The technical Latin term for the scholarly study of the Christian Orient. In its examination of the cultures of the Christian East this study encompasses seven languages: Georgian, Armenian, Syriac, Christian Arabic, Ethiopic, Coptic, and Old Nubian. Scholars in this discipline study works of originally composed in these languages as well as works translated into them. The extant texts are combed for information on such topics as paleography, codicology, chronology, church history, the of dogma, historical geography, the science of liturgy, church law, church music, archaeology, and the history of art.

The study of the Christian Orient does not begin with the first Christian mission to the relevant countries; rather, it investigates the relationship between the pre-Christian and Christian eras, paying special attention to continuity and discontinuity. The study also looks at the relationship of the Christian countries to one another.

Although this discipline is represented so far at only a few universities (e.g., in Germany in the Philosophical Faculties), its scope in terms of both space and time, as well as the abundance of the extant sources, has led to increasing specialization. Some representatives of the subject teach only a few of the languages and limit their research to certain areas, such as philology and literature.

This leads to such designations of the discipline as “Philology of the Christian Orient” (Munich) and “Languages and Cultures of the Christian Orient” (Tübingen). Other scholars in the field, such as those at the Institut catholique in Paris, specialize in only one of the seven languages and its corresponding culture. This specialization has given rise to the formation of new scholarly disciplines, such as Coptology and Syriology.


  • Assfalg, J., Kleines Wörterbuch des christlichen Orients. Wiesbaden, 1975.
  • des langues orientales anciennes de l’Institut catholique de Paris. Mémorial du cinquantenaire 1914-1964. Travaux de l’Institut catholique de Paris 10. Paris, 1964.
  • Guillaumont, A. “L’Orient chrétien.” Journal asiatique 261 (1973):69-81.