انّ بأيدي السامريّة توراة غير التوراة التي بأيدي سائر اليهود ويدّعون انها المنزلة على موسى ويقطعون بأن التي بأيدي سائر اليهود محرّفة مبدّلة
The Samaritans have a Pentateuch different (ġayr) from that of the rest of the Jews. They claim that it was sent down [from heaven] to Moses and assert confidently that the one the rest of the Jews have is corrupted and altered (muḥarrafa mubaddala).
(from Ibn Ḥazm’s Al-Fiṣal, more text and trans. [adapted here] in Shehadeh 1989, 491)
If within biblical studies research on the Bible in Arabic is somewhat of a fringe field, within Arabic biblical studies, research on the Samaritan Arabic version of the Bible is a niche even further away. There are, nevertheless, some secondary sources and at least the beginnings of publishing critical editions, scholarly attention to the language and text reaching back, however, to De Sacy (1758-1838) and even earlier. As will be obvious from the bibliography below, Haseeb Shehadeh is the most active scholar in this area currently. His survey article from 1989 (on which much of the information in the following paragraph is based) offers a good introduction to the subject.
The lines above from Ibn Ḥazm (994-1064), while unclear as to which language or languages — Hebrew, Aramaic, or Arabic — the pentateuchal text in question was in, at least reveal recognition of the uniqueness of the community and their biblical literature. As in much of Arabic studies, especially Arabic studies outside the classics of Islamic literature, in this particular branch of study scholars must have frequent recourse to manuscripts, and as elsewhere in the study of biblical texts and versions, cross-linguistic comparison is absolutely necessary at almost every point. (As intimated above, there are Samaritan biblical texts in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic, all generally written in Samaritan script, but there are also copies of the Arabic in Arabic script.) Many manuscripts bear witness to the Arabic version, the oldest dated copy being Shechem Synagogue 6 from 1204 CE in Samaritan script, and the oldest copy in Arabic script being BL Or. 2688 from 1223/4 CE. There are in fact two Samaritan Arabic versions, an old translation and a revision (with scholia) of the translation then current among Samaritans in Egypt by Abū Saʿīd (this version mostly in Arabic-script copies); the old translation relies more heavily on the Samaritan Aramaic Targum than the later revision, itself undertaken because the older version was considered stylistically poor from an Arabic point of view and because of its connection to Saʿadya’s translation. Fortunately, for some people these two endeavors — studying manuscripts and comparing textual versions — are interesting and rewarding work! To be discovered in this research, at least, are matters linguistic, text-critical, religious, and historical.
The beginning of Gen 49 in Samaritan script, Arabic script, and the Polyglot text for comparison; from Hwiid 1780 (see below).
For those who may be interested in looking into the subject further, here are some texts and studies:
J. Bloch, Die samaritanisch-arabische Pentateuchübersetzung. Deuteronomium I-X, nach Handschriften in Berlin, Gotha, Kiel, Leiden und Paris mit Einleitung und Noten (Berlin, 1901).
A.D. Crown, The Samaritan Scribes and Manuscripts (Tübingen, 2001), pp. 22-25.
A.S. Halkin, “The Scholia to Numbers and Deuteronomy in the Samaritan Arabic Pentateuch,” Jewish Quarterly Review 34 n.s. (1943-44): 41-59.
A.C. Hwiid, Specimen ineditae versionis Arabico-Samaritanae, Pentateuchi e codice manuscripto Bibliothecae Barberinae (Rome, 1780).
T.G.J. Juynboll, “Commentatio de versione Arabico-Samaritana, et de scholiis, quae codicibus Parisiensibus n. 2 et 4 adscripta sunt,” Orientalia 2 (1846), pp. 113-157.
A. Kuenen, Libri Exodi et Levitici secundum arabicam Pentateuchi Samaritani versionem ab Abu-Saido conscriptam (Leiden, 1854).
________, Specimen e literis orientalibus exhibens librum Geneseos, secundum arabicam Pentateuchi samaritani versionem ab Abu-Saido conscriptam (Leiden, 1851).
________, Specimen theologicum continens Geneseos libri capita triginta quatuor priora ex Arabica Pentateuchi Samaritani Versione nunc primum edita cum prolegomenis (Leiden, 1851).
R. Macuch, “On the Problems of the Arabic Translation of the Samaritan Pentateuch,” Israel Oriental Studies 9 (1979): 147-173.
