Syrien im 1.-7. Jahrhundert nach Christus. Edited by DMITRU BUMAZHNOV and HANS REINHARD SEELIGER. Studien und Texte zu Antike und Christentum, vol. 62. Tubingen: MOHR SIEBECK, 2011. Pp. viii + 284. [euro]64 (paper).
In the failed hope of preserving the "Languages and Cultures of the Christian Orient" chair at Tubingen beyond the anticipated retirement of Stephen Gero (chair, 1980-2008), the university's Catholic and Protestant faculties organized a series of conferences on "The Christian East in Late Antiquity." This collection of essays gathers nine papers from the first of these conferences: "Syrien im 1.-7. Jahrhundert nach Christus" (15-16 June 2007). It also includes three other contributions not presented at the conference, but deemed suitable for inclusion, specifically essays by Luise Abramowski (Tubingen), Cornelia Horn (Tubingen), and Jonathan Loopstra (Capital University). These make up for the omission of six conference presentations not intended for publication, including one by Gero himself. Only four of the published essays are in English; the rest are German.
Most papers in the collection fall under the canopy of Syriac studies. However, even a quick glance at the essays included in this volume will reveal a generous interpretation of the conference's theme. The term "Syria," for one, is taken broadly to include the entire sphere of Syriac-speaking Christian influence and exchange, including areas such as southern Arabia (so Yury Arzhanov). Similarly, the conference's interest in the "Christian East" has not precluded the inclusion of one study focused primarily on Ummayad politics (Heintz Gaube). Even the stated interest in the first through seventh centuries is not strictly enforced (again Gaube and perhaps Cornelia Horn). The editors, confronted with this diversity, avoid grouping the essays according to theme, region, or period. Instead, the table of contents merely organizes the essays by the last names of their authors in descending alphabetical order. In light of this diversity, the appeal of this book to a given reader is likely to depend upon his or her interest in one or several of its essays. Happily, the volume gathers more than one compelling study.
From the perspective of late antique and Syriac Christian studies, the first and longest essay of the volume--accounting for roughly twenty percent of its content--may be its most valuable. In it, Luise Abramowski explores the origins of flie peculiar double title...