"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, January 31, 2022

The Western Armenian Diaspora

My two books in ecclesiology both gave pride of place to the Armenian Church, so I always keep an eye out for new scholarship on Armenia and Armenian Christianity. In March of this year we shall have published The Rise of the Western Armenian Diaspora in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire: From Refugee Crisis to Renaissance by Henry R. Shapiro (Edinburgh University Press, March 2022), 336pp. 

About this book the publisher tells us this:

This book traces how Armenian migrants changed the demographic and cultural landscape of Istanbul and Western Anatolia in the course of the seventeenth century. During the centuries that followed, Ottoman Armenian merchants, financiers (sarrafs), authors, musicians, translators, printers and bureaucrats would play key roles in Ottoman trade, cultural life and even governance, that is, in most spheres of the empire's economic and cultural life. This book shows how that cosmopolitan world came into being.

Using both Ottoman Turkish and little-known Armenian sources, Henry Shapiro provides the first systematic study of Armenian population movements that resulted in the cosmopolitan remaking of Istanbul. In the first part of the book he documents the Great Armenian Flight, showing how the global crisis of the seventeenth century (war, climate change, famine) impacted the historical Armenian population centres of the Caucasus and Eastern Anatolia and led to mass migrations and resettlement in Western Anatolia, Istanbul and Thrace. In the second part of the book Shapiro links this history of migration and the refugee crisis with the development of intellectual and cultural life in Istanbul and Western Anatolia – the rise of the Western Armenian Diaspora.

Friday, January 28, 2022

Syriac Hagiography

A little over six years ago I interviewed a young scholar of Syriac Christianity. You may read that interview here. Since then, we have seen additional works emerge on the Syriac tradition as a whole, as well as such topics as hagiography, ecclesial architecture, and relations with Islam. 

We have a recent book that forms the twentieth volume of Brill's series Texts and Studies in Eastern Christianity. A scholarly collection, edited by Sergey Minov and Flavia Ruani, the volume is Syriac Hagiography: Texts and Beyond (Brill, 2021), 382pp.

About this book the publisher tells us this: 

Chapters gathered in Syriac Hagiography: Texts and Beyond explore a wide range of Syriac hagiographical works, while following two complementary methodological approaches, i.e. literary and cultic, or formal and functional. Grouped into three main sections, these contributions reflect three interrelated ways in which we can read Syriac hagiography and further grasp its characteristics: “Texts as Literature” seeks to unfold the mechanisms of their literary composition; “Saints Textualized” offers a different perspective on the role played by hagiographical texts in the invention and/or maintenance of the cult of a particular saint or group of saints; “Beyond the Texts” presents cases in which the historical reality behind the nexus of hagiographical texts and veneration of saints can be observed in greater details.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Performing the Gospels in Byzantium

There are certain verbs and nouns which become trendy and suddenly one sees their proliferation in book and article titles for a decade or so. "Performing" is one such, and is seen in this recent publication of a book that sheds light on Middle Byzantine liturgics and art: Performing the Gospels in Byzantium: Sight, Sound, and Space in the Divine Liturgy  by Roland Betancourt  (Cambridge University Press, 2021), 320pp. About this book the publisher tells us this: 

Tracing the Gospel text from script to illustration to recitation, this study looks at how illuminated manuscripts operated within ritual and architecture. Focusing on a group of richly illuminated lectionaries from the late eleventh century, the book articulates how the process of textual recitation produced marginalia and miniatures that reflected and subverted the manner in which the Gospel was read and simultaneously imagined by readers and listeners alike. This unique approach to manuscript illumination points to images that slowly unfolded in the mind of its listeners as they imagined the text being recited, as meaning carefully changed and built as the text proceeded. By examining this process within specific acoustic architectural spaces and the sonic conditions of medieval chant, the volume brings together the concerns of sound studies, liturgical studies, and art history to demonstrate how images, texts, and recitations played with the environment of the Middle Byzantine church.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Oxford Handbook of Ecclesiology

Good news! Forthcoming in March this year will be a more affordable paperback edition of a book first published a few years ago, which makes an invaluable contribution to the study of the Church and churches: The Oxford Handbook of Ecclesiology (OUP, March 2022), 672pp. 

Edited by Paul Avis, this volume, with a chapter on Orthodox ecclesiology authored by the venerable Andrew Louth, is also, the publisher tells us;

a unique scholarly resource for the study of the Christian Church as we find it in the Bible, in history, and today. As the scholarly study of how we understand the Christian Church's identity and mission, ecclesiology is at the centre of today's theological research, reflection, and debate. Ecclesiology is the theological driver of the ecumenical movement. The main focus of the intense ecumenical engagement and dialogue of the past half-century has been ecclesiological and this is the area where the most intractable differences remain to be tackled. Ecclesiology investigates the Church's manifold self-understanding in relation to a number of areas: the origins, structures, authority, doctrine, ministry, sacraments, unity, diversity, and mission of the Church, including its relation to the state and to society and culture. 

