In August 2015, the XVII. International Conference on Patristic Studies in Oxford held its very first workshop on Arabic translations of patristic texts. It was a milestone in the study of a promising but insufficiently researched area in the history of Christianity: the translation and reception of patristic works in Arabophone Christian communities (Melkite, Coptic, Maronite, Syrian Orthodox, and the Church of the East).
In an attempt to enhance the visibility of this branch of Patristic Studies, the editors have taken the initiative to publish the conference papers in this volume, together with several other relevant contributions from a new generation of scholars of Arabic Christianity. The volume presents and analyzes a wealth of hitherto unstudied texts and manuscripts that are the fruit of various phases in the Graeco-Arabic and Syro-Arabic patristic translation movements.
These texts are relevant for several reasons. They are an important component of the intellectual history of the Middle Eastern Churches. Research into the surviving manuscripts and their contents contributes to our understanding of the heritage and identity of these communities and of their intellectual exchanges with others. Studies of these Arabic translations of patristic literature increase awareness of the continuity between early Christianity, of which the Middle East is the ancient heartland, and Arabic Christianity. This, in turn, helps re-conceptualize the history of Arabic-speaking Christianity as an integral part of the history of Christianity, rather than as a distant and marginal outgrow of it.
The unexplored manuscripts of Arabic translations of patristic works deserve study also because they often contain texts lost in their original languages or preserve them in a more ancient or more complete form. The examples presented in this volume will hopefully encourage further study. The introductory “Bibliographical Guide to Arabic Patristic Translations and Related Texts” at the end of the volume is intended as an overview of the material available and as a tool to understand the steps to be taken next in the study of Arabic patristics.
The editors take this opportunity to offer sincere thanks to the participants of the Oxford workshop, to all our contributors, to the editorial board of Brill’s ACTS book series, and to the editorial staff at Brill, especially Maurits van den Boogert, Franca de Kort, and Cas Van den Hof, for helping to produce this volume.