Refuting the Eternity of the Stars

Joel Thomas Walker

in The Legend of Mar Qardagh

Published by University of California Press

Published in print April 2006 | ISBN: 9780520245785
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520932197 | DOI:
Refuting the Eternity of the Stars

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This chapter explores a more familiar and well-documented aspect of East-Syrian Christian tradition: its engagement with Aristotelian philosophy. The Qardagh legend includes a long disputation scene between Qardagh and a Christian hermit named Abdišo. The language of their debate bears a clear affinity to similar formal debates described in both Byzantine and Sasanian sources. Previous scholarship has not fully recognized the cosmopolitan scope of this tradition of disputation. In the era of Justinian (527–565) and Khusro Anūshirvān (531–579), Christians, Zoroastrians, and polytheists all participated in a tradition of formal debate grounded in the rules of Aristotelian logic. The content of the Qardagh legend's debate scene is equally revealing. To refute the alleged eternity of the sun, moon, and stars, the hermit Abdišo employs arguments that can be traced to the insights of John Philoponus, the most distinguished Christian philosopher of sixth-century Alexandria. The hagiographer's debt to Philoponus, while perhaps indirect, offers intriguing new evidence for the influence of Byzantine philosophical models on the intellectual life of the late Sasanian Empire. The language of the Qardagh legend reflects the formation of a genuine philosophical koine shared between the rival empires of early Byzantium and Sasanian Iran.

Keywords: East-Syrian tradition; Aristotelian philosophy; Qardagh legend; Abdišo; formal debates; Byzantium; Sasanian Iran

Chapter.  22717 words. 

Subjects: Classical History

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