Sergius the Stylite of Gusit
The Disputation of Sergius the Stylite is an eighth century text which purports to record a written-up version of a dialogue between a Jewish rabbi and a Christian stylite. The discussion is located in Gousit, a place about which little is known, but which was somewhere near Homs (Emesa) in southern Syria. The text is preserved in a single manuscript (BM Add.17,199) which William Wright dated to the eighth century on the basis of its "rather inelegant Estrangela". The colophon is damaged and preserves only the name of the scribe (Romanus the abbot) and not the date of his work. The date of the actual Disputation is not in doubt since three times it refers to the seven hundred years which have passed since the Jews lost everything - prophets, priests, temple, etc.
As in most Jewish-Christian dialogues from the ancient period the bulk of the Disputation is taken up with arguments about the relevance of biblical texts to the situations of the Christian Church and the Jewish people. It contains over 340 biblical quotations, the bulk of them (300) from the Old Testament. Some of these are quite extensive in scope. It also contains a number of quotations from an otherwise unattested Syriac version of books 1-5 of Josephus' War of the Jews; book 6 of this version is preserved in 7a1 as the fifth Book of the Maccabees.
Sergius refers to Syrian Christians who, for instance, "gave oil and unleavened bread to the synagogue" (22:12). Sergius quotes them as saying:
- "If Christianity is good, behold, I am baptized as a Christian. But if Judaism is also, behold, I will associate partly with Judaism that I might hold on to the Sabbath" (22,15, p. 77 of Hayman).
This indicates that the response of Sergius was motivated not by some abstract theological issue, but by a continuing problem of Judaising members of the Church.
- An unpublished Christian-Jewish disputation attributed to Sergius the Stylite / ed. from a Syriac manuscript in the British Museum (BM. Add. 17,199) with tr. and commentary by A.P. Hayman. [Durham], (1968). 155p. Text in Syriac, Eng. trans. Thesis (Ph.D.) - University of Durham 1968
- Sargis Istunaya de-Gusit, "The disputation of Sergius the Stylite against a Jew", ed. A. P. Hayman,CSCO. v.338-339, Scriptores Syri t.152-153. Louvain:Secretariat du CorpusSCO (1973). 2 vols, Syriac, English.
- Peter Hayman, The Biblical Text in the Disputation of Sergius the Stylite against a Jew, Hugoye 5.1 (2002). (Abstract of the paper).