Archive for July 2014

On Saint Mark’s, Jerusalem, № 181 (content, notes, & endpapers)   Leave a comment

Manuscript № 181 of Saint Mark’s Monastery in Jerusalem (SMMJ) is an East Syriac manuscript, written, it seems, by a scribe named ʿAbdišoʿ of Ātēl. The main content of the manuscript is the First Part of Isaac of Bēt Qaṭrāyē, bishop of Nineveh’s famous monastic work (see GEDSH 213-214).

SMMJ 181, f. 1v

SMMJ 181, f. 1v

The text is complete, but between chapters 34 and 35 (acc. to Bedjan‘s numbering; the chapters are mostly unnumbered in this manuscript) there is another text, the beginning of which is unfortunately missing. After a little searching — thanks to Luk Van Rompay for the tip to check the Synodicon orientale! — I found that this intervening text is a Letter on Proper Conduct, especially on marriage, by Catholicos Aba I (d. 552; GEDSH 1), the text of which was published by Bedjan and Chabot; as it survives in this manuscript, the text corresponds to Bedjan, Histoire de Mar-Jabalaha, 282.3-287.12, and Chabot, Synodicon orientale, 83.6-85.9.

After the First Part, at the end of the manuscript, there are two more notes I would like to share. First, a note that seems to be in the same hand as the copied text of the manuscript:

SMMJ 181, f. 358v, scribal (?), note

SMMJ 181, f. 358v, scribal (?), note

Bless, sirs! Pray in the love of Christ for the sinner ʿAbdišoʿ of Ātēl, worn out, who came to Jerusalem in the year 1955 AG [=1643/4 CE].

He wrote these lines.

And again in the year 1962 AG [=1650/1 CE] the sinner came to Jerusalem. Pray for me. Amen.

Second, there is a short Syriac verse in the seven-syllable meter (with rhyme-end in -ṭē):

SMMJ 181, f. 358v

SMMJ 181, f. 358v

At the end of doomed times,

Let rulers be cursed,

Along with all idlers and slackers,

Foolish people and idiots!

Finally, the manuscript has pastedowns and endpapers in Syriac and Arabic. Here are two examples:

SMMJ 181, endpaper in Arabic

SMMJ 181, endpaper in Arabic

SMMJ 181, endpaper from a Syriac lectionary, here with Ex 34:34-35 and Isa 58:1

SMMJ 181, endpaper from a Syriac lectionary

I’ve not identified the Arabic text, but the Syriac endpaper above is from a lectionary, here with Ex 34:34-35 and Isa 58:1.

Old Georgian phrases and sentences 30 (Amirandarejaniani)   Leave a comment

Today’s selection is actually not Old Georgian, but later, belonging to the corpus of Middle Georgian. In this period, beginning in the 11th and 12th centuries, religious literature continued to be copied and composed, but there is a flowering of secular literature alongside it, in terms of both poetry and prose, very much influenced by Persian literature, with even more than one version of parts of the Šāh-nāma. The most famous product of the period, of course, is Shota Rustaveli‘s (შოთა რუსთაველი) Knight in the Panther’s Skin (ვეფხისტყაოსანი). (On Persian-Georgian contacts see here and here from the Encyclopaedia Iranica.) Students of Georgian language and literature, and well as students of comparative literature generally, would benefit by more accessible studies of these texts and the language used in them. Complete English translations, published alongside Georgian texts, are an obvious need, but a lexicon specifically based on this corpus of literature would be of great value.

The text below comes from the Amirandarejaniani, ascribed to Mose Khoneli (12th cent.). Thankfully, along with a number of other Middle Georgian texts, the edition of I. Lolašvili (1960) is available at TITUS, and there is even an English rendering by R.H. Stevenson: Amiran-Darejaniani: A Cycle of Medieval Georgian Tales traditionally ascribed to Mose Khoneli (Oxford, 1958).

