Archive for the ‘Church of the Forty Martyrs’ Category

Four unpublished homilies of Jacob of Serugh, with a 19th-cent. image of the Golden Horn (Constantinople)   Leave a comment

CFMM 167 and 165 (in that order) are two small notebooks from the late 19th or early 20th century. There is no explicit date, nor did the scribe give a name, but the writing is very clear. Included in the collection are some of Jacob of Serugh’s homilies against the Jews (№№ 1-5, 7, so numbered); this cycle of homilies was edited by Micheline Albert, Jacques de Saroug. Homélies contre les Juifs, PO 38. There are also a few other homilies, the most important of which are the first four copied in CFMM 167, all of which have never been published, although they are known from the Dam. Patr. manuscripts and from Assemani’s list of homilies in Bibliotheca Orientalis I: pp. 325-326, no. 174 = the second hom. below. (For a list of incipits of Jacob’s homilies, see Brock in vol. 6 of the Gorgias edition of Bedjan, The Homilies of Mar Jacob of Sarug, [2006], pp. 372-398.)

CFMM 167, p. 22

CFMM 167, p. 22

pp. 1-22 Memra on the Faith, 6

  • Syriac title ܡܐܡܪܐ ܕܫܬܐ ܕܥܠ ܗܝܡܢܘܬܐ
  • Incipit ܐܚ̈ܝ ܢܥܪܘܩ ܡܢ ܟܣܝ̈ܬܐ ܕܠܐ ܡܬܒܨ̈ܝܢ

pp. 22-56, Memra on the Faith, 7, in which he Talks about the Iron that Enters the Fire and does not Lose its Nature

  • Syriac title ܡܐܡܪܐ ܕܫܒܥܐ ܕܥܠ ܗܝܡܢܘܬܐ ܕܒܗ ܐܡܪ ܥܠ ܦܪܙܠܐ ܕܥܐܠ ܠܢܘܪܐ ܘܠܐ ܡܘܒܕ ܟܝܢܗ
  • Incipit ܒܪܐ ܕܒܡܘܬܗ ܐܚܝ ܠܡܝ̈ܬܐ ܘܙܕܩ ܚܝ̈ܐ

pp. 56-72, Memra on the Faith, in which He Teaches that the Way of Christ Cannot be Investigated

  • Syriac title ܡܐܡܪܐ ܕܥܠ ܗܝܡܢܘܬܐ ܕܒܗ ܡܘܕܥ ܥܠ ܐܘܪܚܗ ܕܡܫܝܚܐ ܕܠܐ ܡܬܒܨܝܐ
  • Incipit ܐܝܟ ܕܠܫܘܒܚܟ ܐܙܝܥ ܒܝ ܡܪܝ ܩܠܐ ܪܡܐ

pp. 72-68bis, Memra on the Faith, 10

  • Syriac title ܡܐܡܪܐ ܕܥܣܪܐ ܕܥܠ ܗܝܡܢܘܬܐ
  • Incipit ܢܫܠܘܢ ܣܦܪ̈ܐ ܡܢ ܥܘܩܒܗ ܕܒܪ ܐܠܗܐ

As a special treat, here is the cover of this manuscript, with a 19th-cent. image of the Golden Horn (Turkish Haliç) and the Unkapanı Bridge (see now Atatürk Bridge):

Front cover of CFMM 167

Front cover of CFMM 167

The Turkish beneath the French is roughly Haliç Dersaadet manzarından Unkapanı köprüsü. Dersaadet is one of the old names of Istanbul.

Athanasios (Abū Ġalib) of Ǧayḥān (Ceyhan), d. 1177   1 comment

One of the pleasures of cataloging manuscripts is learning about authors and texts that are relatively little known. One such Syriac author is Athanasios (Abū Ġalib) of Ǧayḥān (Ceyhan). Two fifteenth-century manuscripts, CFMM 417 and 418, which I have recently cataloged, each contain different texts attributed to him. Barsoum surveys his life and work briefly in Scattered Pearls (pp. 441-442), and prior to that Vosté wrote an article on him; more recently Vööbus and Carmen Fotescu Tauwinkl have further reported on him. (See the bibliography below; I have not seen all of these resources.) According to Barsoum, he died in 1177 at over 80 years old. As far as I know, none of his work has been published.

