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Abstracts, 2006 Winter Symposium


"Old Testament Models and the State in Early Medieval Bulgaria"

Ivan Biliarsky

After adopting Orthodox Christianity, the early medieval Bulgarian state moved away from the barbarian period of its history, and toward a new State identity based on the Byzantine model. In this way in the 9th-10th centuries Bulgaria passed through a period during which the State maintained some aspects of paganism, but was concomitantly creating a new Christian identity, although this interpretation of the state was not yet based on a vision of itself as being oecumenical as the Byzantine model purposed to be. We can perceive in the newly converted Bulgar state some traces of this ideological construct in rare historico-apocalyptical texts. The goal of these texts was to argue for the special place of the neophyte state and its people within the schema of the Christian world and its history leading toward mankind's progress toward salvation. We possess only small portions of these texts, which make their research quite difficult. That is why my main goal is to maintain that such an ideological construct did exist, and to propose some ideas about its characteristics.

As the entire barbarian world, which politically, militarily and ideologically opposed the increasingly disintegrating Roman Empire, the state of the Bulgars attempted to identify itself with the Children of Israel, the Chosen People. This was the only political and state model, which was based on Holy Scripture and which was different from the already existing Roman model of a Christian State. It stood in opposition to the universalism of the Romans/Byzantines, and was typical of barbarian kingdoms, which was strongly related to their ethnic composition. In my communication I present my observations on some historical and juridical texts, which could suggest to us some ideas about the ideology of early medieval Christian Bulgaria.

History has a special importance in the formulation of ethnic or national identity. During the transitional period from the pagan state to the emergence of an empire based on a Byzantine model, we note that there are some efforts to forge a link between the polytheistic past (= an ethnicity based on divine predecessors) and the neophyte people. This is demonstrated by the inclusion of mythological texts in the Christian chronicles, in order to include the recently converted people within the Biblical history of the People of the Covenant. We see this in the manner in which the list of the Bulgar Khans was preserved within the framework of a Christian universe in the text "Hellenic and Roman Chronicle," and from important data that we have from some other apocalyptic texts.

The epithet the "Chosen People" relates to the Israelites' special relationship to God, because of the law and covenant that was forged between them. This is why the Law has such a special importance in Jewish religion and culture, as well as the formation of the image of the New Israel in the newly Christianized peoples. We find analogies present in the barbarian kingdoms that confirm the same beliefs there. This is the reason one must pay special attention to the Slavic legal texts of the 9th-10th centuries and the Old Testament patterns presented in them.

Finally Bulgaria became a state with imperial pretensions based on the Roman/Byzantine model. These remained always in the realm of pipe dreams, but they strongly marked the ideology of medieval Bulgarian culture. This later development will not be the subject of this paper, which deals with this short historical period after the pagan epoch, when the remains of barbarian ethical spirit still dominated the recently converted Bulgar state, which was eager to perceive itself as the New Israel.

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"Protoplasts, Patriarchs and Prophets:
The Old Testament in Ivory"

Anthony Cutler

Even if we make allowances for a large body of material that may have been lost, it is still remarkable that such favorite Early Christian and Early Byzantine scenes and figures as Noah's Ark, the Crossing of the Red Sea, Job, Jonah, etc. find no counterparts in Middle Byzantine ivories. Yet the number of OT scenes and persons depicted in this medium is more than double that of NT and Apocryphal themes. This abundance initially calls into question the sources employed by the carvers. Yet surely more important are the image of ivory derived from the OT and, above all, the roles played by the diverse iconographies ultimately dependent on this text. These vary from uses in which the OT material is clearly subordinate to NT imagery, through compositions in which it serves to parallel NT subject matter, to occasions on which it is entirely independent. Some explanations for the presence of Adam and Eve, Joseph, David and Joshua have been proposed in the past. But if the question of the OT's agency is to be confronted, the field as a whole needs to be surveyed.

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"The Greek Bible of the Byzantine Jews"

Nicholas de Lange

The use of Greek Bible versions by the Jews of Byzantium is a subject shrouded in mystery. While we know a fair amount about the text of the Hebrew Bible current in Byzantium and the uses to which it was put, its Greek counterpart has left very few traces. Nevertheless the study of these scant remains is of great interest, from a number of points of view, most notably for the cultural history of Byzantine and Greek-speaking Jewry, for the history of the Greek Bible, and for the study of the medieval Greek language.