E. Robertson, “The Relationship of the Arabic Translation of the Samaritan Pentateuch to that of Saadya,” in E.I.J. Rosenthal, ed., Saadya Studies (Manchester, 1943), pp. 166-176.
S. de Sacy, “Mémoire sur la version arabe des livres de Moïse à l’usage des Samaritains et sur les manuscrits de cette version,” Mémoires de l’Académie Royale des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres 49 (1808), pp. 1-149, 783-786.
G. Schwarb, “Samaritan Acquaintance with Qaraite Bible Translations: Fact or Fiction,” Journal of Intellectual History in the Islamicate World 1 (forthcoming, 2013).
H. Shehadeh, “The Arabic Translation of the Samaritan Pentateuch,” in A.D. Crown, ed., The Samaritans (Tübingen, 1989), pp. 481-516.
________, The Arabic Translation of the Samaritan Pentateuch [in Hebrew], PhD thesis, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1977.
________, “The Arabic Translation of the Samaritan Pentateuch” [in Hebrew], Tarbiz, 52.1 (1982): 59-82.
________, The Arabic Translation of the Samaritan Pentateuch edited from Manuscripts, vol. 1, Genesis-Exodus (Jerusalem, 1989).
________, The Arabic Translation of the Samaritan Pentateuch, vol. 2, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy (Jerusalem, 2002).
________, “Arabic Versions of the Pentateuch,” in A. Crown, R. Pummer, and A. Tal, eds., A Companion to Samaritan Studies (Tübingen, 1993), pp. 22-24.
________, “The Classification of the Versions of the Samaritan Arabic Translation of the Pentateuch and Identifying Nomenclature of the Fauna” [in Hebrew, English summary], Leshonenu, 48-49.1 (1984): 35-48.
________, “The Groups of the Samaritan Manuscripts of the Arabic Translation of the Pentateuch,” in J.-P. Rothschild and G.D. Sixdenier, eds., Études samaritaines, Pentateuque et Targum, exégèse et philologie, chroniques (Paris, 1988), pp. 205-218.
________, “A New Group of Manuscripts including an Arabic Translation of the Samaritan Pentateuch (ATSP),” in A. Tal and M. Florentin, eds. Proceedings of the First International Congress of the Société d’ Études Samaritaines, Tel-Aviv, April-13, 1988 (Tel-Aviv, 1991), pp. 275-292.
________, “A New Unknown Version of the Arabic Translation of the Samaritan Pentateuch?” in M. Macuch, et al., eds., Studia Semitica necnon Iranica Rudolpho Macuch septuagenario (Wiesbaden, 1989), pp. 303-327.
W. van Vloten, Specimen philogicum continens descriptionem codicis MS Bibliothecae Lugduno-Batavae partemque inde excerptam versionis Samaritano-arabicae Pentateuchi Mosaici (1803).
A.S. Zhamkochian, A.S. Vnov’ identifitsirovannye i neopublikovannye fragmenty arabskikh versij samaritianskogo Piatiknizhija iz sobranija Rossijskoj Natsional’noj biblioteki [Newly Identified and Unpublished Fragments of the Arabic Versions of the Samaritan Pentateuch from the collection of the National Library of Russia] (Moscow, 2001).
________, Neopublikovannye fragmenty arabskikh versij samaritianskogo Piatiknizhija iz sobranija RNB [Newly Identified and Unpublished Fragments of the Arabic Versions of the Samaritan Pentateuch from the collection of the National Library of Russia] (Ph.D. dissertation, Yerevan University, 1994).
I’m back from a week-long visit to Malta. As I mentioned in the previous post, I was there for the Symposium Syriacum (first part of the week) and Conference on Christian Arabic Studies (last part). The official languages of Malta (since 1934, reaffirmed after independence in 1964) are English and Maltese, and Maltese is now an official language of the EU (from 2003). As a graduate student I studied Maltese a little in Bergsträsser’s Introduction to the Semitic Languages (206-208, with some scattered remarks on 185-198). On arriving to Malta, the first word I noticed was Ħruġ (= خروج) on a sign in the airport. The language is a fascinating arena for linguists to study language contact, sociolinguistics, and other areas of their field. Here are a few remarks on the language especially from a perspective of historical linguistics.