The place name associated with this author is the Turkish Ceyhan. The Syriac spelling of the place in the Gazetteer has gyḥʾn, but in both of these manuscripts it is gyḥn. The former is probably an imitation of the Arabic-script spelling, while the form without ālap in the manuscripts still indicates ā in the second syllable by means of an assumed zqāpā.

Now for the CFMM texts.

CFMM 417, pp. 465-466

An untitled monastic selection. These two pages make up the whole of this short text. As you can see, it follows something from Isaac of Nineveh, and it precedes Ps.-Evagrius, On the Perfect and the Just (CPG 2465 = Hom. 14 of the Liber Graduum). The manuscript is dated March, 1785 AG (= 1474 CE).

CFMM, p. 465

CFMM, p. 465

CFMM 417, p. 466

CFMM 417, p. 466


CFMM 418, ff. 235v-243v

Excerpts “from his teaching”. Here are the first and last pages of the text. This longer text follows Isaac of Nineveh’s Letter on how Satan Takes Pains to Remove the Diligent from Silence (ff. 223v-235v, Eggartā ʿal hāy d-aykannā metparras Sāṭānā la-mbaṭṭālu la-ḥpiṭē men šelyā) and precedes some Profitable Sayings attributed to Isaac. This manuscript — written by more than one scribe, but at about the same time, it seems — is dated on f. 277v with the year 1482, but the 14- is to be read 17-, so we have 1782 AG (= 1470/1 CE; cf. Vööbus, Handschriftliche Überlieferung der Mēmrē-Dichtung des Jaʿqōb von Serūg, III 97).

CFMM 418, f. 235v

CFMM 418, f. 235v

CFMM 418, f. 243v

CFMM 418, f. 243v


Tauwinkl, Carmen Fotescu, “Abū Ghālib, an Unknown West Syrian Spiritual Author of the XIIth Century”, Parole de l’Orient 36 (2010): 277-284.

Tauwinkl, Carmen Fotescu, “A Spiritual Author in 12th Century Upper Mesopotamia: Abū Ghālib and his Treatise on Monastic Life”, Pages 75-93 in The Syriac Renaissance. Edited by Teule, Herman G.B. and Tauwinkl, Carmen Fotescu and ter Haar Romeny, Robert Bas and van Ginkel, Jan. Eastern Christian Studies 9. Leuven / Paris / Walpole, MA: Peeters, 2010.

Vööbus, Arthur, History of Asceticism in the Syrian Orient: A Contribution to the History of Culture in the Near East, III, CSCO 500, Subs. 81. Louvain: Secrétariat du CorpusSCO, 1988, pp. 407-410.

Vööbus, Arthur, “Important Discoveries for the History of Syrian Mysticism: New Manuscript Sources for Athanasius Abû Ghalîb”, Journal of Near Eastern Studies 35:4 (1976): 269-270.

Vosté, Jacques Marie, “Athanasios Aboughaleb, évêque de Gihân en Cilicie, écrivain ascétique du XIIe siècle”, Revue de l’Orient chrétien III, 6 [26] (1927-1928): 432-438. Available here.

Where do solitary monks live? Or, how to name various rocky places in Syriac   Leave a comment

While cataloging the 15th-century manuscript CFMM 152 (on which see also here), I was struck by the long rubric of this mēmrā attributed to Ephrem.

CFMM 152, p. 156

CFMM 152, p. 156

(Students of Syriac may note the construct state before a preposition in ʿāmray b-ṭurē [Nöldeke, Gramm., § 206], as well as in the common epithet lbiš l-alāhā [Brockelmann, Lexicon Syriacum, 2d ed., 358a].)

