From my diary

It’s all a bit boring here at the moment.  I can’t pay any attention to antiquity because of the pressure of other dull but necessary things.  The days are short, the evenings dark, and all that jazz.

I don’t know how interesting people find the details of producing the Eusebius volume.  All the proof corrections are in, and I now need to spend some serious time processing them into the PDF so they can be sent to the typesetter. 

The bureaucracy with getting an “account” set up at print-on-demand firm Lightning Source grinds on — amusingly they demand an annual fee to do business with you, but I don’t think there is more for me to do.  But ad-hoc printing is not their thing.  I’ve had to do the proof copies via Lulu.

The cover design that I want is now in my mind, and will consist of a dark green cloth covered hardback with gold lettering; author, title, and, lower down, publisher logo.  The logo design people, Add Design of Leiston, have sent me some possible logos today, and they all look good and possible.  I’ve not told them yet, but the chances are good that they will be doing the cover setup and the website as well.

I’ve decided that the Syriac text needs to be reset in a larger font — it’s just too tiny as it stands, and I think this is partly the fault of the Meltho fonts themselves, which seem smaller than usual. 

On a different note someone asked me if I had a PDF of a manuscript of al-Makin.  I hunted around last night and found that I did.  But not enough time to do anything about it.

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.

A 12th century trilingual Arabic, Greek and Latin psalter

A correspondent tells me about this post at Arab Orthodoxy:

On the website of the British Library they’ve posted images of a Psalter dated to 1153 written in parallel Greek, Latin, and Arabic. The Arabic translation of the Psalms is that of Abdallah ibn al-Fadl al-Antaki, the famous 11th century deacon and translator from Antioch. You can turn to all the pages and zoom in. Take a look, it’s beautiful.


In St. Petersburg they’ve recently published a two-volume facsimile and study of a 17th century illuminated Arabic Psalter based on Abdallah ibn al-Fadl’s translation. I’ll get around to writing a review of that at some point…..

I wonder where on earth that was written.  My guess, considering that it dates to the crusader period, is in Syria.  Just before the crusades the Byzantines had conquered the area, bringing Greek; then the crusaders come in, with Latin; and the local Christians speaking Arabic.  Where else would you have this kind of tri-lingualism?

What a wonderful thing to have online!

Al-Qifti on the destruction of the library of Alexandria

Emily Cottrell has made a translation into English of the relevant passage from al-Qifti, based on Lippert’s edition, and kindly allowed it to appear here.  Here it is.  I am not absolutely sure that WordPress will allow some of the characters used — if it all  gets corrupt, I shall simplify it.

Ibn al-Qifṭī p. 354-357[1]

Yaḥyā al-Naḥwī[2] the Egyptian, the Alexandrian, disciple of Severus[3]. He was a bishop in the church of Alexandria in Egypt and he advocated the Jacobite way of the Christians[4], but later on he rejected what was believed by the Christians about the Trinity after having read philosophical books, and it became impossible for him [to believe] that the One had become Three and that the Three would be One. When it was discovered by the bishops of Egypt that he had rejected [his faith] they were furious, and they gathered to discuss his case and organized with him a dispute. They refuted him and his view was declared wrong. His incapacity pleased them and they sought to reconciled with him, displaying a friendly attitude and asking him to retract his view and to stop saying what he had wanted to prove and establish to them. But he did not, and they dismissed him from his position, after some public discourses.[5] He lived until the conquest of Egypt and Alexandria by ʿAmr ibn al-ʿĀṣ. And he came to visit ʿAmr, who knew his reputation in knowledge and his position [on the Trinity] and what had happened to him with the Christians. ʿAmr honoured him and gave him a position. He listened to his speech about the impossibility of the Trinity and he was pleased with it, and he also listened to his speech about the cessation of the world[6] and he was amazed by it; although he was using logical proofs. He listened to his philosophical expressions with sympathy although the Arabs did not know them [before] and he became fond of him. And ʿAmr  was sensible, a good listener and thinker; so he took Yaḥyā [into his company] and did not like to depart from him.

