When Professor Abraham Terian asked me if I would prepare a revised edition of the Teaching of Saint Gregory to inaugurate St. Nersess Armenian Semniary's new monograph series. Avant: Treasures of the Armenian Christian Tradition, und with an eye to the Seventeenth Centenary of the Christianization of Armenia by St. Gregory the Illuminator. I was much flattered. I was also surprised that this early work, my first monograph on an Armenian subject, had been considered worthy of the honour. On reflection, however. I realised that several considerations made such an undertaking appropriate.
In the first place, a republication of the Teaching of Saint Gregory, in light of heightened interest for the celebration of 2001. would help focus the attention of those unable to read Armenian on one of the most important texts to emerge from the early Armenian church. The conversion of the country was undoubtedly the most significant event in Armenian history. And this long catechism, which appears in the History of Agat'angelos as the sermon preached by St. Gregory to the Armenian king Trdat before his baptism, even if a later composition and not a verbatim report, became nonetheless an authoritative document for the Armenian church.
Furthermore, since 1970. the discovery of new versions of the History of Agat'angelos has highlighted the complexity of the transmission of the story of Saint Gregory and the conversion of Armenia. It was a very popular story outside Armenia, as versions in Greek, Arabic, Georgian. Syriac, Latin, and other languages indicate. The Teaching was not included in all these ancient translations, but it is important to take these discoveries into account in any re-evaluation of its content.
Over the years I kept notes of new publications relevant to the Teaching and of parallels in other Armenian texts which might shed light on obscurities. The present work is therefore not merely a reissue of the 1970 edition with a little up-dating. I have completely reworked the translation, correcting errors or misunderstandings in the first version. In the commentary which follows each paragraph of the text I have removed parallels which now seem less relevant, and have added citations from a wider range of Armenian texts. Parts of the Introduction have been completely rewritten, and some new material has been added, though I have not changed what seems to me still valid.
Despite all these changes, the basic purpose of this translation remains similar to the original intention. I hope to present this early Armenian text to a wider audience in such a way that it may be understood within its own context and time. It is not an attempt to write a life of Saint Gregory or a history of the early Armenian church.
I must record my thanks to Professor Abraham Terian for having suggested this undertaking; to the Harvard University Press for releasing the copyright of the original edition; and to Fr. Daniel Findikyan for help with practical matters of presentation.
Oxford, March 2000
Robert W Thomson