Archive for the ‘Syriac manuscripts’ Tag

The Jerusalem manuscript of Antony of Tagrit’s Rhetoric   3 comments

This is just a short note on a manuscript I cataloged this morning. It’s not a new find, but rather a confirmation of the existence and the whereabouts of a significant copy of Antony of Tagrit’s Rhetoric. In the introduction to his edition of the fifth book of the Rhetoric (CSCO 480), John Watt, who has written extensively on the topic of rhetoric in Syriac (see the bibliography below), mentions a manuscript of the work known to have been at Saint Mark’s Monastery in Jerusalem (cf. Baumstark in OC 3 (1913): 132 [no. 32*]), and not a late copy: he gives 14th/15th/16th century, but he had apparently not seen the manuscript. He says of it that its location “since 1949 is also unknown” (p. xi).

Thanks to HMML’s digitization of the collection at Saint Mark’s, the manuscript’s whereabouts can be confirmed, and images of this important copy are now easily accessible. As for the date, Baumstark suggests 15th or 16th century, and the data reported by Watt also includes the previous century. To me, 16th century seems too late an estimate; I would tentatively settle on the 15th. The manuscript contains most of the text of Antony’s Rhetoric, although the first two folios are later replacements, and the end of the fifth book is missing. Here are a few samples:

SMMJ 230, pp. 255-256, end of book 2 and beg. of book 3 (and end of quire 13, beg. of quire 14)

SMMJ 230, pp. 255-256, end of book 2 and beg. of book 3 (and end of quire 13, beg. of quire 14)

SMMJ 230, pp. 289-290, from book 4

SMMJ 230, pp. 289-290, from book 4

SMMJ 230, pp. 383-384, from book 5

SMMJ 230, pp. 383-384, from book 5, and with ink noticeably more faded

Bibliography (from The Compr. Bib. on Syriac Christianity)

Breydy, Michel, ”Précisions historiques autour des œuvres d’Antoine de Tagrit et des manuscrits de St. Marc de Jérusalem”, Pages 15-52 in Erkenntnisse und Meinungen II. Edited by Wiessner, Gernot. Göttinger Orientforschungen, I. Reihe: Syriaca 17. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1978.

Corcella, Aldo, ”Due citazioni dalle Etiopiche di Eliodoro nella Retorica di Antonio di Tagrīt”, Orientalia Christiana Periodica 74:2 (2008): 389-416.

Duval, Rubens, ”Notice sur la Rhétorique d’Antoine de Tagrit”, Pages 479-486 in Orientalische Studien: Theodor Nöldeke zum siebzigsten Geburtstag (2. März 1906) gewidmet von Freunden und Schülern. Edited by Bezold, Carl. Gieszen: Alfred Töpelmann, 1906.

Eliyo Sewan d-Beth Qermaz,, ed. The Book of the Rhetoric by Anthony Rhitor of Tagrit. Stockholm: Forfatteres Bokmaskin, 2000.

Eskenasy, Pauline Ellen, ”Antony of Tagrit’s Rhetoric Book One: Introduction, Partial Translation, and Commentary”. Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, 1991.

Köbert, Raimund, ”Bemerkungen zu den syrischen Zitaten aus Homer und Platon im 5. Buch der Rhetorik des Anton von Tagrit und zum syrischen Peri askeseos angeblich von Plutarch”, Orientalia 40 (1971): 438-447.

Raguse, Hartmut, ”Syrische Homerzitate in der Rhetorik des Anton von Tagrit”, Pages 162-175 in Paul de Lagarde und die syrische Kirchengeschichte. Göttingen: Göttinger Arbeitskreis für syrische Kirchengeschichte, 1968.

Rahmani, Ignatius Ephraem, ed. Studia Syriaca, seu collectio documentorum hactenus ineditorum ex codicibus Syriacis. Monte Libano: Typis Patriarchalibus in Seminario Scharfensi, 1904-1909.

Rücker, Adolf, ”Das fünfte Buch der Rhetorik des Anton von Tagrit”, Oriens Christianus 31 (1934): 13-22.

Seven d-Beth Qermez, E., ed. Antony Rhitor of Tagrit. The Book of Rhetoric. Södertälje: Författares Bokmaskin, 2000.

Sprengling, Martin, ”Antonius Rhetor on Versification, with an Introduction and Two Appendices”, American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures 32:3 (1916): 145-216.

Strothmann, Werner, ”Die Schrift des Anton von Tagrit über die Rhetorik”, Pages 199-216 in Paul de Lagarde und die syrische Kirchengeschichte. Göttingen: Göttinger Arbeitskreis für syrische Kirchengeschichte, 1968.

