‘Reading Sin: Textual and Spatial Exclusion of Scholarly Communities’ (Dirk Rohmann)
OXFORD UNIVERSITY BYZANTINE SOCIETY
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel, 15 November 2016
Christian authors of Late Antiquity sometimes regarded as sinful the outdated opinions of literary masters of the past. In their drive to distinguish between true and false philosophies and theologies they came up with a number of strategies to accommodate the diversity of previous beliefs into a world characterised by political change and instability, natural disasters and desire for eschatological interpretations. This was not a mere literary enterprise. As has recently been argued by Anthony Dykes, for example, there was a great belief in the responsibility of late antique scholars to accept that their reading decisions affect the cosmic order.
This paper promises to shed new light on inclusion/exclusion strategies of Christian scholarly communities from the fifth to seventh centuries, comparing their methods and approaches in the Byzantine world and in the post-Roman successor states in the west in case studies. Providing a closer reading of a number of Christian poets and theological authors, this paper shall go on to identify the extent and limits of inclusion and the definition of the particularly dangerous Other at the intersection of Christological debates and the conflicting opinions of pagan philosophies pertinent to these subjects. It shall also raise the question of whether or not these theoretical discourses are helpful to understand period decisions in creating spatial exclusion, for example, in cases of exile or forced migration. To what extent was late antique Christianity inclusive of philosophical opinions pertaining to late antique debates on the nature of Christ and how did this particular attitude affect the reading – and copying – interests of scribes and scholars at that time?