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EDESSA (Urhai, Οσροήνη):

The present Urfa, a city in the vilayet of Aleppo, Asiatic Turkey. No mention of the name is found in Jewish writings, except, perhaps, in Yoma 10a ( or ; Neubauer, "G. T." p. 346; but explained by Jastrow, s.v., as Warka in southern Mesopotamia). The Targuni Yer. has ("Edessa") for in Gen. x. 10. Jews certainly lived here in early times. One of the pre-Christian rulers, Bakru I., son of Phradasht (115-112), is said to have been saved by a Jewess named Kutbi, whom the Mesopotamians afterward adored as a goddess (Cureton, "Spicilegium Syriacum," 25, 11). At the beginning of the first century C.E. a Parthian family ruled here, whose first member was Abgar VII., son of Izates, son of Helena of Adiabene. When Addai, the apostle, came to Edessa, he is said to have stayed at the house of a Jew named Tobias, and to have converted many of his host's coreligionists. The influence of the Jews is seen as well in the fact that the Peshiṭta translation—with its Jewish tendencies—was made in Edessa, as in the Jewish material to be found in the writings of such Syriac Church fathers as St. Ephraim. The old Edessan chronicle mentions at least two synagogues (), one of which was turned by Bishop Rabbula (412) into the chapel of Mar Stephen (though Heller reads , a Christian sect); the notice is repeated in pseudo-Dionysius of Tellmaḥre and by Bar Hebræus. The latter relates also ("Eccl. Chron." i. 359) that the Moslem Mohammed ibn Ṭahir built a mosque in 825 where formerly there had been a synagogue. The city was visited by Pedro de Texeira (seventeenth century) and Benjamin II. (c. 1860); both report the legends which connect the place with Abraham because of its proximity to Harran. The Syriac Midrash identifies with Edessa, as in Targum. Yer. (Budge, "The Bee," p. 37; Bezold, "Die Schatzhöhle,"p. 154). The house where Abraham was born and the furnace into which he was thrown by Nimrod are still to be seen, and the great mosque still bears the name "Khalil al-Raḥman" (i.e., "Abraham"). The house of Job is also to be seen, and, according to Julius Africanus, the tent of Jacob was preserved here. According to Benjamin II., the city had, in his day, 150 Jewish inhabitants; according to Cuinet, the whole sanjak, of which Urfa is the capital, has at present about 367 Jews in a total population of 143,483; the city itself 322 in a total of 55,000.

Bibliography:
  • Rubens Duval, Histoire . . . d'Edesse, pp. 16 et seq.;
  • L. Hallier, Untersuchungen über die, Edess. Chronik, pp. 8, 106;
  • Bonet Maury, in Rev. Hist. des Relig. xvi. 281;
  • Cuinet, Turquie en Asie, s.v.).
J. G.
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