Watt, John W., ”Antony of Tagrit as a Student of Syriac Poetry”, Le Muséon 98:3-4 (1985): 261-279.

Watt, John W., ed. The Fifth Book of the Rhetoric of Antony of Tagrit. CSCO 480-481, Syr. 203-204. Leuven: Peeters, 1986.

Watt, John W., ”Antony of Tagrit on Rhetorical Figures”, Pages 317-325 in IV Symposium Syriacum, 1984: Literary Genres in Syriac Literature (Groningen – Oosterhesselen 10-12 September). Edited by Drijvers, Han J.W. and Lavenant, René and Molenberg, Corrie and Reinink, Gerrit J.. Orientalia Christiana Analecta 229. Roma: Pontificium Institutum Studiorum Orientalium, 1987.

Watt, John W., ”Syriac Panegyric in Theory and Practice: Antony of Tagrit and Eli of Qartamin”, Le Muséon 102:3-4 (1989): 271-298.

Watt, John W., ”Grammar, Rhetoric and the Enkyklios Paideia in Syriac”, Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 143:1 (1993): 45-71.

Watt, John W., ”The Syriac Reception of Platonic and Aristotelian Rhetoric”, ARAM 5 (1993): 579-601.

Watt, John W., ”Syriac Rhetorical Theory and the Syriac Tradition of Aristotle’s Rhetoric”, Pages 243-260 in Peripatetic Rhetoric after Aristotle. Edited by Fortenbaugh, William W. and Mirhady, D.C.. Rutgers University Studies in Classical Humanities 4. New Brunswick: 1994.

Watt, John W., ”The Philosopher-King in the “Rhetoric” of Antony of Tagrit”, Pages 245-258 in VI Symposium Syriacum, 1992: University of Cambridge, Faculty of Divinity, 30 August – 2 September 1992. Edited by Lavenant, René. Orientalia Christiana Analecta 247. Roma: Pontificio Istituto Orientale, 1994.

Watt, John W., ”Eastward and Westward Transmission of Classical Rhetoric”, Pages 63-75 in Centres of Learning: Learning and Location in Pre-Modern Europe and the Near East. Edited by Drijvers, Jan Willem and MacDonald, Alaisdair A.. Brill’s Studies in Intellectual History 61. Leiden / New York / Köln: Brill, 1995.

Watt, John W., ”From Themistius to al-Farabi: Platonic Political Philosophy and Aristotle’s Rhetoric in the East”, Rhetorica 13:1 (1995): 17-41.

Watt, John W., ”From Synesius to al-Farabi: Philosophy, Religion, and Rhetoric in the Christian Orient”, Pages 265-277 in Symposium Syriacum VII: Uppsala University, Department of Asian and African Languages, 11–14 August 1996. Edited by Lavenant, René. Orientalia Christiana Analecta 256. Roma: Pontificio Istituto Orientale, 1998.

Watt, John W., ”The Recovery of an Old Text: Scribes, Scholars, Collectors and the Rhetoric of Antony of Tagrit”, The Harp 16 (2003): 285-295.

Watt, John W., ”Guarding the Syriac Language in an Arabic Environment: Antony of Tagrit on the Use of Grammar in Rhetoric”, Pages 133-150 in Syriac Polemics: Studies in Honour of Gerrit Jan Reinink. Edited by van Bekkum, Wout Jac. and Drijvers, Jan Willem and Klugkist, Alex C.. Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 170. Leuven: Peeters, 2007.

Watt, John W., ”Literary and Philosophical Rhetoric in Syriac”, Pages 141-154 in Literary and Philosophical Rhetoric in the Greek, Roman, Syriac and Arabic Worlds. Edited by Woerther, Frédérique. Europaea Memoria I.66. Hildesheim: Olms-Weidmann, 2009.

Watt, John W., Rhetoric and Philosophy from Greek into Syriac. Variorum Collected Studies 960. Farnham, England: Ashgate, 2010.

Saint Mark’s, Jerusalem, 180 (Book of Steps, Asceticon of Abba Isaiah)   2 comments

SMMJ 180 is a seventh- or eight-century manuscript containing the Book of Steps (Liber Graduum) and parts of the Asceticon of Abba Isaiah. The script is a beautiful, clear Estrangela, and the text is written in two columns with around thirty-nine lines. The manuscript is foliated with Syriac letters (numbered folios begin only at f. 10), but the book has been rebound in great disarray. According to a note dated 1881 on 102r, the book was repaired by Grigorios Ǧirǧis Muṭrān of Jerusalem in 1881. In the course of cataloging the manuscript, it became clear that, given the manuscript’s age and its significance as a textual witness, a detailed listing of its contents might be of some value.

