Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Joshua Mugler: The Life of Christopher

 Joshua Mugler, "The Life of Christopher," Al-ʿUṣūr al-Wusṭā 29 (2021), 112-180.


Christopher, a native of Baghdad who became patriarch of Antioch in about 349/960, was assassinated by Muslim rebels in 356/967 because of his loyalty to their Muslim ruler. When the Byzantines conquered Antioch two years later, his story was told in a variety of ways by those with different and competing interests. Christopher was mentioned in Byzantine histories and in Antiochian liturgies. However, by far the most extensive and detailed version of the story comes to us in the Life of Christopher, written by Ibrāhīm b. Yūḥannā, a Byzantine bureaucrat and translator who grew up in Antioch and knew Christopher when he, Ibrāhīm, was a young boy. The hagiography was originally composed in Greek and translated by its author into Arabic, but only the Arabic survives. Here I provide, for the first time, both a critical edition of the two known Arabic manuscripts and a full English translation. This text is a valuable testimony to Christian life in Antioch under both the Ḥamdānids and the Byzantines, and to the difficulties of life along the constantly shifting frontier of medieval northern Syria.

This is one of the most important texts for our knowledge of the city and Patriarchate of Antioch immediately before and after the Byzantine reconquest of the city in 969. Download the entire article here.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Yulia Petrova: The Development of the Orthodox Christian Vocabulary in Arabic


 Yulia Petrova, "The Development of the Orthodox Christian Vocabulary in Arabic"

in Romano-Arabica 20 (2020), 259-271


The beginnings of Christian literature in Arabic and the use of Arabic in a liturgical setting go back
to the early 8th century. During its history, the Arabic Christian vocabulary underwent several stages of
formation. The earliest common Christian vocabulary was much influenced by Aramaic, which co-existed with Arabic in the region for centuries. In addition, different lexical peculiarities developed within the vocabulary specific for each Middle Eastern Christian community (Melkites, Copts, Jacobites, Nestorians, Maronites), reflecting their religious traditions and their cultural history. The Arabic Christian Orthodox vocabulary developed under the strong influence of Byzantine tradition. As the manuscript sources witness, in the 17th - 18th centuries a large number of Church terms (especially from the liturgical domain) were Greek loanwords that circulated widely and were in common use among the Melkites. If compared with the contemporary texts, it can be observed that many original Greek terms became archaisms and were replaced with Arabic equivalents. At the same time, the majority of the terms used since the Ottoman epoch coincide with the contemporary variants. It can be concluded that the bulk of Arabic Christian Orthodox terminology was formed in the 17th century, in the period of the “Melkite Renaissance”. 

A pdf of the article is can be downloaded here or, if that doesn't work, here.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Martin Lüstraeten: Arabic Typicon Translations and Byzantinization

 Martin Lüstraeten

The Source Value of Arabic Typikon‑Manuscripts as Testimonials for the Byzantinization of the Melkites


With the expansion of Islam, the patriarchates of Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria were divided from the Byzantine Empire. The Orthodox Christians there still defined themselves as Byzantine Orthodox and began to adapt their liturgical customs by adopting Byzantine liturgical books. When Greek was not understood any longer, they began to translate and copy their liturgical books, thereby creating their own branch of tradition, which is marked by multilingualism, reception of their own Bible tradition as well as the exclusion of “neo‑martyrs” from their calendar of saints.

Read the entire article, open-access here.

