A camel or a rope in the eye of a needle? The Old Georgian witness   1 comment

In Mt 19:24, Mk 10:25, and Lk 18:25 Jesus famously paints the difficulty of a rich person’s ability to get into the kingdom of God with the picture of a camel going through the eye of a needle. The strangeness of the image has not been lost on Gospel-readers from early on. Origen, followed by Cyril, reports that some interpreters took the word κάμηλος ≈ κάμιλος not as the animal, but as some kind of thick rope. This interpretation from Cyril is known also in Syriac, both in the Syriac translation of the Luke commentary, and in Bar Bahlul, and probably elsewhere. I noticed recently in my Georgian Gospel reading that the early translations also bear witness to the reading “rope”, but the later translations — not surprisingly, given the predominant hellenizing tendencies of the period — line up with the standard Greek reading, “camel”, in most (but not all!) places. Below I list a few of the Greek exegetical places, followed by the three synoptic Gospel verses in Greek, Armenian, and Georgian; I have translated into English everything quoted below except for the Greek Gospel verses. The Syriac versions (Old Syriac, Peshitta, Harqlean), at least in Kiraz’s Comparative Edition of the Syriac Gospels, all have “camel” (gamlā), not “rope” (e.g. ḥablā). As usual, for Armenian and Georgian I provide a few lexical notes. I’ve used the following abbreviations:

  • A89 = the xanmeti text A89/A844, ed. Lamara Kajaia (not extant for the whole of the Gospel of text), at TITUS here (given in both asomtavruli and mxedruli)
  • Ad = Adishi, at TITUS here
  • At = Athonite (Giorgi the Hagiorite), at TITUS here
  • Künzle = B. Künzle, Das altarmenische Evangelium / L’évangile arménien ancien, 2 vols. [text + Armenian-German/French lexicon (Bern, 1984)
  • Lampe = G.W.H. Lampe, A Patristic Greek Lexicon
  • PA = Pre-Athonite, see here at TITUS
  • PG = Migne, Patrologia Graeca

As a side note, for the Qurʾān verse that cites the phrase in question, see the following:

  • W. Montgomery Watt, “The Camel and the Needle’s Eye,” in C.J. Bleeker et al., eds., Ex Orbe Religionum: Studia Geo Widengren, vol. 2 (Leiden, 1972), pp. 155-158.
  • Régis Blachère, “Regards sur un passage parallèle des Évangiles et du Coran,” in Pierre Salmon, ed., Mélanges d’Islamologie, volume dédié à la mémoire d’Armand Abel par ses collègues, ses élèves et ses amis (Leiden, 1974), pp. 69-73.
  • M.B. Schub, “It Is Easier for a Cable to go through the Eye of a Needle than for a Rich Man to Enter God’s Kingdom,” Arabica 23 (1976): 311-312.
  • Samir Khalil, “Note sur le fonds sémitique commun de l’expression ‘un chameau passant par le trou d’une aiguille’,” Arabica 25 (1978): 89-94.
  • A. Rippin, “Qurʾān 7.40: ‘Until the Camel Passes through the Eye of the Needle'” Arabica 27 (1980): 107-113.

A similar phrase with “elephant” (pīlā) instead of “camel” appears in the Talmud: see Strack-Billerbeck, Kommentar, vol. 1, p. 828, and Sokoloff, Dict. of Jewish Babylonian Aramaic, s.v. qwpʾ.

Some Greek and Syriac exegetical and lexical references

Origen, Fragment on Mt 19:24: οἱ μὲν τὸ σχοινίον τῆς μηχανῆς, οἱ δὲ τὸ ζῷον (cited in Lampe, 700a, s.v. κάμηλος)

Some [say the word means] the rope of some apparatus, others [say it means] the animal [the camel].

Cyril of Alexandria, Fragment on Mt 19:24 (PG 72: 429) Κάμηλον ἐνταῦθά φησιν, οὐ τὸ ζῶον τὸ ἀχθοφόρον, ἀλλὰ τὸ παχὺ σχοινίον ἐν ᾧ δεσμεύουσι τὰς ἀγκύρας οἱ ναῦται.

He says that kámēlos here is not the beast of burden, but rather the thick rope with which sailors tie their anchors.

Cyril, Comm. on Lk 18:23 (PG 72: 857) Κάμηλον, οὐ τὸ ζῶον, ἀλλὰ τὸ ἐν τοῖς πλοίοις παχὺ σχοινίον.

Kámēlos is not the animal, but rather the thick rope found in boats.

With this Greek line from the Luke commentary we can compare the Syriac version, ed. Payne Smith, p. 338.15-17: gamlā dēn āmar law l-hāy ḥayutā mālon ellā l-ḥablā ʿabyā. ʿyāda (h)w gēr l-hānon d-šappir yādʿin d-neplḥun b-yammā da-l-hālēn ḥablē d-yattir ʿbēn gamlē neqron.

He says gamlā, [meaning] not the animal, but rather a thick rope, for those who know well how to plow the sea are accustomed to call the very thick ropes that they use gamlē.

One more place in Syriac attributed to Cyril has this interpretation, a few lines in the fragmentarily preserved work Against Julian (CPG 5233), ed. E. Nestle in Karl Johannes Neumann, Iuliani imperatoris librorum contra Christianos quae supersunt (Leipzig, 1880), here p. 56, § 21: d-qaddišā Qurillos, men mēmrā d-16 d-luqbal Yuliyanos raššiʿā. mqabbel hākēl l-taḥwitā: ḥrurā da-mḥaṭṭā w-gamlā, w-law ḥayutā a(y)k d-asbar Yuliyanos raššiʿā wa-skal b-kul w-hedyoṭā, ellā mālon ḥablā ʿabyā da-b-kul ellpā, hākanā gēr it ʿyādā d-neqron ennon aylēn d-ilipin hālēn d-elpārē.

Cyril, from book 16 of [his work] Against Julian the Wicked. He accepts, then, the example: the eye of the needle and the gamlā, but not the animal, as the wicked, completely stupid, and ignorant Julian thought, but rather the thick rope that is on every ship, for thus those sailors who are expert are accustomed to call them.

