The Catholic University of America

Keynote Speakers


Bas ter Haar Romeny, VU University Amsterdam

How Greek was Syriac Christianity?

Bas ter Haar Romeny (PhD Leiden, 1997) is Professor of Ancient Mediterranean and Middle Eastern History at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, and one of the directors of the Peshitta Institute. The formation of the books now known as the Bible and their reception in Early and Eastern Christianity are at the core of his research interests. His book A Syrian in Greek Dress (Leuven: Peeters, 1997) analyses the use of different versions of the Bible in Eusebius of Emesa's Commentary on Genesis, and more recently he wrote Evidence of Editing: Growth and Change of Texts in the Hebrew Bible (Atlanta: SBL, 2014) with Juha Pakkala and Reinhard Müller. His interests also include the history and identity of Eastern Christian communities up to this day. These were the subject of two major externally funded research projects. Thus in 2007 Romeny successfully concluded the project 'The Formation of a Communal Identity among West Syrian Christians' which yielded, among others, the volume Religious Origins of Nations? The Christian Communities of the Middle East (Leiden: Brill, 2009). The study of this subject was continued in the second project, entitled 'Identity and Migration: Christian Minorities in the Middle East and in Diaspora', which also dealt with the recent migration of Christian minorities to the West. Central to the approach of these projects was the combined study of material culture and texts, while the main questions and theory were borrowed from the social sciences. This approach is now also the hallmark of a third project, started in 2012 and entitled 'Fitting In/Standing Out', in which the role of dress in relations between majorities and minorities in Egypt and its modern diaspora is studied. Romeny is editor of the journals Aramaic Studies and Eastern Christian Art, and he serves on the board of four monograph series: MPI, TEG, LAHR, and CBET.


Dorothea Weltecke, University of Konstanz

On sources for the social and cultural history of Christians during the Syriac Renaissance

Dorothea Weltecke (Berlin Dr. phil., 2000) has been Chair for the History of Religions at the University of Konstanz, Germany, since 2007. Her research interests include the history of Latin and Eastern churches, of religious deviances, the comparative history of religious diversity and the relationship between East and West. Her first book, Die "Beschreibung der Zeiten" von Mor Michael dem Großen (1126-1199). Eine Studie zu ihrem historischen und historiographiegeschichtlichen Kontext (CSCO v. 594; Louvain: Peeters, 2003), provides a study on the historical background of the world chronicle by Patriarch Michael and Syriac historical writing in general. Her second book, "Der Narr spricht: Es ist kein Gott": Studien zu Atheismus, Unglauben und Glaubenszweifel vom 12. Jahrhundert bis zur Neuzeit (Frankfurt am Main: Campus Verlag, 2010), addresses the Western historical narrations of atheism and the existence of religious doubt and non-belief in the middle ages. In Constance, she is a member of the Center of Excellence "Cultural Foundations of Integration" and is head of the research unit for Aramean Studies.


 Adam Becker, New York University

The Invention of the Persian Martyr Acts

Adam H. Becker (Princeton PhD, 2004) is Associate Professor of Classics and Religious Studies at New York University, where he is currently the director of the Religious Studies Program. His research interests include Christian martyrdom in the Sasanian Empire, Jewish-Christian relations in Late Antiquity, the social and intellectual history of the Syriac tradition, and the missionary encounter in the nineteenth century. His book, Fear of God and the Beginning of Wisdom: The School of Nisibis and the Development of Christian Scholastic Culture in Late Antique Mesopotamia (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006), provides an intellectual and institutional history of the East Syrian school movement. His more recent book, Revival and Awakening: American Evangelical Missionaries and the Origins of Assyrian Nationalism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015) addresses the interaction between American Evangelical missionaries and the indigenous Christian community of upper Mesopotamia in the nineteenth century and the secular ethnic nationalism that resulted from this encounter. He developed and continues to edit a series of translations of the Persian Martyr Acts for Gorgias Press.



Joseph Amar, University of Notre Dame

Making Ephrem One of Us

Joseph P. Amar is Professor of Syriac and Arabic at the University of Notre Dame where he holds joint appointments in the Departments of Classical Languages and Theology. He is co-founder of the Program in Early Christian Studies. His books, The Syriac Vita Tradition of Ephrem the Syrian (CSCO v.629-630; Louvain: Peeters, 2011) and A Metrical Homily on Holy Mar Ephrem by Mar Jacob of Sarug (Patrologia Orientalis t.47.1; Turnhout: Brepols, 1995), investigate the process that led to mythologizing the image of Ephrem. He has published manuscript studies on the Life and Legend of Ephrem in Le Muséon and Parole de l'Orient and co-authored St. Ephrem the Syrian. Selected Prose Works (Washington, D.C.: CUA Press, 1994). Professor Amar's studies on the development of early Syriac liturgical tradition have appeared in Orientalia Christiana Periodica, Orientalia Christiana Analecta, and Theological Studies. His edition and translation of Dionysius bar Salibi's "A Response to the Arabs" (CSCO v.614-615; Louvain: Peeters, 2005) investigates developing Syriac perceptions of Islam. Recent essays on the Syriac tradition in light of ongoing conflict in the Middle East include: "The Loss of Syria" (Commonweal), "Where Abraham Walked" (Jewish Review of Books), and "Christianity at the Crossroads: the Legacy of Ephrem the Syrian," (Journal of Religion and Literature). His current book project is titled Ephrem the Syrian. A Cultural and Intellectual Biography.