An Eleventh Century Philosophical Treatise Written in Banat and its Surprising Revelations about Local History

Between Plato and Scripture

Personality admired by Trithemius[1] and Pelbartus of Themesvár[2], eulogized by Petrus de Natalibus[3] and Nicolaus Olahus[4], St. Gerard of Csanád (Cenad) remains beyond the character of his legend one author wrapped in mystery and uncertainty, with a biography closer to miracle than to historical argument. Despite some philological approaches, the philosophical approach of St. Gerard’s treatise on its historical context remain conspicuously absent in Romania. Farfrom being exhaustive, our research aims to provide unequivocal answer to the question when, where and why his treatise Deliberatio supra hymnum trium puerorum was written. Above all, let’s remember us why this only Gerard’s writing that has come down to our time counts for a regional historiography of philosophy.

 Ignác Batthyány, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Transylvania, whose monographic treatise printed at Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia) in 1790 remains until today the most exhaustive exegesis on St. Gerard, was the first who revealed the philosophical concerns of this sorely neglected thinker of the 11th century. He headed the 6th book (sedula) of Deliberatio as: De philosophia Sancti GerardiDe principiis rerum a Sancto Statutis (About the philosophy of Saint Gerard – On the sacred principles of all things), highlighting in this manner that the philosophyand the theology were interdependent in the post-Carolingian era, as Scot Erigena said in his famous supposition: „the true philosophy is the true religion, and vice versa, the true religion is the true philosophy”[5].

We start by examining the curious lexeme deliberatio from the title, which was interpreted by Batthyány[6] as a substitute for the Latin word sententia, ‘judgment, meaning, understand’. It is here a strange but eloquent concept, which leads the Gerard’s treatise to the dialectical context of philosophy of his time. In the beginning of 11th century, a symbolic understanding of the world spread inside the neo-Platonist tradition, which gave, for example, the Liber meditationum Sancti Augustini (a. 1028) of Jean de Fécamp, struck with the realistic and logic thought (logica vetus) of Aristotle, known through the early Boethius’ translation of Porphyry’s Isagoge. The Porphyry’s work reanslated by Borhius was surely known by Gerard, who mentions it as the divine and most wise Isagoge of Porphyry, to which is needed to be added the predicaments of Aristotle”[7]. Accordingly the dialectician Lanfranc who quotes Augustine[8], the Saint Paul’s expression to the only wise God„, an iteration of Romans 16: 27, must be understand as a reference to the natural doxology  interrupted by the parenthesis of heretic philosophy and interpreted under the Aristotelian category of substance. That means that only God have the attribute of entire wisdom, and only he is wise according to his substance, not to accident. This divine wisdom, quod est misterium as it is said in Glossa ordinaria[9], is the main concern of thinker Gerard. Exemplary in this sense is his strange prayer addressed to the Lord by which Gerard implores the understanding of sapient mysteries: „Give me as a gift, My Lord, that part invisible from you which is part of my spirit and reveal me the occult mysteries”[10].

This mysteria Dei referat occulta is the true leitmotiv of Deliberatio.The author used it as a synonym for the realm of ideaswhere a continuously cognitive-running training keeps the human mind in the highest admiration for the splendor of God. From Augustine to Abélard[11], the mystery of occult things formed the archetype of wisdom, a sacred philosophy rejected by the Jews and pagans when they denied Jesus. Like a hermeneutist deeply preoccupied by this thesaurus of ancestral thought, Gerard examines and develops the biblical metaphor (see Exodus 12:35, Daniel 11:8, 2 Sam. 8:10-12) of “silver and gold vessels borrowed from the Egyptians”[12]. Those precious vessels spoiled by the sons of Israel to Egyptians were applied later for constructing the ark and many other holy things dedicated to God. In Gerard’s interpretation (with origins in Ambrose[13] and Boethius[14]), the silver and gold vessels signify the memory-knowledge of truth and good, which was transmitted from generation to generation as an ancestral legacy (like prisca philosophia of the Renaissance) till the Christian era. Now, in the era of philosophia saeculi nascente, as Gerard called Christianity[15], this thesaurus is held in earthen vessels (vasis fictilibus)[16], being a legacy of grace and poverty transmitted by the Apostles. This thesaurus of heaven – as Gerard says(regnum caelorum thesauro) – is hidden among the clouds of sacred writes (occultato in diuinarum nubibus scripturarum) and can be found only by those with pure hart, right knowledge and no false faith (de corde puro, et conscientia bona et fide non ficta)[17].

A true dialectician needs an interaction and a controversial view to impose his deliberation (deliberatio). He needs to correct his adversary when necessary, telling him the errors into which he has fallen. But who is the Gerard’s proponent in Deliberatio and to whom is it addressed? The liberal philosopher Isingrim is not the proponent, but the friend invoked by whenever the author needs to be approved. He seems more a jovial auctorial instance brought in text for considerations of narrative architecture than an ideological opponent. The real Gerard’s adversary should be searched on the ideological realm, in the area of fide non ficta, where we presume that can be find between those local heresiarchs about whom the saint is complaining: „Hereabout, in this time, despite our zeal, every one talks ill about not only the divine ceremonies, the church and the priests, but also about the son of God Jesus Christ, our Lord […]. And the devilish abjection did what he did and abducted from the bosom of God’s law those that I recently brought to the holly light.All denies now in one voice the flesh resurrection, an ignominy than cannot be a greater one in the entire world [18].