Theophylact of Ohrid, Ennaratio on Mt (PG 123: 356): Τινὲς δὲ κάμηλον οὐ τὸ ζῷόν φασιν, ἀλλὰ τὸ παχὺ σχοινίον, ᾧ χρῷνται οἱ ναῦται πρὸς τὸ ῥίπτειν τὰς ἀγκύρας.

Some say that kámēlos is not the animal, but rather the thick rope that sailors use to cast their anchors.

Suda, Kappa № 282: Κάμηλος: τὸ ζῷον. … Κάμιλος δὲ τὸ παχὺ σχοινίον.

Kámēlos: the animal. … Kámilos a thick rope.

Ps.-Zonaras, Lexicon: Κάμηλος. τὸ ἀχθοφόρον ζῶον. κάμηλος καὶ τὸ παχὺ σχοινίον, ἐν ᾧ δεσμεύουσι τὰς ἀγκύρας οἱ ναῦται. ὡς τὸ ἐν εὐαγγελίοις· κάμηλον διὰ τρυπήματος ῥαφίδος διελθεῖν.

Kámēlos: the beast of burden. Kámēlos is also the thick rope with which sailors tie their anchors, as in the Gospels: “for a kámēlos to go through the eye of a needle.”

As mentioned above, Cyril’s report on the verse re-appears among other things in Bar Bahlul: ed. Duval, coll. 500-501, s.v. gamlā: gamlā tub maraš [sic! cf. maras]. ba-ṣḥāḥā Qurillos gamlā qārē l-ḥablā ʿabyā d-āsrin bēh spinātā. Moše bar Kēpā gišrā ʿabyā d-mettsim l-ʿel b-meṣʿat benyānē qārē gamlā, haw da-ʿlāw(hy) mettsimin qaysē (ʾ)ḥrānē men trayhon gabbāw(hy) w-taṭlilā d-a(y)k hākan gamlā metqrā. (ʾ)ḥrā[nē] dēn d-ʿal gamlā d-besrā w-da-kyānā rāmez wa-b-leššānā yawnāyā qamēlos metemar. (ʾ)ḥrā[nē] dēn āmrin d-gamlā haw d-emar māran b-ewangelyon sgidā — da-dlil (h)u l-gamlā l-meʿal ba-ḥrurā da-mḥaṭṭā — l-hānā gamlā d-ḥayy āmar, w-law d-a(y)k (ʾ)ḥrā[nē] šāṭrin l-gamlā. ba-ṣḥāḥā (ʾ)nāšin dēn āmrin d-šawšmāna (h)w arik reglē w-lā šarririn. w-gamlā b-meṣʿat ḥaywātā dakyātā w-ṭaʾmātā itāw(hy), b-hāy gēr d-metgawrar, men ḥaywātā dakyātā metḥšeb, wa-b-hāy d-lā ṣāryā parstēh, men ṭaʾmātā.

A gamlā is also a rope [Arabic]. In one copy: Cyril calls the thick rope with which people tie their ships a gamlā. Moše bar Kēpā calls the thick beam people place at the top of buildings in the middle a gamlā, the one on which other pieces of wood are placed from either side, and a ceiling like this is called a gamlā. Others [say] that it means the natural animal [? lit. of flesh and of nature] gamlā (camel), and in Greek it is called kámēlos. Others say that the gamlā that the Lord mentioned in the Gospel — i.e., “it is easier for a gamlā to enter the eye of a needle” — by this he means a living gamlā, and not, as some foolishly say, a [non-living] gamlā [i.e. a rope, as in the interp. above?]. In one copy: Some people say that it is an ant with long, unstable legs. A camel is midway between the categories of clean and unclean animals: since it chews the cud, it is counted among clean animals, and since it does not split the hoof, among unclean.

[NB with this ant mentioned here cf. Brockelmann, Lexicon Syriacum, 2d ed., 120b (s.v. gamlā mng. 2c), JBA gamlānāʾāh (Sokoloff, Dict. Jewish Babylonian Aramaic, 289-290); also Persian uštur mūr (camel-ant).]

The Gospel verses in Greek, Armenian, and Georgian

(English translations in the next section.)

Mt 19:24

πάλιν δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, εὐκοπώτερόν ἐστιν κάμηλον διὰ τρυπήματος ῥαφίδος διελθεῖν ἢ πλούσιον εἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ.

Դարձեալ ասեմ ձեզ· դիւրի́ն է մալխոյ մտանել ընդ ծակ ասղան. քան մեծատան յարքայութիւն ա՟յ մտանել։

դիւրին easy, light | մալուխ, -լխոյ rope (supposedly also “camel”; see note below) | ծակ, -ուց hole | ասեղն, ասղան, -ղունք, -ղանց needle | մեծատուն, մեծատան, -անց rich NB on մալուխ, see Lagarde, Armenische Studien, № 1404; Ačaṙean, 3.226-227; Künzle 2.437 says “Die Bedeutung ‘Kamel’ ist wohl durch diese NT-Stellen irrtümlich in die armen. Lexika eingegangen.” The proper Arm. word for camel is ուղտ, Lagarde, Arm. St., № 1760 (cf. MP uštar, NP uštur; Sanskrit उष्ट्र uṣṭra).

A89 ႾႭჃႠႣႥႨႪჁႱ ႠႰႱ ႬႠႥႨႱႠ ႫႠႬႵႠႬႨႱႠ ႱႠႡႤႪႨ ჄႭჃႰႤႪႱႠ ႬႤႫႱႨႱႠႱႠ ႢႠႬႱႪႥႠႣ Ⴅ~Ⴄ . . . . . . . ႸႤႱႪႥႠႣ ႱႠႱႭჃႴႤႥႤႪႱႠ Ⴖ~ႧႨႱႠႱႠ

ხოჳადვილჱს არს ნავისა მანქანისა საბელი ჴოჳრელსა ნემსისასა განსლვად ვ(იდრ)ე . . . . . . . შესლვ[ა]დ სასოჳფეველსა ღ(მრ)თისასა

ხ-ოჳ-ადვილ-ჱს easier (< ადვილი easy) | ნავი ship | მანქანაჲ mechanism, machine | საბელი cable, rope, cord | ჴურელი hole | ნემსი needle

Ad მერმე გეტყჳ თქუენ: უადვილესა ზომთსაბლისაჲ ჴურელსა ნემსისასა განსლვაჲ, ვიდრე მდიდრისაჲ შესლვად სასუფეველსა ღმრთისასა.

