Timothy I

728-823. Patriarch of the East from 780. After study at Bashosh, he was appointed bishop of Bait Baghash near Arbil before 769 through the influence of his uncle. He obtained election as patriarch in 780 by unworthy methods, but was not accepted until 782. Despite this unpromising start, he was one of the greatest of the patriarchs of the East. On good terms with contemporary Caliphs, especially al-Mahdi (775-785) and Harun-al-Rashid (786-809), he shifted the patriarchal center from Ctesiphon to Baghdad and built a palace there. A firm and able administrator, he created at least six new metropolitan provinces-Damascus, Armenia, Rai, Dailam, Turkestan (Kashghar), and Tibet (Tangut). Widely read in both Church Fathers and Greek philosophy, he translated Aristotle's Topics into Arabic and arranged for the transcription of three copies of Origen's Hexapla. His famous Dialogue with al-Mahdi is a classic which has been a model for much Christian apologetic among Muslims since. It was not, however, effective as evangelism, and under Timothy there seems to have been no evangelization of Muslims.

In other spheres, Timothy was an outstanding missionary statesman, choosing the right men for missionary work and handling them sympathetically and imaginatively. Outstanding missionaries were the Arab Christian Shubhal-ishu', who died a martyr before 895; his successors Yab-alaha the scribe and Qardagh the bookbinder; and Elijah of Moqan.* Their spheres of labor were the heathen on the shores of the Caspian, and the Turks and Tartars eastward on the silk-route to China. Timothy wrote 200 letters, of which 59 are extant. His style is pithy, and his letters give an interesting picture of the conditions of his time. His correspondence extended even to India.