Two papers on Aphrahat

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I recently gave a paper at the AEMA (Australian Early Medieval Association) conference in Brisbane, and here's the abstract:
Aphrahat’s “Resurrection Asceticism” and its journey across the Mediterranean.

When John Cassian traveled to Marseille in 415 he brought from the Orient a perspective on monasticism as being an “angelic life” which emphasised virginity. These concepts, along with a “resurrection asceticism” had previously been enunciated by Syriac bishop Aphrahat in 337 as the foundation for spirituality. Cassian may also have built on the views of Chrysostom and similar ideas already known in the West in Augustine’s De Virginitate. Yet in their journey West, key elements of Aphrahat’s asceticism did not translate or were lost, especially his “resurrection asceticism”. Aphrahat’s emphasis on an inaugurated eschatology as a motivation for virginity has not been explored and his focus on the “sons of the resurrection” has been either misunderstood or ignored. The differences between Aphrahat visavis Cassian and Augustine on these points has also not been treated. This paper explores these themes in Aphrahat through an analysis of the structure and central arguments of his “Demonstrations”, and compares his emphases with the related views of Cassian, Augustine, Chrysostom, and Gaudentius of Brescia. Whereas Augustine and Chrysostom emphasise Mary as a model of virginity and Paul’s focus on marriage as a distraction from pure devotion, Aphrahat concentrates on a present experience of the resurrection life, a life like the angels. His use of Luke 20:36 is unique and his approach is more hope-oriented than Augustine.

I also have a paper accepted to present in Malta in July at the international Syriac Symposium, with the abstract:

Sons of the Resurrection: Inaugurated eschatology as a structural key to Aphrahat’s Demonstrations.
The rationale for the structure of Aphrahat’s 23 Demonstrations continues to elude scholars, but a close reading of Demonstration 6 and its emphasis on the resurrection provides a way to understand the place of many other of the unexplained inclusions. Discussions of the bnay qyama have tended to sideline the relevance of the qyamtha. This paper uses metaphor analysis and close reading techniques to elucidate the core themes and rationale of Demonstration 6 and its links to the chapters on war, virginity, penitence, and death and the last things etc. Rather than being “out of place” (Lehto 2010:25), “On the Resurrection” and “On Wars” are shown to be closely related to the theme of the virginal state of the angelic life of the sons of the resurrection. This paper fills a gap in the understanding of Aphrahat’s thematic structuring, and also demonstrates that the Sons of the Covenant should also be understood as the Sons of the Resurrection.


Otto said...

Excellent! Will your papers be available online later? Also, are Syriac Christian texts often referred to by medieval European writers? That is, do we know what specific Syriac texts (of translations thereof) medieval European writers/philosophers had access to?

Yes, yes and sort of.

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