We shall begin from the better-known subject of the Hebrew Bible, which, from small and contested beginnings (cf. Justinian, Nov. 146), was gradually imposed upon or took root in Byzantine Jewish communities, so that by the end of the 9th century at the latest it seems to have become one of the basic texts of education in these communities (together with the Hebrew prayer book and the Talmud). A lectionary of biblical readings became an integral part of public worship for Jews in Byzantium, as indeed it was throughout the Jewish world.

What place did this development leave for the Greek Bible, which had previously been the sacred scripture of Greek-speaking Jews? It appears (always bearing in mind the scarcity of evidence) that Greek translations continued to play a number of roles throughout the middle ages, both in the synagogue and in the school.

Firstly, since Hebrew was not a spoken language, students studied the Hebrew Bible in Greek, and not on the basis of free, improvised translations but rather making use of existing translations, which may indeed have been learnt by heart.

Secondly, these translations may have been read out in the synagogue before or after the public reading of the Hebrew, whether as an aid to comprehension or as a concession to those traditionalists who may have wished to uphold the time-honoured usage of the Greek-speaking synagogue.

Thirdly, there are some indications that, at least in some places or on certain occasions, the Greek translation was read out instead of the Hebrew.

What were the Greek translations like? They were certainly not the same as those used in the Christian church. They were much closer to the ancient translation of Aquila, from which they were probably ultimately derived. The Hebrew from which they were translated was the masoretic text, and they were very faithful indeed to the diction (syntax and word order, and even paronyms) of the Hebrew. At the same time they freely admitted elements from the colloquial language.

These Greek translations were not unknown to Christians: we find references to them and even perhaps quotations from them in polemical texts against Judaism, and they are cited in marginal glosses to some Christian biblical manuscripts.

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"Old Testament 'history' and the Byzantine chronicle"

Elizabeth Jeffreys

The Old Testament is fundamental to the Byzantine Christian world view, as is well demonstrated, for example, in the sixth century by Cosmas Indicopleustes' determination to make his account of natural phenomena accord with details from the Biblical narratives. More broadly, the Creation narrative provided a basis for understanding the natural world, while the more 'historical' elements gave a chronological framework to be interwoven with the ruler lists from Hellenic non-Christian traditions: all can be pressed into use for typological foreshadowings of the new order of the New Testament. The most obvious use of the Old Testament in Byzantine chronicles is indeed as an element in the ruler lists that are dominant in the early phases of the tradition and which underpin it to the end. However, some episodes are given particular emphasis. This paper proposes to look at two such episodes in the chronicle of John Malalas (III.13: the contest of Moses and Aaron with Iannes and Iambres; V.40-42: Hezekiah's defeat of Sennacherim) and to explore their primary context and their subsequent development, if any, by later writers.

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"Octateuch Illustration: Paradigms and Paradoxes"

John Lowden

The Septuagint, with or without images, did not circulate in Byzantium in a handy single volume. Among the Old Testament books, only the Psalms, when combined with biblical canticles in the volume termed the Psalter, were frequently produced in versions with and without illustration. Indeed the Psalter was second only to the Gospels in the number of illustrated manuscripts produced in the Byzantine world. The surviving evidence shows that there were many alternative methods of Psalm illustration in addition to the characteristic marginal type. And yet the rich and varied evidence of Psalters has not been considered as a model for Byzantine approaches to Old Testament illustration, its production, consumption, audience and argument. Instead it is the small number of surviving illustrated Octateuchs, and their lost models, that have been proposed as exemplars of Byzantine methods and techniques of manuscript illumination. Why should this be so, and what difference does it make? These are the questions this paper sets out to answer.

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"Connecting Moses and Muhammad"

Jane Dammen McAuliffe

The qur'anic landscape is populated with prophets, both biblical and non-biblical, and stories of earlier prophets serve several functions. They situate God's final prophet, Muhammad, as successor to a long line of individuals who have been favored with divine revelation. They vividly depict the punishments visited upon recalcitrant peoples who reject their prophets and the warnings these prophets deliver. They showcase spiritual luminaries who have secured special divine favor and whom all are urged to emulate. In this large qur'anic cast of pre-Islamic prophets none figures more prominently than Moses. Well over a hundred attestations and allusions appear throughout the Qur'an and taken together they allow a strikingly detailed portrait to emerge. That portrait, in turn, functions as a prefiguration. Repeatedly the Qur'an links the life and experiences of Muhammad with those of Moses, offering a typological interpretation of key episodes and events. The Moses narratives in the Qur'an provide us, therefore, with a prime entry point for probing the connections between the Qur'an and the Bible from multiple perspectives.

