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

Friday, May 31, 2013

Orthodox Books for Children

I've just stumbled upon this site that publishes, in Greek and English as well as several other languages, Orthodox books for children. Friends gave our sons one of these books several years ago, My Warrior Saints and it has remained a favourite not only for the story but also for the wonderfully vivid and lavish illustrations. As a parent I am always on the outlook for books like these, some examples of which I have placed below.

My Synaxarion 1 - January (Orthodox Coloring Books). (The publisher has a whole series of these, January-December. The link above will take you to the Amazon page with the rest of them.)

My Synaxarion of the Holy Apostles;

Orthodox Children's Illustrated Lives of the Saints Book/CD Set St. Demetrios;

The "Creed" in Coloring Icons (Orthodox Coloring Books).

19th Century Greeks and Constantinopolitans

Peter Lang has recently published two books both treating Greek Orthodox Christians in the nineteenth century: Maria Mandamadiotou, The Greek Orthodox Community of Mytilene (2013), 250pp. 

About this book we are told:
This book focuses on the modernization of the Greek Orthodox community of Mytilene the capital of Lesbos, an island located in the north-east Aegean the changes it underwent, and its responses to the ever-changing political situation between 1876 and 1912. The author argues that the position of leading community members, particularly journalists, and their receptivity towards the social and political changes of the period, went hand-in-hand with their 'ethnic' and political aspirations for the role of the Greek Orthodox ethnos in the Empire. In relation to the competition among various 'imperialisms' and 'nationalisms' then developing around Mytilene's Christians, the author shows that Ottoman reforms were successful in encouraging them to co-opt local interest such that concern for the growth of the specific community was directly linked to the survival of the Ottoman Empire.
Peter Lang is also reprinting an unsurpassed tome from the turn of the twentieth century: Ivan Sokolov, The Church of Constantinople in the Nineteenth Century: An Essay in Historical Research (2013), 1025pp.

About this book we are told:
Ivan Sokolov's work, first published in 1904, begins with a balanced overview of the situation of the Orthodox Church under Ottoman rule from the fall of Constantinople (1453) to the beginning of the nineteenth century. The author then gives a detailed description of the external situation of the Patriarchate of Constantinople from 1789 to 1900. This is followed by a discussion of the career and activity of each patriarch during this period, their relations with the bishops, their initiatives in the field of education, their regulations concerning marriage, and their work with parishes and monasteries. The book concludes with a thorough analysis of the administration of the Patriarchate during these years. Although written over a hundred years ago, this classic work has not been superseded. It is based on original sources, particularly on the patriarchal archives, to which few scholars have had access. No other existing study deals with the nineteenth-century Ecumenical Patriarchate in such a systematic and specific way. It constitutes an invaluable tool of reference. Translated from the Russian.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Armenians in the Medieval Islamic World

Seta Dadoyan continues her trilogy, with the second volume just published, and the third due out later this year, on Armenian-Muslim relations. Volume II, published in January, is The Armenians in the Medieval Islamic World: Armenian Realpolitik in the Islamic World and Diverging ParadigmsCase of Cilicia Eleventh to Fourteenth Centuries (Transaction, 2013), 347pp.

About this book we are told:
In the second of a three-volume work, Seta B. Dadoyan explores the Armenian condition from the 970s to the end of the fourteenth century. This period marked the gradual loss of semi-autonomy on the traditional mainland and the rise of Armenian power of diverging patterns in southeastern Asia Minor, north Syria, Cilicia, and Egypt. Dadoyan’s premise is that if Armenians and Armenia have always been located in the Middle East and the Islamic world, then their history is also a natural part of that region and its peoples. She observes that the Armenian experience has been too complicated to be defined by simplistic constructs centered on the idea of a heroic, yet victimized nation. She notes that a certain politics of historical writing, supported by a culture of authority, has focused sharply on episodes and, in particular, on the genocide. For her sources, Dadoyan has used all available and relevant (primary and secondary) Armenian sources, as well as primary Arab texts and sources. This book will stimulate re-evaluation of the period, and re-conceptualizing Armenian and Middle Eastern histories.
The third volume is: The Armenians in the Medieval Islamic World: Medieval Cosmopolitanism and Images of IslamThirteenth to Fourteenth Centuries (Transaction, Sept. 2013), 344pp.

The publisher tells us this about the final volume in the trilogy:
In the third volume of the trilogy, Seta B. Dadoyan focuses on social and cultural aspects, rather than the core political focus exhibited in her first two volumes. Her objective is to suggest political readings of these themes and related texts by revealing hitherto unstudied and novel interactions in the cities of Asia Minor during the Mongol Period. Dadoyan focuses on the Armenian condition and role in the medieval Islamic world. She argues that if the entire region was the habitat of most of the Armenians, their history too is part of these locations and peoples. Dadoyan draws the outlines of a new philosophy of Armenian history based on hitherto obscured patterns of interaction. The first three chapters of this volume are dedicated to the images of Prophet Muhammad in Armenian literature. Dadoyan shows that direct interactions and borrowings happened regularly from Islamic sciences, reform projects, poetry, and arts. Dadoyan argues that the cosmopolitan urban environments were radically different from rural areas and close interactions took different and unexpected patterns. In the last part of the volume, she presents the first and only polemical-apologetic Armenian texts addressed to Islam at the end of the fourteenth century. This book is essential for all historians and Middle East scholars and is the latest volume in Transaction’s Armenian Studies series.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Russian Way

I have known (from Michael Plekon) for some time that this book is in the works, but am glad to see that it will finally be in print later this year: The Way: Religious Thinkers of the Russian Emigration in Paris and Their Journal, 1925-1940 (University of Notre Dame Press, October 2013), 704pp. Edited by Plekon and John Jillions, translated by Jerry Ryan, and with a preface from Rowan Williams, the former archbishop of Canterbury and one of England's most perceptive and important students of historical and Eastern theology, the book is the work of Antoine Arjakovsky, who is the research director of the Collège des Bernardins in Paris and founding director of the Institute of Ecumenical Studies and professor of ecumenical theology at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, Ukraine.

