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"Blessed is He who has brought Adam from Sheol"


Christ's Descent to the Dead in the Theology of Saint Ephrem the Syrian


Buchan’s work is an examination of the theological use of the doctrine of Christ's descent to the dead in the works of Saint Ephrem the Syrian (ca. 306-373 C.E.). Ephrem's conception of Christ's descent to Sheol provides us with an important and distinctive vision of the significance of this salvific event. Ephrem's use of Semitic and non-Western poetic forms and structures as a mode of theological discourse, coupled with his preference for imagery and symbolism rather than definition, resulted in a variety of vivid depictions of Christ's descent to Sheol. The doctrine is shown to be an integral and multifaceted component of Ephrem's theology.
Publisher: Gorgias Press LLC
Availability: In stock
SKU (ISBN): 978-1-4632-0267-5
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Publication Status: In Print

Publication Date: Jun 17,2014
Interior Color: Black
Trim Size: 6 x 9
Page Count: 407
Language: English
ISBN: 978-1-4632-0267-5
$52.11

This book examines the theological use of the doctrine of Christ's descent to the dead in the works of Saint Ephrem the Syrian (ca. 306-373 C.E.). In the ancient Christian church, it was believed, taught, and confessed that in the interval between his crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus Christ descended to the abode of the dead. Christ's descent to the underworld was nowhere earlier, more elaborately, or more influentially expressed than within cultural milieu of Syriac Christianity, where the underworld was designated not as Hades or Inferos, but as Sheol, and it was nowhere within this milieu more frequently, effectively, and influentially implemented than in the writings of Ephrem the Syrian. Organically integrated with and providing an integrating function within his theological reflection as a whole, Ephrem's conception of Christ's descent to Sheol provides us with an important and distinctive vision of the significance of this salvific event. Ephrem's use of Semitic and non-Western poetic forms and structures as a mode of theological discourse, coupled with his preference for imagery and symbolism rather than definition, resulted in a variety of vivid depictions of Christ's descent to Sheol. Especially informed by Ephrem's view of the redemptive and revelatory significance of Christ's incarnation, these "verbal icons" imaginatively collapsed distinctions between temporality and eternity and creatively drew together cosmological, incarnational, soteriological, ecclesiological, sacramental, and eschatological themes in the context of Christian worship.

Thomas Buchan studied the history and theology of early Christianity at the Caspersen School of Graduate Studies at Drew University, earning an M.Phil. in 1999 and completing his Ph.D. with distinction in 2003.

This book examines the theological use of the doctrine of Christ's descent to the dead in the works of Saint Ephrem the Syrian (ca. 306-373 C.E.). In the ancient Christian church, it was believed, taught, and confessed that in the interval between his crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus Christ descended to the abode of the dead. Christ's descent to the underworld was nowhere earlier, more elaborately, or more influentially expressed than within cultural milieu of Syriac Christianity, where the underworld was designated not as Hades or Inferos, but as Sheol, and it was nowhere within this milieu more frequently, effectively, and influentially implemented than in the writings of Ephrem the Syrian. Organically integrated with and providing an integrating function within his theological reflection as a whole, Ephrem's conception of Christ's descent to Sheol provides us with an important and distinctive vision of the significance of this salvific event. Ephrem's use of Semitic and non-Western poetic forms and structures as a mode of theological discourse, coupled with his preference for imagery and symbolism rather than definition, resulted in a variety of vivid depictions of Christ's descent to Sheol. Especially informed by Ephrem's view of the redemptive and revelatory significance of Christ's incarnation, these "verbal icons" imaginatively collapsed distinctions between temporality and eternity and creatively drew together cosmological, incarnational, soteriological, ecclesiological, sacramental, and eschatological themes in the context of Christian worship.

Thomas Buchan studied the history and theology of early Christianity at the Caspersen School of Graduate Studies at Drew University, earning an M.Phil. in 1999 and completing his Ph.D. with distinction in 2003.

