5 years of "A Common Word"

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

In the 5 years since its official release, A Common Word (ACW) has become arguably the most influential interfaith dialogue between Muslims and Christians in history.

It has provided a common ground on which thousands of Muslim and Christian religious leaders have been brought together.

Here is the original Muslim position statement
and the Yale-based Christian Response
Hopefully there will be more developments over the next few years, and an avoidance of the media-hyped-up nonsensical government-orchestrated "clash of civilisations".

Stoic asceticism and St Isaac

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I've been finding many ways in which St Isaac's asceticism imbibed elements of Stoicism. Also found some useful free online philosophy texts,eg Essays in Ancient Philosophy by Michael Frede, which has some useful material on Stoicism.

Ektobe Syriac Manuscripts database

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Ektobe Syriac Manuscripts database is a massive project to develop a comprehensive online database of Syriac manuscripts. This will be of enormous use for scholars as the information and images presented are excellent. See:


jihad and the saints

Sunday, September 23, 2012

"Jihad" in the spiritual sense of striving, struggle, and spiritual battle against the passions and demons, (as discussed in Greek and Syriac from earliest days of the church, and in Arabic from 600s onwards), is central to Greek, Syriac and Arabic Christian life. It is an aspect of the lives of nearly every saint! My research is mostly on Syrian saints and struggle, but there's so much more that could be done. Found this amazing reference site on saints: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/sbook3.asp

Sacred Music...Music for Peace

Saturday, July 28, 2012

"Music is a universal language. When a nation shares the language, traditions and life, also shares the music and cultural influences that give rise to texts, expressions and musical compositions of its members despite being from different religions. Music is an attractive and potentially fruitful channel for building understanding..."
So writes Renee, another researcher I met in Malta.  I think she makes a very good point- sacred music lifts people up to God and builds bridges, going beyond political rhetoric. This will be an important way to build peace. Check out Renee's website, with some beautiful music to listen to, and further excellent ideas on music for shared understanding at: http://salammusic.wordpress.com/ (Use google chrome for a good translation.)

Looking for Arabic manuscripts or word usage?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

How did early Muslims (and Christians) use various terms in Arabic? eg how did they use jihad? A great resource is The Arabic Papyrology Database. Run by the Universität Zürich, Orientalisches Seminar, this database is very useful, being fully searchable and well organised etc. It is amazing how many documents are available, but somehow tragic that so little work has been done on them! Very few have been studied or published.

A good conference is a wonderful thing :-)

So many new friends, lots of research contacts, new ideas and resources, plus a good look at Malta- that was last week, a memorable time. A good conference is a wonderful thing :-) Now its time to email all my new friends, share research papers, ask more questions, and connect even more with the network. There were about 200 people at the Symposium Syriacum and about 100 at the Christian Arabic conference. Six days of papers and connecting. Plus some time walking the narrow streets (where crusaders walked), and visiting the church of the shipwreck of St Paul.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Yet another great new resource! Dumbarton Oaks Syriac resource portal.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Edessa Bible- OT Peshitta info: http://hum.leiden.edu/religion/research/antiquity/the-bible-of-edessa.html

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Great Byzantium portal: http://www29.homepage.villanova.edu/christopher.haas/Byzantium.htm 

How we use our words- jihad or struggle?

Sunday, July 1, 2012

It bothers me when people use words incorrectly, especially when it has major social conflict implications. One example is an issue central to my research- that the English word "struggle" (or "wrestle") is the best translation of jihad, yet in the West we continue to not-translate it, which keeps the word as a symbol of the alien "other" of Islam. This "othering" has consequences. "We" have our struggles for "freedom" but "they" have their nasty jihad! It is so hypocritical. And I've noticed this in all European languages. The French and Spanish have their lutte and lucha, and the Germans their kampf, but they refuse to translate jihad too.
This results in increased levels of inter-communal violence and allows extremist "white" groups to perpetuate hate. It's time for people in the West to be honest about translating jihad, especially when the Arabic Bible has Jesus undergoing a jihad in the Garden of Gethsamene! English texts and articles and blog entries etc should no longer use "jihad" but instead "struggle" or "wrestle", and the equivalent applies in all European languages.
This post is part of an Orthodox synchroblog, that is, a number of Orthodox Christian bloggers have written blog posts on the same general topic on the same day, with links to the other posts on the same topic, so it should be possible to surf from one post to the other, and read them all if one wants to.
The theme of this month’s synchroblog is “The words we use”.