I think that the evidence Lüstraeten presents, and even his own analysis of it, points to a shift to a stronger identification of the Melkites with Byzantium in the Mamluk period (during which Melkite ecclesiastical institutions suffered a near-fatal decline) than had existed previously, certainly than had existed prior to the Crusades. Likewise, he mentions but does not explore in detail the fact that these Typica may well have been translated from earlier Syriac translations, something that also complicates any account of  Byzantinization as simply a matter of performing a Byzantine cultural identity. A detail in support of this might be the fact that during Byzantine rule in 11th century Antioch, Nikon of the Black Mountain  promoted the Palestinian Sabaite Typikon in Antiochian monasteries rather than the more properly 'Byzantine' Studite one. So the choice of the Typikon that was translated likely was motivated both by the prestige of its association with the most important Palestinian Orthodox institution (especially among the Sinaite monks who promoted the translated Typicon) in addition to any desire to move towards more mainstream Byzantine practice, something that took over entirely with Meletius Karma and the introduction of printing.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Free to Download: Robert Haddad's Syrian Christians in a Muslim Society

While this monograph is in some respects quite dated, especially as regards its account of the millet system and the place of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in it, Robert Haddad's monograph Syrian Christians in a Muslim Society: An Interpretation remains essential reading for understanding the Patriarchate of Antioch during the Ottoman period and the social and ecclesiastical circumstances that led to the schism of 1724. It should, however, be read alongside Constantin Panchenko's Arab Orthodox Christians under the Ottomans and Hasan Colak's The Orthodox Church in the Early Modern Middle East, which both make extensive use manuscripts and archival materials not available to Haddad.

It can be downloaded freely (and, it seems, legally) here.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Met Ephrem (Kyriakos): Christian Marriage

 Arabic original here.

Christian Marriage


In Christian marriage, according to the teaching of the Apostle Paul, the man is an image of Christ and the woman is an image of the Church.

Saint John Chrysostom says, "Christ, the head of the Church has died living for our sake." And in the Epistle reading for the wedding service (Ephesians 5:20-33), the Apostle Paul says: "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord...  just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything" (Ephesians 5:22 and 24).

The Apostle continues and says: "Husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies" (Ephesians 5:28). Love is death for the sake of the other. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). Love does not wait for reciprocity: "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?" (Luke 6:31). 

This is the sort of love that is expected of the man, just as it is of the woman.

Therefore, as it is said it in the Epistle to the Ephesians: "Husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself" (Ephesians 5:28).

The conclusion in the Epistle to the Ephesians is the following: a man's relationship to his wife is according to the model of Christ's relationship to the Church, so if God's commandment to the Christian believer is to love others as he loves himself (Matthew 22:39), how can we not begin by applying this first in our own homes? All of this "to keep the good wine until the end" (John 2:10).

This is the mystery of Christ and the Church. This is the perfect union of man and woman. Every virtue, and especially the virtue of love, is demanded of believers whom the Lord has redeemed by His precious blood. Amen.

+ Ephrem

Metropolitan of Tripoli, al-Koura and their Dependencies

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Jad Ganem: The Picture Speaks


 Arab original here.

The Picture Speaks

Recently, the world followed on television and online the celebrations of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul at the Vatican in the presence of His Beatitude John X and an accompanying Antiochian delegation and with the participation of a delegation from the Patriarchate of Constantinople headed by Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon.

Observers of events in the Orthodox Church have commented on a number of images that appeared during this celebration, including:

- That the Patriarch of Antioch was dressed in the clerical robes that he wears outside the liturgy.

- That the Metropolitan of Chalcedon was wearing the robes that bishops wear during the liturgy, with a priest walking behind him holding up the edge of his mantiya. 

- That the delegations from Constantinople and Antioch did not sit in the same place inside Saint Peter's Basilica.

In addition to the images that have appeared on social media, the Phanar's news website and Greek news sites close to the Phanar reported the event in the following manner: "During the Divine Liturgy that took place today, Tuesday, June 29, 2021, at the Basilica of St. Peter of Rome, by Pope Francis, a delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate led by Elder Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon, along with Patriarch John X of Antioch, attended the service."

These observations lead to a number of questions:

- Does ecclesiastical etiquette not require Constantinople's representative, Metropolitan Emmanuel, to follow the example of the Patriarch of Antioch and to be content to wear clerical dress and not liturgical vestments?

