Jcsss 21 (2021) contains six articles that were presented online at the University of Ottawa, Department of Classics, on November 14, 2020. The symposium theme was the Christians within the Sassanian period. I am thankful to Professor Geof-frey Greatrex for leading this symposium in his Department and to George Amanatidis-Saadé for his great help in this symposium. I am also thankful to both of them for editing the papers published here. Two more papers were submitted by members of the CSSS, one on ancient bronze lamps and another, a note on Corpus Juris of Īshō‛-bokht.
It is by now widely acknowledged that between late antiquity and the first centuries of Islam, Syriac-speaking Christian communities were more than just scattered minority communities with little impact in geographical areas strongly shaped by the Iranian element. “Iranianate and Syriac Christianity” bridges across different specialized disciplines, first and foremost Iranian Studies and Syriac Studies and the History of Christianity, and assembles a range of authoritative voices on the subject. The 14 contributions are arranged in two sections: Mission, Conversion and Power and Languages, Texts and Concepts, representing a wide range of approaches and reflecting the complexity of the religious, political and cultural history of the Christian communities in the Eurasian area up to the year 1000 and beyond.
Note by BiblioIranica: This is the first volume in the new series China and the Mediterranean World with S. N.C. Lieu and G. Mikkelsen as the general editors.
A collection of papers on the history of Christianity along the Silk Road and in pre-modern China, pushing back the frontier of knowledge in a fast developing new area of research. The diffusion of Christianity along the Silk Road from Iraq and Iran to China in the premodern era has attracted scholarly attention in the West since the discovery of the famous Xian (Nestorian) Monument c. 1623. This initial discovery was dismissed as a Jesuit forgery by Voltaire, Edward Gibbon and many other scholars of the Enlightenment. However, its authenticity has been more than vindicated by the discovery of genuine (Nestorian / Jingjiao) Christian texts in Chinese from Dunhuang and in Syriac, Sogdian and Old Turkish from Turfan (Bulayq) at the beginning of the last century. Besides confirming the existence of a Tang era Chinese Christian church (Jingjiao), additional archaeological and literary evidence has accumulated of a Christian presence in China during the later Song and Yuan periods (Yelikewenjiao). These churches were the subject of a conference of international specialists in Hong Kong in 2015. The current volume of eleven articles has grown out of the papers presented there.
This volume is a collection of papers highlighting recent researches on Syriac Christianity in China and Central Asia. The topics range from artifacts to texts and their historical contexts, covering the period from the 7th to the 18th century. As the studies on Syriac Christianity in China and Central advance, focus has shifted from a general historical survey and textual translation to a more micro and meticulous study of specific concepts and terms and particular names of persons and places.
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
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
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.
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: 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.
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.
Ruani, 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.
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.