The Real and the Individual: Byzantine concepts of the Resurrection, part 1

by Dirk Krausmüller

In the second half of the sixth century patriarch Anastasius I of Antioch delivered a sermon on the transfiguration in which he subjected the biblical account to an allegorical interpretation.1 When he discussed the presence of Moses and Elijah on Mount Tabor, however, he interrupted the flow of his argument to add the following criticism: “That some ask whence and based on what signs the disciples recognized the prophets does not seem to me a subtle question nor one worth of being investigated.”2

Although Anastasius himself refers to his adversaries merely as “some people”, we are in the fortunate position to have another sermon on the transfiguration ascribed to a priest by the name of “Timothy of Antioch” in which exactly this view is expressed.3 Timothy first raises the question: “And whence did they (sc. the apostles) have the knowledge that it was Moses and Elijah?”, and then answers it with the exclamation: “From the signs!”, adding as an explanation: “For Elijah was there with the carriage and Moses carrying the tables.”4

Since Timothy has been dated to the 6th to 8th centuries he may well have been a contemporary of Anastasius and it is not impossible that the patriarch actually had this text in mind when he vented his criticism.5 Timothy’s problem arises from the fact that the biblical accounts simply state that the two attendant figures at the transfiguration were Moses and Elijah without giving further information as to how the apostles could have known about their identities.6

His solution was the object of the scorn of the patriarch who clearly thought that such a pedestrian approach was not up to the standard of theological discussion, and it is certainly true that we find nothing comparable in other sermons on the transfiguration. In order to understand why Timothy saw the need for an explanation here we must turn to the descriptions of visions in contemporary Saints’ Lives which provide us with the closest parallels.

In the Life of Euthymius by Cyril of Scythopolis the identification of figures appearing in dreams and visions unknown to the persons who see them is a major issue.7 In one episode a bewitched Saracene boy has a vision of “some grey-haired monk with a big beard” who tells him “I am Euthymius”, gives an exact description of where he lives, and asks him to come. The Saracene then travels to the monastery where he is healed by the saint.8 The description of Euthymius’ appearance is mentioned here to make the vision more credible to the readers who knew what the saint looked like. The Saracene himself, on the other hand, had never met Euthymius and therefore would not have known where to turn for help if the saint had not introduced himself by name.9 Such an impasse we find in an episode in the Life of Theodosius the Coenobiarch by Theodore of Petrae.10 We are told that a woman from Antioch comes to the monastery with her son. When the boy sees the saint he exclaims that this is the man who rescued him from a well. The mother explains this “recognition” by telling the story how her son fell into a well and was held above the water “by some monk”. Since the boy did not know who this monk was they had to go to all the monasteries of the area in search for him.11

Now we can reconstruct Timothy’s reasoning. Since the biblical accounts do not contain a self-identification like “I am Moses (or Elijah)” or identification by Christ like “This is Moses (or Elijah)” he concluded that there must have been visible signs by which they could be recognized and that these signs must have been of a kind that made their identification as individuals unambiguous. This led him to the carriage and the tables as characteristic attributes.

These visions, however, are not sufficient to explain Timothy’s position and Anastasius’ criticism of it because they take place in “ordinary” situations and are experienced by “ordinary” people whereas the transfiguration is a miraculous event in which Christ’s body and clothes become suffused with light and the appearing figures are surrounded by a luminous cloud. Therefore I shall now try to relate the authors’ statements to their interpretation of this phenomenon.

In either text the Leitmotiv of the author is that what was shown to the apostles on Mount Tabor “assured” them of the reality of the afterlife.12 As we shall see, however, their concepts of this afterlife are radically different and therefore lead them to different answers to the question of knowledge and identification.

For Anastasius the assurance is linked to a future event, i.e. the second coming of Christ of which the transfiguration is a foreshadowing.13 Christ will not come in an earthly body but in a spiritual and celestial one which he has had since his resurrection, and the same transformation will then be conferred on all human bodies.14

In Anastasius’ eschatology this “change” from one condition to the other is clearly the central aspect whereas the resurrection is just a means to this end.15 His thinking is based on a dichotomy between the carnal and the spiritual. The spiritual body will not only be incorruptible but also “less dense”, i.e. material than our current body.16 This has implications for how this body presents itself to those who perceive it, i.e. the apostles in the case of the transfiguration.

Anastasius first explains the impact of this change on Christ’s body when he interprets the biblical statement: “He was transformed in front of them”.17 Christ confers his divine qualities on his human nature so that these qualities become manifest on the outside: “having brightened up the figure of the serf with the divine idioms”.18

When Anastasius turns to Moses and Elijah he extends the spiritualisation of Christ’s body to them. Again he starts with a quotation from the bible: “And Moses and Elijah were seen by them conversing with him”.19 From this he draws the conclusion that they could only have conversed with the transfigured Christ if they themselves had undergone an analogous change: “If they were not co-transfigured, they would not con-verse.” 20

Anastasius then follows the biblical text in which the two figures appear as prophets who tell the apostles about the coming death of Christ in Jerusalem. He uses the concept of transfiguration to explain why the apostles now believed Moses and Elijah whereas they had not believed Christ before. Anastasius draws a parallel between their prophecy and Christ’s earlier announcement of his own death and resurrection.21 He stresses that in both cases the apostles heard exactly the same words but that they “did not understand” them before, whereas now they understand and believe.22 According to Anastasius their different reactions can only be explained if the speech of Moses and Elijah which is still considered audible by him has acquired an additional new quality which makes it different from our ordinary speech.23 Then he describes what this change implies: “When their words are transfigured and the shadows of the law are removed, then Moses the faithful servant, who wrote everything about Christ, will be believed and will clearly show from his own words which end Christ will fulfil in Jerusalem”.24 Obviously Anastasius thinks that the meaning of the words of the Old Testament will become manifest in them so that their status as prophecies about Christ will be self-evident and thus inspire instant faith.