About this book the publisher tells us:
The journal Put’, or The Way, was one of the major vehicles for philosophical and religious discussion among Russian émigrés in Paris from 1925 until the beginning of World War II. This Russian language journal, edited by Nicholas Berdyaev among others, has been called one of the most erudite in all Russian intellectual history; however, it remained little known in France and the USSR until the early 1990s. This is the first sustained study of the Russian émigré theologians and other intellectuals in Paris who were associated with The Way and of their writings, as published in The Way. Although there have been studies of individual members of that group, this book places the entire generation in a broad historical and intellectual context. Antoine Arjakovsky provides assessments of leading religious figures such as Berdyaev, Bulgakov, Florovsky, Nicholas and Vladimir Lossky, Mother Maria Skobtsova, and Afanasiev, and compares and contrasts their philosophical agreements and conflicts in the pages of The Way. He examines their intense commitment to freedom, their often contentious struggles to bring the Christian tradition as experienced in the Eastern Church into conversation with Christians of the West, and their distinctive contributions to Western theology and ecumenism from the perspective of their Russian Orthodox experience. He also traces the influence of these extraordinary intellectuals in present-day Russia, Western Europe, and the United States. Throughout this comprehensive study, Arjakovsky presents a wealth of arguments, from debates over “Russian exceptionalism” to the possibilities of a Christian and Orthodox version of socialist politics, the degree to which the church could allow its agenda to be shaped by both local and global political realities, and controversies about the distinctively Russian theology of Divine Wisdom, Sophia. Arjakovsky also maps out the relationships these émigré thinkers established with significant Western theologians such as Jacques Maritain, Yves-Marie Congar, Henri de Lubac, and Jean Daniélou, who provided the intellectual underpinnings of Vatican II.
Columbia's John McGuckin, whom I interviewed here, says this about the book:

The Way is an important work, brilliantly researched, and the product of a true scholar who talks to us theologically as he progresses. Antoine Arjakovsky’s main focus of interest is on ecumenical theology, and he argues convincingly that Orthodox thought as manifested in these leading-edge thinkers still has a major role to play in opening an authentically Orthodox but inclusive ecclesiological line of approach to contemporary Christianity. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Orthodox Modernity in Estonia and Latvia

To have followed the plight of the Estonian Orthodox Church in the aftermath of the collapse of the USSR was to be introduced rudely to Russian chauvinism, and Moscow-Constantinople rivalry, in a rather ugly way. These were not new conflicts, but dated back to the early decades of the twentieth century. A recent book treats what happened in Estonia as well as Latvia from the time of the Bolshevik revolution until the Second World War: Simon Rimstad, The Challenges of Modernity to the Orthodox Church in Estonia and Latvia (1917-1940) (Peter Lang, 2012), 333pp.

About this book we are told:
After the collapse of the Russian Empire in 1917, Orthodox Christians in Estonia and Latvia had to rethink their place in society and reorganise the local Orthodox Church. The Church was challenged both by the new political circumstances and by societal antagonism. In both cases, the local ecclesiastic authorities considered themselves independent from the Patriarchate of Moscow, although in very different fashions. This study uses primarily periodicals and other published sources from the period between 1917 and 1940 to shed light on the internal discussions in the respective Orthodox Churches on issues of authority, identity, and history. This includes creating adequate structures for the Church, reforming liturgical elements and emphasising the positive role of Orthodox Christianity in Estonian and Latvian history.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Just Wars and Jihads

I recently received from Oxford University Press a new collection edited by Sohail H. Hashmi, Just Wars, Holy Wars, and Jihads: Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Encounters and Exchanges (2012), 456pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
Surveying the period from the rise of Islam in the early seventh century to the present day, Just Wars, Holy Wars, and Jihads is the first book to investigate in depth the historical interaction among Jewish, Christian, and Muslim ideas about when the use of force is justified. Grouped under the three labels of just war, holy war, and jihad, these ideas are explored throughout twenty chapters that cover wide-ranging topics from the impact of the early Islamic conquests upon Byzantine, Syriac, and Muslim thinking on justified war to analyzing the impact of international law and terrorism on conceptions of just war and jihad in the modern day. This study serves as a major contribution to the comparative study of the ethics of war and peace.
Perusing the table of contents, I find several chapters directly pertaining to Eastern Christian realities, including the following chapters:

1)  "Religious Services for Byzantine Soldiers and the Possibility of Martyrdom c. 400-c.1000."

3) "God's War and His Warriors: The First 100 Years of Syriac Accounts of the Islamic Consquests."

5) "Ibn 'Asakir and the Intensification and Reorientation of Sunni Jihad Ideology in Crusader-Era Syria."

Other chapters cover various thinkers, and other regions, including India, France, Spain, southern Italy, Israel, and areas such as Ottoman history and international law. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

How Should Church and State Relate?

For Eastern Christians, the question of how Church and state should relate, and even how they have or have not related in the past, is by no means settled. As I've noted before, two important scholars have both recently taken up this issue in different ways: Aristotle Papanikolaou of Fordham and John McGuckin of Columbia.

Set for release later this fall is a new book that looks at Church-state relations in Catholic (France), Protestant (Germany) and Orthodox (Russia) contexts: Stephen Strehle, The Dark Side of Church/State Separation: The French Revolution, Nazi Germany, and International Communism (Transaction, 2013), 415pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
The Dark Side of Church/State Separation analyzes the Enlightenment’s attack upon the Judeo-Christian tradition and its impact upon the development of secular regimes in France, Germany, and Russia. Such regimes followed the anti-Semitic/anti-Christian agenda of the French Enlightenment in blaming the Judeo-Christian tradition for all the ills of European society and believing that human beings can develop their own set of values and purposes through rational means, apart from any revelation from God or Scripture.
Stephen Strehle’s analysis extends our understanding of church/state relations and its history. He confirms the spiritual roots of modern anti-Semitism within the ideology of the Enlightenment and recognizes the intimate relationship between anti-Semitism and anti-Christianity. Strehle questions the absolute doctrine of church/state separation, given its background in the bigotries of the philosophes. He notes the nefarious motives of subsequent regimes, which used the French doctrine to replace the religious community with the state and its secular ideology. This detailed historical analysis of original sources and secondary literature is woven together with special appreciation for the philosophical and theological ideas that contributed to the emergence of political institutions. Readers will gain an understanding of the most influential ideas shaping the modern world and present-day culture.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Christianity and Islam and the Issue of Pluralism

As Christians and Muslims continue to struggle one another in today's world--a struggle which, of course, Eastern Christians are familiar with from the very beginnings of Islam--a recent study may shed some light on how each can live with the other in the diversity of our time: Lewis Winkler, Contemporary Muslim and Christian Responses to Religious Plurality: Wolfhart Pannenberg in Dialogue with Abdulaziz Sachedina (James Clarke and Co., 2012),350pp.

