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Best Book on Armenian Orthodox Church History

Irish Melkite

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Unfortunately, there aren't a lot to be found in English. Most commonly, the history is told in bits and pieces as part of the history of Armenia itself or of the Genocide or as a chapter in books that treat of all the Eastern and Oriental Churches. Most of those you find will have originated in the late 19th century because there was a great deal of interest in and curiousity about the Oriental Orthodox Churches in that timeframe, especially among scholarly British clergy, who produced some excellent historical research on those Churches. Unfortunately, most are out of print. You might run a search at abebooks . It's possible you can find something from that era at a reasonable price. (I would avoid any that are 'print-on-demand', those are basically photocopies of out-of-print texts, often overpriced and not always of good quality).

About 20 years ago, Archbishop Malachia Ormanian wrote 'The Church of Armenia, Her Historyy, Rule, ... and Existing Condition', which was published by the Armenian Archdiocese in Canada. It's very good - check abebooks for a possible copy of it. St Vartan's Press published a very thick volume on the Church's history around that same time. It's one of those books by British clergy that I mentioned above and is reportedly excellent - however, it's also pricy, which is why I don't have a copy. The title is, Heritage and Identity of the Armenian Church, if I remember correctly; the author's last name is Conybeare.

Many years,

Neil
 

Irish Melkite

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Although this 1909 book covers 1820-1860 in detail. It does have some introductory chapters and it is free.

The Armenian Awakening, A History of the Armenian Church, 1820-1860

I didn't mention Arpee's book principally because it is not particularly an objective or sympathetic treatment of the subject. As you note, there are some intro chapters on the early history of the Church, but more than half of the text is devoted to the trials, tribulations, and successes of Protestant missionaries to Armenia. Arpee himself was Armenian (his surname at birth was Tchorigian) but he, like his father before him, was a Protestant (Presbyterian) clergyman. He also co-authored another book, written many years later - mid-1940s, I believe - that is specifically focused on Protestantism in regard to the Armenian people.

Arpee was the product of a period in the mid-to late-1800s when Protestant Churches took a sudden interest in converting faithful of the Eastern and Oriental Churches and had some measure of success in doing so. Learning 'exotic' languages was very in vogue among the better educated Protestant clergy of the era and they put their language skills to use in translating sacred and liturgical texts to English, the better to proselytize those whom they sought to convert from the Orthodox Churches and counterpart Catholic Churches. Not uncommonly, they'd don vesture similar to that of the local presbyters and modify their usual church services to incorporate enough 'smells and bells' that a measure of familiarity was afforded to those lured into their congregations. (This was most easily accomplished by Anglican clerics who were already comfortable in a "high church atmosphere", but those from low church denominations were not beyond taking shots at it. Some may recollect that a similar approach was taken just a few years ago by a Baptist missionary group seeking to make inroads in Georgia.)

Remnants of what was accomplished can be seen here in the states where it isn't uncommon to find small churches of various Protestant denominations in the same ethnic neighborhood that houses Oriental or Eastern temples. Off the top of my head, I can think of three such Armenian churches right here in eastern Massachusetts, which has the largest Armenian population in the US,outside of California, and I'm pretty certain that there are a few more scattered across the central and western parts of the state.

Many years,

Neil
 
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