Date of Graduation

Spring 2011


Master of Arts in Religious Studies


Religious Studies

Committee Chair

Leslie Baynes


Aphraates, Aphrahat, the Persian Sage, descensus Christi, descensus ad inferos, descensus ad inferna, the Harrowing of Hell, fathers of the church-Syriac, early church- ca. 30-600

Subject Categories



One of the most perplexing questions in Syriac Studies is the question of what texts and traditions were known and used by authors within the Syrian Church and how early were those sources known. Considerable effort has been expended in the search for quotations and allusions to Christian and Rabbinic texts and traditions as well as Hellenistic and Zoroastrian sources. These efforts have been met with varying levels of success. This thesis takes both a narrower and a broader approach than most studies in the search forthe sources that influenced authors in the early Syrian Church. The search is narrower in that it involves an examination of a defined motif, the descensus Christi, within the writings of one author, the Demonstrations of Aphrahat the Persian sage. The study is broader in that it contrasts the image of the descensus Christi in the Demonstrations against the known references to the descensus Christi in Christian texts that were written earlier than the Demonstrations. This thesis concludes that while it is not possible to demonstrate Aphrahat's dependence upon specific texts, it is possible to identify texts that he was not likely to have known. It is also possible to suggest some texts or traditions that Aphrahat knew and then speculate about commonalities among Aphrahat and theauthors or communities that produced those texts. This study then stands as part of thecorpus of works searching for the sources behind the earliest Syriac writers and theorigins of the Syrian Church.


© James Wesley Bennett

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