GTS Faculty Participate in Discussion, “Medieval Armenians Consider the Image of God”

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If human beings are made in the image of God, what does that imply for our self-understanding? And how does it expand our human understanding of God? At an event presented by St. Nersess Armenian Seminary and hosted by The General Theological Seminary on December 2, Roberta Ervine, Professor of Armenian Studies at St. Nersess, looked at these questions through the eyes of 13th century theological students in an Armenian monastery, as they dialogue with their teacher on the meaning of Genesis 1:26-27. Deirdre Good, GTS Professor of New Testament, acted as host and chief welcomer to the group from St. Nersess.

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Professor Ervine spoke about the pedagogy of Hovhannes Davushetsi Vanakan Vardapet (1181-1251) in the classroom monastery of Khoranashat, the Monastery of Many Orders located in the far north-east corner of Armenia and built by Vanakan himself. Vanakan became the most noted teacher of his day, training some of the most illustrious names in thirteenth century Armenian literature and spirituality. She discussed medieval Armenian pedagogy communicated in dialogues using words, music and the visual arts, as training of teachers to teach people in parishes and elsewhere to enjoy and grow in the presence of God. Learners and their questions are at the center of this process. According to Vanakan’s own pedagogical writings, becoming an effective teacher is like becoming a good pit master; knowing how to prepare spiritual meat spiced to the tastes of the people who will eat it, and cooking it up in such a way that the fragrance draws people towards the dining hall even before the dinner bell is rung, in happy anticipation of being fed.

After the presentation, GTS faculty Dr. Andrew Irving, Assistant Professor of Church History and Dr. Robert Owens, Professor of Old Testament, participated in a panel discussion and the lively discussion among the seminarians and faculty of St. Nersess and General Seminary continued during a wine and cheese reception.

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