About this book we are told:
In our rapidly changing and progressively globalized world, Christians and Muslims are faced with the prospect of directly encountering and responding to people of other faiths and cultures. This has pushed us all to address the vital question of how best to live with, work beside, and love one other as fellow citizens of our planet. Winkler argues that we must continually dialogue with one another - not only about the beliefs and practices held in common between us, but also about the ways in which we are distinctively different.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Key Theological Thinkers

Ashgate at month's end is set to release a big new collection made all the more impressive by the wonderfully high number of Orthodox figures covered: Staale Johannes Kristiansen and Svein Rise, eds., Key Theological Thinkers: From Modern to Postmodern (Ashgate, 2013), 690pp.

About this impressive tome we are told:
The 20th and 21st Centuries have been characterized by theologians and philosophers rethinking theology and revitalizing the tradition. This unique anthology presents contributions from leading contemporary theologians - including Rowan Williams, Fergus Kerr, Aidan Nichols, G.R. Evans and Tracey Rowland - who offer portraits of over fifty key theological thinkers in the modern and postmodern era. Distinguished by its broad ecumenical perspective, this anthology spans arguably one of the most creative periods in the history of Christian theology and includes thinkers from all three Christian traditions: Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox.
Each individual portrait in this anthology includes a biographical introduction, an overview of theological or philosophical writing, presentation of key thoughts, and contextual placing of the thinker within 20th Century religious discourse. Overview articles explore postmodern theology, radical orthodoxy, ecumenical theology, feminist theology, and liberation theology. A final section includes portraits of important thinkers who have influenced Christian thought from other fields, not least from Continental philosophy and literature.
The publisher provides a lengthy list of contents, and I have highlighted the Orthodox contributions:

Preface; Part I Introductions: A century of theological creativity: perspective on the renewal and development of the Christian tradition, Staale Johannes Kristiansen and Svein Rise; Protestant theology in the 20th century, Niels Henrik Gregersen; Catholic theology in the 20th century, Tracey Rowland; Orthodox theology in the 20th century, Aristotle Papanikolaou. 

Part II Protestant Theologians (Continental and Scandinavian): Karl Barth, Harald Hegstad; Rudolf Bultmann, Svein Aage Christoffersen; Werner Elert, Bernt T. Oftestad; Paul Tillich, Svein Olaf Thorbjørnsen; Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Trygve Wyller; Knud Eljer Løgstrup, Svein Aage Christoffersen; Regin Prenter, Ådne Njå; Gustav Wingren, Jonny Karlsson; Jürgen Moltmann, Idar Kjølsvik; Wolfhart Pannenberg, Svein Rise; Eberhard Jüngel, Kjetil Hafstad.

Part III Catholic Theologians: Henri de Lubac, Fergus Kerr; Yves Congar, Gabriel Flynn; Karl Rahner, Svein Rise; Bernard Lonergan, Kirsten Busch Nielsen; Hans Urs von Balthasar, Staale Johannes Kristiansen; Jean Daniélou, Aidan Nichols; Edward Schillebeeckx, Olav Hovdelien; John Paul II/Karol Wojtyla, Michael Waldstein; Benedict XVI /Joseph Ratzinger, Gösta Hallonsten; Hans Küng, Hermann Häring; Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, Annelies Moeser.

Part IV Orthodox Theologians: Sergei Bulgakov, Andrew Louth; Georges Florovsky, Brandon Gallaher; Nicolas Afanasiev, Michael Plekon; Vladimir Lossky, Maii Kotiranta; Dumitru Staniloae, Calinic Berger; Alexander Schmemann, Sigurd Hareide; Matta El-Meskeen, Samuel Rubenson; Emilianos Timiadis, Gunnar af Hällström; Johannes Zizioulas, Lars Erk Rikheim.

Part V British and American Theologians: Austin Farrer, Margaret Yee; Michael Ramsay, Rowan Williams; Henry Chadwick, G.R. Evans; Jaroslav Pelikan, Jan Schumacher; George Lindbeck, Roland Spjuth; Robert W. Jenson, Olli-Pekka Vainio; Sallie McFague, Ellen T. Armour; David Tracy, Jan-Olav Henriksen; Stanley Hauerwas, Arne Rasmusson; Sarah Coakley, Linn Marie Tonstad; Alister E. McGrath, Olli-Pekka Vainio.

Part VI Theological Movements and Developments: Postmodern theology, Jayne Svenungsson; Radical orthodoxy, Ola Sigurdson; Feminist theology, Astri Hauge; Ecumenical theology, Peter Lodberg; Liberation theology, Sturla J. Stålsett; Pentecostal theology, Frank D. Macchia. Part VII Theology, Philosophy and Literature: G.K. Chesterton, Torbjørn Holt; Jacques Maritain, Gregory M. Reichberg; Edith Stein, Tor Martin Møller; C.S. Lewis, Oskar Skarsaune; Northrop Frye, Jan Schumacher; Paul Ricoeur, René Rosfort; Thomas Merton, Henning Sandström; Christos Yannaras, Norman Russell; John D. Caputo, Neal DeRoo; Jean-Luc Marion, Jan-Olav Henriksen; Index.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Greek Americans

Set for release late this year is an updated version of a study from a few years ago focusing on one of the largest groups of Eastern Christians in America, viz., the Greeks: Peter C. Moskos and Charles C. Moskos, Greek Americans: Struggle and Success (Transaction Publishers, 2013), 250pp.

