Archive for the ‘Saint Mark’s Monastery’ Category

A Syriac fragment on Sisoes?   Leave a comment

In my Twitter feed appeared one of the images of Sisoes, who is commemorated on July 6, over the tomb of Alexander the Great, such as this one or this one. At the end of the inscription you can see his address and question to death: αἴ, αἴ, θάνατε, τὶϲ δύναται φυγεῖν ϲε; “Ah! Death, who can escape you?”

I was thus reminded a short fragment (SMMJ 166, f. 95v) I cataloged recently that is tucked in among other texts not related to this saint. This particular fragment names the saint SWSYWS, and he is called Abba; despite the W in the first syllable, instead of Y, unless other evidence comes to contradict the assumption, I’m assuming that Sisoes is the saint that is intended in this little anecdote.

SMMJ 166, f. 95v

SMMJ 166, f. 95v

They said about Abba Sisoes that when the church service would end, he would quickly flee to his cell. They said that he had a demon, but he was really doing the work of God.

Does anyone know of this anecdote, whether associated with Sisoes or another saint?


“Sinking in the sea of sin”   1 comment

Christian scribes typically trumpet their sinfulness, and there is no shortage of creative self-deprecation. In a colophon to a text in SMMJ 170 (also mentioned in the previous post) the scribe asks colorfully for prayer from his reader with memorable imagery.

SMMJ 170, f. 218r

SMMJ 170, f. 218r

Here is the same in Arabic script:

كملت امثال الحكيم يوسيفوس بعون الله وعلينا رحمته اجمعين امين. يا ايها القاري لا تنسا الكاتب الخاطي من صلاتك لاجل الله لاني غارق في بحر الخطيّة وخص نفسك بالف سلام امين. وذلك في سنة ١٩٠٧ ٢٣ يوم من تموز

This imagery even becomes alliterative in English:

Ended are the Parables of Josippos the Sage with God’s help: his mercy be on us all, Amen. Reader! Do not delay the sinful scribe from your prayer, for God’s sake, because I am sinking in the sea of sin, and may he grant your soul peace a thousandfold. This is in the year 1907 [AG], the 23rd day of Tammuz.

The text that ends here contains sixty-two parables (amṯāl) with explanation, presented as a dialogue between “Josippos” and King Nebuchadnezzar.

Any other examples of sea-imagery (cf. Ps 69:1-2), with sin and otherwise? Feel free to mention them in the comments.

(Ps.-)Ignatius of Antioch, Hortatory Epistle to Priests (CPG 1030)   1 comment

In the manuscript Saint Mark’s, Jerusalem, № 170, ff. 139v-145v, a collection mostly of homilies in Garšūnī, there is a letter attributed to Ignatius of Antioch (al-nūrānī). As I was cataloging the manuscript and hunting down some information on the text, I located what seemed to be it in CPG 1030:

Picture 44

I was glad to see that a Syriac version of the letter might be available, but when I went to check it (only in the Woodbrooke vol., BJRL not being available to me), it was immediately apparent that Mingana published a Garšūnī text, not Syriac. So there in CPG 1030 we should read arabice, not syriace! Mingana’s text is based on two Garšūnī manuscripts, perhaps of the sixteenth century (see his pages 96-97). SMMJ 170 is later, and I have yet to determine the relationship of this copy of the text to that which Mingana published, but here is a sample (= Mingana, p. 110, line 7-p. 111, line 3) for those few who might be interested.

SMMJ 170, f. 140r

SMMJ 170, f. 140r

A taʿlīq Arabic colophon in a Garšūnī manuscript   2 comments

Colophons do not necessarily match in language the texts that they conclude, so that we sometimes have a Garšūnī colophon at the end of a Syriac text, or vice versa (as in an earlier place in the manuscript mentioned below). Garšūnī and Arabic are not, of course, distinct languages, but given that the medium in view here is graphic, the clearly distinct writing systems employed for them may matter in a way approaching that which exists between different languages properly speaking. In addition, at least some scribes that used Garšūnī were careful to note the difference, as I pointed out recently.

Here, mainly for the handwriting, is an Arabic colophon at the end of a Garšūnī manuscript: Saint Mark’s Monastery, Jerusalem, № 169, which mostly contains homilies in Garšūnī. (At the beginning there is an excerpt, in Syriac, from the Chronicle of Michael the Great, book 11 of chapter 20, on the Council of Manazkert convened in 726 by Catholicos Yovhannēs Ōjnec’i the Philosopher with Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Athanasios III. Neither Michael nor the title Chronicle are specifically mentioned here, however.)

The kind of Arabic script most often found in the collections I have cataloged is naskh. Less commonly we see ruqʿa, and rarer still is the slanted taʿlīq or one of its derivations, so the handwriting here is of some interest merely for that reason. The script here is characterized by each word being written on a down-slanting line (sometimes with the last letter written above the preceding parts of the word), loosely placed diacritical marks, and some horizontal and rounded lines being notably extended. Perhaps others would like to try their hand at reading it. My transcription (save for one part in the first line that has proven undecipherable to me so far) follows below. By the way, the year is given as 1092 AG, but this must be a mistake for 2092 AG (= 1780/1 CE), so the full date as given below would be May 1, 1781; a purchase note at the end of the manuscript is dated 2102 AG (= 1790/1 CE). The scribe, also named earlier in this manuscript in a Syriac colophon, is called Anīs, who is from Gargar, but this manuscript was written outside Diyarbakır/Āmid.

SMMJ 169, f. 145r

SMMJ 169, f. 145r

كتب بداخل مدينة آمد في قلاية البطريركية الايغناطيوسية ادام الله سعادتها ؟ ؟ الينا المعظم المغبوط المكرم مار ايغناطيوس

بطريرك انطاكية بيد احقر عبيد الله واحوجهم الراهب الهارب وانيس باسم قسيس في سنة اثنان تسعين والف للاسكندر اليوناني

في يوم عيد القديس مار ميخايل

اول يوم شهر ايار

رحم الله من ترحم على الكاتب الحقير

وعلى والديه واخوته


Two scribal notes (Garšūnī & Arabic) of a certain Rabbān Īsḥāq   Leave a comment

Marginal notes of any kind, whether by the original scribe or by a later owner or reader, are among the unique parts of a particular manuscript, no matter how many other copies of the main text may exist. Here, as a simple example of such notes, and for those that might like some easy practice reading Garšūnī and Arabic, are two images from SMMJ 168, a collection of homilies attributed to Ephrem, Jacob of Serugh, John Chrysostom, and others in Garšūnī. They are both written by a reader and secondary scribe named Isaac (here spelled Īsḥāq). The first one is in Arabic script:

SMMJ 168, f. 240r, margin

SMMJ 168, f. 240r, margin

iġfirū* li-rabbān Īsḥāq

Forgive Rabbān Īsḥāq!

*Missing the alif otiosum.

The second one, several folios later, is written around the outer and lower margin, all in Syriac script (but Arabic language) except for the last three words, which are in Arabic.

SMMJ 168, f. 270r

SMMJ 168, f. 270r

hāḏihi ‘l-waǧh katībat  al-ʕabd al-ḫāṭiʔ rabbān Īsḥāq bi-sm qass wa-rāhib. taraḥḥam ʕalay-hi wa-ʕalá wāliday-hi ayyuhā ‘l-qānī wa-‘l-qāriʔ. raḥimaka ‘llāhu āmīn.

This side [of the folio] is the writing of the sinful slave Rabbān Īsḥāq, [who is] in name a priest and monk. O owner and reader, plead for mercy for him and his parents! May God be merciful to you! Amen!