Then one day Yaḥyā said to ʿAmr, “You have control of everything in Alexandria, and have seized all sorts of things in it.” “Anything which is of use to you I will not object to, but anything which is not useful to you we have a priority over you,” said ʿAmr to him, (adding) “What do you want of them?” (Yaḥyā) said, “The books of wisdom which are in the royal stores; they have fallen under your responsibility, but you don’t have any use for them, while we do need them.” (ʿAmr) said to him: “Who gathered[7] these books, and what is (so) important about them?” and Yaḥyā answered him: “Ptolemy Philadelphus, one of the kings of Alexandria; in his reign, science and the people of science were in esteem, and he searched for the books of knowledge and ordered them to be collected, and he dedicated a special store-houses to them. They were assembled, and he entrusted the responsibility to a man named Zamira[8]; and he supported him in order that he could collect them, [after] searching for them and buying them and inciting sellers to bring them and he did so. And in a short time he had assembled 54,120 books.

When the king was informed of the [successful] collect and verified this number he told Zamīra: “Do you think that there is a book remaining in the world that we don’t have?” And Zamīra said: There are still in the world a great mass [of books], as in Sind, and in India and in Persia and in Jurjan [ancient Hyrcania] and in Armenia and Babylonia and Mosul and among the Byzantines[9]. And the king was pleased with this and he told him: “Continue in pursuing [your duty]; and so he did until the death of the king. And these books are until today kept and preserved as the responsibility of the governors working for the kings and their successors. And ‘Amr started to wish [to have] for himself what he was hearing from Yaḥyā and he was impressed with it, but he told him: “I cannot make any order without first asking the permission of the Prince of the believers[10] ‘Umar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb; and he wrote to ‘Umar, informing him of Yaḥyā’s speech as we have reported it and asking for his instructions about what to do. And he received a letter from ‘Umar telling him [what follows]: “As for the books you mention, if there is in it what complies with the Book of God, then it is already there and is not needed and if what is in these books contradict the Book of God there is no need for it. And you can then proceed in destroying them.” ‘Amr ibn al-‘Āṣ then ordered by law[11] that they should be dispersed in the public baths and to burn them in the bath’s heaters. And I was told that at that time several public baths used [the books] for heating, bringing some fame to new public baths which later on were forgotten afterwards and it is said that they had enough heating for six months. One who listens to what has happened can only be amazed !

Yaḥyā al-Naḥwī was a prolific writer and he wrote commentaries[12] on Aristotle, which we have mentioned earlier in the Aristotle entry at the beginning of our book. He also wrote a Refutation of Proclus[13] who had claimed the eternity[14], which is in sixteen volumes.[15] And a book on the fact that every body is finite and that its death[16] constitutes its end, in one volume. A book [called] Refutation of Aristotle, in six volumes; and a book of explanation[17] on book Lambda of Aristotle’s Metaphysics.[18] A book of Refutation against Nestorius; a book where he answers people who did not accept [faith][19], in two chapters; another book like this, in one chapter[20]. And his books of commentaries on Galen, which are mentioned in the chapter on Galen. Yaḥyā al-Naḥwī wrote [the following] in the fourth chapter of his explanation of the Physics of Aristotle, while commenting on time, where he brings an example where he says “as in our year, which is 343 of Diocletian the Copt.”[21]

