The Armenians tell that before they got an alphabet, Tiridates III had already converted the land to Christianity. In the 1800s and early 1900s, Western scholars were pointing to one Zenob (of) Glak, perhaps a Syriac-speaker who had travelled with Saint Gregory to convert the locals... at swordpoint. For instance: Kennedy 1904; who derived thence a whole history of the Indian presence at Taron 130 BC - 300 AD. Armenian patriots are citing this stuff to this day.
In the Viennese Armenian periodical Hantess, which has for some time published a series of solid critical investigations on ancient Armenian literature and history, in the last year were published essays on Zenob of Glak, which were later published in a separate edition. The abbot of the monastery of Glak (near Musch), a Syrian named Zenob, who wrote in his mother's tongue, compiled a story of the struggle which the saint Gregory, the "Emperor of Armenia" (fourth century), against the pagan priests in the region of Taron, West of Lake Wan, where the whole work entitled "History of Taron" is mentioned, not only as a contemporary of Saint Gregory, but also as a person close to him, although occasional doubts were expressed about credibility. The story of the Zenob of Glak, one is, as yet, no one has been able to undertake a thorough critical investigation of his Has continued to keep Zenob of Glak for a writer of the fourth century, who was translated into Armenian in the seventh century; Especially the Venetian mechitarists insist on its credibility.
In the work aforementioned, the author has set himself the task of critically examining the text of Zenob in comparison to the works of other Armenian writers. The book is divided into two parts: I. Materials; II. Investigations. In the first part, which is divided into 28 paragraphs, the Zenob text is compared, in parallel, with other texts from the fifth to seventh centuries, which Mr. Ch. considers the actual sources of Zenob. The cursive in the enclosed fragments of the sources indicate that all these words, expressions, and even whole sentences have been preserved almost without alteration in the Zenob text, which can be regarded as a direct proof of the borrowing from these sources.
The author divides the sources into known and unknown ones; the known ones are represented in quotations in the corresponding passages of the Zenobic text; As unknown are those points of Zeno's text, which are not only confirmed by more exact testimony of other Armenian writers, but are also largely unreliable, legendary, even tendentious, and by no means the product of the thoughts and pen of a writer from the fourth, can still be from the 5th century. The results of his investigations have been summarized by Mr. Ch. in the following verdicts:
I. The author of the history of Zenob was doubtless familiar with Agathangelo and Faustus (both from the fifth century), Sebeos (seventh year), Moses of Chorene (later than the seventh century). He did not live before the seventh century, and by no means in the fourth century, was more or less a Gregorian person near the enlightener.
To accept the reverse, namely, that all the writers mentioned have borrowed from Zenob, is impossible, for, apart from their common persistent silence about Zenob (which is a very important proof against him), while these writers on the other hand take note of each other, offer The works of these authors form a complete whole for themselves on the subject matter of which they act, and logically combine different parts of the same narrative. On the other hand, Zenob's telling is torn, broken, and presents borrowed fragments, which are distinctly torn out of the context.
II. In those points in which Zenob differs from his real sources or to them, he soon appears as a reverberation of later national ecclesiastical traditions, or, more often, he makes deliberate disagreements in order to avoid the similarity in expression with his real sources and thereby conceal his borrowings.
III. The monastery of Glak has been given special attention and consideration by Zenob. As a result, he needs all the resources necessary to raise the age of this convent until the time of Gregory the Enlightener and Trdat, as well as confirm the precise boundaries of the extensive monastery goods by the first founders of the Armenian Church .
IV. The transcripts of the letters of Gregory the Enlightener and of Leontius, Archbishop of Caesarea, who find themselves at the beginning of Zeno's history, are written on the pattern of several similar untrustworthy writings, though rather awkward.
V. The "history of Taron" by Zenob must be regarded as apocryphal on the basis of the above-mentioned fact, just as the name "Zenob" is a fictitious one, and undoubtedly considerably younger than the fourth century.
VI. From the fourth century to the seventh and ninth centuries, we may also refer to the author, to whom probably this apocryphal work belongs: he is the author of a "history of Taron", Bishop John, who, though he tells of the fighting of the princes of Taron from the tribe of the Mamikonians against the Persians in the beginning of the seventh century, is nevertheless of the legendary nature of his narrative
and the reverberation of folk traditions in it must be referred to a later period, namely to the eighth or ninth century. Not only the language and style, but also the direction, the views, the tendencies and the aims of this work, are exactly the same as we find in Zenob. Consequently, there can be no question of a translation of the Zenob from Syriac.
1) A. Carrière, Nouvelles Sources de Moïse de Khoren (Vienna: 1893); also Byz. Z. III (1894), 193.
UPDATE 3/27/2017: TW Greenwood, “Social Change in Eleventh-Century Armenia: the evidence from Tarōn”, argues that the Zenob-text assumes an organization of estates by “military resources”. Greenwood notes the same thought-process in military treatises from Constantinople in the late tenth century CE. In 966/7 AD the Romans annexed Tarōn as a “theme” (military province) and laid it out as stratiotika ktemata. Either “Zenob” postdates that, or else the nearby Armenians were begging the Romans: come to Tarōn, kick ass, and militarise the place.
I’m coming around to … both. More to come.