Archive for the ‘Aramaic (other than Syr)’ Category

Old Georgian phrases and sentences 62 (Raka!)   Leave a comment

In Sarjveladze-Fähnrich, 960a, s.v. რაკა (and 1167b, s.v. უთჳსესი), the following line is cited from manuscript A-689 (13th cent.), f. 69v, lines 20-23:

კითხვაჲ: რაჲ არს რაკა? მიგებაჲ: სიტყუაჲ სოფლიოჲ, უმშჳდესადრე საგინებელად უთჳსესთა მიმართ მოპოვნებული

Frage: Was ist Raka? Antwort: Ein grobes Wort, den nächsten Angehörigen gegenüber als leiser Tadel gebraucht.

This is a question-and-answer kind of commentary note on the word raka in Mt 5:22. There is probably something analogous in Greek or other scholia, but I have not checked. For this word in Syriac and Jewish Aramaic dialects, see Payne Smith 3973-3974; Brockelmann, LS 1488; DJPA 529b; and for JBA rēqā, DJBA 1078a (only one place cited, no quotation given). For the native lexica, see Bar Bahlul 1915 and the quotations given in Payne Smith.

For this word in this verse, the Syriac versions (S, C, P, H) all have raqqā, Armenian has յիմար (senseless, crazy, silly), and in the Georgian versions, the earlier translations have შესულებულ, but the later, more hellenizing translations have the Aramaic > Greek word რაკა on which the scholion was written. Before returning to the Georgian scholion above, let’s first have a look at parts of this verse in Greek and all of these languages. Note this Georgian vocabulary for below:

გან-(ხ)-უ-რისხ-ნ-ეს 3sg aor conj (the -ნ- is not the pl obj marker) განრისხება to become angry | ცუდად in vain, without cause | შესულებული dumbfounded, stupid | ცოფი crazy, fool

Part 1

  • πᾶς ὁ ὀργιζόμενος τῷ ἀδελφῷ αὐτοῦ
  • kul man d-nergaz ʿal aḥu(h)y iqiʾ
  • ամենայն որ բարկանայ եղբաւր իւրում տարապ֊արտուց
  • A89/A844 რ(ომე)ლი განხოჳრისხნეს ძმასა თჳსა [ცოჳ]დად
  • Ad ყოველი რომელი განურისხნეს ძმასა თჳსსა ცუდად
  • PA რომელი განურისხნეს ძმასა თჳსსა ცუდად
  • At რომელი განურისხნეს ძმასა თჳსსა ცუდად

Part 2

  • ὃς δ’ ἂν εἴπῃ τῷ ἀδελφῷ αὐτοῦ· ῥακά
  • kul d-nēmar l-aḥu(h)y raqqā
  • որ ասիցէ ցեղբայր իւր յիմար
  • A89/A844 რ(ომელმა)ნ ხრქ(ოჳ)ას ძმასა თჳსსა შესოჳლებოჳლ
  • Ad რომელმან ჰრქუას ძმასა თჳსსა: შესულებულ
  • PA რომელმან ჰრქუას ძმასა თჳსსა რაკა
  • At რომელმან ჰრქუას ძმასა თჳსსა რაკა

Part 3

  • ὃς δ’ ἂν εἴπῃ· μωρέ
  • man d-nēmar lellā (P, H; while S, C have šāṭyā)
  • որ ասիցէ ցեղբայր իւր մորոս
  • A89/A844 NA
  • Ad და რომელმან ჰრქუას ძმასა თჳსსა: ცოფ
  • PA რომელმან ჰრქუას ძმასა თჳსსა ცოფ
  • At რომელმან ჰრქუას ძმასა თჳსსა ცოფ

So now we return to the scholion given above.

კითხვაჲ: რაჲ არს რაკა? მიგებაჲ: სიტყუაჲ სოფლიოჲ, უმშჳდესადრე საგინებელად უთჳსესთა მიმართ მოპოვნებული

  • კითხვაჲ question
  • მიგებაჲ answer
  • სოფლიოჲ worldly (< სოფელი)
  • უმშჳდეს-ად-რე < უმშჳდესი quiet, peaceful, calm adv + -რე a particle meaning “a little, slightly”
  • საგინებელად to berate, chide, scold
  • უთჳსესი neighbor, nearby person
  • მოპოვნებული found

Finally, here is an English translation of the scholion:

Question: What is raka? Answer: An impolite word found [when one wants] to berate one’s neighbor in a slightly gentle way.

