Saint Mark’s, Jerusalem, 135 is dated Feb 1901 AG (= 1590 CE) and contains a copy of Bar ʿEbrāyā’s Candelabrum of the Sanctuary (Mnārat Qudšē). It was copied at Dayr Al-Zaʿfarān by Behnām b. Šemʿon b. Ḥabbib of Arbo. From a much later note immediately after the colophon we learn that this scribe was made metropolitan of Jerusalem in 1901 AG and died in 1925 AG. Who wrote this later note? None other than Ignatius Afram Barsoum (1887-1957; see GEDSH, 62, including a photo). On the following page, there are three more notes by Barsoum, all autobiographical.
Notes by Barsoum at the end of SMMJ 135.
In the year 1913 AD I visited the tomb of the savior and I spent two months in our monastery, that of Saint Mark, while I — the weakest of monks and the least of priests, Afram Barsoum of Mosul, alumnus of the Monastery Mār Ḥnānyā [Dayr Al-Zaʿfarān] — was using the old books [there]. Please pray for me!
In the year 1918 AD, on the 20th of Iyyār, I was elected metropolitan of the diocese of Syria, Damascus, Ḥoms, and their environs, and I was named Severius Afram.
In the year 1922 AD I again returned to Jerusalem and I took part in the consecration of the myron with Patriarch Eliya III on the 18th of Ēlul.
Notes like this are important for at least two reasons. First, they remind us that books have had their readers throughout their individual histories, that is, we are usually not the first readers since the time of the author or scribe to examine and study a book; rather, readers make contact with, or meet, books here and there along the way, with ourselves just one node in that continuum, and some of those readers leave their marks, wittingly or not, in the books. Second, these notes are a kind of archival document, in this case for the future patriarch Barsoum and for some goings-on in Syriac Orthodox circles in the first quarter of the twentieth century, and anyone studying the region in this time period might find something of interest here and in similar places. Once again, we see manuscripts as unique objects with unexpected finds!
The script used for Syriac is generally divided into three types: Estrangela, East Syriac, and Serto, which are distributed partly along chronological, partly denominational, lines. These three types cover the majority of surviving manuscripts, but this is not the whole picture: another type, called Melkite, is found less often, but we have enough surviving manuscripts to recognize its distinctiveness from the three other better known types of writing. A search online for “melkite syriac script” etc. yields little easily discoverable images of examples, so it occurred to me that this would be a good place to share a few. HMML finished digitizing the manuscripts of the Church of Mary in Diyarbakır a few years ago, and the collection has been ably cataloged by Grigory Kessel, with his records searchable through Oliver. The Church of Mary has a few manuscripts with this kind of script, and it is from these that the images below come. (These Diyarbakır manuscripts, along with the rest of the collection, are available for study at HMML, and copies may be ordered with a form here.)
The term “Melkite” (< Syriac malkā) refers to adherents of the Council of Chalcedon particularly in areas where there where also adherents of miaphysite belief. Melkite, or Rum Orthodox, Christians are partly an heir to Syriac culture, and Syriac was used liturgically into the eighteenth century in some places. (In Palestine and Transjordan from the 5th-14th centuries, Chalcedonian Christians used Christian Palestinian Aramaic (CPA), the script for which is similar to Estrangela, but it is an Aramaic dialect altogether distinct from Syriac.) From the ninth century especially, the literature is in Arabic, but in Syriac there are some earlier theological and polemical texts, not to mention a number of translations from Greek, as well as a few monastic texts known from Melkite manuscripts but originating in Syriac Orthodox or Church of the East communities. (For Syriac, see further Brock in GEDSH, 285-286, and “Melkite” and “Melkites” in the Comprehensive Bibliography of Syriac Christianity at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and otherwise G. Graf, GCAL I 623-640, II 3-93, and III 23-41, 79-298, and J. Nasrallah, Histoire du mouvement littéraire dans l’Église Melchite du Vᵉ au XXᵉ siècle, 4 vols.)