უადვილეს easier (< ადვილი easy) | ზომთ(ა)-საბელი cable, thick rope (cf. Rayfield et al., 695a; ზომი measurement) | მდიდარი rich

PA და მერმე გეტყჳ თქუენ: უადვილეს არს მანქანისა საბელი განსლვად ჴურელსა ნემსისასა, ვიდრე მდიდარი შესლვად სასუფეველსა ღმრთისასა.

At და მერმე გეტყჳ თქუენ: უადვილეს არს აქლემი განსლვად ჴურელსა ნემსისასა, ვიდრე მდიდარი შესლვად სასუფეველსა ცათასა.

აქლემი camel

Mk 10:25

εὐκοπώτερόν ἐστιν κάμηλον διὰ [τῆς] τρυμαλιᾶς [τῆς] ῥαφίδος διελθεῖν ἢ πλούσιον εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ εἰσελθεῖν.

դիւրի́ն է մալխոյ ընդ ծակ ասղան անցանել. քան մեծատան յարքայութիւն ա՟յ մտանել։.

անցանեմ, անցի to pass, flow, run

Ad უადვილეს არს ზომსაბელისა განსლვაჲ ჴურელსა ნემსისა, ვიდრეღა <არა> [?] მდიდარი სასუფეველსა ღმრთისასა შესულად.

PA უადვილჱს არს მანქანისა საბელი ჴურელსა ნემსისასა განსლვად, ვიდრე მდიდარი სასუფეველსა ღმრთისასა შესლვად.

At უადვილეს არს აქლემი ჴურელსა ნემსისასა განსლვად, ვიდრე მდიდარი შესლვად სასუფეველსა ღმრთისასა.

Lk 18:25

εὐκοπώτερον γάρ ἐστιν κάμηλον διὰ τρήματος βελόνης εἰσελθεῖν ἢ πλούσιον εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ εἰσελθεῖν.

դիւրագոյն իցէ մալխոյ ընդ ծակ ասղան անցանել. քան մեծատան յարքայութիւն ա՟յ մտանել։.

դիւրագոյն easier

A89 ႾႭჃႠႣႥႨႪჁႱ ႠႰႱ ႫႠႬႵႠႬႨႱ ႱႠႡႤႪႨ ჄႭჃႰႤႪႱႠ ႬႤႫ ႱႨႱႠႱႠ ႢႠႬႱႪႥႠႣ Ⴅ~Ⴄ ႫႣႨႣႠႰႨ ႱႠႱႭჃႴႤႥႤႪႱႠ Ⴖ~ႧႨႱႠႱႠ

ხოჳადვილჱს არს მანქანის საბელი ჴოჳრელსა ნემსისასა განსლვად ვ(იდრ)ე მდიდარი სასოჳფეველსა ღ(მრ)თისასა

Ad უადვილეს არს მანქანისსაბელი ჴურელსა ნემსისასა განსლვად, ვიდრე მდიდარი სასუფეველსა ღმრთისასა შესლვად.

PA = Ad

At უადვილეს არს მანქანისა საბელი ჴურელსა ნემსისასა განსლვად, ვიდრე მდიდარი შესლვად სასუფეველსა ღმრთისასა.

English translations of these verses

Mt 19:24

Arm Again I say to you: it is easier for a rope to enter the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.

A89 It is easier for a rope from a ship’s apparatus to go through the eye of a needle than [for the rich] to enter the kingdom of God.

Ad Again I say to you: It is easier for a cable to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.

PA And again I say to you: It is easier for the rope of an apparatus to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.

At And again I say to you: It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. [sic! Not “of God”]

Mk 10:25

Arm It is easier for a rope to pass through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.

Ad It is easier for a cable to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.

PA It is easier for the rope of an apparatus to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.

At It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.

Lk 18:25

Arm It would be easier for a rope to pass through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.

A89 It is easier for the rope of an apparatus to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich [to enter] the kingdom of God.

Ad It is easier for the rope of an apparatus to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.

PA = Ad

At ≈ Ad

Conclusion

So here is how the witnesses stand:

Camel Rope
Greek
Some Greek exeg.
Armenian
Syriac
Geo early, PA
Geo Athonite ✓ (Lk only)

For Greek, I wonder about the real existence of the word κάμιλος (with iota, not ēta, but both words pronounced the same at this period). I don’t know that it is attested anywhere that is certainly unrelated to the Gospel passages. More generally, is there an explanation for the two opposed readings “camel” and “rope”? There is in Arabic a similarity between ǧamal (camel) and ǧuml/ǧumla (“thick rope”, see Lane 460), but it is treading on thin ice to have recourse to this similarity as an explanation for earlier texts with no palpable connection to Arabic. It may simply be the case that, as Cyril says, in nautical argot ropes went by the name “camels”. (And we should remember that there were sailors in Jesus’ circle.)

The earliest reading may well have been “camel”, but a change to “rope” does not really make for an easier reading: one can put a thread through a needle’s eye, but a rope will go through it no more than a camel will! In any case, some traditions clearly side with “rope”, such that those traditions’ commonest readers and hearers of the Gospel passage would have known nothing of a camel passing through the eye of a needle, only a rope, and apparently one large enough to handle marine functions!

There is no early evidence among the sources above for “camel” in Georgian (or Armenian), while Greek knows both, as does Syriac (via Greek sources, to be sure). This variety of readings, attested without a doubt, adds to the richness of the textual witness of the Bible and the history of its interpretation. There are probably further exegetical and lexical places in Greek, Syriac, Armenian, and Georgian that bear on this question of what we’re dealing with here, a camel or a rope, but this is, I hope, at least an initial basis for some future work on the question for anyone interested.

Old Georgian phrases and sentences 60: Paul’s appearance   Leave a comment

Today’s installment of OGPS again comes from a sighting in Sarjvelaże-Fänrich, here 1466b, s.v. ცხჳრგრძელი “langnasig” (also at 1487b, s.v. წარბკიცული “mit zusammengewachsenen Augenbrauen”). The sentence — about Ananias’ seeing Paul (cf. Acts 9)? — is cited from N. Goguaże, ძველი მეტაფრასული კრებულები (საქტემბრის საკოთხავები), (Old Metaphrastic Collections), Tbilisi, 1986, 404.20. (I don’t have access to this text otherwise, so I have only read the sentence below out of context.)