St. Gerard in historical context

To identify those who deconverted the Gerard’s parishioners, those who unleashed his eloquence full of dialectic zeal, we have in first to find where and when the Deliberatio was written. For a pertinent response we have to analyze Gerard’s autobiographical notes disseminated everywhere in his treatise.

Too easily overlooked, those ‘diary entries’ tell us in first that the Deliberatio was not written, as some claim, during the seven years of eremitic life (1024-1030?) spent by St. Gerard as anchoret at Bakonybél accordingly his hagiographic legend. It is undoubtedly “the place not the monastery” (loco nimirum, non monasterio)[19] where he would be lived, as it is said in Acta Sanctorum, “alone with the monk Maurus” (in Beel solus habitavit cum Mauro monacho)[20]. In this “place named Bél, located in the Bakony forest from the Buda region, St. Gerard lived solitary for seven years” (Locus Beel, ubi septennio solitariam vitam duxit S. Gerard, etat in silva Bocon agri Budensis)[21]. During this vita contemplativa spent in “fasting and prayer” (jejuniis, orationum exercitiis)[22], the solitary monk would be “built a cell in a place hidden in the woods” (cellulam sibi silvarum secretiori loco construxerat)[23]. A “cell in which he dictated – append the Legenda major[24] – books from which many was written with his own hand” (cellam, in qua dictabat libros, quot propria manu scribebat). But this loco solitario, which is also mentioned in the chapter 40 of Thuroczius’ Chronicle of the Hungarians (1488)[25], is in contradiction with the numerous references made throughout the Deliberatio to “the brethren” (fratres) who are awaiting the author “at bath” (ad termas)[26], “to quench hunger”(reficiendi esuries)[27], or “at the Liturgy of Hours” (ad horas)[28]. Such details indicate around the author an intense monastic life, a place where it is felt the regula monachorum, a set of prescriptions which recommend that any task to be done jointly [29] and in a climate of fraternal love.

Something about the Bishop’s bath

Furthermore, the Benedictine abbey where St. Gerard is writing his treatise seems large enough to have not just an apart cell for the solitude of the writer, a room separated by the common bedroom required by the Rule of St. Benedict22:3, but also the luxury of a common “bathroom with heated water” (termas). There, as the author of Deliberatio says at a time, “our brethren are still waiting us” (nos citius praestolentur fratres ad termas)[30]. In the St. Gerard’s time, such monastic balneatorium et lavandi locus[31] was only a room with large wooden barrels as individual tubs where the water was heated with hot river rocks. The existence of a bath with heated water reveals one more time not an eremitic, but an organized monastic life around Gerard, an Abbey with a minimum of 10 monks and an Abbot, the personnel demanded by the Rule of St. Benedict 21:2[32]. Such monastic community can only be, in Gerard case, that one from the “well-off town” (urbs) Moresena or Morissena later “named Csanád in honor of Csanád’s victory, the Duke of King St. Stephen” (Moresena seu Morissena urbs a Sancto Stephano King in honorem sui uictoris ducis Csanád nominata est)[33]. Here, it is saying in Vita major S. Gerardi, the Bishop Gerard arrives in 1030 with a group of 10 monks assembled from all Hungarian Benedictine abbeys to found here, in Banat region, the first Roman Catholic diocese on the actual Romanian territory. The year 1030 is also certified by the Annals of Bratislava (1203)[34] as the year in which “Gerard was consecrated Bishop” (Gerard episcopus ordinatur). In addition, when the Deliberatio‘s author says about “us who call ourselves Bishops” (episcopi nominamur)[35], he points very clear that the treatise was written when its author was in the rank of bishop (from 1030 until 1046).

A strange reference to some phylacteries

On the year 1030, after the defeat[36] of the “local ruler” (dux) Achtum by Csánad, the last one being mentioned as nephew (nepos) of King Stephen in Gesta Hungarorum, and as pagan general of Duke Achtum in Vita major S. Gerardi, the Benedictine monks led by Bishop Gerard occupy the Byzantine monastery from Morisena/Csanád dedicated to St. John the Baptist. This monastery was erected by the local ruler Achtum for the monks of Byzantine rite (graeci, not Slavonic!) immediately after his baptism in Byzantium. As a result, the Greek monks were moved nearby in the new Byzantine monastery of Oroszlános (now in Serbian Banat). Thus, the old Byzantine Church relatively large (having 20 meters long and 12.5 meters wide) became the first cathedral of the Roman Catholic diocese of Csánad. A school would have been “opened here by the Episcopal monks” (schola cathedras arripuerunt episcopales), as it is mentioned in Legenda major[37], but other reference to such institution do not appear in Deliberatio or any other source. In addition, the curricula that would have been taught here by the schoolmasters Walter and Henri: reading, cantus, grammatica, musica and computus remembers rather the pedagogy from the end of 14th Century[38] than from the beginning of 11th.

An evangelization mission is in fact a cross cultural communication and its success depends in a large measure on this interaction with habitants and their different perspective and perception of the world. In this context, it must be said that the episode with displace of Greek monks to Oroszlános was not an expulsion and had no confessional motivation, but only an administrative one. Do not forget that it is a quarter of centuryuntil the Great Schism andVita majoris S. Gerardi tells us that the relocation was done in an absolutely new monastery. It is about the Byzantine monastery newly built by the rulers of Csánad after his victory in the battle of Oroszlánosover the local ruler Achtum (about 1028). Here, the Duke Csánad has set the burial place for himself and his family, detail that certifies one more time the importance of the Byzantine rite among the local rulers and demonstrates that the Byzantine clergy relocation was not an attempt of expelliation, but rather the recognition of its importance in the Banat region. Deliberatio show us that Gerard wasn’t in conflict with them, but with another religious minority who arrived during his time to hold the power in Hungary. Historically, one reason to assume this peaceful cohabitation is the 10th century episode of two co-regents from the Hungarian tribal Confederation. Constantinus Emperor Porphyrogenitus in his chronicle De adminstrando imperio speaks very clear about the peaceful beginning of Greek/Byzantine cult in the Banat province. He also gives us details about another belief existing in the area: the Jewish-Khazar faith[39]. The episode is referring to a gylas and a carchan, which are “not proper names, but titles of nobility” (non nomina propria, sed dignitates)[40]. The lexeme kar-khan suggests a Turkic ‘black prince’ with retrievable traces in the Banatian toponyms, such as Carani (Merczyfalva) or Caran (Caransebeş, in present time). More interesting for this demonstration is the lexeme gylas, considered by linguists of unknown etymology. In our opinion, this strange word derived from the Hebraic gylah (הליג), ‘eternal joy’ [see Isaiah 35:2, 64:18], equivalent to Romanian ‘Preafericirea Sa’. The root gyl, ‘rejoice’, survived in Banatian toponyms like Ghilad, Moghila or Gyula. In our opinion, this gyula / gyla can be seen not only as the name of the Transylvanian dynasty[41], but also as the linguistic relict that can testify the Jewish-Khazar religion spreading in Hungary, especially in Banat, where. The two dignitaries gylas et carchan, added a contemporary of St. Gerard, the Byzantine chronicler Ioanes Skylítzes, in his Sýnopsis historiõn, have received at Constantinople in the 10th Century the baptism on Greek rite. The godfather of both dignitaries was the Emperor Constantinus VII Porphirogenitus, the chronicler. On the occasion of their conversion, both nobles have received honors and great riches from Byzantium and after that they returned to their country “with a Greek monk heaving reputation for piety named Hierotheos who had been ordained bishop by the Patriarch Theophylact”[42]

Living together with the Greek monks at Csanád Gerard perfected his knowledgeof Greek, as it is revealed by some details from Deliberatio. For example, he can do specialized references to Byzantine angelology and liturgy as in the paragraph about the “three great powers inspired by the divine: Michael of course, Gabriel and Raphael” (trium fortium divinitus inspiratis, Michael nimirum, Gabriel et Raphael)[43]. But besides the three canonical archangels, Gerard says “the Greeks have another one, Uriel, called the fire of God, who is invoked especially by the heretics” (Graeci autem haec, et unum utique Uriel, qui ignis Dei dicitur, quem specialius heretici invocare dicuntur)[44]. Indeed, the Council of Rome expelled the Archangel Uriel from the liturgical texts of Latin Church in the year 745, passing it permanently to the index of demons. But archangel Uriel survived with all his greatness in the Byzantine liturgy and especially in the Jewish tradition, where, accordingly to the Book of Enoch, he is the guard of all-embracing knowledge.

Such Byzantine angelology knowledge to a Catholic bishop emphasizes once more the idea that the two Christian rites, Greek and Catholic, have lived in harmony in Hungary before the Grand Schism. A proof of religious tolerance is given by King Stephen himself, who built churches in both rites and not just in his Kingdom, but also in Latin Rome, in Byzantine Ravenna, in Constantinople or at Jerusalem. Furthermore, we see in Deliberatio that the great resistance to the Catholic missionarism in Banat was due not to the monks of Byzantine rite (graeci), not even to those of Slavonic Rite, “the supporters of Methodius” (suffragantibus Methodianistis)[45] as Gerard say, but to some local heretics who not recognize the divine nature of Christ.

The diatribe with apocalyptical contextualization which is addressed to “the heresies of the Church that came to include the entire world” (nunc multi pullulant in Aecclesia, immo iam totum occupant orbem)[46] and which reserves to the heretics a place in “the lake of fire and sulfur” (in stagnum ignis ardentis et sulphuris)[47] finally ends, seemingly paradoxically by finding guilty “all of them who rule unjustly and without mercy in this time” (omnes qui in hoc saeculo iniquae et crudeliter potentantur)[48]. The equivalence made here between the secular power and the religious heresies is not accidentally, it reveals the reality of the Hungarian Kingdom in the time of St. Gerard. It was a brief period, between 1044 and 1046, when the “faction of King Samuel” (rex Samael partes)[49] has made the Jewish fait (religione ebristiana)[50]almost as a national religion. In this context must be put and understood the author’s warning that his references to the heresiarchs of Europe conceal “really symbolic meanings” (quia vero symbolica sunt)[51], and “you have to hide them in the innermost recesses of your heart than to be put in phylacteries” (quae superadmittenda sunt, in archano pectoris mavis recondere quam philacteriis committere)[52]. A particular attention through its Hebrew connotations requires the Latin philacteriis, a metaphor beyond the text and contextually linked to the Jewish religion by its polysemy that sends both to Hebrew tefillin and to Medieval Latin phylacteries[53]. In other words, Gerard’s imprecations on the heretics hide a more personal indignation on “the heretics kings of devil” (reges diaboli heresiarchas)[54] from his vicinity. It is another sign that the Hungarian Kingdom of 11th century, even decreed Regnum Marianum under St. Stephen I, was far from being truly Christianized.

A terminus ante quem for the treatise

After the death of King Stephen I (1038) who granted many privileges to the Order of Saint Benedict in 997, and renewed by the Charter of Pannonhalma in 1001, the advantages was retracted by Stephen’s successors: Peter Orseolo (1038-1041), who mingled in the affairs of Synod Council and “revokes the bishops at his will”[55], and then Samuel Aba (1041-1044) who imposed the monastic wealth taxes. We suppose that the despoliation of the Abbeys is, in fact, the real reason for the Gerard’s imprecations, mainly addressed to “the perfidious King Aba” (perfidious Ovonem)[56]. The anger of the Bishop really reaches the climax in the last chapter of Deliberatio, where Gerard utters imprecations on the king who is now a “lousy man” (hominem cimicis), a “devious man” (hypocritam hominem), and who “allows a lot of abominations and deeds against the divine Majesty” (permisit multos nefandissimos, et divinae Majestati contrarios). The King Aba not differ – the author says –from those “who took the name of King and eat the people and demand tribute and as they rise as they waste all around, after the worldly lust in the vain glory; they can not be called kings, but traitors” (qui tantum ut nomen habeant regnant, et populum devorent et tributa exepetant, seque magnificent, et cetera circa mundi appetitum in vanum rumorem expendant, non reges, sed subversores sunt)[57].

Obviously, it is a change of ton here, between the fearful and elliptical Chapter IV and the outrageous Chapter VIII. The use of such violent language shows us that the short reign of the bloody King Samuel was ended in the meantime. Only the disappearance of the bloody King who beheaded[58] at Csanád “fifty noblemen” (quinquaginta uiros nobiles)[59] in the presence of Bishop Gerard in the Easter week of 1044 (eloquent sign of his disbelief in Jesus Christ!) may explain how, suddenly, the author gets rid of his always present fear of “not upsetting the royal ears” (ne quidem aures offendant regales)[60] and he feels free to utter imprecations.

Other details turn our attention to the 1044. In that year, two partial eclipses, one of Moon[61] and another one of Sun[62], were visible in whole Hungary, including Csanád. Such rare accumulation of astronomical phenomena could explain the interest shownby Gerard in eclipses. The Chapter V of Deliberatio offers a ‘scientific’ explanation of solar and lunar eclipses with excerpts from St. Isidorus[63]. Gerard makes use of this phenomenon as a mystique, interpreting it as a divine sign destined to enlighten the lost people in the deep darkness of unbelief and lechery, the consequence of Christ himself eclipse: “Finally, the lunar eclipse is whenever the Moon enters in the Earth’s shadow. You know from long time ago that the Moon do not heave its own light, the Moon being illuminated by the Sun, what causes its disappearance if the Earth’s shadow is between her and Sun. Usually we say, as every time we run for enlightenment, that in the same way Christ is hiding from us because we indulge in fornications”[64].

But Gerard does not believe in prophecies, miraculous stones or astrological determinism, and we have to assume that he try in this symbolic interpretation of the eclipse to use the superstitions spread among the locals in the benefit of faith. Reminding us that the solar eclipse took place in autumn 1044, we can suppose that the winter season of 1044 or the latest spring of 1045 to be the time of Chapter V writing. It was exactly the period when Peter Orseolo the Venetian, the second king of Hungary (1038-1041, 1044-1046) was reinstalled on the throne at Székesfehérvár (Alba Iulia). He defeated King Samuel Aba at Ménfö, near Győr, in the summer of 1044, when King Aba loses the battle and his throne despite the fact that he has had in Ménfö a much larger army (in Menfeu cum multitudine armatorum)[65]. This multitudine armatorum can be construed as a sign for the king’s popular support among the “ordinary people” (vulgaris), the local inhabitant who fear Gerard, as we will see below. After this battle the pagan king was killed and buried, as the chronicler says, not inside “but near a church” (et iuxtam quamdam ecclesiam sepelitur)[66], detail which can speak eloquentlyabout its relationship with the Christian Church.

