This unit surveys the main genres of Syriac Christian literature in the first six centuries AD, commencing with the origins of Syriac literature and the Syriac Bible and ending with the first Syriac historiography of the sixth century. In addition to biblical and apocryphal literature, students will be introduced to the writings of Syriac-speaking authors from the Classical, West and East Syriac traditions such as Ephrem, Narsai and Jacob of Sarug, and explore ascetical and mystical works; poetry (soghyatha, memre, and madrashe); lives and acts of martyrs; exegetical and polemical literature; and histories and chronicles.

Unit code: CH8110A

Unit status: Approved (New unit)

Points: 24.0

Unit level: Postgraduate Foundational

Unit discipline: Church History

Delivery Mode: Online

Proposing College: St Athanasius College

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Learning outcomes


Synthesize and evaluate Syriac Christian literature (including genres, themes, and historical context) of the first six centuries.


Skilfully and critically analyse and interpret Syriac literary texts using scholarly sources from a variety of repositories (e.g., library, electronic databases, internet).


Appraise the work and contribution to Syriac literature and culture of a significant Syriac author.


Demonstrate an awareness of the significance and influence of Syriac authors and literary forms on other Christian traditions and Christianity more broadly.

Unit sequence



Flipped classroom. Pre-recorded lectures, guided reading, weekly zoom tutorials.

Indicative Bibliography

Barker, James W. Tatian's Diatessaron: Composition, Redaction, Recension, and Reception. New York: Oxford University Press, 2021.

Bettiolo, Paolo. “Syriac Literature.” In Vol. 5 of Patrology: The Eastern Fathers from the Council of Chalcedon (451) to John of Damascus (750), edited by Angelo Di Berardino, translated by Antony Walford, 407–490. 2006. Reprint Cambridge: James Clarke, 2008.

Brock, Sebastian P. The Bible in the Syriac Tradition. 3rd ed. Gorgias Handbooks 52. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2006.

Brock, Sebastian P. A Brief Outline of Syriac Literature. 2nd ed. Mõrãn ’Eth’õ 9. Kerala: St. Ephrem Ecumenical Research Institute (SEERI), 2008.

Brock, Sebastian P. The Luminous Eye: The Spiritual World Vision of Saint Ephrem the Syrian. Rome: Center for Indian and Inter-Religious Studies, 1985.

Brock, Sebastian P. “Saints in Syriac: A Little-Tapped Resource.” Journal of Early Christian Studies 16, no. 2 (2008): 181–196.

Brock, Sebastian P. “Syriac Hagiography.” In Vol. 1 of The Ashgate Research Companion to Byzantine Hagiography, edited by Stephanos Efthymiadis, 259–284. Farnham: Ashgate, 2011.

Butts, Aaron Michael, and Robin Darling Young, eds. Syriac Christian Culture: Beginnings to Renaissance. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2020. King, Daniel, ed. The Syriac World. London: Routledge, 2019.

Murray, Robert. Symbols of Church and Kingdom: A Study in Early Syriac Tradition. Rev. ed. London: T&T Clark, 2006.

Penn, Michael Philip, Scott Fitzgerald Johnson, Christine Shepardson, and Charles M. Stang. Invitation to Syriac Christianity: An Anthology. Oakland: University of California Press, 2022.

Petersen, William L. Tatian's Diatessaron: Its Creation, Dissemination, Significance, and History in Scholarship. Leiden: Brill, 1994.

ter Haar Romeny, R. Bas “Syriac Versions of the Old Testament.” In Nos Sources: Arts et Littérature Syriaques, edited by Maroun Atallah et al., 75–105. 2nd ed. Sources Syriaques 1. Antelias, Lebanon: Centre d'études et de recherches orientales (CERO), 2005.

Ruzer, Serge, and Aryeh Kofsky. Syriac Idiosyncrasies: Theology and Hermeneutics in Early Syriac Literature. Boston: Brill, 2010.


Type Description Word count Weight (%)
Learning Resource - Timeline 1000 15.0
Critical Review 2500 35.0
Essay 3500 50.0

Unit approved for the University of Divinity by Prof Albert Haddad on 9 Sep, 2022

Unit record last updated: 2022-09-09 12:40:37 +1000