The Heliand (Saviour) is an epic poem in Old Saxon probably written in mid-ninth century. The poem is a Biblical paraphase that recounts the life of Jesus (in the tradition of the Diatessaron, an harmonization of the four Gospels created by Tatian in the II century) in the alliterative verse style of a Germanic epic.
The poem was rediscovered and studied in the context of the German nationalist turmoil of the XIX century, and the ideologically ingrained interpretations of the text prevailed until the end of the WWII. However, studies of the text were taken up – mainly by the Anglo-American academy – and between the 1980s and 1990s the main interpretation of the text is given in the debate concerning Germanization of Christianity vs. Christianization of the Germanic peoples, after the analysis of Ronald Murphy and James C. Russell. The XXI century brought a number of new interpretations and debates about the Heliand, like Dennis Green, James Cathey and Valentine Pakis.
The focus on this presentation is to analyze the major new lines of study, to summarize the connections of the poem with the context of the Christianization of Saxony in the ninth century and to point some possible interpretations.
KEYWORDS: Heliand – Diatessaron – Saxony – Christianization – Interpretations