- Is it appropriate for there to be two delegations representing the one Orthodox Church taking part, as though they were two churches unconnected to each other?

- What is the sense in giving the impression in news reports that Constantinople's representative has precedence over the Patriarch of Antioch?

Of course, no one either in or outside the Orthodox world is ignorant of the fact that Constantinople wants to give the impression that the Patriarch of Constantinople is "first without equals" and that his position in the Orthodox world is different from that of the other churches. This is something alien to tradition and is a contentious issue within the family of Orthodox Churches. Perhaps this frantic quest to establish this differentiation is causing the Phanariots to become estranged from reality and to live in their own imaginary world.

If it were the case that any one of Constantinople's bishops takes precedence before the patriarchs of the local churches, then does this mean, for example, that any one of the bishops of Alexandria or Antioch takes precedence over the Patriarchs of Jerusalem, Romania or Serbia?

The pictures have spoken on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul in Rome and they have revealed the Church of Antioch's fidelity to tradition and the crisis that is sweeping the Orthodox world on account of the deep-seated superiority complex of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and its representatives, manifest in the unparalleled peacockery of its representative, cast into sharp relief by the simplicity of his host, the Pope, and the reserve of the Patriarch of Antioch.

The picture has spoken more and has vindicated what Orthodox have been saying for years about Constantinople's effort to practice an eastern papism. Will the leaders of the Orthodox world rise up before it's too late?

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Met Ephrem (Kyriakos) on Almsgiving

Arabic original here.



The Third Pillar of Orthodox Spirituality

The Orthodox Church views prayer, fasting and almsgiving as the three pillars of Orthodox spirituality. In these difficult days, almsgiving has taken on greater and greater importance throughout the world. We hope that it will be practiced more and more spiritually, maintaining our concern for prayer and fasting.

The world today is in dire need of the living-out of Orthodox spirituality filled with the Holy Spirit. Civilization is thirsty for such a practice in a world that has become more and more secular and materialist.


How to Look at Money according to the Teachings of the Lord Jesus

Jesus discussed money in a spiritual way that differs from how we usually look at it. He regarded almsgiving as a fundamental part of God's salvific dispensation. Money is not limited pastorally to fundraising. It is considered in the Bible and the Church from a spiritual perspective.

This view must be incorporated into the training of priests and theology students. The Lord Jesus considered teaching about money to be one of his most profound spiritual teachings. In Matthew 6 He presented the three spiritual pillars and placed a special emphasis on money and almsgiving, or charity, just as He typically emphasizes love, obedience and forgiveness. He says, for example, "No one can serve two masters: God and money" (Matthew 6:24).

With regard to almsgiving, He says, "When you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing," (Matthew 6:3). And also, "
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal... For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:19 and 21).

Once more, we say: Jesus doesn't just talk about money as we are accustomed to do ourselves, in terms of aiding the poor or supporting the parish's annual budget.

The Lord Jesus had a very different, spiritual view of money. For example, He didn't just ask the rich young man to distribute his wealth to the poor. The goal was to eliminate the material impediment that was preventing him from enjoying eternal life (cf. Matthew 19:21).

The topic of almsgiving not only covers giving to the poor. The word 'almsgiving' or 'charity' in Greek, ἐλεημοσύνη, also indicates works of mercy, which means that almsgiving is merciful giving: "Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy."

Saint John Chrysostom says: "The rich exist for the sake of the poor and the poor exist for the salvation of the rich." Saint Gregory of Nyssa says in his homily On Love for the Poor: "Mercy and love of almsgiving are works that God loves. They deify those who practice them and imprint upon them the likeness of the Good so that they become the image of the Divine Being."

The Apostle Paul says of Jesus' giving: "Though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9).

He adds: "Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body [a]to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing" (1 Corinthians 13:3). So let giving be motivated by love and not for selfish reasons.


Metropolitan of Tripoli, al-Koura and their Dependencies