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Among the earliest known sources from the Persian Church, the 4th-century Demonstrations of Aphrahat reflect a form of Christianity much closer to its Jewish roots than contemporary Western forms. Their mix of ascetic instruction, polemic against Judaism, and theological reflection provides an invaluable glimpse into this otherwise poorly documented period.
Publisher: Gorgias Press LLC
Availability: In stock
SKU (ISBN): 978-1-59333-768-1
  • *
Publication Status: In Print

Publication Date: Oct 11,2010
Interior Color: Black
Trim Size: 6 x 9
Page Count: 592
Language: English
ISBN: 978-1-59333-768-1
$228.00
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One of the first major Syriac authors, Aphrahat wrote his Demonstrations in the middle of the long reign of Shapur II, and during a period of intense conflict between Persia and Rome. His intended readers were the so-called 'covenanters', representing a native Syriac form of ascetic life which would only later be influenced by Greek models. His Demonstrations are a mix of practical guidance, polemic against the Jewish community, and occasional exhortations to the Persian Church as a whole, all saturated with biblical exegesis. What makes his work unique is that the worldview he represents is only marginally hellenized, much closer to its Jewish roots than most other forms of Christianity in his day.

The first ten of the twenty-three sections of the Demonstrations were written in 337, many of them devoted to standard themes: faith, love, fasting, prayer, ascetic vows, repentance, and humility. This first group also includes a veiled discussion of political events of the day, "On Wars", as well as treatments of the resurrection and the role of church leaders.

The next twelve Demonstrations were composed in 344. Most of these engage in polemical arguments against Jewish positions on circumcision, Passover, the Sabbath, food laws, the status and future of the Jewish people, the status of Christ, the legitimacy of celibacy, and the meaning of persecution. In addition, there is teaching on almsgiving, a reflection on death and the end times, and a long exhortation to the leadership of the Persian Church. The very last Demonstration was written in the following year, and is Aphrahat's attempt to compile a 'geneology of the righteous'. The closing sections of this last Demonstration contain some of the most compelling passages in the work.

One of the first major Syriac authors, Aphrahat wrote his Demonstrations in the middle of the long reign of Shapur II, and during a period of intense conflict between Persia and Rome. His intended readers were the so-called 'covenanters', representing a native Syriac form of ascetic life which would only later be influenced by Greek models. His Demonstrations are a mix of practical guidance, polemic against the Jewish community, and occasional exhortations to the Persian Church as a whole, all saturated with biblical exegesis. What makes his work unique is that the worldview he represents is only marginally hellenized, much closer to its Jewish roots than most other forms of Christianity in his day.

The first ten of the twenty-three sections of the Demonstrations were written in 337, many of them devoted to standard themes: faith, love, fasting, prayer, ascetic vows, repentance, and humility. This first group also includes a veiled discussion of political events of the day, "On Wars", as well as treatments of the resurrection and the role of church leaders.

The next twelve Demonstrations were composed in 344. Most of these engage in polemical arguments against Jewish positions on circumcision, Passover, the Sabbath, food laws, the status and future of the Jewish people, the status of Christ, the legitimacy of celibacy, and the meaning of persecution. In addition, there is teaching on almsgiving, a reflection on death and the end times, and a long exhortation to the leadership of the Persian Church. The very last Demonstration was written in the following year, and is Aphrahat's attempt to compile a 'geneology of the righteous'. The closing sections of this last Demonstration contain some of the most compelling passages in the work.

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Contributor Biography

Adam Lehto

Adam Lehto is an instructor at the University of Toronto and Wilfrid Laurier University. He holds a doctorate in Religious Studies from the University of Toronto, on which the present translation is based. He has been involved in the editing of the Journal of the Canadian Society for Syriac Studies since its inception in 2001.

  • Table of Contents (page 5)
  • Preface (page 7)
  • Acknowledgments (page 9)
  • Introduction (page 11)
    • 1. Provenance and Manuscripts (page 11)
    • 2. Identity of the Author (page 14)
    • 3. Historical Context (page 20)
    • 4. Aphrahat's Audience (page 23)
    • 5. Literary Sources (page 29)
    • 6. Reception of teh Text (page 32)
    • 7. Major Features of the Text (page 34)
    • 8. The Present Translation (page 72)
  • A Request for Instruction (page 75)
  • Demonstration 1: On Faith (page 77)
  • Demonstration 2: On Love (page 97)
  • Demonstration 3: On Fasting (page 119)
  • Demonstration 4: On Prayer (page 137)
  • Demonstration 5: On Wars (page 157)
  • Demonstration 6: On Covenanters (page 179)
  • Demonstration 7: On The Penitent (page 209)
  • Demonstration 8: On the Dead Coming to Life (page 229)
  • Demonstration 9: On Humility (page 247)
  • Demonstration 10: On Shepherds (page 261)
  • Demonstration 11: On Circumcision (page 271)
  • Demonstration 12: On the Passover (page 287)
  • Demonstration 13: On Sabbath (page 301)
  • Demonstration 14: An Argument in Response to Dissension (page 315)
  • Demonstration 15: On Distinctions Among Foods (page 371)
  • Demonstration 16: On the Peoples in Place of the People (page 383)
  • Demonstration 17: On Christ, Who is the Son of God (page 395)
  • Demonstration 18: Against the Jews, Concerning Virginity and Holiness (page 407)
  • Demonstration 19: Against the Jews, Who say That They Will Yet be Gathered Together (page 417)
  • Demonstration 20: On the Support of the Poor (page 433)
  • Demonstration 21: On Persecution (page 447)
  • Demonstration 22: On Death and the End Times (page 469)
  • Demonstration 23: On the Grapecluster (page 491)
  • Bibliography (page 543)
    • I. Editions and Translations of the Demonstrations (page 544)
    • II. Studies (page 547)
    • III. Alphabetical List of Authors (page 577)
    • IV. Guide to Publications in Selected Subject Areas (page 581)
  • Index (page 585)
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