A little information on Ibn Abi Usaibia, from Ibn Khallikan

A thought struck me, to look into Ibn Khallikan’s biographical dictionary, of which an English translation exists.  The index to this is not nearly so confusing as for the GAL, and I eventually found a reference to vol. 4, p.158, where in the footnote we read:

Abu ‘l-Abbas Ahmad Ibn al-Kasim Ibn Khalifa Ibn Abi Osaibia, surnamed Muwatrak ad-Din and a member of the Arabic tribe of Khazraj, was born in Damascus, where his father was an oculist and his uncle, Rashid ad Din Abu ‘l-Hasan Ali, director of the hospital for the treatment of the maladies of tbe eyes. He studied philosophy under Rida ad-Din al-Jili, and profited greatly by the lessons of Abu Muhammad Abd Allah Ibn Ahmad Ibn al-Baitar, with whom he made a number of botanical excursions. Ibn al-Baitar is the author of the Dictionary of Simples, a deservedly celebrated compilation of which Dr. Sontheimer published a German translation, at Stuttgard, in the year 1840.  Ibn Abi Osaibia kept up for some time an epistolary correspondence with the celebrated physician and philosopher, Abu al-Latif. In the year 684 (A. D. 1236-7), he got an appointment in the hospital founded at Cairo by the sultan Salah ad-Din (Saladin). Some years after, he accompanied the emir Izz ad-Din Aidmor to Sarkhod, in Syria, and he died there, aged upwards of seventy years.

His history of the physicians, entitled Oyun al-Anba fi Tabakat al-Atibba (Sources of information concerning the physicians of divers classes), contains a number of curious and highly interesting articles. The list of its chapters has been given by Mr. Wustenfeld in his Geschichte der Arabischen Aertze, No. 237, and from that work are taken the indications given here. In the catalogue of the Bodleian library , tome II. p. 131. et seq. will be also found this list of chapters.

But on what does this depend?  Wustenfeld’s work is available online, of course.  Section 237 is on p.132.  This gives only the information above, and lists three works:

  1. Fontes relationum de classibus Medicorum.  A Latin translation by Reiske is at Copenhagen, we are told, no doubt in manuscript.
  2. Liber experimentorum et observationum utilium, about which we are told nothing further.
  3. Liber de monumentis gentium, a fragment not completed.

That the titles are in Latin tells us that Wustenfeld just copied this from earlier modern writers.

But then follows a list of chapters.  Some are marked with an asterisk (*), indicating that the chapter is not found in Reiske.  Others are marked with a dagger (+), indicating that “Nicoll” does not contain them.  Some titles are written in italics – Wustenfeld doesn’t say why.

The differences between the contents given by Reiske, and that by Nicoll, in later sections of the book are fairly considerable.  Clearly there are different versions of this text in circulation.

If we look for Ibn Abi Usaibia’s name in the Kopf translation (here), we quickly find that it appears as a source for various statements.  This itself suggests that the author of the work is someone else, someone later.


From my diary

I’m trying to discover whether there is knowledge anywhere that Ibn Abi Usaibia (d. 1207) did, or did not, produce two editions of his great work, The History of Physicians.  The reason that I want to know is the existence of a supposed quotation from Porphyry, extant in a version of the text different from that translated by Kopf, presumably from the Muller edition.

The obvious place to look is Brockelmann’s Geschichte der arabischen Litteratur.  I believe that I have expressed my opinions of this mess of a book at some length in the past.  Briefly, B. produced his book in 2 volumes in 1898.  Then, during the 20’s, he produced 3 volumes of supplements for it.  Finally in the 30’s he produced a second edition of the original 2 volumes, complete with references back to the 3 volumes of supplements, which themselves refer to the pages of the 1st edition.  So you need all 7 volumes to find anything.

It’s a mess, in short.  I once decided to translate the stuff on early biographies of Mohammed.  It really is not possible to assemble all the material on one topic into one narrative – or, at least, it wasn’t for me.

And for reasons we can hardly imagine, the editors allowed him to abbreviate virtually every name and every other word, in the certain knowledge that few would understand the abbreviation.  To use the GAL as it is known is to know suffering.