SMMJ 180, ff. 62v-63r. The end of the Book of Steps and the beginning of the Asceticon, with some damage at the top.

SMMJ 180, ff. 62v-63r. The end of the Book of Steps and the beginning of the Asceticon, with some damage at the top.

In his edition of the Liber Graduum (LG), Kmosko discusses the manuscript (his Codex R) on pp. viii-ix, ccxciv-cccvi, the latter section being an appendix with a collation. Significantly, Draguet does not make use, it seems, of the Jerusalem manuscript in his edition of the Asceticon. For both of these monuments of Syriac literature, the Jerusalem manuscript deserves to be studied more closely, and thanks to these high quality images now easily available, those with a close interest in either or both of those texts may do so with little trouble.

Before turning to the contents of the codex, here are a few remarks on the paleography. The script is very straightforward Esṭrangela, with sharp angles as in the bēt and ṭēt. General observations include:
•    semkat not attached to the following letter
•    the right leg of the ālap has a little serif, seen both when the previous letter is attached and when it is not
•    the waw is not closed
•    the mim is not closed
•    the final nun, when not attached to the previous letter, is at an angle noticeably more horizontal than when it is attached

When there is a little space at line-end, the final letter has an extender to reach the edge. There are no explicit vowel marks, but there is a host of punctuation marks and diacritical points, with examples in almost every line.

Dotted pointers indicate quotations from scripture. These signs are well known from other early Syriac manuscripts.

SMMJ 180, f. 20r, showing the indication of a biblical citation.

SMMJ 180, f. 20r, showing dotted pointers to indicate a biblical citation.

In addition, the scribe uses a sign that looks very much like the Alexandrian critical sign, the obelus, here in the form known as the lemniscus (cf. Swete, Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek, 69-72, and Field, Origenis hexaplorum quae supersunt, I: liii-lx). For example, 26va, line 7:

SMMJ 180, f. 26v

SMMJ 180, f. 26v

Similarly, on 42v, there is a marginal correction of āzēl to zādēq (Kmosko there has āzēl, col. 776.22). This sign, too, is found in other manuscripts, not only Syriac, but also Garšūnī (e.g. SMMJ 174, p. 262), to anchor a marginal reading to a part of the main text.

Another kind of correction is that for transpositions. On 15r, for example, the words b-demʿē and wa-b-ḥaylā are each marked with a group of three dots to indicate that they should be transposed. That is, we should read mā da-gʿa b-ḥaylā wa-b-demʿē saggiʾātā. (Even without the dots, the grammar points in this direction, due to agreement between demʿē and saggiʾātā.) The same indication of transposition occurs elsewhere, as on 46ra, 49vb, 53vb, 54vb, 58rb, 61vb.

SMMJ 180, f. 15r

SMMJ 180, f. 15r

For LG, the sections are not divided more minutely than individual memra; here is an example of a section divider between memre:

SMMJ 180, f. 37v, end of memra 24,. beg. of memra 25.

SMMJ 180, f. 37v, end of memra 24,. beg. of memra 25.

On 43v is a marginal note to indicate the topic (not common in this manuscript): “On the soul’s being called spirit.”

Due to the disorderly arrangement of the manuscript, the path for anyone who is continuously reading the text almost looks like a choose-your-own-adventure book. To cover the surviving parts of the codex, beginning with LG and then moving to the Asceticon, one would read the folios in this order (X indicates a missing folio or folios; there are three such places): 93-100, 83, 101, 90, 84-89, 91, X, 92, 80, 79, X, 82, 81, X, 76, 75, 71-74, 70, 69, 68, 77, 11-18, 78, 19-62, 67, 63-66.

Hopefully the folio-by-folio list of the contents below will be of use to those at work on the Book of Steps or Isaiah’s Asceticon. I give by folio the corresponding parts of the text according to the editions of Kmosko for LG and Draguet for the Asceticon. For the former, in every place I have included memra and section number, and for many places identification down to the column and line number; for the latter, I have given logos and section number, along with page and line number.


Draguet, René. Les cinq recensions de l’Ascéticon syriaque d’Abba Isaïe. CSCO 289 / Scr. Syr. 120. Louvain, 1968.

Kessel, Grigory. “A Previously Unknown Reattributed Fragment from Memra 16 of the Book of Steps,” in Kristian S. Heal and Robert A. Kitchen, eds., Breaking the Mind: New Studies in the Syriac “Book of Steps (CUA Press, 2014), 53-71, esp. 54-60. Available here. [The volume has a picture from SMMJ 180 on the cover.]

Kmosko, Michael. Liber Graduum. Patrologia Syriaca 3. Paris, 1926.

