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Baradeus, Jacob (c.500–578)

  1. J. W. Childers

Published Online: 25 NOV 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470670606.wbecc0121

The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization

How to Cite

Childers, J. W. 2011. Baradeus, Jacob (c.500–578). The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 25 NOV 2011


Monk, missionary, and nonresident bishop of Edessa, Jacob Baradeus was credited with organizing the Syrian Orthodox (“Jacobite”) Church. The traditional picture of Jacob as the indefatigable consolidator of the henophysite (wrongly, “monophysite”) Syrian Orthodox ecclesial establishment may be received with some tentativeness. Jacob was born near Tella (i.e. Constantina; modern Viransehir in south-east Turkey) and as a young man entered the monastery of Fesiltha at Mount Izla near Nisibis (Nusaybin). In about 527 he and fellow monk Sergius began a lengthy sojourn in Constantinople as advocates for the oppressed henophysite churches in Syria. Importuned by the Ghassanid Arab King Harith from eastern Syria, who was seeking missionary bishops for his Christian kingdom, the henophysite sympathizer Empress Theodora (c.500–548) arranged to have Jacob ordained along with a certain Theodore. The two were consecrated in Constantinople in 542–543 by Theodosius, the exiled Patriarch of Alexandria. Theodore worked mainly in Arabia but Jacob labored throughout Asia. Although the titular bishop of Edessa (modern Urfa), Jacob never settled there but traveled instead throughout Mesopotamia, Syria, Armenia, Arabia, Sinai, Cappadocia, and many other countries, ordaining numerous bishops and priests and generally encouraging the struggling and often persecuted network of henophysite churches. He was thereby instrumental in effecting their recovery from the debilitating effects of imperial attacks on their hierarchy following the exile of Severus from Antioch in 519. He reportedly was fluent in Syriac, Greek, and Arabic. Observing austere ascetic discipline, Jacob wore ragged patchwork clothing that earned him the nickname burd'aya (from “horse-cloth” or “rags”; Greek baradaios). This manner of attire was also an effective disguise enabling Jacob to evade imperial agents who were sent by Justinian to capture the resourceful bishop. Always on the move, he tended to stay in one place only a day or so before setting off again on foot to minister elsewhere, out of the reach of agents who were in hot pursuit. The last years of his life were consumed by efforts to establish peaceful relations between the rival great henophysite churches of Antioch and Alexandria. He died en route to Alexandria in 578.


  • Baradeus, Jacob (c.500–578);
  • organizing the syrian orthodox;
  • syrian orthodox ecclesial establishment;
  • Jacob, conventional portrait;
  • rival great henophysite churches, Antioch and Alexandria