History of the Department

Göttingen is one of the outstanding and traditional locations for Christian oriental cultures and languages. There has been a professor of Oriental Church History with a focus on Syrian church history since 1962. This ties in with the Göttingen tradition associated with Johann David Michaelis and Paul de Lagarde.

From 1958 to 1972 Prof. Werner Strothmann occupied the first Chair of “Syrian Church History, with initiation into reading Syriac Bible texts" at the Faculty of Theology in Göttingen. Numerous publications on Syriac literature and religious history helped to make the subject of Syrian Church History internationally famous. In particular, his studies on, and text editions of, the Syriac Bible, the writings of Makarios / Symeon, Theodore of Mopsuestia, John of Apamea, Dionysius the Areopagite, Jacob of Sarug, Moses Bar-Kepha, Dionysios Bar-Salibi and John of Mosul should be mentioned.

Prof. Strothmann was also the initiator of the "Göttingen Work Group for Syrian Church History" and he succeeded in introducing the Christian Orient into the Collaborative Research Centre for Oriental Studies (supported by the DFG).

From 1975 to 1981 Wolfgang Hage succeeded Prof. Strothmann as Professor of “Oriental (especially Syrian) Church History” focusing research on Central Asian Christianity and the history of the Syrian Orthodox Church, and on the St. Thomas Christians.

From 1984 onwards, Prof. Jouko Martikainen headed the department. The research of the native Finn concentrated on Ephrem the Syrian, Philoxenos of Mabbug and John I. Sedra.

In winter semester 2001, the administration of the Department of Oriental Church History was taken over by Prof. Martin Tamcke and affiliated to the Institute of Ecumenical Theology.

The addition of a mission-historical focus has allowed the present "Institute for Ecumenical Theology and Oriental Church and Mission History" to attain its current thematic form and unique position in this field.