Saint Mark’s, Jerusalem, 180 (Book of Steps, Asceticon of Abba Isaiah)   2 comments

SMMJ 180 is a seventh- or eight-century manuscript containing the Book of Steps (Liber Graduum) and parts of the Asceticon of Abba Isaiah. The script is a beautiful, clear Estrangela, and the text is written in two columns with around thirty-nine lines. The manuscript is foliated with Syriac letters (numbered folios begin only at f. 10), but the book has been rebound in great disarray. According to a note dated 1881 on 102r, the book was repaired by Grigorios Ǧirǧis Muṭrān of Jerusalem in 1881. In the course of cataloging the manuscript, it became clear that, given the manuscript’s age and its significance as a textual witness, a detailed listing of its contents might be of some value.

SMMJ 180, ff. 62v-63r. The end of the Book of Steps and the beginning of the Asceticon, with some damage at the top.

SMMJ 180, ff. 62v-63r. The end of the Book of Steps and the beginning of the Asceticon, with some damage at the top.

In his edition of the Liber Graduum (LG), Kmosko discusses the manuscript (his Codex R) on pp. viii-ix, ccxciv-cccvi, the latter section being an appendix with a collation. Significantly, Draguet does not make use, it seems, of the Jerusalem manuscript in his edition of the Asceticon. For both of these monuments of Syriac literature, the Jerusalem manuscript deserves to be studied more closely, and thanks to these high quality images now easily available, those with a close interest in either or both of those texts may do so with little trouble.

Before turning to the contents of the codex, here are a few remarks on the paleography. The script is very straightforward Esṭrangela, with sharp angles as in the bēt and ṭēt. General observations include:
•    semkat not attached to the following letter
•    the right leg of the ālap has a little serif, seen both when the previous letter is attached and when it is not
•    the waw is not closed
•    the mim is not closed
•    the final nun, when not attached to the previous letter, is at an angle noticeably more horizontal than when it is attached

When there is a little space at line-end, the final letter has an extender to reach the edge. There are no explicit vowel marks, but there is a host of punctuation marks and diacritical points, with examples in almost every line.

Dotted pointers indicate quotations from scripture. These signs are well known from other early Syriac manuscripts.

SMMJ 180, f. 20r, showing the indication of a biblical citation.

SMMJ 180, f. 20r, showing dotted pointers to indicate a biblical citation.

In addition, the scribe uses a sign that looks very much like the Alexandrian critical sign, the obelus, here in the form known as the lemniscus (cf. Swete, Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek, 69-72, and Field, Origenis hexaplorum quae supersunt, I: liii-lx). For example, 26va, line 7:

SMMJ 180, f. 26v

SMMJ 180, f. 26v

Similarly, on 42v, there is a marginal correction of āzēl to zādēq (Kmosko there has āzēl, col. 776.22). This sign, too, is found in other manuscripts, not only Syriac, but also Garšūnī (e.g. SMMJ 174, p. 262), to anchor a marginal reading to a part of the main text.

Another kind of correction is that for transpositions. On 15r, for example, the words b-demʿē and wa-b-ḥaylā are each marked with a group of three dots to indicate that they should be transposed. That is, we should read mā da-gʿa b-ḥaylā wa-b-demʿē saggiʾātā. (Even without the dots, the grammar points in this direction, due to agreement between demʿē and saggiʾātā.) The same indication of transposition occurs elsewhere, as on 46ra, 49vb, 53vb, 54vb, 58rb, 61vb.

SMMJ 180, f. 15r

SMMJ 180, f. 15r

For LG, the sections are not divided more minutely than individual memra; here is an example of a section divider between memre:

SMMJ 180, f. 37v, end of memra 24,. beg. of memra 25.

SMMJ 180, f. 37v, end of memra 24,. beg. of memra 25.

On 43v is a marginal note to indicate the topic (not common in this manuscript): “On the soul’s being called spirit.”

Due to the disorderly arrangement of the manuscript, the path for anyone who is continuously reading the text almost looks like a choose-your-own-adventure book. To cover the surviving parts of the codex, beginning with LG and then moving to the Asceticon, one would read the folios in this order (X indicates a missing folio or folios; there are three such places): 93-100, 83, 101, 90, 84-89, 91, X, 92, 80, 79, X, 82, 81, X, 76, 75, 71-74, 70, 69, 68, 77, 11-18, 78, 19-62, 67, 63-66.