Here with English glosses are the nouns in this rubric where monks may dwell. They can all be rocky areas, and there might be some semantic ambiguity and overlap with some of them.

  • ṭurā mountain
  • gdānpā ledge, crag
  • šnāntā rock, crag, peak
  • ṣeryā crack, fissure
  • pqaʿtā crack (also valley)
  • ḥlēlā crack

Brock’s list of incipits tells us that this mēmrā, possibly a genuine work of Ephrem, has been published by Beck in Sermones IV (CSCO 334-335 / Scr. Syr. 148-149, 1973), pp. 16-28. (Published earlier by Zingerle and Rahmani; there are two English translations, neither available to me at the moment.) The rubric in Beck’s ed. differs slightly from the one in this manuscript.

For comparison, here is another mēmrā attributed to Ephrem from a later manuscript, CFMM 157, p. 104. (see Beck, Sermones IV, pp. 1-16, for a published edition of the mēmrā).

CFMM 157, p. 104

CFMM 157, p. 104

This one has some of the same words, but the related addition terms are:

  • mʿartā cave (pl. without fem. marker; see Nöldeke, Gramm., § 81)
  • šqipā cliff
  • pe/aʿrā cave

And so I leave you with these related Syriac terms, in case you wish to write a Syriac poem with events in rocky locales!

A 15th-century Syriac scribal note   2 comments

Here is a simple scribal note on a page of manuscript 152 of the Church of the Forty Martyrs, Mardin (CFMM), a book dated 1780 AG (= 1468/9 CE) and containing mēmrē attributed to Isaac, Ephrem, and Jacob. On p. 59, where the date is given, in addition to the name Gabriel, which also occurs in this note, we see the name Abraham as another partner in producing the manuscript, which was copied at the Monastery of Samuel.

CFMM 152, p. 145

CFMM 152, p. 145

Here’s the Syriac and an English translation, followed by a few notes for students.

d-pāgaʿ w-qārē nšammar ṣlotā l-Gabriʾēl da-npal b-hālēn ḥaššē wa-ktab hānā ptāḥā a(y)k da-l-ʿuhdānā w-meṭṭul reggat ṣlotā d-ḥussāyā da-ḥṭāhē

Whoever comes upon and reads [this note], let him send a prayer for Gabriel, who has fallen into these sufferings and has written this page-spread as a memorial and due to a longing for a prayer for the forgiveness of [his] sins.

A few notes on the passage:

  • The verb pgaʿ, semantically similar to Greek ἐντυγχάνειν, often means “to read” and is commonly paired with qrā in notes and colophons.
  • šmr D + ṣlotā means “to direct, send, utter a prayer”.
  • ḥaššē may not refer to any specific pains or illness. Scribes are generally all too happy to remind their readers that it was in difficult circumstances — of environment, body, mind, etc. — that they wielded their pens!
  • ptāḥā means “the opening” (ptaḥ to open), that is, the two-page spread of an open book.
  • The purpose, commonly mentioned in notes and colophons, of Gabriel’s copying this book is to remind readers to pray for his sins.

Stones, beetles, or both? The transmogrification of the shepherd that Barbara cursed   Leave a comment

I have previously discussed an episode in the Syriac version of the story of Barbara in which a shepherd and his flock are mutated into beetles. As I mentioned there, in the Greek version, the sheep become beetles (κανθαρίδες), but the shepherd himself becomes a stone (λίθος). I also noted that the synaxarion texts in Arabic and Gǝʿǝz lack this episode entirely. Since then I have looked at two other sources: an Arabic version from a manuscript I cataloged, and the Armenian version in Vark’ ew vkayabanut’iwnk’ srboc’, vol. 2, and here is what I have found.

