"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).

Monday, April 11, 2011

Syriac Ascetical and Mystical Literature

As I have had several occasions to note previously, we have seen, in the last two decades, a wonderful growth in scholarship on, and general interest in, the Syriac tradition of the Christian East. A recent volume has in fact spoken of a "renaissance," which is very welcome indeed insofar as knowledge of the Christian East in its Greek/Byzantine expressions remains low, but knowledge of Syriac realities lower still.

C. Fotescu Tauwinkl et al., eds., The Syriac Renaissance (Peeters, 2010), xii+408pp. 

About this volume, Peeters tells us that it:

contains the Acts of the Expert Meeting on the Syriac Renaissance. A Period of Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue, organized by the Institute of Eastern Christian Studies, Radboud University, Nijmegen and the Pionier Programme in Syriac Christianity of the University of Leiden (Nijmegen, 2-4 June, 2005).

The Syriac Renaissance (11th-13th cent.) is a period which has received relatively little attention as such. Traditionally, the focus of attention has been on the literary production of individual authors as Barhebraeus or 'Abdiso' bar Brikha, without trying to study them in relation with other contemporary authors or within the context of the general theological, cultural and artistic orientations of this period. For this reason, the aim of the Expert Meeting was:
- To complete the picture of this presumed Renaissance by presenting the works of less known authors such as Khamis Bar Qardahe, Ghiwarghis Warda, Michael Badoqa, Abu Ghalib and Dioscorus d-Gozarto (David Taylor, Martin Tamcke, Gerrit Reinink, Hidemi Takahashi, Carmen Fotescu).
- To discuss the works of better known authors such as Michael the Syrian, Barhebraeus and 'Abdiso' bar Brikha from the intercultural, interreligious and interconfessional perspectives of this period (Dorothea Weltecke, Jan van Ginkel, John Watt, Peter Joosse, Helen Younansardaroud).
- To investigate whether these perspectives can also be found in the field of biblical interpretation, manuscript production, church construction (Bas ter Haar Romeny, Ray Mouawad, Nada Hélou, Bas Snelders, Mat Immerzeel) and to draw the attention to comparable developments among the Copts and the Armenians (Adel Sidarus and Jos Weitenberg).
The work is preceded by a general introduction to the renaissance (by Herman Teule).

Peeters is also bringing out another very useful volume for scholars of the Syriac tradition: 

G. Kessel and K. Pinggera, A Bibliography of Syriac Ascetic and Mystical Literature (Peeters, 2011), x+224pp.

The publisher provides the following blurb:
This book offers a complete bibliographical presentation of Syriac authors and texts in the domain of Syriac asceticism and mysticism. It also includes Greek texts that were translated into Syriac and profoundly influenced the spiritual life of Christians in the Near and Middle East. Among the Syrian Churches ascetic and mystical literature was flourishing over the centuries and witnesses the intensity of their religious life. It also enriched the spirituality of other Christian traditions. Therefore, the bibliography also indicates Medieval translations of Syriac texts into other languages.
The list of authors and texts ranges from Ps.-Clement of Rome and Antony the Great to the Chaldean Patriarch Joseph II (1696-1713/4). Editions (if available), translations and secondary literature are arranged in chronological order. Additionally, subject sections present surveys and introductions to the topic as well as literature about Syriac proto-monasticism, monastic anthologies, mystical experience and Messalianism in the Syriac tradition. The introduction of the book highlights the importance and originality of the Syriac ascetic and mystical literature.

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