About this book we are told:
This is an engrossing account of Greek Americans—their history, strengths, conflicts, aspirations, and contributions. Blending sociological insight with historical detail, Peter C. and Charles C. Moskos trace the Greek-American experience from the wave of mass immigration in the early 1900s to today. This is the story of immigrants, most of whom worked hard to secure middle-class status. It is also the story of their children and grandchildren, many of whom maintain an attachment to Greek ethnic identity even as they have become one of America’s most successful ethnic groups. As the authors rightly note, the true measure of Greek-Americans is the immigrants themselves who came to America without knowing the language and without education. They raised solid families in the new country and shouldered responsibilities for those in the old. They laid the basis for an enduring Greek-American community. Included in this completely revised edition is an introduction by Michael Dukakis and chapters relating to the early struggles of Greeks in America, the Greek Orthodox Church, success in America, and the survival and expansion of Greek identity despite intermarriage. This work will be of value to scholars of ethnic studies, those interested in Greek culture and communities, and sociologists and historians.

Monday, May 20, 2013

From Arab Spring to Islamic Winter

Set to be published in August is a book whose premise, sadly, many of us foresaw from the beginning of the Arab Spring, which has, so far, everywhere ended badly for Eastern Christians, not least in Egypt and Syria, and could well get worse in both places: Raphael Israeli, From Arab Spring to Islamic Winter (Transaction Press, 2013), 334pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
The world is watching with uncertainity as the "Arab Spring" unfolds. Optmistically named by international media sources, the term "Arab Spring" associates the unrest with ideas of renewal, revival, and democratic thought and deed. Many hoped the overthrow of authoritarian leaders signaled a promising new beginning for the Arab world. Raphael Israeli argues that instead of paving a path toward liberal democracy, the Arab Spring in fact launched a power struggle.
Judging from the experiences of countries where the dust is settling—including Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and perhaps also Syria and Libya—it appears that Islamic governments will fill the vacuum in leadership. The hopes that swept the Islamic world with the Arab Spring have given way to a winter of lost hopes and aspirations, as it becomes increasingly clear that democratic outcomes are not on the horizon. What is worse is that the West seems to have abandoned its hopes for democracy and freedom in the region, instead making peace with the idea that Islamic governments must be accepted as the lesser of evil options.
Presenting a clear-eyed picture of the situation, Israeli examines thematic problems that cut across all the Muslim states experiencing unrest. He groups the countries into various blocs according to their shared characteristics, then discusses these groups one by one. For each country, he considers whether the liberal-democratic option is viable and examines what kind of regime could be considered legitimate and stable. This volume offers valuable insights for political scientists, Middle Eastern specialists, and the general informed public eager to comprehend the import of these momentous events.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Liturgy and Ecclesiology

The great moral philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre opened a 1976 essay on the bicentennial of the American Revolution with the amusing quip that surely everyone in that year had had quite enough of the commemorations, and the next author to utter "just one more platitude, one last cliché" will see "perhaps the population of the United States...run screaming into the oceans and the Great Lakes." A similar sentiment perhaps overtakes those familiar with the parade of books still emerging to celebrate the opening of Vatican II more than 50 years ago now. There is on the part of some an understandable, and likely increasing, sense that we have been sated with such books; but as the most important Christian event of the last century, whose effects continue to be felt and whose legacy is still far from settled, the council remains a topic of keen interest on the part of many. (For those feeling fatigued by all the turgid analysis of the council, I recommend taking a break with the hugely entertaining diaries of Yves Congar about the council, discussed here and especially here.) While we have seen many histories of the council written, including those by John O'Malley, there is still a need for an analysis of the unfinished and, in some ways, incoherent, liturgical and ecclesiological visions (and all their ecumenical implications, perforce) of the council. A recent book attempts to look critically at the connections between the liturgy and ecclesiology by analyzing Sacrosanctum Concilium and its aftermath (including the 2007 Summorum Pontificio): Massimo Faggioli, True Reform: Liturgy and Ecclesiology in Sacrosanctum Concilium (Liturgical Press, 2012), xi+188pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
For Massimo Faggioli, the debate about the meaning of Vatican II too often misses the profound significance of that council's first and perhaps most consequential document, Sacrosanctum Concilium. The result is a misunderstanding of both the council as a whole and the liturgical reform that followed from it. In True Reform, Faggioli takes Sacrosanctum Concilium as a hermeneutical key of the council. He offers a thorough reflection on the relationship between the liturgical constitution and the whole achievement of Vatican II and argues that the interconnections between the two must emerge if we want to understand the impact of the council on global Catholicism.

This is in some ways an enjoyable book precisely because it is so maddeningly confused, transparently tendentious, and on some crucial matters passionately wrong-headed. In other respects, however, Faggioli has advanced crucial, unique arguments that very much need and definitely merit a wider hearing. There are many gems buried in this book, but one must do a lot of spade-work to extract them. Since I shall criticize this book rather forcefully, let me begin by laying out where I think the author is correct:

  • Faggioli is correct in his overall thesis that Sacrosanctum Concilium contains an ecclesiological vision, and that such a vision is a welcome correction to the vision coming out of Vatican I in 1870; 
  • He is, further, correct that subsequent liturgical legislation, above all Summorum Pontificum, also has an ecclesiological vision--though, as we shall see, most certainly not the one Faggioli thinks it has;
  • He is correct, albeit in a much narrower sense than he realizes, that some--but only some--of the opponents of the liturgical reforms of the council are motivated by nostalgic hankering for a romanticized past that never truly was;
  • He is correct that some of the critics of the council criticize it above all for its moving away from an ultramontane, centralized, papalist vision of the Church, and that such critics are wrongheaded and must be resisted;
  • He is, finally, correct that to return to such a papalist vision would be a disaster for ecumenical relations and, indeed, for the entire Catholic Church as such.

Now let us consider some of the weaknesses. He begins with the bald claim that "the liturgical debate at Vatican II was the first and most radical effort of modern Catholicism to cope with the dawn of the 'secular age'" (4). If this is so, then, following as I do Catherine Pickstock (whom Faggioli never cites), the liturgical constitution must be counted a failure. It remains a source of amazement to me that (so far as I have been able to discover to date) there has been almost no serious scholarly engagement in English of Pickstock's arguments in After Writing: On the Liturgical Cosummation of Philosophy, where she argues (cf. pp. 171-76 especially; but see also her essays "Asyndeton: Syntax and Insanity. A Study of the Revision of the Nicene Creed," Modern Theology 10 [1994]; "Liturgy and Modernity," Telos 113 [1998]; and more recently "The Ritual Birth of Sense," Telos 162 [Spring 2013]) that the Vatican II reforms were not, contrary to their usual portrayal, radical reforms. Rather, they “participated in an entirely more sinister conservatism. For they failed to challenge those structures of the modern secular world which are wholly inimical to liturgical purpose: those structures, indeed, which perpetuate a separation of everyday life from liturgical enactment.” The particular aspects of anti-ritual modernity that need challenging, according to Pickstock, include “such anachronistic structural concepts as ‘argument,’ ‘linear order,’ ‘segmentation,’ ‘discrete stages,’ and the notion of ‘new information’ outside ‘linguistic redundancy’ or repetition.”   For Pickstock the reformed Mass, in eliminating repetition and patterning itself on the ideas of modern communications, has lost its “apophatic liturgical ‘stammer,’ and oral spontaneity and ‘confusion’.”