The Armenian text appears in Vark’ 2, two lines from the bottom of p. 358 to p. 359, line 13 (see here). The text, with a few notes on vocabulary and grammar and an English translation, follow:

Եւ սուրբն Վառվառ ելեալ փախչէր յերեսաց հօրն իւրոյ։

ելեալ ptcp ելանեմ, ելի to go out | փախչէր impf 3sg պախչեմ, -խեայ to flee  | երես, -աց face

Իսկ հայրն իբրեւ զարիւնարդու գազան՝ ելեալ [p. 359] վարէր զհետ նորա.

արիւնարդու bloodthirsty, bloodsucking | գազան, -աց beast, animal | վարէր impf 3sg վարիմ, -եցայ to conduct oneself, act, go (m/p of վարեմ, -եցի to direct, guide, manage, lead, use) | զհետ after (< հետ, -ոյ, -ք, -տոց footprint, step, track)

եւ ել ի լեառն եւ խնդրէր զերանելին Վառվառ. եւ ահա տեսանէր ի լերինն հովիւս երկուս զի արածէին զհօտս իւրեանց. եւ հարցանէր ցնոսա եթէ արդեօք տեսեալ իցեն զնա։

ել aor 3sg ելանեմ, ելի to go out | խնդրեմ, -եցի to search for, pursue, wish | լեառն, լերանց mountain | արածեմ, -եցի to tend (herd), cause to graze | հօտ, -ից flock, herd | հարցանեմ, հարցի to ask, question | արդեօք perhaps | իցեմ subj pres 3pl եմ to be

Իսկ միւսն ի նոցանէ կամեցաւ ստել վասն նորա զի մի ի բուռն անկցի սուրբն եւ սպանցի, եւ երդնոյր նմա եթէ ոչ եւս գիտեմ զնա թէ ուր իցէ, եւ ոչ տեսեալ իցեմ զնա։

կամին, -եցայ to want, intend | ստել to lie | բուռն, բռանց fist, hand, violence, force | անկցի aor subj 3sg անկանիմ, անկաւ to fall | սպանցի aor m/p subj 3sg սպանանեմ, սպանի to kill, slay, slaughter, etc. | երդնույր impf 3sg երդնում, երդւայ to swear | եւս still | գիտեմ, գիտացի to know | ուր where | իցէ pres subj 3sg եմ to be | իցեմ pres subj 1sg եմ to be

Իսկ ընկեր նորին ակնարկեալ եւ նշանացի սկսաւ ցուցանել նմա զաղախինն Քրիստոսի։

ընկեր, -աց companion | ակնարկեալ ptcp ակնարկեմ, -եցի to indicate, show | նշանեմ, -եցի to sign, mark, make a sign (նշան, -աց sign) | սկսաւ aor 3sg սկսանիմ to begin | ցուցանեմ, ցուցի to show, point out | աղախին, -ոց/-աց maidservant

Զորս եւ անիծեալ սրբոյն՝ զանօրէն հովիւն զայս, եւ առժամայն մածեալ արձանացաւ հանդերձ ոչխարօքն, որպէս զկինն Ղովտայ. եւ կայ մինչեւ ցայսօր նովին կերպարանաւ, կան քարացեալ ի նմին տեղւոջ ի ցոյցս տեսողաց։

անիծեալ ptcp անիծանեմ, անիծի to curse | անօրէն unjust, wicked | առժամայն immediately | մածեալ ptcp մածանիմ, մածայ to be glued, adhere, coagulate, congeal, join, unite | արձանացաւ aor 3sg արձանանամ, -ացայ to become like a statue, to be fixed  | հանդերձ with, together with (also -ից clothes) | ոչխար, -աց sheep (cf. Geo. ცხოვარი/ცხუარი sheep [see Ačaṙean, vol. 3, 562b]) | կին woman, wife | կայ pres 3sg կամ, կացի to remain, be, stand | նովին նոյն that (same), self, he/she/it | կերպարան, ի (also pl) form, face, look, appearance, image | կան pres 3pl կամ, կացի to be, exist, live, remain, stand | քարացեալ ptcp քարացուցանեմ to turn into stone | ցոյց, ցուցից showing, index, sign, testimony, indicator, proof | տեսող seer, spectator

