Ancient Traditions of the Virgin Mary's Dormition and Assumption

Ancient Traditions of the Virgin Mary's Dormition and Assumption

Ancient Traditions of the Virgin Mary's Dormition and Assumption

Ancient Traditions of the Virgin Mary's Dormition and Assumption

Synopsis

The ancient Dormition and Assumption traditions are a collection of over sixty different narratives, preserved in nine ancient languages, that commemorate the end of the Virgin Mary's life. These traditions have long been overlooked by scholars of early Christianity, no doubt largely becausethis complicated corpus was insufficiently well known. The present study aims to remedy this situation with a detailed analysis of the earliest traditions of Mary's death, including liturgical and archaeological evidence as well as the numerous narrative sources. Several of the most importantnarratives are translated in appendices, many appearing in English for the first time. The book will be of interest to all scholars of early Christian literature.

Excerpt

In many ways this is a book that I had hoped not to write. That is not to say that I have not enjoyed doing so, for I have. Nevertheless, it was my initial intention to produce an altogether different study of early Dormition narratives when first taking up this corpus of traditions. This book owes its existence to my doctoral dissertation, which I defended at Duke University in 1997 under the title, 'Mary and the Discourse of Orthodoxy: Early Christian Identity and the Ancient Dormition Legends'. As this title suggests, the dissertation was a somewhat different enterprise than the present volume. Yet it too was not the dissertation that I had hoped to write. It was my initial intention to produce a study of the early Dormition traditions that detailed their position in the culture and society of the early Byzantine Near East. Although I was able to achieve a fraction of this goal in the dissertation, as my studies of the Dormition traditions have progressed I have continually struggled with the need for a detailed study of the basic facts of these narratives, including such matters as the relations among these highly variegated traditions, their approximate dates, their relations to the emergent cult of the Virgin, and their theological positioning within the diversity of late ancient Christianity, among other details.

Early in my studies of the Dormition traditions, Simon Mimouni's exhaustive work, Dormition et assomption de Marie: Histoire des traditions anciennes, was published (1995). It was my hope that this volume could fill my need, but I am very sorry to say that it did not. Although Mimouni's study is to be commended for its enormous scope and attention to detail, it is in my opinion fundamentally flawed in its approach to the traditions, as this study will frequently make clear. Unfortunately for my purposes, Mimouni's study served only to make already murky waters even more cloudy, particularly for the reader otherwise unfamiliar with these traditions. More importantly, however, Mimouni's study completely up-ended the significant scholarship on the early Dormition traditions that Antoine

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