Now, as I am aware (from having published an article on Pickstock and Byzantine liturgy more than a decade ago), there have been numerous reviews of her book and critical discussions of it, but I have not (yet) been able to find anybody who has seriously engaged her central points about the elimination of repetition, the substitution of linear order and segmentation, and the use of asyndeton rather than hypotactic and paratactic syntax in modern English liturgical translations (including Lutheran, Anglican, and RC translations). In failing to take up these arguments, liturgists have, it seems to me, irresponsibly overlooked what I regard as the most destructive legacy of the council, and the most critical part of her book. The book has been out for nearly fifteen years, but I cannot find people to have picked this argument up--either to reject or embrace it. And if that is the case, then I'm of the old school: qui tacet consentire videtur. 
Faggioli has no time for such arguments--or many others one could enumerate--it seems plain after reading this book: time and again he refuses to acknowledge that critics of the council even have arguments. (In this regard he clearly reminds one of Lionel Trilling's famously arch dismissal of political conservatives as not having ideas but "just irritable mental gestures."). In this spirit Faggioli  hurls what he seems (amusingly) to regard as a thunderous epithet at all critics of Vatican II: they are just indulging in "nostalgia" and nothing more. That word and its cognates appears dozens of times in the volume and is made unthinkingly and lazily to bear an enormous weight it could not, and does not, sustain. It becomes very silly after the second or third instance, rather like the child who cannot think of anything more cutting or original to say and so resorts repeatedly to deriding his enemy on the other side of the sandbox as a "dummy." Whatever you think of Pickstock's arguments--or dozens of others one could cite (e.g., Aidan Nichols' Looking at the Liturgy; Jonathan Robinson's The Mass and Modernity: Walking to Heaven Backward, or Joseph Ratzinger in his Milestones: Memoirs, 1927-1977, inter alia) but certainly not find, at least by name, in Faggioli--she is not engaged in "nostalgia" but in very high-level textual criticism worthy of a serious scholarly response.

Shortly after this, Faggioli makes a point that I wish he had spent more time developing: the real purpose of Sacrosanctum Concilium (SC) was ecclesiology, and the real purpose of its ecclesiology was "to give 'completion and equilibrium' to the bishop, to the local Church, and to the overall theology of the Church that became prevalent after Vatican I." In other words, if I understand him correctly, SC was supposed to be a corrective to Pastor Aeternus. This is a novel argument very much worth exploring, which he does a little later (p.22) in noting that SC "is the...least dependent on recent papal teaching for its inner balance and core concepts." SC, in other words, was not the product of straitened Latin theologizing (whether neo-Scholastic or whatever) or papal magisterial thought: it was, Faggioli shows, the fruit of the ressourcement movement, including, he briefly acknowledges, certain figures of the Christian East (though not including Alexander Schmemann, one of many names one searches for in vain in this book). One discovery of the ressourcement movement was that of the role of the bishop in the early Church: "the ecclesiology of the liturgical constitution embodies the rediscovery of the ecclesiology of the monarchic episcopate in accordance with the model of the fathers of the Church" (51).

There are other bon mots Faggioli drops along the way, including this: "liturgical ressourcement at Vatican II meant the ripening of the ecumenical language of Catholicism and a powerful blow to every nostalgia [!] of 'Uniatism'" (36). He quickly drops this and never engages it again in the rest of the book--though he does cite, in somewhat truncated fashion, the influence of the Melkites at the council, which Robert Taft has of course discussed elsewhere. And he rightly notes in a variety of places the fact that more than Roman-rite liturgies were offered at the council had a major, if perhaps underappreciated, impact: "the liturgies (in rites different from the Roman) celebrated in St. Peter's contributed greatly to the development of a truly cathoilc, that is, 'universal,' ecclesiology in the council fathers" (63). I think this is sound, but such a sanguine assessment of these liturgies should be set alongside the rather weary comments on them recorded (rather astonishingly, I would add, given Congar's famous graciousness towards the Christian East, and his long, irenic, intelligent study of it) by Congar, which I note here.

There are other areas where the author does not develop his arguments in sufficient depth and detail to be convincing: e.g., he tries to suggest that SC's call for "noble simplicity" (no.34) was much more ecclesiological than "aesthetic" in nature. That is an intriguing line of argumentation that I wanted to hear more of, not least because I think--and have argued elsewhere--that that phrase was the single-most destructive thing in the entire document, and the cause of a renewed iconoclasm in the Roman Church over the last half-century--an argument made by others, including Joseph Ratzinger's The Spirit of the Liturgy.

But let us turn finally to the central thrust of the book: the ecclesiological implications of SC for the life and structure of the Church today. In this Eastern Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and many others have a considerable stake. The author starts off encouragingly by saying that "Lumen Gentium is silent on the practical application of episcopal collegiality whereas Sacrosanctum Concilium is not, and, as a matter of fact, it opened the door to the most important practical implementation of episcopal collegiality in modern Catholicism: national bishops conferences" (73). I have argued elsewhere at length that we need far more such practices in the Catholic Church today--not some anemic "collegiality" but a very robust synodality, and the fact we have seen less and less of it in some areas since Vatican II is very alarming. But the one area where, since 2007, we have not (pace Faggioli) seen more centralization is precisely the liturgy. The one area where we have seen greater freedom at the local level has been precisely the liturgy, thanks to Pope Benedict.

