Tag Archives: Syriac

Artifact, Text, Context

Tang, Li & Dietmar W. Winkler (eds.). 2020. Artifact, text, context: Studies on Syriac Christianity in China and Central Asia (orientalia – patristica – oecumenica 17). LIT Verlag.

This volume is a collection of papers highlighting recent researches on Syriac Christianity in China and Central Asia. The topics range from artifacts to texts and their historical contexts, covering the period from the 7th to the 18th century. As the studies on Syriac Christianity in China and Central advance, focus has shifted from a general historical survey and textual translation to a more micro and meticulous study of specific concepts and terms and particular names of persons and places.

The law code of Simeon, Bishop of Rev-Ardashir

Harrak, Amir (ed.). 2020. The law code of Simeon, Bishop of Rev-Ardashir (Texts from Christian Late Antiquity 57). Piscataway: Gorgias Press LLC.

The Law Code of Simeon of Rev-Ardashir, originally written in Persian, was translated into Syriac by an anonymous monk of Bēṭ-Qatrāyē. The Code’s author, possibly to be identified with a rebellious metropolitan mentioned in the letters of Patriarch Īšoʿ-yahb III (the early 7th cuntary), aims to clarify theoretical scriptural law, and to address family matters including inheritance and the role of slave. Presented in the form of questions and answers, the law book consists of 22 chapters and begins with some reflections on the sources of Christian law, for which the author gives priority to the tradition of the Fathers. The new edition is based on a single manuscript housed at the Vatican Library. This Law Code had been previously published by Sachau with German translation and noted and comments (1914). 

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Outline
  • Law of Moses
  • Acts of Synods
  • Code of Īšōʿ-yahb the Catholicos
  • Consensus
  • Equivalent Retaliation (lex talionis)
  • Manuscript
  • Previous Editions and Translations
  • Summary
  • Text and Translation
  • The apology of the One who was Asked by Him (=Bishop Simeon) to Translate this Book from Persian to Syriac
  • Forward of the Book: Justification (of Simeon) Addressed to the One Who Requested from Him to Put in Writing the Book
  • Chapter One: What Goal Does the Teaching of Our Lord Have, and Why He did not Lay Down Any Law Concerning Juridical Decisions?
  • Chapter Two: Why Do We Not Practice Law on the Basis of Mosaic Law?
  • (Chapter Three): Concerning the Origins of Past and Present Laws Practiced in the Church
  • Beginning of All Laws
  • Bibliography of Works Cited

Amir Harrak is full professor at the University of Toronto. His specialty is Aramaic and Syriac languages and literatures. His many publications deal with Syriac epigraphy, chronography, and cataloguing of manuscripts.

This book announcements is prepeared and written by Hossein Sheikh-Bostanabad (independent scholar).

Persian Martyrs Mar Behnam and Sarah

Saint-Laurent, Jeanne-Nicole Mellon & Kyle Smith (eds.). 2018. The history of Mar Behnam and Sarah. Martyrdom and monasticism in medieval Iraq (Persian Martyr Acts in Syriac: Text and Translation 7). Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press.

The History of Mar Behnam and Sarah tells the story of two siblings who convert to Christianity under the tutelage of Mar Mattai, a monastic leader and wonderworker from the Roman Empire. After the children refuse to worship pagan gods, they are killed by their own father, the Persian king. Strangely, he is identified as Sennacherib the Assyrian, a pre-Christian ruler better known from the biblical Book of Kings. This is not the only chronological oddity with the text. Although Behnam and Sarah is set in the fourth century, during the golden age of martyrdom in the Sasanian Empire, the text was not composed until hundreds of years later. The composition of the narrative about the two martyrs seems to have coincided with the construction of a twelfth-century shrine that was built in their honor by Syrian Orthodox monks on the Nineveh Plain, near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. The beautiful martyrium, which housed intricate relief sculptures and inscriptions in several languages, was an important pilgrimage site for Christians, Muslims, and Yezidis until it was destroyed in 2015.

In this volume of the “Persian Martyr Acts in Syriac” series, Jeanne-Nicole Mellon Saint-Laurent and Kyle Smith provide the first critical edition and English translation of this fascinating martyrdom narrative, a text that was once widely popular among numerous communities throughout the Middle East.

Biblical and Manichaean Citations

P.H. Poirier & T. Pettipiece. 2018. Biblical and Manichaean citations in Titus of Bostra’s against the Manichaeans: An annotated inventory (Instrumenta Patristica et Mediaevalia 78). Turnhout: Brepols.

