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Subject Religion » Christianity

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631232032.2001.00004.x


The need for a Dictionary of Eastern Christianity has long been felt; and yet problems arise as soon as we use the adjective ‘Eastern’. Neither ‘Eastern’ nor ‘Western’ has a constant meaning. To Eastern Christians, ‘Eastern’ is a term expressing their identity and heavily laden with positive value. East is the direction of prayer, the biblical location of the earthly paradise, the source of the dawn and of the world's enlightening, the quarter from which the Magi came, the first gentiles to seek out Christ. To Western Christians, the term ‘Eastern’ can carry a sense of the exotic, the remote, the ‘other’, that which is outside the normal and normative. The issues raised by ‘Orientalism’ have until now been confined mainly to discussions concerning non-Christian religions and cultures, but Orientalism can affect the perception and study of Eastern Christianity. When Westerners come to look at their fellow Christians in the East, they often exhibit attitudes similar to those they show towards Eastern non-Christian cultures and religions: a fascination with the exotic or a presumption of superiority, condescending to an alien reality approached with a notable lack of empathy. As Christianity spread throughout the Roman empire from its birthplace in Syria, it also spread into the Persian empire, to Ethiopia and as far as India. Significantly, the population of Syria included both ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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