Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

Proceedings, Journal of the American Oriental Society 14 (1890) pp.clxxx-clxxxv

American Oriental Society's Proceedings, Oct. 1889.

17. Account of a Syriac Lectionary; by Dr. Isaac H. Hall, of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.

This manuscript, brought to this country by Mr. Shedd and owned by him, is a splendid Evangelion, or Lectionary of the Gospel, written in magnificent Estrangela, except the two last pages, which are in Nestoriau script, written smaller to get all the matter in. The dimensions of the page are 13.5 x 10 inches, the book 3 inches thick. Written in two columns to the page, about 19 lines to the column. At present it contains 167 leaves. Bound in old leather-covered wooden boards, the leather marked and stamped in patterns. A few leaves are gone, and the condition of the manuscript is somewhat damaged, but it is a line specimen. It was written at El Qosh, by one Daniel, in the year of the Greeks 1519 (=A. D. 1208), finished in the month Heziran. The date of the Hejra is also given, as 604. Yaballaha was then, as the |clxxxi colophon says, on the apostolic throne of Mar Mari, whose seat was in the cities of Seleucia and Ctesiphon. The lessons are according to the order of Rabban Ya'qob, said in the colophon to be in regular use about Mosul. The 'unithe and hymn for each Sunday and festival are given regularly with each lesson. At the end is given a scheme of lessons for all sorts of occasional festivals, as the consecration of bishops, etc. On all accounts it is a very interesting manuscript, and 1 only regret that I have not been able to retain it long enough to allow of giving fuller information. The special convent in which the manuscript was written is called xxxxxxx. In numerous details, especially in the formulas of stating the lessons, the lectionary differs from those I have usually seen. I hope that at sometime either I or some one else may be enabled to present its peculiarities in proper shape.

18. Notes and news on Syriac texts and translations ; by Dr. I. H. Hall.

I stated that the History of Rabban Sauma and Mar Yawallaha had been printed, and exhibited a copy. It is published at Paris by Maison-neuve, though printed by Drugulin at Leipzig. Its French title is "Histoire de Mar Jab-Alaha, Patriarche, et de Raban Sauma." The preface is not an affair of any great moment, the editor being one of the Oroomia Lazarists, who has edited sundry other works, some of considerable importance and interest, and generally from a point of view antagonistic to that of the American missionaries, and sometimes, I regret to say, with none too great regard for facts. In this preface he has given a notoriously wrong account of the finding of the MS., though in such a way that it cannot be called intentionally false, and would not be worth noticing if it had not misled such a scholar as Rubens Duval (see his recent notice of the publication in the Journal Asiatique). The fact is that the MS. was discovered by Rabban Yonan, secretary of the patriarch, in one of the churches of Kurdistan, and is known by everybody to be at Kochannis, the seat of the patriarchal residence. The copies at Oroomia and those in America were obtained in the most open way; and it is very difficult to explain, in the light of the facts, the obscurity and mistakes under which the editor of the printed text labors. As the editor says that he has made sundry changes in the text of his MS. copy, it is my purpose, as soon as practicable, to collate my own MS. with his printed text, and examine more thoroughly the quality of his work. The editor says: 

"Le livre que je public pour la premiere fois est tellement rare que je n'en connais pas de manuscrit en Europe. C'est a M. Salomon, Lazariste Chaldeen du Kurdistan, que je dois la bonne fortune d'en posseder une copie. Mon confrere, ayant vu ce livre enfere les mains d'un jeune homme de Tekhouma (Kurdistan turc), en reconnut la valeur, et en fit faire une copie a Ourmiah, en Perse, au mois de mars 1887. Le possesseur du manuscrit a depuis disparu avec son livre; et je n'ai eu a ma disposition que la copie qui a |clxxxii ete faite a Ourmiah, sans que j'aie pu rien apprendre sur l'age ou la provenance de l'original."

