Tag Archives: Eastern Christianity

Armenian Christians in Iran

Barry, James. 2019. Armenian Christians in Iran: Ethnicity, religion, and identity in the Islamic Republic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Since the 1979 revolution, Iran has promoted a Shi’a Islamic identity aimed at transcending ethnic and national boundaries. During the same period, Iran’s Armenian community, once a prominent Christian minority in Tehran, has declined by more than eighty percent. Although the Armenian community is recognised by the constitution and granted specific privileges under Iranian law, they do not share equal rights with their Shi’i Muslim compatriots. Drawing upon interviews conducted with members of the Armenian community and using sources in both Persian and Armenian languages, this book questions whether the Islamic Republic has failed or succeeded in fostering a cohesive identity which enables non-Muslims to feel a sense of belonging in this Islamic Republic. As state identities are also often key in exacerbating ethnic conflict, this book probes into the potential cleavage points for future social conflict in Iran.
  • Table of Contents

Introduction
1. Iranism, Islam and Armenian-ness in Iran
2. Education and the construction of Armenian Iran
3. Discrimination, status and response
4. Stereotyping and identity
5. Performing Armenian-ness in Tehran
6. Identity and emigration
Conclusion.

  • Autor

James Barry is an Associate Research Fellow in Anthropology at Deakin University, Victoria specialising in religious and ethnic minorities. He holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Monash University, Melbourne. His research focuses on the role of Islam in Iranian foreign policy and supports the work of the Chair of Islamic Studies. In addition to Iran, Barry has carried out fieldwork in Australia, Indonesia and the United States.

A Review of Christian Arab sources for the Sasanian Period

Amiri Bavandpour, Sajad. 2017. “A Review of Christian Arab sources for the Sasanian Period“, e-Sasanika 19.

This article in Persian reviews all the important Christian Arab sources for the study of Sasanian history. The author studies each of the Syriac and Arabic texts produced by the Christians from the third to the thirteenth century CE which provide important information on the Sasanian Empire.

Mani in Cambridge

Mani in Cambridge: A Day-Symposium on Manichaean Studies | Ancient India & Iran Trust

On Saturday 25 March, as part of an ongoing research project, we are holding a one day Symposium on Manichaean Studies sponsored jointly by the Ancient India and Iran Trust, the International Association of Manichaean Studies and the Corpus Fontium Manichaeorum Project.

Source: Mani in Cambridge: A Day-Symposium on Manichaean Studies | Ancient India & Iran Trust

The Church of the East

Baumer, Christoph. 2016. The Church of the East: An illustrated history of Assyrian Christianity. I.B. Tauris.

The so-called ‘Nestorian’ Church (officially known as the Apostolic Assyrian Church of the East, with its See in Baghdad) was one of the most significant Christian communities to develop east of the Roman Empire. In its heyday the Church had 8 million adherents and stretched from the Mediterranean to China. Christoph Baumer is one of the very few Westerners to have visited many of the most important Assyrian sites and has written the only comprehensive history of the Church, which now fights for survival in its country of origin, Iraq, and is almost forgotten in the West. He narrates its rich and colorful trajectory, from its apostolic beginnings to the present day, and discusses the Church’s theology, christology, and uniquely vigorous spirituality. He analyzes the Church’s turbulent relationship with other Christian chuches and its dialogue with neighboring world religions such as Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, Islam, Buddhism, and Taoism. Richly illustrated with maps and over 150 full-color photographs, the book will be essential reading for those interested in a fascinating, but neglected Christian community which has profoundly shaped the history of civilization in both East and West.

About the Author: Dr. Christoph Baumer is a leading explorer of Central Asia and Tibet, who has made several important archaeological and historical discoveries on his journeys.

