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Volume Editors: Sergey Minov and Flavia Ruani
Chapters gathered in Syriac Hagiography: Texts and Beyond explore a wide range of Syriac hagiographical works, while following two complementary methodological approaches, i.e. literary and cultic, or formal and functional. Grouped into three main sections, these contributions reflect three interrelated ways in which we can read Syriac hagiography and further grasp its characteristics: “Texts as Literature” seeks to unfold the mechanisms of their literary composition; “Saints Textualized” offers a different perspective on the role played by hagiographical texts in the invention and/or maintenance of the cult of a particular saint or group of saints; “Beyond the Texts” presents cases in which the historical reality behind the nexus of hagiographical texts and veneration of saints can be observed in greater details.

Abstract

In early Coptic stories of saints and martyrs, demons are usually prototypical adversaries and side with the devil in his battle against Christ. However, it has been noted that in magical texts of a definitely Christian social origin, demons are sometimes invoked for assistance. Such sources might perhaps be dismissed as unrepresentative of the official theological position of the Alexandrian church, but, as is shown in the present paper, demons are occasionally portrayed as champions of Christ also in more ‘respectable’ texts such as hagiographies of the later 1st millennium AD. This is argued to show that the more nuanced analysis of demons does not represent an early folk undercurrent of Egyptian Christianity, but rather reflects an alternative theological view derived from the idea that God created good and evil for a reason.

In: Vigiliae Christianae

Abstract

How Evagrius Ponticus (d. 399) composed his highly influential treatises of short and succinct chapters (kepahalaia) is bewildering and has been discussed by many scholars. In this essay the literary composition of Evagrius’ To monks in monasteries and communities, or Ad monachos, a typical text of short chapters, is examined from a literary perspective by relating the text to literary conventions, common in late antique literature and in rhetorical handbooks and exercises (progymnasmata). It is demonstrated how the teaching develops gradually in accordance with a pattern for a so-called amplified argument (epicheireme) codified in Pseudo-Hermogenes Progymnasmata. By this arrangement of the teaching, the reader is offered, not just a random taste of various aspects of the monastic life, but a set of specific conclusions to implement or to be aware of practically in the life as monk; conclusions that are perceptible not at just a cursory glance, but at a careful and repeated reading.

In: Vigiliae Christianae

Abstract

This article analyses how Rufinus alters and then extends Eusebius’ church history to draw a narrative continuum of pagan idolatry, tyranny and blood sacrifice across the fourth century. It begins with a taxonomy that illustrates the various ways that Rufinus’ text differs from Eusebius’ and then analyses how Rufinus enhances the levels of cruelty and bloody carnage in his Eusebian source, especially with regards to the tyrannical behaviour of the pagan emperors Maximinus, Maxentius, and Licinius. Lastly, it turns to Rufinus’ account of Eugenius’ uprising and the destruction of the temple of Serapis and shows how Rufinus’ repeated criticism of pagan imperial persecution acts to justify Theodosius’ actions.

In: Vigiliae Christianae
Author: Julia Winnebeck

Abstract

The paper examines the evidence for slavery in the late antique and early medieval penitentials. This body of sources has only recently been rediscovered for the study of slavery. Most of the earliest extant penitentials contain canons that deal in one way or another with slaves (servus or ancilla) or slavery (servitium). These canons can roughly be grouped into three categories according to the aspect under which slavery is considered in them: In the first category of canons, slaves are merely mentioned in the description of a sin in which they are either involved in or the victim of. The second category of canons considers slavery as a penitential punishment. The third category, finally, offers more general rules or laws on slavery. Samples for these three categories and their analysis form the main part of the paper. The presented evidence is then evaluated with regard to the questions what kind of insights the penitentials offer for the study of slavery in general, and the involvement of the Church in slavery in particular.

In: Vigiliae Christianae
Author: Alastair Logan

Abstract

Old St Peter’s in Rome, according to the sixth-century Liber Pontificalis, was founded by Constantine (306-337), a claim accepted by most scholars who appeal to a variety of evidence. This paper will challenge this, focusing on the inscriptional and mosaic evidence and developing the arguments of Glen Bowersock and Alastair Logan that it was not constructed by Constantine at all but by one of his sons, in all likelihood Constans (337-350). It will argue that he began it in the late 340s as a five-aisled cemeterial basilica which Constantius II (337-361) completed in the late 350s, adding the apse mosaic. The paper will argue for the fundamental significance of two anonymous inscriptions and claim that the key evidence cited has not properly included one of them and in fact reflects the growing influence of legends about Constantine and Silvester.

In: Vigiliae Christianae
Author: Allison L. Gray

Abstract

In a seldom discussed episode from Gregory of Nyssa’s Life of Gregory Thaumaturgus, the wonderworking bishop converts a pagan temple custodian using the written word and a miracle. Physical proofs seem essential for teaching this outsider about divine power. Yet in the very next episode the narrator praises Thaumaturgus for disregarding physical appearances and for keeping silent. A close reading of the Life 34-47 demonstrates that Gregory of Nyssa models, within the narrative, a progression from basic catechesis through signs to the more complex work of interpreting signs, making inferences from what is seen to that which remains unseen. Contextualizing this paradoxical sequence of Thaumaturgus vignettes in Cappadocian discussions of divine condescension and principles of fourth-century Christian paideia, I show that Gregory of Nyssa uses the juxtaposition between Thaumaturgus’ teaching and conduct to model the flexible approach required for bishops to communicate the nature of divine power to varied audiences.

In: Vigiliae Christianae
Author: M. David Litwa

Abstract

This article argues that John 8:44 helped to inspire the early Christian view that the creator was an evil being. John 8:44 has at least four possible readings allowed by grammar. In two of these readings, taken by a variety of early Christian groups (including early catholics), there is indication that the devil has a father. Since the desires of this father are known from the parallel desires of his children, some early Christians inferred the hostility of the devil’s father toward Christ, and thus his evil nature.

In: Vigiliae Christianae