Bishop Gerard does not like the new king and he made in his Deliberatio an acidic comparison between the two Kings: Aba the Pagan and Peter the Venetian. This comparison, not at all flattering for a Catholic King in exercitium, even done in an elliptical phrase lets to be heard the author’s fear for the consequences of his statements: “But that one [God] who made ​​to reign for the sins of the people a false man [Samuel Aba] abides someone now to have the power like that one […]And getting to they [the kings] do those things, only if we would talk about themand suddenly would rush upon us the entire ordinary people army”[67].

This paragraph from the middle of the last chapter speaks almost explicitly that Gerard was very disappointed by the King Peter, who, as King Samuel has done before, not trusted in the clergy and noblemen and formed an army based on ordinary and unfaithful people like his predecessor. Together with other connotative references, this text passage justifies the dating of Chapter VIII between the fall of the year 1045 and the summer of 1046. It was the period when the Bishop Gerard conspired with the Catholic faction “would like to help Andrew [from the House of Árpád] to be king in Hungary” (qui Andream vocaverant in Hungariam)[68]. This political involvement will bring the legendary martyrdom to Bishop Gerard who was killed by the pagans “near Pest” (prope Pesthum)[69] in autumn 1046[70]. And so, Gerard will not see how his dream will come true few months later, in 1047, when King Andrew ‘the Catholic’ was coroneted (András Katolikus, 1047-1060). He was the defender of Catholicism that was waiting by Gerard, the founder of Tihany Benedictine Abbey (1056), where it is his burial place.

To conclude, we consider, as all exegetes agreed, that Deliberatio is left unfinishedby the author on the Chapter VIII, this irrefutable fact makes 1046, when the authordied as a martyr, a terminus ante quem for the manuscript. But one questionstill remainsunanswered: when begun Gerard to write the opening chapter of his Deliberatio?

… and a terminus post quem

To answer the question above we should return to Gerard’s ‘diary entries’. Two such personal references, one from the liminary chapter, another one from the chapter II, both speaking about the same rare meteorological phenomenon, can tell us with accuracy when Gerard started to write his treatise:“…our time has passed and the heat (cauma) started to annoy us very much”[71]; and: “…but the heat’s abnormality (caumatis improbitas)and the short time we remained not allows us to speak about them”[72].

After the rainy summer of the year 1043 and hard cold winter, the year 1044 brought famine and hot weather over the whole Europe[73]. In Hungary of that year, the famine gave more reasons “to return the pagan ritual” (et resumatur ritus paganismus), as chronicler Simon of Keza says in his Gesta Hungarorum[74].

In our opinion[75], only one conclusion can be made regarding the Deliberatio’s relative dating: Gerard has written his treatise in the period between summer 1044 and summer 1046 at Csanád (now Cenad/Romania), in the newly built Benedictine Abbey. There, the Bishop Gerard lived together with cathedral and diocesan monks, all clerics leading a monastic life after the Rules of St. Benedict. Specifically, they recited the Liturgy of the Hours daily, including the apocryphal psalm Hymnum trium puerorum, which forms the subject of Gerard’s treatise.

Blond Jews with blue eyes enter the scene

In 1048, King Andrew has given Hungary the famous edict that can be found in Patrologia Latina under the title Constitutiones eclesiasticae, which have a distinct rule concerning the paganism: “profane and Scythian rites and also the false deities will be repealed, and the statues will be demolished”[76]. More than that, the so-called “Scythian rites”, far to be eradicated, will spread the fame of a pagan Hungary throughout Europe and being attested for 12th Century even by The Song of the Nibelungs[77]. This resistant and gregarious local paganism will be a fruitful field for the heresies proliferation in the area till the Late Middle Ages. Thus, in 1436, Pope Eugenius IV sent the inquisitor Jacob of Marchia in Hungary (especially in Banat and Transylvania) to exterminate here “the plague of heresies”(morbus haeresium).

The legendary paganism of the local population gave in Banat some suggestive toponyms, such as MinişRiver (probably from the Hebraic min, ‘heretic’), and Pogăniş River (from the Latin word paganus, ‘pagan’), a tributary of Timis River. The Jidovini locality (Berzovia, in present time) is attested in the area under this strange name (etymon: old-Rom. jidov, ‘Jews’) since 1366 in a diploma of King Ladislaus I of Hungary. The meaning of Romanian word jidovini remembers that the local folklore, particularly from mountainous Banat, abounds in legends about a population of blond giants with blue eyes named jidovi (meaning Jews in old Romanian), who would have lived a long time ago in this area.

But can be a causal relationship between the ‘Jews’ (jidovi) from the Romanian legends and the mysterious “Scythian rites” (Scythicas caeremonias) from the Royal Edict?