The physician ‘Ubayd Allāh ibn Jibrīl ibn ‘Ubayd Allāh ibn Bakhtishū‘ said that the real name of Yaḥyā was Themistius.[22] And he says that he was good at grammar, at logic and in philosophy but did not attain the rank of these physicians, that is to say, the famous Alexandrians such as ANQYLAWS (for Antyllos?) and Stephanos and Gesius (JASYWS) and Marinus. And it is them who organized the books [i. e. Galen’s books]. Some people say NQLAWS (Nicolaus?) instead of ANQYLAWS. This is what he said. But if he meant Yaḥyā, indeed [Yaḥyā] commented on a good number of medical books, and because he was strong in philosophy he became considered a philosopher because he was one of the famous philosophers of his time. The reason he became strong in philosophy was that he was working on a boat which carried people. And because he loved knowledge, when people from the House of Knowledge and the schools[23] that were on the island of Alexandria were crossing with him, and were discussing the last lesson and the views exchanged, he would listen [to their conversation] and he started to love knowledge, and when his intention to study became stronger he thought by himself and said: “I have reached the age of forty-odd years and I have never started anything for myself, the only thing I know is seamanship, so how could I undertake anything in the field of sciences?” and as he was thinking, he saw an ant which had loaded [onto her back] the stone of a date and was carrying it, ascending her path with it, when it fell [from her back]. So she returned, took it up again, and continued in such a way until she had attained her goal and arrived where she was intending. When Yaḥyā al-Naḥwī saw that from her efforts she had reached her goal, he said, “if this weak animal can reach her goal by efforts and struggle, then of course, I would necessarily attain my goal by [putting in] some effort.” He went out and sold his boat and attended the House of Knowledge. And he started with grammar[24] and language[25] and logic, and he became excellent in these fields[26] because they were the first he learned and he adapted himself to them and he became famous in these and wrote a number of books on them, commentaries and others.

To discuss the translation, or if you want to reproduce it, please write to me at e.j.cottrell AT

[1] “Ibn al-Qifṭī,” or “al-Qifṭī,” although the latter applies rather to his father, who held from Qifṭ (ancient Gebtu) in Upper Egypt. As our author was a Muslim official who spent most of his life out of Egypt, and became the vizir in Aleppo of the Ayyubid ruler al-Malik al-‘Azīz, he cannot exactly be called “the one who held from Qifṭ” as in the Arabic usage of the kunya, or the nickname formed on the place of origin. Thus, although the use of al-Qifṭī or al-Nadīm instead of Ibn al-Qifṭī and Ibn al-Nadīm seem to be supported by some of the manuscripts carrying their names (and are adopted by an authority such as Ayman Fu’ād Sayyid in his latest edition of the Fihrist, under the title “The Fihrist of al-Nadīm” [London: al-Furqān, 2009]) I will refrain from doing so here and simply refer to the use of these two names (i. e.Ibn al-Qifṭī and Ibn al-Nadīm ) by Ibn Abī Uṣaybi’a in his Ṭabaqāt al-aṭibbā’ when quoting from their books.
[2] “al-Naḥwī” means “the Grammarian.”
[3] Severus is transliterated here as Shāwārī.
[4] “Madhhab al-naṣārā al-ya‘qūbiyya.”
[5] By Yaḥyā or by his opponents is not clear.
[6] The expression “inqiḍā’ al-dahr” literally means “end of time”. “Dahr” carries the meaning of fate and time, and for this reason probably it is used here rather than Arabic ‘ālam, “world” which may be restricted to a physical connotation. The discussion about the “eternity of the world” does not address eschatological questions, as a modern reader could wrongly understand it but rather the question  of time and eternity in relation to creation, whether creation came after a “big bang” or if time is eternal and cyclical. The Greek word translated as Lat.  “mundi” in the title of Proclus’ treatise De Aeternitate Mundi (which was refuted by John Philoponus) is “kosmos.” There was an ongoing discussion among Platonists on the cosmology of the Timaeus which was later on continued among Christians in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages.
[7] The word “jama‘a” may also mean “to edit, to publish” in this context
[8]  Probably Demetrius of Phalerum.
[9]  al-Rūm
[10] Amīr al-mu’minīn.
[12] Shurūḥ.
[13] “Radd” means refutation, or simply “answer.”
[14] “al-Dahr” – i. e. the eternity of the world.
[15]Ibn al-Nadīm, Fihrist, p. 179 ed. A. F. Sayyid, reads 18 books, which agree with what we know of the number of Proclus’ arguments.
[16]Ibn al-Qifṭī reads “mawtuhu” (his death) while both Ibn al-Nadīm and Bar Hebraeus read “quwwatuhu” (its ‘potentia’). John Philoponus was known to have written a commentary on the De Generatione and Corruptione (see Ibn al-Nadīm, s. v. Aristotle, transl. Dodge, p. 604).
[17] Tafsīr, i. e. commentary.
[18] I have emended the text which does not give any satisfactory meaning otherwise. Ibn al-Nadīm reads: “kitāb tafsīr mā bāl li-Arisṭāṭālīs al-‘āshir” [al-‘āshir, the tenth, may indicate here that Lambda was considered the tenth book, which remains a possibility if some books were missing, see A. Bertolacci, ‘On the Arabic translations of Aristotle’s Metaphysics,’ in Arabic sciences and Philosophy, 15.2, 2005, 241-275 (available here:]. Ibn al-Qifṭī has “kitāb tafsīr mā bāl li-Arisṭāṭālīs,” which I emend as follows: “kitāb tafsīr mā ba‘d L li-Arisṭāṭālīs”. Bar Hebraeus does not mention a bibliography.
[19] I correct Ibn al-Qifṭī’s text with the help of Ibn al-Nadīm. Ibn al-Qifṭī reads “lā ya‘rifūn” where Ibn al-Nadīm reads “lā ya‘tarifūn.”
[20] Or “epistle, treatise” (maqāla).
[21]See B. Dodge (translation), The Fihrist of al-Nadīm, New York 1970, p. 613, n. 174: this is year 627 AD.
[22]It seems that here a marginal note mentioned Themistius as the actual author of a commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics Lambda, while John Philoponus is not credited with one in Ibn al-Nadīm’s entry on Aristotle’s commentators.
[23] Bayt al-‘ilm wa al-madāris.
[24] Naḥw, probably here for ‘rhetoric’.
[25] Lugha, came to designate linguistics but may here be used for grammar.
[26] Umūr.

