Archive for the ‘Arabic Bible’ Tag

The pericope adulterae (John 7:53-8:11) in a Syriac-Arabic (Garšūnī) lectionary   5 comments

The famous passage known as the pericope adulterae, about which there is a long bibliography and on which Chris Keith has written perhaps most recently (e.g. this survey paper and this book), is not a regular part of the Bible in Syriac. That is, it is not in the typical text of the Peshitta, nor in the Old Syriac, nor even the Harqlean, but we have traces of it, on which see Gwynn, Remnants of the Later Syriac Versions of the Bible (1909), lxxi-lxxii, texts on 41-49, and notes on 140. Gwynn (lxxii) refers to a late Syriac copy, which he does not print, “judging from internal evidence that it was merely a translation from the Latin Vulgate probably connected with the action of the Synod of Diamper,” but he does give some Syriac texts of the passage. The situation with biblical texts in Arabic versions generally being more complicated than Syriac, we can’t say much without further work, but in my recent cataloging work I have come across a copy of the passage in both languages in a late seventeenth-century lectionary (CCM 64) with Syriac and Garšūnī in parallel columns. According to this manuscript’s long colophon on ff. 202r-205r, the book was finished on 7 Ḥzirān (June), a Friday, 1695 AD and 2006 AG, written in the village of ʕayn Tannūr by a scribe named ʕabdā l-ḥad, whose name is given explicitly and also cryptically and acrostically in the series of words ʕabdā bṣirā dawyā allilā lellā bannānā d-šiṭ min kolhon bnaynāšā (“unworthy slave, weak, insignificant, foolish, slothful, more wretched than anyone”).

The text appears in the lection on ff. 77v-80r, for the fifth Sunday of the Fast (Lent), which contains John 7:37-8:20. In a marginal note, the scribe notifies the reader that the verses we call 7:53-8:11 are not in Syriac copies, but he has translated them from Latin:

CCM 64, f. 79r, marginal note

CCM 64, f. 79r, marginal note

Know, dear reader, that this pericope [pāsoqā] is lacking in our Syriac copy [lit. the copy of us Syriac people], but we have seen it among the Latins [r(h)omāyē], and we have translated it into our Syriac language and into Arabic. Pray for the poor scribe!

John 7:53, in both languages is written interlinearly, but 8:1-8:11 appear just like the rest of the text. (The word pāsoqā above can mean “verse” as well as “section, pericope”; given the history of this passage, in Syriac and other languages, I have taken the word to have the latter meaning here, and not to be merely a reference to the interlinear verse.) Were it not for the marginal note, the reader would have no idea that the passage does not normally occur in the text. Here, then, is a little something for other Syriac and Arabic/Garšūnī readers; I have not compared this Syriac version carefully with those given by Gwynn, but for anyone who wishes to do so, here it is. Happy reading!

CCM 64, f. 79r

CCM 64, f. 79r

CCM 64, f. 79v

CCM 64, f. 79v

CCM 64, f. 80r

CCM 64, f. 80r

The original manuscript of ʿAbdišoʿ of Nisibis’ Gospel in Rhymed Prose?   2 comments

One of the more interesting texts of Arabic Christian literature that has hitherto escaped a close philological study of the whole is the Gospel text of ʿAbdišoʿ bar Brikhā of Nisibis (d. 1318; see further Childers 2011). The work is interesting especially because of its form: it is a translation (or better, a paraphrase) of Gospel readings together with a general preface and some prologues to the four Gospels individually, but not in bare prose, but rather in saǧʿ, typically called “rhymed prose” in English (see the bibliography below for works touching saǧʿ). In at least four articles, Fr. Samir has focused on this particular work, including an edition and French translation of the prologues (1981) and the same for the general preface (1983). As far as I know, there is no translation of this very interesting, not to mention elegant, prefatory material in English, nor is there a complete edition of ʿAbdišoʿ’s Gospel text itself. Fr. Samir has laid excellent groundwork for this interesting text. My friend Salam Rassi has informed me about the edition from 2007 by Sami Khoury, but unfortunately I have not seen it and have no access to it. It is apparently fully vocalized, a welcome fact.

