An Arabic scribal note in a Syriac manuscript   2 comments

I have returned to the CFMM collection for some more cataloging work, and I am now continuing with a series of Syriac homiletic manuscripts, including especially the work of Jacob of Serug. Far into one of these manuscripts (CFMM 134), the following note in Arabic appears:

CFMM 134, p. 666

CFMM 134, p. 666

Here is an ET with a few comments:

Let the reader understand, be informed, and advise [those] near him and everyone that they should give glory to the Son of God, who receives the repentant, who saves his church from drowning in sins and from eternal damnation.

  • Let the reader understand cf. Mk 13:14, ὁ ἀναγινώσκων νοεῖτω.
  • al-muḫalliṣ might better be read without the article, in construct with kanīsatihi, but here the latter word is vocalized kanīsatahu (ACC, not GEN), and so the writer clearly had a verbal (“saving, one who saves [X]”), rather than nominal (“savior [of X]”), function in view for the participle al-muḫalliṣ.
  • ġarīq here seems to = ġaraq.
  • drowning in sins (or the like) is a common expression; another example is in this post.

2 responses to “An Arabic scribal note in a Syriac manuscript

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  1. Dear Dr. McCollum, I am a constant and grateful reader of your blog and therefore I feel compelled to begin my post by telling you that yours is a blog which I find at the same time very informative, witty and aesthetically pleasing. I have decided to write to you concerning this last post because I would like to submit to your attention a possible alternative rendition of the scribal note contained therein, based on a different grammatical analysis: instead of taking ǧamī‘an as a direct object of yufīdu, coordinated with qarībahu, I think one should envisage the possibility of taking it as a circumstantial qualifier, a ḥāl which, for all practical purposes, can function as an “adverbial”, just like in Modern Literary Arabic (one argument in favor of this analysis would be the fact that within such a text, which appears to be written in a variety of Middle Arabic, with no distinction, for instance, between the indicative and apocopated moods of the verb, I think it is more likely to find the ending –an used as an “adverbial” marker rather than that of an indefinite direct object; moreover, I find the coordination between the definite qarībahu and the formally indefinite ǧamī‘an – qarībahu wa-ǧamī‘an – somewhat improbable). As I myself am much more familiarized with Literary Arabic, I imagine that one might point to the fact that in Literary Arabic ǧamī‘ and its cognates are associated in similar structures with a plural, rather than a dual antecedent (given that in this case its antecedents would be al-qārī and qarībahu) – such an objection is, I think, easily dismissible with more than one argument: the first and possibly the strongest is the internal one, provided by the text itself, namely the plural form of the verb yu‘ṭūna, which can be viewed as proof of the erosion of the dual, another feature to be expected from a Middle Arabic text (that is if we do not find qarīb, which does function as a generic singular, to be an admittedly tenuous justification for the plural); the second argument is that ǧamī‘an can have, even in Literary Arabic, a dual antecedent (even if this may be a somewhat less frequent association). Finally, the occurrence of ǧamī‘an before the verb yu‘ṭūna, in a sequence not in accordance with what one might expect from a circumstantial qualifier in Literary Arabic, can be viewed as a proof for the legitimacy of ascribing it an “adverbial” quality, which could account for its mobility (this is not, I admit, an irrefutable argument – as an adverb and, thus, a modifier, ǧamī‘an would still be expected to occur after the verb it modifies…).
    Based on these considerations, I wonder if one could take into account, as an alternative, the following translation:
    “Let the reader understand, be informed, and inform [the one / those] near him, and let them both / all give glory…”
    A possible advantage of this version is that it allows for the related verbs yastafīdu and yufīdu to be translated in a way that reflects their relatedness, instead of the latter being rendered by “advise” so as to make it compatible with its occurrence within a subordinating sentence.

    Ovidiu Pietrareanu
    • Many thanks for your kind words about the blog, as well as for your thoughtful suggestion of an improved reading, which has merit especially because it accounts for the wa- before ǧamīʿan and for the def./indef. distinction.

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