Butrus Sawirus Al-Jamil

A thirteenth-century bishop of Malij and first compiler of the Coptic SYNAXARION. It is not known exactly when he lived, and no details of his life are known for certain. He lived probably at the end of the twelfth century and the beginning of the thirteenth, since he comes between MIKHA’IL, BISHOP OF DAMIETTA (d. after 1208) and CYRIL III ibn Laqlaq (1235-1243) in the author index of Abu al- IBN KABAR.

His work is listed by G. as follows. Kitab al-Ishraq (Book of the Sunrise) condemns the non-Jacobite nations or parties, the Franks (Latins), Melchites, Armenians, and Syrians (Nestorians) as heretical. The exhaustive enumeration of these “heresies” makes the work interesting for the history of religious customs. There is an extensive account of the contents in Ibn Kabar.

Kitab al-Burhan (Book of Proof) is an apology for Christianity, treating the about Christ and proving in particular the impossibility of the divinity’s participating in the sufferings of the human nature of Christ. It also deals with the question of the replacement of the Mosaic by the more perfect law of the Gospels. The Holy Scriptures, partly with sources, are interpreted thoroughly. The work uses, sometimes literally, material from the two anthologies, al-DURR AL-THAMIN (Precious Pearl) by Sawirus and I‘tiraf al-Aba’.

According to Ibn Kabar, Butrus composed the Synaxarion also. This is an abstract of the lives of the saints and their histories arranged as a chronicle for each day of the liturgical year. He probably was the first compiler, arranger, and editor of the work, and laid the foundation for the Vulgate version completed later. In fact, some of its elaboration belongs to his successor, MIKHA’IL, bishop of and Malij, but how much is not known. That Butrus built on the works of others is evidenced by references to older sources. There is a praise of of Antioch “by the author of the ” in a manuscript in the National Library, Paris (Syriac 238, fols. 87v-89v). Later Butrus did write a preface to the Confession of Faith of Severus.


  • of Antioch. Confession of Faith, ed. and trans. V. Cauvin. PO 2, pp. 308f. Paris, 1904-1975.