'A learned and eloquent man, fluent in our language and in that of the Armenians'. John bar Andreas (d. 1155) and Syro-Armenian polemics in the 11th and 12th centuries

Start - End 
2021 - 2024 (ongoing)
Department(s) 
Department of History

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Abstract

In the medieval Near East, in the aftermath of the arrival of Latin Christians from the West and Seljuk Turks from the East, Christian groups sought to define their own identity by emphasizing the distinctions between themselves and members of other churches and other faiths. Whereas traditionally research has focused mostly on Christian-Muslim and Jewish-Christian interaction, and interaction between Greek and other Christians, or Western and Eastern Christians, this project explores Syro-Armenian interfaith dialogue, specifically from the standpoint of  John bar Andreas (d. 1155/6), the Syriac Orthodox bishop of Mabbug, Kharshana and later of Tur Abdin, a lesser known polemicist and younger contemporary of Dionysius bar Salibi (d. 1171), the bishop of Mar‘ash (Germanikeia) and Amida (Diyarbekir).

Bar Andreas not only wrote the earliest known anti-Armenian treatise in Syriac, which is preserved in a unique manuscript, but also appears to have translated into Syriac an Armenian letter from the eleventh century. As such, John is the best document example of a bilingual Syriac-Armenian Syriac Orthodox Christian, an observation which shall be used as a step-up to also investigate the neglected topic of Syriac-Armenian bilingualism in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. His treatise “against the Armenian doctors” will be edited, translated and studied, in particular as regards his use of biblical and patristic citations, and anti-Jewish rhetoric.

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