[ ] | [THE LIFE OF MASHTOTS] | [ ]








I had been thinking of the God-given alphabet of the Azkanazian[1] nation and of the land of Armenia - when, in what time, and through what kind of man that new divine gift had been bestowed, as well as the luminous learning and angelic, virtuous piety of the person, so as to cause memorials to blossom in an individual volume. And while I was striving to remember [the facts], there came the command of an excellent man named Hovsep[2], a disciple of that person, as well as the encouragement of others, our fellows of student days. Therefore, I, who had had the fortune of being [his] special pupil, even though the youngest [among his pupils], and the task beyond my capacities, [nevertheless] hastened to write without delay that which was suggested, compelled by the clear mandate which had been addressed to me. And we ask them all that they assist us in our tasks by their prayers, and to commit us to the divine grace, so that we may sail successfully and unerringly over the boundless waves of the sea of doctrine.


But let me make an introductory statement whether it is permissible to write concerning the lives of men of (269) perfection. We on our part do not wish to engage in disputatious eloquence, relying on our own thoughts; but through examples we simply wish to prove the contrary[i]. For God the bountiful has been so gracious to His beloved as not only to deem them worthy of the splendid and high reward in endless cternity for their virtuous lives, but has caused them to be extolled to the heavens here in this world, in the course of this transitory life, so that they may in general shine with spiritual and earthly lustre.

And in the Mosaic story manifest is the nobility of blessed men and the firmness of [their] true faith, the beauty of godly and god-fearing life, and the radiance of a marvelous life. For one of them by virtue of acceptable sacrifice has been called just; another, because of his pleasing work, disdaining all-devouring death, has remained alive; a third, because of his perfect righteousness has been preserved in a ship for a period of one year on the god-sent scourge of a boundless, mountain-high sea, along with every breathing thing; a fourth, has been justified through [his] suddenly-found faith, and drawing nigh unto God, has become an oracle and ally of God and has inherited the promise of the bounties to come. Many others similarly have come to know God, and whose nobility all the divine books have described.

Similar to those I have mentioned, blessed Paul in his [epistle] to the Hebrews praises by name the true faith of such persons, whereby each one has received, according to his attainments, rewarding consolation from God the Bountiful, giver of all things. He even offers as an example the hospitality of Raab the evildoer [which she had shown] to the spies. However, upon noting how numerous such persons are, he actually has revealed the names of but a few of them, omitting others, deeming the time insufficient to recount them all in their proper order. He then records in a general manner the tribulations of such persons and their martyrdom without resistance, which he considers preferable to all the wealth of the world.

Thus, all the inspired books have recorded the brave deeds of men of war; the victory of some, in accordance with the divine religion, the bravery of some in the course of encounters and wars, in the manner of the world, as those of Nimrod, Samson, and David. A few are praised, moreover, for their natural as well as godly intelligence, as that of joseph, in Egypt, and Daniel, in Babylon. There were among them advisors to mighty kings, who indicated the state of worldly affairs, at the same time imparting knowledge to everyone concenling God, the Lord of all. In praise of the wisdom of such persons, the prophet himself states as follows: "Art. thou wiser than Daniel; or were they wise councilors who have advised thee by their understanding." And this is Tiot all, he extolls the power of the saints, by dispatching the angels as emissaries, who declared Daniel to be magnificent and the Holy Mother of the Lord, in Galilee, "blessed among women."

But what to say concerning the praise whereby comrades honored each other, whose nobility the Lord Him-sell loudly proclaimed before the angels and men, revealing not only their known works, but also the radiance in the recesses of their hearts. How He represented hospitable Abraham as an intimate servant, and after the promise he had received, related to him what was to befall to Sodom. Similarly, He praises the good martyr Job, prior to his encounter with Satan, saying: "A perfect and upright man; one that feareth God and turneth away (271) from evil." Moreover, He has revealed, in every religious book, the close intimacy of great Moacs with God. The divine tradition has disclosed even his youthful intelligence, nor has the advice of Jethro, the alien, been omitted.

And thus, through divine tradition there shine the good works of all the devout masters~whose blessed names no one can completely record. And He has caused to blossom forth not only the noble deeds of those who had come before, but also of those who came after the Only Begotten Son, the Saviour of all, even crowning them with beatitudes in His luminous gospel, lauding not only His own twelve or the Forerunner[3], but also praising the rectitude of the faith of the others who had come nigh unto the truth. of the faith. Thus concerning Nathanael He states that in him there was no guile, and the greatness of the faith of the patrician, which He says, was not to be found in Israel. Yet Christ who exalts the humble [praises] not only the greater things, but more so he [praises] the lesser ones; who thinks highly of the pouring of a little ointment and [states that] the memory of those who poured it shall be preached under heaven. He, moreover, says concerning the faith of the Canaanite woman that it was great, and the generosity of those who contributed two mites He found more praiseworthy than those of the wealthy.