This work of ʿAbdišoʿ’s deserves to be more fully known by arabists, biblical scholars, and perhaps theologians. Students of Arabic can benefit from the aforementioned vocalized text of the work, if they have access to it; a dedicated lexicon would be an additional help. An English translation at least of the prefatory material if not the whole text would be appreciated by other readers.

NEST AC 11, f. 83v, with Mt 12:1-14

NEST AC 11, f. 83v, with Mt 12:1-14

Fr. Samir (1972: 176) says ten manuscripts (only seven in GCAL) of the work are known, but he does not list them there. Samir 1981 is based on USJBO 431 (341 in the article must be a misprint), NEST AC-11, BnF arabe 204, and Vat. arab. 1354. The first two manuscripts are available for study from HMML. (We might also mention USJBO 432, a kind of revision of ʿAbdišoʿ’s work that has also put the Gospels in their biblical, as opposed to lectionary, order.) But thanks to HMML’s partner, the Centre numérique des manuscrits orientaux (CNMO), there is yet another manuscript of this work available. It is not a manuscript that has been unknown, but it is a manuscript that has for some time been difficult, if not impossible, to access otherwise: Diyarbakır 127 = Macomber 12.37 = (now) CCM 91. For the history of the Chaldean collections of Mardin and Diyarbakır, now joined together, see Scher 1907, Scher 1908, Vosté 1937 (only Syriac), Macomber 1969 (only Syriac), and Macomber N.d. As to this collection, which has a number of important manuscripts across several genres — again, not necessarily unknown, but hardly accessible in recent decades, with even its existence and whereabouts uncertain — about which you will hear more, I hope, in the coming months, it is now being cataloged anew as it presently stands. As to this manuscript itself, Scher (1907: 411-412) rightly notes that we may have here the autograph of ʿAbdišoʿ’s rhymed Gospel, and if not the autograph, an early copy. In any case, it is a very early witness to the work, and no one in the future who works on the text will want to neglect a close study of it.

Following the bibliography below are some images from the manuscript, so that readers may get an idea of the text, and I have included a few transliterated lines so that even readers without Arabic can see some examples of the line-ending rhymes.


(A glance at the index to Sidney H. Griffith’s recently published The Bible in Arabic [Princeton and Oxford, 2013] reveals no references to ʿAbdišoʿ.)

Beeston, A.F.L. 1983. “The Role of Parallelism in Arabic Prose”. In Beesont et al. 1983: 180-185 (esp. 185).

Beeston, A.F.L. et al., eds. 1983. Arabic Literature to the End of the Umayyad Period. Cambridge.

Childers, J.W. 2011. “ʿAbdishoʿ bar Brikha”. In GEDSH 3-4.

Fahd, T., W.P. Heinrichs, and Afif Ben Abdesselem. 1995. “Sadjʿ”. In Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2d ed.: 732-738.

Graf, Georg. GCAL I 165-166.

Khoury, Sami. 2007. ʿAbdīshōʿ al-Ṣūbāwī. Anājīl ʿAbdīshūʿ al-Ṣūbāwī (d. 1318) al-musajjaʿa. 2 vols. Beirut: CEDRAC, 2007.

Latham, J.D. 1983. “The Beginnings of Arabic Prose Literature: The Epistolary Genre”. In Beeston et al. 1983: 154-179 (esp. 175-176).

Macomber, William F. 1969. “New Finds of Syriac Manuscripts in the Middle East”. ZDMG Suppl. I.2: 473-482 (esp. 479-482).

Macomber, William F. N.d. “A Checklist of the Manuscripts of the Combines Libraries of the Chaldean Cathedrals of Mardin and Diarbekir.” Not published.

Paret, R. 1983. “The Qurʾān — I”. In Beeson et al. 1983: 186-227 (esp. 196-198).

Samir, Samir Khalil Samir. 1972. “Date de composition de l’évangéliaire rimé de ʿAbdišuʿ”. Mélanges de l’Université Saint-Joseph 47: 175-181.

