Eastern Christianity is a rich and diverse spiritual home for millions of believers worldwide, but it receives much less academic attention than its Western Christian cousins. Why? There are many reasons, but two seem particularly relevant and remediable: a lack of accessible and reliable texts from the tradition, as well as the remoteness of the texts’ source languages. The Maxwell Institute’s Eastern Christian Texts series offers to remedy both of these problems at once by publishing reliable English-language translations alongside the original-language texts.
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These translations are priceless gifts not merely for Eastern Christians themselves, but also for the scholars who study the tradition. Next month the Maxwell Institute will publish another volume in our Eastern Christian Texts series: On This Day: The Armenian Church Synaxarion.
On This Day is a compilation (Synaxarion means “collection”) of stories about venerable Christians from days gone by. The apostle Paul had once enjoined Christians to “be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). With this injunction in mind, early Christians recorded the remarkable and faithful actions of various saints deemed worthy of imitation. Story collections grew over time as various budding Christian groups borrowed from other collections and added their own honored saints. Stories were divided up according to days of the calendar year so that Christians could spend time each day pondering particular saintly examples.
On This Day is the Armenian Church’s collection of reverential stories. The Armenian Church is one of the most ancient Christian communities—the first to be adopted as a country’s official religion in AD 301. Armenian Christians adopted traditional saint stories and added their own, ultimately creating multiple versions of the Synaxarion. Edward G. Mathews, Jr., the translator of this volume, based this readable English translation on an eclectic edition from the early twentieth century. This forthcoming volume covers the month of January, with each other month of the year to follow.
Mathews views this publication as a work of “service scholarship.” Rather than an authoritative critical edition of a particular early version of the Synaxarion, he has produced a text that Armenian believers and students might use for their own worship, or for use as a primer to learn classical Armenian.
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In the next few weeks the MIBlog will feature contributions from a few scholars discussing the relevance and importance of this classic Armenian Christian text, On This Day: The Armenian Church Synaxarion (January).