Some historical points
Maltese is a striking mixture of Arabic and Romance languages, and the background for this mixture is, of course, observable in its history. While the Muslim occupation of the ninth century and Romance contacts from the eleventh are perhaps the most salient events in Malta’s linguistic history, it is worth highlighting especially that a Semitic linguistic substratum is present thanks to earlier Phoenician presence, Phoenician and then Punic and Neo-Punic having been used on the island centuries before. With the expulsion of the Muslims in the mid-thirteenth century, classical Arabic as a standardizing anchor loses its potency and the mixture with Romance elements begins in earnest. Documents in Latin from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries reveal a recognition of “Maltese” as a distinct linguistic entity; among those cited by Wettinger (and Borġ) is one from 1521 with the words ut maltensi lingua dicimus.
- Neolithic farmers from Sicily arrive around 5000 BCE
- Bronze Age people arrive around 2000 BCE
- Phoenicians arrive in the eighth century BCE
- Carthaginians rule during the Punic period
- Under Roman rule (province of Sicily) from 210 BCE
- In the third century CE Vandal and then Ostrogoth rule
- Byzantine rule from 535 CE
- Muslims take Malta in 869 or 870 CE
- They are expelled in the mid-thirteenth century
Pronunciation and orthography
The developed phonological features of Maltese are known from other Arabic dialects (and other Semitic languages), too. These include:
- h > 0
- ḫ > ḥ (ħ in the standard orthography)
- ġ > ʿ which itself somewhat weakens to a pharyngealizing force on a nearby vowel, għ in Maltese orthography; at word end, ʿ has completely died away, as with the genitive particle, ta < (ultimately) متاع “property, goods (of)”
- see below for some examples of vowel changes
Maltese orthography was standardized in 1924; for the most part, it still conveys relatively well how one pronounces the language, but it does look a little strange at first glance.
Below are listed some words that reveal divergences of Maltese from (literary) Arabic, and many of these divergences are likewise known from other Arabic dialects. The sign < below, it should be stressed, is meant to indicate genetic relationship, but not necessarily a direct genetic link, that is, the movement is not necessarily directly from high classical Arabic as a literary, recited, or formal linguistic entity, but perhaps from some form of colloquial Arabic spoken on the island in centuries prior.
- minkeb “elbow” < mankib (Ar. “shoulder”)
- musmar “nail” < mismār
- muftieħ “key” < miftāḥ (the correspondence Ar. ā : Mlt ie is very frequently attested)
- raġel “man” < raǧul
- mara “woman” < (al-)marʾa
- baqra “cow” < baqara
- mejda “table” < māʾida
- xiħ “old man” < šayḫ
- xitan “devil” < šayṭān
- kelb “dog” < kalb
- ħġieġ “glass” < certainly from zuǧāǧ, but I can’t immediately interpret the change z > ħ
-semantic change in Arabic words
- ħażin “bad” (Ar. “sad”)
- ġawhra “pearl” (Ar. more generally “jewel, gem”)
- ġebla “stone” (Ar. “mountain”)
-when Arabic is used and when Romance
- skur “dark” (adj.) (cf. It. scuro; note, too, the chance similarity with the root šḥr in Arabic, Aramaic, and Hebrew!)
- kannella “brown” (< It. cannella “cinnamon”?)
Many words pertaining to Christianity are of Latin or Italian origin — artal [metathesis!], kappella, kruċifis, anġlu, priedka, &c. — but some, including the following, are from Arabic:
- knisja “church”
- xemgħa “candle”
- isqof “bishop”
- magħmudija “baptism”
- nisrani “Christian”
- qrar “confession”
- xitan “Satan”
- alla “God”
- quddiesa “Mass”
- talba “prayer”
- qassis “priest”
- qaddis “saint”
Four of the elements in the Maltese title are Semitic, one Romance.
For nouns and adjectives, the plural forms of Arabic (sound and broken) appear also in Maltese, but Italian or Sicilian nouns generally end with -i in the plural.
In verb conjugation, there is nothing surprising if we keep in mind developments that show up in other Semitic languages and especially Arabic dialects. There are six main vocalic structures for the perfect (3ms), e.g. talab, ħareġ, fehem, seraq, kiser, qorob. For the 3fs the theme vowel is reduced and -et comes at the end, and for 2cs and 1cs the ending is -t (no vowel) and the first vowel of the stem has been reduced, as with fehmet “she understood”, fhimt (NB -e- theme vowel > -i-!) “you/I understood”. These same patterns occur again in the plural: for 3cp, we have e.g. fehmu, etc., for 2mp fhimtu and for 1cp fhimna. Imperfect and imperative forms are similarly unsurprising: joħroġ/oħroġ, joqtol/oqtol, jifhem/ifhem, jifraħ/ifraħ. Non-Semitic verbs in Maltese are adapted to the attachment of these prefixes and suffixes. Space here precludes further presentation of verbal forms (including the derived forms, which do occur in Maltese), but suffice it to say that anyone familiar with morphological developments across the Semitic languages will find few snares in the language.
