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Michael the Syrian and Syriac Orthodox Identity

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This paper discusses the concept of Syriac Orthodox identity in the chronicle by Michael the Great as it is expressed in terms for the self-designation (like mhaymnē, Suryōyē) and in the structure of the narrative. The heritage of the ancient Near East, based on the ethnical and historical conception of the Arameans (including the Chaldeans and the Ōturōyē as well as the Ōrōmōyē) since the times of the ancient empires was a very important element of the identity. Just as important to him was the historical legitimacy of the Orthodox Church as a group excluding other Aramaic-speaking Christians. This conception of identity was complex, dialectic, and multi-layered, comprising ethnic, historic, cultural, and religious elements. Not unlike modern people, he and the members of the Syriac Orthodox communities participated in different and overlapping cultures and identities throughout the Syriac Orthodox world. The Syriac Orthodox identity had been under polemical attack for a long time, against which both historical and theological answers were formulated over the centuries. At the same time, Michael can be a witness only for a certain group and a certain region. He speaks mainly for the Syriac-speaking regions of the Syriac Orthodox world and the clergy. Neither the Syriac Orthodox identity of Arabic speaking Syriac Orthodox Christians, for example in Takrit, nor the identities of laymen are of his concern.

Affiliations: 1: Universität Konstanz; Dorothea.Weltecke@uni-konstanzde


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