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Remarks on the translation of John 2:15 into Coptic and Arabic

In this blog post, I discuss some Coptic and Arabic words for whip or scourge used in the translations of John 2:15 in the Holy Week lectionaries that are part of our project “Digital Edition and Critical Evaluation of the Coptic Holy Week Lectionary”. Let me start with the manuscript that originally piqued my interest in this matter.

Manuscript bo 3000L (according to our classification) is preserved in the British Library under shelf mark Add. 5997 and is the oldest dated Bohairic Holy Week lectionary (henceforth HWL) manuscript (1273 AD). It is bilingual (Bohairic–Arabic) and originates from Nitria in Lower Egypt.[1]

When I was transcribing the bilingual version of John 2:15, which is read during the sixth Hour of the Day on Holy Monday,[2] I came upon the Arabic word فرقله (frqlh), which I was not familiar with, and which seemed to me as an imperfect transliteration of the word ⲫⲣⲁⲅⲉⲗⲗⲓⲟⲛ used in the Bohairic text. The word in Greek means ‘whip’ or ‘scourge’[3]  and refers to a kind of whip made of ropes that Jesus used to drive away cattle dealers, money changers, and animals from the temple, a description that is unique to the Johannine account.[4] A quick look at John 2:15 in the Nestle-Aland 28th edition shows that by using ⲫⲣⲁⲅⲉⲗⲗⲓⲟⲛ, the Coptic translator literally follows the Greek version. Also note that the Latin translation uses the similarly sounding word flagellum:

καὶ ποιήσας φραγέλλιον ἐκ σχοινίων πάντας ἐξέβαλεν ἐκ τοῦ ἱεροῦ, τά τε πρόβατα καὶ τοὺς βόας, καὶ τῶν κολλυβιστῶν ἐξέχεεν τὸ κέρμα καὶ τὰς τραπέζας ἀνέτρεψεν.

et cum fecisset quasi flagellum de funiculis, omnes eiecit de templo, oves quoque, et boves, et nummulariorum effudit aes, et mensas subvertit.

Next, I went through other Arabic, Bohairic, and Sahidic versions of John 2:15 and here is a summary of what I found:

Table 1[5] Table of languages and witnesses

As one can see, while Bohairic always uses the word ⲫⲣⲁⲅⲉⲗⲗⲓⲟⲛ in two orthographic variants, Sahidic translates the Greek word φραγέλλιον by ⲙⲁⲥⲧⲓⲅⲝ, as already briefly discussed by Christian Askeland,[6] and, in Arabic, the manuscripts I have considered feature four different translations.[7] In fact, only one of those manuscripts has the Greek word rendered as فرقله, and that is the specific bilingual Bohairic-Arabic HWL bo 3000L described above. As we will see later, the Arabic word, which appears without vowel signs in the manuscript, is read فَرْقِلَّه farqillah

But how are the similar Latin flagellum, Greek φραγέλλιον, Bohairic ⲫⲣⲁⲅⲉⲗⲗⲓⲟⲛ, and Arabic فَرْقِلَّه farqillah connected? And who borrowed from whom?[8]

The Latin word flagellum is the diminutive of the word flagrum. Although φραγέλλον is usually considered to be a Greek adaptation of Latin flagellum via the dissimilation of the l…l into r…l, I actually think that it can have been borrowed directly from the Vulgar Latin variant fragellum that was already dissimilated.[9] According to all consulted dictionaries, the Greek word φραγέλλον or φραγέλλιον is the source of both the Arabic فَرْقِلَّه  farqillah[10] and the word appearing in the Bohairic translations, as you can see in this tentative sketch:

Figure 1 Sketch of loanwords originating from Latin flagellum

We have already seen that all Bohairic text witnesses consistently use the Greek word as is, and what is more, we encounter ⲫⲣⲁⲅⲉⲗⲗⲓⲟⲛ already in an early Bohairic manuscript, namely in papyrus Bodmer III dated to the 4th c. AD.[11]

Let us now look in more detail at each of the words in Table 1, beginning with the words related to Greek φραγέλλιον.

Bohairic ⲫⲣⲁⲅⲉⲗⲗⲓⲟⲛ/ ⲫⲣⲁⲕⲉⲗⲗⲓⲟⲛ

The word is missing from the traditional Coptic dictionaries[12] even as a loanword. It is however mentioned in Cherix’s Lexique grec-copte,[13] and in his Lexique copte (dialecte sahidique!) as a Greek loanword with the French meaning ‘fouet’, which is ‘whip’. The original Greek word is documented, e.g. in Trapp’s Lexikon[14] and in LSJ online,[15] where it is interpreted as a loanword from Latin. In the whole Bible, the Greek word only appears in John 2:15, and hence this is also the only occurrence of the loanword in the Bohairic Bible. The variant with might be an adaptation of the Greek loanword to the early Late Bohairic pronunciation in which could also stand for /g/.[16] I will return to some more details of ⲫⲣⲁⲅⲉⲗⲗⲓⲟⲛ in the section on ⲙⲁⲥⲧⲓⲅⲝ below.

