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Document Details :
Title: Travels and Studies of Stephen of Siwnik' (c.685-735)
Subtitle: Redefining Armenian Orthodoxy under Islamic Rule
Author(s): DORFMANN-LAZAREV, Igor
Journal: Journal of Eastern Christian Studies
Volume: 68 Issue: 3-4 Date: 2016
Between 693 and 701, the Umayyad Caliphate established direct political control over Armenia and definitively suppressed the Armenian princes’ autonomy. Yet the Armenian Church acquired a new authority within Armenian society; its official Miaphysite faith received support from the Caliphate against the Chalcedonian, pro-Byzantine, tendencies significant especially in Siwnik‘. A moderate Julianist position, acceptable to both parties, was elaborated at a Council convoked at Mantzikert in 726 at the joint-initiative of the Armenian Catholicos and the West-Syrian Patriarch, the legal chiefs of two communities of dhimmi: this would remain the official doctrine of the Armenian Church to this day. This chapter analyses the activity of one of the major figures of this period, Stephen of Siwnik‘, and especially the circumstances of his travel to Constantinople (712–18), where he translated numerous patristic texts into Armenian. The earlier part of Stephen’s sojourn in the capital overlaps with the brief reign of the emperor Bardanes Philippikos, a man of Armenian descent, who faced the urgent necessity of countering the Arab advance in Asia Minor. This unrelenting threat might well have driven the Byzantines to seek once more a strategic cooperation with the Armenians, both those outside and within the Empire. Bardanes convoked in Constantinople a synod which revoked the decisions of the Sixth cumenical Council and accommodated Monothelitism. Stephen’s writings confirm that Monothelitism stood closer to the Armenians’ theological sensitivity than did the doctrine of the Sixth Council. During the later part of his sojourn in Constantinople, Stephen made the acquaintance of Patriarch Germanos and returned to Armenia with Germanos’s letter, in which the Patriarch exhorted the Armenians to join the Orthodox Church. This letter and Stephen’s Response to Germanos reflect numerous theological themes important for understanding Byzantine-Armenian relationships and the shaping in Armenia of a distinct theological synthesis: the questions of natures, energies and wills in Christ, as well as the incorruptibility of Christ’s body.