The sources of ecclesiological reflection are the Bible (interpreted in the light of scholarly research), Church history, and the wealth of the Christian theological tradition, together with the information and insights that emerge from other relevant academic disciplines. This Handbook considers the biblical resources, historical development, and contemporary initiatives in ecclesiology. It offers an invaluable and comprehensive guide to understanding the Church.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Muslim-Christian Relations

We live in a happy time when, as I have tried to document on here for over a decade, scholarship devoted to Muslim-Christian relations, in which Eastern Christians take pride of place, is blossoming. A new book adds to the riches: David Thomas, ed., The Bloomsbury Reader in Christian-Muslim Relations, 600-1500 (Bloomsbury, 2022), 352pp.

About this collection we are told this:

This Reader brings together nearly 80 extracts from the major works left by Christians and Muslims that reflect their reciprocal knowledge and attitudes. It spans the period from the early 7th century, when Islam originated, to 1500.

The general introduction provides a historical and geographical summary of Christian-Muslim encounters in the period and a short account of the religious, intellectual and social circumstances in which encounters took place and works were written. Nearly all the translations are new, and a map is provided. Each of the six parts contains the following pedagogical features:

-A short introduction

-An introduction to each passage and author

-Notes explaining terms that readers might not have previously encountered

On the Christian side topics include: condemnations of the Qur'an as a fake and Mu?ammad as a fraud, depictions of Islam as a sign of the final judgement, and proofs that it was a Christian heresy. On the Muslim side they include: demonstrations of the Bible as corrupt, proofs that Christian doctrines were illogical, comments on the inferior status of Christians, and accounts of Christian and Muslim scholars in collaboration together.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

On the Patriarchate of Constantinople

The office of the Roman papacy, of course, attracts huge attention, including from scholars. But the patriarchate of New Rome attracts considerably less attention. A new book, however, will help remind us of its venerable nature and complex history: A Companion to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, eds. Christian Gastgeber, Ekaterini Mitsiou, Johannes Preiser-Kapeller, and Vratislav Zervan (Brill, 2021), 322pp.

Part of the series Brill's Companions to the Byzantine World, Volume: 9, this book, the publisher tells us,

provides an overview of the development of the Patriarchate of Constantinople from Late Antiquity to the Early Ottoman period (4th to 15th c.). It highlights continuities and changes in the organizational, dogmatic, and intellectual framework of the central ecclesiastical institution of the Byzantine Empire in the face of political and religious upheavals. The volume pays attention to the relations of the Patriarchate with other churches in the West and in the East. Across the disciplinary divide between Byzantine and Ottoman studies, the volume explains the longevity of the Patriarchate beyond the fall of Byzantium in 1453 up to modern times. A particular focus is laid on an original register book of the 14th century. 

You will note on the list of contributors some of the leading scholars of Byzantium today: 

Contributors are: Claudia Rapp, Frederick Lauritzen, Tia M. Kolbaba, Johannes Preiser-Kapeller, Marie-Hélène Blanchet, Dimitrios G. Apostolopoulos, Machi Païzi-Apostolopoulou, Klaus-Peter Todt, Mihailo S. Popović, Konstantinos Vetochnikov, Ekaterini Mitsiou, Vratislav Zervan, and Christian Gastgeber.

Monday, January 17, 2022

The Euchologion Unveiled

Have you been reading Job Getcha's books? He had two come out in the last 12 months on liturgy. The most recent of these is The Euchologion Unveiled:An Explanation of Byzantine Liturgical Practice (St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2021). 

This book, the publisher tells us, 

describes and explains the sacramental services of the Orthodox Church. The Euchologion is the liturgical book that priests use to serve all the mysteries, or sacraments, of the Church. Archbishop Job “unveils” the history, meaning, and structure of these services, and the Orthodox understanding of the sacraments, through which believers receive grace and become partakers of the divine life.

Though most people have heard of “the seven sacraments” –baptism, chrismation, the Eucharist, confession, marriage, ordination, and unction—this is a later western schema, and the Orthodox Church performs several other sacramental rites, which are also explained here: monastic tonsure, the funeral, the sanctification of chrism, the consecration of a church, and the blessing of water.

This is a companion volume to The Typikon Decoded, and the second volume of An Explanation of Byzantine Liturgical Practice.

Friday, January 14, 2022

The Russian Church in Modernity

That dreary class of human beings called American political pundits has already been aflutter for some time wondering about (and in some more appalling cases openly cheerleading for) war with Russia over Ukraine. So expect to hear a lot more about Russia in 2022, and with it the Russian Orthodox Church, whose stance on any further escalation in the war with Ukraine (started, n.b., in 2014 by a unilateral invasion and annexation of Crimea) will bear watching closely. 