Now the supplements and the first volume of the 2nd edition are online at the Digital Library of India site (and good luck to working out how to download them; but I managed it, once, so you can also).  The other two are at Google books, in a low-resolution form.  I was able to get Lulu.com to print me a copy of the 2nd edition volume, plus the first supplement (split into two halves, because of size limits at Lulu), and these, fittingly in a green cover, stand on my shelves.  And … they don’t contain what I want.  They contain sections on medicine; but no entry on Ibn Abi Usaibia (or “b. a. Us.” as Brockelmann unhelpfully calls him).

I’ve just looked through my PDF of vol. 1 of 1st ed; nothing.  I wonder if there is an index at the end of vol. 2…?  And there is!  And … it is in some mysterious non-alphabetical order!  And abbreviated heavily too!  Which means … I can’t find the name in here either.

Boy, it all eats time!

He must have an entry … somewhere … mustn’t he?


Experimenting with Arabic, and Ibn Abi Usaibia

On p.109-10, in Forgery and counterforgery, Bart Ehrman quotes a passage from medieval author Ibn Abi Usaibia (here), supposedly about Pythagoras (as translated by Carl Ernst, from a private translation):

But as for the books of Pythagoras the sage, which Archytas the Tarentine philosopher collected by himself, they are eighty books. But those that he made special effort, with all his strength, to compile, compose (ta’līf), and collect, from all the old men who were of the type of Pythagoras the philosopher, his school, and the inheritors of his sciences, man after man, these were two hundred books in number. And he who was unique in the essence of his intellect [i.e., Archytas] set aside from them the false books ascribed to the tongue of the sage and his name, which shameless people fabricated.


The criminal individuals who fabricated these lying books that we have mentioned, according to traditions that have reached us, are Aristotle the Younger, Nikos (Nuqūs) known as the essentially erroneous, one of the Cretans called Konios, Megalos, and Fūkhajawāqā (?), along with others even more reprehensible than they. And that was who proposed to them (others?) the fabrication of these lying books with the tongue of the philosopher Pythagoras and his name, so that [these writings] would be accepted among the moderns because of him, so they would honor, prefer, and share them.

The former passage is referenced as “Ed. ‘Amir al-Najjar (4 vols., Cairo: al-Hay’a al-Misriyya al-Amma lil-Kitab, 2001), vol. 1, pp. 244-45.”; the latter passage is not referenced.

The Kopf translation of Ibn Abi Usaibia is online here, made from the Muller edition, and contains no such passage.  This is rather curious.

E. quotes the passage in order to disagree with a rendering by another scholar.  He does not give the other version, only the reference (a bad habit indeed):

B. L. Van der Waerden, “Die Schriften und Fragmente des Pythagoras,” RESupp. 10 (1965): 843-64; see also idem, Die Pythagoreer. Religiose Bruderschaft und Schule der Wissenschaft (Zurich: Artemis, 1979), 272-73.

Unfortunately this is not accessible to me.  If anyone has the item, I should be glad to see it.

I wondered if I had the Arabic text on disk anywhere.  I found a couple, which were kindly sent to me some time back by a correspondent.  But … I don’t know Arabic.  So how can I work with the text?

One of the texts was a PDF, from http://www.al-mostafa.com/.  So I could copy and paste chunks from it into Google Translate!

Now Google Translate is not that good for Arabic; but with the aid of Kopf, I find that I can navigate a bit around the text.  There’s a table of contents at the back which gives me the rough area to look, and proper names will probably be a good guide.

On p.39 of the PDF, I find the following:

22 بندقليس
قال القاضي صاعد إن بندقليس كان في زمن داود النبي عليه السلام على ما ذكره العلماء بتواريخ الأمم،
وكان أخذ الحكمة من لقمان الحكيم بالشام، ثمن انصرف إلى بلاد اليونانيين فتكلم في خلق العالم بأشياء


22 Bandkulais
The judge said the upside that Bandkulais was in the time of David, the Prophet , peace be upon him on what was said by scientists at the dates of Nations. He was taking the wisdom of the Luqman Hakim Levant , the price went to the land of the Greeks in the creation of the world spoke things …

Or as Kopf gives it:

Pendacles. Judge Sa`id said: “Pendacles lived at the time of the Prophet David,  peace be on him, as was mentioned by the historians of the nations. He learned  wisdom from Luqmān the Sage in Damascus. Then he went to Greece, where he  discoursed on the creation of the universe in terms which suggested a denial of  the Resurrection….