Picture 45


The excerpt below comes from Ch. 3 (the numbering is not the same in the ET), p. 303 of Lolašvili’s edition, lines 30-33:

გამოჴდა პატარა ხანი, მოვიდა ნოსარ და კაცი ჰყვა შეპყრობილი. ოდეს მოიყვანა, საკვირველი კაცი იყო: ორი პირი ჰქონდა, ერთი შავი და ერთი — ვითა სისხლი. მით შავითა პირითა სპარსულად უბნობდა და წითლისა ვერა გავიგონეთ რა.

After some time, however, Nosar Nisreli came up: with him he brought a captive — and truly a strange man it was we now beheld! For he had two faces, one black and one blood-red. With the black he spoke Persian and with the red [in some tongue] we could not understand. (ET Stevenson, p. 28)

Vocabulary and grammar notes

  • გამო-ჴდ-ა [typo at TITUS გამოჴთა] aor 3s გამოჴდომა to pass, go by
  • პატარა a little, short
  • ხანი time
  • მოვიდა aor 3s მოსლვა to come
  • ჰ-ყვ-ა aor 3s ყვება to accompany, follow
  • შეპყრობილი captured, captive
  • ოდეს when
  • მო-ი-ყვან-ა aor 3s მოყვანება to bring (here)
  • საკვირველი (საკჳრველი) wonderful, amazing
  • ორი პირი numerals with the counted thing in the singular are regular (also the norm in Modern Georgian, see Aronson § 6.6). For an example in Old Georgian: Mt 14:19 Adishi და მოიღო ხუთი იგი პური და ორი თევზი (λαβὼν τοὺς πέντε ἄρτους καὶ τοὺς δύο ἰχθύας)
  • ჰ-ქონ-და impf 3s ქონება, to have, with the possessor marked by the ჰ- and the thing possessed is the grammatical subject (the vowel in the root, when fully present, is -ო- in Middle and Modern Georgian, but -უ- in earlier Georgian [Old აქუს, Modern აქვს he has (Rayfield et al. 118; cf. Marr-Brière 688 s.v. ქუნ)], although the v.n. ქონებაჲ is in Old Georgian, too: S-F 1279)
  • შავი black
  • ვითა = ვითარ
  • სისხლი blood
  • სპარსულად in Persian
  • უბნობ-და impf 3s უბნობა to speak
  • ვერა = ვერ
  • გა-ვ-ი-გონ-ე-თ aor 1pl გაგონება to grasp, recognize

I have previously discussed a passage from another Middle Georgian text, the Visramiani, and there is, I hope, more to come!

Talking to a dog in Aramaic   1 comment

At some points in the history of lexicography, the acceptable fodder for lexicographers has been restricted, investigations into non-literary and purely colloquial words being eschewed. In the course of the last few centuries, at least, in more than one lexicographic arena, this custom has fortunately fallen into disuse, with the study of slang, etc. finding able word-hunters such as John S. Farmer (on whom see here, with numerous works here, with his French-English Vocabula Amatoria elsewhere), Allen Walker Read (Lexical Evidence from Folk Epigraphy in Western North America: A Glossarial Study of the Low Element in the English Vocabulary [Paris, 1935], reprinted by Maledicta Press in 1977 as Classical American Graffiti), and more recently Eric Partridge, Jonathon Green, and others. It is not only the vocabulary of languages of Europe that have been studied on this more earthy level. Yona Sabar’s Jewish Neo-Aramaic Dictionary (Harrassowitz, 2002), for example, includes in its store euphemisms, taboo words, and metaphors as such, as well as the vocabulary of women’s speech and baby talk (see pp. 59-64).

The tenth-century scholar Ḥasan bar Bahlul (see GEDSH, p. 54) compiled a large Syriac lexicon, which contains many terms that are quite rare — indeed some words we know only thanks to his lexicon — and he also gives evidence of Aramaic dialects as spoken in his own time. One colloquial word, yet a word that he came across, he says, in reading, not necessarily in speech, is kušukušu:

Eric Partridg
Eric Partridge
Bar Bahlul's lexicon, ed. Duval, col. 883

Bar Bahlul’s lexicon, ed. Duval, col. 883

Kušukušu. I found it in the Proverbs [or tales] of the Arameans. [It is a term for] coaxing a dog, putting a dog at ease.