Source: The Church of the East: An Illustrated History of Assyrian Christianity

Syriac Polemics Against Zoroastrianism and Christian Controversies under the Sasanians

es-xiii-couv4eRuani, Flavia (ed.). 2016. Les controverses religieuses en syriaque. (Études Syriaques 13). Paris: Geuthner.
The latest volume of the series Études Syriaques, edited by Flavia Ruani is dedicated to the subject of the religious controversies in the “Syriac world”. The volume contents thirteen articles, originally presented at the 13th. symposium of the Society of Syria Studies at the l’Institut protestant de théologie in Paris in 2015. The articles (Table of Contents PDF) aim to give an overview of the debates and relations that the Syriac Christians have maintained over the centuries with other communities, among others Pagans, Jews, Manicheans, Muslims, Zoroastrians, etc. in the areas where they evolved, in order to trace the interreligious relations in the Syriac world. Two contribution from this volume address some aspects of a particular controversy and polemics between Christians in Sasanian Milieu as well as the Syriac polemics against Zoroastrianism in their Sasanian religious, cultural and political contexts:
  • Florence Jullien: “Les controverses entre chrétiens en milieu sassanide: un enjeu identitaire” [Polemics between Christians in Sasanian Milieu: an Identity Issue]
In Sasanian milieu, controversies among Christians have a strong identity dimension which explains the important involvement of Syriac communities in theological debates as a means of positioning strategy. The most significant disputes were organized in public at the court of Seleucia- Ctesiphon, in the sixth and early seventh centuries. These controversies were considered as a royal entertainment; but for the Christians, they involved a very real political issue, especially for the East-Syrians and the Syro-Orthodox, with regard to the consequences for the existence of their Churches. Heresiographical representation, using humour and derision, is part of the polemical discourse so as to deconstruct the image of the opponent. In the Syriac world, controversy was above all an affair of the cultural elite, trained in the ecclesiastical milieu to deal with confrontation—and monasticism played an important role in many respects.
  • Richard Payne: “Les polémiques syro-orientales contre le zoroastrisme et leurs contextes politiques” [East Syriac Polemics Against Zoroastrianism and Their Political Contexts]
The paper provides an account of the evolution of East Syrian polemics against Zoroastrianism from their fitful origins in late fourth- and early fifth-century hagiography to the more complex works of the late Sasanian era. It argues that the chronological correspondence between the beginning of polemical production and the institutionalization of the Church of the East in the Iranian Empire is not accidental. The shift away from Judaism to Zoroastrianism as the primary polemical concern of ecclesiastical leaders took place just as they were becoming dependent on a Zoroastrian court for patronage. With the rise of the Church of the East, East Syrian secular elites and ecclesiastical leaders could participate in the institutions of a Zoroastrian Empire qua Christians, and polemical texts aimed to define relations between Christians and Zoroastrians in the overarching political context of increasing interreligious collaboration. The early East Syrian representation of Zoroastrianism as a peculiarly Iranian form of Greco- Roman polytheism gave way, by circa 500, to more nuanced accounts of Zoroastrian ritual and cosmology—notably in the Martyrdom of Pethion, Adurohrmazd, and Anahid and the History of Mar Qardagh—that outlined political space, practices, and identities that Christians and Zoroastrians could share. At the same time, the catholicos-patriarch Mar Aba attacked Christians for adopting Zoroastrian practices necessary for the political participation of would-be aristocrats and, in so doing, distinguished ascetic ecclesiastical leaders from secular elites through their wholesale rejection of the Good Religion. Polemics emerge from this paper as instruments for the creation of the boundaries required for workable cooperation between Christians and Zoroastrians, and their development provides an index of Christian assimilation and acculturation from the fourth through early seventh centuries.
About the Editor:
Flavia Ruani (PhD) is a a scholar of Syriac Christianity and the hagiography of Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages. She is curently a postdoctoral research fellow at the Department of Literary Studies at the University of Geneva.

Persian Martyr Acts under King Yazdgird I

herman-2016Herman, Geoffrey (ed.). 2016. Persian Martyr Acts under King Yazdgird I. (Persian martyr acts in Syriac: text and translation 5). Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press.