We’re in the right area of the book!  The Google translate version is gibberish; but we have the Arabic text in the right area.

It is useful to be able to do this much.  On the next page, p.40, we find the following:

22 فيثاغورس
ويقال فوثاغوراس وفوثاغوريا، وقال القاضي صاعد في كتاب طبقات الأمم أن فيثاغورس كان بعد
بندقليس بزمان، وأخذ الحكمة عن أصحاب سليمان بن داود عليهما السلام بمصر حين دخلوا إليها من


22 Pythagoras
Said Fothagoras be and Fothagoraa , the judge said upward in book Nations layers that Pythagoras was after Bandkulais بزمان , taking wisdom from the owners of Solomon the son of David , peace be upon them in Egypt when they entered it from Levant , and had taken them for engineering the Egyptians, and then returned to Greece and enter them aware …

In Kopf:


Also called [in Arabic] Puthagoras and Pothagoria. Judge Sa`id said in “The Classes of Nations : “‘Pythagoras came some time after Pendacles. He  learned wisdom from the followers of Solomon the son of David, peace be upon  them, when they came to Egypt from Damascus. Prior to that he learned geometry  from the Egyptians. Then he returned to Greece, where he introduced the sciences  of geometry, natural science, and theology. On his own initiative he founded the  science of musicology and composition, in accordance with numerical  measurements, claiming that he attained this by prophetic inspiration. ….

OK.  So … let’s continue looking through the Pythagoras section.  What do we find?

On p.45, at the end of the list of sayings by Pythagoras translated by Kopf, we find a bunch more material, down to the heading “Socrates” on p.46  (Ibn_Abi_Usaybi’ah_extract in PDF):

والوقت الذي يحسن فيه السكوت، وقال الحر هو الذي لا يضيع حرفاً من حروف النفس لشهوة من
شهوات الطبيعة، وقال بقدر ما تطلب تعلم، وبقدر ما تعلم تطلب، وقال ليس من شرائط الحكيم أن لا
يضجر، ولكن يضجر بوزن، وقال ليس الحكيم من حمل عليه بقدر ما يطيق فصبر واحتمل، ولكن الحكيم
من حمل عليه أكثر مما تحتمل الطبيعة فصبر، وقال الدنيا دول، مرة لك وأخرى عليك،و فإن توليت
فأحسن وإن تولوك فَلِن، وكان يقول إن أكثر الآفات إنما تعرض للحيوانات لعدمها الكلام، وتعرض
للإنسان من قبل الكلام، وكان يقول من استطاع أن يمنع نفسه من أربعة أشياء فهو خليق أن لا يترل به
المكروه كما يترل بغيره العجلة واللجاجة والعجب والتواني، فثمرة العجلة الندامة، وثمرة اللجاجة الحيرة،
وثمرة العجب البغضاء، وثمرة التواني الذلة، ونظر إلى رجل عليه ثياب فاخرة يتكلم فيلحن في كلامه فقال
له إما أن تتكلم بكلام يشبه لباسك أو تلبس لباساً يشبه كلامك، وقال لتلاميذه لا تطلبوا من الأشياء ما
يكون بحسب محبتكم، ولكن أحبوا من الأشياء ما هي محبوبة في أنفسها، وقال اصبر على النوائب أذا
أتتك من غير أن تتذمر، بل اطلب مداواا بقدر ما تطيق، وقال استعملوا الفكر قبل العمل، وقال كثرة
العدو تقلل الهدوء، وكان فيثاغورس إذا جلس على كرسيه أوصى ذه السبع الوصايا قوموا موازينكم
واعترفوا أوزاا؛ عدلوا الخط تصحبكم السلامة؛ لا تشعلوا النار حيث ترون السكين تقطع؛ عدلوا
شهواتكم تديموا الصحة؛ استعملوا العدل تحط بكم المحبة؛ عاملوا الزمان كالولاة الذين يستعملون عليكم
ويعزلون عنكم؛ لا تترفوا أبدانكم وأنفسكم فتفقدوها في أوقات الشدائد إذ أوردت عليكم، وُذكر المال
عنده ومدح فقال وما حاجتي إلى ما يعطيه الحظ، ويحفظه اللؤم، ويهلكه السخاء، وقال وقد نظر إلى
شيخ يحب النظر في العلم ويستحي أن يرى متعلماً يا هذا أتستحي أن تكون في آخر عمرك أفضل منك

