Zum Inhalt springen

The Dynamics of Silent Prayer in Antiquity

Panel Chair: Maik Patzelt | Thursday, August 27, 3:30-5:30 p.m.

Silent prayer is a religious practice that has been discussed rather ambivalently in ancient discourses. Whereas some ancient authors regard such a practice with scepticism or even as an expression of malevolence and criminality, others treat it quite respectfully and even positively. This panel aims to understand this very ambivalent discourse on silent prayer, which ranges from deviation to idealisation. Therefore, Christian and non-Christian authors must be understood as participants in multiple discourses, that consequently lead to the assumption that they not only reflect on silent prayers, rather they create their personal interpretations on silent prayers. This panel focuses mainly on the positive interpretations. It seeks to elaborate questions of reinterpretation, innovation and thus of performance, space, social acceptance and experience. In what way was a given tradition of (silent) prayer adapted, transformed or even opposed? Furthermore, which legacies were in use and subsequently produced?

Erika Meyer-Dietrich

Imagined Spaces in New Kingdom Egypt

The paper explores the relationship between silent prayer and imagined spaces mainly in the iconographical record. Silent prayer is here taken as a practice in space and time to constitute imagined spaces. As a repetitive practice prayer maintains these spaces and creates a religious knowledge about them. Archaeological finds from Middle Egypt confirm several important changes in prayer practices during the New Kingdom (1550-1069 BC). The prayer’s posture changed. Traditional places for a silent communication over ontological borders were abandoned. New symbols were created for the sun as divinity. This paper considers the consequences of these changes. In particular, it will focus on the creation of new places and spaces. Which were the new places to substitute old areas for silent prayer? How furthered the development where private religious practices became a means of social acceptance the creation of new places? How did the representation of praying persons constitute imagined spaces in an urban environment?

Pieter Willem van der Horst

Ancient Israel shared with all other nations of the ancient Mediterranean world the custom that prayers were said out loud. In postbiblical Judaism, however, there were right from the start some elements that made for a significant difference. For Judaism the most important factor simply was that in the Bible there was a story about Hannah praying in silence who, although being frowned upon by Eli the priest, was heard favourably by God. The paper will discuss the 'Wirkungsgeschichte' of this story. It will, however, also deal with other elements that helped create a prayer practice that was different from the dominant custom of prayer said out loud.

Brouria Bitton-Ashkelony

The Performance of Silent Prayer and Hidden Worship in Eastern Christianity

This paper explores the performance of silent prayer and hidden worship among a variety of Eastern Greek and Syriac authors (4th-8th centuries). By focusing on the history of this topic I hope to shift the emphasis in the study of Christian prayer beyond the history of doctrine, and to focus on the practice of the inner worship, its inner space and images. I will examine the dynamic of the Greek ascetic literary legacy (fourth-fifth century) and its impact on Syriac Christianity (fifth-eighth century). Above all, this paper asks about the ways in which the teachings and the religious anthropology of Eastern influential authors—Evagrius Ponticus, Mark the Monk, and Pseudo-Dionysius—shaped Syriac thought on silent prayer and hidden worship as reflected in the writings of Isaac Of Nineveh (second half of the 7th century), John of Dalyatha and Joseph Hazzaya (8th century).

Maik Patzelt

The Paradox of Seneca’s “Mental” Prayer

As it seems, praying in ancient Rome was a very loud business, especially during official services to the gods. Thus, it is not surprising that several people were stigmatised as deviant because of their silent prayers. Or should that be surprising? This paper elaborates the most paradoxical case of Seneca within that discourse. He posits his version of a silent prayer against every other style of praying, ironically even including other silent prayers. Regarding the wider discourse, the following points shall be the focus of discussion: How does Seneca attend to achieve social acceptance? Does he create a new tradition as the church fathers suggest or does he just position a more or less new practice –or just a new interpretation- within a wider framework of existing praying practices? Which experiences are accompanied with his concept of a “mental” prayer? What transfers of sacred spaces occur?


B  C  D 
E  F  G  H 
I  J  K  L 
M  N  O  P 
Q  R  T 
U      V      W     XYZ 


A  B  C  D 
E  F  G  H 
I  J  K  L 
M  N  O  P 
Q  R  S  T 
U      V      W     XYZ 


Open Sessions

Thematic Outline


A  B  C  D 
E  F  G  H 
I  J  K  L 
M  N  O  P 
R  S  T 
U      V      W     XYZ