That is, according to the scholiast there are harsher, stronger vocatives with which to berate someone, but when just a little verbal aggression is needed, raka is the word to choose!

Old Georgian phrases and sentences 52 (fruit trees in the desert)   Leave a comment

I stumbled upon these lines in Sarjveladze & Fähnrich, p. 525. The citation is from an 11th-cent. manuscript, H-341 (46). (Incidentally, it is a boon to the dictionary that the authors scoured not only editions, but manuscripts, too, thus including unedited textual pieces and even, it seems, some marginal notes and colophons.)

დამიკჳრდა უდაბნოსა მას ესევითარი ხეოანი, რამეთუ იყო ფინიკი, ბროწეული, თრუნჯი, ატამი

Ich staunte über so einen solchen Baumbestand in der Wüste, denn es gab Dattel, Granatapfel, Orange, Pfirsich.

  • და-მ-ი-კჳრ-დ-ა aor 3sg O1 (here indir. vb) დაკჳვება to be amazed, astounded
  • უდაბნოოჲ wilderness
  • ხეო(ვ)ანი having trees (ხეჲ)
  • ფინიკი date
  • ბროწეული pomegranate
  • თრუნჯი orange or some other citrus fruit
  • ატამი peach

I was amazed at such a tree-area in the wilderness, because there were [trees of] date, pomegranate, citrus, and peach.

Plant-names are notorious for spreading across languages, and we have some such words here, words it would be easy to follow down many interconnected paths. To take two of the Georgian words above, for ფინიკი we have Greek φοίνιξ (φοινικ-), for თრუნჯი we have Persian turunǧ, Aramaic etrog (Mandaic trunga, Syriac ṭruggā), Arabic utruǧ/nǧ. (For Aramaic terms, see I. Löw, Aramaeische Pflanzennamen.) Wholly unrelated, however, to the Georgian word ატამი above is a widespread term for peach: MP šiftālūg/NP šaftālū(ǧ/d)/Tajik шафтолу/Turk şeftali/Tatar шәфталу; NP has another related word šaftarang for a kind of red peach, and another word hulū. We could, of course, go on, both more deeply and broadly, but for now let’s stop at this marvelous oasis that appeared in the wilderness to the Georgian speaker above.

Reading challenge, April 2015   2 comments

The study of spoken and (ancient) written languages intersect perhaps less than might be desirable, but sic semper erat, sic semper erit. Nevertheless, I would like to take a cue from Olle Linge’s Hacking Chinese ( and suggest an intentional, focused reading effort for ancient language students.

For the month of April 2015, let’s take an opportunity to push reading limits, or at least to re-kindle reading habits in this or that language. It is no secret that wide exposure to multitudes of lines is a boon to philological understanding and enjoyment. By “exposure” I mean reading with understanding. And there’s the rub. This is what makes it possible for an advanced student to do 100 pages of text (or more) in a month, and a novice to do much less: the novice requires far more frequent recourse to the lexicon, grammatical tables, perhaps a translation, etc. than the more experienced user. But the payoff is experience itself. Here is some counsel from the great sinologist George A. Kennedy:

The value of a reference work is its capacity to furnish facts quickly, and a good reference work must be a well-ordered affair. But the quickness with which these facts are appropriated depends in large part on the skill of the user. And this skill results only from diligent practice. It is not enough to know about a book of reference; one must handle it, thumb the pages, know where the index is, know what sort of information it gives. You are not qualified for research unless you can locate the facts that are available quickly.



from his Introduction to Sinology: Being a Guide to the Tz’u Hai (Ci hai), (New Haven, 1981), 1 (emphasis in original)

He has the 辭海 cí hăi in mind, here as a reference work for students of Chinese history, but his advice is equally applicable to textual experience in a language, or philological experience.