Gnomologia on the web

Everyone knows that the Arabs had collections of the “sayings of the poets and philosophers” with which they bored each other at those lengthy dinner parties during the middle ages while they were waiting for the crusades to begin.  Few perhaps realise that collections of this kind actually start with the Greeks, and are extant in substantial chunks from the 3rd century on.

The sayings are mostly bogus, but some creep into editions of fragments, probably by mistake.  The sayings change shape, as the various editors “improved” them for wit and delivery.  They change author too!  And they exist in Greek, in Syriac, and in Arabic, and probably in other languages also.   In fact they constitute “pop literature” — a literary form used for enjoyment by people who should have been cleaning toilets or enrolling at the academy.  They’re a pig to work on, and getting a critical text is a nightmare.

In the past, scholars have recognised that the world needs to be protected from these things, and have cunningly named the subject “gnomologia”.  Literally it means “wisdom sayings” — but hey, that would make too much sense and might attract unwanted attention.  The term “gnomologia” is just the thing to make most people go cross-eyed and move quickly on.

Another ploy has been to have only German scholars work on it, and get them to do it a century ago in obscure publications, usually without translation.  After all, if you provide a translation, who knows who might start looking at this stuff?  It doesn’t bear thinking about.

In this way this material has remained largely unexplored except by specialists.  And thank goodness, for it combines tedium with inauthenticity in a manner not normally found outside the speechs of Episcopalian bishops.

Charlotte Roueché of Kings College London has unfortunately broken through all this and started the SAW project — Sharing Ancient Wisdoms.  She’s linked up with Denis Searby, who published a massive Greek collection, the Corpus Parisinum, and who broke with tradition and actually provided a translation.  (Shocking!)  She’s also roped in some experts in Arabic to get stuck into that area as well.  The idea is to use web-based technology to explore the lot and publish them online:

With the support of a team at the Centre for Computing in the Humanities, and the Cente for e-Research at King’s, Charlotte Roueché will be working with experts on such collections in Greek (Denis Searby, of Uppsala) and in Arabic (Stephan Prochazka and Elvira Wakelnig, of Vienna). The aim is to publish several collections online, using technology to express and display their relationships – with the ancient texts on which they drew, with later texts which drew on them, and also with one another, since collections were frequently translated.

It all looks very bad for the old way of doing things.  Soon people will actually be able to learn about this form of literature, and start to relate it, as a source, to the classical and patristic tradition.  Whatever will become of us?

But enough joking.  Dr Roueché and her team are doing something that has needed doing for a century at least.  Everything they touch will be of value.  I hope the results will be freely accessible online.  Few enough people are interested in these curious texts anyway.