في أوله؟ وقال أنكى شيء لعدوك أن لا تريه أنك تتخذه عدواً، وحضر امرأته الوفاة في أرض غربة،

فجعل أصحابه يتحزنون على موا في أرض غربة فقال يا معشر الإخوان ليس بين الموت في الغربة

والوطن فرق، وذلك أن الطريق إلى الآخرة واحد من جميع النواحي، وقيل له ما أحلى الأشياء؟ فقال

الذي يشتهي الإنسان، وقال الرجل المحبوب عند اللّه تعالى الذي لا يذعن لأفكاره القبيحة، ونقلت من

كتاب فرفوريوس في أخبار الفلاسفة وقصصهم وآرائهم قال وأما كتب فيثاغورس الحكيم، التي انفرد

بجمعها أرخوطس الفيلسوف الطارنطيني فتكون ثمانين كتاباً، فأما التي اجتهد بكلية جهده في التقاطها

وتأليفها وجمعها من جميع الكهول الذين كانوا من جنس فيثاغورث الفيلسوف وحزبه وورثة علومه رجل



فتكون مئتي كتاب عدداً فمن انفرد بصفوة عقله وعزل منها الكتب الكذيبة المقولة على لسان الحكيم

واسمه التي اختلقها أناس فجرة، وهي كتاب المناجاة، وكتاب وصف المهن السيئة، وكتاب علم المخاريق

وكتاب أحكام تصوير مجالس الخمور، وكتاب يئة الطبول والصنوج والمعازف، وكتاب الميامر

الكهنوتية، وكتاب بذر الزروع، وكتاب الآلات، وكتاب القصائد؛ وكتاب تكوين العالم، وكتاب

الأيادي، وكتاب المروءة، وكتب أخرى كثيرة تشاكل هذه الكتب مما اختلق حديثاً؛ فيسعد سعادة الأبد،

وقال وأما الرجال الأئمة الذين اختلقوا هذه الكتب الكاذبة التي ذكرناها فإم على ما أدت إلينا الروايات

أرسطيبوس المحدث، ونقوس الذي كان يكنى عين الناقص، ورجل من أهل اقريطية يقال له قونيوس،

وماغيالوس، وفوخجواقا مع آخرين أطغى منهم، وكان الذي دعاهم إلى اختلاق هذه الكتب الكاذبة

على لسان فيثاغورث الفيلسوف واسمه، كي يقبلوا عند الأحداث بسببه فيكرموا أو يؤثروا ويواسوا، فأما

كتب الحكيم التي لا ريب فيها فهي مائتان وثمانون كتاباً، وقد كانت منسية، حتى جاء للكيان بقوم

حكماء ذوي نية وورع فحصلوها وجمعوها وألفوها، ولم تكن قبل ذلك مشهورة ببلدة لكنها كانت

مخزونة في إيطاليا، وقال فلوطرخس أن فيثاغورس أول من سمى الفلسفة ذا الاسم، ومما يوجد

لفيثاغورس من الكتب كتاب الإرثماطيقي؛ كتاب الألواح، كتاب في النوم واليقظة؛ كتاب في كيفية

النفس والجسد، رسالة إلى متمرد صقلية، الرسالة الذهبية وسميت ذا الاسم لأن جالينوس كان يكتبها

بالذهب إعظاماً لها وإجلالاً وكان يواظب على دراستها وقراءا في كل يوم؛ رسالة إلى سقايس في

