Rethinking (with) Narsai (d. c. 500)

Narsai’s memre focus on salvation history as an ongoing learning process for humanity, in which Christ’s incarnation, with his two natures (God and man) preserved intact, is the key moment.

Lucas Van Rompay

In the summer of 2017, an international group of scholars met on the beautiful campus of Brigham Young University to share new research on the thought and works of Narsai (d. c. 500). Three years later, the proceedings of that workshop have now been collected and published with Mohr Siebeck (Tübingen), edited by Aaron M. Butts, Kristian S. Heal, and Robert A. Kitchen.

Narsai is said to have lived for the entire fifth century. He is reputed to have written some 360 memre, a genre that sits somewhere between a lecture and a sermon, on a broad range of religious topics, in addition to other works. Today, over 1500 years after his death, only 82 of these memre survive. It is the ongoing and careful study of these surviving memre that continues to reveal Narsai’s thought and world. The papers in this volume represent some of the fruits of closely reading and rereading Narsai. The essays force us to rethink what we know about Narsai, but also rethink with Narsai.

Most of the contributors of this volume are involved in a long-term project to translate the complete memre of Narsai into English. This will be the first complete translation of this important early Christian author into any modern language. The painstaking work of translation forces scholars to slow down and understand every word of a text. Such patient work clearly underpins many of the contributions in this collection.

I will summarize and engage with these essays in a serious of posts.

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