I myself commissioned translations of some Arabic Christian collections of these things; enough to realise their nature.  I shall offer these to the project.

(via: David Meadows)

UPDATE (6/5/14): Updated link to website of SAW.

Severian of Gabala in Arabic

Some materials by the 4th century bishop made their way into Arabic.  Here is what Georg Graf says.  German is not a language I find easy, but I have attempted a translation and placed it below.

92. Severianus, Bischof von Gabala (gest. nach 408).

1. Von seinem reichen Homilien schätz ist nichts vollständig in arabischer Uebertragung vererbt worden. Auch musste gerade in dem wenigen, was als Ausbeute aus seinen Schriften übrigblieb, sein Name demjenigen des von ihm angefeindeten, aber berühmteren Johannes Chrysostomus weichen, wie schon in der griechischen Ueberlieferung.

1. Of his many and popular homilies nothing has been transmitted in a complete form in Arabic. Also the very few portions that survived of his writings were not attributed to him, but to the more famous John Chrysostom, as already in the Greek tradition

Noch als Eigentum des Severian war dem Enzyklopädisten Abu’l-Barakät in seinem Katal. 648 (678) “das Buch Hexaemeron” (Kitäb aksimärus) bekannt; er führt es als einziges Werk von ihm an. Zweifelhaft aber ist, ob damit eine vollständige Uebersetzung der 6 Reden über die Erschaffung der Welt (P. gr. 56, 429-500) gemeint ist, von der wir keine Hs kennen, oder schon eine Neubearbeitung dieser Eeden zusätzlich einer siebenten, die mit dem griechischen Original nicht viel mehr als das Thema und einige gedankliche Anklänge gemein hat. — Die anderen, zu einer einzigen Homilie zusammengezogenen Auszüge können mit dem “Buch” des Abu’l-Barakät kaum zu identifizieren sein.

The encyclopedist Abu’l-Barakat in his Catalogue 648 (678) stated that “the book Hexaemeron” (Kitab aksīmārus) was known as being by Severian; he gives it as a single work by him. It is doubtful, however, whether a complete translation of the 6 speeches about the creation of the world (PG 56, 429-500) is meant, of which we know no manuscript, or instead a new edition of these discourses with a seventh, which have in common with the original Greek not much more than the subject, and some echoes of thought. – The latter, a collection of extracts from a single homily, is difficult to identify with the “book” of Abu’l-Barakat.

Die 7 Reden in Paris arabe 68 (J 1339), ff 36 r-67r tragen die Ueberschrift: “Aus den Worten (qaul) des Severianus (Name verstümmelt), Bischofs von Gabala, die er zur Erklärung der sechs Tage, in denen Gott den Himmel und die Erde erschuf, gesprochen hat, eine zusammengelesene Abhandlung (kaläm multaqat), Zeugnisse und feststehende Tatsachen (umür täbita?) für die, welche Erkenntnis wünschen”. Siehe Joh. Zellinger, Die Genesishomilien des Bischofs Severian von Gabala, Münster i. W. 1916, S. 17-19 mit Textproben aus der 7. Homilie in Uebersetzung. – Die “Homilie zur Erklärung der 6 Schöpfungstage” siehe oben bei Johannes Chrysostomus.

The 7 speeches in ms. Paris arabe 68 (J 1339), ff 36 r-67r bear the inscription: “From the words (qaul) of Severianus (name mutilated), Bishop of Gabala, which he spoke in explanation of the six days that God created the heavens and the earth, gathered into a treatise (multaqat Kala), with evidence and established facts (umür täbita?) for those who desire knowledge.” See Johannes Zellinger, Die Genesishomilien des Bischofs Severian von Gabala, Münster i. W., 1916, p. 17-19 with samples of the text of the 7th Homily in translation. – For the “homily to explain the 6 days of creation,” see above under John Chrysostom.

Die Homilie über den verfluchten und vertrockneten Feigenbaum ebd.

The homily on the cursed and withered fig-tree, likewise.

