"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).

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Church of the East

Only very recently have we seen, at long last, some decent scholarly attention being given--at least in the anglophone world--to the Church of the East. Some of that attention may have been motivated by the fact that after Iraq was invaded in 2003, Assyrian Christians there, when they were not being slaughtered in great numbers, fled in greater numbers still.

In 2004 we had not new scholarship but a reprint of a 1909 book by W.A. Wigram, An Introduction to the History of the Assyrian Church. Wigram represented the archbishop of Canterbury on his mission, reflecting a long-standing fascination with, and relationship between, the Anglicans and Assyrians.

In 2006, we had Christoph Baumer's The Church of the East: An Illustrated History of Assyrian Christianity. It was favorably reviewed in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies.

In 2008, we had Daniel Benjamin's The Patriarchs of the Church of the East: Translated by Youel Baaba, which I reviewed in Logos.

And also in 2008 we had a book that was just given to me: Mar Bawai Soro, The Church of the East: Apostolic & Orthodox (San Jose, CA: Adiabene Publications, 2008), v+ 294pp. 

This book carries a number of very impressive commendations from leading scholars in the field, including:

Robert Taft calls this study "the first serious, modern, scholarly, historico-critical presentation by an Assyrian from the Church of the East. It will be of inestimable value....This book will force other Churches to abandon the clichés by which they have judged the Church of the East and its venerable tradition."

Dietmar Winkler calls this an "extraordinary well-written and exciting book" that is "thorough and systematic," an "important historical and patristic study" by an author whose "scholarship is tightly reasoned and marked by the utmost clarity."

Oxford's Sebastian Brock notes that this book "is of considerable ecumenical significance and importance" and is written "in an admirably clear and well-informed way."

I look forward to seeing this discussed on here and reviewed in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies.


  1. If you're going to arrange for a general discussion of the Church of the East, I would make sure to also include some of the recent works of Nikolai Seleznyov, which provide a valuable balance to more ecumenically-motivated interpretations of their theology. He himself, as I understand it, is quite committed to 'Nestorian' Christology and sometimes publishes through a Russian-language Assyrian press. His article "Nestorius of Constantinople: Condemnation, Suppression, Veneration, With special reference to the role of his name in East-Syriac Christianity" (Journal of Eastern Christian Studies 62:3-4 (2010), pp. 165-190) provides an essential counterpoint to Brock's famous "Unfortunate Misnomer" article.

    As is typical with Russian academia, all his publications can be downloaded from his university website: http://east-west.rsuh.ru/article.html?id=67105

    They include:
    Несторий и Церковь Востока / РГГУ, Центр изучения религий. М.: Путь, 2005 (Nestorius and the Church of the East)

    Христология Ассирийской Церкви Востока: анализ основных материалов в контексте истории формирования вероучения. М.: Euroasiatica, 2002
    (The Christology of the Assyrian Church of the East: An Analysis of the Basic Material in the Context of the Formation of Doctrine)

    Ассирийская Церковь Востока. Исторический очерк. М.: АЦВ, 2001 (The Assyrian Church of the East: An Historical Essay)

  2. Hugely helpful! Thank you very much indeed for this. I look forward to checking out these references.


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