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.


Mulla Sadra said...

are you familiar with Thomas Sizgorich's book?

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