იხილა რაჲ მომავალად პავლე, კაცი, ვითარ-იგი სიტყუამან გამოუსახა მას: მცირე ჰასაკითა, მტიერი თავითა, კირდრეკილ, ცხჳრგრძელ, წარბკიცულ

Er sah den Pawle herankommen, einen Mann, wie das Wort ihn ihm dargestellt hatte: klein von Wuchs, kahl auf dem Kopf, krummbeinig, langnasig, mit zusammengewachsenen Augenbrauen.

  • გამო-უ-სახ-ა aor 3sg გამოსახვა to express, describe, depict
  • ჰასაკი size, stature, body, age
  • მტიერი bald
  • კირდრეკილი bow-legged
  • ცხჳრგრძელი with a long nose (ცხჳრი nose)
  • წარბკიცული with close-knit eyebrows

He saw Paul as he was approaching: a man, as the word had depicted to him, small in statue, bald-headed, bow-legged, long-nosed, with close-knit eyebrows.

I’m sure there are others (I’ve not managed to easily locate the passage above in the Greek Metaphrastes), but for comparison, there is another description of Paul’s appearance from a Greek synaxarion, June 29 (ed. Delehaye, cols. 779-780).

Stones, beetles, or both? The transmogrification of the shepherd that Barbara cursed   Leave a comment

I have previously discussed an episode in the Syriac version of the story of Barbara in which a shepherd and his flock are mutated into beetles. As I mentioned there, in the Greek version, the sheep become beetles (κανθαρίδες), but the shepherd himself becomes a stone (λίθος). I also noted that the synaxarion texts in Arabic and Gǝʿǝz lack this episode entirely. Since then I have looked at two other sources: an Arabic version from a manuscript I cataloged, and the Armenian version in Vark’ ew vkayabanut’iwnk’ srboc’, vol. 2, and here is what I have found.

The Armenian text appears in Vark’ 2, two lines from the bottom of p. 358 to p. 359, line 13 (see here). The text, with a few notes on vocabulary and grammar and an English translation, follow:

Եւ սուրբն Վառվառ ելեալ փախչէր յերեսաց հօրն իւրոյ։

ելեալ ptcp ելանեմ, ելի to go out | փախչէր impf 3sg պախչեմ, -խեայ to flee  | երես, -աց face

Իսկ հայրն իբրեւ զարիւնարդու գազան՝ ելեալ [p. 359] վարէր զհետ նորա.

արիւնարդու bloodthirsty, bloodsucking | գազան, -աց beast, animal | վարէր impf 3sg վարիմ, -եցայ to conduct oneself, act, go (m/p of վարեմ, -եցի to direct, guide, manage, lead, use) | զհետ after (< հետ, -ոյ, -ք, -տոց footprint, step, track)

եւ ել ի լեառն եւ խնդրէր զերանելին Վառվառ. եւ ահա տեսանէր ի լերինն հովիւս երկուս զի արածէին զհօտս իւրեանց. եւ հարցանէր ցնոսա եթէ արդեօք տեսեալ իցեն զնա։

ել aor 3sg ելանեմ, ելի to go out | խնդրեմ, -եցի to search for, pursue, wish | լեառն, լերանց mountain | արածեմ, -եցի to tend (herd), cause to graze | հօտ, -ից flock, herd | հարցանեմ, հարցի to ask, question | արդեօք perhaps | իցեմ subj pres 3pl եմ to be

Իսկ միւսն ի նոցանէ կամեցաւ ստել վասն նորա զի մի ի բուռն անկցի սուրբն եւ սպանցի, եւ երդնոյր նմա եթէ ոչ եւս գիտեմ զնա թէ ուր իցէ, եւ ոչ տեսեալ իցեմ զնա։

կամին, -եցայ to want, intend | ստել to lie | բուռն, բռանց fist, hand, violence, force | անկցի aor subj 3sg անկանիմ, անկաւ to fall | սպանցի aor m/p subj 3sg սպանանեմ, սպանի to kill, slay, slaughter, etc. | երդնույր impf 3sg երդնում, երդւայ to swear | եւս still | գիտեմ, գիտացի to know | ուր where | իցէ pres subj 3sg եմ to be | իցեմ pres subj 1sg եմ to be

Իսկ ընկեր նորին ակնարկեալ եւ նշանացի սկսաւ ցուցանել նմա զաղախինն Քրիստոսի։

ընկեր, -աց companion | ակնարկեալ ptcp ակնարկեմ, -եցի to indicate, show | նշանեմ, -եցի to sign, mark, make a sign (նշան, -աց sign) | սկսաւ aor 3sg սկսանիմ to begin | ցուցանեմ, ցուցի to show, point out | աղախին, -ոց/-աց maidservant

Զորս եւ անիծեալ սրբոյն՝ զանօրէն հովիւն զայս, եւ առժամայն մածեալ արձանացաւ հանդերձ ոչխարօքն, որպէս զկինն Ղովտայ. եւ կայ մինչեւ ցայսօր նովին կերպարանաւ, կան քարացեալ ի նմին տեղւոջ ի ցոյցս տեսողաց։

անիծեալ ptcp անիծանեմ, անիծի to curse | անօրէն unjust, wicked | առժամայն immediately | մածեալ ptcp մածանիմ, մածայ to be glued, adhere, coagulate, congeal, join, unite | արձանացաւ aor 3sg արձանանամ, -ացայ to become like a statue, to be fixed  | հանդերձ with, together with (also -ից clothes) | ոչխար, -աց sheep (cf. Geo. ცხოვარი/ცხუარი sheep [see Ačaṙean, vol. 3, 562b]) | կին woman, wife | կայ pres 3sg կամ, կացի to remain, be, stand | նովին inst.sg նոյն that (same), self, he/she/it | կերպարան, ի (also pl) form, face, look, appearance, image | կան pres 3pl կամ, կացի to be, exist, live, remain, stand | քարացեալ ptcp քարացուցանեմ to turn into stone | ցոյց, ցուցից showing, index, sign, testimony, indicator, proof | տեսող seer, spectator

A rough ET:

Saint Barbara, having gone out, was fleeing from her father, but he, like a bloodthirsty animal, was pursuing her. And he went out to the mountain and searched for the blessed Barbara, and just then he saw on the mountain two shepherds, who were tending their flocks, and he was asking them whether they might have seen her. One of them, set on lying for her, [said] that the saint may have fallen violently and been killed, and he swore to him, “I don’t know at all where she might be, nor will I be able to spot her.” But his companion began to indicate and make signs so as to point out Christ’s handmaid. Him the saint, then, having cursed, (namely) this wicked shepherd, and he immediately having coagulated, he, together with the sheep, became like a statue, just as Lot’s wife [did], and it remains to this day in that very form: they remain petrified in the same place for a sign to those who see it.

