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1.1.1. Sezione monografica
Origene ed Evagrio nella cultura siriaca: storia, dottrina e testi
Origen and Evagrius in Syriac Culture: History, Doctrine, and Texts
a cura di
Alberto Camplani e Emiliano Fiori
Since Adamantius editorial board is ever more interested in studying the history of Alexandrian
tradition even in its farthest branches, we have deemed it appropriate to dedicate a monographic
section to the important Origenist tradition in Syriac culture. e aim of this theme section is to
collect some of the most recent results achieved by scholarly research in the history of Syriac
Origenism and Evagrianism, a field of study deeply marked by Guillaumonts influential book
Les Kphalaia Gnostika dvagre le Pontique et lhistoire de lorignisme chez les Grecs et chez les
Syriens, which was published more than fourty-five years ago. As we have suggested to the
scholars involved in this project, the question can be viewed from a variety of perspectives:
historical, philological, or philosophical. Possible items in this rich field of research include the
following: ecclesiastical and monastic history, with particular attention paid to the two Origenist
controversies; philological questions (e.g. new perspectives on Evagrius Kephalaia Gnostika in
their Syriac translations); the figure of Stephen bar Sudaili and its relation with the Book of
Hierotheos; Dionysius the Areopagite and Sergius of Reayn; the reception of Origenism in
ascetical literature; the figure of A. Guillaumont as a scholar.
What the reader will find here are four contributions focused on three main areas: the Syriac
translations of Evagrius (G. Bunge), Evagrius reception in Sergius of Reayn (E. Fiori) and in
Isaac of Niniveh (S.P. Brock, S. Chial). ey are followed by a presentation of Guillaumonts
work by P. Ghin.
After Guillaumonts monograph, the main lines for further research in the field of the reception
of Evagrius doctrines in Syriac theology and philosophy were drawn, pointing in many dierent
directions: the influence of Evagrius upon Syriac culture; the ambiguous attitude of the latter
towards his ascetical doctrine on the one hand and his gnoseology and theology on the other; the
particular case of Stephen bar Sudhaili. New important contributions in these areas of
investigation appeared in the following years. We mention just some examples out of many:
Ghins philological work of edition and ordering of the manuscript tradition of Evagrius
works; the works of Gabriel Bunge on Evagrius in general and on his Syriac translations in
particular (often in contrast with Guillaumont)1; the closer examination of the relevance of the
expurgated Syriac version (S1) of Evagrius Kephalaia Gnostika2; the investigation of the
presence of an Evagrian influence in the writings of Isaac of Nineveh3; the works of Istvn
Perczel on the first Syriac translation of the Pseudo-Dionysius and its links with the Evagrian

Most of all, Hnade ou Monade? Au sujet de deux notions centrales de la terminologie vagrienne, Le Muson 102 (1989)
J.W. WATT, Philoxenus and the Old Syriac Version of Evagrius Centuries, OrChr 64 (1980) 65-81; D. BUNDY, e
Philosophical Structures of Origenism. e Case of the Expurgated Syriac Version [S1] of the Kephalaia Gnostica of Evagrius,
in Origeniana Quinta, Leuven 1992, 577-584.
Just two examples: P. BETTIOLO, Povert e conoscenza: appunti sulle Centurie gnostiche della tradizione Evagriana in
Siria, ParOr 15 (1988) 107-125; S. BROCK, Some Uses of the Term eoria in the Writings of Isaac of Niniveh, ParOr 20
(1996) 407-419.