استخراج المعاني، رسالة في السياسة العقلية وقد تعاب هذه الرسالة بتفسير أمليخس؛ رسالة إلى



The last bit of which reads, in Google translate:

and quoted from Book Verworius in philosophers, news stories and opinions As said wrote Pythagoras Hakim , by himself Collect Erjutts the philosopher Tarntini the Vtkon eighty books , either by painstakingly captured his College in Authored and collected from all adults who were of the genus philosopher Pythagoras and his party and heirs of Sciences man فرجل . Shall be two hundred book number it himself Besfoh mind and isolate them books Alkvebh the argument on the lips of Hakim And named اختلقها the people Fajra , a communing book , and the book describe professions bad , and science Almkhariv book Book provisions filming liquor councils , and a book to creating drums , gongs and musical instruments , and a book الميامر Priests, and sowing crops book , a book musical , The Book of poems ; composition book world , and the book Hands, and virility book , and many other books تشاكل these books than feign newly ; فيسعد happiness forever, He said the men imams who concocted this false books that we have mentioned Fa end to what led us novels Erstibus updated , and Nqos who was nicknamed missing eye , a man of the people Agheraitih said to him Qonius , And Mageealos , Kjoaca with others أطغى of them, who had invited them to fabricate these false books On the tongue philosopher Pythagoras and his name , to accept when events because of Vickramoa or influence Aoaswa , Either Hakim wrote that no doubt they are two hundred and eighty books , has been forgotten, until it came to the entity of a people Elders with the intention , devout Vhsaloha of and collected and ألفوها , before that was not famous in the town , but it was Stored in Italy , and said Vleutrkhos that Pythagoras first named philosophy to the present name, which no Pythagoras of books book Alarthamatiqi ; book panels , the book in sleep and wakefulness ; book on how to Soul and body , rebellious message to Sicily , the message gold and was named to the present name because it was written by Galen Gold إعظاما and homage was regularly on the study and its readers every day ; message to Sagaas in Extract meanings , mental message in politics has been maligned this message interpretation Omlakhos ; message to Fimdosios

“Verworius” seems to be Porphyry.  We clearly do have something about false and true books in here.

This all needs the attention of someone who knows Arabic; but isn’t it fascinating what you can get, even with none?

I wonder if anyone would care to translate the “extra bit”?


From my diary

For a few days now I have been wading through Bart Ehrman’s Forgery and counterforgery.  It’s a long book, not very well structured, and written in an off-putting way.  So it is taking time, which I rather grudge, from other things.

Much the most interesting section so far is on the question of whether or not it was acceptable for the pupils of philosophers to attribute their own works to the master, on the basis that they were, in reality, articulating the values of the school.  I don’t have strong views either way on this; in which, apparently, I differ from Dr. E.  For F&C, as I am coming to call it, addresses this in a polemical way, unfortunately.  Which is a pain.

How would you or I investigate such a topic?  Well, I think that we would gather the ancient sources that relate to the subject, tabulate them, and form an opinion based on that.  If we wrote a book, we would give the sources (in the original, with translation), as our first item.

E. doesn’t do this.  Instead he writes his opinions and offers arguments, revealing sources now and then as convenient for the purpose.  It’s deeply annoying, if you want to know the facts rather than what E. has to say.  After a while you grow to mistrust him, for this alone; for if the sources truly say what he wants us to believe, why not set them all out first, and let them speak?

I was amused to find a sudden rush of sources which (he thought) supported his view, right towards the end of the section.  Discuss one or two passages which are opposed, cast whatever doubts on them you can, then offer in a rush a load which seem to support you … yes, that’s a debater’s trick.  It’s massaging the data by the way you present it in order to cause the unwary reader to suppose that all the data favours you.  It makes an old hand like myself horribly suspicious to see that sort of thing tried, when I (truly) have no opinion on the point at issue either way.

In general, it is deeply frustrating that primary sources are generally alluded to rather than given.  One important source is a passage about Porphyry and Pythagoras from Ibn Abi Usaibia’s History of Physicians.  The only translation known to me is online; but it doesn’t contain the passage Ehrman quotes!  This suggests that perhaps the text is rather fluid; something that would not surprise me a bit with a medieval Arabic text.  Has the text even been critically edited?  An edition is listed, but since it was published in Cairo, we may reasonably wonder.

