Category Archives: BiblioIranica

A Unified Gospel with Exegetical Comments in Classical Persian

Hassanabadi, Mahmoud, Carina Jahani & Robert Crellin (eds.). 2018. A Unified Gospel in Persian: An old variant of the Gospels along with exegetical comments by Yahyā Ibn Ayvaz-e Tabrīzī-ye Armanī (Studia Iranica Upsaliensia 33). Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis.

Today we are accustomed to thinking of the Bible as a single entity, i.e. as ‘the Bible’, a well-defined corpus containing a set number of books. In late antiquity and in the Middle Ages, however, the situation was much more fluid. This fluidity showed itself not only in the fact that parts of the Bible would often circulate independently, but also in that Bible texts were often known in vernacular languages both in direct translations, but also in interlinear glosses and poetic paraphrases. It is in this context that the Unified Gospel is to be seen. Unifications of the gospel texts are often called Diatessaron (through the four), and, although this name has not been used for the Persian text presented in this book, it can still be seen as belonging to the Diatessaron tradition.

The Unified Gospel presented here was compiled in Persian by a certain Armenian who calls himself Yahyā Ibn Ayvaz-e Tabrīzī-ye Armanī. The actual time of the compilation cannot be determined from the existing manuscripts. The main manuscript for this edition is kept in the National Library and Archives of Iran. It was finalized on 9 Rajab 1111 A.H. (corresponding to 31 Dec. 1699) by a scribe named Khusraw, son of Bahrām. Other manuscripts, which are introduced in detail in the Persian introduction, have also been taken into account in this edition. In addition to the actual Gospel texts, there are numerous exegetical comments by the compiler, which are of great value for a deeper understanding of how the text was interpreted in former times. The language also shows certain archaic features, both in the vocabulary and the syntax, which indicate that the original work most likely dates to pre-Safavid times.

It is not entirely clear for whom this Unified Gospel in Persian was produced. The compiler finds that the people of his time had turned away from God and instead sought worldly affairs, spending their time reading stories and poems full of deceit and darkness instead of reading the Gospel. The Gospel was not available to them in Persian, a language of which they had better knowledge than the languages into which the Gospels had already been translated. This was the reason why the compiler/translator undertook the work which resulted in the present manuscript, which is particularly valuable due to the large number of comments to the Bible text added by the compiler.

Spiritual Elite Communities: Mandaeans, Yezidis, Ahl-e Haqq, Druze and Alawis

Jong, Albert de. 2018. Spiritual Elite Communities in the Contemporary Middle East. Sociology of Islam 6(2). 116–140.

This article claims that we are in need of alternative ways of modelling religious diversity in the Middle East. This region is characterized by a high level of religious diversity, which can only be partly explained by the persistence of religions that were already in existence when Islam arose. Many communities came into being since the Islamization of the area. The communities addressed in this article therefore include one pre-Islamic tradition, the Mandaeans, and five communities that crystallized (much) later: the Yezidis, the Ahl-e Haqq, the Druze, the Alawis, and the (Turkish) Alevis. These have often been discussed in conjunction with each other, in ways that are historically and conceptually problematic. A focus on two characteristics these communities share—endogamy and a “spiritual elite” structure—makes it possible to discuss the processes in which these communities have come into being, have crystallized, and relate to the wider Islamic setting in a new light. Three communities have continued to distance themselves from Islam, and three have been in a constant process of negotiating their relation with more mainstream versions of Islam. This has consequences for the maintenance, or gradual dissolution, of religious pluralism in the Middle East.

The Aggada of the Bavli and Its Cultural World

Herman, Geoffrey & Jeffrey L. Rubenstein (eds.). 2018. The Aggada of the Bavli and its cultural world (Brown Judaic Studies 362). Providence, RI: Brown Judaic Studies.

 

Essays that explore the rich engagement of the Talmud with its cultural world

The Babylonian Talmud (Bavli), the great compilation of Jewish law edited in the late Sasanian era (sixth-seventh century CE), also incorporates a great deal of aggada, that is, nonlegal material, including interpretations of the Bible, stories, folk sayings, and prayers. The Talmud’s aggadic traditions often echo conversations with the surrounding cultures of the Persians, Eastern Christians, Manichaeans, Mandaeans, and the ancient Babylonians, and others. The essays in this volume analyze Bavli aggada to reveal this rich engagement of the Talmud with its cultural world.