Origene ed Evagrio nella cultura siriaca

tradition4; more recently, Karl Pinggras monograph on the Book of the Holy Hierotheos, the first
after Frothinghams one, 18865. Last, but not least, mention must be made of Robert Beulays
studies on the language and doctrines of the East-Syrian ascetics and mystics, which would have
been unconceivable without Guillaumonts philological work on Evagrius6.
In our thematic section, Gabriel Bunge returns on a topic which he had already faced in the past
years, i.e. the complicated destiny of the Greek terms henas (unity) and monas (oneness) in the
Syriac Evagrian tradition. Henas-monas often appears in Evagrius as a pairing which does not
intend to define and explain the nature of divinity as a Unity, but to highlight its simplicity. e
examination of the sources is made dicult by the fact that part of the passages containing these
terms survives only in Syriac translation: here, the two terms are rendered in dierent ways;
moreover, confusions occur throughout the manuscript tradition, thereby obfuscating the
distinctions. But a wide comparison of the texts at our disposal brings Bunge to state that the
right correspondence should be henas-dyt (toidx), monas-dyt (toidixi). A large
part of his article is dedicated to maintaining the thesis that both of these terms would describe
the aspects of an existential state of God, and do not designate two dierent essences: in
particular, henas would not mean an essence in which the creatures are gathered. e latter was
on the contrary the doctrine of the 6th century Origenists: on this topic, we refer to the end of
this preface.
Emiliano Fiori tries to delineate the complex intertwinement of Origen, Evagrius and Dionysius
the Areopagite in Sergius of Reayns so-called Discourse on Spiritual Life: the article focuses its
attention on the shaping throughout the Discourse (and especially its second part) of a
comprehensive Christian paideia, which finds its reason in the Alexandrian intellectual milieu of
the beginning of the 6th century. Sergius idea of Christian culture is centred on the figure of a
didaskalos who seems to be inspired by Origens idea of teacher, who is master both of doctrine
(sacred and profane) and of ascetical life. It is a crucial passage in the history of Syriac culture,
because the Discourse represents the first original elaboration of Origens and Evagrius thought
in Syriac language, contemporarily or slightly later than the appearance of the translations of
Evagrius writings; and this is of great importance, because Origen was never translated into
Syriac. e doctrine expounded in the Discourse will not remain without consequences, mainly
in the ascetical literature of the following century (we think for example of Simeon of Taibutehs
introduction to the pseudo-Dionysian writings).
Sebastian Brock oers the results of a wide-range research, dressing some precious lists of
recurrent Evagrian phrases found in the writings of John of Apamaea, in the Syriac versions of
the pseudo-Macarius, in Dionysius the Areopagite (in Sergius of Reayns translation) and in
Isaac of Nineveh. In this contribution we can readily grasp how Syriac ascetical and theological
language is innervated by Evagrian technical expressions, and how these expressions provide that
language with some of its typical idioms.
Sabino Chial studies the presence of Evagrius in Isaacs writings as well. His contribution
constitutes a sort of second facet in a diptych whose first section is Brocks article: Chial draws a
list of Isaacs passages in which Evagrius is directly quoted, and also calls attention to the
See e.g. I. PERCZEL, Pseudo-Dionysius and Palestinian Origenism, in e Sabaite Heritage in the Orthodox Church from
the Fifth Century to the Present, ed. J. PATRICH, Leuven 1998, 261-282; and ID., Le pseudo-Denys, lecteur dOrigne, in
Origeniana Septima, hrsg. von Wolfgang A. BIENERT und U. KHNEWEG, Leuven 1999, 673-710.
K. PINGGRA, All-Erlsung und All-Einheit. Studien zum Buch des heiligen Hierotheos und seiner Rezeption in der
syrisch-orthodoxen eologie, Wiesbaden 2002; A. FROTHINGHAM, Stephen bar Sudaili, the Syrian Mystic, and the Book of
Hierotheos, Leiden 1886.
R. BEULAY, La lumire sans forme. Introduction ltude de la mystique chrtienne syro-orientale, Chevetogne 1987.

ADAMANTIUS 15 (2009)
consistent number of allusions to Evagrian works which are to be found in Isaac. e main
question is: what Evagrius did Isaac have in mind? Did he revere and quote only the master of
spiritual life, as in many other cases in Syriac literature, or the Origenist gnostic? Chials
response is clear: Isaac was not particularly attracted by items of christology and cosmology, and
quoted Evagrius Kephalaia Gnostika mainly in his own Centuries on Knowledge and, anyway,
from the expurgated version S1. Considering Evagrius primarily as a guide in prayer and
ascetical life, he created a new context for the most speculative passages quoted from the master
and gave them a more ascetic-oriented meaning.
Paul Ghins contribution oers a panoramic view of Antoine and Claire Guillaumonts
scholarly lives, which inaugurated the new course of the Evagrian research in the field of Syriac
studies. At the end of the article, a brief mention is done of an enduring contrast between two
interpretative perspectives on Evagrius. e first of these is related to the great success enjoyed in
the recent decades by Evagrius as a spiritual author, and which has at present many followers,
especially in the United States. e second is Guillaumonts perspective, which is now pursued
by the same Paul Ghin. e latter explains the point of view of Guillaumonts school:
according to it, apologetic reasons (that is, the will to absolve the monk of Pontus from the
ancient charge of Origenism) would underlie too often the contemporary interest in Evagrius
works; this attitude can easily lead to an extra-scientific approach to Evagrius. Ghin links this
kind of approach to the influence of Gabriel Bunge: if in the case of the German scholar it
would be a question of attitude and not of method, some of his followers have been, according
to Ghin, much more nonchalant.
It is a more intricate problem than we can discuss in a short preface: the reader will easily see
that Gabriel Bunge as well, on the base of an accurate analysis and comparison of many Evagrian
passages, lays a symmetrical and opposite attitude to Guillaumonts charge. In other words, from
Bunges point of view Guillaumont would ascribe to Evagrius a doctrine (i.e. the conception of a
protological-eschatological henas of all the intellects) which was proper to the 6th century
Origenists and would thereby perpetrate the error in perspective committed by Justinian and his
advisors. Adamantius is glad to present a development of this debate, with a representation of
both its interpretative trends.
In the end, the only scientific way to a deeper understanding of this author and his heritage in
Syriac culture will always be, as Paul Ghin concludes, the indefatigable reading of his writings,
the research on the links with their sources and the clearer definition of their intellectual
significance: this monographic section wishes to give a contribution in this direction.
Alberto Camplani
Universit di Roma La Sapienza
Emiliano Fiori
Alma Mater Studiorum Universit di Bologna

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