Here, then, is the challenge for the month: not a contest, but an individual exhortation to purposefully spend a given amount of time and effort moving — or more picturesquely, plowing, sailing, crunching, &c. — through a text or texts, with understanding. You pick the language, the genre, the text(s), the length. The unique thing is to read carefully more than you might normally do for this month. It might be an opportunity to work especially hard on a language you’re now closely involved with, or it might be an opportunity to return to a language you’ve not read in a while. Simply to be not too vague, here are some language suggestions in no particular order (I assume that if you know the language well enough to do this, you know some texts to read, but in any case, the Bible is usually a good place to start due to the accessibility of texts and the ease of comparison with other versions):

  • Armenian
  • Christian Palestinian Aramaic
  • Syriac
  • Arabic
  • Jewish Babylonian Aramaic
  • Greek
  • Sogdian
  • Persian
  • Georgian
  • Turkish
  • Coptic
  • Gǝʿǝz
  • Uyghur

Do more than one language, if you like. How about reading the same text in more than one language? Read from printed editions, read from manuscripts, read from chrestomathies, whatever suits you. Quant à moi, my reading goals for the month include the following texts:

  1. Persian. 10 pages in the so-called Persian Diatessaron
  2. Turkish. Ali Bey’s Bible: Jonah 1-2; Mt 4:1-11; 11:17-19; 15:21-28
  3. Coptic. “Marina” (pp. 27-33) and “Siebenschläfer” (pp. 21–24) in W. Till, Koptische Heiligen- Und Martyrerlegenden: Texte, Übersetzungen Und Indices, vol. 1, Orientalia Christiana Analecta 102 (Rome: Pont. Institutum Orientalium Studiorum, 1935); volumes available here. Further on this story in Coptic, see here from my hagiography bibliography.
  4. Georgian. The five texts on David & Constantine in I. Abuladze and E. Gabidzashvili, ძველი ქართული აგიოგრაფიული ლიტერატურის ძეგლები, წიგნი IV სვინაქსარული რედაქციები (XI-XVIII სს.) (Monuments of Old Georgian Hagiographic Literature, Vol. 4, Synaxarion Redactions, [11th-18th Centuries]) (Tbilisi, 1968), 359-366; and the Parable of the Man & Elephant in the two versions of Barlaam and Ioasaph.
  5. Old Turkic/Uyghur. The text on p. 53 of  W. Bang, “Türkische Bruchstücke einer Nestorianischen Georgspassion,” Le Muséon 39 (1926): 41–75 (cf. Gabain, Gr., p. 264); and the text in P. Zieme, “Ein uigurisches Sündenbekenntnis,” Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 32 (1969): 107-121.
  6. Arabic/Garšūnī. Epistle of Ps.-Dionysius to Timothy, SMMJ 263

If you like, share what you plan to read in the comments below. And any thoughts on this enterprise generally are welcome, too. Happy studying!

“With the jawbone of an ass…”   Leave a comment

Many years ago I read F.F. Bruce’s In Retrospect, and among the anecdotes he relates that for some reason or other have remained in my memory is one about W.M. Edward of Leeds University. Bruce says (pp. 106-107),

My new chief, Professor W.M. Edwards of the Chair of Greek in Leeds, was an unusual man. He had been born into a military family and himself embarked on a military career, being an officer in the Royal Garrison Artillery until his later thirties. He then went to Oxford as an undergraduate, taking his B.A. at the age of forty and becoming a Fellow of Merton College the same year. Three years later he was appointed Professor of Greek in Leeds. He was an accomplished linguist, speaking Welsh, Gaelic, Russian and Hebrew as well as the commoner European languages. … On another occasion he came into my room to see me about something or other, and found me reading the Hebrew text of Judges. Immediately he threw back his head and recited in Hebrew, Samson’s song of victory, “With the jawbone of an ass…”

The Samson story is a good one, and well known. Students making their first forays into classical Hebrew prose rightly learn it thoroughly, and these two lines in verse 15:16 (בלחי החמור חמור חמרתים בלחי החמור הכיתי אלף איש), with the word play and the rhythm, make a good inhabitant of the memory’s palace. For fun, here they are in a few more languages, and some vocabulary in case students of any of these languages are reading.

Poster for Cecil B. DeMille's Samson and Delilah (1949). Source.

Poster for Cecil B. DeMille’s Samson and Delilah (1949). Source; cf. this one.

