Behnam, Sarah, and the Forty Martyrs
Saints Behnam, Sarah, and the Forty Martyrs
An icon of Saints Behnam, Sarah, and the Forty Martyrs in the Coptic Museum.
|Venerated in||Oriental Orthodox Church|
|Major shrine||Monastery of Saints Behnam and Sarah, Iraq|
Saints Behnam, Sarah, and the Forty Martyrs were 4th-century Christians who suffered martyrdom during the reign of Shapur II. They are venerated as saints in the Oriental Orthodox Church and their feast day is 10 December.
Behnam and Sarah were born in the 4th-century in Adiabene, and were the children of Sinharib, an Assyrian king. Whilst hunting on Mount Alfaf with forty slaves, Behnam became separated from his entourage and was forced to spend the night on the mountain. He received a dream in which an angel instructed him to seek Saint Matthew, who lived on the mountain, as the saint could heal his sister Sarah, who was afflicted with leprosy. Behnam met with his entourage the next day, and they discovered Saint Matthew in a cave and requested he join them on their return to the city, to which he agreed.
Behnam and his entourage returned to the city ahead of Saint Matthew and told his mother of his dream and the saint. His mother allowed Behnam and Sarah to return to the saint in secret, and he healed Sarah of her leprosy, after which Behnam, Sarah, and the forty slaves were baptised and Saint Matthew returned to Mount Alfaf. Sinharib discovered Behnam and Sarah's conversion and demanded they abandon Christianity. Stalwart in their faith, Behnam, Sarah, and the forty slaves, fled to Mount Alfaf, but were slain by soldiers sent by Sinharib.
Following his children's death, Sinharib was afflicted with madness. Behnam spoke to his mother in a dream and instructed her to seek Saint Matthew, as he could heal the king. The queen took the king to the place of Behnam and Sarah's death, where he met with Saint Matthew and was cured. Sinharib and his wife returned to Assur with the saint and were baptised. The king had a monument to the martyrs built at the place of their martyrdom, and, at the request of Saint Matthew, constructed a monastery on Mount Alfaf, which later became known as the Monastery of St. Matthew. Sinharib had the martyrs buried at the monastery atop Mount Alfaf. In the 6th century, a Persian merchant constructed a shrine to the martyrs alongside Sinharib's monument, and would later develop into the Monastery of Saints Behnam and Sarah.
- Rassam (2005), pp. 31-32
- Mor Behnam saint and martyr. Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch - Archdiocese of the Western United States
- (in Arabic) القديس مار متى الناسك والشهداء مار بهنام وسارة ورفاقهما الأربعين. Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate
- Sts. Behnam, Sarah, and the 40 Martyrs. Northeast American Diocese of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church
- Dayro d-Mor Matay. Syriac Orthodox Resources
- Radner (2015), p. 7
- Radner, Karen (2015). Ancient Assyria: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press.
- Rassam, Suha (2005). Christianity in Iraq: Its Origins and Development to the Present Day. Gracewing Publishing.