The present paper illustrates a work in progress on a large Christological florilegium preserved in different manuscripts of the British Library and of the Mingana collection. These are BL Add. 14532, 14533, 14538, 12155, and Mingana Syr. 69 and date between the 8th and the 9th-10th century. The florilegium, which expounds a Miaphysite Christology in ca. 100 chapters and is mainly made up of quotations from Cyril and Severus, discusses highly technical topics such as 1) the persistence of a difference between the natures from which Christ derives; this persistence excludes any confusion in Christ while saving the hypostatic unity, and is safeguarded by the preservation in the union of the so-called “natural characteristic” of each nature; 2) the exclusion of any duality from Christ, to such an extent that it is impossible to mention the number “two” in relation to him in any respect; 3) the apology of the alleged novelty of the Miaphysite doctrine through a collection of patristic authorities, from Dionysius the Areopagite to the Cappadocians; 4) an overview of the definition and the debates held at Chalcedon, proving that the polemical goal of the florilegium is Chalcedonian rather than Nestorian Christology. A first exploration of the patristic materials of this florilegium, of their relationship with the above-mentioned topics, and of their complex itineraries through the centuries has led me to some provisional results concerning the context in which they were originally collected and the circumstances that may have prompted the production of the florilegium as we have it now. As to the former, the topics discussed in our florilegium were the core of a rather obscure Christological debate of the end of the 6th century, which, however, was crucial for the theological self-consciousness of later Miaphysistism: the controversy around Probus, a Miaphysite theologian who converted to Chalcedonianism in the 580s. Much of what is discussed in our florilegium, especially the “natural characteristic” and the removal of duality, is already present in this 6th-century controversy. These very topics recur again in an age of renewed polemics between Miaphysites and Chalcedonians, between the end of the Umayyad caliphate and the first decades of the ‘Abbasid rule. A precious source of the middle of the 8th century, the letter of a certain Elias, who converted from Chalcedonianism to the Miaphysite faith, addressed to the Chalcedonian syncellus Leo of Ḥarrān, shows us that the discussion still focused on the same points: difference vs. division of the natures, unity vs. confusion, exclusion of any duality. The authorities quoted by Elias to defend his Miaphyiste options are the same as in our florilegium and are organized in a similar way. One more generation, and we observe how Nonnus of Nisibis and his relative Abū Ra’iṭah use the same florilegium we now read for their polemic against the Melkites. My travelogue is incomplete: it is still difficult, and will perhaps remain impossible, to determine the exact context of production of the florilegium. However, it seems clear that the travel is bringing us very close to the alleged date of the earliest manuscript that preserves it, BL Add. 14532 (8th century according to Wright), and that it is revealing the nature of the florilegium as an emergency kit for Christological apology over against an adversary who, being supported both by the Roman Empire and by the first Caliphs, was in the heyday of its power and influence.

A Geological Approach to Syriac Miaphysite Christology (Sixth-Ninth Centuries): Detours of a Patristic Florilegium from Antioch to Tagrit

emiliano fiori
2023-01-01

Abstract

The present paper illustrates a work in progress on a large Christological florilegium preserved in different manuscripts of the British Library and of the Mingana collection. These are BL Add. 14532, 14533, 14538, 12155, and Mingana Syr. 69 and date between the 8th and the 9th-10th century. The florilegium, which expounds a Miaphysite Christology in ca. 100 chapters and is mainly made up of quotations from Cyril and Severus, discusses highly technical topics such as 1) the persistence of a difference between the natures from which Christ derives; this persistence excludes any confusion in Christ while saving the hypostatic unity, and is safeguarded by the preservation in the union of the so-called “natural characteristic” of each nature; 2) the exclusion of any duality from Christ, to such an extent that it is impossible to mention the number “two” in relation to him in any respect; 3) the apology of the alleged novelty of the Miaphysite doctrine through a collection of patristic authorities, from Dionysius the Areopagite to the Cappadocians; 4) an overview of the definition and the debates held at Chalcedon, proving that the polemical goal of the florilegium is Chalcedonian rather than Nestorian Christology. A first exploration of the patristic materials of this florilegium, of their relationship with the above-mentioned topics, and of their complex itineraries through the centuries has led me to some provisional results concerning the context in which they were originally collected and the circumstances that may have prompted the production of the florilegium as we have it now. As to the former, the topics discussed in our florilegium were the core of a rather obscure Christological debate of the end of the 6th century, which, however, was crucial for the theological self-consciousness of later Miaphysistism: the controversy around Probus, a Miaphysite theologian who converted to Chalcedonianism in the 580s. Much of what is discussed in our florilegium, especially the “natural characteristic” and the removal of duality, is already present in this 6th-century controversy. These very topics recur again in an age of renewed polemics between Miaphysites and Chalcedonians, between the end of the Umayyad caliphate and the first decades of the ‘Abbasid rule. A precious source of the middle of the 8th century, the letter of a certain Elias, who converted from Chalcedonianism to the Miaphysite faith, addressed to the Chalcedonian syncellus Leo of Ḥarrān, shows us that the discussion still focused on the same points: difference vs. division of the natures, unity vs. confusion, exclusion of any duality. The authorities quoted by Elias to defend his Miaphyiste options are the same as in our florilegium and are organized in a similar way. One more generation, and we observe how Nonnus of Nisibis and his relative Abū Ra’iṭah use the same florilegium we now read for their polemic against the Melkites. My travelogue is incomplete: it is still difficult, and will perhaps remain impossible, to determine the exact context of production of the florilegium. However, it seems clear that the travel is bringing us very close to the alleged date of the earliest manuscript that preserves it, BL Add. 14532 (8th century according to Wright), and that it is revealing the nature of the florilegium as an emergency kit for Christological apology over against an adversary who, being supported both by the Roman Empire and by the first Caliphs, was in the heyday of its power and influence.
Florilegia Syriaca. Mapping a Knowledge-Organizing Practice in the Syriac World
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/10278/5012383
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