Professor Jason Scully publishes book on Syriac theology

Seton Hall Professor Jason Scully recently published a book entitled “Isaac of Nineveh’s Eschatology in Oxford’s Early Christian Studies series. Scully’s book is about the theology of Isaac of Nineveh, who was born in Qatar in the seventh century and was the former bishop of Nineveh. Isaac wrote in the Syriac language–a dialect of Aramaic.

His book interprets Isaac’s thought through the lens of his Syriac heritage and demonstrates that his spiritual teaching is an original synthesis derived from other Syriac texts.

 

Photo courtesy of Jason Scully

“In particular, I conclude that Isaac’s spiritual writing is not pious sentimentalism, but rather, it is a reflection on the psychological transformation that occurs when the mind experiences God through prayer,” Scully said.  “According to Isaac, prayer causes the mind to have an ecstatic experience of God, which he calls ‘astonishment’ or ‘wonder.’”

Scully originally planned to study Greek or Latin theology in graduate school, but it wasn’t until he was assigned a book on Syriac theology that he decided to study that instead. Years later, he had the opportunity to learn the Syriac language for himself, an opportunity that revived his initial interest in the theology and thus helped him decided to write a book on an author who spoke this language. Scully discussed his reason for choosing Isaac of Nineveh.

“I chose Isaac of Nineveh because he is one of the most important figures in the field of Syriac theology and because scholars had just discovered previously lost writings by Isaac. Several volumes of Isaac’s works were recently discovered, not buried in the desert like you might think, but in dusty cardboard boxes in the basement of the Oxford library,” Scully said.

Scully then said that Isaac’s writings had been forgotten in the modern era, but by choosing Isaac, h had the chance to be one of the first people to write a book that used this newly discovered material.

A difficulty he found while writing the book was the varying languages. Most of the books on Isaac were in French, Italian or German.

Scully not only read about the life of Isaac, however, but the lives of his teachers and the culture of the society Isaac had lived in. He translated countless passages from Syriac to English, many of which had never before been translated into the English language.

Scully described what being published meant to him.

“When my book was published, I felt the fulfillment of all those long hard days at my computer. It is probably one of my proudest accomplishments as a professor,” he said.

Giana Anglani, a junior in the Elementary Special Education 4+2 Speech Pathology program and Liberal Studies double major with a minor History and a former student of Scully described her experience in Scully’s class.

“Dr. Scully’s classes were always interesting and kept me engaged and I was always so willing to participate because he made it easy and fun,” Anglani said. “I truly believe that he had an impact on my college experience and I am glad that I had the chance to take him as a professor not once but twice.”

Laura Colantonio, a senior marketing and interactive media double major with a double minor in animation and web design shared words of encouragement for Professor Scully.

“If I could share some words of encouragement with Professor Scully, it would be to keep doing what he does, because he’s awesome,” Colantonio said. “I am a senior and have taken many courses at Seton Hall and other institutions but can still say he was one of the best professors I’ve ever had.”

Rhania Kamel can be reached at rhania.kamel@student.shu.edu.

Author: Rhania Kamel

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1 Comment

  1. Thank you so much for this, i think we have always suspected that the brain’s activity changes when we pray or meditate, but we couldn’t quite explain the feeling the you get when you pray. it would be interesting to see more work done on this subject.

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