Now the members of the Society will remember that in October, 1886, I exhibited a copy of the MS., and commented upon it in the " Proceedings." My copy was made in 1886. In the early part of that year, a translation of the MS. was published in the "Rays of Light" at Oroomia, extending through several numbers, so that the matter must have been one of common talk and notoriety. In view of all this, the statements of the editor of the printed text are, to say the least, very remarkable---whatever they may be taken to admit.

The remaining portion of the "Notes and News" was in reality expanded into two papers, which I hope to publish in the Journal in due time. They concern a MS. which I recently received from Oroomia, containing several legends extant in other languages, but not common anywhere, and probably of Egyptian or Ethiopian original, but not otherwise known in Syriac except in this MS. The MS. contains 62 written pages, 19 lines to a page, on paper of about ordinary letter size. Contents: 1. "Narrative of Moses approved in Prophecy" (pp. 1-15), giving a colloquy of Moses with the Lord on Mt. Sinai. 2. "The Letter of Holy Sunday, that descended from heaven upon the hands of Athanasius Patriarch of Rome" (pp. 15-27), being a legend similar in matter to that I published in the Journal, but so differently wrought and worded as to be a different recension. It enables me to correct, however, several false readings and interpretations in my publication of the former recension. 3. "Narrative of the Holy Martyr Giwargis (or, the Martyr St. George), brilliant among martyrs" (pp. 27-49). I am not sure whether I have not read the same matter in print. 4. "Narrative of the father Arsenius, King of Egypt, how Our Lord raised him to life" (pp. 49-55). This is a remarkable legend of Christ's finding a large skull on the Mount of Olives, making it answer his questions and describe a man's experience at death and in the lower regions, and finally restoring it to life. 5. Sundry prayers and ceremonies, with a set of magic rules for divining in cases of sickness---which may be a later relic of the "Babylonian numbers" (pp. 55-62).

Mr. W. A. Shedd, of Oroomiah (son of Rev. J. H. Shedd, D.D.), has brought to the country a couple of very interesting Syriac MSS. One is the Gezza, or service book for all the year except Sundays, festivals, etc. It is a ponderous volume, nearly a foot thick, written in the Nestorian script (of course), on paper, and seems to be from 150 to 200 years old. I cannot at present describe it further. The other is the important lectionary above noticed (No. 17).

19. Scheme for collecting and preserving ancient Syriac texts at Oroomia, by Dr. I. H. Hall.

I desire to speak, with much sympathy and earnest recommendation, of a plan now on foot for gathering up and preserving the manuscript Syriac literature in the neighborhood of Oroomia. When we reflect that a large share of the rich Sachau collection at Berlin was obtained |clxxxiii through the American missionaries, that money has otherwise diverted to Europe what should more naturally have come to America and enriched our libraries here, and that the acquisitions actually in our country have for the most part been rather scattered as curiosities than considered as worth preserving in places lit for scholarly use and reference, it would seem to be time to welcome and aid such an effort. It will best be made known in the words of one of the missionaries, the Rev. Dr. J. H. Shedd :

"The effort is being made by the Missionary College at Oroomia, Persia, to obtain a copy of every work still existing among the Nestorians in the Old Syriac language; also to secure valuable ancient manuscripts.

"These works are fast passing away; some can be bought, others can be copied. Some are very rare works, not found in European libraries. "To secure the funds for this enterprise, twice the original cost is charged to the buyers in this country [America --- including transportation and all expenses abroad]. This gives the College at Oroomia the means to save a manuscript or a copy of every work for its library, and provides at a reasonable rate these rare and ancient works for the libraries of scholars of Europe and America. "About $500 worth have been sold on this plan.

"The price for copying which we charge purchasers is three cents per hundred words. Ordinarily some of the manuscripts [i. e. some of the originals as gathered up from native possessors] are for sale at the same rate. Others are cheaper or dearer as the case may be. The work both of buying and copying involves an immense amount of trouble to those in charge at Oroomia. The copying is done carefully by trained native scribes, and for some works a high price must be paid.