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Thomas Buchan

  • CONTENTS (page 7)
  • INTRODUCTION (page 11)
    • SAINT EPHREM THE SYRIAN (page 11)
    • EPHREM THE SYRIANS CONCEPTION OF CHRISTS DESCENT TO THE DEAD IN TWENTIETH-CENTURY SCHOLARSHIP (page 17)
    • THE CURRENT STUDY (page 32)
  • CHAPTER ONE: COSMOLOGY AND CHRISTS DESCENT TO SHEOL IN THE THEOLOGY OF EPHREM THE SYRIAN (page 35)
    • THE STRUCTURE OF THE COSMOS IN EPHREMS POLEMICAL WRITINGS: HEAVEN, EARTH, THE ABYSS OF WATERS, AND THE ELEMENTAL PILLARS OF THE WORLD (page 38)
    • EPHREMS THEOLOGICALLY EXPANDED COSMOS: PARADISE, SHEOL, AND GEHENNA (page 45)
    • THE COSMIC SCOPE OF SALVATION HISTORY (page 56)
      • Paradise (page 56)
      • Sheol (page 64)
      • CHRISTS DESCENT TO SHEOL AND HUMANITYS RETURN TO PARADISE (page 70)
  • CHAPTER TWO: CHRISTS INCARNATION AND DESCENTTO SHEOL IN THE THEOLOGY OF EPHREM THE SYRIAN (page 79)
    • FOUR WOMBS (page 88)
    • The Womb of the Father (page 91)
    • The Womb of Mary (page 96)
    • The Womb of Christs Baptism at the Jordan (page 101)
    • The Womb of Sheol (page 109)
    • CHRIST THE SECOND ADAM (page 117)
    • Pauline Sources and Ephremic Expansions (page 117)
    • Adam as Humanity and as the Garment of Christ (page 122)
    • Adam and Christ: The Image of God Created, Lost, and Restored (page 125)
    • Adam and Christ: Humanity Born and Reborn from the Womb of the Earth (page 132)
  • CHAPTER THREE: CHRISTS DESCENT TO SHEOL AND SOTERIOLOGY IN THE THEOLOGY OF EPHREM THE SYRIAN (page 133)
    • CHRISTS DESCENT TO SHEOL AND HIS EARTHLY MINISTRY (page 137)
    • Christs Temptation in the Wilderness (page 138)
    • Christs Miracle at the Wedding in Cana (page 147)
    • Raising the Dead and the Descent to Sheol (page 151)
    • CHRISTS PASSION, DESCENT TO SHEOL, AND RESURRECTION (page 158)
    • Christs Crucifixion and Descent to Sheol (page 158)
    • Christs Submission to Death in the Crucifixion (page 168)
    • The Voice and the Rending of the Graves (page 173)
    • Captivity and Liberation (page 180)
    • The Soldiers Lance (page 181)
    • Conquest of Satan, Sin, Sheol, and Death (page 184)
    • Paschal Imagery (page 202)
    • CHRISTS DESCENT TO SHEOL AND RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD (page 207)
    • Christs Conquest of Death (page 208)
    • The Darkened Sun (page 209)
    • Jonah (page 211)
    • Swallowing and Vomiting (page 215)
    • Childbirth (page 217)
  • CHAPTER FOUR: CHRISTS DESCENT TO SHEOL, ECCLESIOLOGY AND SACRAMENTS IN THETHEOLOGY OF EPHREM THE SYRIAN (page 225)
    • THE BODY OF CHRIST (page 227)
    • THE PIERCING OF CHRISTS SIDE (page 232)
    • CHRISTS DESCENT TO SHEOL AND CHRISTIAN BAPTISM (page 242)
    • CHRISTS DESCENT TO SHEOL AND THE EUCHARIST (page 267)
    • THE CHURCHS PARTICIPATION IN CHRISTS LIFE AND VICTORIES (page 286)
  • CHAPTER FIVE: CHRISTS DESCENT TO SHEOL AND ESCHATOLOGY IN THE THEOLOGY OF EPHREM THE SYRIAN (page 295)
    • THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE OF DEATH (page 298)
    • THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY (page 307)
    • THE EMPTYING OF SHEOL (page 317)
    • THE ESCHATOLOGICAL JUDGMENT (page 321)
    • GEHENNA (page 328)
    • PARADISE (page 337)
  • CONCLUSION: CHRISTS DESCENT TO SHEOL IN THE THEOLOGY OF EPHREM THE SYRIAN (page 353)
    • SUMMARY (page 353)
    • OBSERVATIONS AND FURTHER QUESTIONS (page 359)
  • APPENDIX: CHRISTS DESCENT TO SHEOL INSELECTIONS FROM SYRIAC CHRISTIAN LITERATURE PRIOR TO SAINT EPHREM (page 369)
    • THE ODES OF SOLOMON (page 369)
    • Ode 15 (page 369)
    • Ode 17 (page 371)
    • Ode 22 (page 373)
    • Ode 24 (page 374)
    • Ode 29 (page 376)
    • Ode 42 (page 377)
    • THE ACTS OF JUDAS THOMAS THE APOSTLE (page 379)
    • APHRAHATS DEMONSTATIONS (page 381)
      • Demonstration 6.13:On Covenanters (page 381)
      • Demonstration 12.6:On the Passover Sacrifice (page 382)
      • Demonstration 12.7:On the Passover Sacrifice (page 382)
      • Demonstration 12.8:On the Passover Sacrifice (page 383)
      • Demonstration 14.31:An Argument in Response to Dissension (page 384)
      • Demonstration 17.10:On Christ Who is the Son of God (page 385)
      • Demonstration 21.9:On Persecution (page 386)
      • Demonstration 21.16:On Persecution (page 387)
      • Demonstration 21.18:On Persecution (page 387)
      • Demonstration 21.19:On Persecution (page 389)
      • Demonstration 22.4:On Death and the End Times (page 389)
      • Demonstration 22.5:On Death and the End Times (page 390)
      • Demonstration 23.12:On the Grapecluster (page 390)
    • THE TEACHING OF ADDAI (page 392)
  • SOURCES CONSULTED (page 395)
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