From Liturgy to Pharmacology

Sims-Williams, Nicholas. 2019. From liturgy to pharmacology. Christian Sogdian texts from the Turfan Collection. Turnhout: Brepols Publishers.

Containing a variety of texts ranging from liturgy to pharmacology via hagiography, calendars and ascetical works by Isaac of Nineveh, this volume completes the publication of all known Christian Sogdian texts.

This volume completes the publication of the Christian Sogdian texts of the Berlin Turfan Collection begun by F. W. K. Müller in 1907. Several Syriac texts are also included, in particular a series of liturgical texts in Syriac with Sogdian rubrics (edited in collaboration with J. F. Coakley).

The texts edited here are mostly short but extremely varied and interesting. The Syriac liturgical fragments are some of the earliest surviving witnesses to the liturgy of the “Church of the East”, though the Sogdian rubrics which accompany them show that those who performed them were not native speakers of Syriac. Other texts connected with the liturgy include a Sogdian version of the Gloria in excelsis and a text explaining how to calculate the date of Easter or Lent. Hagiographical texts include fragments of the martyrdoms of St George and of Cyriacus and Julitta as well as part of the so-called “Six Books” on the Dormition of the Virgin Mary. Two pharmacological fragments (edited in collaboration with Dieter Maue) show familiarity with Indian medicine, while a “prayer-amulet” belongs rather to a Syriac tradition. Finally, a chapter contributed by Adrian Pirtea contains the re-edition of a well-preserved folio identified by him as a Sogdian version of a work by Isaac of Nineveh.