This volume is the third and final part of a trilogy devoted to Titus of Bostra’s Against the Manichaeans. The first part, the critical edition of the remains of the Greek text and of the complete Syriac version as well as of the excerpts from the Sacra Parallela attributed to John Damascene, appeared in 2013 as volume 82 in the Series Graeca of the Corpus Christianorum. The second part, a French synoptic translation of the Greek and the Syriac, was published in 2015 as volume 21 in the Corpus Christianorum in Translation series. The main objective of the present inventory is to make available to specialists and all those interested the rich Biblical and Manichaean documentation used by Titus of Bostra in his refutation. With the exception of the Contra Faustum of Augustine, Titus of Bostra’s Against the Manichaeans is indisputably the most extensive Christian refutation of Manichaeism. Titus’ work is also a goldmine of information on the Manichaean doctrine and a valuable source for the history of the text of the Old and New Testament in Greek and Syriac. The fact that the manuscript of the Syriac version is not only very ancient but also precisely dated (to November 411) adds to its value as a witness of the Syriac biblical text.

Continue reading Biblical and Manichaean Citations

Trilingual Greek-Aramaic-Middle Persian Pharmaceutical Lexical List

Image from an 18th c. Syriac manuscript from Alqosh. Thomas touching the wounds of Jesus, with Simon Peter looking on. DFM 13, f. 60r. © hmmlorientalia

Müller-Kessler, Christa. 2017. A Trilingual Pharmaceutical Lexical List: Greek – Aramaic – Middle Persian. Le Muséon 130(1–2). 31–69.

This trilingual plant list in Greek, Aramaic, and Middle Persian (Pahlavi) is a late copy in the Aramaic square script from the Cairo Genizah of the ninth or tenth centuries with randomly applied Palestinian vocalisation (T-S K14.22). It is the second example of a trilingual lexical list, containing plant names after Barhebraeus’ plant list in the Menārath Kudhshē. The origin of the Vorlage speaks for Jundishapur as its place of completion, and Syriac used for the Aramaic glosses, since this fragment shows a number of Syriac calques, especially particles, which came in through the translation from one Aramaic dialect into another. This unique text source demonstrates again how closely interlinked Greek, Aramaic, and Middle Iranian were in Late Antiquity, despite the loss of most of the text material from this famous academy of medical studies. What this list makes also so valuable is the application of the grades of the plants’ effect that go back to Galen, as can be found in the remnant Syriac manuscript Mingana Syr. 661.
Christa Müller-Kessler is an scholar of Syriac and Aramaic Studies at the Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena.

A Review of Christian Arab sources for the Sasanian Period

Amiri Bavandpour, Sajad. 2017. “A Review of Christian Arab sources for the Sasanian Period“, e-Sasanika 19.

This article in Persian reviews all the important Christian Arab sources for the study of Sasanian history. The author studies each of the Syriac and Arabic texts produced by the Christians from the third to the thirteenth century CE which provide important information on the Sasanian Empire.

The History of the ‘Slave of Christ’

Butts, Aaron Michael &  Gross, Simcha. 2017. The History of the ‘Slave of Christ’: From Jewish Child to Christian Martyr. ( Persian Martyr Acts in Syriac: Text and Translation 6). New Jersey: Gorgias Press LLC .

The first critical editions and English translations of the two Syriac recensions of a fascinating text which narrates the story of a young Jewish child, Asher. After converting to Christianity and taking the name ʿAḇdā da-Mšiḥā (‘slave of Christ’), he is martyred by his father. In a detailed introduction, Butts and Gross challenge the use of this text by previous scholars as evidence for historical interactions between Jews and Christians, reevaluating its purpose and situating the story in its Late Antique Babylonian context.

 

Syriac Polemics Against Zoroastrianism and Christian Controversies under the Sasanians