Anastasius does not explicitly state what the transfiguration of the appearances of Moses and Elijah implies. Since the speeches come from their mouths, however, the visible figures and audible words are two related and parallel phenomena. This means that the transfigured bodies of Moses and Elijah relate to “dense” and carnal bodies in the same way as the transfigured words to the “shadows of the law”. And just like ordinary words their ordinary bodies would not have given an immediate knowledge of their identity whereas in the transfigured bodies this identity becomes manifest which, of course, makes a reading of outward signs superfluous.

This raises the question: What is the “carrier” of this identity that manifests itself in the spiritual body? An answer can be found in Anastasius’ description of the last judgement in the first part of his sermon. There he says that we shall all stand naked in front of Christ as judge.25 Then he evokes the biblical image of the books that will be opened and interprets them as a metaphor for the human conscience: “… which show through what is imprinted on the conscience whom each of us has followed …”.26 The whole story of one’s life can be found there which allows a judgement of the state the soul is in. So we can conclude that the apostles can read the “stories” of Moses and Elijah in their “consciences” and therefore do not need to infer them from their outward appearances.27

Anastasius’ concept of the “conscience” as the place where memories of individual thoughts and actions are imprinted as mental images is closely related to imagination. This can be elucidated by a comparison with a passage in Basil of Ancyra’s treatise On Virginity.28 Having stressed that one should care for one’s conscience Basil points out that each individual sinful thought is painted on the board of the soul and that on the day of the Last Judgement this painting will become visible to all.29 In non-metaphorical terms Basil calls it “imaginary and detailed thought in the soul”.30

The closeness of this concept to simple “subjective” imagination explains why Anastasius himself never explicitly refers to it in this context especially since a few lines above he devalues the material world as “dream-like phantasies”.31 Even Basil of Ancyra who speaks quite openly about imagination is somewhat uneasy since it has the connotation of not being quite real and therefore stresses that these images are in the soul not just as phantasies but as deeds.32

At this point we must return to the text to consider an aspect which we have left aside so far. For Anastasius direct access to the level of unequivocal meaning is not only possible because of the transfiguration of the perceived objects, but also because of a change in the perceptive powers of the apostles linked to their spiritual advancement.

Anastasius starts his interpretation of the biblical account by stating that Christ had already made the apostles “receptive” for the light coming from his transfigured body.33 And before he infers the co-transfiguration of Moses and Elijah, he uses the same quotation from the bible to explain how the apostles perceived them: “Having become more clear-sighted (literally: seeing-through) … the apostles finally got to know that Moses and Elijah then conversed with Christ”.34 His most elaborate statement, however, follows the passage in which Anastasius rejects the view held by Timothy. He asks: “For having arrived at such a height that they were thought worthy of such a sight which had been called kingdom of heaven by him who had revealed himself to them as being transfigured together with the prophets, how could they not have known the co-initiated?”35 And then he gives his answer: “Surely the apostles were prophets, too; and prophets meeting prophets have one and the same knowledge; above all, because Jesus was there and illuminated the governing part (sc. of the soul) and figurated the intellect according to his own divine figure.”36

By extending the concept of transfiguration to the change in the perceptive powers of the apostles, Anastasius achieves a perfect correspondence and thus a double proof for an immediate knowledge.37 This correspondence, however, is somewhat deceptive, for when Anastasius speaks about the subjective aspect he “forgets” about the transfiguration of the objects of perception. Otherwise “seeing through” would be meaningless since there would be nothing to be “seen through”. When Anastasius expands the biblical statement that the apostles “saw” Moses and Elijah to “having become more clear-sighted … they got to know” that it was they ,this only makes sense if he accepts Timothy’s point of departure that there is no introduction of the two figures by spoken word. Then, of course, the apostles could not simply have “seen” that the two men appearing on either side of Christ were in fact Moses and Elijah. So the biblical statement must have appeared elliptical to him and he proceeded to supply the missing elements: The apostles saw the two men but their perception did not stop at the surface of the carnal body but went right through it to the level we have identified as conscience.38

“Seeing through” is closely related to the concept of the “eye of the soul” which can also be used to describe imagination as opposed to seeing something real.39 Thus, as an instrument of perception it corresponds exactly to the “imaginary” level of the objects of perception represented by the conscience and one can conceive of its use to “see” not only the figments of one’s own imagination but also the “real” mental images of others.

We can conclude that for Anastasius the imagination is the place where the individuality of a human being is located and safeguarded.40 What is more difficult to establish is its relation to the spiritualized body after the resurrection. For Basil of Ancyra, the revelation of the conscience is not caused by a change of the carnal body, but by the shedding of this body as an outer shell.41 Anastasius, on the other hand, relates the manifestation to a transformation of the carnal bodies through the resurrection.42 Therefore, this transformation is most likely to be conceived of as a two-fold process in which the spiritualisation of the flesh is complemented by an “incarnation” of the “spiritual” imagination which moves it forward to the visible surface.43


1 Anastasius of Antioch, Oratio I in Transfigurationem (BHG 1993; CPG 6947), ed. PG 89, 1361-1376. G. Weiss who has made the most thorough analysis of this sermon to this date states in his Studia Anastasiana I. (MBM, 4). Muenchen, 1965, p. 94: “Abschließend ist zu bemerken, daß ich kein Gegenargument gegen die Zuweisung der 3 Predigten (i. e. the sermon on the transfiguration and two sermons on the annunciation) an den Patriarchen Anastasius finden konnte.”

2 PG 89, 1369B4 -7: to de punthanesthai tinas, pothen, e poos, kai ek tinoon semeioon epegnoosan hoi mathetai tous profetas ou moi dokei komson eperootema kai zeteseoos axion einai.

