Marc Carrier

title.none: Limor and Strousma, eds., Christians and Christianity (Marc Carrier)

identifier.other: baj9928.0711.014 07.11.14

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Marc Carrier, McGill University,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2007

identifier.citation: Limor, Ora and Guy G. Strousma, eds. Christians and Christianity in the Holy land: From the Origins to the Latin Kingdom. Cultural Encounters in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages 5. Turnhout: Brepols, 2006. Pp. xii, 527. $120.00 2-503-51808-7. ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 07.11.14

Limor, Ora and Guy G. Strousma, eds. Christians and Christianity in the Holy land: From the Origins to the Latin Kingdom. Cultural Encounters in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages 5. Turnhout: Brepols, 2006. Pp. xii, 527. $120.00 2-503-51808-7. ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

Marc Carrier
McGill University

The present book, edited by Ora Limor and Guy G. Stroumsa, examines the history of the Christian Church in the Holy Land from Late Antiquity until the time of the Crusades. The volume comprises thirteen essays from distinguished participants at a conference held in Jerusalem in 1999. Although most contributors are members of the "Centre for the Study of Christianity" at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a fair number of scholars from European and American universities have also taken part in the book. The collected works thus offer an ambitious and varied reassessment of the study of the Church in the Holy Land, with the distinct advantage of being written from a non-theological standpoint and for an English speaking audience. Since many specialized studies written over the last few decades are in French or otherwise limited in scope and depth, this volume certainly comes as a long awaited and welcome addition to our understanding of the history of Christianity in the land of its origin.

The book is divided into two parts: the first is chronological, proposing a series of essays that highlight the role and evolution of Christian communities in the Levant until the time of the Crusader states, while the second part is thematic, focusing mainly on aspects of monasticism and interfaith relations, as well as art and archeology. In the first part, William Hordbury begins the volume with an eighty page overview of the period extending from Jesus to Bar Kokhba in the second century. His essay, which sets the tone and level of erudition for the following articles, is certainly the most substantial contribution to the volume and one of the most enlightening. Orded Irshai continues with a stimulating survey of the history of the Palestinian Church until the fourth century, while Lorenzo Perrone extends the analysis of Christianity in the Holy Land to the Byzantine Era. Sidney H. Griffith covers the period from 750 to 1050 by focusing on the Melkites and the making of an Arab Christian identity in the world of Islam. Johannes Pahlitzsch and Daniel Baraz then follow with a compelling examination of the Christian communities in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, thus concluding the first part of the volume in 1187. Interestingly, Pahltitzsch and Baraz's analysis focuses on the impact of the Crusades on the Church in the Holy Land, rather than limiting itself to the conventional consideration of the Crusades' impact on Western Christianity. In all, this chronological section successfully manages to cover the first millennium of the history of Christianity in the Levant; each article completes the other, giving the book a uniform quality that is sometimes lacking in collective works.

In the second part, Christoph Markschies discusses the role of intellectuals and church Fathers in the Holy Land in the third and fourth centuries, thus offering a valuable contribution from a prominent German patristic scholar. The subject of monasticism in the Holy Land is addressed by Brouria Bitton-Ashkelony and Aryeh Kofsky, who examine the rise, evolution and intellectual profile of Palestinian monks. Günter Stemberger offers a more nuanced interpretation of Jewish-Christian relations in Byzantine Palestine, which differs from the more negative understanding usually favoured by modern historians. Ora Limor follows up with an analysis of pilgrimage and sacred landscape in the Levant, while early Christian churches and monasteries in the Byzantine period are examined by Joseph Patrich and Yizhah Hirschfeld respectively. Stephanie Verhelst addresses the subject of the liturgy of Jerusalem during the Byzantine era and Bianca Kühnel discusses the Holy Land as a factor in Christian art. Overall, Kühnel's illustrated article is a refreshing addition to a volume which is otherwise devoid of maps and diagrams. Robert L. Wilken ends the volume with an inspiring epilogue that underlines the book's value in terms of general history, rather than local history.

In all, each essay contributes to a weighty and complete volume that addresses all the major aspects of the history of Christianity in the Holy Land during the first millennium of its existence. While some articles might overlap on some points, Ora Limor and Guy G. Stroumsa offer a balanced overview of the subject and certainly accomplish the goals they set out to reach when undertaking such an ambitious enterprise. The volume also emphasizes the major contribution of the Israeli academic community to the understanding of the early history of Christianity. Nonetheless, one must wonder if such an enterprising volume might have benefited from a broader range of contributions, such as from other Christian communities in the Levant. One might also take issue with the editors' decision to end the book abruptly in 1187. Although the editors rightly argue that extending the volume throughout the second millennium would have been a daunting task, the loss of Jerusalem to the Saracens in 1187 seems arbitrary, since Western political presence in the Levant continued until 1291 and Christian communities remained quite active in the region until the fourteenth century and beyond. A more significant, albeit artificial, limit could have been the end of the medieval period, if only for historiographical purposes. However, such considerations in no way diminish the volume's high standard of quality and the erudition of its contributors. Above all, Ora Limor and Guy G. Stroumsa have helped shed new light on the richness and diversity of the history of Christianity in the Holy Land, which in itself is a most praiseworthy accomplishment.