Mike Aquilina

Soul Train: The Syriac Edition

Sunday February 26th 2012, 8:00 pm

BMCR reviews To Train His Soul in Books: Syriac Asceticism in Early Christianity, edited by Robin Darling Young and Monica Blanchard. This is going right to my wish list.

To Train His Soul in Books is a volume of essays written in honor of Sidney H. Griffith. Most scholars of late antiquity have encountered at least one arm of Griffith’s scholarship. He is well-known for his translations and exposition of Syriac texts, which have given Syriac Christianity the attention it deserves to stand alongside Greek and Latin Christianities. Specifically, within this field, he has contributed ground-breaking scholarship on Ephrem the Syrian and on Syriac asceticism. Griffith is known too for his studies in Arabic Christianity and Christian-Muslim dialogue from the ancient to the contemporary period. The reach of his scholarship has been as wide as it has been deep…

The essays in the volume represent extensions of Griffith’s work on Ephrem the Syrian and on subsequent traditions of Syriac-speaking Christianity. Like the scholarship of Griffith himself, some essays make available new translations of Syriac texts. In chapter one, Joseph P. Amar provides readers with an English translation of the Vespers liturgy for the feast of the Announcement to the Bearer of God, Mary. The translation is accompanied by a nice discussion of intercalated psalmody in the liturgical tradition of the Syriac Maronite church. In chapter two, Francisco Javier Martínez translates into Spanish three of Ephrem’s Hymns On Virginity, introducing his translations with a discussion of extant manuscripts and of the hymns’ relation to Syriac ascetic and liturgical traditions. Finally, in chapter nine, Monica Blanchard translates into English selections from a yet-to-be-published Syriac manuscript by East Syrian monk Beh Isho’ Kamulaya, selections in which the author focuses on “purity of heart.”