Folio-by-folio contents of SMMJ 180

[11r-11v] LG 19.39-20.3 (col. 521.17-532.11)
[12r-12v] LG 20.3-20.6
[13r-13v] LG 20.6-20.8
[14r-14v] LG 20.8-20.10
[15r-15v] LG 20.10-20.13 (col. 556.12-564.17)
[16r-16v] LG 20.13-20.15
[17r-17v] LG 20.15-20.17
[18r-18v] LG 20.17-21.2 (col. 580.15-589.7) THEN GO TO [78r]
[19r-19v] LG 21.4- 21.7 (col. 596.23-604.6)
[20r-20v] LG 21.7-21.9 (col. 604.6-609.19)
[21r-21v] LG 21.9-21.11 (col. 609.20-617.8)
[22r-22v] LG 21.11-21.16 (col. 617.9-624.26)
[23r-23v] LG 21.16-21.20 (col. 624.26-632.7)
[24r-24v] LG 21.20-22.3 (col. 632.7-640.3)
[25r-25v] LG 22.3-22.6 (col. 640.3-645.18)
[26r-26v] LG 22.6-22.8 (col. 645.18-653.9)
[27r-27v] LG 22.8-22.11 (col. 653.8-660.24)
[28r-28v] LG 22.11-22.14 (col. 660.24-668.19)
[29r-29v] LG 22.14-22.17 (col. 668.19-676.5)
[30r-30v] LG 22.17-22.20 (col. 676.5-681.19)
[31r-31v] LG 22.20-22.25 (col. 681.19-689.12)
[32r-32v] LG 22.25-23.3 (col. 689.12-697.11)
[33r-33v] LG 23.3-23.8 (col. 697.11-704.24)
[34r-34v] LG 23.8-23.11 (col. 704.24-712.13)
[35r-35v] LG 23.11-24.2 (col. 712.13-720.6)
[36r-36v] LG 24.2-24.7 (col. 720.6-728.8)
[37r-37v] LG 24.7-25.2 (col. 720.6-736.14)
[38r-38v] LG 25.2-25.5 (col. 736.14-741.25)
[39r-39v] LG 25.5-25.8 (col. 741.25-749.22)
[40r-40v] LG 25.8-26.2 (col. 749.22- 760.23)
[41r-41v] LG 26.2-27.2 (col. 760.23-769.12)
[42r-42v] LG 27.2-27.5 (col. 769.12-777.3)
[43r-43v] LG 27.5-28.1 (col. 777.3-788.4)
[44r-44v] LG 28.1-28.6 (col. 788.4-793.24)
[45r-45v] LG 28.6-28.11 (col. 793.24-801.25)
[46r-46v] LG 28.11-29.1 (col. 801.25-812.17)
[47r-47v] LG 29.1-29.3 (col. 812.17-820.14)
[48r-48v] LG 29.3-29.6 (col. 820.14-828.15)
[49r-49v] LG 29.6-29.9 (col. 828.15-836.9)
[50r-50v] LG 29.9-29.12 (col. 836.9-844.3)
[51r-51v] LG 29.12-29.16 (col. 844.4-849.25)
[52r-52v] LG 29.16-30.1 (col. 849.25-860.6)
[53r-53v] LG 30.1-30.3 (col. 860.6-868.11)
[54r-54v] LG 30.3-30.5 (col. 868.11-876.8)
[55r-55v] LG 30.5-30.8 (col. 876.9-881.27)
[56r-56v] LG 30.8-30.12 (col. 881.27-889.16)
[57r-57v] LG 30.12-30.14 (col. 889.16-897.8)
[58r-58v] LG 30.14-30.18 (col. 897.8-905.7)
[59r-59v] LG 30.18-30.21 (col. 905.7-913.5)
[60r-60v] LG 30.21-30.25 (col. 913.6-921.18)
[61r-61v] LG 30.25-30.29 (col. 921.18-929.15)
[62r-62v] LG 30.29 (col. 929.15-932.16); Asct., Logos 1 (Draguet, p.2-3.1) THEN GO TO [67r]
[63r-63v] Asct., Logos 1.4a-2.2 (Draguet, pp. 6.4-10.5)
[64r-64v] Asct., Logos 2.2-3.1 (Draguet, pp. 10.6-14.2)
[65r-65v] Asct., Logos 3.1-3.4 (Draguet, pp. 14.2-18.4)
[66r-66v] Asct., Logos 3.4-5.18 (Draguet, pp. 18.4-26.8/16)
[67r-67v] Asct., Logos 1 (Draguet p. 3.1-p. 6.4) THEN GO TO [63r]
[68r-69r] LG 19.31-19.36 THEN GO TO [77r]
[69r-69v] LG 19.25-19.31 THEN GO TO [68r]
[70r-70v] LG 19.22-19.25 THEN GO TO [69r]
[71r-71v] LG 19.4-19.7
[72r-72v] LG 19.7-19.11
[73r-73v] LG 19.11-19.19
[74r-74v] LG 19.19-19.22 THEN GO TO [70r]
[75r-75v] LG 19.1-19.4 THEN GO TO [71r]
[76r-76v] LG 18.4-19.1 THEN GO TO [75r]
[77r-77v] LG 19.36-19.39 THEN GO TO [11r]
[78r-78v] LG 21.2-21.4 (col. 589.7-596.23) THEN GO TO [19r]
[79r-79v] LG 15.12-15.15 (col 365.4-372.26) THEN GO TO ? (folio missing)
[80r-80v] LG 15.9-15.12 (col. 357.11-365.4) THEN GO TO [79r]
[81r-81v] LG 17.1-17.4 THEN GO TO ? (folio missing)
[82r-82v] LG 16.9-17.1 THEN GO TO [81r]
[83r-83v] LG 10.2-10.5 THEN GO TO [101r]
[84r-84v] LG 11.3-12.1
[85r-85v] LG 12.1-12.4
[86r-86v] LG 12.4-12.7
[87r-87v] LG 12.7-13.3
[88r-88v] LG 13.3-13.8
[89r-89v] LG 13.8-14.3 THEN GO TO [91r]
[90r-90v] LG 10.9-11.3 THEN GO TO [84r]
[91r-91v] LG 14.3-15.3 (col. 332.1-341.9) THEN GO TO ? (folio missing)
[92r-92v] LG 15.6-15.9 (col. 349.16-357.11) THEN GO TO [80r]
[93r-93v] LG 7.18-7.21 (i.e. the end of memra 7)
[94r-94v] LG 8.1-8.5
[95r-95v] LG 8.5-9.2
[96r-96v] LG 9.2-9.6
[97r-97v] LG 9.6-9.9
[98r-98v] LG 9.9-9.13
[99r-99v] LG 9.13-9.19 (col. 233.2-241.7)
[100r-100v] LG 9.19-10.2 (col. 241.7-252.2) THEN GO TO [83r]
[101r-101v] LG 10.5-10.9 THEN GO TO [90r]