3 Timothy of Antioch, Sermo in Crucem et in Transfigurationem (BHG 434h; CPG 7406), ed. PG 86, 1, 256-265. An in-depth analysis of Timothy’s work was done by V. Capelle, Les homélies liturgiques du prétendu Timothée de Jérusalem. Ephemerides Liturgicae 63 (1949), pp. 5-26. After a stylistical analysis on pp. 10-20 Capelle concludes that four more sermons can be attributed to the same author, the Sermo in Symeonem et in S. Mariam Virginem (BHG 1958; CPG 7405), ed. PG 86,1, 237-252, which goes under the name of Timothy, Presbyter of Jerusalem, and three pseudepigrapha of Athanasius of Alexandria, In Nativitatem Praecursoris, in Elisabeth, et in Deiparam, PG 28, 905-913, Sermo de Descriptione Deiparae, PG 28, 944-957, In Caecum a Nativitate, PG 28, 1001-1024. Recently, M. Sachot has put forward the hypothesis that these sermons must be attributed to Leontius of Byzantium writing under various pen-names. Cf. M. Sachot, L’ homélie pseudo-chrysostomienne sur la Transfiguration CPG 4724, BHG 1975. Contextes liturgiques, restitution à Léonce, prêtre de Constantinople, édition critique et commentée, traduction et études connexes. Frankfurt a. M. & Bern 1981, and M. Sachot, Les homélies grecques sur la transfiguration. Tradition manuscrite. Paris 1987. Sachot’s hypothesis has been accepted by L. Perrone, “Art. Timothy of Jerusalem”, Encyclopedia of the early church, II (Cambridge 1992), p. 841, and by H. J. Sieben, “Art. Transfiguration du seigneur”, Dictionnaire de Spiritualité, 15 (1991), p. 1145. Although one cannot come to a final decision without a detailed discussion of style and contents of the sermons ascribed to either author there are some obvious discrepancies which cast doubts on Sachot’s conclusion. Pet phrases like akoue sunetoos found in almost all of Leontius’ genuine sermons are missing in the sermons ascribed to Timothy by Capelle. Nor do we find the same interest in identity and identification through signs as in almost all of Timothy’s homilies, cf. PG 86, 1, 244A, and PG 28, 909B, 953AB, 1004A-1005A. In Leontius’ corpus there is only one comparable passage where he discusses the identification of the infant Christ by the magi. Cf. Homilia XII in Nativitatem Christi (BHGa 7896), ed. C. Datema und Pauline Allen, Sermones. (Corpus Christianorum. Series graeca, 17). Brepols-Turnhout 1987, pp. 385/386.

4 PG 86,1, 261BC: kai pothen autois he gnosis hoti Mooses en kai Elias? ek toon tekmerioon; ho gar Elias sun tooi Harmati pareste kai ho Mooses tas plakas bastazoon.

5 For this dating cf. Capelle, Timothée, pp. 11/12, 20-23. Capelle points out that the oldest manuscripts date to the 9th century and that apart from the sermons on Christmas and on the Blind-born Timothy’s texts do not appear very often in the homiliaries which suggests a comparatively late date. He concludes: “À défaut des critères plus précis, on situera notre homéliste entre le VIe et le VIIIe siècle byzantin.”

6 In Luke 9, 30 quoted by Timothy in PG 86, 1, 260D4/5 we first find the statement that two men were seen: kai idou andres duo sunelaloun autooi, which is followed by the identification of these two men: oitines esan Mooses kai Elias, without any further comment. Afterwards we only hear that they spoke about Christ’s coming passion.

7 E. Schwartz, Kyrillos von Skythopolis. Leipzig 1939.

8 Life of Euthymius, ed. Schwartz, c. 23, p. 20, ll. 8-16: … tina monachon mixopolion echonta ton poogoona megan … egoo eimi Euthumios.

9 This vision is part of a dream, but we find the same structure in another vision which is not classified as a dream, cf. Life of Euthymius, ed. Schwartz, c. 57, p. 78, ll. 25-27.

10 H. Usener, Der heilige Theodosios. Schriften des Theodoros und Kyrillos. Reprinted Hildesheim 1975.

11 Life of Theodosius, ed. Usener, p. 77, l. 18 – p. 78, l. 24: …he tou paidos epignoosis pros ton dikaion …. hupo monachou tinos ….

12 For Timothy cf. PG 86, 1, 260B: ho kurios … pleroforei … hupodeiknus autois (sc. tois apostolois) … theoprepe tes anastaseoos dunamin ; and for Anastasius cf. PG 89, 1365A10/11: kai hina to afanes tes elpidos tautes echomen en bebaiooi bouletai kai nun hupodeixai tois egkritois toon mathetoon ten tote ginomenen alloioosin.

13 Cf. PG 89, 1365A11: ten tote ginomenen alloioosin. At one point, however, Anastasius seems to refer to a “real” transformation of Christ’s body already at the transfiguration i. e. before his resurrection, cf. 1368B8/9: nun de ten morfen tou doulou pros ten fusiken apokathistesin.

14 PG 89, 1365A6/7: to meta anastaseoos metastoicheioothen epi to pneumatikon kai epouranion. Anastasius returns to this theme at the end of his interpretation, cf. 1376B9-13.

15 PG 89, 1365A6: meta anastaseoos.

16 PG 89, 1365A5/6: to idion sooma metapoiesas eis aftharsian; cf. 1376C2: metaschematisei ta soomata hemon epi to … aftharton. Cf. 1376B11/12: apo toon pachuteroon (sc. soomatoon), and 1365C9: tou pachuterou kosmou. The opposite quality (which Anastasius does not mention here) would be leptoteron.

17 Matthew 17, 2: kai metemorfoothe emprosthen autoon, quoted PG 89, 1368B1.

18 PG 89, 1368B10/11: faidrunas de auten (sc. ten douliken ousian) tois theikois idioomasin. This statement is part of a passage in which Anastasius combines the transfiguration with the kenoosis-motif from Philippians 2, 6-8. The whole argument is very complex and therefore cannot be discussed in this article.