Aramaic (Targum) בלועא דחמרא רמיתנון דגורין בלועא דחמרא קטלית אלף גברא

  • לוּעָא jaw
  • חמָרָא ass
  • דְּגוֹר heap

Greek Ἐν σιαγόνι ὄνου ἐξαλείϕων ἐξήλειψα αὐτούς, ὅτι ἐν σιαγόνι ὄνου ἐπάταξα χιλίους ἄνδρας.

Syriac (Pesh.) ܒܦܟܐ ܕܚܡܪܐ ܟܫܝ̈ܬܐ ܟܫܝܬ ܡܢܗܘܢ. ܒܦܟܐ ܕܚܡܪܐ ܩܛܠܬ ܐܠܦ ܓܒܪ̈ܝܢ܀

  • pakkā jaw, cheek
  • ḥmārā ass
  • kšā to pile up, heap (both verb and pass. ptcp. here)

Armenian ծնօտի́ւ իշոյ ջնջելով ջնջեցի́ զն(ո)ս(ա), զի ծնօտիւ իշոյ կոտորեցի հազա́ր այր։

  • ծնօտ, -ից jaw, cheek
  • իշայր, -ոյ wild ass
  • ջնջեմ, -եցի to destroy, exterminate
  • կոտորեմ, -եցի to shatter, destroy, massacre
  • հազար thousand

Georgian (Gelati; only the first half translated, and no mention of the ass!) ღაწჳთა აღმოჴოცელმან აღვჴოცნე იგინი

  • ღაწუი cheek
  • აღჴოცა to kill off (participle აღმოჴოცელი and finite verb both in the sentence)

Arabic (from the London Polyglot; there are other versions)


  • ṭaraḥa (a) to drive away, repel
  • ʕaẓm bone
  • ḫadd cheek
  • ḥimār ass
  • tulūl is a pl. of tall hill, but here, heap
  • fakk jawbone (cf. Syriac above)

Gǝʕǝz በዐጽመ ፡ መንከሰ ፡ አድግ ፡ ደምስሶ ፡ ደምሰስክዎሙ ፡ እስመ ፡ በዐጽመ ፡ መንከሰ ፡ አድግ ፡ ቀተልኩ ፡ ዐሠርተ ፡ ምእተ ፡ ብእሴ ።

  • መንከስ፡jaw, jawbone (√näkäsä to bite, like näsäkä, with cognates in many Semitic languages)
  • አድግ፡ ass
  • ደምሰሰ፡ to abolish, wipe out, destroy

NB: In Islamic tradition, it is not the jawbone of an ass, but that of a camel (laḥy baʕīr), that Samson employs:

وكان اذا لقيهم لقيهم بلحي بعير

(J. Barth & Th. Nöldeke, Annales quos scripsit Abu Djafar Mohammed Ibn Djarir At-Tabari, 1.II.794.7-8 [1881-1882]; available here) [More broadly, see Andrew Rippin, “The Muslim Samson: Medieval, Modern and Scholarly Interpretations,” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 71 (2008): 239-253.]

A meeting of three languages in the CPA version of Cyril of Jerusalem’s Catechetical Lectures   Leave a comment

Among the texts surviving in Christian Palestinian Aramaic (CPA) that were translated from Greek is a fair amount of Cyril of Jerusalem’s Catechetical Lectures (CPG 3585), translations of which also survive in several other languages. In one place (§ 6.14),* Cyril is discussing Simon Magus and says that the emperor Claudius set up a statue to him in Rome, so much did the traditional arch-heretic lead the city of Rome astray. (The story appears in other patristic texts, too.)

Καὶ ἐπλάνησέ τε οὕτω τὴν Ῥωμαίων πόλιν, ὥστε Κλαύδιον ἀνδριάντα αὐτου στῆσαι, ὑπογράψαντα τῇ Ῥωμαίων γλώττῃ, ΣΙΜΟΝΙ ΔΕΟ ΣΑΓΚΤΩ, ὅπερ ἑρμηνευόμενον δηλοῖ, Σίμωνι Θεῷ ἁγίῳ.

