Saturday, March 03, 2012

Live Blogging: "What Would It Take to Move the Map?" conference at EDS

Today at Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge Ma from 9-6pm: What Would It Take to Move the Map? Abrahamic Religions on the Silk Road

First panel: Introducing the Map with Profs Larry Wills, Cameron Partridge and Bruce Lawrence (remotely from Norway where he is speaking at "Saladin Days").  Academic discourse flows west from Jerusalem to Europe. Time to move east--with support from EDS and the Luce Foundation. Presentations to be published.

Overview of the conference: moving gradually further and further east. Maps are inherently conservative.

Larry Wills: identity issues are important--from HDS last year--why call it Judaism and Christianity when it has gone all the way to China. Is American Episcopal tradition closer to Jesus than ancient Chinese faith? How do host culture and guest culture interract? Are there clear boundaries? Was Philo Jewish with a Greek garment or Hellenistic with a Jewish garment. Judaism before Philo was persianized Judaism. Cyrus allowed Jews to return and Ezra and Nehemiah reformed and constructed Jewish society. The term "Jew" is a new identity marker. This Judaism is strongly influenced from Persia. Themes: named ranks of angels and demons, emphasis on scribe as trained leader like Moses, emphasis on dualism and ritual purity, human destiny and eschatology. These beliefs are presented as ancient beliefs: neo-primordializing.

A huge identity change. Those who remained in Judah were not the true Jews. Judaism now becomes  a religious and ethnic marker. 2 Maccabees invents the term Ioudaismos. The suffix -ism in our English language starts here. Parallels to Indian and Persian purity laws? What if there was another player: Roma (gypsies --name from Egypt), also show up in nearly the same places as Jews. In addition to Jews these extended from Persia to East and Europe and beyond.

Now Jerusalem as centered in the temple also portable: to India, China etc. Reverence for the center did not require a center. Persian notions of purity redefine Judaism. In fact western religions are more Persian than people realize.

Forgotten East--Example: Tobiad family + Zenon papyri, archaeological discoveries, Tobit but condemned by Nehemiah as "the Ammonite." Rages a major trade city on the Silk Road. But little attention paid to a social history of this family. Tobit is part of Ethiopic canon but not others.

Loss of eastern materials is an identity question--people only remember data when we have new maps on which to lay identities.

Cameron Partridge: Byzantine Christianity is only mentioned in passing in histories of Christianity. Reframing early Christian texts of the patristic era to allow these texts their contemporary and spatial differences and to learn to interpret these texts with an eye for differences. How do these texts map cosmos and body in relation to each other? Gregory of Nyssa and Maximus the Confessor. How our encounters with these texts might regard them as a crossroads?

Gregory writes from Cappadocia in modern Turkey. No western Christian doctrine of original sin but natures of humanity. Does he take up the "becoming male" topos?  As in Gos Thomas and Martyrdom of Perpetua. How do we read androcentrism? To complicate this topos, look at the concept of borders. Macrina in Gregory's Life of Macrina is referred to with a feminine article and a masculine noun: He didaskolos. Macrina is a new kind of human being.

Bruce Lawrence (via Adobe Connect): resources -- Lisa Griswold in her book the 10th Parallel. Joe Fletcher jr. son of Joseph Fletcher was a scholar who wrote of Islam in the east. The term Perso-Arabic coined by writer Marshall Hodgson. When Persians convert to Islam they understand Arabic in a Persian idiom. In 751 the battle of Palas Chinese general during the Tang dynasty defeated by Persian troops plus Arab general. Muslims became custodians of a "Silk Road civility" (altho the term isn't used until the 19th Century). Silk Road doesn't stop at Antioch but at Constantinople, as a feeder and destination. In the east there are canals from Xiang to the China Seas. Silk road is a land route but opens from Mediterranean to the South China seas.

Colin Thurbron--travel writer: Shadow of the Silk Road  Xiang had 22 miles of wall in the 7th Century. Today only 9 miles of walls. The city lived on trade.

Mongols under Gengis Khan were a nomadic group using Silk Road for conquest. Islam didn't succeed with Mongols but with their sucessor Tamerlaine who proposed an Islamic ruling elite in 14th Century. Perso-Arabic is a language of culture from Constantinople to Xiang.

Responses: Larry Wills--The silk road idea is a challenge to post-colonial theory which focuses on the hegemony of a fixed place. Theorists are from India. Next: Was Paul the same in the East? We often learn a Lutheran Paul.

Bruce Lawrence: maps were important for trade. What about cosmological maps? Timur drew on maps in which individual reflects light. Light is a transgendered abstract source and a source of power in eastern theology and Islam (cf. transfiguration). Chinese term for Xiany is "religion of light." Word for Nestorian is "teaching of the shadow." Perhaps most religions of the silk road are dark and light.

John Townsend: Sunday school maps of Paul's missionary journeys maps occur post 1700 when SPG was founded! In Talmudic scholarship middle Persian documents have just been discovered as a reading of Talmud.

Fredrica Thompsett: what kind of forces and control are also moving down the Silk Road?

