Abdul M. Saadi: Moshe Bar Kepha’s Ninth-Century Commentary on Luke

On March 4, 2015, Professor Abdul M. Saadi (Baylor University) presented a lecture on 9th-century Syriac Exegete and Apologist Moshe Bar Kepha’s Commentary on Luke. The lecture was given at the Armstrong Browning Library- Cox Lecture Hall, Baylor University.

Moshe Bar Kepha, as a churchman, exegete and apologist, lived in the time and place of the most troubled center of the Abbasid Empire, witnessing the consequences of its policies upon the Christian communities.  The most daring policy was the Islamization policy of Caliph al-Mutawakkel (d. 861), under which Christianity was not merely assailed as a false faith, but also as a social evil. In addition to paying Jizyah, this caliph further humiliated the Christians by imposing on them harsher rules which came to be known as “Omar Conditions” against Christians. It was in the context of enduring the Islamification policy and in the context of open/receptive relationships among Christians of different traditions that Moshe Bar Kepha ministered, taught, and wrote his Commentary on the Gospel of Luke.  In fact, he produced a masterpiece of inclusive (ecumenical) theological approach, and with apologetic tendency responding to Muslims.

Through examples from his Commentary, I will expose Bar Kepha’s position on various Christian theological topics, which he presented in a harmonious way, stressing the essential unity among all Christians.  At the same time, by means of instructing his Christian community, he responded to Muslims’ challenge to the Christian faith.


Karen Scott: Catherine Of Siena, Preaching & The Bible

Professor Karen Scott (DePaul University) delivers a lecture on the use of the Bible in the Middle Ages: “Catherine Of Siena, Preaching & The Bible: How Ordinary Catholics Connected With Scripture In The Middle Ages”. The lecture was delivered on 21 May, 2014, at DePaul University.


Karen Scott, associate professor of History & Catholic Studies at DePaul, discusses her study of Catherine of Siena, the medieval lay mystic & church reformer. While Catherine was uneducated & most probably did not read the Bible in Latin or Italian, she was not just a passive recipient of the sermons she heard in 14th-century Italy.

Her access to Scripture through liturgy & preaching was extensive. Dr. Scott’s study of Catherine’s biblical knowledge identifies the some-200 different biblical passages quoted in writings that she dictated in Italian between 1370 & 1380 (23 from the Old Testament; 63 from Acts & the New Testament letters, mostly Paul; & 114 from the Gospels.

The internal evidence demonstrates that Catherine’s access to Scripture was predominantly oral, through hearing (& sometimes mishearing) the vernacular preaching available to all devout lay people in 14th-century Italy. While she retained & retold relatively few Bible stories, she focused on a set number of short, pithy, & memorable sayings that she reused in many ways in different letters, treatises, & prayers. She selected those sayings that best conveyed her own religious & political messages, and she employed them to communicate her “good news” effectively to different kinds of audiences.