader, that they inflicted the death penalty on anyone who seemed not to obey his commands. Their troops went every year into distant countries and islands, raided and brought back captives from all the nations that are under heaven. From every man they required only the tribute, and left him free to hold any belief, and there were even some Christians among them: some belonged to the heretics and others to us. While Mu`awiya reigned there was such a great peace in the world as was never heard of, according to our fathers and our fathers' fathers. It was as if our Lord had said: “I will test you in this way, as it is written: ‘by grace and justice iniquity may be pardoned.’”
......When Mu`awiya ended his days and left the world, Yazid his son reigned in his stead
. He did not follow in the footsteps of his father, but he loved children's games and the pastimes of the idle. The strength of men declined under his weak government; because the devil put the finishing touch to the punishment of men, that of useless toil; but God took him soon after. When he had thus left the world, there was one of them (the Arabs) named Zubayr , who made his voice heard from afar. He said of himself that he was come out of zeal for the house of God. He threatened the west, as transgressors of the Law. So he went south, into the place where was their place of worship, and settled there. A war with him was prepared, and he was defeated. They even set fire to their own place of worship, and a lot of blood was shed. Since that time the kingdom of the (eastern) Arabs has never recovered. So when (Zubayr) died, they elected his son to be emir.
The westerners had a general named `Abd al-Rahman ibn Ziyad and the easterners had another called al-Mukht 1. Nisibis at that time belonged to the west, and an emir named Ibn `Uthman governed it. Another emir of the westerners named Ibn Nitron attacked him. The westerners said that “Nisibis belongs to us by right because it was part of the realm of the Romans” and the easterners pretended that it belonged to the Persians and that it was rightfully theirs. Because of this conflict, there was great trouble in Mesopotamia. The westerners triumphed and the easterners were expelled. The year after, Ibn Nitron gathered a large army and gathered horsemen to him, (as numerous) as the sand. He set himself up very arrogantly and marched to battle with the ‘Akoulians . He took with him John, who at that time was bishop of Nisibis ..
In the sixty-seventh year of the empire of the Arabs , following the striking signs and the terrors that we talked about earlier, and following the battles and wars through which (the Lord) called us to repentance – but we ignored him – in the same year sixty-seven this cruel plague began, that has not been equaled and never will be, I hope. According to the sacrilegious habit that had developed among men, they did not even bury those whom death reaped, but, like the heathen 46, they abandoned them and fled. From then on brothers and parents became like dogs and animals to those who died, and the crows and vultures were to be responsible for burying them. The bodies of dead men were lying in the streets and bazaars like manure on the earth , thus contaminating springs and rivers. Dogs began to eat many while they were still alive; each of them saw his fate with his own eyes. Brother had no pity on brother nor father on son. The compassion of the mother for her children was destroyed; she contemplated their convulsions caused by the pains of death and did not approach even to close their eyes. This was a spectacle filled with heartbreak, a terrifying sacrilege. Those who were still alive were scattered in the mountains, like sheep without a shepherd. They wanted thereby to avoid the plague, but it followed them like a harvester. Dogs and wild beasts heaped them up like sheaves. (What was worst of all), they were constantly hounded by looters, from whom they could not escape, for they wandered about everywhere, following them like gleaners.
They would haul them out of hidden places and deprive them of everything and leave them naked. But still they thought that it was possible to escape God without repentance and without returning to him with a heart full of penitence. They beat harshly any that reminded them of this and told him: “Go away from here; for we know that flight is much more beneficial than prayer; we have already repented, but we have not been helped, we can’t even do that any more.” Men were reduced to despair because of their many sins; such pain came down upon them, and they did not repent at all, because ‘the bellows for their fire has failed and their lead is consumed,’ according the word of the prophet, and ‘it is in vain that the refiner refines them; call them condemned coin, because the Lord has condemned them.’ 48 ‘He has truly rejected them, and his soul abhorred them.’ In vain he has allowed his hand to dwell on us: we did not wish for his correction. He has sent locusts and other pests, and we are not at all converted; he has sent raiders, and we have not done penance. He has refused the rain during the three months preceding the harvest and we have been unmoved. Plague has herded us like sheep, but we have only added to our wickedness.
The priests and guardians of the law have perished, and the churches have become deserted. The holy vessels have been soiled. Villages were burned, and the cities laid waste and fear commands every roadway. This was just the first generation, that is to say, the beginning of the suffering. He still continued to chasten us seven times over for our sins 49. All the words of the prophets and apostles, and all the curses contained in the law have been fulfilled against us. We were plundered and scattered over the whole earth 50, we were in distress, like a reed shaken by the winds. We have been in anguish and agitation, like Cain was upon the earth. What then! another calamity hit us that removed from us any means to flee and escape from it. The famine, I mean, and the plague. After avoiding the plague, we were pursued by the famine, and all that remained was carried off by raiders. We therefore need to use the words of Jeremiah; for him, he only wept over one people: Jerusalem, but we must weep over the whole world; let us borrow his lamentations so that our sorrows may be contained; but alas! they cannot be limited, because we do not deserve it: see the noble children of Zion ‘lying asleep at the top of every street, like flabby beetroot, having had their fill with the anger of God's wrath.’ 51 The hands of caring mothers have cooked their own children, who have served them as food, in the destruction of the daughter of my people; then if I go out into the desert, there are men struck by the sword; if I go into homes, there are men overwhelmed with hunger; and those who were struck by the sword were better off than those who had died of hunger, because the latter wasted away as if they had been wounded in battle.
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