A new translation of the Life of Samuel of Kalamoun

A correspondent has written:


The article contains the Arabic text with an English translation, accompanied by notes including references to the Coptic Life of Samuel of Kalamun.

This is the Arabic text, with a new English translation, of the Life of Samuel of Kalamoun.  Get it while it’s hot!

The Apocalypse of Samuel of Kalamoun – now online

This very moving 10th century Coptic text records the collapse of Coptic culture and the abandonment of the Coptic language.  I’ve translated it into English from the French of the Maronite priest J. Ziadeh, and corrected it using other partial translations.  The introduction is here, together with some notes by me, and the translation itself is here.  I’ve added a couple of notes at the end from the articles that I was kindly sent.  It seems that Jos van Lent is engaged in working on a proper edition and translation as well.

I was put up to looking into this text by an email from a Copt.  I have sent him a PDF of the Arabic text and suggested that he might like to type it up.  If he does, then that also will be available.

As ever, if you would like to support my efforts to make texts available online, you can buy my CD.

Scribe, take down an apocalypse

Intrigued by some notes in the edition of the apocalypse of Samuel of Kalamoun.  It says that bits seem copied from older apocalypses, such as those of Pisentius or Ps.Methodius, although not verbatim.

Are we dealing with a genre here? — A way to describe the failings of events up to your own time, ascribe them as a prophecy to some long-dead person, and then end with a conventional set of statements about the return of Christ (or something of the kind) as a coda.  If so, the history of the genre would be interesting to read, and it would allow us to make use of them as historical documents.

Maybe it was a way to blow off steam, more edifying, perhaps, than diatribes against bankers.

The apocalypse of Samuel of Kalamoun is a very moving document, probably from ca. 1000 AD (because of the description of the Caliph el-Hakim).  The author is grief-stricken at the destruction of coptic culture, at the loss of “our beautiful coptic language, which is like honey in the mouth”.  He tells how the lives of the saints are no longer read, because people can’t understand them.  Many of the books are simply lost.

This may explain the find of Coptic books at Qurna near Luxor a couple of years ago by the Polish Mission in the ruins of a monastery.  I recall that one of them was a life of St. Pisentius.  If you had a bunch of books that you couldn’t read but were fairly sure were ‘holy’, you might bury them.  Probably there are treasure troves of Coptic patristic literature to be found near many old monasteries in Egypt.  Indeed it makes you wonder a little about when the Nag Hammadi books were buried.  Could it have been much later than we usually suppose?

Finding Samuel of Kalamoun on my hard disk

Erm, yes, well <cough>.  I’ve just found the Arabic text and French translation of the Apocalypse of Samuel of Kalamoun on my own hard disk.  A friend slipped me a collection of PDF’s of articles a while back.  Probably this will be more useful if I, erm, look at them.

This is going to be such a problem for us all, losing stuff that we have.  Thank heavens I didn’t pay money and put in an ILL for it!

One other thought: the PDF was at 200 dpi.  Come on, guys — scan at 400 dpi and give us chaps with OCR software a chance!  (Mind you, Finereader 9 is making a splendid attempt!)

Next day: Of course there is very little point in scanning and running the OCR through a machine translator, if you then leave the output file at home… <gnashing teeth>

Apocalypse of Samuel of Kalamoun

I mentioned earlier this Coptic text which records the abandonment of Coptic for Arabic.  A query to the Hugoye list produced a lot of info:

A text and translation can apparently be found here: J. Ziadeh (ed./tr.), “L’apocalypse de Samuel, superieur de Deir el-Qalamoun”, in: ROC 20 (1915-17), pp. 376-92/392-404. 

I’m not sure if this is online anywhere, but if it is I might translate it.  It does seem to be one of the Revue de l’Orient Chretien volumes which is NOT online.

The subject is discussed, including the Apocalypse of Samuel,  in Zaborowski, J.R., “From Coptic to Arabic in Medieval Egypt,” Medieval Encounters 14:1 (2008), 15-40.

And here comes something about the apocaltytic context: Martinez, Francisco Javier, ‘The King of Ruum and the King of Ethiopia in medieval apocalyptic texts from Egypt’, [in:] Coptic studies: Acts of the Third International Congress of Coptic Studies, Warsaw, 20-25 August, 1984, ed. by Wlodzimierz Godlewski, Varsovie 1990, pp. 247-259; and more about the transition process: Rubenson, Samuel, ‘Translating the tradition: some remarks on the Arabization of the patristic heritage in Egypt’ Medieval Encounters: Jewish, Christian and Muslim Culture in Confluence and Dialogue, 2 (1996), pp. 4-14;

Another recent discussion of the Apoc. Samuel of Qalamun, setting it in the context of 10-11 cent. Egyptian church politics: Papaconstantinou, Arietta. “‘They Shall Speak the Arabic Language and Take Pride in It’: Reconsidering the Fate of Coptic after the Arab Conquest.” Le Muséon 120.3-4 (2007): 273-99. Also, as part of his forthcoming study on the Christian Arabic apocalyptic tradition, Jos van Lent has been working on the manuscript history of this text. Some of his findings were presented at the IACS in Cairo last September.