This volume presents five vivid tales of Persian Christian martyrs from the fifth century. They provide important historical information on Christian society at this time, revealing its geographical and social divisions. Narseh is an itinerant monk from Bēth Raziqāyē who damages a fire temple that had formerly been a church. Tātāq is a high ranking courtier from Bēth Ḥadyab who abandons his position to become an ascetic. Mār ‘Abdā is a compliant bishop from Ḥuzestān drawn into conflict with the king by his confrontational and defiant priest, Hasho. Set in the Sasanian Empire in the reign of Yazdgird I (399-420 CE), these texts thematize the struggle between the martyrs’ identity as Persian subjects loyal to the king, often in the face of hostility by the Zoroastrian priesthood, and their devotion to their Christian faith.

About the Author:

Geoffrey Herman is a researcher at the Mandel Scholion Interdisciplinary Research Center in the Humanities and Jewish Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He has published extensively on the history of religious life in the Sasanian era.

The Christian Sogdian Gospel Lectionary E5 in Context

bildschirmfoto-2016-09-27-um-12-08-04
The monastery at Bulayïq, Dafusan’gaicum, Tulufan/Turpan, Xinjiang © Chiara Barbati 2015

Lecture and Book Presentation at Tehran University

The Christian Sogdian Gospel Lectionary E5 in Context

Department for Iranian Studies at the University of Tehran in cooperation with The Austrian Academy of Science (ÖAW) present:

Lecture : “The Christian Sogdian Gospel Lectionary E5 in Context
By: Dr. Chiara Barbati (Institute of Iranistik, Austrian Academy of Sciences)
Date: Wednesday, 5th October, 2016
Place: University of Tehran, Faculty of Literature, Kamal Hall (4th floor)

On the basis of a thorough philological-linguistic study, the book aims primarily at reintegrating the complex whole of the various phenomena that have contributed to creating what in modern scholarship runs under the name of Christian Sogdian Gospel Lectionary E5, a set of manuscript fragments preserved in the Turfan Collection in Berlin. The study applies a precise methodology that puts various disciplinary approaches on the same level in order to relate and interconnect textual, material and historical-cultural aspects. Specific codicological characteristics are considered in correlation with the broader manuscript tradition to which the fragments belong. The discussion of the Gospel lectionary leads to reflections on the transmission, reception and development of a specific body of religious knowledge, namely that of the Church of the East. The exploration of linguistic phenomena takes also into consideration the processes at work in the missionary history of the Church of the East in Central Asia between Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages in the Oasis of Turfan in present-day Xinjiang, China. The book therefore addresses Iranologists as well as students of Eastern Christianity and of manuscript cultures.

Chiara Barbati (PhD 2009) is a senior research fellow at the Institute of Iranian studies of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW).  She specializes in Ancient and Middle Iranian languages. Her main fields of research are Sogdian language and literature with particular regard to the Christian Sogdian texts in relation to its Syriac sources, history of eastern Christianity through primary sources (Syriac) as well as secondary sources (Sogdian, Middle Persian, New Persian), paleography and codicology of pre-Islamic Iranian manuscripts and Iranian dialectology from an historical point of view.

 

Christian-Zoroastrian Dialogue in the Sasanian Period

g13070-9Rezania, Kianoosh. 2015. Einige Anmerkungen zur sasanidisch-zoroastrischen Religionspraxis im Spiegel der interreligiösen Dialoge der Christen und Zoroastrier. In Claudia Rammelt, Cornelia Schlarb & Egbert Schlarb (eds.), Begegnungen in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart: Beiträge dialogischer Existenz ; eine freundschaftliche Festgabe zum 60. Geburtstag von Martin Tamcke, 172–80. Berlin; Münster: LIT Verlag.

The primary sources for Zoroastrianism in the Sasanian Period (3rd-7th. CE) are limited to a few inscriptions, coins and a few Zoroastrian Middle Persian works,  which can be dated with some certainty to this time. The majority of the Zoroastrian Middle Persian texts were written or compiled in the early Islamic period and need to be placed in the religious context of the 9th and 10th centuries. In addition to the primary Zoroastrian sources, however, there are couple of Christian works, which comprise valuable information relatied to the Middle Iranian languages, the Sasanian administration and not least the Zoroastrian theology and religious practice. Most of the literatures, datable to the Sasanian Zoroastrianism are intelectual productions of an inter-religious context. They contain reports of dialogues between Christians and Zoroastrians or represent imaginary dialogues between those religious groups. This paper aims to explore some little known Zoroastrian practices as depicted in such interfaith dialogues.