Features:

  • A detailed analysis of the different conceptions of martyrdom in the Talmud as opposed to the Eastern Christian martyr accounts
  • Illustration of the complex ways rabbinic Judaism absorbed Christian and Zoroastrian theological ideas
  • Demonstration of the presence of Persian-Zoroastrian royal and mythological motifs in talmudic sources
I. The Mesopotamian Context
  • Sara Ronis: A Demonic Servant in Rav Papa’s Household: Demons as Subjects in the Mesopotamian Talmud
  • Reuven Kiperwasser: Narrative Bricolage and Cultural Hybrids in Rabbinic Babylonia: On the Narratives of Seduction and the Topos of Light
  • Yakir Paz: “Meishan Is Dead”: On the Historical Contexts
  • of the Bavli’s Representations of the Jews in Southern Babylonia
II. The Sasanian Context
  • Geoffrey Herman: “In Honor of the House of Caesar”: Attitudes to the Kingdom in the Aggada of the Babylonian Talmud and Other Sasanian Sources
  • Jason Mokhtarian: Clusters of Iranian Loanwords in Talmudic Folkore: The Chapter of the Pious (b. Ta‘anit 18b-26a) in Ιts Sasanian Context
  • Shai Secunda: Gaze and Counter-Gaze: Textuality and Contextuality
  • in the Anecdote of Rav Assi and the Roman (b. Baba Meṣiʿa 28b)
III. The Syriac and Christian Context
  • Jeffrey L. Rubenstein: Martyrdom in the Persian Martyr Acts and in the Babylonian Talmud
  • Simcha Gross: A Persian Anti-Martyr Act: The Death of Rabba bar Naḥmani in Light of the Syriac Persian Martyr Acts
  • Michal Bar-Asher Siegal: “Fool, Look to the End of the Verse”: b. Ḥullin 87a and Its Christian Background
IV. The Zoroastrian Context
  • Yaakov Elman: Dualistic Elements in Babylonian Aggada
  • Yishai Kiel: First Man, First Bovine: Talmudic Mythology in Context
  • David Brodsky: Mourner’s Kaddish, The Prequel: The Sassanian Period Backstory That Gave Birth to the Medieval Prayer for the Dead