This is just the kind of dog-speech one might use with the animal as described by T.S. Eliot:

The usual Dog about the Town

Is much inclined to play the clown,

And far from showing too much pride

Is frequently undignified.

He’s very easily taken in —

Just chuck him underneath the chin

Or slap his back or shake his paw,

And he will gambol and guffaw.

He’s such an easy-going lout,

He’ll answer any hail or shout.

Perhaps especially a hail or shout “Kušukušu!” If we’re to believe the rest of Eliot’s poem (thanks to my children for keeping it so often in my ears), it’s not so with cats!

Bar Bahul’s complete lexicon, ed. R. Duval, is available online, and the CAL project provides links from individual lemmas to the appropriate pages. The work is hardly a mere glossary, with just close equivalents for Syriac-Syriac or Syriac-Arabic. Some entries are long and give much more than simple definitions (e.g. philosophy on cols. 1548-1554). A full-scale study of the work would yield us a fuller picture of intellectual work and knowledge around Baghdad in the tenth century, especially in Christian circles, so hopefully some able scholar will undertake such a project before long, and a complete digital edition, fully searchable, would be a good foundational start.

Chrysostom’s reference to translations of the Bible   2 comments

The fact that texts of the Bible exist in so many languages makes it a fascinating arena in which to study all sorts of philological phenomena. Research on these texts, in whatever language, may include the attempt to pinpoint when the biblical text comes into this or that language, by whom, &c. With much less specificity and altogether different concerns, in his second homily on the Gospel of John, on Jn 1:1 (text in PG 59: 29-38), John Chrysostom has a remark that touches on some of the languages within the purview of hmmlorientalia. At this place, the homilist is making the point that the apostle John, unlettered as he was, uttered teachings grander, more glorious, and more useful than those the learned Greeks might appreciate, including Pythagoras — who “set in motion ten thousand kinds of magic” (col. 32, γοητείας κινήσας εἴδη μυρία) — and Plato, the doctrines of them all, he says implausibly, being “extinguished and vanished” (col. 31, ἔσβεσται ἅπαντα καὶ ἠφάνισται)! The teaching of the unlearned John, however, has been spreading.

ἀλλὰ καὶ Σύροι καὶ Αἰγύπτιοι καὶ Ἰνδοὶ καὶ Πέρσαι καὶ Αἰθίοπες καὶ μυρία ἕτερα ἔθνη εἰς τὴν αὐτῶν μεταβαλόντες γλῶτταν τὰ παρὰ τούτου δόγματα εἰσαχθέντα ἔμαθον ἄνθρωποι βάρβαροι φιλοσοφεῖν. (col. 32)

But Syrians, Egyptians, Indians, Persians, Ethiopians, and ten thousand other peoples, translating into their own languages the doctrines introduced by him [John], barbarians learned to philosophize.

While we have and still use all of these gentilics, the identity of the peoples Chrysostom had in mind is not necessarily certain. Given his hyperbolic reference to “ten thousand other peoples,” he is not, in any case, aiming to be very specific. Whatever their identity, they’re still barbarians! (John, even without much learning, was not really a barbarian for Chrysostom because he used Greek.) Chrysostom is not being specific about the parts of the Bible he has in mind, either, but minimally he is thinking of the Gospel of John. One result of this vaguely mentioned translation activity is that hitherto non-philosophizing peoples have now learned to do just that. Combined with Chrysostom’s previous remarks in this homily, we come to his conclusion that the teachings of Plato and (especially) Pythagoras constitute bad philosophy, justly withering, while the simple, unlettered, and little-thought-of John the apostle is one means through which a higher and better philosophy, one that even non-Greeks can study and practice, has spread.