19 Matthew 17, 3: kai oofthesan autois Mooses kai Elias sullalountes autooi, quoted PG 89, 1368D11/12.

20 PG 89, 1369A1-5: ei gar me summetamorfoothosin ou sullalousin.

21 Matthew 16, 21-23.

22 Cf. PG 89, 1369A8: egnoesan pote lalountos.

23 Cf. PG 89, 1369A7: ekouon. Moreover, Anastasius paraphrases the biblical sullalousi with sumftheggontai, 1369A12, which points to articulate, audible speech.

24 PG 89, 1369A14-B4: Hotan metamorfoothosin autoon oi logoi kai kinethosin ai tou nomou skiai tote kai pisteuthesetai Mooses ho therapoon ho pistos peri Christou grapsas panta kai ten exodon autou parastesei telaugoos ek toon idioon logoon hen emelle pleroun en Hierousalem. The future tense probably indicates that Anastasius sees the transfiguration as a prefiguration of the second coming here.

25 PG 89, 1364D3-5: gumnoi de pantes … paristametha.

26 PG 89, 1364D6-8: bibloi anoigontai pros elegchon hemon delousai dia toon tei suneidesei tetupoomenoon tini mallon hekastos ekolouthese ….

27 It is worth noting, however, that in the case of the second coming Anastasius speaks of an “examination” of the imprints on the conscience before final judgement about the state of the soul is passed. But this is clearly more a taking-in of what is seen than an interpretation.

28 Basil of Ancyra, Liber de Vera Virginitatis Integritate, PG 30, 669-810.

29 Basil stresses that the individual and not the general will be presented and then describes vividly how every single detail will be seen by the others, cf. PG 30, 732D4-6: ou gar sugkechumenoos te kai katholou ta pragmata theooreitai all’ hoos hupozoografa kata meros ginoosketai hoos echei.

30 PG 30, 733A9: fantasioodes te kai diexodike ennoia en psuchei.

31 PG 89, 1364B1/2: ten psuchen … planoomenen peri ta tou biou mataia kai tas oneiroodeis autou fantasias.

32 PG 30, 733B14/15: me hoos fantasias haplos all’ hoos erga en psuchei ginomena. This makes sense when the sins of the thought are taken as seriously as those carried out in action.

33 PG 89, 1368B1/2: chooretikous autous poiesas (sc. ho Christos) toon huperballontoon autou ellampseoon.

34 PG 89, 1368D12-1369A2: dioratikooteroi gegonotes hoi apostoloi … molis egnoosan hoti Mooses kai Elias tote tooi Iesou sullalousi.

35 PG 89, 1369B7-11: kai gar pros tosouton hupsos chooresantes hooste theas axioothenai toiautes hen basileian ouranoon oonomasen ho apokalupsas autois heauton tois profetais summetamorfoumenon poos tous summustas eichon agnoesai?

36 PG 89, 1369B12-C1: pantoos profetai de esan kai hoi apostoloi; kai profetai profetais suggenomenoi mian kai ten auten echousin <epistemen> kai malista parontos Iesou kai footizontos to hegemonikon kai morfountos ton noun pros <ten> heautou theian morfen.

37 A similar combination of the two concepts we find e. g. in the Middle Byzantine Fourth Life of Pachomius, cf. Sancti Pachomii Vitae Graecae, edd. Hagiographi Bollandiani ex recensione F. Halkin (SH 19). Brüssel 1932, p. 409, ll. 14-17: He tes psuches galene kai to tes gnoomes euthu kai pros areten eufues ou metrioos diefaineto tois oxuteron dioran dunamenois kai tes psuches anichneuein ta aporreta kai kruptomena. Here the dioran of the onlookers corresponds to a diafainesthai of the soul of Pachomius.

38 Since the concept of mental penetration is not dependent on a correspondent transformation of the perceived object it is possible that this was the reason why Anastasius stressed the subjective aspect in his wish to prove his point against Timothy.

39 A good example for the use of the expression “eye of the mind” in this sense can be found in Pseudo-Methodian Sermo de Symeone et Anna (BHG 1961; CPG 1827), ed. PG 18, 361A1-7: prin e kateilefenai ton naon tois tes dianoias ofthalmois anapteroumenos hoos echoon ede to pothoumenon egegethei; agomenos de houtoo kai meteooroporoon tois diabemasi ookutatoos ton palai hieron katelambane sekon kai ou prosschon tooi hierooi tooi tou hierou prutanei tas hieras oolenas eefeploose. Here the imagined cradling of Christ is followed by the “real” one!

40 Turning once more to Basil of Ancyra we can see why it is the imagination and not the “pure” intellect which has this function in Anastasius’ thinking. For Basil the “intellect” is the active element which paints the images on the board of the “soul”, cf. PG 30, 733A11/12. Therefore it can be identified with the “person” which is itself not imagined but “real”. Without this “soul”, however, the intellect would be without history and therefore without individuality.

41 PG 30, 732C11-13: houtoo kai hemeis ekdusamenoi to prokalumma tes sarkos oute peristeilai tous en tei psuchei moomous oute apokrupsai poos dunesometha.

42 He makes this explicit in the case of Christ’s transfiguration, cf. PG 89, 732C11-13: ouk apothemenos men ten ousian ten douliken faidrunas de auten tois theikois idioomasin.

43 There remains, however, an ambiguity: At the time of the transfiguration Moses and Elijah were not yet resurrected (and Elijah had not even died yet but was assumed to heaven). It is possible that Anastasius thinks that they just gave the appearance of having transformed bodies (since the transfiguration is only a prefiguration of the real event). But one cannot exclude that he conceives of their figures as “naked” consciences in Basil’s sense here.

