Thursday, February 25, 2016

J Edward Walters reviews The Orthodox Church in the Arab World

The new issue of the Syriac Studies journal Hugoye came out today. It includes a valuable bibliography of recent Russian works on Syriac and Christian Arabic, prepared by Grigory Kessel and Nikolai Seleznyov. This issue also features a review of The Orthodox Church in the Arab World, 700-1700: An Anthology of Sources by J Edward Walters of Rochester College.


The texts, and thus the history of Arabic-speaking Christians have too long remained out of reach to Western historians of Christianity, sequestered as they are by historical developments that isolated these Christians from the West and the language barrier that Arabic presents. In the present volume, Samuel Noble and Alexander Treiger take a significant step toward filling this gap by offering an anthology of Arabic texts in English translation that display the range and diversity of the Arabic Christian tradition. This range covers both a broad span of time (as the sub-title suggests, roughly 700-1700 CE) and genres. As such, these texts offer a small, but representative sample that displays the vitality of this understudied and undervalued literary tradition. Several of these texts have never before appeared in English translations, and several have never appeared in any Western language.


In the Introduction, the editors also offer an overview of Christian literature produced in  Arabic. Throughout the course of this overview, the editors place each text included in this  volume within a broader literary and historical context, which is particularly helpful for scholars who are new to these materials. This overview of Christian Arabic literature shows the range of genres that Arabic-speaking Christians adopted. Each text includes a brief introduction by its  translator and a bibliography for further suggested reading.


All of the texts chosen for this volume are interesting in their own right, but the collection of these sources into a single volume, with helpful introductions and bibliographies, makes this book an invaluable resource for the study of Arabic Christianity and, indeed, the history of Christianity more broadly.


Henceforth, historians of Christianity will have no excuse to remain ignorant of the Arab Orthodox tradition. The editors and translators are to be commended for creating such a valuable resource and at such an affordable price. And indeed, in the current socio-poltical atmosphere in which there is so much ignorance concerning the history of Christians in the Middle East, their efforts deserve a wide audience.

Read the entire review here.

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