It is at this point that the author gets matters completely backwards. Faggioli is adamant that "questioning the liturgical reform of Vatican II means undoing also the ecclesiology of the liturgical reform and the ecclesiology of Vatican II. Benedict XVI's motu proprio Summorum Pontificum (July 7, 2007), which reintroduced the pre-Vatican II missal, entailed extraordinary consequences from an ecclesiological point of view" (86). And what are those consequences, lest we have misunderstood the author's tender sensibilities to this point? "A rejection of the liturgical reform of Vatican II would mean a premature death of the ecclesiology of the local Church in Catholic theology and its ecclesial praxis" (89); and "a great number of criticisms against the liturgical reform and its application come from a misunderstanding or from a refusal of a renewed ecclesiology" (91). Faggioli seems to think that merely repeating something enough times makes it so.

To this I can only respond, as the late Baroness Thatcher did in her fatal speech in Westminster in October 1990 discussing European federal institutions: no, no, no! I am staggered at just how backwards this argument is, at how impervious it is to actual evidence. (What's the old slogan? Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts?) The whole point of Summorum Pontificum (SP) is to take liturgy out of the hands of curial officials (whether at the Roman-universal or episcopal-local levels) and leave it in the hands of the priests and people in local communities. If there are ecclesiological implications to this decision, and there are, then they are the exact opposite of what Faggioli claims to fear: SP genuinely returns liturgy to the people, a decision I can only wholly welcome for that reason and many others (including the possibility of the "extraordinary" form influencing the ordinary form so that the manifold and manifest defects in the latter may, one hopes, be at least partially healed). This is, surely, the most radical decision not merely since the gross and unjust centralization begun after Pastor Aeternus but indeed since the Council of Trent. This is, surely, a profound ecclesiological blow to the forces of curial control and disastrous papal micromanaging of the liturgy, which should never have been allowed to run riot in the first place. This is, surely, the plain meaning of Article 2 of Summorum (my emphasis):

Art. 2. In Masses celebrated without the people, each Catholic priest of the Latin rite, whether secular or regular, may use the Roman Missal published by Bl. Pope John XXIII in 1962, or the Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1970, and may do so on any day with the exception of the Easter Triduum. For such celebrations, with either one Missal or the other, the priest has no need for permission from the Apostolic See or from his Ordinary.
How a Mass celebrated in private (a theologically suspect Latin practice, but that is another matter) could possibly deal a "death"-blow to an ecclesiology of the local Church is impossible to fathom.

Consider the other relevant provisions: Article 4 goes on to say that "Celebrations of Mass as mentioned above in art. 2 may - observing all the norms of law - also be attended by faithful who, of their own free will, ask to be admitted." And Article 5 (§ 1) notes that "In parishes, where there is a stable group of faithful who adhere to the earlier liturgical tradition, the pastor should willingly accept their requests to celebrate the Mass according to the rite of the Roman Missal published in 1962." Thus the law provides in at least three places that the priest and people do not need to grovel to the local bishop, still less to the bishop of Rome, in sorting out their liturgical life. I fail to see why this is a bad thing. He is right that there are ecclesiological consequences here, but any fair-minded analysis could (for lack of a better word) only call them "congregationalist" in nature--in other words, the exact opposite of what Faggioli alleges. Thus Faggioli's fearful claim that even criticizing Vatican II's liturgical reform is of a package with the "death" of a local-Church ecclesiology is simply absurd on its face. (The only plausibility this argument could have, which I readily grant, is in the hands of certain members of the SSPX, whose ecclesiology tends towards the most  risibly ultramontane and whose history is indeed bogus and the product of nostalgia for a past that never was. But Faggioli does not sufficiently differentiate between SSPX cranks, a tiny number, and other legitimate and more numerous critics.) Summorum is, if anything, a liturgical charter born precisely out of a solicitude for the local Church above all.

Remember SP's author: Pope Benedict saw, and denounced in his Milestones: Memoirs, 1927-1977, the fact that the liturgical life of local churches had been so rudely up-ended by the destructive interference of international committees of specialists enforcing their will by papal fiat, a process he rightly derided as an unprecedented and unjustified papal power-grab. He was also aware of how many curialists in Rome and bishops and their own curialists in dioceses around the world thwarted the desires of people to access the extraordinary form through the somewhat restricted provisions of Ecclesia Dei Adflicta so he cut this whole lot out of the chain of command, which was a brilliant tactical move and a rightful attempt to check the excesses of papal power (and curial meddling) in matters liturgical.

Finally, it does not seem to have occurred to Faggioli that one can hold multiple positions at the same time which are perfectly congruent and coherent. By that I mean that there are many critics of the reform who have no desire to return to any kind of yet more centralized ecclesiology of the pre-Vatican II variety. I am myself--and can easily think of many others--one such critic: I think the liturgical reforms were good in some ways, but hugely disastrous in most others and as a consequence I think that the extraordinary form should be used as widely as possible; at the same time I think the ecclesiological reforms were good in some ways though they did not even begin to go far enough. I want very much to see the liturgical and ecclesiological problems fixed, but I want at least as much to see that the council's eccelesiological and ecumenical gains are preserved and not rolled back. Why one cannot hold both sets of desires simultaneously is a mystery to Faggioli but not to me. It is a pity that his ham-fisted defense of one vision of Vatican II and his love of papal centralization (as long as it is used to enforce the favored causes) blinds him to this reality, and that his de haute en bas attitude would never condescend to engage such arguments, which are more complicated than the simplistic tale on offer in this little book.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

On the Eve of Islam's Conquests

Oxford's Averil Cameron, one of the world's foremost Byzantinists, published a volume of collected essays last month trying to shed light on places and a period still often misunderstood: Late Antiquity on the Eve of Islam (Ashgate, 2013), 452pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
This volume reflects the huge upsurge of interest in the Near East and early Islam currently taking place among historians of late antiquity. At the same time, Islamicists and Qur'anic scholars are also increasingly seeking to place the life of Muhammad and the Qur'an in a late antique background. Averil Cameron, herself one of the leading scholars of late antiquity and Byzantium, has chosen eleven key articles that together give a rounded picture of the most important trends in late antique scholarship over the last decades, and provide a coherent context for the emergence of the new religion. A substantial introduction, with a detailed bibliography, surveys the present state of the field, as well as discussing some recent themes in Qur'anic and early Islamic scholarship from the point of view of a late antique historian. The volume also provides an invaluable introduction to recent scholarship, making clear the ferment of religious change that was taking place across the Near East before, during and after the lifetime of Muhammad. It will be essential reading for Islamicists and late antique students and scholars alike.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Bible in Arabic

Sidney Griffith, arguably North America's leading scholar on Syriac Christianity and on its relations with Islam, whom I had the honor of meeting last fall as he chaired a panel I was on at the Association for the Middle East and Africa's annual conference in Washington, DC, is the author of the invaluable book The Church in the Shadow of the Mosque: Christians and Muslims in the World of Islam (Princeton UP, 2007).

