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Document Details :
Title: Cultural Exchange and Scholarship on Eastern Christianity
Subtitle: An Early Modern Debate over Jacob of Serugh's Christology
Author(s): FORNESS, Philip Michael
Journal: Journal of Eastern Christian Studies
Volume: 70 Issue: 3-4 Date: 2018
Western scholarship on eastern Christianity expanded during the sixteenth century through increased contact with Middle Eastern Christian communities. Complex processes of cultural exchange resulted. Western scholars encountered new saints, texts, and histories of Christianity, while scholars from Middle Eastern Christian communities asked new questions about their own traditions. This article explores an early modern debate regarding the Christology of Jacob of Serugh (451-521) as a case study on cultural exchange through scholarship on eastern Christianity. Jacob of Serugh advocated miaphysite Christology and belonged to the emerging Syriac Orthodox Church. Yet he rarely engaged in overt polemical attacks, and this enabled his reception as a saint in a variety of traditions. Maronite scholars played an important role in introducing Jacob to western scholarship. A debate over Jacob’s Christology developed in the early eighteenth century in response to the influx of Syriac manuscripts in Paris and Rome. Eusèbe Renaudot (1646-1720), a French Roman Catholic theologian, included Jacob among the non-Chalcedonian authors in a collection of eastern Christian liturgical materials published in 1716. Renaudot’s questions about Jacob’s Christology led Joseph Simonius Assemani (1687-1768), the scriptor of the Vatican Library involved in the rapprochement between Maronite and Roman traditions, to defend his Maronite tradition’s view that Jacob adhered to Chalcedonian Christology. Assemani addresses Renaudot’s arguments as well as new manuscript evidence in the first volume of his Bibliotheca orientalis published in 1719. His arguments held sway until the late nineteenth century. In this first debate, scholarship on Jacob of Serugh’s Christology served as a site for cultural exchange among scholars from eastern and western Christian traditions.