Scholar Oversees Projects on Eastern Christian Texts
Two major projectsthe Eastern Christian Manuscripts project and the Eastern Christian Texts seriesof the BYU Institute for the Study and Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts are progressing under the direction of Kristian Heal, one of the newer scholars at the Institute. Heal, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in Syriac Studies from the University of Birmingham, joined the Institute in April 2000 after completing his masters degree at the University of Oxford. His skill and experience are making an important contribution to the work of the Institute.
As an academic overseer of the Eastern Christian Manuscripts project, Heal assesses the value of digitizing various manuscripts from around the world. The primary focus of this project currently is to publish digitized images and electronic transcriptions of 28 Syriac manuscripts from the Vatican Apostolic Library. These manuscripts, which contain over 11,000 pages of text, are among the oldest known Syriac manuscripts (some date to the 6th century A.D.) and were written by some of the most influential authors in the Syriac tradition, including Ephrem the Syrian (d. 373), the most important poet-theologian of the Syriac tradition; Jacob of Sarugh (d. 521); Isaac of Ninevah; John Dalyatha; and Philoxenus of Mabbug. Other manuscripts currently being digitized and prepared for publication include Slavonic manuscripts from the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome, Christian Arabic manuscripts from Notre Dame University in Lebanon, and the carbonized scrolls from the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum.
Heal also acts as the series editor for the Eastern Christian Texts series. This series was established to facilitate scholarly access to eastern Christian literature, which has been preserved in Arabic, Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopic, Georgian, and Syriac. The first volume of the series, The Reformation of Morals, by Yahya ibn Adi (893974) will be published later this year. It will be followed by two to three additional volumes every year, such as Selected Poems and Hymns on Nisibis by St. Ephrem the Syrian and The Mystical Discourses of John Saba. Each volume will contain a reliable edition of the primary text, side by side with an annotated English translation. Heal works closely with an international board of advisors to see that each volume is accurate. The Eastern Christian Texts series will also include volumes of scholarly introductions to each of the major Eastern Christian writers.
Regarding his work on these projects, Heal said, Through its publications and digitizing efforts in Eastern Christian Texts, BYU is making a major contribution to our understanding and appreciation of an important branch of Christianity. This work will be of considerable benefit to both the academic community and, more generally, to those Christians who are interested in knowing more about this rich tradition.