Preaching formed one of the primary, regular avenues of
communication between ecclesiastical elites and a wide range of
society. Clergy used homilies to spread knowledge of complex
theological debates prevalent in late antique Christian discourse.
Some sermons even offer glimpses into the locations in which
communities gathered to hear orators preach. Although homilies
survive in greater number than most other types of literature, most
do not specify the setting of their initial delivery, dating, and
authorship. Preaching Christology in the Roman Near East addresses
how we can best contextualize sermons devoid of such information.
The first chapter develops a methodology for approaching homilies
that draws on a broader understanding of audience as both the
physical audience and the readership of sermons. The remaining
chapters offer a case study on the renowned Syriac preacher Jacob
of Serugh (c. 451-521) whose metrical homilies form one of the
largest sermon collections in any language from late antiquity. His
letters connect him to a previously little-known Christological
debate over the language of the miracles and sufferings of Christ
through his correspondence with a monastery, a Roman military
officer, and a Christian community in South Arabia. He uses this
language in homilies on the Council of Chalcedon, on Christian
doctrine, and on biblical exegesis. An analysis of these sermons
demonstrates that he communicated miaphysite Christology to both
elite reading communities as well as ordinary audiences. Philip
Michael Forness provides a new methodology for working with late
antique sermons and discloses the range of society that received
complex theological teachings through preaching.
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