Two witnesses to the Apocalypse of Paul in Syriac from Tehran   Leave a comment

The Apocalypse of Paul (BHG 1460, CANT 325) is one of the more well known New Testament apocrypha in Syriac, with an edition and with translations into Latin, German, and English available (see bibliography below). The collection of Syriac manuscripts at the Chaldean Church of St. Joseph in Tehran, which I recently mentioned in another post, has two witnesses to the Apocalypse of Paul, one of which has been known, but the other, as far as I know, has escaped the notice of scholars who might be interested in the text.

The known copy is in manuscript № 8, a manuscript to which Alain Desreumaux (1995) has devoted an article with a detailed catalog of the texts in the manuscript. In this manuscript, the preface to the Apocalypse of Paul is on ff. 136r-140r, and the Apocalypse itself on ff. 140r-171v. (The foliation given here, based on the file names of the photographs, differs slightly from Desreumaux’s. The manuscript is not physically foliated.)  Here is a folio spread from this copy (ff. 162-163r).

Tehran, St. Jos., 8, ff. 162-163r

Tehran, St. Jos., 8, ff. 162-163r

…a servant from among the angels, and he had in his hand a pitch-fork that had three tines, and [with it] he was pulling the old man’s guts out through his mouth. … (f. 162v, lines 1-3)

The other witness, manuscript № 17, is fragmentary, consisting only of two loose and torn folios, but they are contiguous. The page numbers were marked out of order and should be read as follows: 2, 1, 4, 3. This fragment corresponds to parts of §§ 32-34 (pp. 132, 134) in the edition of Ricciotti (cf. Perkins, pp. 203-204 / Zingerle pp. 164-165 / ≈ Tischendorf pp. 57-58). In this order, then, here are the images:

p. 2 corr. to Ricciotti 132.2-132.10


p. 1 corr. to Ricciotti 132.10-132.18


p. 4 corr. to Ricciotti 132.18-132.25


p. 3 corr. to Ricciotti 132.26-29, 134.1-6


A cursory comparison with Ricciotti’s text reveals very few differences between them.


(see further the Comprehensive Bib. on Syriac Christianity here)

Desreumaux, Alain. “Des symboles à la réalite: la préface à l’Apocalypse de Paul dans la tradition syriaque.” Apocrypha 4 (1993): 65-82.

Desreumaux, Alain. “Un manuscrit syriaque de Téhéran contenant des apocryphes.” Apocrypha 5 (1994): 137-164.