As for Paul, who had determined to spread the luminous order that was established by Christ, he was designated as a chosen vessel who could bear His won4rous name in the world. Therefore, the blessed one, upon beholding the loftiness of the grace [which had been bestowed] for his faith and for that of all the saints, begins loudly to glorify [by saying] that "the grace of God which is proclaimed in everything, concerning us in Christ, and (272) the savor of His knowledge is made manifest everywhere through us." Yet he adds even more boldly: "Who shall lay anything 10 the charge of God's elect'!" And the blessed apostles had received from the Lord permission put into writing the virtues of all their co-workers. A few [of them] can be seen in the Holy Gospel, and a few others are found in the Acts, written by blessed Luke, and there are others who are better presented in the general epistles.

At the same time St. Paul tells in fourteen epistles concerning his fellow apostles and co-workers, making [them] participalits in his joy, and at the end of his epistles extends greeting to each one of them, inquiring [concernmg them] by name, and quotes the gospel in praise of one of them. But he is thankful not only for the assistance to the blessed one, but gives much praise for the Christian hospitality of his hosts, and pleadingly applies to God, asking recompense for their kindness. And he declares in all the synagogues the nobility of the chosen, not only of the men, but also of the women disciples who preached the truth of the gospel.

And he has declared all this not for the sake pf praise or pride, but so that it may serve as an example for those who were to come later. So that they all should be zealous in good deeds, he says: "Follow after charity and desire spiritual gifts." In relating in Macedonia, otthe Achaians' readiness to serve the saints, he exhorts by rousing their envy, and even permits them to be unreservedly [jealous] of the virtue of the just, by saying that, "it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing." lie moreover, exhorts them to resemble him an&l the Lord.

Again, he strives to live with them all by Christ's example. "Look unto Jesus," says he, "the author and perfector of our faith," and again, "remember them which (273) have rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God; whose faith follow." And finally, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." Thus states also Luke at the beginning of the book of "The Acts," while beloved James, brother of Jesus, taking as his example the entire phalanx of the saints as well as the Lord, lover of the saints, states in his epistle: "Take my brethren, the prophets who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering, affliction and patience. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord."

It is evident from what has been stated that praise of the God-loving chosen is from the Lord Himself, some from the angels, and some from others, not for the sake of pride, but for the purpose of arousing each other's envy, so that encouraged by each other, we may succeed in the accomplishment of good works, the goal set up by blessed Paul, "to come.., unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ," whose freedom is in heaven, to await The Saviour, the great God.

We have also the gracious canonic writings which came after the apostles indicating how they honored and praised one another for their tnIe faith and evangelical life and have been similarly tie'ated to this very day.

And thus we have from them both permisaion to commit to writing the life of the just man.

Therefore, that which we have promised shall hence forth be produced, to the best of our ability; the biogmphy of the father shall be duly completed and their[ii] sweet command shall be elaborately carried out.



Mesrop Mashtots was the name of the person to whom we referred at the beginning of our account, whose story we have been eager to write. He was from the province of Taron[4], the village of Hatsekats[5], son of a blessed man named Vardan. From childhood he had been tutored in Greek literature, and coming to the court of the Arsacid kings in Armenia Major, served in the royal secretariat, as an executor of the royal commands, during the service of one named Arvan as the hazarapet[6] of the land of Armenia. He was well versed in secular laws, and was esteemed by his men for his mastery of the military art. While serving the princes, he, nevertheless, devoted him-self eagerly to the reading of the scriptures, whereby he soon was enlightened, gaining insight and profundity in matters related to the divine commands,' and adorning himself with every preparation, he served the princes.



And subsequently, in compliance with the precepts of the gospel, he devoted himself to the service of God the lover of men. Thenceforward he was divested of princely passions, and taking the exalted cross went after the all-sustaining Crucified. And in obedience to the commands of [faith], joined the crusading legion of Christ, and soon entered the monastic order. He experienced many kinds of hardships, in keeping with the precepts of the gospel. He subjected himself to all types of spiritual discipline - solitude, mountain-dwelling, hunger, thirst, and living on herbs, in dark cefls, clad in sackcloth, with the floor as his bed. Often, in the twinkling of an eye, he would end in standing vigil, a night's pleasant rest and much needed sleep. And he did all this not a few times. And having (275) found a few persons, he caused ilieni to adhere to him, making them pupils in the same evangelical exercise.

And thus, bearing with a courageous will all the temptations that came upon him, and growing in radiance, became known and beloved of God and men.



Taking along with him his faithful pupils, the blessed one went to the disorderly and uncultivated regions of Goghtan[7]. He was met by the ruler of Goghtan, a pious man whose name was Shabit. A gracious and hospitable man, who devoutly served him in a manner worthy of an apostle of Christian faith. And the blessed one at once exercising the art of evangelism, with the faithful cooperation of the ruler, began [to preach] in the province, and capturing them all away from their native traditions and satanic idolatry, turned them to obedience to Christ.