Now E. doesn’t give the Arabic; only a translation by a colleague.  He does so in order to disagree with previous scholars; who rendered it differently.  But he doesn’t indicate how they read the text.   So you can’t see the text, and you can only see his translation and not the one he discusses.  It’s very wearying.

Of course it makes it much harder for critics to disagree with him, so there’s no mystery as to why someone would write in such a fashion.  Polemicists seek to close down disagreement all the time.  But in a work of scholarship we are entitled to expect better.  We are entitled to have all the primary data — it can hardly be extensive — tabulated in a systematic chronological way, without having to look for it.

Anthony Grafton, in his book on The Footnote, describes a scholar who took a book by a despised rival, ignored the text, and simply used the footnotes as a guide to assist him in writing his own book.  One can’t help feeling that someone ought to do the same with F&C.

Sorry if that sounds grumpy.  But I resent scholarly books that make accessing learning so very difficult.


More on the “arrest” of Josh Williamson

I’ve been blogging about the arrest (twice) of preacher Josh Williamson in Perth, Scotland.  He said that he was arrested and was taken to a police station, where he was refused a solicitor.  The police have denied that he was arrested.  He was arrested again last Saturday.  The circumstances of all this seem very unclear, and the police seem disinclined to clarify matters, which raises the worst suspicions.

Today I learn that the Spectator has run an article by Rod Liddle, Josh Williamson is arrested for preaching the Christian gospel in public.

Freedom of speech is alive and well in Scotland, then. Pastor Josh Williamson took the Christian gospel to the streets of Perth last week, before he was arrested by the old bill for a ‘breach of the peace’. Asked why he was being arrested, Plod No 1 said because you’re too loud, pointing to the electrical device the clergyman was carrying. That’s an MP3 recorder, he replied, it’s not an amplifier. Then Plod No 2 claimed it was the content of his sermon, although he could not put his finger on what it was exactly. Hauled down the nick, refused the right of a lawyer, Williamson was eventually released with a verbal caution and the comment from another copper: ‘You seem like a reasonable man, why not just stop preaching?’

I wonder if that would have worked with Christ? The cops also arrested a man who had been enjoying the sermon, for asserting that he had been enjoying the sermon. They have since denied Williamson was arrested at all — but this is a lie, because the pastor recorded the copper saying ‘I am arresting you’, and I’ve heard it.

Emphasis mine.

This all sounds very bad.  But we’re not getting the full story here, I sense.  Why are the police doing this?  This is what makes no sense to me.

People like Josh Williamson have stood in the streets, preaching the gospel (to a handful of supporters, in the main) for at least 50 years.  What is the new urgency that means that the police now need to harass them?

Some may wonder why this blog, which is mainly focused on patristics, is devoting space to this issue.  But it seems rather difficult to focus on the confessors and the martyrs of the past, when I read that new ones are being created on the streets of Britain and the USA right now.

Oh for happier days, when such things were unheard of in a free country.

Update: While looking for an illustration, I happened across this 2012 article about another preacher being arrested (and acquitted) in Inverness:

Clutching his bible and carrying his placard, the former bricklayer is not only a visible feature but very much an audible presence — although his direct approach is not always appreciated by shoppers and passers-by, as he recently discovered.

For the 66-year-old recently found himself in the dock at Inverness Sheriff Court, accused of making offensive remarks and warning people they would “burn in hell” if they did not turn to God.

Having denied the charges, Mr MacDonald, of Lochiel Road, Hilton, was subsequently acquitted of behaving in a threatening and abusive manner.

Does modern Scotland, founded by the fiery preacher John Knox, really have no place in it for a man like this?

preacher kenneth macdonald

UPDATE: 25th September.  The Perth Courier has a follow-up story on the man who queried the “arrest that wasn’t an arrest” (according to the police):

Joe McLoughlin, 43, stepped in when police ordered Mr Williamson to stop his sermon because he was “too loud”.