Avid Syriac readers will know about the appearance last year of the first part of the Syriac version of Chrysostom’s homilies on John (homilies 1-43) in CSCO 651/ScrSyr 250 by Jeff Childers. The Syriac part corresponding to the Greek text above is on p. 14, ll. 16-18. (Since the appearance of Syriac is still not always reliable on different machines, I’ve also given a transliteration. The accompanying ET in CSCO 652 is not immediately available to me, so the translation below is mine):

ܐܠܐ ܐܦ ܣܘܪ̈ܝܝܐ ܘܡܨܪ̈ܝܐ ܘܗܢܕ̈ܘܝܐ ܘܦܪ̈ܣܝܐ ܘܟܘܫ̈ܝܐ ܘܪ̈ܒܘܬܐ ܕܥܡ̈ܡܐ ܐܚܪ̈ܢܐ. ܝܘܠܦܢܗ ܕܗܢܐ ܒܠܫܢܝ̈ܗܘܢ ܦܫܩܘ. ܘܐܝܠܦܘ ܚܟܡܬܗ܀

ellā āp suryāyē w-meṣrāyē w-hendwāyē w-pārsāyē w-kušāyē w-rebbwātā d-ʕammē (ʔ)ḥrānē yulpānēh d-hānā b-leššānayhon paššeq(w) w-ilep(w) ḥekmtēh

But Syrians, Egyptians, Indians, Persians, Ethiopians (Cushites), and myriads of other peoples have translated this man’s doctrine into their own languages and have learned his wisdom.

Here are some of the Greek-Syriac correspondences with comments:

  • εἰς τὴν αὐτῶν … γλῶτταν b-leššānayhon. The pronominal elements are plural in both languages, but “language” is singular in Greek, plural in Syriac.
  • μεταβαλόντες paššeq(w). Greek aorist participle rendered by a Syriac perfect, a very common phenomenon in Greek-Syriac translations.
  • τὰ παρὰ τούτου δόγματα εἰσαχθέντα yulpānēh d-hānā. The noun is plural in Greek, singular in Syriac, and where the Greek has a participle (“introduced”) with prepositional phrase (“by him”), the Syriac merely has a pronominal element (“his”): the near demonstrative pronoun with an anticipatory pronominal suffix on the noun.
  • ἔμαθον w-ilep(w). The Greek μεταβαλόντες and ἔμαθον are in Syriac put as past verbs joined by a conjunction.
  • ἄνθρωποι βάρβαροι ∅. In the Greek text, μεταβαλόντες and ἔμαθον have distinct agents: for the participle it is the named nations, and for ἔμαθον it is ἄνθρωποι βάρβαροι. The latter noun and adjective indeed refer to those same nations, but they are grammatically separate. The Syriac has nothing to correspond to ἄνθρωποι βάρβαροι — perhaps to avoid calling their own people barbarians! — and thus the two verbs paššeq(w) w-ilep(w) have as their agent the list of peoples at the beginning of the sentence.
  • φιλοσοφεῖν ḥekmtēh. A notable translation, the Greek infinitive has become a noun, and one with a pronominal suffix referring to the apostle. Syriac has words derived from Greek φιλοσοφία, but here a native Aramaic word is used.


Notula on some Greek terminology for “translate”

The expression μεταβάλλειν εἰς γλῶτταν is used in the passage above for “translate”. Josephus also uses this verb in the same meaning:

Ant. Jud. 1.10
Εὗρον τοίνυν, ὅτι Πτολεμαίων μὲν ὁ δεύτερος μάλιστα δὴ βασιλεὺς περὶ παιδείαν καὶ βιβλίων συναγωγὴν σπουδάσας ἐξαιρέτως ἐφιλοτιμήθη τὸν ἡμέτερον νόμον καὶ τὴν κατ᾽ αὐτὸν διάταξιν τῆς πολιτείας εἰς τὴν Ἑλλάδα φωνὴν μεταβαλεῖν