Desreumaux, Alain. “Le prologue apologétique de l’Apocalypse de Paul syriaque: un débat théologique chez les Syriaques orientaux.” Pages 125-134 in Entrer en matière. Les prologues. Edited by Dubois, Jean-Daniel and Roussel, Bernard. Patrimoines: Religions du Livre. Paris: Cerf, 1998.

Desreumaux, Alain. “L’environnement de l’Apocalypse de Paul. À propos d’un nouveau manuscrit syriaque de la Caverne des trésors.” Pages 185-192 in Pensée grecque et sagesse d’Orient. Hommage à Michel Tardieu. Edited by Amir-Moezzi, Mohammed-Ali and Dubois, Jean-Daniel and Jullien, Christelle and Jullien, Florence. Bibliothèque de l’École des Hautes Études, Sciences religieuses 142. Turnhout: Brepols, 2010.

Perkins, Justin. “The Revelation of the Blessed Apostle Paul Translated from an Ancient Syriac Manuscript.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 8 (1866): 183-212. (available here)

Ricciotti, Giuseppe. “Apocalypsis Pauli syriace.” Orientalia NS 2 (1933): 1-25, 120-149. [ed. of Vat. Syr. 180 and Vat. Borg. Syr. 39, with facing LT]

Zingerle, Pius. “Die Apocalypse des Apostels Paulus, aus einer syrischen Handschrift des Vaticans übersetzt.” Vierteljahrsschrift für deutsch- und englisch-theologische Forschung und Kritik 4 (1871): 139-183. [tr. on the basis of Vat. Syr. 180] (available here)

A Syriac note (after 1965) from Tehran about manuscripts purchased from a Jewish bookseller   6 comments

Among the few manuscripts of the Chaldean Church of St. Joseph in Tehran is a late (1896), huge codex (№ 5) with 71 memre of Narsai. A typewritten note by Ph. Gignoux (dated Mar 23, 1966) accompanies the book, saying that it is a copy of BL Or 5463 (on which see Margoliouth, Descriptive List, pp. 49-50), which is dated 1893 and was copied in Urmi. (In his edition of the homilies of Narsai on creation, Gignoux calls this manuscript Téhéran № 1 and uses the siglum F; see PO 34: 520 [102].) At the beginning of the book is a very interesting note in Syriac that was written some time after 1965.

Tehran, Chaldean Church of St. Joseph, № 5, p. [iii]

Tehran, Chaldean Church of St. Joseph, № 5, p. [iii]

Transliteration (with vowels):

zebnet l-aṣṣaḥtā hādē d-mēmrē d-narsay ʿam ʿesrā ṣḥāḥē (ʾ)ḥrānē ktibay idā menhon ḥdattā mšamlaytā d-dārā da-tlāt-ʿsar w-hākwāt orāytā d-yattir qallil d-hu kad hu zabnā. d-šaddret enon l-bēt arkē d-watiqan l-appay šnat 1965 l-māran men gabrā ihudāyā ba-šmā d-sulaymān ahron [hārūn?] d-ḥānutēh simā (h)wāt qallil l-ʿel men l-qublā d-izgaddutā d-england da-b-plaṭṭiā d-ferdawsi b-tehran mdi(n)tā

✝ yoḥannān simʿān ʿisāy

miṭropoliṭa d-kaldāyē d-tehran [transp.]

English translation:

I bought this copy of the homilies of Narsai together with ten other manuscripts — including a complete New Testament of the thirteenth century, and similarly an Old Testament, more or less of the same time, which I sent to the Vatican Library — about the year 1965 AD from a Jewish man named Solomon Aaron, whose shop is situated a little up and across from the English embassy on Ferdowsi Avenue in Tehran.

Yoḥannān Simʿān ʿIsāy

Metropolitan of the Chaldeans of Tehran

[Thanks to Grigory Kessel for the suggestion that watiqan refers to the Vatican Library.]

For some photos along Ferdowsi Avenue, including an old picture of the British embassy, see here. It is unknown exactly where the bookseller’s shop was located, but both the church and the embassy are easily discovered on the map:


Two Arabic and Garšūnī verses in Saint Mark’s, Jerusalem, № 183   Leave a comment

At the end of one of the texts in SMMJ 183, which contains theological and hagiographic writings in Garšūnī, some later reader (or readers?) — the handwriting does not seem to be the same as the scribe’s — has recorded some intended wisdom. The two four-line sayings are in Arabic, but written in both Syriac and Arabic script.

SMMJ 183, f. 98v

SMMJ 183, f. 98v

This is not the prettiest handwriting, and the spelling might not be what is expected, but the meaning of both is relatively clear. (For the long vowels at line-end, cf. Wright, Grammar, vol. 2, § 224.) The sideways text in the center has its Arabic-script version is on the bottom.

