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.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Jesper Blid Kullberg: New Finds from the Monastery of St. Antony

In this paper I examine various categories of finds from a recent archaeological investigation at the Monastery of St. Anthony in Egypt. These finds have yielded new insight into the life of the early monastic community, the spatial development of the Monastery, and the Monastery’s trade relations with the outside world. The paper treats issues such as chronology, self-sufficiency/local specialization, and fluctuations within the trade relations of the Monastery.

Ky Heinze: Origen's Ransom to the Devil and Porphyry's Sacrifices to Evil Daemons

In this paper, I argue that Origen's use of the Devil in his later commentaries (c.240s) was similar to Porphyry's use of evil daemons in De abstinentia (c.260s). Heidi Marx-Wolf's recent publications show that Porphyry sought to discredit traditional animal sacrifices and the ordinary priests who offered them by saying that they interacted with evil daemons rather than with the true gods. Marx-Wolf believes that Porphyry learned to use evil daemons polemically in this way from Origen and the Judeo-Christian tradition, which portrayed paganism as a religion of daemons. Marx-Wolf's claim has merit, but I argue that Porphyry's evil daemons were not simply polemical: they allowed him to reconcile traditional stories of successful propitiation and blood sacrifice with his philosophical belief that the gods never accepted such sacrifices. By saying that evil daemons desired these sacrifices, Porphyry simultaneously validated tradition and saved his philosophical gods. In light of this, Porphyry's strategy was not related to Origen's polemic against pagan religion but to his theory of Jesus' ransom to the Devil. In 1979, Frances Young observed that, because Origen believed in a philosophical God without change, anger, or vindictiveness, he could not understand why the Father would have required the death of his own Son as a sacrifice or ransom to forgive sins. According to Young, Origen solved the problem by saying that Jesus had offered himself, not to the Father, but to the Devil. Thus, both Origen and Porphyry used evil spirits to reconcile philosophy with their respective religious traditions.

Henrik Rydell Johnsén: Philosophy and Monastic Formation

Previous ideas about the early desert fathers as predominantly uneducated have to a great extent determined the scholarly discussion on the emergence of early monasticism and its relation to ancient philosophy. With a focus on crucial and typical monastic practices and virtues like anachōrēsis, hēsychía, repentance, obedience and repetitious prayer, this paper discusses the emergence of the early Egyptian and Palestinian monastic movement and its possible dependency on late antique philosophy.