Robert Adam Pollak’s versified translation of Šāhnāme

Firdausi, Abu’l-Qasem. 2018. Schahname. Das Buch der Könige. 4 vols. (Ed.) Nosratollah Rastegar. (Trans.) Robert Adam Pollak. With an instroduction by Florian Schwarz. 4 vols. Berlin: Klaus Schwarz Verlag.
Das Schah­name oder „Buch der Könige“, verfasst um das Jahr 1000 im Osten Irans, ist ohne Zweifel das bedeu­tendste epische Werk in persi­scher Sprache und darf zu den wich­tigsten epischen Werken der Welt­li­te­ratur gezählt werden. Es erzählt die Geschichte der Herr­scher Irans seit den mytho­lo­gi­schen Anfängen bis zur Erobe­rung des Sasani­den­reichs durch die musli­mi­schen Araber im 7. Jahr­hun­dert.
Im 19. und frühen 20. Jahr­hun­dert erschienen Vers­über­set­zungen des Schah­name in mehreren euro­päi­schen Spra­chen, darunter eine voll­stän­dige italie­ni­sche Vers­über­set­zung des Orien­ta­listen Italo Pizzi und die eben­falls voll­stän­dige engli­sche Über­set­zung der Brüder Arthur und Edmund Warner. Deut­sche Vers­über­set­zungen wie dieje­nigen von Adolf Fried­rich von Schack und durch den Orien­ta­listen und Poeten Fried­rich Rückert blieben jedoch Torsos.
Erst­mals wird hier eine deut­sche Vers­über­set­zung der soge­nannten histo­ri­schen Teile des Schah­name (Bücher 20-50) von Fird­ausi vorge­legt. Der Urheber dieser meis­ter­li­chen Über­tra­gung ist der öster­rei­chi­sche Schrift­s­teller und Jurist Robert Adam Pollak (1877–1961). Pollaks Über­set­zung zeugt von seinen exzel­lenten philo­lo­gi­schen Quali­täten und seiner großen wissen­schaft­li­chen Sorg­falt, die den Text zu einem weiteren Meilen­stein in der Erfor­schung und Rezep­tion des Schah­name macht.
Bei der Heraus­gabe der maschi­nen­schrift­lich mit hand­schrift­li­chen Ergän­zungen vorlie­genden Über­set­zung von Robert Adam Pollak (des 4-bändigen Typoskripts) wurden von den Heraus­ge­bern nur notwen­dige Eingriffe in seinen Text vorge­nommen. Pollaks proso­disch oder durch Reim bedingte und daher hier und da vari­ie­rende Lesungen der Lemmata wurden soweit wie irgend möglich in der von ihm gewählten Form belassen bzw. vorsichtig ange­passt, um den poeti­schen Klang seiner Über­set­zung nicht zu zerstören.
Der voll­stän­dige Schah­na­me­text beginnt mit der Einlei­tung Fird­ausis (ca. 237 Doppel­verse), gefolgt von 50 über­lie­ferten Königs­büchern (52.000–55.000 Doppel­verse), die man inhalt­lich einteilen kann in: a) präh­is­to­ri­scher, mythi­scher Teil (Bücher 1-13), b) halb­his­to­ri­scher Teil (Bücher 14-19) und c) histo­ri­scher Teil (Bücher 20-50). Dieser letz­tere Text­teil, den Pollak als Vorlage für seine Über­set­zung nahm, umfasst die über­lie­ferte Geschichte der Herr­schaft Alex­an­ders über den Iran (331–323 v. Chr.), die Herr­schafts­pe­riode der Parther-Arsa­kiden (247 v. Chr.–226 n. Chr.) und die umfang­reiche Geschichte der Sasaniden (226–651 n. Chr.), schlie­ßend mit einer in ihrer Echt­heit und ihrem Umfang strit­tigen Satire gegen den ghaz­na­vi­di­schen Herr­scher, Sulṭān Maḥmūd (reg. 999 bis 1030 n. Chr.).
Mit der Über­set­zung Robert Adam Pollaks wird der umfang­reiche histo­ri­sche Teil des epischen Meis­ter­werkes Fird­ausis den deutsch­spra­chigen Inter­es­senten in poeti­scher Form zugäng­lich gemacht. Nunmehr sind die Grund­steine für eine voll­stän­dige deut­sche Ausgabe gelegt worden, die neben Rückerts und Pollaks poeti­schen Über­set­zungen auch die poeti­sche Über­tra­gung Adolf Fried­rich Graf von Schacks »Helden­sagen des Firdusi« berück­sich­tigen könnte.

The Mandaean religion and the Aramaic background of Manichaeism

Ionuţ Daniel Băncilă. 2018. Die mandäische Religion und der aramäische Hintergrund des Manichäismus: Forschungsgeschichte, Textvergleiche, historisch-geographische Verortung. (Mandäistische Forschungen 6). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

Mandaeism, the only surviving Gnostic religion, reflected, recorded, evaluated and thus transformed various religious traditions of different identities. Although a “Mandaean identity” did not develop until after the Islamic conquest of Mesopotamia, one can assume that “Mandaean ideas” were already present in various Aramaic-speaking groups in Mesopotamia.
In his study of the Mandaean religion, Ionuţ Daniel Băncilă asks whether traces of “Mandaic thoughts” can be found in Manichaeism, the second major Gnostic religion in the region. He examines this question in three different methodological approaches: A detailed look at the history of research on the subject shows to what extent previous attempts to explain the relationship between Manichaeism and Mandaeism were subject to the cultural fashions of different epochs; the text-comparative part of the study examines motifs in Manichaeism that can be identified as “Mandaic ideas” on a philological-literary critical basis. In a third part, the Mandaean understanding of history is critically examined and an attempt is made to explain the relations between the two religions geographical and historical vantage point.

