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Aramaic, scholars had produced the first biblical translations into Syriac, texts that were already revised by the fourth century. The Diatessaron (a harmony of the four Gospels into one text) of Tatian, a second-century Greek or Syrian scholar, may well have been the earliest non-Marcionite Syriac Christian text to circulate in northern Mesopotamia. A Greek fragment of the Diatessaron was discovered in Dura Europos. Destroyed by the Persians in 256, the city contained a house church with evidence of both Syriac and Latin presence. There is no evidence relating to Christian communities at Palmyra, although given the connections to Samosata there probably were such.

Several other texts need to be mentioned. The first, and most important, is The book of the laws of the countries. This text contains a dialogue between Bar-daisan and a student called Awida (perhaps a Marcionite), which was recorded by another student, Phillip. Bardaisan (c. 154-222), known in Latin sources as Bardesanes, was a Christian philosopher at the court of Abgar VIII, in Edessa, capital of Osrohoene. A description of him by Julius Africanus, made about 212, describes him as an able archer, but does not discuss his theology. During his lifetime he was recognised as a Christian theologian by Eusebius. Bardaisan, together with his son Harmonius and his disciples, created a significant corpus of original Syriac compositions, including Christian hymns and theological treatises. Because he was declared a heretic by later Christian theologians most of his works did not survive, except in quotations by his detractors, especially Ephrem of Syria and the author of The book of the laws of the countries. A fragment of a treatise on astronomy was preserved by George, bishop of the Arabs (Patrologia Syriaca 2: 612-15). His theology, mistakenly characterised by some as Gnostic, encouraged a developmental spirituality (similar to that of Clement of Alexandria) and used Greek and local philosophical and scientific traditions to articulate his faith and understanding of the cosmos. There are interesting parallels with the pseudo-Clement and the Thomas traditions. Ephrem (30673) found Bardaisanite Christians to be serious competitors during the later fourth century.4

An early text of significance for Nisibis is a funerary inscription dated from before 216 from Asia Minor. It recounts the travels of Aberkios to Nisibis where he encountered Christians: 'My name is Aberkios, the disciple of the chaste

4 L. Dillemann, Haute Mesopotamie orientale etpays adjacents; H. J. W. Drijvers, Bardaisan of Edessa; H. J. W Drijvers, Cults and beliefs at Edessa; H. J. W Drijvers, History and religion in late antique Syria; H. J. W. Drijvers, East of Antioch; T. Jansma, Natuur, lot en vrijheid; G. Phillips, The doctrine of Addai; J. B. Segal, Edessa the blessed city; J. Teixidor, Bardesane d'Edesse. For an early description of Bardaisan, see Julius Africanus' Kestoi (ed. Vieillefond; English translation and commentary by Francis Thee: Julius Africanus and the early Christian view of magic).

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