The Russian Church's encounter with "modernity," from the end of the Romanovs through Stalin and later dictators, to the Putin era, is not always straightforward. Reputable scholars know to tread carefully. Regina Elsner is one such scholar, and has, at the end of December, given us a brand new book which I learned about when happily perusing the catalogue of Columbia University Press before Christmas. In it I spy The Russian Orthodox Church and Modernity: A Historical and Theological Investigation into Eastern Christianity between Unity and Plurality (Ibidem Press, Dec. 2021), 440pp. 

About this book the publisher tells us this:

The Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) faced various iterations of modernization throughout its history. This conflicted encounter continues in the ROC’s current resistance against―what it perceives as―Western modernity including liberal and secular values. This study examines the historical development of the ROC’s arguments against―and sometimes preferences for―modernization and analyzes which positions ended up influencing the official doctrine. The book’s systematic analysis of dogmatic treatises shows the ROC’s considerable ability of constructive engagement with various aspects of the modern world. Balancing between theological traditions of unity and plurality, the ROC’s today context of operating within an authoritarian state appears to tip the scale in favor of unity.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

On Those Evagrian Logismoi

Is it just me--and am I taxing your patience with a bit of psychoanalytic introspection you'd rather not be subject to?--or is it funny how certain topics or personages you did not really attend to deeply at the time nonetheless have a way of staying with you and surfacing at interesting, and often usefully timed, moments? I first heard of Evagrius in undergraduate course now 25 years ago (!) but find myself returning to him regularly. Just last week, in fact, I was recommending him to someone with interests in both patristics and psychanalysis and psychotherapy.

In any event, after a slew of books published about Evagrius in the last two decades, most of the good ones noted on here, we had a bit of a lull until last summer when Brepols brought out L. Misiarczyk, Eight Logismoi in the Writings of Evagrius Ponticus (vii+313 pp.). About this recent study the publisher tells us this: 

This book presents the teaching of Evagrius of Pontus (345-399) on eight passionate thoughts (logismoi), i.e. gluttony, impurity, avarice (greed), sadness, anger (wrath), acedia, vanity and pride.

This book presents the teaching of Evagrius of Pontus (345-399) about eight passionate thoughts (logismoi), i.e. gluttony, impurity, avarice (greed), sadness, anger (wrath), acedia, vanity and pride. The study first reconstructs cosmology, eschatology, anthropology and spiritual teaching of the monk of Pontus in order to show the nature, dynamics and ways of combating against the eight passionate thoughts as proposed by Evagrius. His teaching in this regard became the basis for later Christian teaching on the Seven Deadly Sins and an inspiration in the future for some currents of modern psychology.

We are further told this about the author: 

Leszek Misiarczyk studied philosophy and theology in Płock and theology at the Theological Institute in Cremisan-Bethlehem (Israel). In 1991-93 he studied biblical theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, obtaining a bachelor's degree and then in 1993-97, patristic studies at the Patristic Institute “Augustinianum” in Rome, obtaining a degree of doctor in theologia et scientiis patristicis. In 2008 he obtained the degree of Habilitation (Free Researcher) at the Faculty of Historical and Social Sciences of the Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw, and in 2018 the title of professor in humanities. He teaches at the Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw and is the author of many publications in patristics, theology and history of ancient Christianity.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Eastern Christians Under the Habsburg Monarchy

Somewhat confusingly, Amazon apparently has copies of this to sell now, even though it was advertised on their site and elsewhere as not being available until October of this new year, 2022. Still, if you are as eager as I am to read this, then you may want to snap up extant copies now of Eastern Christians in the Habsburg Monarchy. Edited by John-Paul Himka and Frank Szabo and published by the University of Alberta Press, this 248-page collection contains fascinating insights across an impressively wide range of topics. The publisher elaborates: 

The collection Eastern Christians in the Habsburg Monarchy

brings together ten studies by scholars from various countries on a wide array of topics related to the history, culture, and ritual practice of Eastern Christians in the Habsburg Empire from the eighteenth to early twentieth century. This book represents a contribution to the development of newer perspectives on the Habsburg Monarchy emerging in recent years. These newer tendencies seek to understand the dynamics of the Monarchy’s pluralism by marrying local and transnational analyses and examining shared experiences across crown lands within the context of the empire. This approach proves to be valid for the religious pluralism of the Habsburg Empire, where self-professed confessional identity could not be delimited either within a crown land or within a specific ethnic milieu. The studies in this volume explore just such shared practices and experiences encompassing a larger collection of territories within the Monarchy by focusing on those areas that contained large numbers of Christians whose faith and rituals derived from Byzantium rather than Rome, that is, Eastern Orthodox and Greek Catholics (Uniates).

