Wednesday, 25 May 2016

In Memoriam Professor Maureen Tilley

With great sadness, we have learned from her Husband Terry that our colleague and presenter of last year's conference, Professor Maureen Tilley has died. She was professor of theology, doing research on early Christianity, late antiquity, but was also an expert on the formation of the modern Catholic church. She died on 3 April of pancreatic cancer. Her paper ('Pseudo-Cyprian and the rebaptism controversy in Africa'), given at the conference, she had, however, submitted and we are glad that it will be published in the forthcoming conference proceedings.
Maureen was a long-standing participant of our conference, let me only remind us of a few earlier contributions of her: In SP 27 (1993), 405-8 she published 'Understanding Augustine Misunderstanding Tyconius', in SP 33 (1997), 260-5 'From Separatist Sect to Majority Church: The Ecclesiology of Parmenian and Tyconius', in SP 35 (2001), 330-7 'Theologies of Penance during the Donatist Controversy', in SP 40 (2006), 121-6 'Mary in Roman Africa: Evidence for Her Cultus'. We will all dearly miss her.

For her obituary of Fordham University, see here

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Patristic Seminar on the relationship between Patristics and Philosophy, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome

On the 8th and 9th of April 2016 a special Patristic Seminar on the relationship between Patristics and Philosophy will be held at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome.

The main speakers will be Mark Edwards (Christ Church, Oxford) and Matyáš Havrda (Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Prague).

The Seminar is open to PhD students and young researchers.


April 8    16.00-18.00 Hypostasis and Hypokeimenon in Gregory of Nyssa by
                                    Mark Edwards Christ Church, Oxford
April 9    9.00-11.00 Clement of Alexandria’s Project of Christian Philosophy
                                  Matyáš Havrda, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Prague
               11.00-12.00 Discussion Chair: Giulio Maspero, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross,                                          Rome

The number of participants is limited. Please send an email to

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Holy Hero(in)es. Literary Constructions of Heroism in Late Antique and Early Medieval Hagiography

International conference at Ghent University (Belgium), Thursday 18th to Saturday 20th February 2016

Confirmed keynote speaker: Prof. dr. Stephanos Efthymiadis (Open University of Cyprus)

The ERC research group Novel Saints (Ghent University) builds on and contributes to a recent trend in scholarship of studying late antique and early medieval hagiography (4th-12th cent.) as literature. We welcome paper proposals for our first, international conference, which will deal with literary constructions of characters as hero(in)es in different types of late antique and early medieval hagiographical narrative (LivesMartyr Acts, hagiographical romances, etc.). We envisage contributions on hagiography from different linguistic traditions (Latin, Greek, Syriac, Georgian, Coptic, Armenian, Persian and Arabic).

The conference aims to explore definitions of and aspects/concepts relevant to heroism in Christian narrative. What does it mean to be a hero(ine) in these narratives? Are there different types of hero(in)es (and of heroism)? To what extent can narratological concepts provide useful tools for evaluating hagiographical constructions of heroism? The other central question is how saints (and/or, possibly, other characters) are characterized, shaped, imagined and/or constructed as hero(in)es. This last, broad question comprises a number of important sub-questions:
  • Which literary and/or rhetorical techniques underlie such constructions? To what extent and how do these narratives employ techniques rooted in ancient rhetoric (e.g.ecphrasissyncrisisethopoeia, etc.), and to what purpose?
  • Does the notion of heroism imply specific behavioural patterns and/or speech acts?
  • What is the relevance of other literary traditions, such as biblical narrative, Acts of the Apostles (both canonical and apocryphal), ancient biography, historiography and fiction (pagan and/or Jewish novels)? To what extent do these traditions offer models of heroism that are adopted/adapted in hagiographical narratives? To what extent and how, for example, do ancient fictional strands of heroism persist in hagiographical constructions of martyrs and saints, as they are well known to do, for example, in the Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles (e.g. Paul & Thecla) and other early Christian narrative such as the Ps.-Clementines and a few pre-Nicean Martyr Acts?
  • How do hagiographical narratives adopt/rework authentication strategies common in biography or historiography in order to construct its hero(in)es?
  • To what extent and how do constructions of heroism in saints/martyrs in different cultures develop over time and cross-fertilize other such constructs throughout late antiquity and the middle ages?

In relation to this, the conference also aims to explore issues like the following:
  • heroism and definitions of sainthood and holiness;
  • heroism and explorations of moral/ethical dimensions of character;
  • heroism and development (is one a hero(ine) or does one become one?);
  • saints, self-presentation and performance: constructions of heroism and/or re-enactments of earlier models by saints themselves (rather than by the narrators of their narratives);
  • heroism and ego-narration;
  • heroic constructions in collective v. individual life-writing;
  • impact of depictions of hero(in)es/heroic behaviour on audiences;
  • heroism and meta-literary approaches: ?heroic? qualities of both saints and texts;
  • types of saints (e.g. desert saints, military saints, converted prostitutes, holy fools, etc.) v. character individuation.

Abstracts (in English or French) should contain 300-350 words and should be sent to before 20 September 2015. Notifications about acceptance (or not) will be sent out by 20 October 2015.  Not only senior scholars but also PhD students are welcome to submit abstracts.

