Theodoret of Cyrrhus on jihad

Monday, August 30, 2010

Theodoret was a Christian bishop of Cyrrhus, Syria (423-457CE), known for his extensive exegetical and theological writings. Theodoret wrote a key document on the Syrian ascetic tradition, “A History of the Monks of Syria”, known in its original Greek as “History of the Ascetic People”. His writings received wide attention in the Syrian area especially since his mindset was more aligned to the later Oriental church than to the Greek speculative tradition. Thus his descriptions of Syrian monks is indicative of the Syrian ascetic worldview and approach to spiritual struggle.

Theodoret describes Syrian monks using a cluster of terms of martyrs, athletes and struggle and war. He also uses other metaphors to affirm the great spiritual achievements of the monks, but his favourites seem to be these three martial/physical terms. The word for struggle/war (agona)is later translated as jihad.
In his praise of James of Cyrrestica, Theodoret links athletes and war in an extended metaphor.
“Now that we have proceeded through the contests of the athletes of virtue described above, narrating in summary their laborious exercises, their exertions in the contests and their most glorious and splendid victories, let us now record … the way of life of those … who contend magnificently and strive to surpass their predecessors in exertion”. James, “unceasingly under the eyes of spectators … strives in combat and repels the necessities of nature”. Note the number of terms related to jihad.

Syriac Christian medicine and Muslim patronage

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Truly fascinating reading, and an inspiration for today:
"Early in the 9th century, there was established in Baghdad a foundation called the House of Wisdom (Bayt al-Hikmah), which had its own library. Its purpose was to promote the translation of scientific texts. The most famous of the translators was Hunayn ibn Ishaq al-`Ibadi, a Syriac-speaking Christian originally from southern Iraq who also knew Greek and Arabic. He was the author of many medical tracts and a physician to the caliph al-Mutawakkil (ruled 847-861/232-247 H), but he is most often remembered as a translator, an activity he began at the age of seventeen. He produced a truly prodigious amount of work before his death in about 873 (260 AH), for he translated nearly all the Greek medical books known at that time, half of the Aristotelian writings as well as commentaries, various mathematical treatises, and even the Septuagint." For the full article see: and there's other linked pages.