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An Early Christian Reaction to Islam


Išū‘yahb III and the Muslim Arabs


The year 652 marked a fundamental political change in the Middle East and the surrounding region. An important and contemporary source of the state of the Christian Church at this time is to be found in the correspondence of the patriarch of the Church of the East, Išū‘yahb III (649–659), which he wrote between 628 and 658. This books discusses Išū‘yahb’s view of and attitudes toward the Muslim Arabs.
Publisher: Gorgias Press LLC
SKU (ISBN): 978-1-4632-4098-1
  • *
Publication Status: In Print

Publication Date: Nov 19,2019
Interior Color: Black
Trim Size: 6 x 9
Page Count: 205
Language: English
ISBN: 978-1-4632-4098-1
$129.00
$103.20

The year 652 marked a fundamental political change in the Middle East and the surrounding region. On this date the Sasanid Empire collapsed and the major part of the Byzantine dominion in the East was lost to the hands of Muslim Arabs. The conquests of the Arabs were followed by deep cultural, social and religious changes that affected the life of the populations in the seized territories. An important and contemporary source of the state of the Christian Church at this time is to be found in the correspondence of the patriarch of the Church of the East, Išū‘yahb III (649–659), which he wrote between 628 and 658. This books discusses Išū‘yahb’s view of and attitudes toward the Muslim Arabs. Although his view of the Muslim Arabs has been a subject of discussion by many scholars, there are still questions to be clarified about his attitudes towards the Muslim Arabs, especially with regard to the chronological development of his views, the issue of the dating of his letters and their chronological arrangement, as well as the identification of literary sources that he relied upon in portraying the Muslim Arabs.

The year 652 marked a fundamental political change in the Middle East and the surrounding region. On this date the Sasanid Empire collapsed and the major part of the Byzantine dominion in the East was lost to the hands of Muslim Arabs. The conquests of the Arabs were followed by deep cultural, social and religious changes that affected the life of the populations in the seized territories. An important and contemporary source of the state of the Christian Church at this time is to be found in the correspondence of the patriarch of the Church of the East, Išū‘yahb III (649–659), which he wrote between 628 and 658. This books discusses Išū‘yahb’s view of and attitudes toward the Muslim Arabs. Although his view of the Muslim Arabs has been a subject of discussion by many scholars, there are still questions to be clarified about his attitudes towards the Muslim Arabs, especially with regard to the chronological development of his views, the issue of the dating of his letters and their chronological arrangement, as well as the identification of literary sources that he relied upon in portraying the Muslim Arabs.

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Contributor Biography

Iskandar Bcheiry

Iskandar Bcheiry holds a Ph.D. in Church History from the Pontifical Oriental Institute, Rome, and another Ph.D. in World Christianity and Global Missions-Christian-Muslim Studies from the Lutheran School of Theology-Chicago. Bcheiry has published a collection of books and articles on the history of Syriac Christianity and cataloged a number of Syriac and Arabic manuscripts. He is also a Priest for the Syriac Orthodox Church and serves as a pastor of his community in Chicago.

Table of Contents (v)
Acknowledgments (ix)
Abbreviations (xi)
List of Figures and Tables (xiii)
Introduction. Patriarch Išū‘yahb III’s view of the Muslim Arabs (1)
   Išū‘yahb III (649–659) (1)
   Political and religious challenges (2)
   Išū‘yahb’s letters (4)
   Editions and translation (5)
   Išū‘yahb III and the Muslim Arabs: an evaluation of the literature (7)
   Summary of the existing literature (13)
   A new approach (14)
Chapter One. Historical background (15)
   The “Church of the East” (15)
   The beginnings of Christianity in Persia (16)
   Magians and Zoroastrians (18)
   The rise of the Episcopal see of Seleucia-Ctesiphon (21)
   Persecutions under Sasanians (22)
   The organization of the Church and the reception of the faith of Nicaea (24)
   Council of Marī Isaac (410) (24)
   Declaration of independence of the Church of the East in 424 (26)
   The Church of the East and Dyophysitism (27)
   The Church of the East in the sixth century (28)
   Monasticism in the Church of the East and its revival in the sixth century (31)
   Expansion of the Church of the East (33)
   The vacancy in the patriarchate and struggles with Jacobites (35)
   The Church of the East before the advent of Islam (37)
   The Church of the East and the peace between Rome and Persia after the murder of Khosrow II (41)
   The conquest of Persia (42)
Chapter Two. Išū‘yahb III: his Life, career and letters (47)
   The life of Išū‘yahb III (47)
   The writings of Išū‘yahb (54)
   The letters that Išū‘yahb wrote during his episcopate (57)
   Išū‘yahb’s letters during his metropolitanate of Ḥidyāb (73)
   Išū‘yahb’s letters during his patriarchate (74)
   Nisibis and the monastic community on Mount Izlā (74)
   The metropolitanate of Fars (74)
   Conclusion (77)
Chapter Three. Išū‘yahb III and the Muslim Arabs (79)
   Letters discussed in this chapter, and their approximate dates (79)
   Early attitudes toward the Muslim Arabs (80)
   A tool of punishment by God (Ep. 39) (80)
   The Muslim Arabs as a new authority to be persuaded (Ep. 44B and others) (83)
   A common theological ground (Ep. 48B) (90)
   An update about the new situation (Ep. 49B) (93)
   Išū‘yahb’s early attitudes: a summary (95)
   Promoting a new church-state relationship under the Muslim Arabs’ rule (98)
   Towards a new church-state relationship (99)
   Promoting a new era (Ep. 11M) (102)
   Išū‘yahb’s attitudes as metropolitan: a summary (105)
   Attitudes toward the Muslim Arabs in an interreligious context (105)
   Conclusion (117)
Chapter Four. Patriarch Išū‘yhab’s positive attitudes toward the Muslim Arabs (119)
   Historical and geographical background: “the southern part of the world” (119)
   Crisis in “the southern part of the world” (122)
   Retaliation against Christians in Fars and Kirmān (126)
   Apostasy of the Christians in Mazūn (127)
   Seeking the support of the secular authority (133)
   The administrative response of the patriarch (138)
   What question did this crisis pose to Patriarch Išū‘yhab III? (139)
   The patriarch’s response to the crisis (141)
   Internal weakness: apostasy and destruction of churches (141)
   Internal weakness: an illegitimate priesthood (143)
   Why remain Christian, and how can apostasy be avoided? True power is that of the saints (149)
   Parallels and echoes from the past (151)
   Can the “deceiver” be identified with a historical figure? (153)
   The Life of Patriarch Sabrīšū‘ (d. 604) (154)
   Sabrīšū‘ battling and defeating the devil in and around Radan (155)
   A positive image of the Arabs (159)
   Conclusion (166)
Conclusion (167)
   Reassessment of the chronology (167)
   Comprehensive and historical analysis of Išū‘yahb’s developing view of the Muslim Arabs (168)
   The importance of hagiography and a specific hagiographical text in Išū‘yhab’s view of the Muslim Arabs (169)
Bibliography (171)
   Primary sources (171)
   Secondary sources (173)
Index of Personal Names (187)

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