The Scythians appear in the first Hungarian chronicles as a polyethnical and heterogeneous community of Middle Eastern origin, which was ethno-genetically related to the Hungarians. The Árpád dynasty chronicles say explicitly that the Huns migration to South has begun “from Scythia” (de terra scithica descendens)[78]. The Scythian land is a fabulous realm for the anonymous notary of King Béla: “very large” (maxima terra est) and “where is an abundance of gold, silver and precious stones” (Nam ibi habundat aurum et argentum, et inueniuntur in fluminibus terre illius preciosi lapides et gemme)[79]. About the wealth of Scythians speaks Gerard too, when he mentions with echoes from Pliny[80] about the precious stones that are found in the fabulous deserts of Scythia(in locis desertis Scythiae)[81].

 The migration of the Huns to the Danubian plain began in the ninth century from Scythian land and involved Turanian tribes, which later became an integral part of the Hungarian nation. These allogeneous tribes are known as the Kabars, a group of three Khazar clans revolted against the Khazar government. The Khazars were a pagan nomad population with Turanic origin that acquired in a short period in history until its fall and dissolution in circa 969 AD the largest and most wealthy empire in that time, which stretched at its climax from Aral Sea to Carpathians. During the eighth century, all the Khazar royalty and much of the aristocracy abandoned paganism and converted to Judaism. The first “Jewish king” (melek) of Khazaria was Bulan, who decided to end the shamanic practices and to adopt as state religion the “Talmudist-Rabbis taught”[82]. In a short time, the ideology of Talmud became the axis of political, economic and social attitudes and the Old Testament became the Saint Book of this population that lived a land known in Classical Antiquity as Scythia. This strange conversion of Khazarian Muslims should not to be successfully without a linguistic reform so necessary for the comprehension of the Old Testament. Accordingly the Persian author Ibn Ishaq al-Nadim (The Book of the Index, 988 AD)[83] the Khazarians adopted new characters and many of them the Hebrew language. A contemporary theory[84] claims even that the Ashkenazic Jews descends from the Khazars and the Yiddish is the heir of the old Khazarian language.

In the eleventh century, the most illustrious representative of those Scythians or Kabars was King Samuel Aba of Hungary, who appeared in Gesta Hunnorum et Hungarorum as a relative on paternal line of Attila the Great, and on maternal line as a “descendant of Kawish clan” (Muslim) from the Khabar tribes (de Corosminis orta erat)[85]. The 12th Century Byzantine Empire historian John Kinnamos mentioned the khalisioi (possible meaning ‘Muslims’) from the Hungarian army “who kept the law of Moses although not in a pure form” (isti Mosaïcis legibus iisque non omnino genuinis etiamnum vivunt)[86]. Otherwise spoken for these Muslims-Jews-Scythians, they were jidovi, as can be translated in old Romanian language. As head of the Scythian clans of Hungary, King Aba was – like Achtum, the ruler of Banat – of “Jewish religion” (religione ebristiana)[87] in a Khazar (Muslim) form. The historians presume that the King Aba passed formally from Judaism to Christian belief in the moment of his marriage with Princess Sarolta, the daughter of Prince Géza of Hungary. Formally, because all the chronicles speak about “his reign as a time when the sins were multiplied and the Hungarian people opposed to Christianity as in the prophecy of St. Gerard” (quo regnante, pecata accreverunt, et juxta prophetiam S. Gerardi gens Ungarica ad Christianitate est adversa)[88].

Deepening the roots of this strange Muslim-Hungarian Judaism, we arrive at the well known myth of ten Israelite tribes from the “House of Omri” (1 Kings 16:16), which disappear from The Book of Chronicles of the Kings of Israel in the 6th Century BC. On the basis of some Assyrian references, it can be presumed that Bit-Humria or Beth Khumri (Heb., ‘the House of Omri’, as the whole North Kingdom of Israel) survived until the fall of Assyrian Empire (609 BC), when those Israelite tribes migrated to Caucasus. Traces of their migration can be found in the neighboring peoples’ chronicles, which call them Khumree, Ghomri, Gomer, or Kimmeroi (Cimmerians). They are probably responsible for the conversion to Mosaic faith of Khazar tribal confederation in the 7th Century AD. Only thus could be explained why the conversion to Judaism was a resounding success between the Moslems of Khazaria and why the Israelite tribes become the aristocracy (illis tribus Cabarorum populis princeps est)[89], as it is said in De administrando imperio of Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos. The tenth-century Muslim geographer Al-Istakhri noted in his book Roads of Kingdoms[90] an important typological difference between the nobels (taidsi) of Khazaria that formed the ruling class, named aq-süjek (the white legged ones) or Aq-Khazars (white Khazar) because they had white skin, and the lower class of Turkic population, known as the “the black legged ones”(kara-süjek) or black Khazars” (kara-Khazars). The last one where called so for their darkened skin which made them to look like, as the chronicler says “some kind of Africans”. The khagan called byAl-Istakhri the bāk or beg and one “prince” (Išâd) were elected among these white Khazars, added Gardēzī in his Kitāb Zayn al-Akhbâr[91], written in Persian around 1050 AD. In the ninth century, the “Israelite Scythians” of Khazaria, generically known as cabároi at Porphirogenitus[92], joined the Huns in their migration to Central Europe. Fallowing the Khazar model, Huns and Kabars form together a tribal confederation led by three co-regents. “The first in importance was the prince from the Árpád House” (Primusque inter ipsos est princeps ad prosapia Arpade)[93], in other words a Hun, fallowed by a “Gylas, which is more important than Carchan” (Gylas que tamen maior est quam Carchas)[94], these two coregents being the representatives of white and respectively black Khazars.

