The Letter of Mara bar Sarapion to his son – preserved in a single Syriac manuscript (7th. cent. CE) – still speaks to its readers, evocatively depicting the dramatic situation of a nobleman imprisoned after the Roman capture of Samosata, capital of Commagene. The letter is best known today for a passage on the “wise king of the Jews,” which may be one of the earliest pagan testimonies concerning Jesus Christ. Ongoing controversy over the letter’s date, nature, and purpose has, however, led to the widespread neglect of this intriguing document. In the present volume, Merz and Tieleman have brought together cutting-edge research from an interdisciplinary team of leading experts that significantly advances our appreciation of the letter and its historical context.
Annette Merz, PhD (2001), is Professor of Culture and Literature of Earliest Christianity at the University of Utrecht. She has published books and articles on the Historical Jesus and on Pauline Pseudepigraphy, including
Die fiktive Selbstauslegung des Paulus (2004).
Teun Tieleman, PhD (1992), is Reader in Ancient Philosophy at the University of Utrecht. He has published extensively on Stoicism and on ancient medicine, most notably Galen. His monographs include
Chrysippus on Affections. Reconstruction and Interpretation (2007).
Table of contents
1. General Introduction
Annette Merz and Teun Tieleman 2. Making Use of History beyond the Euphrates: Political Views, Cultural Traditions, and Historical Contexts in the
Letter of Mara bar Sarapion
Michael A. Speidel 3. Cultural Responses from Kingdom to Province. The Romanisation of Commagene, Local Identities and the Mara bar Sarapion Letter
Miguel John Versluys 4. Languages, Cultural Identities and Elites in the Land of Mara bar Sarapion
Margherita Facella 5. Religious Life of Commagene in the Late Hellenistic and Early Roman Period
Michael Blömer 6. Jesus As the Ever-Living Lawgiver in the Letter of Mara bar Sarapion
Petr Pokorny 7. Mara’s God(s) and Time
Albert de Jong 8. Where is Wisdom to be found? A Plea in Favour of Semitic Influences in the Letter of Mara bar Sarapion
Pancratius C. Beentjes 9. Mara bar Sarapion and Greek Philosophy
David Blank 10. The Deaths of Plato
Anna Ntinti 11. Consolation from Prison: Mara bar Sarapion and Boethius
Pieter W. van der Horst 12. Mara bar Sarapion: Comments on the Syriac Edition, Translation, and Notes by David Rensberger
Ilaria L. E. Ramelli
All interested in early Syriac language and literature, ancient religion and philosophy, early Christianity, the political and military history of the Roman Empire and ancient Near Eastern culture and society.