English translation of book 15 of John bar Penkaye now online

If we are going to get a BBC TV series on early Islam which mentions John bar Penkaye, there may be an opportunity to collect some interested people for Syriac studies.  John bar Penkaye is a non-Islamic witness to the first century of Moslem rule in the middle east, you see.  He was a Nestorian monk of that period.

For this reason (and because it was too hot to sleep last night!) I’ve taken Mingana’s translation into French of book 15 of the his history, the Rish Melle and run it across into English, with the aid of Google translator.  I must say that the latter has improved yet again.  Who would have thought that accurate translation was possible merely by an adaptation of a search engine to find the same words in two different languages?

Of course the translation has no scholarly value.  The academic will go to Sebastian Brock’s version of about 66% of the book.   But it might be useful to the general reader with no French and no access to Sebastian’s version. Dr Brock has been enormously generous with his time and efforts to promote access to Syriac literature, but his work suffers from the curse of the pre-internet age, that most of it is offline.

I’ve compared the result to Sebastian Brock’s translation, and it didn’t seem too unsound.  I also smartened it up in a few places or added extra footnotes.  The result is here:


I’ve also put a link in the Wikipedia article on John bar Penkaye to it.  I’ve also written a preface, aimed at that audience, which is here:


I’ve tried to presume no knowledge of Syriac studies.  If anyone has suggestions for improvements to either, particularly to the intro that might help promote Syriac studies, do post them in the comments or email them to me.


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