A rough ET:

Saint Barbara, having gone out, was fleeing from her father, but he, like a bloodthirsty animal, was pursuing her. And he went out to the mountain and searched for the blessed Barbara, and just then he saw on the mountain two shepherds, who were tending their flocks, and he was asking them whether they might have seen her. One of them wanted to lie for her, lest the saint fall violently and be killed, and he swore to him, “I don’t know at all where she might be, nor will I be able to spot her.” But his companion began to indicate and make signs so as to point out Christ’s handmaid. The saint, then, having cursed him, (namely) this wicked shepherd, and he immediately having coagulated, he, together with the sheep, became like a statue, like Lot’s wife, and it remains to this day in that very form: they remain petrified in the same place for a sign to those who see it.

The Arabic (Garšūnī) copy I have read is in CFMM 306, with this episode at ff. 57v10-58r7. Here is the image:

CFMM 306, ff. 57v-58r

CFMM 306, ff. 57v-58r (pp. 102-103)

And a rough ET:

And when her wicked father realized that she had gotten the better of him by the power of her great Lord, he made a thorough search for her and went up the mountain after her. That mountain was enough for two [shepherds] to tend sheep, and he asked them about her. One of them swore that he had not seen her. Satan entered the heart of the other as he had entered the heart of Judas, who handed Christ over to the Jews: thus [the second shepherd] handed the chaste woman into her father’s hand. Then she lifted her gaze toward that shepherd who had pointed her out to her father and she cursed him, and he and his flock became black rocks, [remaining so] to this very day.

So we have now seen this part of the tale in Greek, Syriac, Armenian, and Arabic. Here is a chart showing what happens to the cursed shepherd and his sheep in these versions:

shepherd sheep
Greek stone beetle
Syriac beetle beetle
Arabic stone stone
Armenian stone stone

This data is of course not based on a complete examination of surviving sources for this story, not even for the languages included here. In all likelihood a more thorough investigation would reveal even more variety across the versions of this text, as well as some clues as to when and whence the different metamorphoses manifest in these texts.

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.

Jerome’s Life of Paul the Hermit in Syriac (and a colophon on Dayr al-suryān)   1 comment

In some Christian traditions, today is the commemoration of Jerome, so I thought of a Syriac text connected with Jerome that I cataloged some time ago. In CFMM 261, pp. 3-13, there is Jerome’s Life of Paul the Hermit, the Latin text of which is in PL 23, cols., 17-30 (ET here). See BHO 909-916 for Coptic, Armenian, Syriac, and Gǝʕǝz versions. The Syriac text* has been published in Bedjan’s Acta martyrum et sanctorum 5: 561-572 (here at, and the text also appears in The Book of Paradise (ed. Budge, vol. 2, pp. 242-251; online here). The beginning of the CFMM text is missing, but the identification of the work is sure, not least thanks to the end of the work (see below). I have not closely compared the printed editions with this witness from CFMM, but, unsurprisingly, even a quick look reveals some differences. Only considering the end of the work we see that CFMM 261 has six lines that are absent from the texts of Bedjan and Budge.

*Bedjan’s edition of this text is based on these two manuscripts: Paris syr. 317 (Chabot, “Notice sur les manuscrits syriaques de la Bibliothèque nationale acquis depuis 1874, JA IX, 8 (1896): 264-265; Nau, “Notices des manuscripts syriaques, éthiopiens et mandéens, entrés à la Bibliothèque nationale de Paris depuis l’édition des catalogues,” ROC 16 (1911):  287) and BL add. 12173 (Wright, Cat., pp. 1070-1072).

