Cornelius a Lapide’s commentaries in Arabic (Garšūnī)   Leave a comment

Yesterday, while going through a series of biblical commentaries from the Church of the Forty Martyrs in Mardin, I came across a 17th century manuscript of fair size, over 700 pages, that turned out to cover only 1 and 2 Corinthians. The next manuscript was an even greater mammoth, amounting to around 1000 pages. Both codices were translated from the voluminous exegetical work of the Belgian Jesuit scholar Cornelius a Lapide (1567-1637). Together these two books (perhaps originally three volumes, since in the second pagination begins anew about halfway through, and there’s a colophon at that point, too, as well as at the end) cover the Epistles of Paul, excluding Romans. (Cornelius’ surname, van den Steen originally and latinized as a Lapide, becomes quite appropriately Al-Ḥajarī in Arabic!) They were originally written in Latin, but, sponsored by Michael Farḥāt (brother of Germanos Farḥāt), a Maronite scholar named Yūsuf ibn Jirgis al-Bānī translated them into Arabic in 1715, as stated in the rubrics.[1] Significantly, these Mardin copies are quite early: the larger volume is dated 1717, with the scribe named as `Abd al-Masīḥ ibn Buṭrus of Aleppo; the second volume, although having no colophon, is certainly by the same scribe and was probably written at about the same time. None of the manuscripts listed by Graf are dated this early, but some come within a few years of 1717. I was a little surprised to find a text so clearly Maronite in this Syriac Orthodox collection, but it has been with them for a rather long time, because, according to waqf-notes in each book, they were donated to Dayr Al-Za`farān by Patriarch George III of Mosul (1745-1768). As indicated above, both codices are in Garšūnī. While I have seen before specific expressions like “translated into Garšūnī” (as opposed to simply “into Arabic”), the rubrics for both of these texts have only “into Arabic”. Given the very early date of these copies, it is certainly possible that Cornelius a Lapide’s work first appeared in Arabic with Syriac letters, not Arabic.

Rubric at the beginning of CFMM 115.

[1] So also Graf, GCAL III 386-387.

Colophon at the end of CFMM 115, pt. I, with the scribe's name and the year 1717.

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