St Gregory of Nyssa's use of Second Sophistic rhetorical techniques

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Johan Leemans (Leuven) has written a rather excellent article on St Gregory of Nyssa's use of Second Sophistic rhetorical techniques when speaking on the Holy Martyrs. Great analysis. This informs my up-coming paper on Aphrahat's use of various rhetorical approaches.



Monday, September 16, 2013

There are so many disturbing aspects of the current war in Syria, and Western responses to it.
1. Syrian Christianity is 2000 years old, with a church in Damascus since the book of Acts! St Paul was converted on the road to Damascus, yet most Western Christians today assume that Syria is full of Muslims and have no knowledge of the actual church there.
2. The Antiochian Orthodox church (of which I am a priest) has its Patriachal HQ in Damascus. The church has lived alongside Islam for 1400 years, sometimes with peace, sometimes with violence, but has worked out how to live in a civil society that has mostly worked. For example, there has never been a North-South civil war like in the USA. Relatively speaking, Christians in Syria have been ok, certainly less persecuted than in many other Muslim-majority countries.
3. The Christians on the ground in Syria report a very different story than the Western media is telling us. The bishops there are not happy with Assad but consider the so-called "freedom fighters" to be much worse! It is the "Free Syrian Army" which is predominantly Al-Qaeda-related who are the terrorists. Christians in Syria are shocked and bewildered that the West is arming and supporting AlQaeda! These terrorists which the western press calls "heroes of democracy" have been killing Christians, ransacking 1400 year old churches and monasteries, and destroying the country.
4. Christians on the ground in Syria have called for the West to stop arming the terrorists directly or via their Saudi middlemen, but are ignored! This is crazyness. Syrians assume it is about the Western quest for more oil and Western hegemony of the entire Mid-East. Their guess is probably accurate, as indicated by none less than Dick Cheney several years back when he said the US would soon invade 7 countries, and guess what, they have already done Libya, Iraq, etc. and now comes Syria just like he said.
5. In response to the "civil war" which is reality is mainly being waged by imported Pakistani, Saudi and Iraqi terrorists, millions of Syrians have fled, including tens of thousands of Christians.
In summary, the majority Western responses are atrocious and are having terrible consequences for Christians in Syria.
This post is part of a synchroblog (syncronised blog) in which various people write about the same general theme from different points of view, and thus help one to see the bigger picture. Follow the links below to see the other posts. More links may be added later, as more people add their contributions.  If you are participating in the synchroblog, please copy the links below and paste them to the end of our own post.

  1. Fr John D’Alton (Antiochian Orthodox) on THE SYRIAN CIVIL WAR AND RESPONSES TO IT
  2. Richard Fairhead (missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, catholic, green, incarnational, depressed- yet hopeful, emergent, unfinished Christian) of Relational Journey on Who would Jesus bomb?
  3. Ryan Peter (neo-evangelical) of Life-Ecstatic on Syria: The Show Must Go On
  4. Steve Hayes (Orthodox Christian) of Khanya on Syrian civil war: no good outcome?

The Asceticism of Severus: An analysis of struggle in Homily 18 on the “Forty Holy Martyrs”

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I'm back from a 4 month intermission (have to pay the bills and an ideal full-time IT job came up, working as Programme Test Manager for the new DisabilityCare Australia software setup). And I'm back into writing up the thesis. It is all coming together nicely and God willing I can have a first draft ready by mid-2014. Just before intermission I presented a paper at the Severus Symposium held March 2013 in Melbourne, to be included as book chapter in the Symposium publication...
"The continuing debate about, and focus on, Severus' Christology has obscured the extent to which his ascetic approach was fully in accordance with the Cappadocian and Syrian church fathers. This continuity is evident in Severus' Homily on the 40 Holy Martyrs of Sebaste when compared to similar works by Aphrahat, Ps. Macarius, Gregory of Nyssa, Basil the Great, and the later Isaac of Nineveh. This paper analyses aspects of Severus' Homily 18 in relation to Cappadocian and Syriac traditions, detecting elements of Syrian provenance in his discussion of spiritual combat and perfection." 

East meets West: the-curious-case-of-st-john-cassian

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Excellent article on a most significant Eastern writer and his impact on the West, and why he has been forgotten...

Isaac the Syrian's ascetic interpretation of apatheia and agon

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Last week I presented a paper on Isaac the Syrian at the ANZAMEMS conference- Australia and New Zealand Medieval and Early Modern Society, held in Melbourne.

Isaac the Syrian has often been compared to Evagrius who he quoted extensively, but while Evagrius was condemned, Isaac was lauded. One key difference is that Isaac is far more Stoic than Evagrius, and his asceticism is less speculative. Isaac’s ascetic homilies were originally written for an audience of monastics in the 690s. He wrote in Syriac and his work was early translated into Greek and Arabic, becoming a central text for monks across the Orthodox and Oriental churches. His work evidences many Syriac thought-forms intermingled with Greek philosophy, especially Stoicism. Other authors have focussed on his Neoplatonic thought, but as Marcia Colish has noted, there is a Western academic  bias against Stoicism, and this has meant that almost nothing has been written about Isaac’s Stoicism. Alfeyev’s much-cited and excellent work only treats Isaac’s NeoPlatonism and does not even mention his Stoic approach.

This paper thus analyses key themes in Isaac’s writing, especially the concepts of agon, apatheia and ataraxia, and discusses how he appropriated Greek ascetic thought, Stoicism in particular, to shape Christian spiritual practice.

Combatting the soul in al-Muhasibi and Isaac of Nineveh

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

On Monday I presented at the Australian Early Medieval Association's annual conference. The abstract:
When al-Ghazali wrote his works on purification of the soul he drew especially on the 3rd/9th century works of al-Muhasibi. Al-Muhasibi developed a rich terminology of inner spiritual battle and soul purification which he considered was 90% of jihad. Smith, Schoonover, Renard and Picken have described his works but not analysed the metaphors and concepts involved. This paper analyses key aspects of al-Muhasibi’s approach to combatting the soul, and briefly compares this with Isaac of Nineveh’s roughly contemporary writings, demonstrating significant similarities and differences between them. This analysis informs the current debate over the meaning and methods of jihad.