Heer, maak het stil in mijn hart: impressies van een Syrisch-katholiek klooster

door André de Raaij

In de wegenatlas van de Australische rugzakgidsenuitgeverij Lonely Planet staat het punt aangegeven als ruïne midden in het land, en eigenlijk moet men dit ook vooral blijven denken: Mar Mousa, ten oosten van de stad An Nabk kan en moet geen trekpleister worden voor mensen die een goedkoop logement zoeken in de woestijn. De ruïne ligt ruim een uur lopen langs een ezelpaadje door de bergen, vanaf een weg wel te verstaan die de naam ook niet verdient: meermalen kruist men een wadi die in de winter wellicht niet eens per auto te passeren is.

De belangrijkste indruk die ik heb overgehouden van het Syrische platteland (ik zou het beter de buitenstedelijke ruimte noemen, want “platteland” is zo’n aartsnederlands begrip dat niet past bij een land met veel heuvels en bergen) is: stilte en rust. In Nederland, en elders in West-Europa is de akoestische vervuiling van het autoverkeer alomtegenwoordig als voortdurende ruis. In Syrië is de situatie ongeveer andersom, vooral omdat automobilisten in de stad steeds willen laten horen dat ze op de weg zijn door middel van hun claxon. Wat is Amsterdam rustig, wat is het Nederlandse platteland druk.

Stilte als daadwerkelijk ontbreken van geluid kan alleen absoluut zijn, en is als zodanig een ontmoeting met het goddelijke. Kierkegaard wijst hier bijvoorbeeld op in verscheidene theologische geschriften. Maar een dergelijke ontmoeting met het absolute kan voor ons sterfelijke aardbewoners alleen maar zeer kortstondig zijn. Zij moet ook noodzakelijk reliëf krijgen door stiltedoorbrekend geluid. In de bergen of velden van Syrië is dat meestal een bromvlieg of een vogel (leeuwerik, bonte kraai, zelfs een zwerm gieren – maar die heb ik niet gehoord). Of het ruisen van gras of gewas. Stilte kan niet in gradaties uitgedrukt worden. De weg naar Mar Mousa is al stil, maar ‘s avonds of ‘s nachts – als ook vogels en insekten zich rustig houden – wordt de stilte alleen doorbroken door een enkele tinkelende geitenbel of een huilende hond. Een volmaakte plaats om de juiste stilte te ontmoeten.

Overdag, dient gezegd, is het merkwaardige klooster juist vol bedrijvigheid. Enkele nonnen afkomstig uit Italië hebben de geitenteelt professioneel ter hand genomen. Er is een kaasmakerij waar de dagelijkse melkgift wordt verwerkt voor eigen gebruik. Bij iedere maaltijd eet men zuivel afkomstig van de eigen kudde. In de kaasmakerij staat het enige elektrische apparaat dat op gangbare spanning werkt: zo’n blauw licht uitstralende staaf die insekten aanlokt en de diertjes afmaakt. In de kaasmakerij merk je dat dit gepaard gaat met een ploffend geluid, dat te vaak de rust doorbreekt – zo mag een vlieg eigenlijk niet de stilte doorbreken, het kwetst vlieg en stilte. Er is sprake van dat de capaciteit van het aggregaat wordt opgevoerd en dat er een koelkast in de kaasmakerij kan komen, moge dit snel gebeuren.

Het tinkelen van de bellen is nooit ver weg overdag, ook al worden de geiten in de bergen in de ruime omgeving gehoed. Stallen en verblijven van monniken en nonnen staan verspreid tegen de berg op. Sommige kluizen zijn tegen de rotsen aangebouwd met de stenen van de berg als deel van een muur. Een uit Irak afkomstige inmiddels uitgetreden monnik laat ons zijn verblijf zien – bereikbaar na een steile klim, net nog enigszins comfortabel en in ieder geval ook binnen de opstelling van het klooster afgezonderd.

Men moet zich bij de woorden “monniken” en “nonnen” niet mensen voorstellen in het uniform van de habijt. Tijdens de gebedsdiensten draagt men wel een pij, maar verder zijn de leden van deze gemengde communauteit uiterlijk niet te onderscheiden van “gewone wereldlingen”. U heeft intussen wel begrepen dat de ruïne zoals in het begin vermeld volop bewoond is. Waarom wordt het dan aangegeven als ruïne?

Het eenvoudige antwoord is, dat het kerkgebouw en het oorspronkelijke klooster dit ook waren, in de loop van deze eeuw overgegeven aan de elementen en geregeld in bezit genomen door langstrekkende herders, bezocht door rovers die de religieuze kunstuitingen al dan niet met sukses kwamen halen, of passanten die graffitti kwamen aanbrengen. Al deze sporen zijn terug te vinden in de kerk, die echter sinds 1983 weer in gebruik is genomen, op initiatief van een Italiaanse en een Zwitserse monnik die al spoedig versterking kregen. Van buiten is er niet meer te merken dat het klooster een ruïne geweest is. In de kerk zijn er de al genoemde sporen die echter het door de tijd beproefde karakter van de ruimte onderstrepen: de oudste schilderingen dateren van de dertiende eeuw, als ik het mij goed herinner.

Zoals gebruikelijk in Syrische boerenwoningen neemt men in de kerk plaats op de grond, die hier gedekt is door huiden van geiten uit eigen kudde. Als wij het klooster bezoeken is het volgens de Gregoriaanse kalender Pinksteren, en in de Syrisch-katholieke kerk houdt men deze tijdrekening aan. Er zijn twee gebedsdiensten van een uur per dag, om praktische redenen, men kan immers de geiten niet alleen laten of steeds naar de stal laten lopen. Maar de vespers voor Pinksteren duren veel langer dan een uur. De dienst gaat merkwaardig informeel, kloosterlingen knikken naar elkaar of praten over hoe de dienst verder gaat (die indruk wekken zij althans). Gezang wordt soms omlijst met een trommel en een eenvoudig snaarinstrument. De dienst is in het Arabisch, de niet-Arabischtaligen worden uitgenodigd in hun eigen taal een gebedsintentie te laten horen, de Pinkstergeest zal wel voor de vertalingen zorgen, verzekert de abt in het Engels. Ook schriftlezing vindt gedeeltelijk in de eigen taal van de gasten plaats. Zoals altijd ben ik net te laat om het woord te nemen in het grote gezelschap. Mijn luid bonzende hart moet eerst de ergernis over het gebruik van de term Jahweh in de verstaanbare bijbellezing verdragen, en de lichte angst terwille van A. die na de lange tocht hierheen als diabete meer dan anderen allang aan voedsel toe moet zijn – wat een lange dienst op den duur tot een bijna onaanvaardbare oefening in versterving maakt. Zij weet tenslotte weg te sluipen (de lage deuropeningen laten geen andere beschrijvende term toe) naar de keuken. Mijn intentie, naar Kierkegaard of Serge Bolshakoff: Heer, maak het stil in mijn hart. Dit lukt later wel, de omgeving helpt vanzelf.