The pair were driven to Perth police station where officers attempted to issue Mr McLoughlin with a £40 fixed penalty notice. But the Letham resident, a full-time carer for his elderly mother, refused to sign the paperwork and plans to take legal action against Police Scotland.

He said: “I did not accept. I refused this ticket. I don’t feel like I was properly charged with anything. They talked about breach of the peace, obstructing justice and section 13 of the public order act. They’ve left me in confusion. I don’t know what I was arrested for.

“I’ve made a statement and it’s in the hands of my solicitors.”

Mr McLoughlin claims officers were heavy-handed when he refused to stop speaking up for the clergyman. He said: “One of them put my hand up my back and frogmarched me to a van. He told me now I am being arrested for ‘making a fool of myself in the f*****g High Street’.”

A police spokesman said: “We can 
confirm that a 43-year-old man was arrested and subsequently issued with a fixed penalty notice following an incident in Perth High Street on September 18.”

Despite his ordeal, Mr McLoughlin was back in the High Street yesterday, bible in hand, preaching to passing shoppers.

He said: “It’s 10 years since I did this and you could say I was inspired by Josh. The thought behind it is, if we don’t use this right we’ll lose it.

“My granddad fought for the right to have freedom of speech and what the police did insults everyone who fought for that freedom. That’s really what is at stake here. I was scared by the police response to Josh. I feel like he was exercising his right to freedom of speech and I was defending his right to freedom of speech.

“It’s given me an incentive to go back out on to the streets and I got quite a positive reaction. A couple of people stopped and spoke to me.”

This is all very bad.  It is horrible to see this level of police incompetence and unprofessionalism, all of it merely to harass some harmless street preachers.

UPDATE: The story now appears in the Daily Express, and the Scotsman.


Syriac and Manichaean-related materials on a British Library blog

Via MedievalEgypt on Twitter I learn of a valuable post on Manichaean-related materials in the British Library, here, by Ursula Sims-Williams:

One of the most important sources in the British Library is the Syriac manuscript Add.12150 which contains the treatise Against the Manicheans by Titus (d. 378) of Bostra (Bosra, now in Syria), translated from Greek. This codex is additionally important, being the oldest known dated Syriac manuscript, in near perfect condition, and copied in Edessa in the year 723 of the Seleucid era (AD 411).


The final page of Titus of Bostra’s treatise Against the Manicheans. Vellum, dated AD 411 (Add.12150, f.156r).

The article goes on to discuss the manuscript of the Prose Refutations by Ephraim the Syrian, and the efforts of Charles Mitchell to edit these.  I well remember digitising his translation and uploading it, years ago.  He was a casualty of WW1.

I hope that the BL Asian and African Studies blog will do more on Syriac materials!


A 2-3rd c. papyrus “title page”?

An extremely interesting article on the Brice C. Jones blog about a piece of papyrus, found inside a leather binding, which is blank except for “Gospel according to Matthew” in Greek on the recto.  Simon Gathercole has written about it.[1]  The suggestion is that this is the “cover-leaf” for a papyrus codex, and that the title was written on the outside.

Jones rightly queries one element in this: the suggestion that the first page of the codex had the title on the recto, and a blank verso, before the text began.

Now I have seen quite a few parchment codices where folio 1 recto is blank, and the text begins on the verso.  Indeed this is the case in British Library Addit. 12150, which the colophon dates to 411 A.D.  The reason for it is undoubtedly to protect the text.

All the same, the title of ancient works was often placed outside the work altogether, on a sittybos, or slip of parchment hung from one of the wooden ends on which the roll was wound.  So it seems possible that someone got creative here.   If this is not a fly-leaf, then what is it?

  1. [1]Simon Gathercole, “The Earliest Manuscript Title of Matthew’s Gospel (BnF Suppl. gr. 1120 ii 3/P4),” Novum Testamentum.

Dictating to a scribe can alter the language used?

A fascinating post at Evangelical Textual Criticism (the post seems to have vanished for the moment, but, lucky me, I can see it in my RSS reader).  This gives abstracts for an Australian conference, Observing the Scribe at Work.  One of these caught my eye:

Delphine Nachtergaele (Ghent University), ‘Scribes in the Greek Private Papyrus Letters’

In this paper I investigate the role of scribes in Greek private papyrus letters.

