Guest Speakers

Professor David Michelson
David Michelson


Dr. David Michelson, Associate Professor of the History of Christianity, Vanderbilt University. Professor Michelson is an historian of Syriac Christianity who has published on the history of Christology, the history of monasticism, and the historical geography of the Syriac heritage communities. He earned his Ph.D. from Princeton University. He is the author of The Library of Paradise: A History of Contemplative Reading in the Monasteries of the Church of the East and The Practical Christology of Philoxenos of Mabbug (both published by Oxford University Press). He has co-editor two additional volumes, including Faith and Community around the Mediterranean: In Honor of Peter R. L. Brown. Michelson has also been a leader in applying digital research methods to the study and preservation of Syriac cultural heritage through the publication of The Syriac Reference Portal and other digital resources.

1st Session

April 19, 2023
10:00 am -11:30 AM

Philoxenos of Mabbug, Life and Reputation in 1500-year perspective

Philoxenos of Mabbug was one of the most prolific writers in the history of Syriac literature. Much of his creative efforts were driven by his role as a leader of the West Syrian opposition to the Council of Chalcedon. A.D. 2023 marks the 1500th anniversary of Philoxenos’ death (c. 523). In commemoration, this lecture offers an introduction to the biography and reception of this Syrian Orthodox saint.e.

2nd Session
April 19, 2023
1:30 PM -3:00 pm

Philoxenos of Mabbug in Monastic Context

Philoxenos of Mabbug is best known for his opposition to the two-nature creed of the Council of Chalcedon. In this lecture, I argue that his doctrinal polemics should be understood in the broader context of Philoxenos’ own spiritual formation. The fact that Philoxenos primarily wrote to monastic audiences shaped both the rhetoric and substance of his Christology.

3rd Session
April 20, 2023
10:00 AM -11:30 am

Philoxenos and Evagrius: A Syriac Ecumenism?

Philoxenos’ steadfast Christological stance meant that his legacy has been one of praise or condemnation by his theological allies and opponents. In this lecture, I call attention to the Evagrian ascetic and contemplative theology which Philoxenos shared with other monastic writers of the fifth and sixth centuries. This communal Evagrianism was in the process of becoming the authoritative intellectual framework for Syriac asceticism in the Middle Ages. Scholars have noted that this common foundation enabled the writings of the East Syrian theologian Isaac of Nineveh to transcend the doctrinal lines which divided the various Syriac churches. In this lecture, I present how an earlier stage in this process of an “ecumenical Evagrianism” can be seen in the works of Philoxenos.

4th Session

April 20, 2023
1:30 pM -3:00 pm

The Future of Syriac Research: Digital Tools for the Appreciation of Syriac Cultures

The field of Syriac Studies has changed dramatically in the last two decades. In the past, scholars might spend years tracking down Syriac manuscripts. Today, thousands of manuscripts and print publications are now online. This lecture offers an introduction to the digital resources available not only to scholars but also to members of the Syriac heritage communities. This interactive session will invite participants to reflect on their own research questions into Syriac cultures and communities past, present, and future.