"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
mattress,/
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Eastern Christian Doctrine and Debate

Earlier I drew attention to the advent of an exciting new series from Ashgate. I have just this week received the first volume: Averil Cameron and Robert Hoyland, eds., Doctrine and Debate in the East Christian World, 300-1500 (The Worlds of Eastern Christianity, 300-1500) (Ashgate, 2011), liv + 415pp.


About this book, the publisher tells us:
The reign of Constantine (306-37), the starting point for the series in which this volume appears, saw Christianity begin its journey from being just one of a number of competing cults to being the official religion of the Roman/Byzantine Empire. The involvement of emperors had the, perhaps inevitable, result of a preoccupation with producing, promoting and enforcing a single agreed version of the Christian creed. Under this pressure Christianity in the East fragmented into different sects, disagreeing over the nature of Christ, but also, in some measure, seeking to resist imperial interference and to elaborate Christianities more reflective of and sensitive to local concerns and cultures. This volume presents an introduction to, and a selection of the key studies on, the ways in which and means by which these Eastern Christianities debated with one another and with their competitors: pagans, Jews, Muslims and Latin Christians. It also includes the iconoclast controversy, which divided parts of the East Christian world in the seventh to ninth centuries, and devotes space both to the methodological tools that evolved in the process of debate and the promulgation of doctrine, and to the literary genres through which the debates were expressed.
In their preface, the editors tell us that the rationale for this series centres on the fact that "Eastern Christianity is much less known and studied than its Western counterpart...and it is the principal aim of this series to redress this deficiency and to provide a foundation for new research.....This series seeks to...mak[e] available some of the most influential research published to date....The series as a whole will, it is hoped, serve as a starting point for a more holistic approach to Eastern Christianity."

This solid, handsome volume brings together articles by some of the world's leading scholars including Sebastian Brock, Sidney Griffith, Peter Brown, Averil Cameron, and others. It is divided into five sections:

I) The Formative Period: with articles on Origen, the Manichaeans, the Syrian Orthodox under Justinian (Brock's article), and anti-Jewish polemics.
II) The Encounter with Islam: with four articles, including the first of two by Griffith.
III) Iconoclasm: with two articles including Brown's article.
IV) Anti-Latin Texts: with one article by Tia M. Kolbaba, author of a book favourably reviewed in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies several years ago: Inventing Latin Heretics: Byzantines and the Filioque in the Ninth Century.
V) Tools of Argument: with five articles, including a second one by Griffith on a "summa theologiae" in 9th-century Christian Arabic.

 
This is a very impressive start to a series that belongs in every serious library. 

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