This study examines the disproportionately heavy reliance on the word deḥltā ("fear") and its cognates in two related sixth-century Syriac martyr texts from the Sasanian Empire, and how this usage reflects both an acknowledgement of and an attempt to transcend the religious diversity of the sixth century. It begins by describing the contents and historical background of the two martyrdoms and highlighting their broad, even elastic, usage of deḥltā and its cognates. The origins of the wide semantic range of deḥltā are attributed to Syriac translation literature, especially the Peshitta, the Syriac version of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. After a survey of how this term appears in earlier East Syrian martyr acts, the study turns to the close engagement with Zoroastrianism found in the martyrdoms of Gregory and Yazdpaneh and then to an examination of how "fear" relates to the texts' theological and ethical concerns. It is suggested that fear is an embodied form of knowledge evoked in these texts at the same time that it operates in the textual process of coercion that creates religious subjects.


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pp. 300-336
Launched on MUSE
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