According to Hatch (An Album of Dated Syriac Manuscripts, 28-29), the Melkite Syriac script developed from Serto, but he generally points out similarities with Estrangela and East Syriac, too, echoing Wright, who says that it “inclines in many points towards the Nestorian” (Cat. Syr. Brit. Mus., pt. III, p. xxxi). Plates xv-xvii of Wright’s catalog provide some examples. Hatch knew of only fourteen manuscripts, including those in Wright’s catalog, in Melkite script clearly dated before the end of the sixteenth century, the cutoff point for his Album. The oldest of these manuscripts is one finished at the Lavra of Mar Elias on the Black Mountain and dated 1045 CE. Hatch offers examples in his plates clxxxiv-cxcvii.
A few more examples from HMML’s work at the Church of Mary in Diyarbakır, of good quality and in full color, will be a welcome addition to the samples otherwise available. The manuscripts are indicated by their HMML source number.
DIYR 00062. Menaion, dated 1535.
DIYR 62, f. 42r
DIYR 00063. Menaion, 16th cent.
DIYR 63, f. 69v
DIYR 00083. Pentecostarion, dated 1540.
DIYR 83, f. 35v
DIYR 00335. Menaion, 16th/17th cent.
DIYR 335, f. 157v
I recently posted an image of a pastedown in SMMJ 68 that came from an older Syriac Gospel lectionary. While still looking through the Jerusalem collection, I found another manuscript with pastedowns (at both front and back) from a Syriac Gospel-book.
Front pastedown of SMMJ 159
Back pastedown of SMMJ 159
The front pastedown has the Markan passage on the Syrophoenician woman (Συροφοινίκισσα; see Sebastiano Ricci’s painting here) from the last word of Mk 7:24 to halfway through 7:29 (again the Peshitta, as SMMJ 68), and the back has Lk 19:29 (beginning at the third word) to 19:34 (third word from the end), but this time in the Ḥarqlean. (The only difference between these texts and those in Kiraz’s Comparative Edition of the Gospels, the Peshitta of which is based on the edition of Pusey and Gwilliam, are at Mk 7:25 [w-ʾit here, but d-ʾit in the printed ed.] and 7:26 [Phoenicia spelled with final yod here, ālap in the printed ed.].) A comparison of these two extraneous pages from SMMJ 159 with the one from SMMJ 68 quickly reveals their origin in the same manuscript. Apparently this Gospel lectionary was at Saint Mark’s and no longer being used, probably too damaged to be of practical use, and apart from their original peers these three folios found new life in SMMJ 68 and 159. Like the former Jerusalem manuscript, the latter, according to a note in Arabic at the beginning, was repaired in October, 1910.
“A new critical edition of the Peshitta Gospels is needed, though the quantity of Peshita mss. renders this a formidable task.” So say R.B. ter Haar Romeny and C.E. Morrison in their entry on the Peshitta in GEDSH (p. 330). This manuscript, now much reduced and scattered, more folios of which might appear elsewhere lurking at the beginning or end of manuscripts at Saint Mark’s, adds to that quantity of Peshitta manuscripts: for Mark in the front pastedown of SMMJ 159, and for John and Matthew in the front pastedown of SMMJ 68. Not that these particular Syriac Gospel witnesses are all that unique or interesting, but they do serve as a reminder of the surprises manuscripts can offer. And, from a different angle, the script here has much to appreciate for its clarity and simplicity; it would make an easy exercise for beginning students to practice their reading skills.
Yesterday Alin Suciu posted a notice of a Bohairic Coptic leaf with some lines from the martyrdom of Macrobius that was recently found in a Syriac manuscript from Saint Mark’s Monastery in Jerusalem. He also mentioned the entry for that martyr in an Arabic synaxarion (published in PO 16.2, 190-193). The same entry also exists in the Gǝʿǝz synaxarion (published in PO 46.3, 304-309). The saint is commemorated on 2 Baramhāt (ⲡⲁⲣⲉⲙϩⲟⲧⲡ; see Crum 269a for the forms) in the Copto-Arabic synaxarion and 2 Mäggabit in the Gǝʿǝz synaxarion. (According to the Mensium tabulae in BHO, this date corresponds to Feb. 26 — “15 février” in the FT of PO 16 is an error; it is correctly given as “26 février” in the running title — but according to Colin’s table in PO 48.3, the Ethiopian date is Mar. 11.)