At the end of this month he has another book coming out that looks to be equally fascinating and learned: The Bible in Arabic: The Scriptures of the 'People of the Book' in the Language of Islam (Princeton UP, 2013), 248pp.

About this book (whose introduction in a PDF is here) the publisher tells us:
From the first centuries of Islam to well into the Middle Ages, Jews and Christians produced hundreds of manuscripts containing portions of the Bible in Arabic. Until recently, however, these translations remained largely neglected by Biblical scholars and historians. In telling the story of the Bible in Arabic, this book casts light on a crucial transition in the cultural and religious life of Jews and Christians in Arabic-speaking lands.
In pre-Islamic times, Jewish and Christian scriptures circulated orally in the Arabic-speaking milieu. After the rise of Islam--and the Qur'an's appearance as a scripture in its own right--Jews and Christians translated the Hebrew Bible and the Greek New Testament into Arabic for their own use and as a response to the Qur'an's retelling of Biblical narratives. From the ninth century onward, a steady stream of Jewish and Christian translations of the Hebrew Bible and New Testament crossed communal borders to influence the Islamic world. The Bible in Arabic offers a new frame of reference for the pivotal place of Arabic Bible translations in the religious and cultural interactions between Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Byzantine Theology's Philosophical Background

A recent collection under the editorship of Antonio Rigo of the University of Venice continues to expand our understanding of the intellectual life of the Byzantine Empire: Byzantine Theology and its Philosophical Background (Brepols, 2012), 229pp.

About this book we are told:
Since Byzantium never saw a consistent and definitive attempt at determining the status of philosophy and theology the way Western scholasticism did, the relationship between them in the Greek-speaking medieval world has always been regarded as a problematic issue. The essays contained in this volume work from the assumption that philosophy in Byzantium was not a monolithic doctrinal tradition, but related to a manifold set of intellectual phenomena, institutional frameworks, doctrines, and text traditions that influenced the theological literature in different ways according to the different manifestations and facets of philosophy itself.

The publisher also provides the table of contents:


Katerina Ierodiakonou, Introduction

Georgi Kapriev: Was hat die Philosophie mit der Theologie zu tun? Der Fall Byzanz

Paul Géhin: Sur une expression des «Chapitres sur la prière» d’Evagre le Pontique: «Vis selon l’intellect»

Valery Petroff: The Sun and its Rays in Neo-Platonism and the «Corpus Areopagiticum»

John A. Demetracopoulos: In Search of the Pagan and Christian Sources of John of Damascus’ Theodicy: Ammonius, the Son of Hermeias, Stephanus of Athens and John Chrysostom on God’s Foreknowledge and Predestination and Man’s Freewill

Brigitte Mondrain: Copier et lire des manuscrits théologiques et philosophiques à Byzance

Michele Trizio: «Una è la verità che pervade ogni cosa». La sapienza profana nelle opere perdute di Barlaam Calabro 

Oleg Rodionov: The Chapters of Kallistos Angelikoudes. The Relationship of the separate Series and their main Theological Themes.

John Monfasani: The Pro-Latin Apologetics of Greek Émigrés in Fifteenth Century Italy

Pavel Ermilov: F. Uspenskij and his Critics in Late Nineteenth Century Russia: a debate concerning Byzantine philosophy

Peter Schreiner: Hans-Georg Beck und die byzantinische Theologie: zum 100. Geburtstag eines großen Gelehrten

List of the Contributors

Friday, May 10, 2013

Religion in Turkey Today

Turkey remains in the headlines, not only because of a recent visit there by the US secretary of state, and not only because Turkey continues to receive many refugees from Syria, but also because Turkish Christian-Muslim relations remain controverted and difficult. Turkey was, of course, explicitly founded in the aftermath of the Great War as an officially and deliberately "secular" Muslim power. But that founding secularism has increasingly come in for challenge in the last decade. A recent book helps to shed light on these developments: Berna Turam, ed., Secular State and Religious Society: Two Forces in Play in Turkey (Palgrave MacMillan, 2012), 234pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
Ever since the highly controversial appointment of a pious president in the secular Turkish Republic in 2007, both the Turkish state and society have been deeply divided over the issue of piety and Muslim politics. The essays in this book reveal that state secularism and religious society mutually form, inform and transform each other. The contributors use fresh data and a variety of primary research methods to explore all the facets of the state-society relationship and consider the implications of their findings for freedom and democracy in the state.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Ephraim Radner's Ecclesial-Existential Despair

I'm very nearly finished slogging my way through Ephraim Radner, A Brutal Unity: The Spiritual Politics of the Christian Church (Baylor UP, 2012), 500pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
To describe the Church as "united" is a factual misnomer--even at its conception centuries ago. Ephraim Radner provides a robust rethinking of the doctrine of the church in light of Christianity's often violent and at times morally suspect history. He holds in tension the strange and transcendent oneness of God with the necessarily temporal and political function of the Church, and, in so doing, shows how the goals and failures of the liberal democratic state provide revelatory experiences that greatly enhance one's understanding of the nature of Christian unity.
It is a maddening book: full of searing, and very rare, insights which we all need to ponder at length and from which we can profit a great deal. Radner raises questions, challenges, and issues that almost nobody else does--and does not allow facile answers to them, either.

But it is also prolix book that is far too long--so long that the author almost seems to forget where he was going in several places, and never seems to come back to flesh out, let alone attempt to resolve, some of the crucial issues with which he so commendably began.