And as he implanted in them the word of life, there appeared many miracles that are known to all the people of the province. Evil spirits[8] ill various aspects took flight and fell in the regions of the Medians[9]. He resolved to have greater concern for the consolation of the people of the entire land; [therefore] he increased his moanful prayers to God with upraised hands and ceaseless tears, remembering the words of the Apostle who said: "I am sorrowful and constant in my heartache for my brethren and my kin."

He was thus surrounded and ensnared with sad worries and engulfed by waves of apprehension as to how he might find a solution to the problem. (276)



And after being occupied with the same [problem] for many days; he rose and came to the Holy Catholicos of Armenia Major. whose name was Sahak[10], and whom he found predisposed and sharing in the same concern. Cordially they came together, and with earnest prayers early every morning [besought] God that all men attain the salvation brought by Christ. And they did this many days.

Then as a boon from God the gracious, the council of blessed monks, devoted to the service of the land, gathered to secure letters for the Armenian nation. They conducted much inquiry and exploration, and much toil. Later they disclosed the foremost object of their search to the King of the Armenians whose name was Vramshapouh.

The King told them of a man named Daniel, a Syrian bishop of noble lineage, who unexpectedly had come into the possession of letters of Armenian alphabet. And when the King told them concerning Daniel's discovery, they prevailed upon him to do what was needful. He then dispatched a man named Vahrij along with messages to a priest called Habel, who was an intimate of Bishop Daniel.

As for Habel, upon hearing it, he hastened to Daniel, and first became familiar, through Daniel, with the letters, then taking them from him sent to the King in the land of Armenia. The [letters] reached his hands on the fifth year[11] of his reign. Upon receiving the letters from Habel, the King rejoiced with Sahak apd Mashtots.

Then the blessed stewards taking the unexpectedly discovered object of their search, requested of the King young children through whom they 'night experiment with the alphabet. And when many of them had been taught, the King commanded that everywhere the in- (277) struction be effected through the same [letters]. Thus the blessed one attained the noble rank of teacher, and taught for two years with the use of the same letters.

Yet when they became aware of the fact that those letters were insufficient to form all the syllables of the Armenian language, especially since the letters essentially proved to have been buried and then resurrected from other languages, they found themselves once more in the same anxieties and for some time were engaged in search of a solution.


[ ] | [THE LIFE OF MASHTOTS] | [ ]

[1] Azkanazian nation - The Armenian nation. Our Translators so designated the Armenians, based on the passage in the Bible: "Call together against her the kingdoms of Ararat, Minni, and Ashchenaz". Jeremiah 51:27

[2] Hovsep - One of the foremost pupils of Sahak and Mesrop, who named him (Hovsep) Locum Tenens of the Cathulicate before their death. He became Catholicos and played a prominent role during the Vardanants period. Soon after the Battle of Avarair (451 A. D.) he was taken to Persia, as one of the instigators of tho revolt under Vaidan, and was martyred three years later.

[3] The Forernnner - St. John the Baptist.

[4] Taron - A district in the province of Tourouberan, west of Lake Van and north of the Taurus Mountains. Its principal city is Moush.

[5] Hatsekats - This village was still in existence up to the massacre of the Armenians in Turkey, in 1915, and was known as Khas Kegh.

[6] Hazarapet - The highest civil official in Armenia and Persia was so designated, grand vizir.

[7] Goghtan - The province of Goghtan was located in Siunik, present Agoulis with its surrounding villages.

[8] Evil spirits (In Aimenian, dev) - Pagan priests who escaped along with their idols the persecution of the Christians were so designated by ancient Armenian and non-Armenian writers. (357)

[9] Medians are not to be confused with Media or the people of Media. Koriun has reference to an area on th north-east of Ararat, along both banks of River Araxes. In ancient times Medians had lived in the area which was known as Mark or Medians.

[10] Sahak - A dcscendant of Gregory the illuminator and son of Catholicos Nerses the Great He became Caitholicos around 390-395. He had received a Greek education and possessed great learning, which qualified him as one of the principal translators of the Bible. When the last Arsacid king of Armenia was deposed by the Persians (428), Sahak also was deprived of his authority as Catliolicos. However his and Mesrop's pupils continued their masters' work.

[11] The fifth year of Vramshapnah - The dates relative to the arrival of the Danielian alphabet as well as Mesrops subsequent journey to Mesonotamia have been distorted. According to Prof. Ajaran, this passage may have originally read third instead of the fifth year of Vramshapouh.

[i] That is, contrary to the opinion of those who say that it is not permissible.

[ii] That is, of Hovsep, the Acting Catholicos, and the other pupils of St. Mesrop. (274)