Arabic gospel manuscripts

There is a two volume thesis by Hikmat Kashouh, The Arabic version of the gospel: the manuscripts and their families, accessible online at EthOS here (you have to create an account and do a rather silly ‘order’ but the PDF download is free, and the PDF is searchable).  This thesis was done in 2008 at the University of Birmingham; nice to see the Mingana collection getting some contemporary scholarly use!

The work looks like the starting point for some serious study of the Arabic translation of the gospels.  Interestingly it was sponsored by Christian groups the Langham Partnership International and St. John’s Church in Harbourne.

The thesis has developed into a book, being published by De Gruyter for a modest $377.  Details are here:

This book is concerned with the Arabic versions of the Gospels. It is an attempt to examine a substantial number of Arabic manuscripts which contain the continuous text of the canonical Gospels copied between the eighth and the nineteenth centuries and found in twenty-one different library collections in Europe and the Orient.

Following the introduction, Chapter Two presents the state of research from the middle of the nineteenth century to the present time. Chapter Three introduces and reflects on the two hundred plus manuscripts examined in this work. Chapters Four to Eight concentrate on grouping these manuscripts into twenty-four families and examining their Vorlagen (Greek, Syriac, Coptic and Latin). In order to examine the relationship between the families, phylogenetic software is used. Consequently, the manuscripts are grouped into seven different mega clusters or tribes. Finally the date of the first translation of the Gospels into Arabic is addressed and (a) provisional date(s) suggested based on the textual and linguistic analyses of the manuscripts.

The conclusion in Chapter Ten gives the overall contribution made by this thesis and also future avenues for the study of the Arabic versions of the Gospels.


Eusebius update

A long email from the translator about some issues with the Latin text.  One problem is that we are reprinting three different bits of Latin — one from a modern edition, with “young man” given as “iuuenis”, another from a 19th century edition where it is “iuvenis”, and another from a 16th century volume where it is also “iuvenis”.  The latter two are much smaller in length.  What do we do?

What I have decided to do is reprint the edition and not harmonise them.  There’s also other work on the Latin that needs doing, where we switched edition after the translation was complete.

I’m still feeling rather under the weather, but thankfully the translator is willing to take on some editorial duties and look after it. 

I’ve also started thinking about the cover again.  For the hardback the author and title, followed by a circular logo for the publisher, all in gold and on dark cloth, would seem possible.  If it works for Brepols it should work for me.  I’ve got together some examples, and I will send these over to a graphic design company.

The contracts to print the book have now been signed with Lightning Source.  So we are getting very close indeed here!


The books and the art trade

Every year the winds blow across the desert.  Every year, the sands drift in those winds, heaping up against mysterious worked blocks of ancient sandstone.  Little by little the last visible remains of some forgotten Coptic monastery vanish under the sand.

It’s not just stone work from once proud buildings.  There are books in the sands.  The monks often had occasion to deposit somewhat dodgy codices outside the monastery.  In their day, as in ours, public-funded bodies could be denounced by any busybody for any number of vaguely-specified offences of thought.

Many of these books have come to light in the 20th century.  The Egyptian peasant knows that such anteekahs are as good as money when sold to the Cairo dealers.  The battered papyrus books vanish into the art market.  It is an interesting question how many vanish forever.  But the existence of the trade ensures that none are wantonly destroyed by their finders.

The most recent sensation concerned the Coptic ‘gospel of Judas’.  This, together with a volume containing a Coptic translation of Exodus, another containing three letters of St. Paul in Coptic, and a Greek mathematical treatise, ended up in the USA after a series of dodgy dealings.  They ended up in Akron, Ohio, in the hands of a dealer named Bruce Ferrini.

It is open to few of us, perhaps to injure the human race as a whole, to cause men yet unborn to curse us and to dimish the light of knowledge.  The evil or ignorant Ferrini was an exception.  When these unique, unpublished, and priceless books came into his hands, he shredded them.  His motive for this wicked deed was greed; he could sell the shreds for more money than the intact volumes.  Secretly he did the deed; secretly he sold what he could; and then he went bankrupt. The main bulk of what remained of the ‘gospel’ was repossessed by Frieda Nussberger-Tchacos, another dealer of Egyptian extraction to whom it legally belonged. But Mrs Tchacos alleged that Ferrini was holding out on her, and had retained much of the book. She arranged for what she had to be placed in the hands of Mario Roberty, her attorney, and a “Maecenas Foundation”.  The text was then published in an exemplary way.

Then Ferrini died, leaving what remained unsold for lawyers to argue over, and an evil reputation for moralists to comment on.

April DeConick reports:

I just received offprints of an article published in the first volume of Mohr Siebeck’s new journal Early Christianity (link HERE). The article is a preliminary report written by Herbert Krosney, Marvin Meyer, and Gregor Wurst about the status of the OHIO fragments of the Gospel of Judas. In the first part of the article, Krosney explains the court battle over the OHIO fragments and their photographs which were analyzed by Gregor Wurst who recognized that they contained the balance of the Gospel of Judas, allowing us to read 90-95% of it.

According to Krosney’s account, the fragments have made their way to Egypt in April 2010 and are under the care of Dr. Zahi Hawass who did not want the fragments to go to Switzerland for conservation first. The rest of the Tchacos Codex remains in Switzerland in the hands of the Maecenas Foundation who is now in a financial battle with Mrs. Frieda Nussberger.

The rest of the article is a sketch of the contents of the fragments and a preliminary transcription and translation based on photographs of the fragments possessed by Nussberger. There has been no distribution of the photographs to scholars other than Meyer and Wurst as far as I know. There is mention that Wurst and Meyer are consulting with the administration in Egypt in order to discover how to proceed in the critical publication of the fragments.

Krosney wrote an excellent and very readable book on the whole sordid story, and seems to have become the chronicler.  It sounds from the above as if the charming Mario Roberty and the formidable Mrs Tchachos have fallen out.  I’m not sure that anyone’s interests are served by part of the book being taken to Egypt.  The persistent secrecy over the photographs is nothing new, sadly.

If anyone has a copy of the article and would care to let me see it, I would be obliged.  We humble members of the public have no access to such grand publications!


Back to the Religionsgesprach

The project to translate all the fragments of Philip of Side is still progressing.  A bunch of these are in a 6th century fictional text depicting a religious debate at the court of the Sassanids.  More or less by accident, I seem to have commissioned a translation of this text, although it is turning out to be very interesting indeed.

Another chunk arrived today, and I thought I would share with you the opening words, which struck me as truly splendid and brightened my morning considerably:

34.  The following day, Oricatus the foremost of the enchanters came to him and said:  “Master of everything under the sun, grant me glory, so that I may preside in this assembly, since I have three mighty acts to perform!” 

Not many job interviews begin like that!


The things we rely on

We do rely on our health, don’t we?  Just take it for granted, and complain that we can’t pack any more into the hours we have.  That is, until the plague strikes, and suddenly we can do nothing.  Nothing at all.  At such times, I become conscious of how much I take for granted.  A microbe smaller than I can see can lay this vast estate of body and mind low.

From which sentiments a critical reader may infer that I am unwell; and so indeed it is.  I went down with a virus yesterday, and slept for 13 hours last night.  It means I lose a day (unpaid) from work.  A beautiful day outside, with which I can do little.  Will it be like this when we all get old, I wonder?  Just sitting around, waiting for my elderly body to gather enough energy together to do anything at all?

I’ve staggered to the computer, to tell my boss not to expect me, and I’ve been trying to download some of the CSEL volumes from Google books.  But my head hurts — even clicking links is too much.   I think I shall go back to bed.  And … drat it … I can’t even read.

So don’t expect much posting, hey? 


You just can’t get the servants

A curious story, via F.A. Paley, Greek wit, 2nd ed. 1888:

Lysander, after the final defeat of the Athenians, despatched a quantity of coin and treasure to Sparta by sea, under the care of Gylippus, who had been the Spartan commander at Syracuse.  He, not aware that each sealed box contained under the lid a written statement of the contents, loosened the bottom of each and took out a quantity of silver money bearing the device of an owl.  The stolen money he concealed under the roof of his house, but he took the boxes to the Ephors, and showed them the unbroken seals. Finding the accounts did not tally, they were much perplexed, till they received a useful hint from a servant of Gylippus:– “There is a whole lot of owls roosting under master’s tiles.” — Plutarch, Vit. Lysand. ch. 16.


More notes on tables of contents and chapter titles from the Sources Chrétiennes

I’m still looking at the question of whether ancient books had divisions within a book into “chapters” of some sort, and whether they had tables of chapters at the head of each book, and whether the divisions were numbered, and whether the titles in the tables were in the text or not, and whether any of this was authorial.

The Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius was edited in the SC series at an early stage.  Books 1-4 of the HE appears in 1952 in SC31, edited by G. Bardy, in a volume which contains only a brief introduction, and then the text (reprinted from the GCS, 1909) and translation.  It is all a far cry from the sophisticated volumes we know today, but from such little acorns has such a forest of mighty oaks grown. 

The manuscripts of the HE contain tables of contents at the head of each book.  Bardy writes only (p.vii):

In the manuscripts, following the ancient usage, the table of chapters appears at the head of each book.  But in the text, each chapter is prefixed only with a number in sequential order.

Two more volumes contained the remainder of the HE; but by 1960 it was clearly felt that a proper volume of introductory material should have been required, and Canon Bardy was at work on such when he died.  It finally appeared in 1973.  It contained a section on “books and chapters” on p.101-113.  The first ten pages are devoted to the division into books, made by Eusebius himself.  The remainder consists of assertions about chapters rather than useful discussion.  The conclusion is the same as above.

In SC 206 (1974) J. Sirinelli addresses the same question in his edition of the Praeparatio Evangelica (p.52).

The division into books of the PE is by Eusebius himself.  The author refers several times to this division himself.  Very often he mentions that he is coming to the end of a book, or is beginning one.  We are thus assured that the division into books is indeed his work.

It is worth remarking how much better reasoned this is than the vague assertions of Bardy on the same subject.  After remarking that Eusebius himself says that he is ending a book because it has grown too long, rather than for any reason of design, Sirinelli then continues:

As regards the titles of chapters, it is generally admitted that, for the Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius himself divided the books into chapters and composed the titles for them himself.  On the other hand there have been disagreements concerning the Praeparatio Evangelica.  In his 1628 edition Viger reproduced the titles and the summaries of the books.  Valcknaer in his Diatriba de Aristobulo wanted a more rigorus edition created in which the titles and divisions would be suppressed, in which according to himself Eusebius had no part.  Finally Gaisford himself wrote with decided authority “Lemmata, quae in prioribus editionibus non singulis tantum libris sed et librorum capitibus praefixa orationis nexum saepe perturbant, amovi”, and on his own initiative created a new division, which is currently the basis of reference and was followed by Gifford.

Karl Mras, basing himself on an article by J. Bidez [Revue Critique  d’histoire et de littérature, N.S. 61, 1906, p.506; a review of Gifford], sensibly reintroduced these titles and summaries, which in all appearance are the work of Eusebius himself.  In fact in various ways the titles supply us with indispensable information, not given by the text itself.  This is because, reasonably, the author knew that he had furnished these in the title.  For example we may look at chapter 3 of book IV, and chapter 3 of book X.  The title alone contains the reference to the citation which follows.  We place ourselves alongside the opinion of Mras, therefore, and while retaining the division of Gaisford, we give in the appropriate places the titles of the chapters.

This is not a matter of indifference.  The division of Gaisford is arbitrary, and sometimes unfortunate for the sequence of ideas.  On the contrary the division into chapters given by the manuscripts, far from disturbing the flow of the argument, permits us in some cases to restore with more clarity the sequence of thought by Eusebius.  We will have occasion to refer to this again.

A footnote follows to this last sentence:

But with caution; because, for book I, the situation is complicated by divergence between the manuscripts.  One of them, V, reproduces the titles at the head of the chapters in the body of the text.   In the other manuscripts, at least for the first chapters, the text of the title of the chapter appears only in the summary at the head of each book.

I think we may infer from this that the chapter divisions are marked and numbered even in V, but it is a shame that this is not made clearer.  However I suspect all this is derived from Mras.  In SC369, on p.34 we find the remarkable statement:

The chapters indicated in Arabic numerals are those of the Mras edition; reference is always to these.  No modern edition takes account of the ancient division into chapters (with titles) which derives from the Greek manuscripts.

This problem — that the witness of the manuscripts is not published in modern critical texts — renders it very difficult to acquire the necessary information about how ancient texts were divided.

UPDATE: I have found Bidez’ review online.  One remark is interesting in an otherwise not very useful review:

… Gifford was wrong not to place the titles at the head of each chapter.  Sometimes these titles are the only fact we have on the provenance of an extract (e.g. book XV, ch. 17, for a chapter taken entirely from Numenius).

Revue critique d histoire et de littérature / publiée sous la direction de MM. P. Meyer, Ch. Morel, G. Paris, H. Zotenberg
Revue critique d histoire et de littérature / publiée sous la direction de MM. P. Meyer, Ch. Morel, G. Paris, H. Zotenberg
Source: Bibliothèque nationale de France

UPDATE2: I find that I have a copy of volume 1 of Mras’ edition also.On p.viii of the foreword he discusses chapter titles.  I give the German word used to facilitate searching.  The  volume references are to Mras own edition in the GCS.

3.  Eusebius not only prefixed the books with tables of contents (“Inhaltsangaben”), but also intended the headings (“Überschriften”) for the chapters in the manuscripts.  J. Bidez has rightly complained in his review of the Gifford edition that the editors since Gaisford have omitted these headings.  There is hard evidence that these originate with Eusebius:  that the third chapter of the fourth book is from a work of Diogenianus we learn neither from the text, nor the table of contents (“Inhaltsverzeichnis”) of the fourth book, but only from the chapter heading (“Kapitelüberschrift”) (Vol. 1 p. 169, 21); the title of the work of Porphyry — and the number of the book — quoted in the third chapter of the tenth book,  is only given in the chapter heading (Vol. 1, p.561, 12f.); book 11, chapter 30 begins Πάλιν Μωσέως καὶ τούτους; this τούτους is incomprehensible without the preceding chapter heading Περὶ τῶν κατ’ οὐρανὸν φωστήρων; likewise chapter 32 (vol. 2, p.68, 15) Καὶ περὶ τούτου is incomprehensible without the chapter heading Περὶ τῆς ἀλλοιώσεως καὶ μεταβολῆς τοῦ κόσμου; XV 5, 1 (vol. 2, p.355, 17)  πρὸς τοῦ δηλωθέντος — who is meant here we discover only from the chapter heading.  The author cited and his work are listed only in the headings of the chapters or sections in the following cases: IX 14,3 (vol. 1 p. 500, 9f.); X 10 (vol. I p. 591,6): only at the end (p.595, 18) is Ταῦτα μὲν ὁ Ἀφρικανός named (without the title of Africanus’ work, however; the title is missing also in the table of contents of the book); XIV, 7 (vol. 2, p.303, 11f.) : in the table of contents only the name of the author is given *;  XIV, 22 (vol. 2, p.320, 13) gives the name of the work, Philebos (the table of contents of the book says only Ἀπὸ τοῦ Πλάτωνος — Plato); XV 14 (vol. 2 p.378, 17f.): in the table of contents both the name of the author and the work are absent; likewise XV 17 (vol.2, p.381, 9).  As we can see, the more accurate information is in the chapter headings, as is natural; the author first provides for each chapter the appropriate indication of contents; gathering these into tables of contents at the start of the book is then a copyist task.  This explains some small differences (although they are never contradictions).  Of course it is Eusebius who has ordered that these collections should be placed at the head of each book.

* Do not be deceived by the Κεφαλαίων καταγραφή of Gaisford, Dindorf and Gifford; they present a mishmash from the tables of contents and the chapter headings.

There is a lot of solid information in there.  One thing that I do not see, tho, is discussion of whether these symptoms could be accounted for by damage to the inherently fragile tables of contents, rather than by the priority of the material embedded in the text.