Table of Contents

 

Bibliographia Manichaica Selecta: Selected Works for Manichaean Studies

Shokri-Foumeshi, Mohammad. 1397 š [2018]. ketābšenāsī-ye moṭāleʿāt-e mānavī: šenāḫt-e możuʿī-ye manabeʿ-o maʾāḫeẕ [Bibliographia Manichaica Selecta. Selected Works for Manichaean Studies]. Tehran: Ṭahūrī.
Manichaeism is an antique religion founded by the prophet Mani (276/277-216), during the reign of Šāpūr I in Persia in the 3rd century. The Manichaean Church from the beginning was committed to an enthusiastic missionary activity in an endeavor to convert the world. Mani encouraged the translation of his writings into other languages and organized an widespread mission agenda.
This comprehensive bibliography comprises the works focused on the selected works of Manichaean studies, includng religious studies, languages and thier linguistic analysis or editions of texts.
You can doenload the TOC of this volume here.

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Arash Zeini

Reinventing Mosaic Torah in the Light of the Law of Ahura Mazdā and Zarathustra

Leningrad Codex text sample, portions of Exodus 15:21-16:3

Kiel, Yishai. 2017. Reinventing Mosaic Torah in Ezra-Nehemiah in the light of the law (dāta) of Ahura Mazda and Zarathustra. Journal of Biblical Literature 136(2). 323–345.

In this study I examine the linguistic and theological contours of the term (tôrâ) in Ezra-Nehemiah—particularly the identification of with the law () of God promulgated by Ezra (Ezra 7:14)—through the lens of Old Persian and Avestan notions of “the law set down (dāta)” by Ahura Mazda and revealed through Zarathustra. While the basic notion of divine revelation of laws through the mediation of Moses emerges already in preexilic biblical texts, I posit that the innovative link drawn by the authors of Ezra-Nehemiah between the Old Persian and Avestan term dāta (via Aramaic ) and the Hebrew reflects a broader and more comprehensive impact of Avestan traditions, mediated by Achaemenid ideology, on the construction and conceptualization of Mosaic in Ezra-Nehemiah. Weighing in on the ongoing debate over the range of imperial authorization of local legislation and cult in Judea, Egypt, and Asia Minor, I argue that the Achaemenids, who were probably involved in certain aspects of the codification and canonization of textual, legal, and theological manifestations of Zoroastrianism, functioned as agents (whether actively or passively) in facilitating and reinforcing the adaptation by the Babylonian-Judean scribes of Avestan notions of divine revelation of the law and scriptural unity linked to personal authority.

The Middle Persian Book of Kings

Hämeen-Anttila, Jaakko. 2018. Khwadāynāmag: The Middle Persian Book of Kings (Studies in Persian Cultural History 14). Leiden: Brill.
The Khwadāynāmag is often conceived of as a large book of stories, comparable to Firdawsī’s Shāhnāme, but Hämeen-Anttila convincingly shows that it was a concise and dry chronicle. He also studies the lost Arabic translations of the book, which turn out to be fewer than hitherto thought, as well as the sources of Firdawsī’s Shāhnāme, showing that the latter was only remotely related to the Khwadāynāmag. It also becomes clear that there were no separate “priestly” and “royal” Khwadāynāmags.
TOC

Tāq-e Kasrā: Wonder of Architecture

Kasra: Wonder of Architecture

Directed by Pejman Akbarzadeh

7.00pm, Thursday 1 February 2018

Khalili Lecture Theatre, SOAS University of London
Russell Square WC1H 0XG
Tāq-e Kasrā (Arch of Ctesiphon) in 2017. Photo © Pejman Akbarzadeh

Taq Kasra: Wonder of Architecture is the first-ever documentary film on the world’s largest brickwork vault. The palace was the symbol of the Persian Empire in the Sasanian era (224-651 AD), when a major part of Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) was part of Persia. Taq Kasra was in serious danger of ISIS attacks in 2015-2016 and this was the main motivation for documentary maker Pejman Akbarzadeh, based in Holland, to travel to Iraq twice and film the arch before it was potentially destroyed. (Read more)

Watch the trailer here.

The documentary is produced by the Persian Dutch Network, in association with Toos Foundation, and partially funded by the Soudavar Memorial Foundation.

Following the screening, a Q&A session will be held with the presence of the documentary director Pejman Akbarzadeh and Vesta Sarkhosh-Curis of the British Museum, a scholar of Persian art in Sasanian and Parthian eras.

Admission Free – All Welcome

Organised by: Centre for Iranian Studies

Information: E-mail vp6@soas.ac.uk