O seeker of knowledge! Apply yourself to piety,
Forgo sleep and subdue satiety,
Continue studying and don’t leave it,
For knowledge consists and grows in study.

On the right we have four more lines in Garšūnī, with its Arabic-script version immediately below.

O child of Adam! You are ignorant!
There is no more awaiting the reckoning:
Look! Your life and your time have vanished.
Now you shall return to dust.

In line 2, al-ḥisābi (written –ī) must be genitive with the foregoing V maṣdar, tanaẓẓur; the latter word is written within the Arabic text, but a derivative of “to blossom” doesn’t make much sense, and the Garšūnī writing of , even without a dot, is known well for . In the last word of these lines, the Garšūnī version lacks the preposition l-, but it’s present in the Arabic version and is needed for the sense in any case.

Finally, the three Garšūnī lines on the far left read, “Our trust is in God, the quickener of our souls. To him be glory forever.”

On Saint Mark’s, Jerusalem, № 181 (content, notes, & endpapers)   Leave a comment

Manuscript № 181 of Saint Mark’s Monastery in Jerusalem (SMMJ) is an East Syriac manuscript, written, it seems, by a scribe named ʿAbdišoʿ of Ātēl. The main content of the manuscript is the First Part of Isaac of Bēt Qaṭrāyē, bishop of Nineveh’s famous monastic work (see GEDSH 213-214).

SMMJ 181, f. 1v

SMMJ 181, f. 1v

The text is complete, but between chapters 34 and 35 (acc. to Bedjan‘s numbering; the chapters are mostly unnumbered in this manuscript) there is another text, the beginning of which is unfortunately missing. After a little searching — thanks to Luk Van Rompay for the tip to check the Synodicon orientale! — I found that this intervening text is a Letter on Proper Conduct, especially on marriage, by Catholicos Aba I (d. 552; GEDSH 1), the text of which was published by Bedjan and Chabot; as it survives in this manuscript, the text corresponds to Bedjan, Histoire de Mar-Jabalaha, 282.3-287.12, and Chabot, Synodicon orientale, 83.6-85.9.

After the First Part, at the end of the manuscript, there are two more notes I would like to share. First, a note that seems to be in the same hand as the copied text of the manuscript:

SMMJ 181, f. 358v, scribal (?), note

SMMJ 181, f. 358v, scribal (?), note

Bless, sirs! Pray in the love of Christ for the sinner ʿAbdišoʿ of Ātēl, worn out, who came to Jerusalem in the year 1955 AG [=1643/4 CE].

He wrote these lines.

And again in the year 1962 AG [=1650/1 CE] the sinner came to Jerusalem. Pray for me. Amen.

Second, there is a short Syriac verse in the seven-syllable meter (with rhyme-end in -ṭē):

SMMJ 181, f. 358v

SMMJ 181, f. 358v

At the end of doomed times,

Let rulers be cursed,

Along with all idlers and slackers,

Foolish people and idiots!

Finally, the manuscript has pastedowns and endpapers in Syriac and Arabic. Here are two examples:

SMMJ 181, endpaper in Arabic

SMMJ 181, endpaper in Arabic

SMMJ 181, endpaper from a Syriac lectionary, here with Ex 34:34-35 and Isa 58:1

SMMJ 181, endpaper from a Syriac lectionary

I’ve not identified the Arabic text, but the Syriac endpaper above is from a lectionary, here with Ex 34:34-35 and Isa 58:1.

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?

Mention of the Chronicon of Šemʕon Šanqlāwāyā in a 16th-cent. colophon   Leave a comment

CCM 89, f. 118r

CCM 89, f. 118r

The image above comes near the end of the long colophon (ff. 116r-118r) of CCM 89 (olim Diyarbakır 19; Macomber 12.35), an Epistle Lectionary in Syriac dated August 1539 (1850 AG; 946 AH), copied in “Gāzartā d-Bēt Zabday, on the Tigris” by a scribe named Darwiš b. Ḥannā b. ʕisā of the aforementioned village. Here is an ET of the text given above, which in the colophon follows mention of a dispute about the times of certain feasts:

Anyone reading the Chronicon made by Rabban Šemʕon Šanqlāwāyā, the teacher of Rabban Yoḥannān bar Zoʕbi, knows these things clearly. Pray for me with the love of our Lord.

Šemʕon Šanqlāwāyā is not among the most well-known Syriac writers, but we do at least know his name from elsewhere (see L. Van Rompay in GEDSH, 374), and the work mentioned here, the Chronicon, survives in more than one manuscript, but only parts of it have been published: in Müller’s 1889 dissertation, together with German translations. The note from the colophon does not tell us anything new either about the author or his work in and of themselves, but it does tell us that the Chronicon was known, respected, and presumably accessible in or around Gāzartā in the sixteenth century, some three centuries after Šemʕon died.