CFMM 261 (olim Dayr al-Zaʿfarān 116; cf. Dolabani, Dayr al-Zaʿfarān catalog, pt. II, pp. 86-88) has an original part, along with some later additions on pp. 441-464. The original colophon (see below, with translation), coming at the end of quire 22, pp. 439-440, is incomplete and lacks a name and date, while the date of the later part (1757/8) is on p. 464. The original part is perhaps of the 16th century. A careful comparison is necessary, but the contents of CFMM 261 and the list of stories in the colophon are very close to the original contents of BL add. 14732 (Wright, Cat., pp. 1141-1146). As the scribe says in the colophon, he found his exemplar for this manuscript among the Syriac books of Dayr al-Suryān, which ceased to have a major Syriac presence in the early seventeenth century (L. Van Rompay in GEDSH 386-387).

Here are the last two pages of Jerome’s Life of Paul the Hermit in the CFMM manuscript.

CFMM 261, pp. 12-13

CFMM 261, pp. 12-13

And now the colophon, which will be of interest to readers well beyond those concerned especially with Jerome, together with an English translation.

CFMM 261, p. 439

CFMM 261, p. 439

Ended, completed, lined, and concluded are these confused and mixed up lines, altered [for the worse] in every way, inasmuch as I am not a scribe, but for lack of scribes, for necessity, I was compelled to corrupt these pages, because I was sojourning [or in exile] in the d[esert] of Scetis, in our monastery of the Syrians, and when I went up the large tower that is in the holy monastery and saw the Syriac books that were in it, countless and numberless in their quantity, I saw a large book that had stories of all the holy fathers, as for my consolation. So I took it to my cell and was greatly consoled by it. I read the stories, but not all of them, and according to the power that the Lord gave us — me and my spiritual father, the monk and priest Šams al-Dīn — we left the city of Egypt [meṣrēn] and brought with us a few pages [qallil waraqē], and as we read these stories of holy people, at the beginning of the book was written the story of our lady, the Theotokos, Mary, and after that, the story of Paul, the story of Antony, chief of monks,

CFMM 261, p. 440

CFMM 261, p. 440

and all the perfect fathers, one after another according to their times, leaders of monasteries, cells, and deserts. I selected a few of the stories, according to my ability and according to the demand of my spiritual father, and these are the stories that I copied:

  1. first, Paul, [the fi]rst and the firstborn of solitaries, ascetics, and mourners,
  2. Paul the simple, the disciple of Anba Antony,
  3. Paul the bishop,
  4. John the priest,
  5. the holy, blessed and exalted martyr Anba Moses the Ethiopian, monk and master among ascetics,
  6. the holy, god-clothed master among ascetics, Anba Paul, concerning his labors and exhaustion,
  7. the holy, god-clothed, and blessed Anba John Kama [ⲕⲁⲙⲉ],
  8. the holy Mary of Egypt [igupṭāyā meṣrāytā],
  9. on the life of the blessed Evagrius,
  10. the holy John, bishop of Tella,
  11. the holy Šāhdōst, catholicos, together with those who were with him,
  12. the blessed Ephrem the teacher and pride of the Syrians,
  13. the holy and blessed Symeon, who was called a fool [Salos] on account of Christ,
  14. John, his spiritual brother,
  15. the martyrdom of the holy Cyprian and Justina, his holy daughter


Here is one resource specifically on Jerome and Syriac, with two more general excellent studies:

Adam Kamesar, Greek Scholarship and The Hebrew Bible: A Study of the Quaestiones Hebraicae in Genesim, Oxford Classical Monographs (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993).

Daniel King, “Vir Quadrilinguis? Syriac in Jerome and Jerome in Syriac,” in Andrew Cain and Josef M. Lössl, eds., Jerome of Stridon: His Life, Writings, and Legacy (Farnham: Ashgate, 2009), pp. 209-223.

Stefan Rebenich, Jerome, The Early Church Fathers (London:  Routledge, 2002).


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