Ant. Jud. 12.14-15
μεμηνῦσθαι δ᾽ ἔλεγεν αὐτῷ πολλὰ εἶναι καὶ παρὰ Ἰουδαίοις τῶν παρ᾽ αὐτοῖς νομίμων συγγράμματα σπουδῆς ἄξια καὶ τῆς βασιλέως βιβλιοθήκης, ἃ τοῖς ἐκείνων χαρακτῆρσιν καὶ τῇ διαλέκτῳ γεγραμμένα πόνον αὐτοῖς οὐκ ὀλίγον παρέξειν εἰς τὴν Ἑλληνικὴν μεταβαλλόμενα γλῶτταν. …  οὐδὲν οὖν ἔλεγεν κωλύειν καὶ ταῦτα μεταβαλόντα, δύνασθαι γὰρ τῆς εἰς αὐτὸ χορηγίας εὐποροῦντα, ἔχειν ἐν τῇ βιβλιοθήκῃ καὶ τὰ παρ᾽ ἐκείνοις.

In Ant. Jud. 1.7 he uses μεταφέρειν:

ὄκνος μοι καὶ μέλλησις ἐγίνετο τηλικαύτην μετενεγκεῖν ὑπόθεσιν εἰς ἀλλοδαπὴν ἡμῖν καὶ ξένην διαλέκτου συνήθειαν.

Now for a few other terms (but this is certainly not a complete list!). In a famous part of the Prol. to Ben Sira, we see μετάγειν used for translation: μεταχθῇ εἰς ἑτέραν γλῶσσαν. One Greek text that often refers to translation is, of course, the Letter of Aristeas (ET here; see recent discussion in T.M. Law, When God Spoke Greek, 35-39). Here are the places (probably not exhaustive) that I quickly picked out where translation, either as a noun or a verb, is mentioned. Words built on herm- are the favorite, and it does not seem that μεταβάλλειν appears there with reference to translation.

  • 11 Ἑρμηνείας προσδεῖται
  • 15 ἣν [sc. τὴν τῶν Ἰουδαίων νομοθεσίαν] ἡμεῖς οὐ μόνον μεταγράψαι ἐπινοοῦμεν, ἀλλὰ καὶ διερμηνεῦσαι (“…not only to copy, but also to translate” — μεταγράφειν can mean both “copy” and “translate”; cf. μεταγραφή in §§ 45 and 46)
  • 32 τὸ κατὰ τὴν ἑρμηνείαν ἀκριβές
  • 38 τὸν νόμον ὑμῶν μεθερμηνευθῆναι γράμμασιν Ἑλληνικοῖς ἐκ τῶν παρ᾽ ὑμῶν λεγομένων Ἑβραϊκῶν γραμμάτων
  • 45 ἡ τοῦ ἁγίου νόμου μεταγραφή (again in § 46)
  • 120 τὰ δὲ τῆς ἑρμηνείας (similarly again in § 308; cf. from § 307 below)
  • 301 παρεκάλει τοὺς ἄνδρας τὰ τῆς ἑρμηνείας ἐπιτελεῖν
  • 305 ἐτρέποντο πρὸς τὴν ἀνάγνωσιν καὶ τὴν ἑκάστου διασάφησιν (διασάφησις here might mean “translation”, but it could also be “explanation”, i.e. each person’s explanation of what had had been read. For another place where the word occurs, twice, certainly not meaning “translation”, see Acta Petri et Andreae § 15, p. 124.5, 124.7 in the ed. of Bonnet and Lipsius.)
  • 307 τὰ τῆς μεταγραφῆς (“the work of the translation”)
  • 308 παρόντων καὶ τῶν διερμηνευσάντων (the translators); in 310 we find τῶν ἑρμηνέων οἱ πρεσβύτεροι, and in 318 τοὺς ἑρμηνεῖς
  • 310 Ἐπεὶ καλῶς καὶ ὁσίως διηρμήνευται καὶ κατὰ πᾶν ἠκριβωμένος
  • 314 τινὰ τῶν προηρμηνευμένων ἐπισφαλέστερον ἐκ τοῦ νόμου προσιστορεῖν (“to tell in addition some parts from the earlier, less reliable, translations of the law”)


A Syriac fragment on Sisoes?   Leave a comment

In my Twitter feed appeared one of the images of Sisoes, who is commemorated on July 6, over the tomb of Alexander the Great, such as this one or this one. At the end of the inscription you can see his address and question to death: αἴ, αἴ, θάνατε, τὶϲ δύναται φυγεῖν ϲε; “Ah! Death, who can escape you?”

