Matti Moosa, RIP

Armeniologist Robert Bedrosian writes:

On Tuesday, December 30, 2014, the great U.S. Syriac scholar and historian, Matti Moosa, passed away.

Although we never met in person, he and I became close friends via the Internet. He heard from somewhere that I was translating into English the medieval Armenian versions of Michael the Syrian’s Chronicle. Matti was translating the sole-surviving Syriac manuscript of this work, which was published in 2014. It was the crowning achievement of his long and scholarly life. We corresponded frequently, and I became more and more familiar with, and impressed by, his works.

He allowed me to put some of his important writings online, and the Internet became for us a new kind of printing press, lecture hall, and museum:

God rest his immortal soul.

I corresponded a number of times with Dr Moosa, and he was invariably a kind and courteous correspondent.

His work was invaluable.  He translated the Scattered Pearls, a history of Syriac literature by Aphram Barsoum, thereby making this Arabic handbook available to western scholars.  It is a fascinating read!  At one point he offered his translation of Michael to me to publish, but I was weighed down with Origen and unable to do so.  His church published it in the end; the institution that he intended to benefit by his work.  But he very kindly sent me a complimentary copy anyway.

It is fashionable at the moment to look down efforts of translation and handbook-compilation or translation in favour of “original research”.  But this work is the sinews of scholarship and far more valuable to far more people than yet another trivial paper to add to the litter of learning.  This is because such books open up the way.  I have today responded to a correspondent, wanting to know about an Arabic author, and baffled by accessing the information in Brockelmann’s appalling mess of a History of Arabic Literature (where every entry is scattered across 7 volumes, in German, highly abbreviated, with useless indexes).  A translation of Brockelmann ought to be the first thing any scholar of Arabic literature endeavours to bring into existence.  Instead … people struggle.

Well done Matti Moosa for a lifetime of quiet, virtuous effort to make material available to us all.



4 thoughts on “Matti Moosa, RIP

  1. Dear sir, do you know his date of birth? I am refering to something he wrote in a forthcoming book and would love to have just one or two biographical details about him, like when and where he was born.

  2. Sadly I don’t know any of these details. The denomination through whom he published his translation of Michael the Syrian might know?

  3. hello, i am too looking for more details about his biography if you have more information now pleaz let me know

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