2. Unterschobene Homilien. – “Ueber die Erscheinung Gottes, unseres Erlösers, und seine Geburt aus der Jungfrau, aus dem Syrischen übersetzt von Gregorius, Oberen des Klosters Däfnünä in den Schwarzen Bergen”: Bairut 510, S. 500-509 (verschieden von Oratio in Dei apparitionem, P. gr. 65, 15-26). H. zum Mittwoch in der Karwoche: Borg, ar. 57 (J. 1739), ff. 135 v, 136 r. Kairo 170 (15. Jh.), ff. 53 v-54 v; kopt. und ar.; zum Karfreitag ebd. in 91 (17. Jh.).

2. Spurious homilies. – “On the epiphany of God our saviour and his birth from the Virgin, translated from the Syriac by Gregorius, Superior of the Abbey of Däfnünä in the Black Mountains”: Beirut 510, p. 500-509 (different to the Oratio in Dei apparitionem, PG 65, 15-26). Homily on Holy Wednesday: Borg, ar. 57 (1739 AD), ff. 135v, 136r. Cairo 170 (15th c.), ff. 53 v-54v; Copt. and Ar.; on Good Friday likewise in 91 (17th c.).

Lobrede auf die Apostel zum 6. hatür, aus dem Koptischen übersetzt: Vat. ar. 536 (15. Jh.), ff. 1 r-32 r. Kairo 717 (J. 1358), ff. 115 v- 130 v. – Eine unbestimmte Rede: Sin. ar. 423, 3 (J. 1626x).

A panegyric on the apostle on the 6th Hatur, translated from the Coptic: Vat. ar. 536 (15th c.), ff. 1 r-32 r. Cairo 717 (1358 AD), ff. 115v- 130v. — A sermon of indefinite content: Sin. ar. 423, 3 (1626 AD).

3. Zwei Scholien zu Mt 25,31-26, 5 in der koptisch-arabischen Evangelien-Katene: Vat. ar. 452, f. 119 r; 410, ff. 98r-99v. – Ein dem Cyrillus von Alexandrien (De recta fide ad reginas) entnommenes Zitat unter dem Namen des Severian im Florileg B. V. 76, siehe dort; J. Zellinger, Studien zu Severian von Gabala, Münster i. W. 1926, S. 118 f.

3. Two scholia on Mt 25:31-26:5, in the Coptic-Arabic gospel catena: Vat. ar. 452, f. 119 r; 410, ff. 98r-99v. — A citation from Cyril of Alexandria (De recta fide ad reginas) appears under the name of Severian in the Florilegium B. V. 76, see J. Zellinger, Studien zu Severian von Gabala, Münster i. W. 1926, p. 118.

Eutychius on the events in Egypt in 820-30 AD

I’ve translated from the German the last portion of the Annals of Eutychius, who was Melkite Patriarch of Alexandria, and whose autograph manuscript has been edited in the CSCO.


[286]. When morning came, the Patriarch Thomas and his companions were brought.  The Muslims came and testified that the dome had enlarged (=been made larger).  Patriarch Thomas disproved this through the (above-mentioned) argument 1

 [287] Abdallah ibn Daher said to them: he is right.  Explain to me:  How big was the dome, before it was removed, and how big is it now?  They said:  We will think about this.  They went out and the meeting came to an end.  Abdallah ibn Daher then went to Damascus.  Thomas and his companions went merrily to the holy city. 

[288]  Thomas paid the Sheikh in question 1000 (dirhams).  To him and his children after him as well as his  children’s children the compensation was paid continuously, so long as (someone) from his descendants lived, until there was only one daughter (young woman).  Elias ibn Mansur, Patriarch of the holy city, presented her with the compensation. Patriarch Thomas died, and his pupil named Basila (= Basilios) became  Patriarch of the holy city.  It was in the 7th year of the Caliphate of al-Ma`mun.  Basila remained in the see 25 years and died.  Abdallah ibn Daher returned to al-Ma`mun and reported about Egypt and on what he had undertaken (there).  Then the (supporters of the) Emma (Yma) revolted.  Al-‘Emma is a coptic word and means “forty” 2. This is why: when the Romans left Egypt, in the time when the  Muslims arrived, forty men stayed.  In the lower part of the country (=Lower Egypt) they testified, multiplied and continued to do so and were called ‘Y MA, i.e.  the descendants of the forty (men).  They revolted and paid neither excise nor poll tax.  This event was announced to Mamun and he sent his brother  al-Mu`tasim, who was a Amir, to Egypt.  The Emma fought against him . . . 3

1 The previous sentence in Ch. 51, 56,20-22 reads:  A Muslim sheikh had secretly instructed him (to say):  May the Emir ask them,”How big was the small dome, which I took down as you requested, and how big now is the dome, which I have rebuilt  and enlarged?” 