I was thus reminded a short fragment (SMMJ 166, f. 95v) I cataloged recently that is tucked in among other texts not related to this saint. This particular fragment names the saint SWSYWS, and he is called Abba; despite the W in the first syllable, instead of Y, unless other evidence comes to contradict the assumption, I’m assuming that Sisoes is the saint that is intended in this little anecdote.

SMMJ 166, f. 95v

SMMJ 166, f. 95v

They said about Abba Sisoes that when the church service would end, he would quickly flee to his cell. They said that he had a demon, but he was really doing the work of God.

Does anyone know of this anecdote, whether associated with Sisoes or another saint?

Old Georgian phrases and sentences 29   Leave a comment

In a recent post I listed some manuscripts in languages of the Christian east for a homily on the burial of Jesus (CPG 3768), attributed variously to Epiphanius, Anastasius of Sinai, and Cyril of Alexandria. I included the rubric of the homily in a Georgian manuscript in the Borgia collection (№ 4) that Arn. van Lantschoot described in his article, “Le ms. Borgia géorgien 4,” Le Muséon 61 (1948), 75-88, here 80-81. Mainly for its vocabulary, which might be of use to the myriads of Georgian learners, here is the text again:

წმიდათა შოვრის მამისა ჩუენისა ეპიფანე კჳპრელ მთავარებისკოპოსისაჲ. საღმრთოთა ჴორცთა ოჳფლისა ჩუენისა იესოჳ ქრისტჱსთა დაფლვისათჳს: და იოსიფ და ნიკოდიმოსისთჳს: და ჯოჯოხეთს შთასლვისათჳს ოჳფლისა შემდგომად განმაცხოველებელისა ვნებისა მისისა რომელი ესე იკითხვების დიდსა შაბათსა: მამაო გუაკურთხენ:

[Homily] of our father among the saints, Epiphanius of Cyprus, archbishop, on the burial of the divine body of our Lord Jesus Christ, on Joseph and Nicodemus, and on the Lord’s descent into hell after his life-giving Passion, which is read on Great Saturday. Bless us, father!


  • მთავარებისკოპოსი archbishop
  • საღმრთოჲ divine (the prefix სა- + ღმერთ- + suffix -ოჲ)
  • ჴორცი flesh, body. NB “body” is a plural, as elsewhere, e.g. ხოლო იგი იტყოდა ტაძრად ჴორცთა მათ თჳსთა. (ἐκεῖνος δὲ ἔλεγεν περὶ τοῦ ναοῦ τοῦ σώματος αὐτοῦ)
 Jn 2:21 (Ad); მე ვნებანი იგი უფლისა იესუჲს[ნი] ჴორცთა შინა ჩემთა მიტჳრთვან (ἐγὼ γὰρ τὰ στίγματα τοῦ Ἰησοῦ ἐν τῷ σώματί μου βαστάζω)
 Gal 6:17 (Xanm)]
  • დაფლვაჲ burial
  • ჯოჯოხეთი hell
  • შთასლვისაჲ descent
  • განმაცხოველებელი life-giving, quickening
  • ვნებაჲ Passion (the same word, in a different sense, appears in the plural in the verse from Galatians quoted above)
  • ი-კითხვ-ები-ს pres pass 3s კითხვა to read (PASS-SIroot-PASS-3SG)
  • გუ-ა-კურთხ-ე-ნ aor 2s imv კურთხევა to bless (1PL.OBJ.-CV-SIIroot-2SG.IMP-PL.OBJ)

Devils and fire-breathing jackals   Leave a comment

For this simple post, I just want to share a few lines from a memorable scene in the Life of the famous Ethiopian saint Täklä Haymanot (ተክለ፡ ሃይማኖት፡; BHO 1128-1134). It comes from the Däbrä Libanos version, as published by Budge (1906); for more details on this and the other versions, see Denis Nosnitsin in Enc. Aeth. 4: 831-834. For the setting: the people of a “high mountain” called Wifat (ዊፋት፡) are responding to the saint’s question of how they know when their god is coming to them.

