Diversity is fascinating. The world is a big (big) place, full of all sorts of people, places, and ideas. And while certain schools of thought have elevated “diversity” to a buzzword demanding de-institutionalization and the destruction of truth claims, the term does not have to be used in such disproportionate ways. In the historic Christian Church, for example, there has been much faithful diversity–faith and practice that differs according to people, place, and culture, but all faithful in proclaiming Christ as risen from the dead. Unfortunately, American Christians are often either generally unaware of forms of Christianity different than their own or they are staunchly convinced that such people aren’t Christians. While this post isn’t about addressing that particular issue, I do want to briefly note that this perspective has often carried over into considerations of ancient Christianity as well.
A perfect of example of a marginalized form of ancient Church is that of Syria. Despite being one of the first Christianized regions and a seedbed for early Christian literature (including the Gospel according to Matthew, the Didache, and Letters of Ignatius of Antioch), the study of early Syrian Christianity often takes a back seat (or no seat at all) to Greek and Roman Christianity. Syriac Christianity not only offers an example of a “diverse” form of early Christian faith, but also stands as a great example of non-Roman orthodox Christianity (at least until the later Christological controversies and a couple of church splits). There is much that can be learned through the careful study of early Syriac Christianity.
Over the past couple of months, I have been running a series examining Ephrem the Syrian and Syriac Christianity. The posts offered here were modifications of reflection papers written for a doctoral seminar at Saint Louis University under the direction of Dr. Jeffrey Wickes. While it is my hope to return my attention to Syriac Christianity (especially early forms) and the writings of Ephrem, the demands of work, continued study, and other commitments make it likely that my writing on Syriac Christianity will diminish for a time. Below are links to the posts I’ve written thus far, in more or less chronological order.