We assume that the Banat toponymic legends about giants are referring to these Jews Khazars (Rom., jidovi) from the Gylas clan. The imagological process that edified the myth of blond giants with blue eyes revels probably here on mythological forms the popular respect for the “ancestral lord of the place”, named ‘úri-ős’ in Hungarian, an expression contaminated homophonic by the Hungarian term óriás, ‘giant’, and giving finally the Romanian term uriaş, ‘giant’. The locality Jidovini (Berzovia in the present-day) of which we have spoken above, or other toponyms with similar etymon, as Jidov’s Forest, Jidovini Hill, Jidoştiţa, Jadani village (in present-day, Corneşti, in Timis County), or even Reshitza (from the Hebraic word reshit, ‘beginning’, the first word of the Old Testament), can argue for a Khazar habitation in Banat region. In addition, a lot of families from this area still have their patronymic from the Old Testament, such us Moisă (from Moses), Avram (Abraham), Samoilă (Samuel), Dăvidoni (David), Aron (Aaron), Solomie (Salmon), Zăroni (Sarah) etc. More than a confession for their ancestral Jewish faith, these biblical names give us evidence of resistance to baptism in Banat rural area, where the population is known as paori – a term which can be related to the Yiddish word פּויער (poyer), ‘farmer’. They are probably the descendants of those “ordinary people” (vulgaris) who terrified St. Gerard because “will rush upon us” (adversus nos concitabitur) if he contradicted their king Aba.

Another testimony which should take into consideration comes from the twelve-century anonymous author of the Song of the Nibelungs. He tells us that between the 24 vassals of King Etzel of Hungary[95] at the place of honor in his wedding procession was the Duke Ramunc of Wallachia (der herzoge Rämunc üzer Walachen lant)[96] with his train of 700 horsemen “flying like birds” (sam vliegende vogele)[97] on their horses. Beyond the first Romanian ethnonim attestation in history, this Ramunc can refer here to the Duke Csanád, the ruler of Banat and the vassal of King Stefan I, the last one dissimulated in this saga as the personage King Etzel. About this Csanád, the Legenda major S. Gerardi says that he was a pagan, and St. Gerard asserts in his treatise that he was more interested “to groom his horses” (lotium equorum) than to believe in Christ[98]

And finally, we can now answer to whom is actuallyDeliberatio addressed

The Bishop Gerard is complaining throughout his treatise about this pagan population and her resistance to evangelization, accusing those “who say now that Christ would not have received divine grace” (qui dicit Christum actualem animam non suscepisse)[99]. This deny of Christ incarnation is a clue that reveals the affiliation of this population to Judaic faith, even Gerard saying “For Jews, the cross seems to be of wood and Jesus of meat” (Nam judaei crucem paraverunt ex ligno, et Christus ex carne)[100]. Indeed, the divine/human nature of Jesus Christ was constantly a controversial motive among Christians and Jews. For 31 AD, St. John relates a dramatic confrontation on such theme at the Temple of Jerusalem between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders. The dispute culminated with the assertion of Jesus: “I and my Father are one”, moment at which “Jews took up stones again to stone him” claiming that such affirmation is “a blasphemy because you, who are a man, you do it yourself God” (see John10:30-33).

Furthermore, the lives of SS Cyril and Methodius show us how the Khazar Judaism and its non-acceptance of divinity of Jesus had become a problem in the space of Byzantine Christianity for the 9th Century, when Cyril and (probably) his brother Methodius were sent by Photius, the Patriarch of Constantinople, in the land of Khazars for an evangelization mission. Accordingly Vita Cyrilli, Cyril learned Hebrew or Khazarian (it is said in the Italian version of his Legenda) in Crimea (“Little Khazaria”), but despite this advantage, his mission of evangelization was a fiasco like those of Gerard in Banat, only “a small part of khazars being baptized”[101]. The gain, if it was one, seems to be – as it is said in the letter to Byzantine Emperor Michael III – that the Khazaria allowed the Jews, Mohammedans, and Christians to live peaceably side by side.