When an individual decided to write a letter, he had two options: writing the letter himself or paying a scribe and having the letter written. Many papyrus letters were the result of the work of a scribe. Outsourcing the task of writing was the only possibility when one was illiterate. But when the sender could write and read, he could pen the letter himself.

The first research question in this study is whether the choice to use a scribe or not can be considered a conscious decision. In P.Mich. VIII 469, preserved in the archive of Claudius Tiberianus, the decision not to hire a scribe seems to be taken deliberately: the fact that the letter was written by the sender himself, bears in itself a message to the addressee.

The second and main query is whether the intervention of a scribe has an effect on the language used in the letters. At first sight, the influence of the scribe seems rather limited. However, the investigation of letters preserved in archives can shed more light on this matter: in different case studies, I compare the language of one single sender in autographical letters and in letters written by a scribe. The archive of Asklepiades shows the effect scribes can have on the epistolary language: in the letters from Isidora to her brother Asklepiades there is a marked linguistic difference between the autographs and the letters she dictated to a scribe. In other collections of texts, such as the letters from Eudaimonis in the archive of Apollonios strategos, there is no such difference: the personality of the sender is apparent in all letters, autograph or dictated.

This paper has a double conclusion: firstly, we observe that letter writers make deliberate choices when writing letters: these choices are situated at the level of using a scribe or not, and at a linguistic level. Of course, these findings cannot be generalized, but this paper provides nevertheless an important insight: although the authors of documentary letters cannot be compared to authors of literary works, we should not underestimate the creative capacities of the senders of papyrus letters. Secondly, the influence of scribes on the language of the papyrus letters is rather limited. Mostly, the scribes just penned down what the sender dictated. The language of the papyrus letters can thus safely be assumed to be the language of the letter writer.

Emphasis mine.  Hmm.  I’d really like to hear more about that.


The Codex Agobardinus of Tertullian is online at Gallica!!

A red letter day, this.  I learn via Twitter and the Florus blog that some more Latin manuscripts have appeared on the French National Library Gallica.bnf.fr site.  Among them is the oldest and most important manuscript of the works of Tertullian, the Codex Agobardinus (Paris lat. 1622).  It may be found here.  100Mb of joy!

This manuscript was something I always wanted to see, from my earliest interest in Tertullian and Patristics, back in 1997.  Eventually I worked out how I might get a reader’s pass for the BNF, and, very nervously, in 2002, I bought an air-ticket for a day trip and flew over to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.  I went to the BNF in the Rue de Richlieu and persuaded the staff to allow me access.  And I held it in my hands!

I looked at it for an hour, and then handed it back.  I got a very old-fashioned look from the serving woman, who seemed to resent the idea that I should order a manuscript out of the vault for so short a time.  Why didn’t you use a microfilm, she wondered?  How dare I!  But I also needed to visit the other BNF site, in my limited time.  And I didn’t fly to Paris to look at a microfilm!  I was, of course, immensely privileged to be able to see a manuscript at all.

Now, 11 years later, the world can look at this rare and precious volume.  It’s the oldest copy of Tertullian’s works.  It was probably written at Fulda in the 9th century.  It contained the only copy of Ad Nationes, for instance.  And … it once contained more works, all now lost.  A table of contents at the start (below) lists works that no man living has seen; de spe fidelium, de paradiso, de superstitione saeculi… how we would like to read these!

It makes me feel humble, somehow.  So many things in the world are worse than they were.  But for the learned, this is a time of miracles and wonders!

Page from Latin_1622_Tertullian_Agobardinus


Some new patristic translations in the pipeline at Moody – Spokane

A correspondent writes to tell me that Jonathan Armstrong, at Moody Bible Institute-Spokane, is at work with his students on a number of patristic texts.  He writes:

We have founded an early Church studies honors society complete with electives that are taught primarily by Dr. Armstrong. As part of the program, students will be taking three years of Greek including translating early church documents during that third year.

… Dr. Armstrong is planning on pumping out translations every two years or so (depending on the length of the text) with his third year Greek students, and has already made informal plans with Brill to publish the translations.