Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion Hosts Syriac Seminar

ISR lecture poster
April 18, 2016

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Contact: Terry Goodrich, (254) 710-3321

WACO, Texas (April 18, 2016) – Baylor ISR will host a one-day seminar on the Syriac Christian Churches that will bring together leading scholars of Syriac history, literature, theology and culture.

"The Syriac Christian Churches: Rediscovering the Church’s Eastern Roots" will help Western Christians understand an often-overlooked part of their common heritage. The seminar will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday, April 20, in the Cox Lecture Hall of Armstrong Browning Library.

"These churches are very much in the news right now, and we hear a lot about the destruction of churches, but most people don't know about who those churches are," said Philip Jenkins, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of History in Baylor's ISR. "When you look at them, they have a great history. At one point, there were more of them than the Catholic or Orthodox churches. So it's a great story, and we wanted to spread awareness of that great lost part of the Christian story."

For more than a thousand years, the churches of the Middle East and Asia were an important part of Christianity. Saints and scholars wrote in Syriac, making the ancient language a vehicle of Christian thought.

The seminar is meant to fill the gap that occurs when the story of Christianity is looked at only through a Western and European lens.

"I would like attendees to be able to look at Christian history differently, to realize that it's more widespread than they thought, and that globalization of Christianity is not new but rather very old," Jenkins said. "I'd like them to look at what's happening in the Middle East and realize that it's not the fringes of Christianity that are being attacked, that, in some ways, it's the heart of ancient Christianity."

There will be five lectures throughout the day, followed by a general discussion, with a break for lunch in the middle of the seminar.

The schedule is as follows:

• 9 to 10 a.m., "Introduction: Looking East in Christian History" by Philip Jenkins, Ph.D., Baylor University

• 10 to 10:50 a.m., "Ecumenical Attitudes in Syriac Literature Since the 4th Century" by Abdul Saadi, Ph.D., Baylor University

• 10:50 to 11 a.m., break

• 11 to 11:50 a.m., "Syriac Christianity and the Religious Diversity of Early Sasanian Iran" by Paul Dilley, Ph.D., University of Iowa

• 11:50 a.m. to 1:15 p.m., lunch break

• 1:15 to 2:05 p.m., "Contributions of the Syriac Churches in Early Muslim-Christian Encounters: Learning from the Past" by Abjar Bakhou, Ph.D., Baylor University

• 2:05 to 2:55 p.m., "Early Syriac Christian Reactions to the Rise of Islam" by Michael Philip Penn, Ph.D., Mount Holyoke College

• 2:55 to 3:05 p.m., break

• 3:05 to 4 p.m., general discussion

Jenkins called the lecturers "the brightest scholars working on this topic."

The lecture is free and open to the public, but attendees must register by midnight on Wednesday, April 20. To register online, visit here . Armstrong Browning Library is located at 710 Speight Ave.

by Jenna Press, student newswriter, (254) 710-6805

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