I hope to look into syntax in a future post.
Borġ, Alexander. “Maltese as a National Language.” In Stefan Weninger, ed., The Semitic Languages: An International Handbook. Berlin, 2011. Pp. 1033-1041. [With bibliography.]
Brincat, Joseph M. Maltese and Other Languages: A Linguistic History of Malta. Sta Venera, Malta, 2011.
Moser, Manfred. Malti-Ġermaniż ‧ Dizzjunarju kbir. Deutsch-Maltesisch ‧ Großes Wörterbuch. Wiesbaden, 2005.
Schabert, P. “Text aus Malta.” In W. Fischer and O. Jastrow, eds., Handbuch der arabischen Dialekte. Wiesbaden, 1980. Pp. 286-291.
Wettinger, G. “Plurilingualism and Cultural Change in Medieval Malta.” Mediterranean Language Review 6-7 (1993): 144-153.
*There are a few items on Maltese listed in the section “Arabic (dialectal)” of del Olmo Lete’s bibliography for Semitic languages.
Last year about this time I participated in the North American Syriac Symposium at Duke University, and next week will take place on Malta the eleventh quadrennial international Symposium Syriacum and the ninth Conference on Christian Arabic Studies. I’ll be presenting a paper there on Job of Edessa’s Treatise on Rabies, and in another session I’ll participate in a presentation to give an update on some of HMML’s recent activities in the fields of Syriac and Arabic manuscripts. For anyone who cares, here’s the abstract for the paper on Job of Edessa’s work on rabies:
While the history and sources of the science of human medicine in Arabic and (to a lesser extent) Syriac literature have attracted a reasonable amount of scholarly attention, the same cannot be said for veterinary medicine, almost certainly due to the latter field’s greater paucity of sources. One such source, however — all the more important because there are not many of them — has been known in the west for almost a century now but has never been studied: a Syriac text entitled A Treatise on Rabies by Job (Iyob or Ayyūb) of Edessa (d. ca. 835). This work, which also deals with serpents and scorpions in addition to rabid canines, survives, as far as is known, in three late manuscripts, and it has never been edited or translated. Where the author is known, it is for his much longer and encyclopedic Book of Treasures (ed. and tr. 1935), the only other work of Job’s that survives, though a few other theological, medical, and philosophical titles are known. Both Job and his son Ibrāhīm served as physicians in the Abbasid entourage, and Job is mentioned in Arabic sources, including Ḥunayn b. Isḥāq’s Risālah, as a prolific translator of Galen’s works into Syriac. The work on rabies, an original composition divided into eight sections, deals with, among other things, the propensity of dogs to this affliction, the fear of water experienced by rabid dogs and people with rabies, a comparison of rabies with other animal stings and poisons, and the lethality of a rabid dog’s bite. The object of this paper is to make this interesting and thus far unstudied text better known. After some details on the life and work of Job of Edessa and on the history of veterinary medicine, especially in the Middle East, the subject turns to Job’s text itself by analyzing its contents, outlining the scientific vocabulary, investigating the author’s possible sources, and situating it within the history of science and veterinary medicine.
I’m looking forward to talking with colleagues and friends in Syriac and Arabic studies, and, of course, to seeing Malta, whither I’ve never been.
P.S. The title of this post was chosen with a full nod to Lead Belly’s “Alabama Bound” (my home state)!
Many of us who work on Syriac literature read portions of one of the Syriac versions of Kalila wa-Dimna in our beginning days of studying the language. It’s an entertaining and engaging read, generally not too difficult, and contains many words not so commonly met with in texts of more pedestrian, run-of-the-mill, literary genres. Several months ago I was studying the work again, not only its Syriac witness, but others, too, and naturally I consulted Brockelmann’s article on it in the Encyclopaedia of Islam (2d ed., vol. 4, 503-506). From the details he provides I drew up for my own reference this diagram, admittedly crude, of the relationships among the many versions of this long popular text.
I keep it up on the wall in my office, not because I consult it that often, but because I appreciate the complexity — linguistic, literary, historico-cultural, &c. — that it serves as a reminder for. If anyone else finds it of use, good; if not, well, at least this may serve as a prod for you to devote some of your next leisure reading to these stories in some language or other!