ወይቤልዎ ፡ ይመጽአ ፡ እንዘ ፡ ያንጐደጕድ ፡ ከመ ፡ ነጐድጓደ ፡ ክረምት ፡ለቢሶ ፡ እሳት። ወተፅዒኖ ፡ ዝዕበ ፡ ወብዙኃን ፡ መስተፅዕናነ ፡ አዝዕብት ፡ እምለፌ ፡ ወእምለፌ ፡ የዐውድዎ ፡ ወኵሎሙ ፡ ያበኵሁ ፡ እሳተ ፡ እምአፉሆሙ።

f. 67ra-67rb (text in Budge, vol. 2, p. 39)

My translation (for Budge’s, see vol. 1, p. 97):

And they said to him, “He comes thundering like the thunder of the rainy season, clothed in fire, riding on a jackal, and many jackal-riders surround him on each side, all of the [mounts] blowing fire out of their mouths.


  1. ክረምት፡ the rainy season is June/July-September
  2. ዝእብ፡ (pl. አዝእብት፡) jackal; hyena; wolf. Specific possibilities include:
  3. Budge’s text mistakenly has መስተፅናነ፡ for the correct reading መስተፅዕናነ፡.
  4. The text could mean that the jackal-riders are breathing out fire, but the image in the manuscript (BL Or. 728; see Budge’s pl. 38) obviously takes that predicate as referring to the jackals themselves.
Pl. 38 from Budge, Life of Takla Haymanot, vol. 1

Pl. 38 from Budge, Life of Takla Haymanot, vol. 1


More on the Homily on the Burial of Jesus (CPG 3768)   3 comments

A few years ago (2011), Alin Suciu pointed to some Coptic manuscripts of a homily for Holy Saturday attributed to Epiphanius of Salamis (see here). The Greek is at PG 43: 440-464 and some data is available for other versions at CPG 3768; Alin kindly provides PDFs for both of these in his post. I would like to add some more information on this homily — attributed elsewhere also to Anastasius of Sinai and even Cyril of Alexandria — in Gəʕəz, Georgian, Armenian, Syriac, and Arabic/Garšūnī; for all of these versions except Georgian and Armenian, there are manuscripts available through HMML.

(There are, of course, many pieces of art that cover the contents of this homily, from Joseph of Arimathea and the removal of Jesus’ body from the cross, his burial, and his descent into hell, even from the Brick Testament; there are, in fact, so many that I didn’t have time to choose any to include here, but for what it’s worth, here is a relatively unknown one from Sybil Andrews [d. 1992].)


There is no Gəʕəz in the CPG list, but there are at least four copies known to me; I have not, however, checked all the catalogs. In these four manuscripts, at least, it is attributed to Anastasius of Sinai, as in Vat. Syr. 369 (see below).

  • BL Orient. 774 (15th cent.), ff. 91r-101r (Wright, Cat. Eth. BM, p. 228); in margin በዕርበተ ፡ ፀሓይ ፡ ፡ምንባብ። “Reading for the evening”
  • BL Orient. 775 (18th cent.), ff. 108r-121v (Wright, Cat. Eth. BM, p. 229)
  • EMML 2868 (late 18th cent., it seems), ff. 169r-end

ድርሳን ፡ ዘቅዱስ ፡ ወብዙዕ ፡ አንስጣስዮስ ፡ አቡነ ፡ ዘደብረ ፡ ሲና ፡ በእንተ ፡ ዘከመ ፡ ተቀብረ ፡ … ወርደቶ ፡ ውስተ ፡ ሲኦል ፡ ወበእንተ ፡ ዮሴፍ ፡ ዘአርማትያስ ፡ ረድኡ ፡ ለኢየሱስ።

Homily of Saint Anastasius of Mt. Sinai on how [Jesus] was buried and his descent into hell, and on Joseph of Arimathea, Jesus’ disciple.