For all that--and I will have more comments in more detail in the coming days--this book deserves a hearing, which I say because, candidly, it forced me to rethink arguments advanced by William Cavanaugh, which I long ago accepted as cogent and compelling on the issue of violence and the impossibility of distinguishing violence done in the name of "religion" vs. that of the modern state. Radner shows that matters are both more complicated and also simpler than Cavanaugh allows.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Greek Muslims

As I noted recently in discussing "Greek" Christians and "Turkish" Muslims in late Ottoman Anatolia, relations in the region, and shifting understandings of "identity" have often been very complicated indeed. A recent study by Kevin Featherstone sheds further light on an especially neglected group: The Last Ottomans: The Muslim Minority of Greece 1940-1949.

About this book the publisher tells us:
This book provides a new study of the international and local politics surrounding the Muslim minority of Western Thrace (Greece) in the 1940s, based on previously unseen archival material. It addresses the minority’s complex identity, its relations with other communities in the area, the international diplomacy of WWII and strategic considerations of the Cold War.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Icons for Holy Week and Pascha

With most of the Christian East now in Paschaltide, it may be too early to think of Lent and Pascha next year, but Liturgical Press has new works forthcoming that will be useful to Western and Eastern Christians alike, not least as 2014 sees Pascha in the Gregorian and Julian calendars on the same date, viz., April 20th. Both of these works are authored by Charles Rohrbacher, beginning with his The Icons of the Easter Proclamation (Liturgical Press, 2013). 

 About this the publisher tells us:

"Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven, exult, let Angel ministers of God exult, let the trumpet of salvation sound aloud our mighty King's triumph! Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her, ablaze with light from her eternal King, let all corners of the earth be glad, knowing an end to gloom and darkness." The Easter Proclamation, or Exsultet, is the triumphant song of praise that proclaims "Christ is Risen!" during the Easter Vigil in the Roman Rite. Acclaimed iconographer Charles Rohrbacher has illustrated a one-of-a-kind ritual book: The Easter Proclamation (Exsultet). This CD presents the vivid, scripturally grounded images of his unique work for projection in the sanctuary and use in prayer. The icons of The Easter Proclamation draw on the vivid and poetic texts of the ancient hymn. They depict Holy Mother Church, Moses leading the Israelites through the Red Sea, the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden, Christ the Morning Star and other images from the great story of salvation as proclaimed in this sacred moment. Charles Rohrbacher reverently depicts each of these scenes using classical iconography techniques. Each unique picture draws on the long tradition of Christian icon writing.

Later this year, Liturgical Press will also bring out Icons for Holy Week, about which we are told: 
Enhance the beauty and meaning of your community's Holy Week services. Acclaimed iconographer Charles Rohrbacher has illustrated The Passions of Holy Week, a beautiful ritual book to help you proclaim the gospels for Palm Sunday and Good Friday. This CDROM presents the vivid, scripturally grounded images of his unique work for projection in the sanctuary and use in prayer. The illustrations included in Icons for Holy Week draw on the dramatic biblical texts of the Lord's passion. They depict the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, the agony in the garden, Jesus before Pilate, Jesus scourged at the pillar, Simon of Cyrene/the Way of the Cross, Christ crucified with Mary, John and the holy women of Jerusalem, Jesus and the Good Thief, and more. Rohrbacher reverently portrays each of these scenes using classical iconography techniques. Each unique picture draws on the long tradition of Christian icon writing.
About the author the publisher tells us:
Deacon Charles Rohrbacher has been an icon writer over the past thirty years for Orthodox, Eastern Catholic, and Roman Catholic parishes as well as for individual patrons, including The Easter Proclamation (Exsultet) (Liturgical Press, 2011). He lives in Juneau, Alaska, with his wife and children.

Friday, May 3, 2013

East-West History and Relations

Robert Taft recently gave an interview about Orthodox-Catholic relations, especially in the new papacy of his fellow Jesuit. You can read that here. Attentive readers will note that much of what is said here has been said elsewhere by him, but it bears repeating.

Taft also mentions a new book by another important historian, Robert Louis Wilken, whose earlier book, The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of God (Yale UP, 2005) I used in a course several years ago.

Wilken has written numerous books and done important historical work on pivotal figures and crucial issues such as John Chrysostom and the Jews: Rhetoric and Reality in the Late 4th Century (U Cal Press, 1983).

Wilken's latest book, which Taft praises, is The First Thousand Years: A Global History of Christianity (Yale UP, 2012), 416pp.

About this book we are told:
How did a community that was largely invisible in the first two centuries of its existence go on to remake the civilizations it inhabited, culturally, politically, and intellectually? Beginning with the life of Jesus, Robert Louis Wilken narrates the dramatic spread and development of Christianity over the first thousand years of its history. Moving through the formation of early institutions, practices, and beliefs to the transformations of the Roman world after the conversion of Constantine, he sheds new light on the subsequent stories of Christianity in the Latin West, the Byzantine and Slavic East, the Middle East, and Central Asia.
Through a selected narration of particularly noteworthy persons and events, Wilken demonstrates how the coming of Christianity set in motion one of the most profound revolutions the world has known. This is not a story limited to the West; rather, Christian communities in Ethiopia, Nubia, Armenia, Georgia, Persia, Central Asia, India, and China shaped the course of Christian history. The rise and spread of Islam had a lasting impact on the future of Christianity, and several chapters are devoted to the early experiences of Christians under Muslim rule. Wilken reminds us that the career of Christianity is characterized by decline and attrition as well as by growth and expansion. 
Ten years in the making and the result of a lifetime of study, this is Robert Louis Wilken’s summa, a moving, reflective, and commanding account from a scholar at the height of his powers.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

From the Oxus to China

Lit-Verlag in Berlin tells me of recent publications that continue the welcome expansion, often noted in the past on here, in the world of Syriac Christianity: Li Tang and Dietmar Winkler, eds., From the Oxus River to the Chinese Shores: Studies on East Syriac Christianity in China and Central Asia (2013, 480pp.).

About this book we are told:

Syriac Christianity spread along the Silk Road together with Aramaic culture and liturgy. The staging posts of Christian merchants along the trade routes grew into first missionary centers. Thus, the mission of the Church of the East stretched from Persia to Arabia and India; and from the Oxus River to the Chinese shores. This volume contains a collection of studies on the Church of the East in its historical setting. Contributors have shed new light on this subject from various perspectives and academic disciplines, providing fresh insights into the rich heritage of Syriac Christianity.

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