Samir, Samir Khalil Samir. 1981. “Les prologues de l’évangéliaire rimé de ʿAbdishuʿ de Nisibe”. Proche-orient chrétien 31: 43-70.

Samir, Samir Khalil Samir. 1983. “La Préface de l’évangéliaire rimé de ʿAbdishuʿ de Nisibe”. Proche-Orient chrétien 33: 19-33.

Samir, Samir Khalil Samir. 1985. “Une réponse implicite à l’iʿgâz du Coran”. Proche-orient chrétien 35: 225-237.

Scher, Addai. 1907. “Notice sur les manuscrits syriaques et arabes conservés à l’archevêché chaldéen de Diarbékir”. Journal asiatique 10: 331–362, 385–431.

Scher, Addai. 1908. “Notice des mss. syriaques et arabes conservés dans la bibliothèque de l’évêché chaldéen de Mardin”. Revue des bibliothèques 18: 64–95.

El-Tayib, Abdulla. 1983. “Pre-Islamic Poetry”. In Beeston et al. 1983: 27-113 (esp. 33).

Vosté, J.-M. 1937. “Notes sur les manuscrits syriaques de Diyarbékir et autres localités d’Orient”. Le Muséon 50: 345-351.


CCM 91, f. 10r: title

CCM 91, f. 10r: title

“The translation of the sinner ʿAbdišoʿ…; he made the translation into Arabic in the year 699 AH and 1611 AG.” (= 1299/1300 CE; cf. Samir 1972)

CCM 91, f. 11v

CCM 91, f. 11v: from the preface

Lines 6-10 from the page above:

ʔamma baʕdu fa-lammā kāna al-naqlu min luɣatin ilá luɣatin ʔuxrá
min ɣayri ʔifsādin wa-lā tabdīlin li-l-maʕná
wa-lā taxlīṭin li-ǧumali ‘l-kalāmi wa-maqāṭiʕih
wa-lā taḥrīfin li-l-qawli ʕan ʔīrādi mubdiʕih
maʕa muḥāwalati ‘l-faṣāḥati fī ‘l-luɣati ‘l-manqūli ʔilayhā
wa-luzūmi ‘l-šurūṭi ‘l-muʕawwali fī ‘l-ʔiḥāṭati bi-ɣarībi ‘l-luɣatayni ʕalayhā

CCM 91, f. 12r

CCM 91, f. 12r: from the preface

The last five lines on this page:

wa-ʔanā fa-maʕa ‘ʕtirāfī b-quṣūrī wa-ǧalālati ‘l-ʔamr
wa-taḍāʔulī ʕan xawḍi ðā ‘l-ɣamr
fa-ʔinnanī iǧtaðaytu ‘l-šarāʔiṭa ‘l-maðkūrata fī-mā tarǧamtuh
wa-ʔaxraǧtu ʔilá ‘l-arʕabiyyati ‘l-fuṣūla ‘l-muqaddasata ‘l-ʔinǧīliyyata ʕalá mā qaddamtuh
wa-badaʔtu bi-ʔinšāʔi ‘l-muqaddimāti ‘l-θamān
(cont. on 12v: li-kulli mina ‘l-ʔarbaʕati ‘l-rusuli ‘θnatān)

CCM 91, f. 14r

CCM 91, f. 14r: first prologue to Mk

CCM 91, f. 19v

CCM 91, f. 19v: rubric and Lk 1

CCM 91, f. 120r

CCM 91, f. 120r: beginning of Jn 14

CCM 91, f. 158r

CCM 91, f. 158r: Lk 19:8-10 (Zacchaeus and Jesus) and the beginning of Mt 13 (Parable of the Sower)

CCM 91, f. 175r

CCM 91, f. 175r: colophon

The colophon essentially repeats the words of the title page (given above), but at the end it adds: “May God be pleased with whoever reads in [this book].” The year at the bottom is unfortunately illegible due to some holes in the paper, but we can see “the beginning of the blessed month Šaʕbān.”

