This autumn St. Nersess Seminary is offering a series of four lectures by renowned specialists on Philosophy in Armenia.The series was launched on Monday night by Prof. Abraham Terian, who captivated the audience of seminarians, clergy, faculty and friends with a lecture entitled, The Dawn of Armenian Philosophy.
"We must never take for granted the daily presence among us of a true intellectual giant," said the dean, Fr. Daniel Findikyan, when he introduced the evening's speaker. "Dr. Terian has a bewildering breadth of expertise, and we are all blessed to have him as our teacher," he said.
Invincible yet Enigmatic
Terian opened his talk with a few comments about the best-known Armenian philosopher, the mysterious figure known as David the Invincible (Anhaght), who probably wrote during the last decades of the 6th century.
"There remains a big question mark over the figure of David the Invincible," Terian said, as he listed several enigmatic features of this author's writings. "I will leave these questions to the subsequent speakers in our series, all of whom will touch on David in one way or another," he said.
In its present form, theHajakhabadoom contains material borrowed from authors who lived as much as a century after St. Gregory. Terian explained that the collection may well contain seminal material that was passed down from the Illuminator to his successors. The last of St. Gregory's descendants to become catholicos was St. Sahag Bartev, who was the patron of the fifth-century holy translators. "The Hajakhabadoom clearly passed through the hands of the translators," Terian asserted.
The Hajakhabadoom is a collection of moral discourses. They share many features with pre-Christian Greek moral treatises.
The Virtuous Pagan
"Sometimes we have the impression that pagans were immoral and depraved," Terian observed, explaining that the earliest Christian authors took a very polemical stance toward paganism and Greek philosophy. "This is understandable since the earliest Christians had an axe to grind," Terian explained, adding, "There was actually an overwhelming sense of morality in these pagan Greek philosophers. Not everything pagan was immoral."
The author or authors of the Hajakhabadoom discourses were very familiar with Greek moral philosophy. "In fact," Terian said, "To understand these discourses one must not only be fluent in Classical Armenian, but must also have a good knowledge of Greek philosophy."
Terian next distributed a page containing the titles of the 23 Hajakhabadoom discourses translated into English. Skimming through titles such as "The Reason for Faith," "On the Constitution of Created Beings," and "Exposition on the Human Soul," the professor pointed out how such themes were standard questions taken up by the Greek Stoic philosophers. At the same time, he underlined specific ways in which these topics were resolved differently by the Armenian Christian philosopher-theologians responsible for the Hajakhabadoom as we have it.
"The Pagan's highest aspiration is happiness, which he attains by cultivating the four Platonic virtues: wisdom, justice, courage and temperance. The Christian, by contrast, aspires to salvation, which is obtained by faith in the Savior, Jesus Christ," Terian explained.
"An unbroken chain connects Greek philosophy with Christianity, and in Armenia we find this chain in the Hajakhabadoom," Terian concluded.
St. Nersess Global Classroom
To hear Dr. Terian's lecture click here [79 min, 36MB].
The next lecture in the series will take place at the Seminary on Monday, October 16 at 7:30PM. Professor Seta Dadoyan will speak on "Good and Evil and Beyond: Eznik and Armenian Intellectual Culture."
All lectures are free of charge and open to the public.
For further information contact the Seminary at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone: (914) 636-2003.