"Any person wishing to obtain manuscripts or copies should address me at Marietta, Ohio [or Rev. B. Labaree at Oroomia, Persia, and Rev. Mr. Shedd at the same place before very long], and indicate what books are desired, and the order will be sent to Oroomia, and in a few months the works will arrive. There are now collected over two hundred different works. There are duplicates ready of many of these in [originally acquired] manuscripts or copies.

"The works embrace : Scriptures; Rituals and Church Books; Commentaries; Works on Theology, Philosophy, Ethics; Legends and Chronicles; over twenty Saints' histories and Martyrdoms; Poetry; Grammars; Collections of History, Stories, Charms, and other miscellany.

"Indicate the class of works you desire, and a full catalogue of that class can be given, with a statement of the duplicates now on hand."

I can say, from having obtained and used various manuscripts procured through the above means, that the copies are good, and the enterprise in every way deserving. (A number of such copies were exhibited and commented upon.) An extract from a former letter of Dr. Shedd will serve for comment; |clxxxiv 

"As to the study of the ancient literature, you know the condition of such scholarship is leisure. There was a time when some of the missionaries had some knowledge of the ancient language, but they were not proficient scholars. The work they did in the ancient language was done as I am doing it now, through the native scholars. We have plenty of help, but this does not remove the need of the missionaries being ancient Syriac scholars. For the last 15 or 20 years our force has been always so reduced that no one has had the time to devote to such pursuits. The demand is that our college should be placed on the same liberal basis as the Syrian colleges. . . Then some one would have the time to study. . . Till then there is not much hope. 

[Here follows a long and interesting statement respecting the study of the ancient tongues, but too much interspersed with private matters to permit transcribing.]

"For three or four years past I have taken much trouble to collect all the ancient Syriac MSS., and save here a copy of every extant work. The result is now a collection of about 200 separate works. We have no funds; but by selling some to seminaries, and by some gifts from the native brethren, giving them a share in the library, by using some college funds, and by personally advancing some, we have quite a library, as you see from the enclosed brief mention. [Dr. Shedd, writing from Oroomia, enclosed me a list of works in lines I had indicated. ]

"The students have learned to copy---some of them beautifully---as you mention in reviewing the MS. of the Chronicles of Mar Yawallaha. What we charge for MS. books sent to America is . . . [three cents per hundred words]. This leaves a margin of nearly one half; and this pays for our library here. At this rate I can furnish the old MSS. as far as they are on hand, or as we have good copies made of any work in our library. It gives to needy students the means of their working their way. [It only costs about $25 to support a student at Oroomia for a year.] There will be no expense of transportation [from Persia to America] besides.

"The MSS. of Old Testaments or parts are very scarce. So of the New Testament; but if we had the funds, some copies of the New Testament in vellum could be had---at considerable expense, much above the terms above.

"I would like very much to employ a copyist to visit Kochannis and copy any work there which we do not possess. There are some old churches where we could do the same, though it would be impossible to buy the MSS. they have. If you see the way to help in such a work, some rare MSS. I think would be rescued, and we should gradually secure all that really exist, and have copy for our library here besides those sent to America. The catalogue of the British Museum is very poor in Nestorian MSS., rich in the Jacobite. So of most of our libraries."

I feel that to this appeal I can add little but testimony. It is in every way a worthy object, and almost vital to Semitic scholarship in America. A working fund of $500 to $1000 would enable the |clxxxv district of Kochannis to be explored, and its literary treasures to be exhumed and preserved, and all our libraries to be enriched. The copies made at Oroomia are done in a scientific way; first by a skilled penman, who writes beautifully, and then compared and corrected by one or two other hands. Some suggestions I have made once or twice in this regard, as well as regarding the preservation of the ancient colophon of the MS. copied, and other particulars, have been adopted; and we can depend upon the Oroomia copies in a manner we cannot upon those of Arabic and Syriac MSS. made farther west. I have already a number of works in MS. which I do not know of as existing elsewhere ----much less in print. The discovery of the History of Rabban Sauma and Mar Yawallaha, whose importance is now everywhere recognized, is perhaps the greatest item thus or thus far accomplished.

Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, 2007. All material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.

Early Church Fathers - Additional Texts