Thursday, January 10, 2019

AJR reviews Armenia! Exhibition at the Met

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Antiquity on Display: The Armenia! Exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Michael Papazian). The review notes that the ancient Armenian literary tradition is important for the study of ancient Judaism:
The exhibit does not include any of his manuscripts, but [the philosopher] David’s fellow Alexandrian, the Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria, profoundly shaped the tradition of biblical interpretation in Armenia. Armenians translated many of his works; some of these are today extant only in Armenian.[4] A fifteenth century commentary on the psalms as well as some of the Old Testament manuscripts displayed here may very well carry glosses based on the Jewish exegete’s writings. Besides the intellectual legacy of Hellenistic Judaism, one can also discern some features of Armenian worship reminiscent of Jewish liturgical practices that entered Armenia mainly through Syriac mediation. A notable example in the exhibit is the altar curtain used to conceal the altar from the congregation during certain portions of the liturgy.[5] It is comparable in function to the Byzantine iconostasis, but the Armenian and Syriac rites sought to assert a more pronounced continuity with Judaism by retaining a curtain to recall that of the Jerusalem temple.
The scope of the exhibition includes the whole history of Armenia to the present.

Past posts on Armenian literary traditions are collected here, and see also here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

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