More Armenian info

I’m still trying to find out about Armenian catenas and biblical commentaries.

It seems that there are not many references to books in Armenian on the net. Apparently the Mesrop Mashtots Matenadaran, the Institute of Old Manuscripts, Yerevan (not the same as the Armenian National Library) has a new website. Unfortunately it is only in Armenian now. But you may see there many beautiful miniatures. One can search on that site in the bibliographies too, to find what is there in the Matenadaran collection (although presumably only if you know Armenian and can type Armenian text).

There is also a website of publications by the Gandzasar Theological Centre where my contact works and the Publishing House of Holy Etchmiadzin. She adds:

I’m still adding annotations in that section of the website and there are still many books that need to be added there. I think I’ll put there also that bibliography of biblical commentaries when I get it. So you’ll have more references for published Armenian texts. You may check our website from time to time to see the additions.

The bibliography of biblical commentaries and catenas in Armenian is something we should all be interested in, and I will add more details as I find out more.

UPDATE: some commentaries in classical Armenian are available here and here.  There is also a critical edition of the classical Armenian translation of Gregory of Nyssa, On the making of man!


The Armenian manuscripts of the French National Library

The catalogue of Armenian manuscripts at the French National Library tells an interesting story of how the pre-revolution holdings were assembled. 

It all starts when Francis I of France entered into a treaty with the Grand Turk, and established a permanent ambassador in Constantinople.  This opened the Turkish state to French scholars in search of Greek texts.  Bindings of Henri II in the Royal collection show that Armenian manuscripts were being acquired in the middle of the 16th century.  But it was only in the second half of the 17th century, under the influence of Colbert, that a definite policy of acquiring Armenian mss came into being, as an official letter to the traveller Antoine Galland (1646-1715) shows, sent just before his third voyage to the East in 1679.  This instructed him to buy:

“…all the ancient Armenian books that can be found, and above all books of history by a certain author named Moses [of Khorene] in that language; also Armenian translations of the bible, written in ancient times, because an Armenian bible has recently been printed in Holland.” [1]

Colbert was interested in Armenian affairs, not least because there was an Armenian colony at Marseilles involved in the trade to Persia and India, and he arranged for Louis XIV to grant permission on 11 August 1669 to an Armenian bishop-cum-printer Oskan of Yerevan to operate at Marseilles.  This in turn sparked interest among Paris litterateurs like Richard Simon and Eusebe Renaudot in what bishop Oskan was doing.  These court Catholics made use of creeds as part of the literary war against Protestantism, to demonstrate the antiquity of catholic formulations.  A Dominican sent by Colbert to Ethiopia acquired one Armenian ms. in Cyprus on the way.  Others were bought from French merchants or travellers.  In this sort of way 165 Armenian mss were gathered in the Royal library alone prior to the French Revolution. 

Colbert himself acquired mss, as did other great persons of state or religious orders.  The collection of Renaudot went with the rest of his rich library to the Maurist fathers of St. Germains-des-Pres, which was seized at the revolution.

The first French scholar to interest himself in the study of the Armenian language was Petis de la Croix (1653-1716).  His father had been secretary-interpreter to the French ambassador in Constantinople for more than 20 years, from 1670.  De la Croix himself was a translator for the king.  He left a large Armenian-French dictionary in manuscript, assisted probably by the former Armenian patriarch of Constantinople and Jerusalem, who had been removed from Constantinople by the ambassador, the Marquis de Feriol, and held under arrest in the Bastile from 1706 until his death in 1711.  During his arrest the patriarch copied a number of Armenian mss now in the BNF.  Renaudot was authorised to negotiate with him concerning his possible release and return to the East.

A mission to the East in 1728-30 by Sevin and Fourmount resulted in the acquisition of 134 pieces.  A letter home by Sevin on 22 Dec. 1728 reveals optimism:

“Most of the works of Nestorius, Dioscorus, and some other famous heretics, have been translated into that language [Armenian] and it would be important to recover them, as well as various historical pieces composed in ancient times by the Armenians.  One of them, a friend of Fonseca, flatters himself that he has the power to supply us with these things but as the books of the Armenians are very carefully written and also mostly decorated with figures of plants and animals, a very high price is placed on them, which prevented me from buying the six that he brought to me, consisting of New Testaments, Rituals, and translations of St. Chrysostom, which it would be easy to find again.” 

In a last minute note on the same letter Sevin adds:

“Since I wrote the above, Mr. Fonseca has shown us in a house 160 Armenian mss, i.e. more than there are in all the libraries of Europe altogether, and even in all of Constantinople.  These mss are composed of commentaries on scripture, translations of the fathers, ancient works of theology and books of history; the most important is that of Armenia, which is not to be had at Paris for less than £500.  We have been promised also the history of the martyrs of Palestine by Eusebius, a piece which we don’t have in Greek, and which would throw a considerable light on the first three centuries of the church.  The acquisition of so many manuscripts in one language is very important, and there would be some risk in awaiting your order to buy it.”