+ Annalisa Boyd (Orthodox) of The Ascetic Lives of Mothers on Let the Words of My Mouth
+ Cristina Perdomo (Orthodox Christian — Orthodox Church in America (OCA)) of Reachingfromadistance on Cement
+ Dn Stephen Hayes (Orthodox Christian) of Khanya on What’s that you were saying?
+ Elizabeth Perdomo (Orthodox Christian) of Living a Liturgical Life on What About Words?
+ Katherine Bolger Hyde (Orthodox Christian) of God-Haunted Fiction on Eat Your Words
+ Susan Cushman (Orthodox Christian) of Pen & Palette on How We Use Our Words: “Christian” is Not an Adjective
If you are a blogger and would like to take part in future Orthodox synchroblogs, there is a mailing list for participants at YahooGroups, where you can get more information, and where we will discuss future topics, etc.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Tawitha: Sharing our Syriac Research

Syriac Studies Conference - 24 August 2012 – Melbourne, Australia

This one day conference will cover all areas in Syriac studies- language, theology, history and culture, with an emphasis on the sharing of research in progress, and opportunities for discussion of possible future collaboration.

Papers and presentations are invited from researchers in either the standard 20 minute paper format, or as a 5 minute research idea presentation/note, or longer 30 minute paper.

Topics could include Syriac poetry, linguistic issues, history, church fathers, asceticism, theology, philosophy and worldview themes.
Presenters will mostly be a mix of PhD candidates and PhD holders but undergraduates are also welcome to attend.

Location: St Nicholas Church Hall (rear of church) Cnr Victoria Pde and Simpson St, East Melbourne. Parking at front. Close to North Richmond station.

Time: 9.30am – 4.30pm.   Cost: $20.

This is the first of what is foreseen as an annual or more frequent event, to be hosted by various participants. This year’s conference is being sponsored and hosted by MIOCS (Melbourne Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies).

For expressions of interest, submissions (title and abstract due 31 July 2012), or enquiries contact: John D’Alton jdalton@frontier.com.au

Some more manuscript links

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Thanks Roger Pearse for pointing out:

Pyle- gateway to Greek manuscripts-

Pinakes- Texts and Manuscripts in Greek-

You'll have to play around with search options and the manuscript tab to get what you really want but ...
Greek and Latin manuscripts- http://gallica.bnf.fr/

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.

What *is* the point of doing history?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Oh there's been some very interesting and heated debates among academics on this topic which I've only just discovered! Many posts and sites including: Emile B, Eileen Joy and responders, Old Babel Working group site,(especially see Items #9 and #12) and the new Babel Working group site. Plus Historian on the Edge, and In the Middle. Very interesting.

Great Greek classics and language resources

Monday, March 12, 2012

Today I found "Elpenor"- some more useful Greek classics and language resources, to add to the
amazing Perseus resources at http://www.perseus.tufts.edu
This is essential for researching the Greek background to the agon and other aspects of the virtues.

Some great books

Monday, March 5, 2012

Some great new books: 1. Spiritual Purification in Islam: The Life and Works of al-Muhasibi 2. The Secrets of Ascetism 3. The Remembrance of God 4. Treatise for the Seekers of Guidance : English Translation of Al Muhasibi's Risala al Mustarshidin (Zaid Shakir)
My thesis is so much easier to write with resources like these :-)

Resurrection asceticism

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

"Resurrection asceticism"- this is the term that I think I've coined and that I'm now using for St Aphrahat's distinctive approach to ascetic motivation. In his "Demonstrations" he sees the main driver for ascetic practice (especially virginity) as the reality of a future resurrection, which he seems to see as already partially realised and being lived out now.

Finding stuff

Monday, January 9, 2012

Links that simplify the task of finding stuff are very valuable, and great resource person Roger Pearse provides these:

Patrologia Latina (PL) PDF’s
Patrologia Graeca (PG) PDF’s
Patrologia Orientalis (PO) PDF’s

and also pointed to these other links which also assist with finding contents in the Greek and Latin fathers: latina.patristica.net and graeca.patristica.net
Thanks Roger!