Hopefully the folio-by-folio list of the contents below will be of use to those at work on the Book of Steps or Isaiah’s Asceticon. I give by folio the corresponding parts of the text according to the editions of Kmosko for LG and Draguet for the Asceticon. For the former, in every place I have included memra and section number, and for many places identification down to the column and line number; for the latter, I have given logos and section number, along with page and line number.


Draguet, René. Les cinq recensions de l’Ascéticon syriaque d’Abba Isaïe. CSCO 289 / Scr. Syr. 120. Louvain, 1968.

Kessel, Grigory. “A Previously Unknown Reattributed Fragment from Memra 16 of the Book of Steps,” in Kristian S. Heal and Robert A. Kitchen, eds., Breaking the Mind: New Studies in the Syriac “Book of Steps (CUA Press, 2014), 53-71, esp. 54-60. Available here. [The volume has a picture from SMMJ 180 on the cover.]

Kmosko, Michael. Liber Graduum. Patrologia Syriaca 3. Paris, 1926.

Folio-by-folio contents of SMMJ 180

[11r-11v] LG 19.39-20.3 (col. 521.17-532.11)
[12r-12v] LG 20.3-20.6
[13r-13v] LG 20.6-20.8
[14r-14v] LG 20.8-20.10
[15r-15v] LG 20.10-20.13 (col. 556.12-564.17)
[16r-16v] LG 20.13-20.15
[17r-17v] LG 20.15-20.17
[18r-18v] LG 20.17-21.2 (col. 580.15-589.7) THEN GO TO [78r]
[19r-19v] LG 21.4- 21.7 (col. 596.23-604.6)
[20r-20v] LG 21.7-21.9 (col. 604.6-609.19)
[21r-21v] LG 21.9-21.11 (col. 609.20-617.8)
[22r-22v] LG 21.11-21.16 (col. 617.9-624.26)
[23r-23v] LG 21.16-21.20 (col. 624.26-632.7)
[24r-24v] LG 21.20-22.3 (col. 632.7-640.3)
[25r-25v] LG 22.3-22.6 (col. 640.3-645.18)
[26r-26v] LG 22.6-22.8 (col. 645.18-653.9)
[27r-27v] LG 22.8-22.11 (col. 653.8-660.24)
[28r-28v] LG 22.11-22.14 (col. 660.24-668.19)
[29r-29v] LG 22.14-22.17 (col. 668.19-676.5)
[30r-30v] LG 22.17-22.20 (col. 676.5-681.19)
[31r-31v] LG 22.20-22.25 (col. 681.19-689.12)
[32r-32v] LG 22.25-23.3 (col. 689.12-697.11)
[33r-33v] LG 23.3-23.8 (col. 697.11-704.24)
[34r-34v] LG 23.8-23.11 (col. 704.24-712.13)
[35r-35v] LG 23.11-24.2 (col. 712.13-720.6)
[36r-36v] LG 24.2-24.7 (col. 720.6-728.8)
[37r-37v] LG 24.7-25.2 (col. 720.6-736.14)
[38r-38v] LG 25.2-25.5 (col. 736.14-741.25)
[39r-39v] LG 25.5-25.8 (col. 741.25-749.22)
[40r-40v] LG 25.8-26.2 (col. 749.22- 760.23)
[41r-41v] LG 26.2-27.2 (col. 760.23-769.12)
[42r-42v] LG 27.2-27.5 (col. 769.12-777.3)
[43r-43v] LG 27.5-28.1 (col. 777.3-788.4)
[44r-44v] LG 28.1-28.6 (col. 788.4-793.24)
[45r-45v] LG 28.6-28.11 (col. 793.24-801.25)
[46r-46v] LG 28.11-29.1 (col. 801.25-812.17)
[47r-47v] LG 29.1-29.3 (col. 812.17-820.14)
[48r-48v] LG 29.3-29.6 (col. 820.14-828.15)
[49r-49v] LG 29.6-29.9 (col. 828.15-836.9)
[50r-50v] LG 29.9-29.12 (col. 836.9-844.3)
[51r-51v] LG 29.12-29.16 (col. 844.4-849.25)
[52r-52v] LG 29.16-30.1 (col. 849.25-860.6)
[53r-53v] LG 30.1-30.3 (col. 860.6-868.11)
[54r-54v] LG 30.3-30.5 (col. 868.11-876.8)
