Demonstrations Aphrahat the Persian Sage
Posted 26 September 2011 - 10:03 AM
Author: Adam Lehto
Publisher: Gorgias Press
Paperback: 591 pages
Product Dimensions: Hardback, Black, 6 x 9 in
Shipping Weight: 1 pound
One of the first major Syriac authors, Aphrahat wrote his Demonstrations in the middle of the long reign of Shapur II, and during a period of intense conflict between Persia and Rome. His intended readers were the so-called 'covenanters', representing a native Syriac form of ascetic life which would only later be influenced by Greek models. His Demonstrations are a mix of practical guidance, polemic against the Jewish community, and occasional exhortations to the Persian Church as a whole, all saturated with biblical exegesis. What makes his work unique is that the worldview he represents is only marginally hellenized, much closer to its Jewish roots than most other forms of Christianity in his day.
The first ten of the twenty-three sections of the Demonstrations were written in 337, many of them devoted to standard themes: faith, love, fasting, prayer, ascetic vows, repentance, and humility. This first group also includes a veiled discussion of political events of the day ("On Wars"), as well as treatments of the resurrection and the role of church leaders.
The next twelve demonstrations were composed in 344. Most of these engage in polemical arguments against Jewish positions on circumcision, Passover, Sabbath, food laws, the status and future of the Jewish people, the status of Christ, the legitimacy of celibacy, and the meaning of persecution. In addition, there is teaching on almsgiving, a reflection on death and the end times, and a long exhortation to the leadership of the Persian Church. The very last demonstration was written in the following year, and is Aphrahat's attempt to compile a 'geneology of the righteous'. The closing sections of this last demonstration contain some of the most compelling passages in the work.
Posted 26 September 2011 - 04:10 PM
I have reached chapter 3 so far and the homilies or demonstrations apply to both monastics and lay people. I was reading another book on the demonstrations and that the topics were mostly for the ascetics during St Aphrahat's time. But like the Ladder it also applies to lay people. Also as mentioned in the description the latter half is more like apologetics because in some sources I have read online was that Aphrahat was prompted to write in response to the Jews that the Christians were being ridiculed because they do not know their faith and needed someone to defend and teach them during this period.
Posted 05 June 2013 - 04:44 AM
Likewise, I am really delighted with Adam Lehto's fine one-volume English translation of Aphrahat's Demonstrations:
For years, there was no complete English translation of the Demonstrations, even though Aphrahat is such an indispensable and unique witness to 4th-century Syriac spirituality. A few of the 23 Demonstrations were translated early on, and Demonstration 6 is particularly well-known for its description of the bnai/bat qyama, the "sons and daughters of the Covenant." Other Demonstrations, in particular the anti-Jewish polemical Demonstrations that comprise most of the second half, languished in untranslated obscurity for many years, although Jacob Neusner partially rectified this situation by including a translation of the polemical Demonstrations in his study Aphrahat and Judaism: The Christian-Jewish Argument in Fourth-Century Iran (Brill 1971). Then in 1999, Kuriakose Valavanolickal's translation of the first ten Demonstrations was published by HIRS Publications of Kerala, India. This was followed by the publication in 2005 of Valavanolickal's two-volume translation of the Demonstrations in their entirety by the St. Ephrem Ecumenical Research Institute (SEERI) in Kerala. And now we have Lehto's one-volume edition of the complete Demonstrations in translation, including an extensive introduction and full scholarly apparatus. It took long enough, but now that it is finally raining, it is pouring indeed! These two complete English translations will serve scholars well for many years to come and will hopefully hasten an overdue wider appreciation of Aphrahat, who despite his anti-Jewish polemics ironically "gives us a literature representing a Christianity in its most semitic form, still largely free from Greek cultural and theological influences" (Valavanolickal).
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