Müller, F. Die Chronologie des Simeon Šanqlâwâjâ. Leipzig, 1889. Available at here.

Guest post: Sebastian Brock on identifying an old Syriac leaf   Leave a comment

By Sebastian Brock
Oriental Institute, Oxford GB

In the course of cataloguing the Syriac manuscripts belonging to the collection of the former Chaldean Church in Mardin Adam McCollum discovered an old folio that had been re-used as an endpaper to strengthen the binding of Mardin Chald. 89, a much later manuscript. The folio contains two columns of text in a neat estrangelo hand that should probably be dated to the ninth century. He kindly sent an image of the folio to me in case I might be able to identify the contents.

CCM 56 (olim Mardin Chaldean 89), back endpaper

CCM 56 (olim Mardin Chaldean 89), back endpaper

It is not always easy to date estrangelo hands, especially those that are more conservative in character. After comparing the hand with the photographs of dated manuscripts in Hatch’s invaluable Album of Dated Syriac Manuscripts, it became fairly clear that the script on the folio was likely to date from the ninth century. Having transcribed a certain amount of the text, in so far as it was legible, it turned out that it contained a number of place names, including ‘Byzantium’ and ‘Europe’. These names, and the general ‘feel’ of the text, strongly suggested that the work it contained was a translation from Greek.

The next clue was the presence of some marginal glosses in what was clearly a much later hand; this indicated that it was a work that still continued to be read and studied several centuries after the date of the original manuscript. It so happens that after about the ninth century many translations of Greek patristic authors fell out of fashion and were no longer copied or studied. One of the small number of Greek authors who did remain authoritative and studied was Gregory of Nazianzus, and so his writings, and in particular his Discourses, seemed a good place to start on the hunt for references to ‘Byzantium’ and (especially) ‘Europe’.

Fortunately most of the Sources chrétiennes volumes containing editions of the Greek text of the Discourses are provided with indexes of names, and it soon turned out that the folio did indeed belong to one of Gregory’s Discourses, namely his funeral oration on his brother Caesarius (Discourse 7 in the Greek numbering; the Syriac numbering is different). Actually the name ‘Caesarius’ turned out in fact to occur on the folio, but the writing was damaged at that point, with a key letter obscured.

Having located the passage (at the end of section 8 and beginning of section 9 of Discourse 7), it was now important to establish whether the translation belonged to the original translation of Gregory’s Discourses, or to the revision by Paul, bishop of Edessa, made in 623/4, where he had taken refuge from the Persian occupation of his see. Whereas several manuscripts of Paul’s revision survive, none of the original version are known. In order to establish to which version the folio’s text belonged it was necessary to pay a visit to the rich collection of Syriac manuscripts in the British Library, which fortunately includes a number of the relevant manuscripts. A comparison of the folio’s with two of the earliest manuscripts of Paul’s revision (Add. 14,548 of 790 and Add. 12,153 of 844/5) quickly established that the text on the folio must belong to the revision, and not to the lost original.

The Syriac version of Gregory of Nazianzus’ Discourses (in both forms where available) is currently gradually being published as part of the Corpus Nazianzenum by scholars at the Université catholique de Louvain-la-Neuve, and so far (2001-) five volumes have appeared , covering eleven Discourses: Versio Syriaca I (J-C. Haelewyck) = Discourse 40; II (A.B. Schmidt) = 13 and 41; III (J-C. Haelwyck) = 37-39; IV (J-C. Haelewyck) = 28-31; V (J-C. Haelewyck) = 1-3.

Picturesque language in an East Syriac colophon   Leave a comment

For some brief Friday fun, here’s part of a colophon that shows a little playful cleverness from a scribe. The manuscript CCM 58 (olim Mardin 7), a New Testament manuscript dated July 2053 AG (= 1742 CE) and copied in Alqosh, has a long colophon, including the following few colorful (literally and figuratively) lines near the end, at the bottom of one page and the top of the next:

CCM 58, f. 227v

CCM 58, f. 227v


CCM 58, f. 228r

That is:

Lord, may the payment of the five twins that have toiled, worked, labored, and planted good seed in a white field with a reed from the forest not be refused, but may they be saved from the fire of Gehenna! Yes, and amen!

The “five twins” are the scribe’s ten fingers, the “good seed” is the writing, the “white field” is the paper, and the “reed” is the pen. At least some of this imagery is not unique to this manuscript. In any case we have a memorable way of thinking about a scribe’s labor.

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