es-xiii-couv4eRuani, Flavia (ed.). 2016. Les controverses religieuses en syriaque. (Études Syriaques 13). Paris: Geuthner.
The latest volume of the series Études Syriaques, edited by Flavia Ruani is dedicated to the subject of the religious controversies in the “Syriac world”. The volume contents thirteen articles, originally presented at the 13th. symposium of the Society of Syria Studies at the l’Institut protestant de théologie in Paris in 2015. The articles (Table of Contents PDF) aim to give an overview of the debates and relations that the Syriac Christians have maintained over the centuries with other communities, among others Pagans, Jews, Manicheans, Muslims, Zoroastrians, etc. in the areas where they evolved, in order to trace the interreligious relations in the Syriac world. Two contribution from this volume address some aspects of a particular controversy and polemics between Christians in Sasanian Milieu as well as the Syriac polemics against Zoroastrianism in their Sasanian religious, cultural and political contexts:
  • Florence Jullien: “Les controverses entre chrétiens en milieu sassanide: un enjeu identitaire” [Polemics between Christians in Sasanian Milieu: an Identity Issue]
In Sasanian milieu, controversies among Christians have a strong identity dimension which explains the important involvement of Syriac communities in theological debates as a means of positioning strategy. The most significant disputes were organized in public at the court of Seleucia- Ctesiphon, in the sixth and early seventh centuries. These controversies were considered as a royal entertainment; but for the Christians, they involved a very real political issue, especially for the East-Syrians and the Syro-Orthodox, with regard to the consequences for the existence of their Churches. Heresiographical representation, using humour and derision, is part of the polemical discourse so as to deconstruct the image of the opponent. In the Syriac world, controversy was above all an affair of the cultural elite, trained in the ecclesiastical milieu to deal with confrontation—and monasticism played an important role in many respects.
  • Richard Payne: “Les polémiques syro-orientales contre le zoroastrisme et leurs contextes politiques” [East Syriac Polemics Against Zoroastrianism and Their Political Contexts]
The paper provides an account of the evolution of East Syrian polemics against Zoroastrianism from their fitful origins in late fourth- and early fifth-century hagiography to the more complex works of the late Sasanian era. It argues that the chronological correspondence between the beginning of polemical production and the institutionalization of the Church of the East in the Iranian Empire is not accidental. The shift away from Judaism to Zoroastrianism as the primary polemical concern of ecclesiastical leaders took place just as they were becoming dependent on a Zoroastrian court for patronage. With the rise of the Church of the East, East Syrian secular elites and ecclesiastical leaders could participate in the institutions of a Zoroastrian Empire qua Christians, and polemical texts aimed to define relations between Christians and Zoroastrians in the overarching political context of increasing interreligious collaboration. The early East Syrian representation of Zoroastrianism as a peculiarly Iranian form of Greco- Roman polytheism gave way, by circa 500, to more nuanced accounts of Zoroastrian ritual and cosmology—notably in the Martyrdom of Pethion, Adurohrmazd, and Anahid and the History of Mar Qardagh—that outlined political space, practices, and identities that Christians and Zoroastrians could share. At the same time, the catholicos-patriarch Mar Aba attacked Christians for adopting Zoroastrian practices necessary for the political participation of would-be aristocrats and, in so doing, distinguished ascetic ecclesiastical leaders from secular elites through their wholesale rejection of the Good Religion. Polemics emerge from this paper as instruments for the creation of the boundaries required for workable cooperation between Christians and Zoroastrians, and their development provides an index of Christian assimilation and acculturation from the fourth through early seventh centuries.
About the Editor:
Flavia Ruani (PhD) is a a scholar of Syriac Christianity and the hagiography of Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages. She is curently a postdoctoral research fellow at the Department of Literary Studies at the University of Geneva.

Persian Martyr Acts under King Yazdgird I

herman-2016Herman, Geoffrey (ed.). 2016. Persian Martyr Acts under King Yazdgird I. (Persian martyr acts in Syriac: text and translation 5). Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press.

This volume presents five vivid tales of Persian Christian martyrs from the fifth century. They provide important historical information on Christian society at this time, revealing its geographical and social divisions. Narseh is an itinerant monk from Bēth Raziqāyē who damages a fire temple that had formerly been a church. Tātāq is a high ranking courtier from Bēth Ḥadyab who abandons his position to become an ascetic. Mār ‘Abdā is a compliant bishop from Ḥuzestān drawn into conflict with the king by his confrontational and defiant priest, Hasho. Set in the Sasanian Empire in the reign of Yazdgird I (399-420 CE), these texts thematize the struggle between the martyrs’ identity as Persian subjects loyal to the king, often in the face of hostility by the Zoroastrian priesthood, and their devotion to their Christian faith.

About the Author:

Geoffrey Herman is a researcher at the Mandel Scholion Interdisciplinary Research Center in the Humanities and Jewish Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He has published extensively on the history of religious life in the Sasanian era.

Christianity in Central Asia

Dickens, Mark. 2015. Le christianisme syriaque en Asie centrale. In Borbone, Pier Giorgio & Pierre Marsone (eds.), Le christianisme syriaque en Asie centrale et en Chine (Études Syriaques 12), 6–39. Geuthner.

Overview of the history of Christianity in Central Asia from the earliest reference in the works of Bardaisan to allusions in various sources to the final state of Christianity in the Timurid realm.