2 If the rebels had been descendants of those Romans left, then they would have used a Greek name, not a Coptic one.  The letters given however do not permit the Coptic reading of HMA (for forty).  Later historians have confounded this revolt with that of the Copts in Basmur, which took place allegedly under Abdel Malek around 750-51.  Scholars are therefore divided on the exact date of the last Coptic revolt, therefore.  See Sylvestre Chauleur, Histoire des Coptes d’Egyple, Paris 1960, 107 (dating the revolt to 216 AH. = 831 AD); item: C. Detlef, G. Müller. Grundzüge des christlich-islamischen Ägypten, Darmstadt 1969, 146 (both giving around 828-30). 

3 The continuation of the sentence in Ch. (51, 57.17-18)  reads:  “and he fought them and killed very many of them.  He struck them down and drove out their wives and children and brought them with him to Baghdad.” 

Critical edition of the Koran in preparation?

Ghost of a flea pointed me to jeff black, berlin, who writes:

A page from a 7th century Sanaa ms.
A page from a 7th century Sanaa ms.

German researchers preparing “Qur’an: The Critical Edition”

This is a serious business. A team of researchers at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences is preparing to bring out the first installment of Corpus Coranicum – which purports to be nothing less than the first critically evaluated text of the Qur’an ever to be produced.

 What this means is that the research team is in the process of analysing and transcribing some 12,000 slides of Qur’an mansucripts from the first six centuries of the text’s existence. Once that is complete, the way is open to producing a text that annotates and, presumably, provides some sort of exegesis on the differences found in the early manuscripts.

The Potsdam-based team of Corpus Coranicum have so far concentrated on Suras 18 to 20, and are due to produce a first slice of the final product from that in the next few weeks. The whole book is meant to take until around 2025.

UPDATE: The English language site seems to be down but the Google cache contains the following, seemingly from an old update:

Welcome to the Corpus Coranicum

The project “Corpus Coranicum” contains two unworked fields of qur’anic studies: (1) the documentation of the qur’anic text in his handwritten as well as orally transmitted form and (2) a comprehensive commentary which elucidates the text within the framework of its historical process of development.

Because of the ambiguity of the early defective writing system of the Qur’anic manuscripts, a strict separation of the data on the one hand provided by manuscripts and on the other hand transmitted via the tradition of recitation is recommended. The documentation of the Qur’anic text will provide a documentation for both traditions and compare them afterwards.

The planned commentary focuses on a historical perspective, the Qur’an seen as a text which evolved through the period of more than twenty years, thereby getting formal and content-related differences through abrogation and re-definitions within the text. Furthermore, the commentary is based on an inclusion of the judeo-christian intertexts and looks at the Qur’an as a document of the Late Antiquity. “Corpus Coranicum” is in the early stage of its development; the first results are planned to be published online in 2009.

That shows a very sensible approach.  You eat an elephant a little at a time.  Rather than working on a Koran text as such, work on the early witnesses to the text, the physical remains, the unvocalised scripts, and find out what we actually have from that period and what it says.

Recent studies on the Coptic catena of de Lagarde?

Looking at the summary of information on catenas on the gospels in Di Berardino’s latest volume of Quasten’s Patrology, I notice an intriguing couple of entries:

E. J. Caubet Iturbe, La Cadena arabe del Evangelio de san Mateo,1 Texto; 2 Version, Vatican City 1969-1970.


E. J. Caubet Iturbe, “La Cadena copto-arabe de los Evangelios y Severo de Antioquia”, Homenaje a J. Prado. Miscelanea de estudios biblicos y hebraicos, ed. L.Alvarez Verdes, E.J. Alonso Hernandez, Madrid 1975,421-432.