The Arabic (Garšūnī) copy I have read is in CFMM 306, with this episode at ff. 57v10-58r7. Here is the image:

CFMM 306, ff. 57v-58r

CFMM 306, ff. 57v-58r (pp. 102-103)

And a rough ET:

And when her wicked father realized that she had gotten the better of him by the power of her great Lord, he made a thorough search for her and went up the mountain after her. That mountain was enough for two [shepherds] to tend sheep, and he asked them about her. One of them swore that he had not seen her. Satan entered the heart of the other as he had entered the heart of Judas, who handed Christ over to the Jews: thus [the second shepherd] handed the chaste woman into her father’s hand. Then she lifted her gaze toward that shepherd who had pointed her out to her father and she cursed him, and he and his flock became black rocks, [remaining so] to this very day.

So we have now seen this part of the tale in Greek, Syriac, Armenian, and Arabic. Here is a chart showing what happens to the cursed shepherd and his sheep in these versions:

shepherd sheep
Greek stone beetle
Syriac beetle beetle
Arabic stone stone
Armenian stone stone

This data is of course not based on a complete examination of surviving sources for this story, not even for the languages included here. In all likelihood a more thorough investigation would reveal even more variety across the versions of this text, as well as some clues as to when and whence the different metamorphoses manifest in these texts.

Procopius’ pre-martyrdom prayer (Armenian)   Leave a comment

Commemorated on July 8 is the saint Procopius (BHG 1576-1582; BHO 1002-1003). As an exercise for students of Armenian, here is the prayer he is made to utter just before he is decapitated. (Rough English translation at the end.) It contains many imperative forms (addressed to God) and several participles. Most of the vocabulary is fairly common, but I have been liberal in those I have included in the notes below. The text is available from an Armenian synaxarion in PO 21: 688-689. (Stylistically, note the placement of the imperatives: partly at the end of each main clause, partly at the beginning.)

Եւ յորժամ տանէին ի տեղին տարածեաց զձերս իւր յերկինս եւ ասէ. Տէր Աստուած իմ արարիչ երկնի եւ երկրի, հայր Տեառն մերոյ Յիսուսի Քրիստոսի, լո՛ւր աղաչանաց իմոց եւ կատարեա՛ զխնդրուածս իմ։

  • տանէին impf 3pl տանիմ, տարայ to carry away, lead away, bring
  • տարածեաց aor 3sg տարածեմ, տարածեցի to spread, stretch out
  • արարիչ creator
  • լո՛ւր impv 2sg լսեմ, լուայ to hear
  • աղաչանք prayer (pl. tantum)
  • կատարեա՛ impv 2sg կատարեմ, -եցի to accomplish, fulfill
  • խնդրուածք, -ծաց/-ծոց prayer, request (pl. tantum)

Պահեա՛ զքաղաքս զայս եւ սրբեա՛ ի կռապաշտութենէ,

  • պահեմ, -եցի to preserve, keep, watch over
  • սրբեմ, -եցի to sanctify, purify
  • կռապաշտութիւն idolatry

յիշեա եւ զամենայն ժողովուրդս քո եւ սրբեա՛ ի կռապաշտութենէ,

  • յիշեմ, -եցի to bear in mind, remember
  • ժողուորդ, -վդեան, -վրդոց people, assembly

եւ բժշկեա՛ զամենայն հիւանդութիւնս նոցա։

  • բժշկեմ, -եցի to cure
  • հիւանդութիւն illness, infirmity

Նեղելոց անդորրիչ լե՛ր,

  • նեղելոց ptcp gen.pl նեղիմ, -եցայ to be afflicted, troubled
  • անդորրիչ quieting, calming, comforting
  • լե՛ր impv 2sg լինիմ, եղէ to be

որբոց եւ այրեաց օգնական,

  • որբ, -ոց orphan
  • այրի, -րեաց widow
  • օգնական aid(ing), help(er)

եւ որոց ի բանդին այցելու,

  • բանդ/տ, -ից prison
  • այցելու, ,-ուի, -աց visitor

զնաւակոծեալս ի ծովու խաղաղութեամբ հասո՛ ի նաւահանգիստն,

  • նաւակոծեալս ptcp acc.pl. նաւակոցիմ to suffer shipwreck
  • խաղաղութիւն peace
  • հասո՛ impv 2sg հասուցանեմ, հասուցի to cause to reach, bring to (caus. of հասանեմ, հասի to arrive at, reach, the impv 2sg of which is հա՛ս)
  • նաւահանգիստ port, haven

ճանապարհորդաց ուղեկից, փախուցելոց ի բռնաւորաց ապաւէն,

  • ճանապարհորդ traveler, wayfarer
  • ուղեկից fellow traveler
  • փախուցանեմ, -եցի to put to flight, cause to flee
  • բռնաւոր violent; usurper, tyrant
  • ապաւէն, -ւինի, -նաց asylum, refuge

զիտանգեալսն ի ծառայութենէ ազատեա՛,

  • վտանգիմ, -եցայ to be in danger, peril, etc.
  • ծառայութիւն slavery, captivity
  • ազատեմ, -եցի to free, liberate, save

զդեւս ի մարդկանէ հալածեա՛,

  • մարդիկ, gen.sg. մարդկան humanity, the human race, people
  • հալծեմ, -եցի to expel, cast out, persecute, chase