Jeanne- Nicole Saint-Laurent in Syriac studies at St Michael's College, Vermont. Jesus' Aramaic is most closely paralleled in Syriac in metaphors and stories. Ephraim the Syrian and hagiography in 2 lives of saints. Syriac is a dialect of Aramaic in use from the 11th Century on. Edessa is the place where Syriac was spoken. Syriac is still spoken today in various forms e.g. in monastery of Mor Gabriel in southern Turkey. Earliest inscription in 6CE. Earliest ms is dated 411 found in monastery in Egypt in a vault of olive oil--Lord Cureton connected with its discovery. Spread of language is spread of Christianity and along the Silk Road to Malabar Coast where the Christians are Syriac in their roots. This is one of the largest Syriac communities today. Amongst Christians after Islam it is used bi-lingually. God bless the Syriac Christians in Homs.

By 200 the Bible is translated into Syriac: Tatian's Diatessaron. Ephrem the Syrian is a doctor of the church. Uses poetry to theologize and hymns to fight heretics. Lived in Nisibis (306-373). Today on the border between Turkey and Syria. Many different types of Christians in Nisibis. First non-biblical hymns come into the church probably through Ephrem's response to hymns of Arius. A semitic Asian Christianity and less European form.

Dispute poetry is a tradition of literature from Mespotamia e.g. what did Mary really think when Gabriel arrives? Rich form of theological expression. Idioms are from Mespotamia e.g. eucharist is the medicine of life. Close to Judaism. Jesus is the great physician.

Hagiographic tradition of Febronia --6th C life. Used to understand a translation and tradition extended to southern Italy and Sicily. Cultural exchange. Bones fell on the shores of Bari. She came from Nisibis and a church in her honor erected there. She was a teacher. Martyred as ascetic and courageous woman scholar. As she is tortured she is always in control of the situations. Reliquary of Febronia's tooth over which bishops and others argue in the shape of a tooth. 3 feast days celebrated today.

Roberta Ervine--Armenian Studies at St Nersess Armenian Seminary. Armenian Christianity is a missing link. Armenian genocide at the beginning of the 20th Century wiped out a generation of Armenians. Non-Armenians are only now beginning integration of Armenian Christianity. 1st C Armenian apostolic activity. Also very old presence in Jerusalem. 301 a possible date. Women martyred in Diocletian persecution. Gregory became Armenia's baptizer and he founded the first dynasty of Armenian patriarchs. His shrine is a major pilgrimage site. Armenians adopted the first 3 ecumenical councils but not Chalcedon. Echmiadzin is the capital and administers Persian and Russian zones and has survived.

Division between Armenians in Cilicia and Cappadocia due to historical circumstances. Art and architecture are evident and can be traced back through stone crosses (what icons are to Byzantine churches). Cross is a multi-layered reality not a symbol. Grew organically from Adam as the reality of Christ's earthly life.  Frames and shelters death and life. Constitutes the space through which Armenians worship and is the gap between heaven and earth. In liturgy, the believers should be inside buildings made in the sign of the cross.

Armenian church cultivated monks who dedicated their lives to the incarnation of faith-knowledge. Rigorous training in decades. Took into himself the Bible and its ancillary texts. Every Christian is called to embody it but in a monk, Scripture is integrated into writings of the fathers and science. The successful candidate had to show in tenor of life that words and deeds were lived out to those who had not the luxury of study. The Monk was a cook that took raw ingredients and made them into appropriate dishes to everyone to taste and see that it is good. Theology is equally harmonious and equally clear for different levels of interest.

Only tiny amounts of these texts are available and those that exist are not always competent as these are nuanced and complicated writings. They are steeped in scripture. Without this knowledge the allusions are obscure. Oneness is the special gift of the Armenian church.

Comment: Much intersection in richness and use of the symbolic in Syriac and Armenian traditions. Syriac is our root and plant.

Lunch: Robert Gregg (Stamford) summary to follow on representations of Jonah and Mary in eastern and western traditions.

James Kodera, Wellesley College, ordained Episcopal Priest and part-time ministry. Topic: Christian Traditions in India: Apostle Thomas through the colonial periods to the present: Syrian or Malabar Christians and Dalit Christians. Assumptions of US: Asians became Christians but one of the oldest churches in the world is dated to AD54 and is a Thomas Church in India. The apostle Thomas arrived in 52CE intending to proselytize amongst Jews in Cochin (Chennamanangalam, Kerala) who had already settled there after the destruction of the first temple. Thomas baptized Brahmins. Martyred 72 CE. The largest church in the world is in Seoul, Korea.

Mappa Mundi at the end of the 13th Century represents a British view of the world. Jerusalem is the center of the world. There should be many maps. No mention of the silk road which was established 2nd C BCE.  Is this a deliberate omission?

150 CE Ptolemy's map of the world with Euphrates at the center of the universe. Asia has been moved many times from Asia Minor and then further east to Asia and India. Now around China. It moved as the view of the world expanded. Standardization or canonization as a process includes but also excludes. And that is a mentality of those who expanded the map to show Asia further east.

Christ as a Dravidian in stone sculptures and a member of the lowest segment of society.

Summary: Christian history should be taught in regard to three pillars: Greek, Latin and Asian. 


Jules said...

Cool about Macrina. Also very interesting about Persianization. More specifics please?

Martha said...

Thank you so much for blogging this. Will it be 'published' e.g., by recording or video?

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