Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Koriwns Biographie Des Mesrop Mastoc: Ubersetzung Und Kommentar

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Koriwns Biographie Des Mesrop Mastoc: Ubersetzung Und Kommentar

Article excerpt

Koriwns Biographie des Mesrop Mastoc'. Ubersetzung und Kommentar. By Gabriele Winkler. [Orientalia Christiana Analecta, 245.] (Rome: Pontificio Istituto Orientale. 1994. Pp. 452.)

The conversion of Armenia to Christianity was a long process. Of the first stage-the infiltration of Christians from Asia Minor to the west and from Syria to the south-little is known. The emergence of the Church as a factor in Armenian politics was marked by the consecration of St. Gregory (the Illuminator) at Caesarea in 314 as the country's first bishop. But the full impact of Christianity as the dominant cultural force came only a century later with the invention of a national script. The person responsible for this dramatic development was Mastoc'', also known in later texts as Mesrop. He was born between 361 and 364 and received a good Greek education. After a successful early career in the royal chancellery he abandoned the secular world for the ascetic life, and with his disciples engaged in numerous missionary travels in remoter parts of Armenia. His biography was written by Koriwn, one of his disciples, not long after the master's death in 439 or 440. This short work thus has a double significance. It is the earliest evidence for the creation of the native script, which was immediately followed by the rapid translation of necessary ecclesiastical texts into Armenian. And being probably the first original work written in that language, it is important as an influential document in the development of Armenian literature.

Such an important text has not passed unnoticed in previous scholarship. This new translation with commentary is particularly valuable in that it provides a comprehensive review and critical assessment of earlier studies. There has been much scope for scholarly controversy; for although the Armenian text is only forty pages long, its episodic character and lack of clear dating have led to numerous problems, including the actual order of the narrative. …

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