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.

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