Home | History | 500-599 A.D. Assyrian History

† 519 - Jewish persecution of Christians in Yemen continues
by The Ashurbanipal Library Committee
Posted: Thursday, October 26, 2000 06:56 pm CST

Early in the sixth century a young Jewish king rose to power in the Kingdom of Himyar (present day Yemen). This king, Yusuf As'ar, began a brutal massacre of the Assyrians who were living in that kingdom. These massacres did not escape the attention of the rest of the Assyrians; the martyrdoms in one town, Najran, particularly caught the attention of the public. Here are some descriptions:

The Burning of the Church
"The Jews amassed all the martyrs' bones and brought them into the church, where they heaped them up. They then brought in the priests, deacons, subdeacons, readers, and "sons and daughters of the covenant", and laymen and women as well -- whose names we shall give at the end of our letter. They filled the church up from wall to wall, some 2000 persons according to the men who came from Najran; then they piled up wood all around the outside of the church and set alight to it, thus burning the church along with everyone inside it. Some other women who had not been seized at the time, on seeing the church in flames with priests and "members of the covenant" inside, rushed to the church calling out to one another, "Come, friends, that we may take pleasure in the fragrant offering of the priests." Thus they rushed into the fire themselves and were burnt alive.

The sister of the holy bishop and martyr Paul was a deaconess named Elizabeth. She was in hiding in a house where the Christians had forcibly concealed her. On learning that the church was in flames, with the "members of the covenant" and the bones of her brother inside it, she dashed out of the house where the Christians had hidden her and went straight to the church, crying out, "I shall go to Christ with you, my brother, with you my brother and with all the rest of you." This was what she was crying out as she reached the courtyard of the church, and when the Jews saw her, they seized her, saying, "Adonay, Adonay, Adonay, Adonay! She has escaped from the fire, she has vanquished the fire by sorcery and got out!" But she assured them, "I haven't left the church-far bet it; rather, I have come from outside in order to enter it and to be burnt along with the bones of my brother and with the priests his companions. I want to be burnt in the church where I have ministered, together with my brother's bones." She was about forty-seven years old. The Jews grabbed her and produced thin cords; they bent down her head and bent her knees like a camel's and her arms as well, and threw the cords around them. They put in wooden pegs below the cords and turned -them so as to tighten the cords until they sank into her flesh. They did the same with her chest and the temples of her head. Then they produced some day and fashioned something resembling a crown; this they placed on her head, saying to her in mockery, "receive your crown, servant of the carpenter's son!" Next they modeled the day into the shape of a basin on top and heated up some oil in a pan; this they poured onto the top of her head when it was on the boil. When her entire head was scalded, the Jews said to her, "Perhaps it is too cool for you? Would you like us to heat it up again?" The blessed woman was unable to speak for pain, but she did manage to make a sign to them, softly indicating to them, "Yes, I would." While there was still some life in her, they took her outside the town and stripped her naked. There they tied ropes to her feet and brought along a wild camel, which they took out into the desert, tying the ropes to the camel and attaching wooden knockers that would dash against each other and agitate the camel. They then let the camel go into the desert, and it jerked her along violently behind it. This is how blessed Elizabeth was crowned." (Holy Women of the Syrian Orient, pp.105.)

Tahna. Ummah. and Hudayyah
"Another woman named Tahna, hearing that the church was burning, seized her daughter's hand (her name was Ummah, and she was a "daughter of the covenant") and they went off to the church to be burnt. When her maidservant (whose name was Hudayyah) saw her, she said, "My lady, my lady, where are you off to? The church is on fire and the `members of the covenant are being burnt in the fire". Her mistress replied, "I too am going along to be burnt up with the priests, both I and my daughter here, who is a `member of the covenant.'" The maid said, "I adjure you by Christ, my lady, take me with you so that I too may enjoy the fragrance of the priests." So her mistress took her by the hand, and thus the three of them entered the church and were burnt to death along with the priests. This blessed lady's younger daughter, who was also called Hudayyah, did not go into the church along with her mother and sister but stayed in the house. The Jews, however, caught her, set fire to the house, and threw her into the tire. Then, when she had been scorched a little, they extracted her, rekindled the fire, and threw her in a second time; then they repeated this a third time, and so the blessed girl was crowned." (Ibid. p.107.)

Related Information

History Conference
500-599 A.D. Assyrian History Archives

Do you have any related information or suggestions, please email them.
Atour: The State of Assyria. Terms of Service.