զգլորեալսն կանգնեա՛,

  • գլորիմ, -եցայ to sink, fall
  • կանգնեմ, -եցի to raise, lift up, re-establish

զմոլորեալսն դարձո՛,

  • մոլորիմ, -եցայ to wander, go astray, err
  • դարձո՛ impv 2sg դարձուցանեմ, -ուցի to return, restore, bring back

մեղաւորաց թողութիւն շնորհեա՛,

  • մեղաւոր sinful, sinner
  • թողութիւն forgiveness, release
  • շնորհեմ, -եցի to give, grant, forgive

զսատանայական խորհուրդս խափանեա՛,

  • խորհուրդ, -ոց thought, intention
  • խափանեմ, -եցի to hinder, impede, intercept

բա՛ց զարքայութիւնդ քո ամենայն հաւատացելոց քոց,

  • բա՛ց open
  • հաւատամ, -տացի to believe

եւ որոց յանուն իմ եկեղեցի շինեն կամ յոսկերաց իմոց մասն առնուցուն, կամ զիշատակս իմ կատարեն,

  • շինեն, -եցի to found, built, construct
  • ոսկր, -աց bone
  • մասն, -սին, -սանց part, piece, relic
  • առնուցուն pres subj 3pl առնում, առի to take
  • յիշատակ, -աց commemoration, remembrance

պարգեւեա՛ նոցա զքո անբաւ ողորմութիւնդ,

  • պարգեւեմ, -եցի to give, present with
  • անբաւ, -ից infinite, innumerable
  • ողորմութիւն pity, mercy

եւ մի՛ եկեսցէ ի վերայ նոցա սատանայական փորձութիւնք,

  • եկեսցէ aor subj 3sg գամ, եկի to come
  • փորձութիւն temptation

եւ մի՛ բռնութիւնք ի թշնամեաց եւ յիշխանաց,

  • բռնութիւն violence, tyranny, assault
  • թշնամի, -նւոյ, -մեաց enemy, foe
  • իշխան, -աց sovereign, magistrate, ruler, governor

եւ ընկա՛լ զհոգիս իմ խաղաղութեամբ։

  • ընկա՛լ impv 2sg ընդունիմ, ընկալայ to receive

An English translation:

And as they were bringing him to the place [of his martyrdom], he spread his hands to heaven and said: Lord, my God, creator of heaven and earth, father of our Lord Jesus Christ, hear and fulfill my request. Watch over this city and cleanse it of idolatry. Remember, too, all your people: cleanse [them] of idolatry and cure every infirmity. Be a comforter to the afflicted, a helper to orphans and widows, a visitor to those in prison. Bring those who have suffered shipwreck on the sea to the haven in peace. [Be] a fellow traveler to wayfarers, a refuge to those put to flight by the violent. Free those in peril in slavery. Cast out demons from humanity. Raise up the fallen. Bring back those who are astray. Grant forgiveness to sinners. Impede satanic intentions. Open your kingdom to all who believe in you, those who will build a church in my name, take up the relics of my bones, or celebrate my commemoration. Grant them your infinite mercy. Do not let satanic temptation come upon them, nor violence from foes or magistrates. And receive my spirit in peace.

Old Georgian phrases and sentences 59: Fingernails and claws in three texts   Leave a comment

The content of this post stems from a chance sighting of a word in the Altgeorgisch-Deutsches Wörterbuch of Sarjveldze and Fähnrich: მოფრჩხენა “kratzen, zerkratzen” (794b). The lexicographers cite there the manuscript Jer.-149 (saints’ lives, 11th cent.), 144r, lines 14-16:

ფრჩხილითა თუისითა მოჰფრჩხენდა პირსა მისსა

Mit seiner Fingernägeln zerkratzte er ihm sein Gesicht.

  • ფრჩხილი (also ფრცხილი) fingernail, claw
  • თუისითა = თჳსითა
  • მო-ჰ-ფრჩხენ-დ-ა impf 3sg მოფრჩხენა to scratch, claw

He was scratching his face with his fingernails.

This reference to fingernails or claws brought to my mind Dan 4:33 (Theodotion):

αὐτῇ τῇ ὥρᾳ ὁ λόγος συνετλέσθη ἐπὶ Ναβουχοδονοσορ, καὶ ἀπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἐξεδιώχθη καὶ χόρτον ὡς βοῦς ἤσθιεν, καὶ ἀπὸ τῆς δρόσου τοῦ οὐρανοῦ τὸ σῶμα αὐτοῦ ἐβάφη, ἕως οὗ αἱ τρίχες αὐτοῦ ὡς λεόντων ἐμεγαλύνθησαν καὶ οἱ ὄνυχες αὐτοῦ ὡς ὀρνέων.

At the same time, the sentence was completed against Nabouchodonosor, and he was driven away from humans and ate grass like an ox, and his body was bathed with the dew of heaven until his hair lengthened like that of lions and his nails like those of birds. (NETS)

In Georgian (Oshki/Jer), Dan 4:30 (= Theod) is as follows:

მასვე ჟამსა შინა აღესრულა ნაბუქოდონოსორის ზედა, და კაცთაგან განიდევნა, და თივასა ვითარცა ზროხაჲ ჭამდა, და ცუარისაგან ცისა ჴორცნი მისნი შეიღებნეს, ვიდრემდე თმანი მისნი ვითარცა ლომისანი იქმნნეს, და ფრცხილნი მისნი ვითარცა მფრინველისანი.

  • აღ-ე-სრულ-ა aor 3sg აღსრულება to complete, fulfill, end (also kill)
  • გან-ი-დევნ-ა aor pass 3sg განდევნა to drive out, chase away
  • თივაჲ grass, hay
  • ზროხაჲ cow
  • ჭამ-დ-ა impf 3sg ჭამა to eat
  • ცუარი dew
  • შე-ი-ღებ-ნ-ეს aor pass 3pl შეღებვა to dip, wet
  • თმაჲ hair
  • ლომი lion
  • ი-ქმნ-ნ-ეს aor pass 3pl ქმნა to make
  • ფრცხილი fingernail, claw (ფრჩხილი above)
  • მფრინველი bird

Finally, one more verse with nails/claws came to mind: Lev 11:4.

