Studies of the Christian Orient deals with the spiritual and material cultures the Eastern Christians. They do not form a single church and belong to different cultures. Their history begins in the first days of the church and continues to these days. They are living traditionally in the region between the Caucasus in the north and Ethiopia in the south, between the Mediterranean Sea in the west and China in the east. Because of modern migrations, there are now communities, churches and groups of Oriental Christians all over the world: in Europe, in Australia, in Africa, in Latin and North America as well as in the traditional region.
The different peoples, churches and communities that are the subject of the studies of Christian Orient form a unity due to their Christian faith. This is not only of formal nature. In history and in the present the cultural and scientific exchange was intensive, and the members of the different cultures were constantly in contact. The common conception of man and the common religion developed a dynamic that has driven the development of cultures, shaped the identity of peoples and individuals, and at the same time the commonalities were experience more intensively. Therefore, the studies of the Christian Orient has since its inception a cross-cultural issue. The basis for an adequate understanding of the cultural, contextual and inter-cultural affairs are the traditional cultural monuments and testimonies, and in the first place written records of the cultures.
Since a large proportion of the documents of the Oriental Christians exists until today only in manuscripts, many of which are not even cataloged, one of the most important tasks is their edition, making these texts accessible for various other disciplines (theology, Caucasian research Islamology, Byzantine, Indian Studies, Central Asian Studies, Egyptology, African studies, law, history, religious studies, anthropology, political science, etc.).
The edition of these documents is the first task of these studies. The major languages are Syriac, Arabic, Coptic, Old Nubian, Ge’ez, Armenian and Georgian.
The second major task is the examination of the content of these texts. The intensive exchange between the different communities and peoples led to a cultural mixing and theological alignment, the understanding of them requires a detailed knowledge of the origins. In order to understand the cultural context of the Christians, studies of the Christian Orient depends on cooperation with neighboring disciplines.
The studies of the Christian Orient can be divided in different sections. But the overall context of this research field should be taken into consideration, in order to weight the results correctly. Research fields or sections are mainly defined by linguistic and geographical aspects. Thus dealing with literature, theology, culture, arts, communities and history, the studies of Christian Orient is divided in
- Ethiopian studies for Ethiopian Christians
- Nubian studies for the Nubian Christians
- Coptic studies for the Egyptian Christians
- Syriac studies for the Syriac-speaking Christians from the Mediterranean to India
- Christian Arab Studies for the Arabic-speaking Christians
- Armenian studies for Christian Armenians
- Georgian studies for the Christian Georgians
The individual disciplines are interrelated. Thus the Syrian Monastery in Egypt had a cultural importance, even if it was not of Coptic language. Along the Silk Road and in India, there were not only Syrian-speaking Christians, but also among other Armenians. Palestine with the city of Jerusalem was an attraction for all Christians, they even established there their own offices. The phenomenon of Christian-Arabic literature shows how the various Christian churches developed a common theological language after the Islamic conquests, and had an intensive exchange of literature, while they preserved their roots and make them fruitful for the future of their own church. On the basis of the indicated interconnectedness of history of the Oriental Churches cross-cultural studies of the Christian Orient are obligatory.