Article

The East (3): Syria and Mesopotamia

Lucas Van Rompay

in The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Studies

Published in print September 2008 | ISBN: 9780199271566
Published online September 2009 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199271566.003.0019

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

The East (3): Syria and Mesopotamia

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Syriac Christianity emerged in northern Mesopotamia, an area of encounter between various peoples and civilizations in which Aramean settlement began as early as the end of the second millennium BCE. In the first Christian centuries, this area was a buffer between the Roman and Parthian Empires. The origins of Syriac Christianity can be traced back to the second century, when Christians began to use the Aramaic of Edessa as their literary language. The Edessene language itself goes back to an earlier period, as is evidenced by pagan Syriac inscriptions, and it continued in a pagan or non-Christian context well into the third century. But it was Christian use that made the language popular over a wide area and a convenient vehicle for the spread of Christianity wherever there was a substrate of spoken Aramaic.

Keywords: Syriac Christianity; northern Mesopotamia; Aramean settlement; Edessene language; spoken Aramaic

Article.  9627 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Christianity ; Religion in the Ancient World

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