The paganism of indigenous people is the source for another complaint that arises out of Gerard’s treatise: someone (unnamed as nomina odiosa) succeeded “to move away from the law of God of those recently brought by us in the happy light” (quid ex lege Dei nouiter uenientes ad beatissimam illuminationem docuimus, abstulit)[102]. Gerard is referring here not only to the “ordinary people” (vulgaris), but also to “the priests” (sacerdotes) who “were forced to utter intolerable falsehoods about God” (quod ui compellabantur intolerabilia mendatia in Dei). Of course, the subject of bishop complaint could not be merely a person, unnamed here [nomina odiosa], with sufficient authority and resources of coercion to persuade a Christian clergy, which, at least theoretically, was dependent only on the Pope. Our suspicion falls on King Aba, who – Vita S. Gerardi remembering us was often not in the pilgrimage of humility to Bishopric of Csanád. Only from this level of power the Catholic priests could be forced (compellabantur), as Gerard says, to utter lies about God: “With faith and truth I confess unto thee, that even the priests were forced by him to utter intolerable falsehoods about God. And the devilish abjection did what he did and abducted from the bosom of God’s law those that I recently brought to the holly light.All denies now in one voice the flesh resurrection, an ignominy than cannot be a greater onein the entire world[103].

Let us remember that we have established that Gerard has begun to write Deliberatio in the summer of the 1044 after the visit of bloody King Samuel Aba at Cenad and the beheading of 50 noblemen in the Easter week. All books have their beginningin an idea and probably this event was the trigger mechanism in the author mind, Gerard conceiving a plan to convince with theological arguments the ‘Jewish’ King Aba about the inter-testamentary cohesion and how the Old Testament announces the coming of Jesus, the creator of all things. The passage above shows quite clearly that the King was involved in such theological disputes, and more than that he succeeded to persuade the Catholic priests “to utter intolerable falsehoods about God”. The king’s arrival in Csanád may indicate a pagan templum in the area, probably at Nagyszentmiklós (Sânnicolaul Mare), at 9 kilometers of Csanád, where it was found a thesaurus of gold objects used in a pagan ritual dating from the ninth century. In order to win arguments and convince others of his views, Gerard prepared few dialectical arguments for his future debate with the “true disciples of Moses” (veri Moysi discipuli)[104]. And so was bornthe dialectical treatise Deliberatio, making from the biblical verse: “Jesus Christ, in who are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3)[105] the central idea of the entire demonstration about the superiority of Christianity. It is that Christianity in which his proponents can rediscover all treasures of the pagan wisdom.

And when the Hungarian king Aba, the practitioner of Judaism became history, the Gerard’s project transgressed the simple theological dialectics and was naturally continued in the political sphere with the plot organized to bring a true Catholic on throne. History stands witness to the fact that his missionary strategy to convert in first the local rulers, strategy which was practiced before, in the 10th century, by the Byzantines in the case of those gylas et carchan, was a winning choice and the Gerard’s strategy for the Scythian paganism and Khazar Judaism eradication was on long term an inevitable success…


AASS: Acta sanctorum… / collecta, digesta, commentariisque et observationibus illustrata a Ioanne Stiltingo, Constantino Suyskeno, Joanne Periero, Joanne Cleo e Societate Jesu… ; tomus VI quo dies decimus nonus, vigesimus, vigesimus primus…”, Antverpiae, apud Bernardum Alb[ertum] Vander Plassche, 1757.

AŐG: Archiv für Ősterreichische Geschichte.

BISIME: Bullettino dell’Istituto Storico Italiano per il Medio Evo e Archivio Muratoriano, Roma.

HHFD: Historiae Hungaricae fontes domestici, pars I, t. 2, containing: I. “Chronica Hungarorum magistri P. Belae Regis notarii; II. “Gesta Hungarorum magistri Simonis de Keza”; III. Chronicon pictum Vindobonense / ad fidem codicum recensuit, observationes, disquisitionem de aetate Belae regis notarii, et animadversiones criticas adiecit M[atthias] Florianus, Lipsiae, 1883.

HSR: Hungarian Studies Review

MEAHH: Monumenta Evangelicorum Augustanae Confessionis in Hungaria historica. A Magyarországi Ágost. Vall. Evangelicusok történelmi emlékei. Közli Fabó András”, Pest: Károli Osterlamm, 1861.

MPL: Patrologiae cursus completes, Series Latina, J.-P. Migne, Parisiis …

SRH: Scriptores Rerum Hungaricarum tempore ducum regumque stirpis Arpadianae gestarum, Leiden: Brill, 2007.

[1] See Trithemius, De Viris illvstribvs Ordinis S. Benedicti…, 4, 28, Coloniae Ageppinae, Apud Geruinum Calenium & heredes Quentelios, 1575, p. 533: “Gerardvs monachus et Episcopus Morisenus in Hungaria, vir sanctissime vitae & incomparabilis doctrinae”.

[2] See Pelbartus(1489), apud I. Batthyány, Sancti Gerardi Episcopi Chanadiensis, Scripta et acta hactenus inedita, cum Serie Episcoporvm Chanadiensivm…, Albo-Carolinae, Typis Episcopalibus, 1790, p. 362-368 (further: Batthyány).


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