“The Garšūnī language”   4 comments

My involvement in cataloging Syriac and Arabic manuscripts over the last few years has impressed upon me how often and actively Syriac Orthodox and Chaldean scribes (and presumably, readers) used Garšūnī: it is anything but an isolated occurrence in these collections. This brings to the fore questions of how these scribes and readers thought about Garšūnī. Did they consider it simply a writing system, a certain kind of Arabic, or something else? At least a few specific references to “Garšūnī” in colophons may help us answer them. Scribes sometimes make reference to their transcriptions from Arabic script into Syriac script, and elsewhere a scribe mentions translation “from Garšūnī into Syriac” (CFMM 256, p. 344; after another text in the same manuscript, p. 349, we have in Arabic script “…who transcribed and copied [naqala wa-kataba] from Arabic into Garšūnī”). Such statements show that scribes certainly considered Arabic and Garšūnī distinctly.

While cataloging Saint Mark’s Monastery, Jerusalem, (SMMJ) № 167 recently, I found in the colophon a reference to Garšūnī unlike any that I’d seen before, in which the scribe refers, not to the Garšūnī “text” or “copy” (nusḫa, as in SMMJ 140, f. 132v), but rather to “the Garšūnī language” (lisān al-garšūnī). Here is an English translation of the relevant part of the colophon, with the images from the manuscript below.

SMMJ 167, ff. 322r-322v

…[God], in whose help this blessed book is finished and completed, the book of Mar Ephrem the Syrian. The means for copying it were not available with us at the monastery, so we found it with a Greek [rūmī] priest from Beit Jala, a friend of ours, and we took it on loan, so that we could read in it. We observed that it was a priceless jewel. It was written in Arabic, so we, the wretched, with his holiness, our revered lord, the honored Muṭrān, Ǧirǧis Mār Grigorios, were interested in transcribing it into the Garšūnī language, so that reading it might be easy for the novice monks, that they might obtain the salvation of their souls.

This was in the year 1882 AD, the 11th of the blessed month of June…

SMMJ 167, f. 322r (bottom)

SMMJ 167, f. 322r (bottom)

SMMJ 167, f. 322v (top)

SMMJ 167, f. 322v (top)

This is the second explicit reference I have found where a Garšūnī text is considered more readable to at least some section of the literate population. In this case, the audience in view is a group of beginning monks, and in the aforementioned manuscript SMMJ 140 the transcription from Arabic into Garšūnī was made “to facilitate the understanding of its contents for every reader.”

UPDATE (June 17, 2014): Thanks to Salam Rassi for help on the phrase ʕalá sabīl al-ʕīra.

A self-deprecating scribe, one among many   Leave a comment

Lately I have been cataloging a group of manuscripts from Saint Mark’s Monastery, Jerusalem, that have homiletic contents, especially the mēmrē of Jacob of Serug, including some that are hitherto unpublished. One of these manuscripts is SMMJ 162, from the late 19th or early 20th century. I don’t mention it here so much for the texts the scribe penned into it, but rather for a little colophon left at the end of Jacob’s Mēmrā on Love (cf. Bedjan, vol. 1, 606-627), f. 181r:

SMMJ 162, f. 181r

SMMJ 162, f. 181r

Pray for the sinner who has written [it], a fool, lazy, slothful, deceitful, a liar, wretched, stupid, blind of understanding, with no knowledge of these things, [nor] more than these things, but pray for me for our Lord’s sake!

Almost from the beginning of my time cataloging at HMML, I have been collecting excerpts of scribal notes and colophons that I found interesting for some reason or other, one such reason being the extreme self-loathing and self-deprecation that scribes not uncommonly trumpet. The cases in which scribes go on and on with adjectives or substantives of negative sentiment can elicit almost a humorous reaction, but scribes who do this do give their readers some semantically related vocabulary examples all in one spot!

NB: If interested, see my short article in Illuminations, Spring 2012, pp. 4-6, available here, for a popular presentation on colophons.

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