"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).

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Greek Language and Culture in Eastern Christianity

I've drawn attention earlier to this welcome series that Ashgate is putting out. It is by no means inexpensive, but certainly every serious institutional library devoted to Eastern Christianity will spare no monies in attaining this complete collection, which continues to appear volume by volume roughly every 12-18 months. The latest installment is edited by a young scholar whom I have interviewed on here before about his other works: Scott Fitzgerald Johnson, ed., Languages and Cultures of Eastern Christianity: Greek (The Worlds of Eastern Christianity, 300–-1500) (Ashgate, 2014), 579pp.

About this collection we are told:
This volume brings together a set of fundamental contributions, many translated into English for this publication, along with an important introduction. Together these explore the role of Greek among Christian communities in the late antique and Byzantine East (late Roman Oriens), specifically in the areas outside of the immediate sway of Constantinople and imperial Asia Minor. The local identities based around indigenous eastern Christian languages (Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, Georgian, etc.) and post-Chalcedonian doctrinal confessions (Miaphysite, Church of the East, Melkite, Maronite) were solidifying precisely as the Byzantine polity in the East was extinguished by the Arab conquests of the seventh century. In this multilayered cultural environment, Greek was a common social touchstone for all of these Christian communities, not only because of the shared Greek heritage of the early Church, but also because of the continued value of Greek theological, hagiographical, and liturgical writings. However, these interactions were dynamic and living, so that the Greek of the medieval Near East was itself transformed by such engagement with eastern Christian literature, appropriating new ideas and new texts into the Byzantine repertoire in the process.

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