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International Conference:

‘Parabiblical Literature in Armenia and its Social Locations (Studying Parabiblical Literature: Past Scholarship and Future Possibilites)’.

Regensburg, 23–26 October 2023

The Armenian parabiblical heritage is impressive. From the fifth century until early modern times various parabiblical texts translated and written directly in Armenian comprised an important portion of Christian literature. When examining overwhelmingly Armenian manuscript transmission, we find no distinction drawn between apocryphal works related to Old Testament traditions and those related to the New. The Armenians manifested keen interest in patriarchs, kings, prophets from the Hebrew Bible, and in Jesus, his family and Apostles from the NT: thus the unitary concept of history was understood from Creation to Parousia and Eschaton; from Adam’s sin and fall, through the life, death and resurrection of Christ and coming to an end in the Parousia.

As the manuscript evidence shows, the border between canon and beyond canon is quite unclear in Armenian tradition. We may identify a category of parabiblical works that are often associated in manuscripts with the Bible frequently considered as semi-canonical in Armenian. The second category of Armenian parabiblical compositions are found sometimes in biblical manuscripts but they are more often copied in other types of manuscripts including hagiographic and homiletic works. Interestingly, however, there are also numerous parabiblical texts that never occur in the codicological unity with biblical canonical texts but their frequency in other types of manuscripts is remarkable.

Based on biblical and other related texts excluded from the canon, parabiblical tradition in Armenia expanded significantly reusing the biblical motives anew. The medieval Armenian society and culture viewed the bible-related knowledge and tradition as a story reflecting their own history. As a result, in parabiblical traditions emerging in Armenian, the geneology, history and geography of the Armenian people was rooted in, connected with, or identified with biblical history and geography.

The abundance of witnesses shows explicitly the vitality of the parabiblical traditions in medieval Armenian culture. Through centuries, these traditions incorporated in scholastic texts, biblical epitomes, poetic retellings dealing with biblical figures and events. Another facet of the parabiblical tradition is Armenian folklore, biblical persons and incidents became subjects of folk tales which were alive in Armenian culture over the centuries. And of course, much of Armenian art was devoted to biblical subjects where often parabiblical elements penetrate standard/canonical Gospel scenes.

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