For further queries, please contact or

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Jarred Mercer: Vox infantis, vox Dei: the spirituality of children and being Christian in late antiquity

The study of children and childhood in late antiquity is a bourgeoning field. Studies to this point have focused primarily on socio-cultural conditions surrounding children in early Christianity or Late Antiquity generally, such as the education of children, children in relation to violence, liturgical practice, play, the child-parent relationship, abortion, infanticide, etc. (e.g. Clark (1994); Leyerle (1997); Bakke (2005); Horn and Martens, (2009); Horn and Phenix (2009)). This paper seeks to contribute to this fascinating area of research by exploring the spirituality of children (an important contemporary issue in theology and religious studies, psychology and anthropology which has not yet taken root in late antiquity studies) and how it functions in early Latin Christian perspectives on conversion and spiritual life, in other words, on becoming and being Christian.
Early Christians relied often upon the words of Jesus in Matthew 18.3 (‘unless you are converted and become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of God’) as a model for Christian conversion and holiness: Being Christian is about becoming like a little child, so that Leo could write: ‘Christ loves infancy, master of humility, rule of innocence, model of gentleness’ (Sermo 8.3). Predominantly, the metaphor of childhood is interpreted morally, to promote a return of the Christian to the child’s outward existence of ‘innocence’. The child’s lack of concern for status, wealth, and, perhaps most often, sexual lust (e.g. Tert. De mon. 8) is held up as an exemplum of Christian virtue. However, there are texts which imply that the image of the child went beyond a passive outward example of the virtuous life. For Hilary of Poitiers, this return to childhood involves a resemblance, image, or vision of the humility of Christ himself (speciem humilitatis dominicae), and this speciem is a return to the very nature of childhood (In Matth. 18.1: reuersos in naturam puerorom). There is a sense here in which the spirituality of children, the child’s natural relation to God, and not only moral innocence of humility, is the goal of the Christian life. This paper will explore this primarily through investigating the role of the vox infantis in Christian conversion and identity formation. There are critical points in the lives of some early Christians, such as Augustine’s conversion and the consecration of both Ambrose and Martin of Tours as bishops, in which the voice of a child is accepted as the voice of God itself. The authority given to the voice of the child over the Christian and how these Christians are seen to manifest the journey of return to childhood in obedience to it, teach us something about the role the childhood metaphor of Jesus played in early Latin Christianity. To follow the voice of the child is to follow God’s own voice and, particularly with the christological connection mentioned above (what François Bovon (1999) has called ‘christology of the child’), this perhaps demonstrates that, from the perspective of these texts, in order for one to be Christian she must ‘convert and become like a child’ because God himself is childlike.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Claudia Rapp: Euchologia as Sources for Daily Life and Social History: a New Approach

Byzantine prayer books (euchologia) contain—in addition to the eucharistic and sacramental liturgies— a vast number of ‘small prayers’ pronounced by the clergy that address the concerns of all levels of society, regardless of social and economic status, at various occasions in a human being’s lifetime. Yet, they have gone largely unexplored as a source for daily life and social history, in large part because of the challenges posed by their transmission.
Euchologia are extant in manuscripts beginning with the late eighth century and well into the post-Byzantine period. Their exact number is unknown. In the early 15th century, it was estimated to amount to about 2,000. There is considerable variation between the manuscripts in the number, sequence, content and concern of the small prayers, depending on the community where the euchologion was used. While scholars have studied individual prayer book manuscripts, a comprehensive study of the entire tradition of Byzantine euchologia has not yet been attempted.
Unlocking the potential of the small prayers in the euchologia as a source for daily life and social history requires a systematic, step-by-step effort of a research team over an extended period of time.
This paper will introduce the new project at the Division of Byzantine Research, IMAFO, Austrian Academy of Sciences: a systematic study of euchologia, through a combination of individual, thematically focused research projects and the creation of the first-ever database of prayer books in manuscript form, in a fully searcheable, open access format that unlocks the wealth of issues and concerns addressed in the small prayers. The database is designed to facilitate potential future research in other areas as well, such as liturgical studies.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Donna Rizk: The Different Armenian Versions of Aristides’ Apology

The Apology of Aristides of Athens was written by an Athenian philosopher, Aristides,
although the dating of it is problematic (either in the times of Hadrian or rather of Antoninus Pius). The Apology was originally written in Greek (of which just a few fragments are extant), and has been translated into Syriac, Armenian and Latin. I will discuss the different manuscripts found of the Armenian version of The Apology along with the variant versions of this text found and embedded in a medieval folklore entitled The Life of Baralam and Joasaphat. I will attempt to demonstrate the importance of the different Armenian versions that are extant and discuss how these manuscripts have impacted early (and later) Christian Armenia. I will also briefly discuss how the Armenian version of the Apology can be dated as early as the fifth century. As it is the only known apologetical text throughout early Christian Armenian literature, the Apology interestingly has parallel themes and style to a fifth century Armenian Christian philosopher and translater, Eznik, the author of De Deo, the only other Armenian literature that is considered to be apologetic by some scholars.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Anthony GELSTON: The Post-Sanctus in the East Syrian Anaphoras

The preservation of most of the Post-Sanctus in the fragmentary sixth-century anaphora, in relation to which some preliminary questions were addressed in my paper at the last Patristics Conference (published in SP 64, 2013, 105-9), makes possible a comparative study of this section in all four extant East Syrian anaphoras. This paper offers a comparison of the contents of each Post-Sanctus, and examines significant areas of agreement, as well as features which are unique to and distinctive of each anaphora. A few suggestive parallels in West Syrian anaphoras are also noted.