So Cyril gives the Latin of this inscription as Simoni Deo Sancto: “To Simon, the holy god.” Turning to the CPA text, we have:

ܘܟܠ ܕܢ ܐܛܥܝ ܪܘܡܐ ܡܕܝܢܬܐ܃ ܠܡܠܘ ܕܐܩܝܡ ܠܗ ܩܠܘܕܝ ܨܠܡ ܘܟܬܒ ܥܠܘܝ ܒܠܝܫܢܐ ܪܘܡܝܐ ܣܝܡܘܢ ܕܐܝܘܣ ܙܢܩܛܘ܃ ܡܐ ܕܗܘ ܡܬܪܓܡ ܘܡܘܕܥ ܣܝܡܘܢ ܐܠܗ ܩܕܝܫ

wkl d<y>n ʔṭʕy rwmʔ mdyntʔ lmlw dʔqym lh qlwdy ṣlm wktb ʕlwy blyšnʔ rwmyʔ symwn dʔyw{s} znqṭw mʔ dhw mtrgm wmwdʕ symwn ʔlh qdyš

The translation is straightforward and makes sense, but the appearance of the Latin inscription, which the CPA translator would have seen in Greek letters, is a bit mangled, not surprisingly. There is no indication of the dative -i in symwn, the -s of dʔyws should be deleted, and the znqṭw, while reflecting the right pronunciation of -γκτ-/-nct-, is a little odd for having a z- at the beginning. In addition, in the CPA version of the Greek translation of the Latin inscription, we really expect the preposition l- to mark the dedication, but there is not one.

Every translation naturally deals with at least two languages, but sometimes, as here, another language also makes an appearance, and, also as here, that appearance may offer an opportunity for some confusion, yet it also grants us an opportunity to have a glimpse at translators and/or scribes with their feet in a more or less complicated labyrinth of more than two languages.

*Greek and CPA published side-by-side in Christa Müller-Kessler and Michael Sokoloff, The Catechism of Cyril of Jerusalem in the Christian Palestinian Aramaic Version, A Corpus of Christian Palestinian Aramaic Version 5 (Groningen, 1999), here pp. 60-61.


Armenian, Syriac, and Arabic collections available at HMML (summer 2012)   1 comment

Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul (Patriarch’s collection) 109 (dated 1433 CE)

This PDF file was distributed in one of the sessions at the Symposium Syriacum on Malta a few weeks ago. Because it is (a) up-to-date, (b) concise, and (c) easily navigable, it is fitting to share it here, too, where it will hopefully be widely viewed and consulted. A few things to bear in mind:

  • Listed here are only collections of manuscripts photographed digitally (i.e. the European collections photographed by HMML in prior decades and preserved in bitonal microfilm — including a notable number of Armenian and Arabic manuscripts, much less in Syriac — are absent).
  • Manuscripts from these collections are immediately available to order (either for limited access viewing online or for your personal digital copy).
  • Cataloging can be time-consuming work, and this particular project has only been underway for two years. While these collections are preserved and available for study, only a small fraction of this great number of manuscripts has so far been cataloged. That means, of course, that there is far more here than is listed in the online catalog, Oliver.
  • Finally, as I said in the presentation at the Symposium, capable catalogers for many of these collections are needed. While the study of all of these languages and literatures has advanced over the past centuries, there are still very many texts that remain only in manuscripts, not to mention the fact that manuscripts will remain interesting in and of themselves for various reasons (paleography, codicology, historical notes, etc.) and the fact that even where printed editions exist recourse to manuscripts (whether used in the edition in question or not) is very often an illuminating (pun intended) exercise. All this and more means that the opportunity to catalog and otherwise study these manuscript collections will, I hope, be considered welcome to scholars in the field: հունձք բազո՛ւմ են՝ եւ մշակք սակա՛ւ; ḥṣādā saggi wǝ-pāʿlē zʿorin; al-ḥiṣād kaṯīr wa-l-faʿala qalīl! Please feel free to contact me about the details of this cataloging work, including remuneration.

Here are a few images from various collections at HMML.

Dominican Friars of Mosul 354: Jacques Rhetoré’s Grammaire de la langue Torâni

Pontifical Babel College Library, Habbi (Ankawa) 10, an early 18th cent. copy of Bar ʿEbrāyā’s Book of Splendors, copied in Alqosh.

Chaldean Archdiocese of Erbil 151, Yawsep II’s Book of the Magnet (see H. Teule in Samir FS, pp. 221-241)

Saint Mark’s, Jerusalem 43, f. 7v: A Garšūnī commentary to the Pentateuch.

