Friday, 8 May 2015

Robert Kitchen: Three Young Men Redux: The Fiery Furnace in Jacob of Sarug and Narsai

The vast corpuses of the metrical homilies of Jacob of Sarug and Narsai utilize a genre rarely employed by other early Christian writers, and therefore, not easily analyzed and comparable.  Jacob (d. 521) and Narsai (d. 502) are roughly contemporaries, but separated significantly by geography (Syria, Persia) and confessional allegiance (Miaphysite, Church of the East).  Their relationship is unclear, although different sources claim important connections in themes, motifs and approaches, even a kind of rivalry, which appear to arise out of early schooling in Edessa, and therefore, sharing the heritage and methods of Ephrem.
The aim here will be to compare the homilies of both authors on the same Biblical narrative, the Three Young Men in the Fiery Furnace (Daniel 3), focusing on the Biblical exegeses and figurative typologies utilized by each author in contrast to and in complement of each other.
Narsai's mēmrā is entitled "On Ḥananyā and ‘Azaryā and Mīshā'ēl," of medium length, 474 lines.  Jacob entitles his mēmrā "On Daniel and the House of Ḥananyā," and is significantly longer, 872 lines.  Both authors call the Three Young Men by their Greek LXX names, instead of the traditional Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego of the Hebrew canon and Peshiṭta.

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