Archive for the ‘Isaac of Antioch’ Category

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.

Isaac of Antioch in a late, but important, Syriac manuscript (CFMM 259)   1 comment

CFMM 259, p. 195

This image is of the beginning of Isaac (of Antioch)’s “Homily (Memra) on the Departure (Death) of Children”. The memra begins:

O how bitter is the departure,

How hard and bitter the separation,

That separates a mother from her children,

And a bearer from her beloved ones.

With what voices can we mourn

A beloved, beautiful child,

Who sprouted and grew like a flower,

But quickly withered and vanished?

Most Syriac poets, even Jacob of Sarug, have generally been overshadowed by Ephrem, but lines like these, poignant and emotive, serve as a reminder that there are riches beyond those of Ephrem. (I thought the same recently while reading Qurillona.)

Notice of this homily is recorded in Bickell’s list of incipits (no. 6; in vol. 1 of his ed. of Isaac’s homilies), and according to Sebastian Brock’s list of Isaac’s homilies (JSS 32 [1987]: 279-313), this one is unpublished. There is, however, another memra that begins similarly (no. 177 in Bickell’s list, also included in Brock’s) and that has been published: P. Zingerle, Chrestomathia Syriaca, pp. 387–394 (from Vat. Syr. 92).[1] It turns out that the memra from CFMM 259 above, a text thought to have been unpublished, is in fact not a separate memra from that published in Zingerle’s chrestomathy; it is another version of it with different wording here and there. A comparison even of the short sample given above with the text that Zingerle published shows some of these differences, and there are more. I am not (now, at least) making a full collation, but I note that the reading of CFMM 259 has bearing on Zingerle’s remark on p. 387 about d-pāršā in his text. We are, of course, not unused to the fact of different textual versions, but it is all the easier to get thrown off by the fact when different wording occurs immediately at the beginning of a text!

The manuscript is dated 2220 AG (= 1908/9 CE), and there is a donation note at the beginning dated 1948. A table of contents is supplied at the beginning, but it missed a few of the texts in the manuscript, of which there is a total of thirty. In addition to providing another witness to this homily of Isaac’s, it also contains a number of other notable texts, homiletic, hagiographic (some of which are from Palladios), and apocryphal. Among them:

  • Memra on the Cream of Wisdom by John of Manʿim (cf. Barsoum, Scattered Pearls, p. 521)
  • The Revelations of the Twelve Apostles, translated from Hebrew into Greek and Greek into Syriac
  • The Two Letters that Fell from Heaven (see generally GCAL I 295-296)
  • The Story of Sergius Baḥira (text and trans. in B. Roggema, The legend of Sergius Baḥīrā: eastern Christian apologetics and apocalyptic in response to Islam [Brill, 2009].)
  • The Story of Maurice the Believing Emperor
  • The Story of Taḥsia, the Prostitute that Anba Bessarion Instructed (cf. Bedjan, AMS VII 105-109; also BHO 1137 for Armenian?)
  • The Story of Honorios the Emperor
  • The Story of Moses the Ethiopian (cf. Bedjan, AMS VII 219-224)
  • Memra on Himself, by Bar Qiqi (cf. Scattered Pearls, p. 414)
  • The Story of Simeon of the Olives
  • The Story of Daniel of Scetis (This text does not seem to exactly match any of those translated by S.P. Brock in T. Vivian, ed., Witness to Holiness: Abba Daniel of Scetis, pp. 181-205.)
  • The Story of Daniel of Galaš
  • The Story of Mark of Jabal Tarmaq
  • Sogitha (dialogue poem) on Joseph and Benjamin (cf. S.P. Brock, Sogyata Mgabbyata [1982], pp. 15-17; cf. Le Muséon 97 (1984): 42.)[2]

The few bibliographic references above are not complete. Some of these texts exist also in other copies at HMML (and elsewhere), either in Syriac or Arabic / Garšūnī.


[1] Thanks to those members of the Hugoye list who shared copies of Zingerle’s book with me.

[2] Thanks to Kristian Heal for pointing out to me these references for the sogitha.

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