Some maxims (Syriac & Arabic)   1 comment

At the beginning of CFMM 306 are a few maxims, first in Syriac, then in Arabic (Garšūnī):

CFMM 306, f. 1r

The ink and hand are none too lovely, but the thoughts are, at least. English’d they are:

  • Don’t believe everything you hear.
  • Don’t tell* everything that you see.
  • Don’t say everything that you know.
  • Don’t do everything that you are able to do.
  • Don’t give all you possess.

(*The Syriac has “judge”; the word can mean “declare”, but having to do with a dream, that is, to judge the significance of a dream and to declare it to the dreamer.)

These are maxims of reticence or prudent withholding, all of this basic theme, and they reflect the experience of those who, having given too freely of their means or knowledge, have gotten into trouble, lost relationships, and more. There are, of course, notable traditions of maxims and proverbs spanning ancient near eastern and classical literature (at least Sumerian, Akkadian, Aramaic, Hebrew, Arabic, Greek, and Latin), and the sentiments indicated above are hardly unique among those traditions. Erasmus’ Adagia would supply as with many similar items fromg Greek and Latin, richly commented upon — there is to my knowledge nothing comparable for ancient near eastern literature taken comprehensively — but it will suffice to list a few that are to hand.

  • Aḥiqar, Saying 15 (Lindenberger, pp. 75-76): “Above all else, guard your mouth; and as for what you have h[eard], be discreet! For a word is a bird, and he who releases it is a fool.” (מן כל מנטרה טר פמך ועל זי שמעת הוקר לבב כי צנפר הי מלה ומשלחה גבר לא לבב). The last line here brings to mind Homer’s ἔπεα πτερόεντα (“winged words”); perhaps Martin West or others have made the connection before, too, but I’m unaware of it, if so. (For the present purposes, for this and the other sayings from Aḥiqar, I have not marked the few conjectured letters of the Aramaic text as such: see Lindenberger for discussion of each case.)
  • Saying 53 (Lindenberger, 140-141): “Do not reveal your [secr]ets before your [frien]ds, lest your reputation with them be ruined.” (סתריך אל תגלי קדם רחמיך אל יקל שמך קדמיהם)
  • Saying 59 (Lindenberger, 149, partly reconstructed from Armenian and Slavonic versions): “Do not be too sweet lest you be [swallowed]; do not be too bitter [lest you be spat out].” (אל תחלי ואל יבלעוך אל תמר ואל ירקוך)

A quick scan of the gnomai Menandri (ed. Dindorf) yields these admittedly only slightly related finds, the iambic trimeters of which I apologize for not rendering analogously:

  • 90. Γλώσσης μάλιστα πανταχῆ πειρῶ κρατεῖν. Make every effort to rule especially over your tongue.
  • 448. Πρᾶττε τὰ σεαυτοῦ μὴ τὰ τῶν ἄλλου φρόνει. Mind your own business: don’t worry with the affairs of others.

There’s much more in the gnomai about friends, women (not much in appreciation!), parents, and old age.

From the Monosticha Catonis, we might mention:

  • 13. Rem tuam custodi. Watch over your own matter(s).
  • 23. Cui des, videto. Consider to whom you might give something.
  • 31. Nihil temere credideris. Believe nothing rashly.
  • 54. Pauca in convivio loquere. Say little at a party.
  • 57. Minime iudica. Don’t judge at all. [esp. for the Syriac version of the second maxim given above]

And finally, two lines from Leonard Cohen, “Waiting for the Miracle” (from The Future):

If you’re squeezed for information,

That’s when you’ve got to play it dumb.

So then, here’s to sharing and giving, but doing so with care, so advised from Aḥiqar to Cohen! I do hope, though, that you will share any related maxims from antiquity (or later) that come to mind in the comments!


James M. Lindenberger, The Aramaic Proverbs of Ahiqar, Johns Hopkins Near Eastern Studies (Baltimore and London, 1983).

The gnomai of Menander will be found in Dindorf’s Aristophanis comœdiæ…accedunt Menandri et Philemonis fragmenta (Paris, 1846); the monosticha Catonis are easily discoverable online.

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