Veel in Syrië blijkt uit te nodigen tot persoonlijke herkerstening, ook al zou men dit wellicht niet denken omdat de meeste mensen het land met Islam zullen identificeren. Niet dat dit laatste ongerechtvaardigd is, maar er is zeker zoveel dat blijvend verwijst naar Christendom en Jodendom. Wij komen hierop terug. Als wij vertrekken van het klooster lopen twee mannen ons tegemoet aan de overkant van de wadi waarlangs het ezelpad voert. Zij groeten niet, zoals men zou verwachten hier in de verlatenheid. Zwijgend en misschien wel gegeneerd maken zij rechtsomkeert en lopen zo snel weg dat ze al gauw uit het zicht zijn. Hoe geheim moet geheime politie zijn?

Het klooster Mar Mousa zij rust toegewenst, afwezigheid van aandacht van geheime politie en rugzaktoerisme, een ruimere elektriciteitsvoorziening en de kracht om door te zetten. En misschien vrijwaring van aardbevingen, al is de leeftijd van het hoofdgebouw indrukwekkend genoeg – maar weten kan men het niet.


Erica Cruikshank Dodd: ‘The monastery of Mar Musa Al-Habashi, near Nebek, Syria’, in: Arte medievale (1992), p. 61-102.

Byz-Niz: Berichten uit de O.B.O.-burelen


Greece in Print – 1997

The Hellenic Literature Society and the A.S. Onassis Center for Hellenic Studies with the support of many Greek American organizations, institutions and numerous individual volunteers, have announced the second major book exhibit of Greek literature and culture in New York City, “Greece in Print -1997.” The exhibit will take place on September 20 and 21, 1997, at the Greenberg Lounge of the Vanderbilt Hall Building of New York University from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. The building is located at 40 Washington Square South, New York, NY 10012. Discussion panels on Greek literature and culture will be held at Tishman Auditorium in the same building. The exhibit will take place concurrently, and is associated with the “New York is Book Country” cultural event organized by the city of New York. For further information and to reserve seats in the discussion panel program please call 201-666-7374.


  • Greenberg Lounge; Sep. 20 & 21, 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM
  • Book Exhibit of Greek Literature and culture in English and in Greek
  • Donnell Library Exhibit
  • Magna Graecia photographic exhibit
  • H.P. Kraus, Greek Book Arts from the 15th to 20th Centuries exhibit

23rd Annual Byzantine Studies Conference

Sept. 26-28, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Info.: Pat Gaitan, tel. (608) 262-6696, fax (608) 265-3163; e-mailgaitan at

Christianization In The Early Middle Ages, 400-1000

The Group for the Study of Late Antiquity and the Medieval Studies Program at Princeton are organizing the First Annual Medieval Origins Graduate Conference on Christianization In The Early Middle Ages, 400-1000 to be held at Princeton University on October 18, 1997. This one-day conference will explore aspects of late antique and medieval Christianization, from the eastern frontiers of Byzantium to northern Europe, from the destruction of the Serapeum to the conversion of Iceland. Broad themes may include:

  • the strategies and frustrations of missionaries
  • “pagan reaction” and “pagan survival”
  • the recasting of non-Christian modes of expression for Christian use
  • the influence of Christianity on rural and urban topography

Our keynote speaker will be Professor Dennis Trout of Tufts University, who will present a paper on Christianization at the shrine of Saint Felix in early fifth century Nola.

Queries can be sent to one of the following addresses:

mail: Scott G. Bruce, 207 Dickinson Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544

email:jmgaddis at

fax: 609-258-1873 c/o Medieval Studies Program


A graduate-student conference on medieval studies. November 7-8th, 1997


Sean Morris
English Department
SUNY at Stony Brook Stony Brook, NY 11794-5350
smorris at

American Numismatic Society Arab-Byzantine Forum III

The third annual edition of the Society’s Forum on Arab-Byzantine numismatics will take place again this fall, on Saturday, November 15, at 10:00. At the forum, specialists in the Byzantine-style coinage issued under Arab rule in the eastern Mediterranean lands will exchange reports of their new finds and findings. As usual, the forum will be co-sponsored by the Oriental Numismatic Society.

A more formal notice will be sent out later to those known to be interested in the field, but anyone who would like to make a brief presentation to the group is invited to notify Society Curator of Islamic Coins Michael Bates. We would be delighted to hear from new contributors. Contributions on related non-numismatic historical topics are also welcome, particularly on the transition from Roman to Muslim rule in Bilad al-Sham.

The Forum will last all day. A registration fee of $20.00 will cover the cost of postage and printing, coffee, doughnuts, cookies, and an informal lunch. There is no cover charge for the entertainment!

Two-day international conference on the influence of St Ephraim the Syrian

16-18 December 1997 at School of Oriental and African Studies, London. Incl. Public lecture on 18 Dec. 1997 by Prof. Sidney Griffith (Catholic University of America):

‘Most awakening of the ancients: the universality of St Ephraim the Syrian’.

Brunei Gallery lecture theatre, S.O.A.S., 7-8.30 p.m.

