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Comprehensive Bibliography on Syriac Christianity

It was during the sixteenth century in Renaissance Europe that, as a result of the efforts of the Catholic and Protestant scholars of the New Testament, Syriac studies became a part of European intellectual life. [1] Since then, the number of scholarly publications on various matters related to the historfy, culture and religious life of Syriac-speaking Christians has only increased. As these publications are in a variety of languages, and many of them scattered through journals and periodicals belonging to various academic fields, it is often difficult to obtain precise information on what has already been published on one or another aspect of Syriac Christianity. Our project aims to fill the evident gap in the bibliographical resources and provide a convenient and easily accessible tool for the worldwide scholarly community. The ultimate goal of this project is to create and launch an on-line database on Syriac Christianity that will be updated on a regular basis and available free of charge to the international scholarly community.

The need for such a project is conditioned by several factors. First, there is a steadily growing interest in the heritage of Syriac-speaking Christians among scholars as well as among the general public. Syriac Christianity played an important role in the historical, social and cultural developments that took place in the Middle East beginning with the period of Late Antiquity. Accordingly, it is essential to take this rich tradition into account in order to understand the cultural and religious dynamics of the region, from antiquity to modern times. The importance of Syriac Christianity lies not only in its interest as an independent and unique religious and cultural phenomenon worth investigating for its own sake, but in its relevance for several interdisciplinary fields. [2] Syriac studies are of especial importance for Jewish studies, especially to understand the cultural background of rabbinic Judaism and, in particular, of the Babylonian Talmud. They are also highly relevant for such branches of Islamic studies as research on the history and culture of pre-Islamic Arabs, on background of the Qur'an and early Islam, and last but not least on the process of the transmission and appropriation of Greek science. Furthermore, an understanding of other Eastern Christian traditions, such as Byzantine, Armenian and, especially, Christian Arabic, is often impossible without resorting to the information provided by Syriac sources.

As noted, the importance of the Syriac Christian tradition finds expression in many scholarly publications, the number of which has been steadily increasing since the beginning of Syriac studies. Given that the number of books and articles dealing with various aspects of Syriac Christianity is growing rapidly, it is becoming even more difficult for those interested in its various aspects to find the necessary information. The bibliographies compiled by Cyril Moss and Sebastian P. Brock provide a good starting point. [3] However, the whole idea of using a book format to present bibliographical data becomes more and more obsolete, since it can barely, if at all, compete with the advantages of digital databases, with their multiple options for entering and retrieving relevant information, as well as the possibility they provide for ongoing updating and improvement.

All this, in our opinion, makes obvious the need for a digital on-line database that will integrate the results of the centuries-old tradition of academic research on Syriac Christianity and make them easily available to a wide public. We hope that this project will be welcomed not only by those working in the field of Syriac studies, but that our database will serve as an indispensable research tool for scholars of early and medieval Christifanity, rabbinic Judaism, Islam, comparative religion and Semitic linguistics. Accordingly, our project is meant to be as all-inclusive thematically as possible.

It should be mentioned that we are not the first to realize the ifmportance of applying web-based digital technologies Ecclesiastes 12:12 in Syriac to the field of Syriac studies. One of the pioneers in this area of endeavor is Dr. George Kiraz, founder of Beth Mardutho Syriac Institute, due to whose efforts we have the Hugoye-list, an on-line discussion group that embraces Syriac scholars from all over the world and provides a unique opportunity for researchers to exchange information. It behooves us also to mention the Center for the Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts at Brigham Young University (USA), headed by Dr. Kristian Heal. The Center is one of the leading organizations in the field of applying digital technologies to the needs of scholars of ancient religious texts, including Christian ones, and it is highly commendable that Syriac Christianity is among the Center's priorities.

It was due to the inspiration provided by these innovative developments as well as by the Hebrew University's RAMBI database of articles in Jewish studies that the thought of a Syriac bibliographical project first occurred to me five years ago. I am particularly glad that the Center for the Study of Christianity of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, my alma mater, has recognized the importance of this project and decided to support it.

 

 

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In order for a reader to be able to make the best use of this bibliography, several technical matters need to be pointed out.

At present, the database includes more than 14.000 bibliographic entries. Some of these entries have been retrieved from already existing on-line bibliographic databases on biblical and patristic studies, such as the Index Theologicus of Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, the Bibliographic Information Base in Patristics of Université Laval and some others.

Furthermore, to a significant degree our database is founded on the following bibliographical works, without which it would have been impossible to compile:

 

Alwan, K., "Bibliographie générale raisonnée de Jacques de Saroug († 521)," Parole de l'Orient 13 (1986), 313-384.

Brock, S. P., Syriac Studies: A Classified Bibliography (1960-1990) (Kaslik: Université Saint-Esprit, 1996).

---. "Syriac Studies: A Classified Bibliography (1991-1995)," Parole de l'Orient 23 (1998), 241-350.

---. "Syriac Studies: A Classified Bibliography (1996-2000)," Parole de l'Orient 29 (2004), 263-410.

---. "Syriac Studies: A Classified Bibliography (2001-2005)," Parole de l'Orient 33 (2008), 281-446.

