Another manuscript of the Syriac Life of Barṣawmā   4 comments

While the industrious François Nau published a summary, with Syriac excerpts and French translation, of the sixth-century Life of Barṣawmā (d. 458), the full text has, to my knowledge never been published. According to Nau (ROC 18 [1913] 272 n. 1), three Syriac copies of the work, all incomplete, are known to exist: BL Add. 12174, 14732, and 14734, and this information does not seem to have had cause for emendation in the intervening century. Now, however, a new witness to this long and interesting text can be added to the list: Church of the Forty Martyrs 256, pp. 378-477. The text comes almost at the end of a 500-page codex. The main hand is a distinct Serṭo that is very easy to read, and vowels are present here and there. The last page of the manuscript (513), which is written in a different hand than the majority of the book, has the date 1982 AG, that is, 1670/1 CE. This scribe says, “Don’t blame me because I messed it up, since the exemplar was in Arabic,” a statement that must refer to the text at the very end (on Moses), which the scribe apparently translated from Arabic into Syriac, and not to the Life of Barṣawmā. This copy of the Life of Barṣawmā is unfortunately missing a few folios at the end, but it goes to miracle no. 96 (out of 99 or 100). While of dubious historical value, the story most certainly possesses other qualities customarily met with in hagiographic literature, including just plain entertainment!


J.M. Fiey, Saints syriaques (Princeton, 2004), no. 79 (pp. 49-50).

F. Nau, “Résumé de monographies syriaques,” Revue de l’Orient chrétien 18 (1913): 270-276, 379-389; 19 (1914): 113-134, 278-289. (These and a host of other important articles are available here.)

L. Van Rompay, “Barṣawmo,” in Sebastian Brock, Aaron Butts, George Kiraz, and Lucas Van Rompay, eds., Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage (Piscataway, 2011).

4 responses to “Another manuscript of the Syriac Life of Barṣawmā

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. This is a lovely clear copy of an important text (are there now end to the treasures to be found at HMML!) You’ll be pleased to know that Andrew Palmer is currently editing this saint’s life for the CSCO while a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Muenster (

  2. Pingback: A Letter of Severos of Antioch « hmmlorientalia

  3. Pingback: Another means of cursing « hmmlorientalia

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: