Persian Christian manuscripts

The NASCAS Christian Arabic group is one I look into from time to time, because of my interest in Christian Arabic literature.  But I find today a couple of messages there on something even further removed from the comfortable shores of Greek and Latin patristics.  Who in the world knows anything about Persian Christian literature?

Anton Pritula does.  He writes:

 Persian Christian MSs was my PhD topic. I published it later in Russian: Christianstvo i persidskaya knizhnost’ XIII-XVIII vv. [Christianity and the Persian Manuscript Tradition in the 13–17th  centuries, in Russian]. St Petersburg, 2004 (163 pp.).

It contains an English summary and an index of the existing Persian Christian MSs.

The most famous of them is of course the illumitated Persian Diatessaron (OR.81), in the Florence Library Medicea Laurenziana (transcr. in 1547 AD).  Catalogue entry:  Piemontese A.M. Catalogo dei manoscritti persiani conservati nelle biblioteche d’Italia. Roma. Libr. dello stato. № 5, 1989. P. 104, no. 140.

In the same catalogue you can find also several other Persian Chr. MSs.

The text of this Diatessaron MS was also published by G.Messina: Messina G. Diatessaron persiano. I. Introduzione. II. Testo e Traduzione. Roma, 1951.

Also interesting are the Gospel (Pococke 241) in the Bodlean Library, Oxford (transcr. in 1341 AD) and a Nestorian lectionary in the National Library in Paris (Persan 3) (transcr. 1374 AD).

According to my list the total is 123 Persian Chr. MSs, but it was several years ago, and since that time I have found some more, but anyway under 150.

He then added:

Well, I think I would load the PDF of the book in internet and give the links. At least the English summary (15 pp.), MSs index and the bibliography could be helpful.

I am also thinking of publishing it in English, but a little bit updated, as some new information came up since 2004, when it had appeared. May be, someone knows a publishing house, where it would be appropriate to do.

And he was as good as his word:

Here you can find my book on the Persian Christian MSs.

http://www.sendspace.com/file/km4sx1′

Pritula A. Christianstvo i persidskaya knizhnost’ XIII-XVIII vv. [Pritula A. Christianity and the Persian Manuscript Tradition in the 13–17th  centuries; in Russian]. St Petersburg, 2004 (163 pp.). It has an English summary and a MSs index. It was published in 2004, and there is some new literature, which cannot be found in the bibliography there.

The English summary is at the back of the PDF.  I might OCR the English and post it.  Essentially the materials are from Nestorian / East Syriac sources, in the 13-14th centuries.  There is the Diatessaron; gospel mss; a lectionary; and also some commentaries on paraphrases of the Psalms.  All are written in Persian language but in the Arabic alphabet, often from a Syriac source.  There were also materials translated by Catholic missionaries.

There is no single corpus of Persian Christian literature, and little of it survives in Iran.  Rather we are dealing with isolated pockets of translation.

Leave a Reply