The Samaritan Arabic Pentateuch   2 comments

انّ بأيدي السامريّة توراة غير التوراة التي بأيدي سائر اليهود ويدّعون انها المنزلة على موسى ويقطعون بأن التي بأيدي سائر اليهود محرّفة مبدّلة

The Samaritans have a Pentateuch different (ġayr) from that of the rest of the Jews. They claim that it was sent down [from heaven] to Moses and assert confidently that the one the rest of the Jews have is corrupted and altered (muḥarrafa mubaddala).

(from Ibn Ḥazm’s Al-Fiṣal, more text and trans. [adapted here] in Shehadeh 1989, 491)

If within biblical studies research on the Bible in Arabic is somewhat of a fringe field, within Arabic biblical studies, research on the Samaritan Arabic version of the Bible is a niche even further away. There are, nevertheless, some secondary sources and at least the beginnings of publishing critical editions, scholarly attention to the language and text reaching back, however, to De Sacy (1758-1838) and even earlier. As will be obvious from the bibliography below, Haseeb Shehadeh is the most active scholar in this area currently. His survey article from 1989 (on which much of the information in the following paragraph is based) offers a good introduction to the subject.

The lines above from Ibn Ḥazm (994-1064), while unclear as to which language or languages — Hebrew, Aramaic, or Arabic — the pentateuchal text in question was in, at least reveal recognition of the uniqueness of the community and their biblical literature. As in much of Arabic studies, especially Arabic studies outside the classics of Islamic literature, in this particular branch of study scholars must have frequent recourse to manuscripts, and as elsewhere in the study of biblical texts and versions, cross-linguistic comparison is absolutely necessary at almost every point. (As intimated above, there are Samaritan biblical texts in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic, all generally written in Samaritan script, but there are also copies of the Arabic in Arabic script.) Many manuscripts bear witness to the Arabic version, the oldest dated copy being Shechem Synagogue 6 from 1204 CE in Samaritan script, and the oldest copy in Arabic script being BL Or. 2688 from 1223/4 CE. There are in fact two Samaritan Arabic versions, an old translation and a revision (with scholia) of the translation then current among Samaritans in Egypt by Abū Saʿīd (this version mostly in Arabic-script copies); the old translation relies more heavily on the Samaritan Aramaic Targum than the later revision, itself undertaken because the older version was considered stylistically poor from an Arabic point of view and because of its connection to Saʿadya’s translation. Fortunately, for some people these two endeavors — studying manuscripts and comparing textual versions — are interesting and rewarding work! To be discovered in this research, at least, are matters linguistic, text-critical, religious, and historical.

The beginning of Gen 49 in Samaritan script, Arabic script, and the Polyglot text for comparison; from Hwiid 1780 (see below).

For those who may be interested in looking into the subject further, here are some texts and studies:

J. Bloch, Die samaritanisch-arabische Pentateuchübersetzung. Deuteronomium I-X, nach Handschriften in Berlin, Gotha, Kiel, Leiden und Paris mit Einleitung und Noten (Berlin, 1901).
A.D. Crown, The Samaritan Scribes and Manuscripts (Tübingen, 2001), pp. 22-25.
A.S. Halkin, “The Scholia to Numbers and Deuteronomy in the Samaritan Arabic Pentateuch,” Jewish Quarterly Review 34 n.s. (1943-44): 41-59.
A.C. Hwiid, Specimen ineditae versionis Arabico-Samaritanae, Pentateuchi e codice manuscripto Bibliothecae Barberinae (Rome, 1780).
T.G.J. Juynboll, “Commentatio de versione Arabico-Samaritana, et de scholiis, quae codicibus Parisiensibus n. 2 et 4 adscripta sunt,” Orientalia 2 (1846), pp. 113-157.
A. Kuenen, Libri Exodi et Levitici secundum arabicam Pentateuchi Samaritani versionem ab Abu-Saido conscriptam (Leiden, 1854).
________, Specimen e literis orientalibus exhibens librum Geneseos, secundum arabicam Pentateuchi samaritani versionem ab Abu-Saido conscriptam (Leiden, 1851).
________, Specimen theologicum continens Geneseos libri capita triginta quatuor priora ex Arabica Pentateuchi Samaritani Versione nunc primum edita cum prolegomenis (Leiden, 1851).
R. Macuch, “On the Problems of the Arabic Translation of the Samaritan Pentateuch,” Israel Oriental Studies 9 (1979): 147-173.
E. Robertson, “The Relationship of the Arabic Translation of the Samaritan Pentateuch to that of Saadya,” in E.I.J. Rosenthal, ed., Saadya Studies (Manchester, 1943), pp. 166-176.
S. de Sacy, “Mémoire sur la version arabe des livres de Moïse à l’usage des Samaritains et sur les manuscrits de cette version,” Mémoires de l’Académie Royale des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres 49 (1808), pp. 1-149, 783-786.
G. Schwarb, “Samaritan Acquaintance with Qaraite Bible Translations: Fact or Fiction,” Journal of Intellectual History in the Islamicate World 1 (forthcoming, 2013).
H. Shehadeh, “The Arabic Translation of the Samaritan Pentateuch,” in A.D. Crown, ed., The Samaritans (Tübingen, 1989), pp. 481-516.
________, The Arabic Translation of the Samaritan Pentateuch [in Hebrew], PhD thesis, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1977.
________, “The Arabic Translation of the Samaritan Pentateuch” [in Hebrew], Tarbiz, 52.1 (1982): 59-82.
________, The Arabic Translation of the Samaritan Pentateuch edited from Manuscripts, vol. 1, Genesis-Exodus (Jerusalem, 1989).
________, The Arabic Translation of the Samaritan Pentateuch, vol. 2, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy (Jerusalem, 2002).
________, “Arabic Versions of the Pentateuch,” in A. Crown, R. Pummer, and A. Tal, eds., A Companion to Samaritan Studies (Tübingen, 1993), pp. 22-24.
________, “The Classification of the Versions of the Samaritan Arabic Translation of the Pentateuch and Identifying Nomenclature of the Fauna” [in Hebrew, English summary], Leshonenu, 48-49.1 (1984): 35-48.
________, “The Groups of the Samaritan Manuscripts of the Arabic Translation of the Pentateuch,” in J.-P. Rothschild and G.D. Sixdenier, eds., Études samaritaines, Pentateuque et Targum, exégèse et philologie, chroniques (Paris, 1988), pp. 205-218.
________, “A New Group of Manuscripts including an Arabic Translation of the Samaritan Pentateuch (ATSP),” in A. Tal and M. Florentin, eds. Proceedings of the First International Congress of the Société d’ Études Samaritaines, Tel-Aviv, April-13, 1988 (Tel-Aviv, 1991), pp. 275-292.
________, “A New Unknown Version of the Arabic Translation of the Samaritan Pentateuch?” in M. Macuch, et al., eds., Studia Semitica necnon Iranica Rudolpho Macuch septuagenario (Wiesbaden, 1989), pp. 303-327.
W. van Vloten, Specimen philogicum continens descriptionem codicis MS Bibliothecae Lugduno-Batavae partemque inde excerptam versionis Samaritano-arabicae Pentateuchi Mosaici (1803).
A.S. Zhamkochian, A.S. Vnov’ identifitsirovannye i neopublikovannye fragmenty arabskikh versij samaritianskogo Piatiknizhija iz sobranija Rossijskoj Natsional’noj biblioteki [Newly Identified and Unpublished Fragments of the Arabic Versions of the Samaritan Pentateuch from the collection of the National Library of Russia] (Moscow, 2001).
________, Neopublikovannye fragmenty arabskikh versij samaritianskogo Piatiknizhija iz sobranija RNB [Newly Identified and Unpublished Fragments of the Arabic Versions of the Samaritan Pentateuch from the collection of the National Library of Russia] (Ph.D. dissertation, Yerevan University, 1994).

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