About the Author:
Kianoosh Rezania is a scholar of Zoroastrianism, Ancient Iranian Studies and the history of religions. He is a visiting research fellow of the Center for Religious Studies (CERES) of Ruhr-Universität Bochum.

A Dictionary: Christian Sogdian, Syriac and English

Sims-Williams, Nicholas. 2016. A Dictionary: Christian Sogdian, Syriac and English, Reichert Verlag.

Many works of Syriac literature were translated into Sogdian, a Middle Iranian language originating in the region of Samarkand and widely spoken along the so-called “Silk Road”. This Christian Sogdian literature, which includes biblical, liturgical, ascetic and hagiographic texts, is chiefly known from a cache of manuscripts discovered in 1905 at the site of the ruined monastery of Bulayïq in the Turfan oasis. It is important for Syriac studies, since the Sogdian translations were often made on the basis of earlier recensions than those which survive in Syriac and since some texts are no longer extant in Syriac. It is no less important for Sogdian and Middle Iranian studies, since those texts whose Syriac originals can be identified provide a firm basis for the understanding of the Sogdian language; moreover, the material in Syriac script, with its elaborate system of vocalic points, is a unique source of information on the pronunciation of Sogdian.
The present Dictionary is designed to be accessible both to Iranists, whether or not they know Syriac, and to Syriacists, whether or not they know Sogdian. It consists of two main sections followed by a comprehensive English index. Part 1, arranged by Sogdian lemmata, provides a complete listing of all words attested in published Christian Sogdian texts, both in Syriac and in Sogdian script, including variant spellings, full parsing of all inflected forms, and details of their equivalents in the most closely corresponding Syriac parallel text. In Part 2 the same material is arranged by Syriac lemmata. The two parts together make it possible to see what Syriac form or forms any Sogdian word can represent and how any Syriac word or idiom is translated into Sogdian. The dictionary thus fulfils a range of functions. Firstly, it will provide a reliable guide for anyone who wants to read the extant Christian Sogdian texts; secondly, it will assist future editors in identifying, restoring and translating Christian Sogdian texts; and thirdly, it will contribute to the study of the transmission of literature from Syriac into Sogdian and the techniques of the translators.

For more information see the Table of Contents  and read the Preface of this volume.

About the Author:

Nicholas Sims-Williams, is an Emeritus Professor (2015) of Iranian Philology and Central Asian Studies and Corresponding Member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

 

 

Syriac into Middle Iranian

Detail from the Manuscript Chaldean Cathedral of Mardin (CCM) 13, f. 120r

Barbati, Chiara. 2015. Syriac into Middle Iranian: A Translation Studies Approach to Sogdian and Pahlavi Manuscripts within the Church of the East. Open Linguistics 1(1). 444–457.

Based on a corpus coming from the Turfan oasis (in present-day Xinjiang, People’s Republic of China) and consisting of Christian Middle Iranian literature in several languages (Middle Persian, Syriac and Sogdian) and scripts (East Syriac, Pahlavi and secular Sogdian), the present paper is aimed at identifying and outlining the translation techniques for the transmission of religious knowledge, based on a literary tradition as well as on a manuscript tradition, from one context to another. The religious knowledge is that which belongs to the “Church of the East” and which is written in its official liturgical language, i.e. Syriac in East Syriac script. The general context is that of the missionary activities of the “Church of the East” along the Silk road between late Antiquity and early Middle Age. The particular context is that of the converted Iranian communities.
About the Author:
Chiara Barbati (PhD 2009) is a scholar of Ancient and Middle Iranian languages in the Institute of Iranian Studies, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna (ÖAW).