Registration fee £15. (Students, old age pensioners, £10).

Info.: S.O.A.S., Thornhaught street, Russell Square, London WC1 OXG.

Tel. 0171 3236137 and 0171 3236249

e-mail: ap7 at


Hagiography Society Newsletter

Sherry Reames schrijft:

“I am pleased to announce that the Hagiography Society Newsletter, starting with the current issue [March/April 1997], is now available on the web, thanks to the kind offices of the Bollandists. The address is

The site can may also be accessed through the regular Bollandist web-site by opening the rubric “what’s new” and following the appropriate link.

The current issue of the newsletter includes [among other things] a call for papers and some additional information about a small conference we are planning for July 1998 at Ammerdown (near Downside Abbey and Bath, in England) on the topic “Sanctity and Ritual.”


Synopsis: An Annual Index of Greek Studies

Editor-in-chief: Andrew Dimarogonas, Washington Univ.

Publisher: Harwood Academic Publishers (A division of Gordon & Breach)

Aims and scope

Synopsis is an index to the scholarly publications on Greek Studies for the benefit of those who work in the field. Research and review journals, conference proceedings, books, monographs and dissertations (about 10,000 entries per year) are indexed in the areas of Classical, Hellenistic, Biblical Greek, Byzantine, Medieval and Modern Greek Studies without defining precisely their lines of separation. Author, Subject, Text, Geographical and Name indexes are included. The Journal will also publish occasionally reviews and bibliographical studies, calls for papers and announcements of scholarly conferences.

The languages of the Journal are English and Greek. Titles in other languages will be cited in the original language or translated in English. The editorial language is English. Synopsis is published concurrently in printed and searchable electronic form for PC and Mac compatible computers.

The articles indexed or published are selected only on their scholarly value and without prejudice in respect to the opinions of the authors. Reader-submitted titles for indexing are only accepted if they appear in the journals or publishers lists that are indexed by the Journal. Suggestions for the selection of the journals to be indexed should be submitted to the editorial board through the editor, the associate editors or the editorial advisory board.

Ownership and circulation

Synopsis is published by Harwood Academic Publishers. First volume (for 1992) was published in January 1997. The 1993 and 1994 volumes will be published in 1997.


Inauguration of Kypros-Net

Kypros-Net is a new Internet information resource center for Cyprus. Kypros-Net was founded by a group of volunteers and operates as a not-for profit organization. Its primary goal is to build and maintain a rich resource site of ideas and activities on Cyprus, and to make it available to the general public. Such a site offers interested groups and individuals the opportunity to learn about Cyprus as well as the means to contribute towards the promotion of Cyprus. Kypros-Net establishes an important and very dedicated center of information on Cyprus and its people, by providing publications, important documents, treaties and reports, as well as daily news on Cyprus. Kypros-Net provides mirroring sites in the USA for the Government of Cyprus World Wide Web Pages, Web Pages of other Agencies and Organizations from Cyprus or the Diaspora and also support and hosting for a variety of projects about Cyprus with regards to all aspects of Cyprus life and the Diaspora. In addition it has its own publication, the monthly Kypros-Net Newsletter “The World of Cyprus”. Please visit Kypros-Net at the following URL:

Uit: Greece in print, April 1, 1997, 1/2

John Nordin’s Greece page

John Nordin, Boulder, CO (U.S.A.) schreef:

I’ve recently put some material related to Greece up on my home page, and I invite you to take a look at it.

and please take a look at the ‘photo tour of Patmos’ under the ‘places in Greece’ option.

By this note, I’d also invite you to tell me (or remind me) about your Greek homepages, or refer me to good sources.

Byzantium in de pers

Ankara denies that Agia Sofia in Trabzon will be converted into mosque

Istanbul, 20/06/1997

Turkish culture ministry spokesman Osman Kaya told ANA yesterday that there is no question of the historic Agia Sofia Cathedral in Trabzon, currently operating as a museum, being converted into a mosque.

In a telephone interview, Mr. Kaya said the building of the cathedral belongs to a non-profit organization to which the Turkish culture ministry will deliver the building.

During the past year, the Turkish culture ministry and the Vakuf Foundation have been contesting ownership of the building in the courts. Mr. Kaya said that some objects located in the old church at present will be taken to a nearby building, the historic Kostakis home, which will henceforth operate as a museum.

Commenting on reports in the Trabzon press yesterday, expressing concern that Agia Sofia might be converted into a mosque, Mr. Kaya said “there is nothing more than what I have described to you.”

The issue is dividing Turkish public opinion and has been repeatedly raised recently after the Islamic Welfare Party headed by Necmettin Erbakan came to power.

Uit: Athens news agency bulletin (No 1216), June 20, 1997


Robert Browning

Noted scholar Browning dies Athens, 12/03/1997 (ANA)

Well-known Greek history scholar and the president of the Committee for Return of the Parthenon Marbles Robert Browning died yesterday at the age of 83.

Browning, who suffered from cancer, headed the Byzantine Studies department at the University of London for many years and was actively involved in the promotion of many of Greece’s political and cultural issues.

He had been declared an official lecturer at Athens University and had been honored on two occasions by Greece.

French director Jules Dassin, the widow of former culture minister Melina Mercouri, also expressed regret at the death of Browning, as did Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos.

Mr. Dassin, who heads the effort for return of the Parthenon Marbles from the British Museum, said Greece has lost a “loving friend.”

Uit: Athens news agency bulletin (No 1136), March 12, 1997

Alexander Kazhdan

Dumbarton Oaks announces with great sadness the sudden death of Alexander Kazhdan, on May 29, 1997. Alexander was closely associated with Dumbarton Oaks from the time of his emigration to the United States in 1979, and some of its most important projects bear his name and imprint. He was a great scholar, who dedicated his life to the study of Byzantium in all its aspects, and whose many works have influenced the field profoundly. He was also a scholar who generously shared his knowledge with his colleagues. He will be greatly missed.

