Ancient and Medieval Christianity in the Middle East and Caucasus: philology, literatures, history, manuscript studies.
Among the broad field(s) of Christian Oriental studies, I am specialized in Syriac, Armenian and Georgian cultures. My main interests are the interactions of Syriac Christianity in early and Medieval times with the Christian cultures of Byzantium and the Caucasus. My research is focused on several topics: the Syriac edition of the discourses of Gregory of Nazianzus (4th c.) with a Greek-Syriac concordance alignement (www.uclouvain.be/504282.html). Another research interest is the Syriac literary transmission into Armenian and Georgian language. I am currently working on Syriac communities in the Caucasus and the transfer of manuscripts by refugees from Urmia (North Iran) and the Hakkari mountains (East Turkey) to Armenia and Georgia before and after the Turkish genocide, see my contribution as advisory editor in Syriac Gazetteer: A Geographical Dictionary for Syriac Studies (www.syriaca.org/geo/about.html). In this context I explore amulets scrolls that belonged to the popular culture of Eastern Syriac (“Nestorian”) tribes in Northern Mesopotamia.
While a fellow at the Lichtenberg Kolleg (February to July 2017), I will focus on the edition of a key text of Christian Oriental historiography: the world chronicle of the Syriac patriarch Michael Rabbo (1195). The monumental work of 21 books was translated in the middle of the 13th c. into Armenian. Two synchronic but very different versions exist; they testify systematic modifications towards the Syriac original. The Armenian versions are important sources for Middle Eastern history from the 11th to 14th c. Through a broad range of topics, they reflect the co-existence of Eastern Christians with other people and religious communities, which underwent at that time a fundamental change in politics and civilisation as it is the case nowadays in the same region. The Armenian edition of the world chronicle will not only give access to an important source of Medieval historical writing, it will also illustrate “national” historical perception and cultural identity of Syriac and Armenian Christians in the Orient.
I am full Professor of Near Eastern Christian Studies at the Oriental Institute of the (French speaking) University of Louvain. Before moving to Belgium in 1994 I studied and worked at academic institutions in Germany, Austria, Italy, Armenia and Georgia. I have been former editor of the journal Le Museon. Revue d’Etudes Orientales and I am actually member of the editorial board. I am chief editor of the series Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium (Leuven: Peeters Publishers), and co-editor of Sprachen und Kulturen des Christlichen Orients (Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag). I am a consultant member of the Patristische Kommission der Deutschen Akademien der Wissenschaften (Mainz), and since 2014 member of the Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen. In 2007, I received the Belgian chaire Francqui award.
Selected Academic Publications
Gog and Magog in Eastern Christian and Islamic Sources. Sallam’s quest for Alexander’s Wall, (Brill’s Inner Asian Library, 22), Leiden: Brill 2010 [with E. van Donzel]
Scripts Beyond Borders. A Survey of Allographic Traditions in the Euro-Mediterranean World, (PIOL, 62), Leuven: Peeters 2013 [with J. Den Heijer & T. Pataridze]
“History of Armenian Manuscript Cataloguing”, in: A. Bausi et al. (eds.), Comparative Oriental Manuscript Studies. An Introduction, Hamburg: COMSt [Comparative Oriental Manuscript Studies] 2015, p. 476-481.
“Die syrischen Handschriften des Kekelidze Handschrifteninstituts in Georgien”, in: Mravalt’avi. P’ilologiur-istoriuli ziebani (Tbilisi, Kekelidze National Centre of Manuscripts), in print.