The volume also aims to provide a corrective in Eastern Christian studies by looking outside Russia and Greece at the often hybrid practices and cultural and religious experiences of Europe’s westernmost Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic faithful. Several chapters deal with the sacral art of the Habsburg Monarchy’s Ukrainians and Rusyns.

We are also given a helpfully detailed Table of Contents: 

Introduction by John-Paul Himka and Franz A.J. Szabo

Historical Overview:

Eastern Christians in the Habsburg Monarchy, 1526-1918 by Paul Robert Magocsi

Historical Studies:

Politics, Religion, and Confessional Identity among the Romanians of Bistriţa: A Case Study by Sever Cristian Oancea

Aspects of Confessional Alterity in Transylvania: The Uniate – Non-Uniate Polemic in the Eighteenth Century by Ciprian Ghişa

Josephinist Reforms in the Metropolis of Karlovci and the Orthodox Hierarchy by Marija Petrović

Transnational Conversions: Migrants in America and Greek Catholic Conversion Movements to Eastern Orthodoxy in the Habsburg Empire, 1890-1914 by Joel Brady

Sacral Culture:

The Art of the Greek Catholic Eparchy of Mukachevo: Sacral Painting of the Eighteenth Century by Bernadett Puskás

Sacred and Heraldic Images on Ukrainian Banners of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries by Roksolana Kosiv

Facing East: References to Eastern Christianity in Lviv’s Representational Public Space ca. 1900 by Andriy Zayarnyuk

The Sacred Art of Modest Sosenko: Lost and Preserved by Olesya Semchyshyn-Huzner

Sacral Needlework in Eastern Galicia: Social and Cultural Aspects (Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries) by Natalia Dmytryshyn

Thursday, January 6, 2022

On the Lord's Appearing in the Jordan

If you go here, you will learn a little bit about Nicholas Denysenko's superb book on the Theophany. And if you go here you will wonder, as I just did, "Can it be a full decade now since I interviewed him about this book? Where does the time go?" I cannot answer that question, but I can tell you that there is, even a decade later, still no finer book than his to fete this lovely feast.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

A Short History of Islamic Thought

By virtue of living alongside each other since the beginnings of Islam, Eastern Christians have unique insights into not just the Muslim-Christian relationship ab initio, but also to Islam as such. That does not mean everyone has such insights, or that they are always impeccable in their details. For those needing a refresher, or an introduction, a short new book from the world's leading academic publisher fits the ticket: A Short History of Islamic Thought by Fitzroy Morrissey (Oxford University Press, 2021), 178pp. About this 

About this new book the publisher tells us this:

For general readers, a compact and illuminating introduction to Islam, from its beginnings almost 1500 years ago to the present moment.

While much has been written about Islam, particularly over the twenty-five years, few books have explored the full range of the ideas that have defined the faith over a millennium and a half. Fitzroy Morrissey provides a clear and concise introduction to the origins and sources of Islamic thought, from its beginnings in the 7th century to the current moment. He explores the major ideas and introduces the major figures--those who over the centuries have broached life's major questions, from the nature of God and the existence of free will to gender relations and the ordering of society, and in the process defined Islam. Drawing on Arabic and Persian primary texts, as well as the latest scholarship, A Short History of Islamic Thought explains the key teachings of the Qur'an and Hadith, the great books of Islamic theology, philosophy, and law, as well as the mystical writings of the Sufis. It evaluates the impact of foreign cultures-Greek and Persian, Jewish and Christian-on early Islam, accounts for the crystallization of the Sunni and Shi'i forms of the faith, and accounts for the rise of such trends as Islamic modernism and Islamism. Above all, it reveals the fundamental principles of Islamic thought, both as a source of inspiration for Muslims today and as illuminating and rewarding in their own right.

Monday, January 3, 2022

Leontius of Byzantium

A new book by Brian Daley, or even a new paperback edition of one of his books that has been in print previously, is a Red Letter Day. So it is a real pleasure to let you know you have to part with far fewer of your kopeks to be able to afford Leontius of Byzantium: Complete Works, ed. Brian E. Daley, SJ (Oxford UP, October 2021), 640pp. About this book the publisher tells us this: 

Leontius of Byzantium (485-543) was a Byzantine monk and theologian who provided a breakthrough of terminology in the 6th-century Christological controversy over the mode of union of Christ's human nature with his divinity. He did so through his introduction of Aristotelian logical categories and Neoplatonic psychology into Christian speculative theology. His work initiated the later intellectual development of Christian theology throughout medieval culture. Brian E. Daley provides translation and commentary on the six theological works associated with the name of Leontius of Byzantium. The critical text and facing-page translation help make these works more accessible than ever before and provide a reliable textual apparatus for future scholarship of this key writing.

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