Ontvangen ter redactie

Journal of the Society for Armenian Studies, vol. 7 (1994).

Society for Armenian Studies, Newsletter vol. 21 (1997) no 1-2.

Quest Books, catalogue eight: the Near East and Byzantine Studies (April 1997).


door André de Raaij

We moeten streng zijn, en publikaties die een beroep doen op behoeften aan “exotisch en toch spiritueel” (wat dit laatste ook mag betekenen in zo’n geval) enerzijds en over de Middeleeuwen anderzijds (een West-Europa-centrisch begrip tenslotte) laten we buiten beschouwing. Hier moet zeker wel eens apart aandacht aan besteed worden. De volgende titels doen soms al meer dan genoeg een beroep op de behoefte aan “het andere met marktwaarde” dat met het prettig-vage woord “Byzantium” gedekt kan worden, anders kan men net zo goed geen reisgids maken.

Luister van Byzantium was kort na het sluiten van het vorige nummer van Gouden Hoorn al waargenomen in Utrecht en is intussen ook in Amsterdam gesignaleerd bij De Slegte – boeken uit 1982 hebben ook na vijftien jaar nog hun lotgevallen. Het betreft de catalogus van een tentoonstelling onder het motto “Europalia 1982 Griekenland”, uitgegeven door de Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en Geschiedenis te Brussel (tweetalig dus), Fl. 19,90.

Russian & Greek icons from the Charles Pankow collection of Russian & Greek icons – thirteenth through the nineteenth century, uitgegeven door de Van Doren Gallery in San Francisco kost toch nog Fl. 29,50, een imposante collectie overigens. Lawrence Durrell, The Greek islands is nu in de Faber & Faber-editie te vinden voor slechts Fl. 14,90.

Reisgidsen voor de Byzantijnse wereld, zeker als ze het van de mooie plaatjes moeten hebben, stellen de samensteller van deze rubriek voor een probleem waarop hierboven al gezinspeeld is: waar legt men de grenzen? Neemt men in tijd en plaats de grootste omvang van de voortzetting van het Romeinse rijk, dan moet men ook rekening houden met een groot deel van de mediterrane wereld. In het algemeen laten we de landen en streken buiten beschouwing waar weinig in zo’n gids direct of indirect verwijst naar dit verleden – en boeken over Byzantijns Spanje, Tunesië of Malta (enzovoort) komen niet in de ramsj terecht. Egypte is in het algemeen het land van de farao’s, Israël/Palestina is het land van de bijbel en de meeste Balkanlanden vallen buiten beeld bij gebrek aan massatoerisme. Want dit laatste is een voorwaarde voor een overschot aan reisgidsen dat in de ramsj terechtkomt. Bij Scheltema, Holema & Vermeulen dook een historische reisgids voor Turkije op, waarin plaatsnamen “in vereenvoudigde spelling” zijn weergegeven: James Steele, Turkey – a traveller’s historical and architectural guide, Fl. 16,50. Van Turkije zijn na de Agon nu ook de Atrium-kunstreisgids (1989, Fl. 19,90) en de Cantecleergids (Fl. 15,-) te vinden. Het treurige is dat er voorlopig wel geen Nederlandstalige “nieuwe” kunstgids voor Turkije zal verschijnen. maar in het boekenvak weet je maar nooit.

De geschiedenis van Cyprus stopt in 1974, gemakshalve, in Annelies Tappe’s Zypern, Belser: 1981, het boek moet het hoofdzakelijk van de mooie foto’s hebben (Fl. 14,90). Dit geldt evenzeer voor Gerhard P. Müller met Cyprus, Bucher: 1986 (Fl. 24,50) – beide bij De Slegte.

Bij laatstgenoemde te vinden van Agon, een uitgeverij waarvan de naam roemloos zal verdwijnen: Peter Brown, Augustinus van Hippo – een biografie (1992), Fl. 29,50. En op de valreep: de gehele serie Geschiedenis van het persoonlijke leven onder redactie van Georges Duby en Philippe Ariès, waarvan de delen met betrekking tot de Late Oudheid en de Middeleeuwen hoe dan ook apart aandacht besteden aan Byzantium. Te hoog gegrepen, een Nederlandse vertaling voor deze serie? Fl. 14,90 per deel nu, de redactie was altijd al van plan aandacht te besteden aan deze boeken, dat wordt er nu extra aantrekkelijk op. (De Slegte).

Gouden Hoorn literair

door André de Raaij


De Syrische kerk – voorzien
van bema maar opgevuld
met teelaarde – staat
op een welvarend erf.
Een herder kijkt op zijn gemak
toe terwijl wij de bonen
boven de bema tellen.
Vanuit de verte roept een muëzzin.
Hier heerst de stilte van de Heer.


Als Simeon zijn leven
als pilaarheilige
heeft gesleten op
de zuil zoals die nu
nog staat
wordt zijn ascetische prestatie
pas echt

Medewerkers/Contributors (5:1)

Edip Aydın holds a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Heythrop College, University of London. He is currently doing an MSt course in Syriac Studies at the Oriental Institute, University of Oxford. He has recently translated into Syriac The Bible in the Syriac tradition by Sebastian Brock. At present he is working on a “Survey of twentieth-century Syriac Literature” under the supervision of Dr Brock. He is a member of Campion Hall, Oxford.

Dirk Krausmüller lives in Munich, where he works on his PhD. He has done Byzantine Studies in Munich and at Birmingham University, and he spent a year (’82-’83) at Dumbarton Oaks. He has published articles on Byzantine monasticism, most recently in Work and worship at the Theotokos Evergetis, c. 1050-c. 1200, Belfast, 1997.

André de Raaij is sociaal en politiek historicus te Amsterdam, en houdt zich bezig met uiteenlopende publicaties. In zijn vrije tijd is hij krypto-byzantinoloog. Hij maakt sinds de oprichting van Gouden Hoorn deel uit van de redactie.