Sevin went on to buy the mss anyway, for a total of £15,000, an incredible sum, and then, naturally ran into difficulties.  Sevin also stated that he would have to steal one ms, because the church to which it belonged could not sell its possessions.  The end result of his efforts, tho, was to substantially augment the holdings of the library further.

[1] Henri Omont, Missions archeologiques francaises en Orient au XVIIe et XVIIIe siecles, 1, Paris, 1902, p.206.


Finding Armenian resources

My queries to professional Armeniologists have gone unanswered, doubtless because they are very busy.  But I am still interested to learn whether there are catenas on the gospels in Armenian.

A thought struck me last night.  Suppose that none have been published?  Where could we find catenas?

The answer, surely, is to start looking at catalogues of Armenian manuscripts.  These will surely indicate the general content of manuscripts.  If there are catenas, they will probably indicate the authors quoted.

The French National Library has PDF’s of most of its catalogues online (bless them!).  This includes a splendid catalogue of their 300-odd mss, with a nice history of the collection at the front and some good indexes.

The results were a little disappointing, tho.  So in the Index of subjects on p.1002 (p.538 of the PDF), there are lists of mss by subject.  But catena is not one of those subjects.

However there is an anonymous Commentary on the genealogy of Matthew and Luke in Ms. 303, items 4-5.  This is something Eusebius talks a lot about in the Quaestiones ad Stephanum.  Probably the material here is at least influenced by him.  Unfortunately you would need Armenian to learn much more.

A few pages on, there is a category of Questions and Responses.  Athanasius, Cyril of Alexandria, and John Damascene all feature.  So, interestingly, does Philo!  There is no Eusebius listed, but who knows what someone sat in the reading room ordering up mss might find?

Looking in the author index there are fragments of the Church History and the Chronicon in various mss.  This is natural, since both exist in full in Armenian.  But no other works are listed.

All in all, this was an interesting exercise.  I learned more about the collection than I might have done.  But so far, no material for the Eusebius Quaestiones.


Armenian fragments of Eusebius on the Gospels?

I’m having another attempt to locate any Armenian fragments of the Gospel Problems and Solutions of Eusebius.  There must be professors of Armenian who know where these might be found.  All I have to do is ask.  As a first shot, I’ve written to Theo van Lint, who is Gulbenkian Professor of Armenian Studies at Oxford, and asked if he can tell me:

  • What catenas there are in Armenian
  • Whether any have been published, or else where the mss are

I don’t know if I will get an answer from this doubtless busy man, but it’s worth a go. 

Some good news; I had rather despaired of ever getting the Coptic fragments completed, but the translator has sprung into life again, and another chunk arrived tonight.  If all the Coptic does arrive in a reasonable period, I might be tempted to look again at the Arabic translation of it recorded by Graf as containing material by Eusebius.

UPDATE: 22nd January, and no reply.  Oh well.


Another Classical Armenian history goes online

Robert Bedrosian writes to let us know that another history in classical Armenian has now gone online in English:

This is to let you know that a 10th century History of Armenia written by  Yovhannes [John] Drasxanakert’c’i, Catholicos of the Armenian Church  (898-929) is now online in English translation.

The translation and study was done by Rev. Fr. Krikor Maksoudian as his Columbia University Ph.D. dissertation (1973), and later expanded and published as in book form (Atlanta, Georgia, 1987). It was Maksoudian, then a deacon and Assistant Professor at Columbia, who taught me Classical Armenian in the early 1970s.  Since then he has achieved the high rank of vardapet (Doctor of the Church), and is perhaps the most erudite of clergy in the Armenian Church in the United States.

Father Maksoudian has graciously allowed me to webify his work.  It may be downloaded, copied, and distributed freely.

Robert Bedrosian has done more than anyone else in a century to make the riches of Armenian literature available to us all in English.  Someone who can translate from classical Armenian is rare; someone who will do so even rarer; and someone who will then make the results widely available… well, Robert is unique in this.  In the pre-internet era he used to publish his translations in book form, where they enrich many a library.  These days he runs his own website and distributes them freely and generously.

An Armeniologist writing in a century will consider all of us as living in the times of Robert Bedrosian.  That’s how much what he does matters.


Discussion on Armenian version of Michael the Syrian

I note that the comments on this post of mine have wandered into the very interesting area of Armenian versions of Michael the Syrian, Armenians in Egypt, and related issues, and are well worth a read.


More lust for the CPG – works of Eusebius in Armenian and Georgian

I’ve been unable to stop thinking about the object of my obsession.  Yes, this is another “why the Clavis Patrum Graecorum is like Paris Hilton” post.  Both might make you go blind, for instance, although probably for different reasons.  How many people realise just how wonderful this object is?

What brought this on, I hear you say?  Well, thinking about Eusebius of Caesarea, and his “Tough questions about the Gospels” (Quaestiones ad Stephanum/Marinum — and if I owned a copy of the CPG, I’d give the work’s CPG reference number).  As everyone knows, this work is lost but a large chunk survives, plus some fragments in Medieval Greek bible commentaries which were made up purely of chains of quotations from the Fathers of the Church. I commissioned David Miller to translate the Greek fragments; someone else is doing fragments extant in Syriac.

