Ṣharbokht bar Msargis (9th cent.) [Ch. of E.]

Scholar, probably active as a teacher in the theological school and perhaps also in the Christian medical teaching institute (beth mardutā) of Beth Lapaṭ (Gondeshapur) in Khuzistan. In the Syriac tradition Ṣharbokht is known through the Gannat Bussāme, an extensive commentary on the E.-Syr. lectionary. In this commentary Ṣharbokht is adduced more than 150 times in the exegesis of pericopes from the four Gospels, Acts, and Rom. However, the influence of Ṣharbokht’s exegesis in the Gannat Bussāme many times exceeds these quotations, since the author of the Gannat Bussāme borrowed many long excerpts from Ṣharbokht’s commentaries without mentioning him by name. In the first quotation of Ṣharbokht in the Gannat Bussāme he is introduced with his Christian name and the name of his father as ‘Ṣliba Zkha (‘the cross has overcome’), who is the priest and teacher Ṣharbokht, the son of Msargis’. The name of his father and some significant details of his exegesis make it very likely that Ṣharbokht bar Msargis may be identified with Ṣahārbūkht b. Māsarjīs, who according to the Arabic-Islamic tradition was the author of a commentary on the Kunnāš (a medical handbook) written by a certain Jūrjīs (George). From the Arabic-Islamic tradition it can be inferred that Ṣahārbūkht b. Māsarjīs belonged to a family of physicians from Beth Lapaṭ (9th cent.). His son ʿĪsā is reported to have translated Hippocratic works from Syriac into Arabic. The important role which Greek medical knowledge — in particular Hippocratic and Galenic tradition — plays in Ṣharbokht’s exegesis seems to corroborate the assumption that Ṣharbokht bar Msargis and Ṣahārbūkht b. Māsarjīs are, in fact, one and the same person. Ṣharbokht’s biblical commentaries are typical representatives of exegetical compilations comparable to the biblical commentaries written by other scholars of the Ch. of E. in the 9th cent., e.g., Ishoʿdad of Merv. Ṣharbokht’s commentaries are a rich mine of information for older exegetical traditions which are no longer accessible today in the (lost) original works or in the other E.-Syr. exegetical compilations. The most remarkable and distinguishing characteristic of Ṣharbokht’s commentaries is the strong influence of medical knowledge. Theoretical medicine has become in Ṣharbokht’s exegesis a veritable ancillary science for the explanation of the Scriptures. In this respect Ṣharbokht represents a unique example of the mutual influence of theological and profane learning in the 9th-cent. Christian milieu in Beth Lapaṭ, when E.-Syr. scholars from this city played a fundamental role in the transmission of among other things Greek medical knowledge to the Arabs in Baghdad.


  • G. J.  Reinink, ‘Seharbokt, ein nestorianischer Lehrer der islamischen Zeit’, in SymSyr II, 73–98.
  • G. J.  Reinink, Studien zur Quellen- und Traditionsgeschichte, 113–32.
  • G. J.  Reinink, ‘De invloed van de antieke geneeskunde op de Bijbelexegese van Seharbokt bar Mesargis’, in Dwergen op de schouders van reuzen. Studies over de receptie van de Oudheid in de Middeleeuwen, ed. H. van Dijk and E. R. Smits (1990), 31–42.
  • G. J.  Reinink, ‘Theology and Medicine in Jundishapur. Cultural Change in the Nestorian School Tradition’, in Learned Antiquity. Scholarship and Society in the Near-East, the Greco-Roman world, and the Early Medieval West, ed. A. A. MacDonald, M. W. Twomey, and G. J. Reinink (Groningen Studies in Cultural Change 5; 2003), 163–74.
  • W.  Schwaigert, ‘Die Theologenschule von Bēṯ Lāpāṭ-Ğundaisābūr. Ein Beitrag zur nestorianischen Schulgeschichte’, ZDMG , Suppl. 4. XX. Deutscher Orientalistentag 1977 in Erlangen (1980), 185–87.
  • F.  Sezgin, Geschichte des arabischen Schrifttums, vol. 3 (1970), 242–243.

How to Cite This Entry

Gerrit J. Reinink , “Ṣharbokht bar Msargis,” in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay, https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Sharbokht-bar-Msargis.

Footnote Style Citation with Date:

Gerrit J. Reinink , “Ṣharbokht bar Msargis,” in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay (Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018), https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Sharbokht-bar-Msargis.

Bibliography Entry Citation:

Reinink, Gerrit J. “Ṣharbokht bar Msargis.” In Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition. Edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay. Digital edition prepared by David Michelson, Ute Possekel, and Daniel L. Schwartz. Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018. https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Sharbokht-bar-Msargis.

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Front Matter A (73) B (53) C (26) D (36) E (27) F (5) G (30) H (22) I (31) J (15) K (11) L (12) M (56) N (19) O (3) P (28) Q (11) R (8) S (71) T (39) U (1) V (5) W (3) X (1) Y (41) Z (4) Back Matter
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