[55r-55v] LG 30.5-30.8 (col. 876.9-881.27)
[56r-56v] LG 30.8-30.12 (col. 881.27-889.16)
[57r-57v] LG 30.12-30.14 (col. 889.16-897.8)
[58r-58v] LG 30.14-30.18 (col. 897.8-905.7)
[59r-59v] LG 30.18-30.21 (col. 905.7-913.5)
[60r-60v] LG 30.21-30.25 (col. 913.6-921.18)
[61r-61v] LG 30.25-30.29 (col. 921.18-929.15)
[62r-62v] LG 30.29 (col. 929.15-932.16); Asct., Logos 1 (Draguet, p.2-3.1) THEN GO TO [67r]
[63r-63v] Asct., Logos 1.4a-2.2 (Draguet, pp. 6.4-10.5)
[64r-64v] Asct., Logos 2.2-3.1 (Draguet, pp. 10.6-14.2)
[65r-65v] Asct., Logos 3.1-3.4 (Draguet, pp. 14.2-18.4)
[66r-66v] Asct., Logos 3.4-5.18 (Draguet, pp. 18.4-26.8/16)
[67r-67v] Asct., Logos 1 (Draguet p. 3.1-p. 6.4) THEN GO TO [63r]
[68r-69r] LG 19.31-19.36 THEN GO TO [77r]
[69r-69v] LG 19.25-19.31 THEN GO TO [68r]
[70r-70v] LG 19.22-19.25 THEN GO TO [69r]
[71r-71v] LG 19.4-19.7
[72r-72v] LG 19.7-19.11
[73r-73v] LG 19.11-19.19
[74r-74v] LG 19.19-19.22 THEN GO TO [70r]
[75r-75v] LG 19.1-19.4 THEN GO TO [71r]
[76r-76v] LG 18.4-19.1 THEN GO TO [75r]
[77r-77v] LG 19.36-19.39 THEN GO TO [11r]
[78r-78v] LG 21.2-21.4 (col. 589.7-596.23) THEN GO TO [19r]
[79r-79v] LG 15.12-15.15 (col 365.4-372.26) THEN GO TO ? (folio missing)
[80r-80v] LG 15.9-15.12 (col. 357.11-365.4) THEN GO TO [79r]
[81r-81v] LG 17.1-17.4 THEN GO TO ? (folio missing)
[82r-82v] LG 16.9-17.1 THEN GO TO [81r]
[83r-83v] LG 10.2-10.5 THEN GO TO [101r]
[84r-84v] LG 11.3-12.1
[85r-85v] LG 12.1-12.4
[86r-86v] LG 12.4-12.7
[87r-87v] LG 12.7-13.3
[88r-88v] LG 13.3-13.8
[89r-89v] LG 13.8-14.3 THEN GO TO [91r]
[90r-90v] LG 10.9-11.3 THEN GO TO [84r]
[91r-91v] LG 14.3-15.3 (col. 332.1-341.9) THEN GO TO ? (folio missing)
[92r-92v] LG 15.6-15.9 (col. 349.16-357.11) THEN GO TO [80r]
[93r-93v] LG 7.18-7.21 (i.e. the end of memra 7)
[94r-94v] LG 8.1-8.5
[95r-95v] LG 8.5-9.2
[96r-96v] LG 9.2-9.6
[97r-97v] LG 9.6-9.9
[98r-98v] LG 9.9-9.13
[99r-99v] LG 9.13-9.19 (col. 233.2-241.7)
[100r-100v] LG 9.19-10.2 (col. 241.7-252.2) THEN GO TO [83r]
[101r-101v] LG 10.5-10.9 THEN GO TO [90r]


2 responses to “Saint Mark’s, Jerusalem, 180 (Book of Steps, Asceticon of Abba Isaiah)

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  1. It is so strange that this parchment manuscript (right?) looks like paper in the photos (especially in the topmost). I wonder if that Bohairic fragment of the Martyrdom of Apa Macrobius on which we worked a bit together is actually also parchment, not paper as we supposed. That would make perfect sense and we could thus connect it with the other fragment of the same text discovered by Paul Devos in the covers of a Syriac lectionary.

    • That’s a good point, Alin. It is indeed parchment. I’ve noticed at other times, too, it can be hard, even from a high quality photo, definitely to distinguish parchment from certain kinds of paper.

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