Now I recall from Graf’s Geschichte der christlichen arabischen Literatur 1, p. 318, n.1 and p.481-2, that the Coptic catena on the gospels published by Paul de Lagarde also exists in an Arabic version in the Vatican.  I came across this reference while searching for material by Eusebius of Caesarea in Arabic.  He’s listed in Abu’l Barakat’s catalogue:

Eusebius of Caesarea: He has explanations on passages of the holy Gospels and other separate religious treatises.

which Graf discusses, referring to a catena with 6 passages from Eusebius on Matthew and material from Severus of Antioch on Luke.  Page 481f discusses an “anonymous gospel catena”, which turns out to be that of Paul de Lagarde.  I’m not sure I’ve read the entry before.  Written in Bohairic, and almost certainly based on a Greek catena now unknown, H. Achelis dates the catena before 888 AD.  The manuscript used by de Lagarde is incomplete, however.   The manuscript turns out to be Vatican Arab 452, and most of the scholia are at least under the name of Eusebius.  A long quotation from Luke, and five chunks on Matthew, are ascribed to Eusebius, or so Graf says.

It is an interesting sight, therefore, to see this in the modern bibliography, and no mention of de Lagarde’s publication.

Is it possible that Iturbe published a critical text of the Arabic version of the catena?  It looks very much like it.  I wish I could obtain the article and see what he says.

UPDATE: After typing those words, I started searching for the book in Google.  Slightly amazing to find my site listed, and this article listed, less than a minute after I pressed save.  Is Google really watching these words that intently!?

I find in COPAC more details of the book:

A compilation of patristic commentaries, with the text of the Gospel, in the Arabic of Codex Vaticanus ar. 452 and in a Spanish version.

which also aligns with my understanding.  Another states:

Studi e testi 254-5.  Half title: Cod. vat. ar. 452, ff. 6-135. Originally presented as the editor’s thesis, Pontificia Commissio Biblica. Based on a Coptic version entitled: Ermēnia n̄te pieuangelion ethouab kata Matheon. cf. the editor’s introd., v.1, p. [li]-liv; H. Achelis. Hippolytsudien. 1897. p. 163-169. Originally presented as the editor’s thesis, Pontificia Commissio Biblica. Arabic text; Spanish introduction, notes and translation.

So there we have it.  This is indeed a critical edition of the Arabic catena.  The next question is whether I obtain this and include it in the Eusebius!  For there is a copy available for sale online…

UPDATE 2: I cannot resist.  It would be cheaper to order the books by ILL, and copy them, etc; but it is far easier to just buy the things. 

More on Abu’l Makarim

evettsIt’s been a while since I wrote about the 13th century Arabic Christian history once ascribed to Abu Salih the Armenian and today to Abu’l Makarim.  But a friend has sent me a new article on the subject, by Mouton and Papescu-Belis, in Arabica 53, p. (2006), which discusses the unique manuscript.

B.T.A.Evetts in 1895 published part of this text from Paris Arabe 307 with an English translation.  Coptic monk and bishop Fr. Samuel published the rest in 1984 in four volumes.  His manuscript is now Munich Arabicus 2570, in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.  An English translation of the new material, undertaken by a collaborator, is apparently not that reliable.  But Fr. Samuel’s own corrections are in the main sound.

The combined manuscript was originally 365 folios in length, disposed into 37 quires.  The first 21 quires are in the Munich ms, and the last 16 in the Paris ms.  The two quires 21 and 22, where the manuscript was broken in half, are mostly missing as the leaves became detached.  The manuscript seems to have been written in 1338 AD (explicitly stated in the Paris ms.); the work itself refers to no event later than 1220.  It is possible that later events were written by a continuator.

The Munich ms. contains descriptions of monasteries and churches in the north of Egypt, as far as Cairo; then those of the Near-East.  The Paris ms. contains the same material for Egypt south of Cairo, into Nubia, and the rest of Africa.

The remainder of the article discusses the description of the monastery of Mt. Sinai and its environs at the period of composition.