Rabbula, fifth century bishop of Edessa, is famous for his legislation for clergy, bnay/bnāt qyāmā, and monks. These texts, frequently copied in the manuscript tradition, are unusual in two respects: they cover the entire range of ecclesiastical and ascetic roles (bishop, priest, deacon, bnay/bnāt qyāmā, monks) and are unusually detailed in their prescriptions. Despite their richness and the fact that they have been published in modern editions, misunderstandings about their original form and intention have obscured the significance of these texts as providing an observable moment in the transition from traditional forms of Syriac asceticism to the newer, monastic, paradigm.
This paper will address three questions: 1) how helpful can Rabbula’s legislation be in understanding the development of Syriac asceticism in the late fourth and early fifth centuries, particularly in the co-existence of the bnay/bnāt qyāmā and the newer monastic form of asceticism? 2) how were these texts used by later copyists and readers in the Syriac tradition? 3) how have modern scholars understood or misunderstood their significance?