But I’m a sad person.  (Sorry Paris).  I started wondering what other languages Eusebius’ work might have been translated into in late antiquity.  Coptic is an obvious choice, and there are fragments in that language. 

But what about Armenian?  The Armenians were converted to Christianity around the time of Eusebius.  They set up a monastery in Jerusalem, to copy Greek books, translate them into Armenian, and send them back to the old country.  We know that at least two works by Eusebius were indeed translated into Armenian.  His famous Church History exists in Armenian.  Better still, his Chronicle exists; book 1 of that work only exists in Armenian, in a single copy.  That copy was found by a traveller who  was staying in Armenia in the 18th century in a rural district, who got up in the night for a glass of water and found the book being used as the water-pot cover!

Anyhow, I started asking around.  Maxime Yevadian mentioned that the Canon and the letter to Carpianus also existed in Armenian 1.  The excellent Dominique Gonnet of the CNRS in France then pointed me to the CPG!  To my astonishment, this lists information about Georgian works by Eusebius (please forgive rough OCR):

3465. Epistula ad Carpianum. Canones euangeliorum.Versio georgica. B. UT’IE, Evsevis ep’ist’elisa … Udzvelesi kartuli versiebi, in Mravalthavi 17 (1992),p.117-123.
3467. Commentarii in psalmos. (1) in ps.37. Versio georgica (introductio in psalmos). M. SANIDZE, Psalmunis dzveli kartuli redakciebi, 1 (Anciennes rédactions géorgiennes des Psaumes), Tbilisi, 1960, p. 470-475.
3495Historia ecclesiastica. Versio georgica (fragmentum de S. Iacobo fratre Domini: H.E., Il,23). Cf. M. VAN EsBROECK, Les homéliaires, p. 123,189,213.

Of course the most exciting bit of that is the portion of the unpublished and untranslated monster-work, the Commentary on the Psalms.  Nothing on the Quaestiones, but what a book, that contains stuff like this!


1 Thomson, Bibliography of Armenian Literature, Brepols, 1995, pp. 51-2. 


Bibliographies of classical Armenian

There comes a time in the life of every man interested in patristics when he needs to know about classical Armenian literature.  Hoc est hora.  There must be fragments of Eusebius in Armenian catenas, I reason.  But where to look?

The indefatigable Robert W. Thomson gave us a Bibliography of classical Armenian literature to 1500, published by Brepols in 1995 and available for an eye-watering sum.  I think that I will try and do an ILL for that!

But while surfing for it, in I came across something strange, something otherwise unknown to Google.  It’s a series called “The Armenian Classical Authors”, published by the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia ca. 2005.  There are at least 5 volumes, each running to around $100.  It starts with the 5th century of course.  Contents are in Armenian, which is why they don’t show up in an English-language book search.

Book Description: Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia, 2005. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. The Armenian Classical Authors Volume IV, 7th Century. Yegavian, Zaven (Director).

Book Description: The Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia, Antelias (Lebanon), 2005. Hard Cover. Book Condition: New. First Edition. xiii, 791 pp., Armenian text, double columns per page, hard back. A series of studies covering large number of Armenian authors. The idea of this work was pursued by his Holiness Aram I Catholicos. In the occasion of the 1600 anniversary of the Armenian Alphabet Genesis, invented by Mesrob Mashdots, and in celebration of the Armenian Golden literary age of the fifth century. This work contain a bibliography of famous Armenian authors of the fifth century, together with a study and analysis of the work of each author. Due to weight and size of the book, shipping to outside of the USA is $39.00. Inside USA is $10.00. Size: 8 1/2″ x 11″

How fascinating!  How wonderful that such a book should exist.  I’ve even managed to find an online bookseller in Lebanon who stocks it, Kutub Ltd (and even my Syriac is enough to recognise the triliteral root KTB = book).  Nice to see the Lebanese abandoning their pointless civil wars long enough to make money.  But… any chance of it in English?

Later: I’ve been asking in LT-ANTIQ, and the excellent Dominique Gonnet has told me that the Clavis Patrum Graecorum supplements cover versions of Greek texts in Syriac, Armenian, etc.  I must hie me to a library and look!


Eusebius in Armenian

We all know that many interesting works are preserved in Classical Armenian translation.  Eusebius’ Church History exists in an Armenian version; book 1 of his Chronicle is only preserved in Armenian.  But what else exists?

I’ve often mentioned that I have translators at work on Eusebius’ Gospel differences and their solutions (Quaestiones ad Stephanum, ad Marinum).  Today I received a translation of a chunk of this work from a Coptic catena, much to my delight.

But what about Armenian?  What exists?  What catenae exist?  What catalogues of unpublished manuscripts?  Is there any possibility that this work Eusebius exists whole somewhere?  Or new fragments in a catena?

I realise that I have no idea.  If anyone can point me in the direction of finding out, I would be most grateful!