πλὴν ἀπὸ τούτων οὐ φάγεσθε· ἀπὸ τῶν ἀναγόντων μηρυκισμὸν καὶ ἀπὸ τῶν διχηλούντων τὰς ὁπλὰς καὶ ὀνυχιζόντων ὀνυχιστῆρας· τὸν κάμηλον, ὅτι ἀνάγει μηρυκισμὸν τοῦτο, ὁπλὴν δὲ οὐ διχηλεῖ, ἀκάθαρτον τοῦτο ὑμῖν·

ხოლო მათგანი არა შჭამოთ, რომელნი აღმოიცოხნიან და რომელთაჲ არა განყოფილ არს ჭლაკი და რომელნი ფრცხენენ ფრცხილითა: აქლემი, რამეთუ აღმოიცოხნის და ჭლაკი მისი არა განპებულ არს, არაწმიდა არს ესე თქუენდა

  • შ-ჭამ-ო-თ aor conj 2pl ჭამა to eat [with სჭ > შჭ]
  • აღმო-ი-ცოხნ-ი-ან pres 3pl აღმოცოხნა to ruminate, chew the cud
  • განყოფილი divided, split
  • ჭლაკი hoof
  • ფრცხენ-ენ pres 3pl ფრცხენა (as with the noun, also ფრჩხენა) to scratch
  • აქლემი camel
  • აღმო-ი-ცოხნ-ი-ს pres 3sg აღმოცოხნა to ruminate, chew the cud
  • განპებული split, torn (განპება to split, tear) [NB a different word than that above, even though referring to the same thing; cf. the Greek]
  • არაწმიდაჲ impure

So we have three texts, one a manuscript citation of an unpublished text (at least as far as I know) in a lexicon, and two from the Bible, all stemming from one word: ფრცხილი and its variant ფრჩხილი. I hope it’s obvious that these lexical and textual chains can be instructive for language-learners and philologists generally.

Rabbula Gospels online!   Leave a comment

I learned earlier this week from a tweet by Matthew Crawford (@mattrcrawford) that the Rabbula Gospels are freely available to view online in fairly high-quality images. This sixth-century manuscript (Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Plut. 1.56) is famous especially for its artwork at the beginning of the codex before, surrounding, and following the Eusebian canon tables, including both figures from biblical history and animals: prophets, Mary, Jesus, scenes from the Gospels (Judas is hanging from a tree on f. 12r), the evangelists, birds, deer, rabbits, &c. Beginning on f. 13r, the folios are strictly pictures, the canon tables having been completed. These paintings are very pleasing, but lovers of Syriac script have plenty to feast on, too. The main text itself is written in large Estrangela, with the colophon (f. 291v-292v) also in Estrangela but mostly of a much smaller size. Small notes about particular lections are often in small Serto. The manuscript also has several notes in Syriac, Arabic, and Garšūnī in various hands (see articles by Borbone and Mengozzi in the bibliography below). From f. 15v to f. 19r is an index lectionum in East Syriac script. The Gospel text itself begins on f. 20r with Mt 1:23 (that is, the very beginning of the Gospel is missing).

The images are found here. (The viewer is identical to the one that archive.org uses.)

Rabbula Gospels, f. 231r, from the story of Jesus' turning the water into wine, Jn 2.

Rabbula Gospels, f. 231r, from the story of Jesus’ turning the water into wine, Jn 2.

Rabbula Gospels, f. 5r. The servants filling the jugs with the water that will become wine.

Rabbula Gospels, f. 5r. The servants filling the jugs with the water that will become wine.

For those interested in studying this important manuscript beyond examining these now accessible images, here are a few resources:

Bernabò, Massimò, ed. Il Tetravangelo di Rabbula: Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Plut. 1.56. L’illustrazione del Nuovo Testamento nella Siria del VI secolo. Folia picta 1. Rome, 2008. A review here.

Bernabò, Massimò, “Miniature e decorazione,” pp. 79-112 in Il Tetravangelo di Rabbula.

Bernabò, Massimò, “The Miniatures in the Rabbula Gospels: Postscripta to a Recent Book,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 68 (2014): 343-358. Available here.

Borbone, Pier Giorgio, “Codicologia, paleografia, aspetti storici,” pp. 23-58 in Il Tetravangelo di Rabbula. Available here.

Borbone, Pier Giorgio, “Il Codice di Rabbula e i suoi compagni. Su alcuni manoscritti siriaci della Biblioteca medicea laurenziana (Mss. Pluteo 1.12; Pluteo 1.40; Pluteo 1.58),” Egitto e Vicino Oriente 32 (2009): 245-253. Available here.

Borbone, Pier Giorgio, “L’itinéraire du “Codex de Rabbula” selon ses notes marginales,” pp. 169-180 in F. Briquel-Chatonnet and M. Debié, eds., Sur les pas des Araméens chrétiens. Mélanges offerts à Alain Desreumaux. Paris, 2010. Available here.

Botte, Bernard, “Note sur l’Évangéliaire de Rabbula,” Revue des sciences religieuses 36 (1962): 13-26.

Cecchelli, Carlo, Giuseppe Furlani, and Mario Salmi, eds. The Rabbula Gospels: Facsimile Edition of the Miniatures of the Syriac Manuscript Plut. I, 56 in the Medicaean-Laurentian Library. Monumenta occidentis 1. Olten and Lausanne, 1959.

Leroy, Jules, “L’auteur des miniatures du manuscrit syriaque de Florence, Plut. I, 56, Codex Rabulensis,” Comptes-rendus des séances de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, Paris 98 (1954): 278-283.

Leroy, Jules, Les manuscrits syriaques à peintures, conservés dans les bibliothèques d’Europe et d’Orient. Contribution à l’étude de l’iconographie des églises de langue syriaque. Paris, 1964.

Macchiarella, Gianclaudio, “Ricerche sulla miniatura siriaca del VI sec. 1. Il codice. c.d. di Rabula,” Commentari NS 22 (1971): 107-123.

Mango, Marlia Mundell, “Where Was Beth Zagba?,” Harvard Ukrainian Studies 7 (1983): 405-430.

