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The History of the ‘Slave of Christ’


From Jewish Child to Christian Martyr


The first critical editions and English translations of the two Syriac recensions of a fascinating text which narrates the story of a young Jewish child, Asher. After converting to Christianity and taking the name ʿAḇdā da-Mšiḥā (‘slave of Christ’), he is martyred by his father. In a detailed introduction, Butts and Gross challenge the use of this text by previous scholars as evidence for historical interactions between Jews and Christians, reevaluating its purpose and situating the story in its Late Antique Babylonian context.
Publisher: Gorgias Press LLC
Availability: In stock
SKU (ISBN): 978-1-4632-0573-7
  • *
Publication Status: In Print

Publication Date: Jan 26,2017
Interior Color: Black
Trim Size: 6 x 9
Page Count: 269
Languages: English, Syriac
ISBN: 978-1-4632-0573-7
$60.00

The History of the ‘Slave of Christ’: From Jewish Child to Christian Martyr offers the first critical editions and English translations of the two Syriac recensions of this fascinating text, which narrates the story of a young Jewish child, Asher, who after converting to Christianity and taking the name ʿAḇdā da-Mšiḥā (‘slave of Christ’) is martyred by his father Levi in a scene reminiscent of Abraham’s offering of Isaac in Genesis 22. In a detailed introduction, the authors argue that the text is a fictional story composed during the early Islamic period (ca. 650–850) probably in Shigar (modern Sinjār). Building upon methodology from the study of western Christian and Jewish texts, they further contend that the story’s author constructs an imagined Jew based on the Hebrew Bible, thereby challenging the way that previous scholars have used this text as straightforward evidence for historical interactions between Jews and Christians in Babylonia at this time. This ultimately allows the authors to reevaluate the purpose of the text and to situate it in its Late Antique Babylonian context.

Aaron M. Butts is an assistant professor, focusing on the Christian Near East, in the Department of Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literatures at the Catholic University of America.

Simcha Gross is a Ph.D. candidate, concentrating in Ancient Judaism and Syriac Christianity, in the Department of Religious Studies at Yale University.

The History of the ‘Slave of Christ’: From Jewish Child to Christian Martyr offers the first critical editions and English translations of the two Syriac recensions of this fascinating text, which narrates the story of a young Jewish child, Asher, who after converting to Christianity and taking the name ʿAḇdā da-Mšiḥā (‘slave of Christ’) is martyred by his father Levi in a scene reminiscent of Abraham’s offering of Isaac in Genesis 22. In a detailed introduction, the authors argue that the text is a fictional story composed during the early Islamic period (ca. 650–850) probably in Shigar (modern Sinjār). Building upon methodology from the study of western Christian and Jewish texts, they further contend that the story’s author constructs an imagined Jew based on the Hebrew Bible, thereby challenging the way that previous scholars have used this text as straightforward evidence for historical interactions between Jews and Christians in Babylonia at this time. This ultimately allows the authors to reevaluate the purpose of the text and to situate it in its Late Antique Babylonian context.

Aaron M. Butts is an assistant professor, focusing on the Christian Near East, in the Department of Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literatures at the Catholic University of America.

Simcha Gross is a Ph.D. candidate, concentrating in Ancient Judaism and Syriac Christianity, in the Department of Religious Studies at Yale University.

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Contributor Biography

Aaron Butts

Aaron M. Butts is an assistant professor, focusing on the Christian Near East, in the Department of Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literatures at the Catholic University of America.

Simcha Gross

Simcha Gross is a Ph.D. candidate, concentrating in Ancient Judaism and Syriac Christianity, in the Department of Religious Studies at Yale University.

Acknowledgements (vii)

Abbreviations (ix)

Introduction (1)

Synopsis (9)

Syriac Manuscript Witnesses (12)

Versions: Arabic, Armenian, and Georgian (18)

Syriac Recensions (22)

Development of the Syriac Text (28)

Shigar (30)

Etiology of Cult Sites (33)

Date of Composition: ca. 650-ca. 850 (34)

The Name 'Aḇdā da-Mšiḥā (37)

Child Martyrs (38)

Use of the Old Testament (43)

Jews around Shigar (45)

Jews in the History of 'Aḇdā da-Mšiḥā (50)

Legend of the Judenknaben (62)

The 'Why' Question (69)

Syriac Recension a (81)

Syriac Recension b (167)

Bibliography (221)

Index of Modern Scholars (241)

Index of Biblical References (247)

Index of Subjects (251)

Index of Manuscripts (Syriac and Arabic) (255)