Sunday, 22 March 2015

David Reis: Mapping Exilic Imaginaries: Greco-Roman Discourses of Displacement and the Book of Revelation

The early Christian tradition identified John as an exile who received a series of revelations that challenged Roman imperial power structures. Yet contemporary scholars have not considered how ancient exilic literature might have resonated among Revelation’s early readers, those who expand upon John’s allusive self-description by expressly classifying him as an exile. This paper will address this question by analyzing how exilic discourses exploited the concept of the imaginary—the capacity for an author ‘to see [a thing] other than it is’—in order to create new social meaning. In the imperial age, Greco-Roman writers on exile were especially proficient in seeing ‘otherwise’: they utilized the exilic topos to reconfigure imperial constructions of identity, knowledge, power, and space. In a similar fashion, the formulation of counter-identities and counter-spaces are central features of the book of Revelation. In this text, John rejects the empire’s narrative of displacement and instead transforms himself into an authoritative visionary and his location into a place of revelatory triumph. From this position, the seer speaks in the register of the exultant exile, one who exposes the fragility of the imperial apparatus, envisions a more durable social order based upon the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ, and invites his audience to join with him in celebrating the imminent appearance of the new heaven and earth.

Theodoros Alexopoulos: The third letter of Gregory Palamas to Gregory Akindynos

The third letter of Palamas against Gregory Akindynos, as it is given to us by P. Chrestou, has raised in the last years serious suspicions concerning his authenticity for several reasons. Nevertheless, before we come to safe conclusions on this topic, it is necessary to explore the arguments advanced by Palamas in order to defend himself from G. Akindynos, who accused him of accepting two deities, a superior and an inferior within God. Are Palama’s explanations in respect to this accusation satisfactory? Are they well-grounded on solid theological elements rooted to his predecessors such as Pseudo-Dionysius Areopagites. Are his views as exposed in this third letter in conformity with his theological positions in his earlier works? An insight to this matter will helps us to see, if Palamas was consistent or not from the beginning with his teaching on the distinction between essence and energies or he was forced to reconsider his theology because of the objections raised by Akindynos.

Roland Sokolowski: 'Zealous for the Covenant of Christ': An inquiry into the lost career of Irenaeus

Irenaeus' reputation as one of the foremost heresiologists of the early church easily occludes a wider appreciation of his vocation as a minister. This paper seeks to problematise the prevailing association of Irenaeus with anti-gnostic polemic and to demonstrate that his associations with Polycarp and Justin supply good grounds for supposing that Irenaeus developed a significant preaching and teaching ministry in advance of his literary success. Furthermore,it is to be indicated that one may read both his Refutation and Demonstration through this lens, with the raw materials of concrete mission as the undergirding biblical and philosophical experience from which he draws his argument.

Alison Bonner: 'Pelagian' After-Lives: Transmission, Reception, and Inter-textualityPaper title: The manuscript transmission of Pelagius' Letter to Demetrias and its implications

This paper outlines the Medieval transmission of Pelagius' Letter to Demetrias, as uncovered by my work to create a critical edition of the text, and asks whether any implications can be drawn from the scale and nature of its transmission. It discusses the reception of the text as revealed in manuscript marginalia, and the level of understanding among medieval readers of the question of the relationship between free will and prevenient grace. The paper will look at evidence about how the text was perceived, and will propose some conclusions about what the transmission pattern of Letter to Demetrias may imply about the role of the principle of human free will and the idea of the innate goodness of man created in God's image, within the Christian message of salvation. Finally, it will address the question of whether or not there is a tension between the received narrative describing Pelagius' teaching as heretical, and the transmission patterns of his writings.  

Luis Salés: 'Aristotelian' as a Lingua Franca: Rationality in Christian Self-Representation under the 'Abbasids

Christian writings in Arabic are likely the most neglected corpus of the medieval period. One might blame colonial historiographies for having tinged narratives of anything east of the Bosporus during (and since!) the 'middle' Ages with a sense of the 'exotic,' as well as exerting considerable force on the representation, misrepresentation, or non-representation of Eastern Christians in general.

It is the object of the following presentation to offer a brief glimpse of a counternarrative in the works by giving voice to an Arabic-writing Christian, Theodore Abū Qurrah (d. ca. 820), and his representation of Christianity under the 'Abbasids. This ephemeral glimpse has the potential to destabilize numerous cherished tropes of colonial discourse and controvert contemporary perceptions of the events that followed upon the Islamic conquest of formerly Roman territory.

To that effect, I exposit how, under the 'Abbasids and particularly as an extension of the settings known as majlis (where, by the patronage and safe-conduct of the Caliphs, Christians and Jews could openly debate with Muslims about their faith), Abū Qurrah defended the rationality of Christianity through Aristotelian logic. (That he was able to presuppose 'Aristotelian' as a lingua franca at all is itself fascinating.) I look specifically at his argumentation in favor of points shared with Jews and Muslims, like God's existence and oneness, but also at his effort to shape Muslim perceptions of Christians as a group whose tenets, like the divine sonship of Jesus Christ, could be rationally defended without requiring recourse to their own Scriptures.

Matthieu Pignot: Becoming Christian in the late antique West (3rd-6th centuries): discourses and practices.

This workshop aims to contribute to the scholarly debate on conversion, through an emphasis on the complex and progressive nature of religious belonging. The objective is to highlight, by exploring sources of the late antique West, the dynamics through which individuals experienced, witnessed, and theorized the process of becoming Christian. The panel, focusing on the Latin-speaking regions of the Western Mediterranean (particularly Italy, Africa and Gaul) from the third to the sixth century, shall open up new perspectives by letting theological, sociological and historical approaches inform each other. Papers will explore the way Christian identity was formed, expressed and understood in society with an attention for concrete means of identification and for the relevance of cultural and ethnic parameters, the practical or rhetorical role of the aristocracy in the Christianisation of the West during the crucial fourth and fifth centuries, the contribution of preached texts to understand the initiation process, and the related theological conceptualisation of conversion, with particular emphasis on the image of childhood and of the Christian family. The long chronological span and attention to regional diversity should assess changes over space and time. In this respect, the variety found in the sources about what it means to become and be a member of a Christian community should enrich our understanding of conversion, and of the gradual sense of belonging - and of exclusion - generated within and without the ecclesia.

Jörg Ulrich: Dionysius of Alexandria in Exile. Evidence from his Letter to Germanus (Eus.Caes., h.e. VII 11)

Dionysius' letter to Germanus is a valuable document because it allows insights into the practice of exile at the times of the persecution under the emperor Valerian. The paper will present observations concerning the bishop's activities in exile, the conditions he was subjected to, his relation to the imperial authorities, to the people at his place of banishment and to those from his church in Alexandria. It will also deal with Dionysius' theological interpretation of his exile. Finally, the paper will draw a comparison with a case of exile in the fourth century and will ask for continuities and discontinuities in the phenomenon of clerical exile before and after Constantine. The paper is part of the conference workshop WS 0146 "Clercial Exile in Late Antiquity".