---. "Recent Books on Syriac Topics," Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies 9:1 (2006).

---. "Recent Books on Syriac Topics," Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies 10:1 (2007).

---. "Recent Books on Syriac Topics, Part 12," Hugoye 12:1 (2009), 167-171.

---. "Recent Books on Syriac Topics, Part 13," Hugoye 13:1 (2010), 103-107.

den Biesen, K., Bibliography of Ephrem the Syrian (Giove in Umbria: [the author], 2002).

Dirksen, P. B., An Annotated Bibliography of the Peshitta of the Old Testament (Monographs of the Peshitta Institute Leiden 5; Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1989).

---. "Supplement to An Annotated Bibliography of the Peshitta of the Old Testament, 1989," in: P.B. Dirksen and A. van der Kooij (eds.), The Peshitta as a Translation: Papers Read at the II Peshitta Symposium Held at Leiden, 19-21 August 1993 (Monographs of the Peshitta Institute Leiden 8; Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1995), 221-236.

Kessel, G. M., and Pinggéra, K., A Bibliography of Syriac Ascetic and Mystical Literature (Eastern Christian Studies 11; Leuven: Peeters, 2010).

Kruisheer, D., "A Bibliographical Clavis to the Works of Jacob of Edessa (Revised and Expanded)," in: R.B. ter Haar Romeny (ed.), Jacob of Edessa and the Syriac Culture of His Day (Monographs of the Peshitta Institute Leiden 18; Leiden: Brill, 2008), 265-293.

Michelson, D.A., "A Bibliographic Clavis to the Works of Philoxenos of Mabbug," Hugoye 13:2 (2010), 273-338.

Moss, C., Catalogue of Syriac Printed Books and Related Literature in the British Museum (London: Trustees of the British Museum, 1962).

Takahashi, H., Barhebraeus: A Bio-Bibliography (Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2005).

Thomas, D. R., and Roggema, B. H. (eds.), Christian-Muslim Relations: A Bibliographical History. Volume 1 (600?900) (History of Christian-Muslim Relations 11; Leiden: Brill, 2009).

Yousif, P., A Classified Bibliography on the East Syrian Liturgy (Mar Thoma Yogam Publications 2; Rome: Mar Thoma Yogam, 1990).

 

Although our database features most of the bibliographical entries contained in these books, it by no means renders some of them obsolete, as they contain more analytical information than it was possible to include with our present format.

In addition, a systematic examination of a number of periodicals relevant to the field of Syriac studies has been undertaken, among them ARAM, The Harp, Hugoye, Journal of the Canadian Society for Syriac Studies, Le Muséon, Melto, Oriens Christianus, Orientalia Christiana Periodica, Parole de l'Orient, Proche-Orient Chrétien, Revue de l'Orient Chrétien and Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft.

 

At the same time, a certain number of entries have not been acquired directly, but have been extracted from the bibliographical lists in various books on Syriac-related subjects. Accordingly, there is the possibility of mistakes having crept in, not to mention inevitable gaps in bibliographical information.

Finally, the project is still in its preliminary stage and is focused primarily on the Western (i.e., European and American) tradition of Syriac studies. We are well aware of the growing interest in Syriac Christianity among the scholars of such countries as Lebanon, Turkey and India. While our database does include the works of some scholars from these countries, this has not been done consistently. We expect in the future to cover this area of Syriac studies in a more systematic way.

 

As to the possibilities of exploring the database, in addition to the options of searching by author's name and words in title, it can also be searched by keywords, which include not only particular subjects or names, but also time periods (centuries or epochs). 

 

We hope that this attempt to provide a convenient bibliographical tool for such an immense field will prove helpful to scholars, both those specializing in the field and those making initial inroads into it. We would greatly appreciate any corrections, critical comments or suggestions on how to improve this database.

 

 

Sergey Minov

Department of Comparative Religion, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

 


[1] For a general overview of the field's history, see S. P. Brock, "The Development of Syriac Studies," in: K. J. Cathcart (ed.), The Edward Hincks Bicentenary Lectures (Dublin: University College Dublin, 1994), 94-113. On the sixteenth-century origins of Syriac studies in Europe, see R.J. Wilkinson, Orientalism, Aramaic and Kabbalah in the Catholic Reformation: The First Printing of the Syriac New Testament (Studies in the History of Christian Traditions 137; Leiden: Brill, 2007); Idem, The Kabbalistic Scholars of the Antwerp Polyglot Bible (Studies in the History of Christian Traditions 138; Leiden: Brill, 2007).

[2] See on this, S. P. Brock, "Introduction to Syriac Studies," in: J. H. Eaton (ed.), Horizons in Semitic Studies: Articles for the Student (University Semitics Study Aids 8; Birmingham: Department of Theology University of Birmingham, 1980), 2-8.

[3] C. Moss, Catalogue of Syriac Printed Books and Related Literature in the British Museum (London: Trustees of the British Museum, 1962); S. P. Brock, Syriac Studies: A Classified Bibliography (1960-1990) (Kaslik: Université Saint-Esprit, 1996). Brock publishes regular updates to his bibliography in the journals Parole de l'Orient and Hugoye.

 

 

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