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In Search of the True Religion

Monk Jurjī and Muslim Jurists Debating Faith and Practice


In the thirteenth-century, a debate transpired over the course of several days between a monk named Jurjī and several Muslims jurists in the city of Aleppo. This debate represents a careful and sophisticated example of a literary genre that had been developing among the Christians living under Islamic rule since the seventh century. The immense popularity of this work is demonstrated by the sheer volume of surviving manuscripts, which number around hundred. This volume provides a critical edition and translation of the text.
Publisher: Gorgias Press LLC
Availability: In stock
SKU (ISBN): 978-1-4632-4394-4
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Publication Status: In Print
Publication Date: Feb 28,2022
Interior Color: Black
Trim Size: 6 x 9
Page Count: 358
Language: English
ISBN: 978-1-4632-4394-4
$65.00
Your price: $45.50

In 1216, a group of monks from the monastery of Mār Simᶜān reportedly visited Aleppo to discuss matters concerning their monastery with the governor. During this visit, a venerable member of the monastic community named Jurjī began discussing monastic life with the emir, the governor’s younger brother. Soon, several Muslim jurists joined the gathering. The emir asked them to engage in a religious debate with Jurjī.

In the debate, the jurists question the monk about Christian doctrines and practices. While Jurjī answers their questions, he criticizes Islamic teachings, claims, and figures. He also compares the messages and personalities of Christ and Muḥammad, defends the sacraments of Christianity, and examines the laws and scriptures of the Sabaeans, Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

This religious dispute survived in dozens of manuscripts. It is a wonderful example of a Christian-Arabic genre that describes medieval Christian-Muslim encounters in the caliphal court. Although these debates may have taken place, the surviving texts which describe them should not be viewed as literal recreations of the encounters. Rather, the texts seem to represent experiences and challenges faced by Christians living under Muslim rule. This genre has been popular among Christians for centuries, and the current text appears to be one of its latest developments. In order to create the most accurate representation of Jurjī’s work, this present study scrutinized over a dozen manuscripts, including the oldest extant ones. With this edition and translation, we hope to bring more scholarly attention to this fascinating genre and fantastic debate.

In 1216, a group of monks from the monastery of Mār Simᶜān reportedly visited Aleppo to discuss matters concerning their monastery with the governor. During this visit, a venerable member of the monastic community named Jurjī began discussing monastic life with the emir, the governor’s younger brother. Soon, several Muslim jurists joined the gathering. The emir asked them to engage in a religious debate with Jurjī.

In the debate, the jurists question the monk about Christian doctrines and practices. While Jurjī answers their questions, he criticizes Islamic teachings, claims, and figures. He also compares the messages and personalities of Christ and Muḥammad, defends the sacraments of Christianity, and examines the laws and scriptures of the Sabaeans, Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

This religious dispute survived in dozens of manuscripts. It is a wonderful example of a Christian-Arabic genre that describes medieval Christian-Muslim encounters in the caliphal court. Although these debates may have taken place, the surviving texts which describe them should not be viewed as literal recreations of the encounters. Rather, the texts seem to represent experiences and challenges faced by Christians living under Muslim rule. This genre has been popular among Christians for centuries, and the current text appears to be one of its latest developments. In order to create the most accurate representation of Jurjī’s work, this present study scrutinized over a dozen manuscripts, including the oldest extant ones. With this edition and translation, we hope to bring more scholarly attention to this fascinating genre and fantastic debate.

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ContributorBiography

Ayman Ibrahim

Ayman Ibrahim (PhD 2014, Fuller Seminary; PhD 2018, Haifa University) is Bill and Connie Jenkins Professor of Islamic Studies and director of the Jenkins Center for the Christian Understanding of Islam at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He authored Conversion to Islam (Oxford University Press, 2021); Basics of Arabic (Zondervan 2021); A Concise Guide to the Quran (Baker Academic, 2020); The Stated Motivations for the Early Islamic Expansion(Peter Lang, 2018).

Clint Hackenburg

Clint Hackenburg (PhD 2015, Ohio State University) is an independent scholar of medieval Arabic literature, Islamic studies, Christian-Muslim relations, and Arabic-to-English translation. He co-translated In Search of the True Religion (Gorgias, 2022) and is currently preparing a new edition and translation of Anselm Turmeda’s Tuḥfat al-adīb fī al-radd ᶜalā ahl al-ṣalīb.

Table of Contents (v)
Acknowledgments (vii)
Introduction (1)
   Jurjī the Monk and the Muslim Jurists in the Emir’s Courts (1)
   The Monk in the Emir’s Majlis: Purpose of the Genre (7)
   Jurjī’s Debate: Structure, Topics, and Manuscripts (32)
   A Chronological List of the Consulted Manuscripts (38)
   The Critical Apparatus of Our Edition (40)
Text and Translation (43)
   The Dispute of Jurjī the Monk (44)
   [Section One: Comparing the Messages and Personalities of Christ and Muḥammad] (44)
   [Part 1: The Monk Jurjī] (44)
   [Part 2: Monastic Living] (50)
   [Part 3: Safety] (56) 
   [Part 4: Christ’s Apostles] (64) 
   [Part 5: The Corruption (taḥrīf) of the Gospel] (86) 
   [Part 6: Allahu Akbar] (94) 
   [Part 7: The Straight Path (al-Ṣirāṭ al-Mustaqīm) (102) 
   [Part 8: Christ’s Divinity] (114) 
   [Part 9: Christ’s Incarnation] (122) 
   [Section Two: The Beliefs of Christianity] (134) 
   [Part 10: The Testimony of the Qurʾān to Christians] (134)
   [Part 11: On the Dual Nature of Christ] (144) 
   [Part 12: Worshipping the Incarnated God] (154) 
   [Part 13: Christ is the Son of God] (162)
   [Part 14: The Passion of Christ] (166) 
   [Part 15: The Necessity of the Incarnation and Suffering] (176) 
   [Part 16: The Justice of Christ and His Victory] (194) 
   [Part 17: Veneration of the Cross] (206) 
   [Section Three: An Examination of the Four Major Religions] (220)
   [Part 18: The Signs of the True Religion] (220)
   [Part 19: Sabaeans] (230)
   [Part 20: Jews] (236)
   [Part 21: The Superiority of Christian Law] (248)
   [Part 22: The Four Scriptures] (270)
   [Part 23: An Examination of the True Religion] (288)
   [Part 24: Baptism and Circumcision] (298)
   [Part 25: The Sword and Miracles] (308)
   [Part 26: The Hajj] (318)
   [Part 27: Departure] (328)
Bibliography (337)

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