Alin notes that the new Coptic leaf has “part of the episode when Macrobius is boiled by the governor Armenius in grease, oil and pitch.” Saints’ lives sometimes exist in two lengths: a shorter notice in the synaxarion and a longer — sometimes considerably longer — one, which may be a vita (or sīra), collection of miracles, martyrdom account, an encomium, or a combination of these types, and which may circulate on its own, that is, not in a calendrical series like the synaxarion. Naturally, many more saints are listed in the synaxarion than have their own separate stories, and when more than one kind of hagiographic text exists for a particular saint, the episodes of the stories may vary more or less, whether in the same language or across languages. The Copto-Arabic and the Gǝʿǝz texts referred to above for Macrobius are essentially the same, but distinct from that of the longer encomium published by Hyvernat. Here is the beginning, with an ET of the Arabic and different readings in the Gǝʿǝz in brackets, of the synaxarion entries:
- في مثل هذا اليوم استشهد القديس الطوباني انبا مكراوي الاسقف كان هذا الاب من اهل اشمون خريسات من اكابرها فجعل اسقفا على مدينة نقيوس
- በዛቲ ፡ ዕለት ፡ ኮነ ፡ ቅዱስ ፡ ወብፁዕ ፡ አባ ፡ መክራዊ ፡ ኤጲስ ፡ ቆጶስ ፡ ሰማዕት። ዝንቱ ፡ ቅዱስ ፡ ኮነ ፡ እምሰብአ ፡ ሀገረ ፡ እስሙንዙራይስ ፡ እምልሂቃነ ፡ ዚአሃ ፡ እምደቡበ ፡ ግብጽ።ወተሰይመ ፡ ኤጲስ ፡ ቆጶሰ ፡ ላዕለ ፡ ሀገረ ፡ ነቂዮስ።
- On the same [G. "this"] day the blessed saint Anba Macrobius the bishop was martyred [G. "became a martyr"]. This father [G. "saint"] came from the chiefs of Ešmūn-Ḫarīsāt [G. ʾƎsmunzurayǝs] and he was made bishop over the city of Nikiu.
The synaxarion entries do not have the detail of the longer martyrdom text that partially survives in the Coptic leaf, and there is nothing about boiling the martyr. All they have to say about Armenius, governor of Alexandria (والي الاسكندرية, መኰንነ ፡ ሀገረ ፡ እስክንድርያ፡), and his tortures at this point is the following. The texts are formally different enough that they merit separate translations.
- فلما بلغ ارمانيوس ما يصنعه القديس من الايات امر ان يعذب بانواع العذاب بالعصر وبقطع الاعضاء وان يلقى للاسد الضارية وان يغرق في البحر وان يوضع في اتون النار وكان صابرا على هذا جميعه غالبا بقوة المسيح
- When news of the miracles the saint was doing reached Armenius, he commanded that he be tortured with various kinds of torture — by pressing and by cutting off limbs — that he be thrown to the savage lions, that he be drowned in the sea, and that he be placed in a furnace of fire. He was enduring all of this, conquering in the power of Christ.
