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A meeting of three languages in the CPA version of Cyril of Jerusalem’s Catechetical Lectures   Leave a comment

Among the texts surviving in Christian Palestinian Aramaic (CPA) that were translated from Greek is a fair amount of Cyril of Jerusalem’s Catechetical Lectures (CPG 3585), translations of which also survive in several other languages. In one place (§ 6.14),* Cyril is discussing Simon Magus and says that the emperor Claudius set up a statue to him in Rome, so much did the traditional arch-heretic lead the city of Rome astray. (The story appears in other patristic texts, too.)

Καὶ ἐπλάνησέ τε οὕτω τὴν Ῥωμαίων πόλιν, ὥστε Κλαύδιον ἀνδριάντα αὐτου στῆσαι, ὑπογράψαντα τῇ Ῥωμαίων γλώττῃ, ΣΙΜΟΝΙ ΔΕΟ ΣΑΓΚΤΩ, ὅπερ ἑρμηνευόμενον δηλοῖ, Σίμωνι Θεῷ ἁγίῳ.

So Cyril gives the Latin of this inscription as Simoni Deo Sancto: “To Simon, the holy god.” Turning to the CPA text, we have:

ܘܟܠ ܕܢ ܐܛܥܝ ܪܘܡܐ ܡܕܝܢܬܐ܃ ܠܡܠܘ ܕܐܩܝܡ ܠܗ ܩܠܘܕܝ ܨܠܡ ܘܟܬܒ ܥܠܘܝ ܒܠܝܫܢܐ ܪܘܡܝܐ ܣܝܡܘܢ ܕܐܝܘܣ ܙܢܩܛܘ܃ ܡܐ ܕܗܘ ܡܬܪܓܡ ܘܡܘܕܥ ܣܝܡܘܢ ܐܠܗ ܩܕܝܫ

wkl d<y>n ʔṭʕy rwmʔ mdyntʔ lmlw dʔqym lh qlwdy ṣlm wktb ʕlwy blyšnʔ rwmyʔ symwn dʔyw{s} znqṭw mʔ dhw mtrgm wmwdʕ symwn ʔlh qdyš

The translation is straightforward and makes sense, but the appearance of the Latin inscription, which the CPA translator would have seen in Greek letters, is a bit mangled, not surprisingly. There is no indication of the dative -i in symwn, the -s of dʔyws should be deleted, and the znqṭw, while reflecting the right pronunciation of -γκτ-/-nct-, is a little odd for having a z- at the beginning. In addition, in the CPA version of the Greek translation of the Latin inscription, we really expect the preposition l- to mark the dedication, but there is not one.

Every translation naturally deals with at least two languages, but sometimes, as here, another language also makes an appearance, and, also as here, that appearance may offer an opportunity for some confusion, yet it also grants us an opportunity to have a glimpse at translators and/or scribes with their feet in a more or less complicated labyrinth of more than two languages.

*Greek and CPA published side-by-side in Christa Müller-Kessler and Michael Sokoloff, The Catechism of Cyril of Jerusalem in the Christian Palestinian Aramaic Version, A Corpus of Christian Palestinian Aramaic Version 5 (Groningen, 1999), here pp. 60-61.


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