Mango, Marlia Mundell, “The Rabbula Gospels and Other Manuscripts Produced in the Late Antique Levant,” pp. 113-126 in Il Tetravangelo di Rabbula.

Mengozzi, Alessandro, “Le annotazioni in lingua araba sul codice di Rabbula,” pp. 59-66 in Il Tetravangelo di Rabbula.

Mengozzi, Alessandro, “The History of Garshuni as a Writing System: Evidence from the Rabbula Codex,” pp. 297-304 in F. M. Fales & G. F. Grassi, eds., CAMSEMUD 2007. Proceedings of the 13th Italian Meeting of Afro-Asiatic Linguistics, held in Udine, May 21st-24th, 2007. Padua, 2010.Available here.

Paykova, Aza Vladimirovna, “Четвероевангелие Раввулы (VI в.) как источник по истории раннехристианского искусства,” (The Rabbula Gospels (6th cent.) as a Source for the History of Early Christian Art) Палестинский сборник 29 [92] (1987): 118-127.

Rouwhorst, Gerard A.M., “The Liturgical Background of the Crucifixion and Resurrection Scene of the Syriac Gospel Codex of Rabbula: An Example of the Relatedness between Liturgy and Iconography,” pp. 225-238 in Steven Hawkes-Teeples, Bert Groen, and Stefanos Alexopoulos, eds., Studies on the Liturgies of the Christian East: Selected Papers of the Third International Congress of the Society of Oriental Liturgy Volos, May 26-30, 2010. Eastern Christian Studies 18. Leuven / Paris / Walpole, MA, 2013.

Sörries, Reiner, Christlich-antike Buchmalerei im Überblick. Wiesbaden, 1993.

van Rompay, Lucas, “‘Une faucille volante': la représentation du prophète Zacharie dans le codex de Rabbula et la tradition syriaque,” pp. 343-354 in Kristoffel Demoen and Jeannine Vereecken, eds., La spiritualité de l’univers byzantin dans le verbe et l’image. Hommages offerts à Edmond Voordeckers à l’occasion de son éméritat. Instrumenta Patristica 30. Steenbrugis and Turnhout, 1997.

Wright, David H., “The Date and Arrangement of the Illustrations in the Rabbula Gospels,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 27 (1973): 199-208.

Old Georgian phrases and sentences 58 (Psalm 151:7)   Leave a comment

This time our Georgian lines come from Psalm 151 in a tenth-century Sinai manuscript. Among the following Georgian manuscripts of the Psalms in the old Sinai collection, only № 42 (see Garitte, Catalogue, pp. 156-158) has Psalm 151 (ff. 257v-258r, image 263), there following the Odes and the Beatitudes:

  • 22 (10th/11th, nusxuri)
  • 29 (10th, asomtavruli)
  • 42 (10th, asomtavruli)
  • 86 (14th/15th, nusxuri)

The others listed here only have the 150 Psalms and the Odes, except for № 22, which is incomplete at the end, and so it is not known what it had in addition to the 150 Psalms. Ps 151 not in the Graz manuscript, which ends with the Odes, but it is in Red. A, ed. M. Shanidze (at TITUS here).

Here is an image of our verse from the aforementioned Sinai manuscript (thanks to E-corpus):

Ps 151:7 in Sinai geo. 42, f. 258r

Ps 151:7 in Sinai geo. 42, f. 258r

Here is the asomtavruli and a transliteration into mxedruli:

Ⴞ(ႭႪႭ) ႫႤ ႱႠႾႤႪႨႧႠ ႳႴႪႨႱႠ Ⴖ(ႫႰ)ႧႨႱႠ ႹႤႫႨႱႠჂႧႠ ႫႭႥႨႶႤ ႫႠႾჃႪႨ ႨႢႨ ႫႨႱႨ ႣႠ ႫႭႥჀႩႭჃႤႧႤ ႧႠႥႨ ႫႨႱႨ ႣႠ ႠႶႥჄႭႺႤ ႷႭჃႤႣႰႤႡႠჂ ႻႤႧႠ ႢႠႬ Ⴈ(ႱႰႠ)ჁႪႨႱႠႧႠ

ხ(ოლო) მე სახელითა უფლისა ღ(მრ)თისა ჩემისაჲთა მოვიღე მახჳლი იგი მისი და მოვჰკუეთე თავი მისი და აღვჴოცე ყოჳედრებაჲ ძეთაგან ი(სრა)ჱლისათა.

  • მო-ვ-ი-ღე aor 1sg მოღება to take, get
  • მახჳლი sword
  • მო-ვ-ჰ-კუეთ-ე aor 1sg O3 მოკუეთა to cut off
  • აღ-ვ-ჴოც-ე aor 1sg აღჴოცა to destroy, remove
  • ყუედრებაჲ reproach, derision, abuse

Finally, for comparison, here is the verse in Greek, Armenian, and Syriac. The Georgian text is unique in having “with the name of the Lord, my God” at the beginning of the verse. (Syriac from Harry F. van Rooy, “A Second Version of the Syriac Psalm 151,” Old Testament Essays 11:3 (1998): 567-581; see also William Wright, “Some Apocryphal Psalms in Syriac,” Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology 9 (1886-1887): 257-266.)

ἐγὼ δὲ σπασάμενος τὴν παρ᾽ αὐτοῦ μάχαιραν ἀπεκεφάλισα αὐτὸν καὶ ἦρα ὄνειδος ἐξ υἱῶν Ισραηλ.

Ես հանի զսուսեր ՛ի նմանէ եւ հատի́ զգլուխ նորին, եւ բարձի զնախատինս յորդւոցն ի(սրաէ)լի։

հանեմ, հանի to draw, pull out | սուսեր sword | հատանեմ, հատի to cut | բառնամ, բարձի to lift, remove | նախատինք injury, blame, reproach, dishonor

9SH1 enā dēn kad šemṭēt saypēh pesqēt rēšēh w-arimēt ḥesdā men bnayyā d-Isrāʾēl

šmṭ to draw | saypā sword | psq to cut | rwm C to lift, remove | ḥesdā shame

12t5 enā dēn šemṭēt menēh ḥarbēh w-bēh nesbēt rēšēh w-aʿbrēt ḥesdā men Isrāʾēl

ḥarbā sword | nsb to take | ʿbr C to remove

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