- ወሶበ ፡ ሰምዐ ፡ ሄርሜንዮስ ፡ መኰንን ፡ በእንተ ፡ ተአምራት ፡ ዘገብረ ፡ ቅዱስ ፡ አባ ፡ መክራዊ ፡ ወአዘዘ ፡ ከመ ፡ ይኰንንዎ ፡ በዘዘዚአሁ ፡ ኵነኔ ፡ ወኰነንዎ ፡ በመንኰራኵራት ፡ ወመተሩ ፡ መልያልያቲሁ ፡ ወወገርዎ ፡ ለአናብስት ፡ መሠጥ ፡ ወአስጠምዎ ፡ ውስተ ፡ ባሕር ፡ ወወደይዎ ፡ ውስተ ፡ እቶነ ፡ እሳት። ወኮነ ፡ ቅዱስ ፡ ውስተ ፡ ኵሉ ፡ ኵነኔ ፡ መዋዒ ፡ ወጽኑዕ ፡ በኀይሉ ፡ ለእግዚእነ ፡ ክርስቶስ ፡ ወያነሥኦ ፡ ጥዑየ ፡ ዘእንበለ ፡ ሙስና።
- When Armenius the governor heard about the miracles that the holy Anba Macrobius had done, he commanded that he be tortured with various kinds of torture, and they tortured him with wheels, cut off his limbs, threw him to savage lions, drowned him in the sea, and put him in a furnace of fire, and the saint was prevailing in all of this torture, strong in the power of our Lord Christ, and he will raise him whole without decay.
In addition to the obvious text-critical interest that studying multiple versions of this or that hagiographic text might conjure, in the case of probably or definitely dependent texts, questions of translation technique might be asked (and, hopefully, answered). Those interested more in the narrative content of the stories and in their use in cult and devotion, too, have plenty of material for study in eastern Christian hagiography. And while there is already far more available across these languages than any one person could completely study, new pieces continue to appear, especially in previously unploughed fields of manuscript collections, as this Coptic leaf shows, a textual witness to a particular continuum that spans Coptic, Arabic, and Gǝʿǝz.
Thanks to Alin for his notice and discussion of the Coptic fragment!
Alin Suciu here discusses a Coptic leaf found in a Syriac manuscript from Saint Mark's Monastery in Jerusalem that I came across a couple of weeks ago. Thanks to him for his remarks!
SMMJ 68, pastedown at end
Pages don’t always turn up where we expect them to. The image above is of a pastedown at the end of a Syriac liturigical manuscript (SMMJ 68), a Beth Gazo missing its beginning and end, dated 1580; according to a note on f. 186v, it was repaired in October, 1910 as part of Saint Mark’s collection, and it was probably at that time bound in the cover of an English Bible published much later by the British and Foreign Bible Society (see below)! (Incidentally, the original binder of the Bible was Watkins, as can be seen from the emblem at the top left of the photo above, on the inside of the original front cover; a search reveals other known copies of English Bibles bound by Watkins in the 19th century.) The page above is from an older (and prettier) manuscript, a Gospel lectionary containing Jn 5:29 and Mt 24:36-39 (Peshitta) in a clear Estrangela hand, including some diacritical marks and vowels. It is an iffy business attempting to date a single manuscript page, but this one might be from the 13th century.
The current cover of the book, originally a Bible from the British and Foreign Bible Society.
One of the most visually striking manuscripts, even though it is not very colorful, in the collection of the Near East School of Theology, Beirut, is AP 38, thanks to its drawings in the second part of the work. There are animals (including the human body), plants, mechanical diagrams, a map, and other figures. It is not an old book at all, but it deserves a facsimile edition for its unique visual presentations. An anonymous work, it was apparently translated from Turkish, which version itself was translated from an English book (cf. J.W. Pollock, “Catalogue of Manuscripts of the Library of the Near East School of Theology,” Near East School of Theology Theological Review 4 : 69). Below is one example of the several diagrams (pt. 2, p. 11):
NEST AP 38, pt. 2, p. 11
The caption reads:
hāḏihi ṣūratu ṭurumbā [sic] ‘l-māʾi allaḏī tanšulu ‘l-māʾa min al-baḥri wa-tūṣiluhu ilá ‘l-amākini ‘l-baʿīdati ka-ma tarāhā marsūmatan hākaḏa hāhunā
This is a picture of a water-pump that takes water from the sea and conducts it to faraway places, as you see drawn here.
(For ṭurumba/ṭurumbā, cf. Italian trompa, Turkish tulumba.)