Department of Religious Studies

"Beyond Clashing Civilizations: Rethinking Early Christian-Muslim Relations"

Fri, October 29, 2010 | TBA

A talk by Michael Penn (Mount Holyoke College)

Presented by the Workshop on Late Antiquity

The history of early Christian-Muslim relations has often been told from the perspective of Greek Christians from the besieged city of Constantinople or Latin Crusader accounts. Our earliest, largest, and most diverse set of early Christian writings concerning Islam, however, was written in an Aramaic dialect called Syriac. Professor Penn asks how these rarely studied Syriac documents can substantially change our understanding of the first encounters of the modern world's two largest religions. In "Beyond Clashing Civilizations" Penn argues that these sources point not only toward a much more complex set of interactions than usually envisioned. They also suggest that in the seventh through ninth centuries the very categories of Christian and Islam were much more ambiguous, permeable, and overlapping than previously has been acknowledged.

Michael Penn is Associate Professor of Religion at Mount Holyoke College. He is a specialist in biblical studies and the history of early Christianity, exploring how early Christian communities forged their identity, especially in the context of religious and ethnic pluralism. His current research investigates the reactions of early Eastern Christians to the rise of Islam.

Sponsored by: Department of Religious Studies; Center & Department of Middle Eastern Studies; Department of Art & Art History

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