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"New Temples and New Solomons"

Robert Ousterhout

At the Orlando, Florida, theme park, "The Holy Land Experience," the Temple of the Lord stands out as the dominant attraction. It is a grandiose building, apparently based on the Temple of Solomon. Nearby, the divine presence, the shekinah, is recreated nightly with smoke and lights. The Tomb of Christ, represented by General Gordon's Garden Tomb, simply pales by comparison. The striking contrast between the two may be exaggerated for one simple reason: the actual tomb still exists (and thus verisimilitude is in order), while the Temple does not.

The Temple of Jerusalem had disappeared long before the Byzantine period, but the idea of the Temple loomed large then as it does now. In a very general way, the sanctuary of a Byzantine church became an image of the Temple, even borrowing its terminology: ta hagia ton hagion. In Byzantine art, in scenes such as the Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple, the setting is the sanctuary of a Byzantine church, as for example in the inner narthex mosaics of the Chora.

The relationship of the sanctuary to the Temple is more metaphorical than mimetic, however, for although the descriptions of the Temple recorded in the Old Testament were known in the Byzantine period, there is no attempt to replicate its forms. How much did the descriptions of the Temple influence church planning? John Wilkinson has proposed that the proportional systems underlying the design of many Early Christian basilicas referred directly to the proportions of the Temple. Indeed, in his descriptions of the church at Tyre and at the Holy Sepulchre, Eusebius seems to follow the familiar description of the Temple.

In this paper, I would like to examine a few well-known examples of Byzantine architecture, for which the symbolism of the Temple figures prominently, and to question what the association with the Temple signified in each specific context, and how it was expressed in architectural terms. In the first part of the paper, I shall look at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, for which the description by Eusebius parallels contemporaneous exegetical writings. The contrast of the ruins of the Temple with Constantine's grand new complex emphasized the transformation from the Old to the New Covenant. At the same time, the Holy Sepulchre complex began to assimilate relics, dedications, and events associated with the Temple, signalling a subtle transformation in the symbolic relationship of the two Jerusalem buildings.

For the second part of the paper, I will turn to the thorny issue of the interpretation of Justinian's Hagia Sophia. Although its symbolism may be elusive, it signals the importance of the Old Testament to Byzantine imperial ideology. Just as Eusebius had done for Constantine's building, Procopius is quick to borrow the metaphor in his description of the church. The monumental discourse between Hagia Sophia and Anicia Juliana's church of H. Polyeuktos is instructive here, as Martin Harrison (and many others) have noted. The discourse, I will argue, was more about the construction of sacred kingship than about sacred topography. Clearly, both Juliana and Justinian understood the symbolic value of architecture, with which they could make powerful political statements.

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"The Psalms and Personal Piety in Byzantium"

Georgi R. Parpulov

Continuous recitation of the Psalms was a key part of the ascetic routine of Byzantine monks and was often also practiced as a devotional observance by lay persons. My paper will review a selection of textual sources on the use of the Psalter in private piety: the Hypotyposis of Nicetas Stethatos, Chapter XXIX from the Pandects of Nikon of the Black Mountain, a Diataxis pseudonymously attributed to Saints Sabas and Theodosius, two letters of Patriarchs Luke Chrysoberges and Philotheos Kokkinos, and a Slavic preface to the Psalter attributable to Saint Sabas of Serbia. I will then examine the ways in which devotional use affected the form of manuscript Psalters in terms of page size, layout and segmentation of the text, rubrics, ornament, and accompanying images. Examples discussed include the Uspenskii Psalter (Saint Petersburg, NLR, Ms gr. 216), the Khludov Psalter (Moscow, SHM, Ms muz. 129), the Theodore Psalter (London, BL, Add. ms 19352), the Dumbarton Oaks Psalter and New Testament (DO, Ms 49), the Harvard Psalter (Houghton Library, Ms gr. 3), and the Dionysiou Psalter (Athos, Dionysiou, Ms 65).

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"The Bible in the Byzantine Admonitory Tradition"

Charlotte Roueché

Nineteenth and twentieth century attitudes to biblical knowledge, and the status of the Bible, particularly in Protestant countries, have tended to encourage anachronistic expectations about the role of the Bible in the profoundly Christian society of Byzantium. Such expectations may blind us to the way in which the Bible was in fact used and even known. I intend to present some of the evidence for the role of florilegia of maxims as sources of biblical knowledge in Byzantium.