Incipit: ይቤ ፡ ምንት ፡ ይእቲ ፡ ዛቲ ፡ አርምሞ ፡ He said: What is this silence…?

  • EMML 4967 (20th cent.), ff. 141v-146v


The information given at CPG 3768 for Georgian is very spare, so I’ll fill it out here. Only Michel Van Esbroeck’s book Les plus anciens homéliaires géorgiens (1975) is cited, yet without page numbers: the relevant ones are pp. 85-86. The title (with my ET) is

დიდსა შაფათსა. საკითხავი. თქუმული წმიდისა მამისა ჩუენისა ეპიფანე კჳპრელ მთავარებისკოპოსისაჲ დაფლვისა თჳს უფლისა ჩუენისა იესუ ქრისტჱსა და იოსების თჳს მართლისა.

Great [i.e. Holy] Saturday, reading: Homily of our father, Saint Epiphanius of Cyprus, archbishop, on the burial of our Lord Jesus Christ and on Joseph the Just.

The title in Borg. Geo. 4, where the homily occupies ff. 14v-28r (see Van Lantschoot, “Le ms. Borgia géorgien 4,” Le Muséon 61 [1948], here 80-81), is different and fuller:

წმიდათა შოვრის მამისა ჩუენისა ეპიფანე კჳპრელ მთავარებისკოპოსისაჲ. საღმრთოთა ჴორცთა ოჳფლისა ჩუენისა იესოჳ ქრისტჱსთა დაფლვისათჳს: და იოსიფ და ნიკოდიმოსისთჳს: და ჯოჯოხეთს შთასლვისათჳს ოჳფლისა შემდგომად განმაცხოველებელისა ვნებისა მისისა რომელი ესე იკითხვების დიდსა შაბათსა: მამაო გუაკურთხენ:

[Homily] of our father among the saints, Epiphanius of Cyprus, archbishop, on the burial of the divine body of our Lord Jesus Christ, on Joseph and Nicodemus, and on the Lord’s descent into hell after his life-giving Passion, which is read on Great Saturday. Bless us, father!

The incipit (from Van Esbroeck) reads

რაჲ არს ესე დღეს დუმილი მრავალი ქუეყანასა ზედა რაჲ არს ესე დუმილი

What is this thorough silence today on the earth? What is this silence?

“La tradition géorgienne est surabondante,” he says, citing eleven manuscripts in addition to Athos 11.


For Armenian, too, CPG points to Van Esbroeck’s study, again with no page references. At the end of the section on this homily, he lists Venice 201 and 227, and Matenadaran 993, № 106, where the homily is attributed to Cyril of Alexandria.


In Vat. Syr. 369, № 37 (see Sauget’s art. cited in CPG: OCP 27 [1961], p. 420), it is attributed to Anastasius of Sinai. It is not clear how the text referred to by Sauget corresponds with the following two late copies:

  • MGMT 33 (d. 1969), pp. 1-8
  • SOAH 16 (d. 1969), pp. 537-540 (The text here corr. to PG 43: 444c-452c.)

Arabic (see Garšūnī below)

In addition to the note in CPG, with reference to GCAL I 357 (see lines 11-23), we mention these:

  • Monastery of St. George, Homeira, Syria (HMIR) 16 (d. 1682/3), ff. 53v-67r
  • DIYR 121 (18th/19th cent.), ff. 332r-340v
  • BzAr 118 (d. 1820), ff. 139v-151r


HMIR 16 (22), f. 53v

HMIR 16, f. 53v


  • SMMJ 170 (d. 1596), ff. 279r-282v
  • CCM 345 (d. 1678/9), ff. 34v-44r
  • CFMM 286 (16th/17th cent.), pp. 95-109
  • SMMJ 169 (18th cent.), ff. 111r-118v
  • CFMM 292 (18th/19th cent.), pp. 88-97
SMMJ 170, f. 279r

SMMJ 170, f. 279r


Others have noted that this homily, whoever wrote it, was obviously popular in several languages. There is, I think, no English translation from the Greek or any of the versions, so a monograph on one or more of these versions, with English translation, is an obvious desideratum.

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