Archive for the ‘proverbs’ Tag

Some Judeo-Persian manuscripts at the BnF   1 comment

Previously I have highlighted some Georgian manuscripts that the Bibliothèque nationale de France has graciously made freely available online. Here is a list of Judeo-Persian manuscripts from the BnF that I have been able to find at Gallica. (If I happen to have missed one, please let me know.) They mostly come from the fifteenth-seventeenth centuries, some of them with colophons. While these manuscripts obviously fall outside of the delimiter “eastern Christian” that guides most of the posts appearing here, I know that at least some readers of the blog have, just as I do, broader interests than that delimiter allows. Most of the texts here are biblical; for details about published biblical texts in Persian (Judeo-Persian and otherwise), see my hitherto incomplete bibliography here.

These manuscripts often have a verse in Hebrew followed immediately by a Persian translation. For the Catalogues des manuscrits hébreux et samaritains de la Bibliothèque Impériale (Munk, Derenbourg, Franck, and Zotenberg) see at Gallica here and here. The few remarks I give below rely on this volume.

Un grand merci à la BnF de partager ces manuscrits!

70 Pentateuch (catalog)

BnF héb 70, f. 22v, end of Gen 14 in Heb and Judeo-Persian

BnF héb 70, f. 22v, end of Gen 14 in Heb and Judeo-Persian

71 Pentateuch (catalog)

  • The Persian text of №s 70-71 is said to follow Targum Onqelos closely.

90 Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Ezra, Nehemiah (catalog)

  • Probably the same scribe as №s 70-71.

97 Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel (to 10:3), with David Kimḥi’s commentary (catalog)

100 Jeremiah (catalog)

  • Different from the version in № 97. Like some of the other JP translations, this one follows Onqelos more than the MT.

101 Minor Prophets, Lamentations (catalog)

  • The margins have some of the Persian in Perso-Arabic script.

116 Proverbs, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Ruth, Esther (catalog)

117 Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (catalog)

BnF héb 117, f. 1v, the beginning of Proverbs in Heb and Judeo-Persian

BnF héb 117, f. 1v, the beginning of Proverbs in Heb and Judeo-Persian

118 Job, Lamentations, Jeremiah (catalog)

120 Job (catalog)

121 Job (catalog)

127 Esther, benedictions, and a Purim song (Heb and Pers) (catalog)

129 Daniel (catalog)

130 Tobit, Judith, Bel and the Dragon, Megillat Antiochos[1] (catalog)

BnF héb 130, f. 58r, colophon in Persian in Perso-Arabic and Hebrew script

BnF héb 130, f. 58r, colophon in Persian in Perso-Arabic and Hebrew script

The colophon (f. 58r) reads as follows:

نبشتة (!) شد این کتاب در موضع لار سال هزار و نوه صد ودوازده

נבשתה שוד אין כתאב דר מוצׄע לאר סאל הזאר ונוה צד ודואזדה

nevešte šod in ketāb dar mawẓiʿ-e Lār sāl-e hezār o noh sad o davāzdah

This book was written in the village of Lār in the year 1912 [AG, = 1600/1].

[1] The Aramaic text, for whatever it’s worth (Kaufman’s comments here), is available at the CAL site sub Late Jewish Literary Aramaic, text 81406.

Old Georgian phrases and sentences 13   2 comments

A characteristic feature of certain verbs in Georgian, including those referred to in the study of modern Georgian as “Conjugation IV”  or “indirect” verbs, is that in certain forms they take the “logical” (merely a term of convenience) subject in the dative case and the logical direct object in the nominative case (cf. Aronson, Grammar, Lesson 12). (Similar constructions are not unknown in Indo-European and Semitic languages.) Verbs with such a construction, often verbs of feeling and emotion, in Old Georgian include (with a few examples):

  • აქუს “to have”: ძესა კაცისასა არა აქუს, სადა თავი მიიდრიკოს | ὁ δὲ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου οὐκ ἔχει ποῦ τὴν κεφαλὴν κλίνῃ (Lk 9:58 At)
  • ყუარება “to love”” უყუარს ძილი | φιλοῦντες νυστάξαι (Isa 56:10)
  • ძულება “to hate”: see below
  • ძინავს “to sleep” (cf. ძილი in Isa 56:10 above): ელის ეძინა | Ηλι ἐκάθευδεν (1Sam 3:2 Jer Lect)
  • წყურილი “to be thirsty”: ნეტარ არიან, რომელთა ჰმშიოდის და სწყუროდის სიმართლისათჳს | μακάριοι οἱ πεινῶντες καὶ διψῶντες τὴν δικαιοσύνην (Mt 5:6 PA)
  • ნებვა “to want”: რომელთა ჰნებავს ბრძოლად | τὰ τοὺς πολέμους θέλοντα (Ps 67:31)
  • რწმენა “to believe”: რაჲთა ვიხილოთ და გურწმენეს იგი | ἵνα ἴδωμεν καὶ πιστεύσωμεν (Mk 15:32 Ad)
  • სმენა “to hear”: არა მესმიან ცუდნი ეგე სიტყუანი შენნი | I do not hear your empty words (MartAbo 70.23)

The first part of Proverbs 8:13, here from the Jerusalem Lectionary, gives an example of the construction: შიშსა უფლისასა სძულს უკეთურებაჲ გინებაჲ და ანპარტავანებაჲ და ზრახვაჲ უკეთურთაჲ | φόβος κυρίου μισεῖ ἀδικίαν, ὕβριν τε καὶ ὑπερηφανίαν καὶ ὁδοὺς πονηρῶν.

The Georgian glossed is:

     შიშ-სა         უფლ-ისა-სა          ს-ძულ-ს                                   უკეთურება-ჲ

     fear-DAT      lord-GEN-DAT      3SG.OBJ-hate-PRS.3SG.SBJ      wickedness-NOM

     გინება-ჲ          და       ანპარტავანება-ჲ   და        ზრახვა-ჲ            უკეთურ-თა-ჲ

     abuse-NOM      and      arrogance-NOM      and      counsel-NOM      wicked-OBL.PL-NOM

     “The fear of the Lord hates wickedness, abuse, arrogance, and the counsel of the wicked.”

The same verb “to hate” occurs again in at the end of the verse, but this time as aorist, where it takes a direct construction: გულარძნილნი ალაგნი მოვიძულენ | μεμίσηκα δὲ ἐγὼ διεστραμμένας ὁδοὺς κακῶν (nothing in the Georgian version corresponds to κακῶν).

     გულარძნილ-ნი        ალაგ-ნი            მო-ვ-ი-ძულ-ენ

     twisted-NOM.PL     path-NOM.PL     PRV-1.SBJ-CV-hate[AOR]-PL.OBJ     (PRV = preverb, CV = character vowel)

     “I hated the twisted paths.”

(As usual in Georgian, the aorist verb takes its direct object in the nominative, but this construction is otherwise quite unlike that used with the verb in the first part of the verse.)

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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