Manuscripts of the history of John bar Penkaye

The seventh century Syriac writer John bar Penkaye wrote various works, according to Ebed-Jesu, most of which have perished or are extant still only in manuscript.  One that has attracted attention is a chronicle in fifteen chapters.  The last of these deals with the rise of Islam, and, since it was written within the century, is nearly contemporaneous.

Today I had an email from a researcher working for the BBC asking about the manuscripts of the work.  I must say that I don’t know!

At BYU there is a copy of Mingana’s edition of the last 5 chapters, in Sources Syriaques.  From this I learn that Mingana edited the text with French translation from two manuscripts, one in his own collection, truncated at the end, which he labelled M; and one from the Chaldean Patriarchate in Mosul, written in 1840 but copied from a manuscript written in 1262.  

Searching for “John bar Penkaye” in vol. 1 of the catalogue of the Mingana collection, I find that his copy is now Mingana Syriac 179, completed 22nd September 1928 and written at Alkosh.  In the catalogue the text is called The beginning of words, but Mingana refers to the Sources Syriaques publication.

Apparently there is a review of the manuscripts in T. Jansma, “Projet d’edition du ktaba dres melle de Jean bar Penkaye”, OS 8 (1963) p.96-100.  (I would imagine that “OS” is “L’Orient Syrien”!) Sebastian Brock translated the end of book XIV and most of book XV into English.

Steven Ring has a list of manuscripts here:

  • Baghdad, formerly Moul Chaldean Patriarchate Ms 26 dated 1875 AD from an exemplar dated AG 1573 = 1261 or 1262 AD, [74], p. 13
  • Alqosh Ms 25 dated 1882, [66], p. 489
  • Rome, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vatican Syr 497
  • Birmingham University Library, Mingana Ms 179 dated 1928
  • Manchester, Rylands 43, a fragment c. 1915, [56], p. 167 f.

He adds: “See also, Anton Baumstark 1922, pp. 210 – 211 who lists other Mss in note 14 on p. 210.”



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