Arabic فَرْقِلَّه  farqillah

Documented in several dictionaries, the word is always classified as an Arabic word used in Egypt, from Greek φραγέλλιον according to Dozy.[17] Another non-liturgical textual witness is no less than an Arabic manuscript of the “Thousand and One Nights” of the 14th c. preserved in Paris at the BnF under shelf mark Arabe 3609 and commented upon by the orientalist Fleischer,[18] who refers to the occurrence of farqillah, on f. 7r. This would be the second textual witness in Arabic of a word that seems to have been fairly common in Egypt at the time. It is therefore not surprising that the translator or scribe of our Bohairic–Arabic HWL chose a word he was familiar with.

But how do we reach farqillah from φραγέλλιον? In Arabic, consonant clusters never occur syllable initially. Therefore, in loanwords beginning with such clusters, a vowel is inserted in between the consonants. Also, words that contain inflectional markings that are foreign to Arabic show greater adaptation. This means that in most words of Greek origin, the endings -is, -os, -on, and -ion, are dropped in order to integrate them into the Arabic morphology. The word was furthermore partially adapted to the Arabic feminine pattern for tools or instruments by adding the feminine ending -ah.[19] Examples for this pattern are مطرقه miṭraqah ‘hammer’, مكنسه miknasah ‘broom’, and more interestingly, the two Arabic synonyms مخصره miḫṣarah and مقرعه miqraʿah, used to translate φραγέλλιον in the other Bohairic-Arabic HWL manuscripts (see Table 1). Finally, loanwords undergo different alterations from one Arabic dialect to another. Some varieties alter the /g/ into an Arabic /q/ such as in our example.

Figure 2 Adaptation of Greek φραγέλλ(ι)ον to Arabic

Let us now discuss the remaining translation solutions from Table 1, which use words that are not related to Greek φραγέλλιον.

Sahidic ⲙⲁⲥⲧⲓⲅⲝ

As can be seen in Table 1, all considered Sahidic textual witnesses use ⲙⲁⲥⲧⲓⲅⲝ[20] to translate φραγέλλιον in John 2:15. When we look at the entries of μάστιξ in the dictionaries of Greek,[21] we encounter ‘whip’ or ‘scourge’ as the first meaning. In the entry of Latin Flagrum/Flagellum in Smith’s Dictionary of Greek and Roman antiquities,[22] one can see μάστιξ in brackets (and not φραγέλλιον!), as well as a reference to John 2:15. The translators or scribes of the Sahidic version of the Bible were well acquainted with the word μάστιξ and its derivatives and usually used it to render in Sahidic the corresponding occurrences in the Septuagint (such as Job 21:9) or in the Greek New Testament (such as Acts 22:24). By contrast, the noun φραγέλλιον appears nowhere in the Sahidic Bible. However, even if they used ⲙⲁⲥⲧⲓⲅⲝ to translate φραγέλλιον in John 2:15, the verb derived from φραγέλλιον was known to the Sahidic translators or scribes (Cf. Sahidic version of Matthew 27:26 and Mark 15:15). These are however the only occurrences of this word family in the Sahidic Bible.

To comfort the above observations and introduce the next Arabic word used to render φραγέλλιον, let us look at another textual witness, i.e. the Coptic–Arabic manuscript Copte 44, preserved in Paris and known as Scala 44.[23] The word scala is Latin for sullām ‘ladder’, which is the Arabic term for a Coptic–Arabic glossary[24] because the words are arranged to the left (Coptic) and right (Arabic) in a way that resembles a ladder.[25] Among the various Coptic scalae, this is the most complete and best preserved. The 190 folios of the codex are divided into seven parts. Two parts that are relevant here are a Sahidic–Arabic “ecclesiastical vocabulary”, and a Bohairic-Arabic “ecclesiastical vocabulary”. They follow the order of the biblical and liturgical books and use the terms in the order in which they appear in the texts.[26] In the Sahidic–Arabic part of the vocabularies based on John, we see the loanword ⲙⲁⲥⲧⲓⲅⲝ translated in Arabic as farqillah and miqra3a. In contrast, in the Bohairic–Arabic part, ⲫⲣⲁⲅⲉⲗⲗⲓⲟⲛ is also translated as miqra3a and farqillah, confirming what I found in our bilingual HWL bo 3000L.

Arabic مقرعه miqraʿah and مخصره miḫṣarah

The first of these two words, miqraʿah, another Arabic word for ‘whip’[27] is mentioned in the Scala 44 beside farqillah, as we have just seen, and used in two of our bilingual Bohairic-Arabic HWL. The second Arabic rendering of ⲫⲣⲁⲅⲉⲗⲗⲓⲟⲛ is miḫṣarah. The entry in Lane’s Lexicon includes ‘whip’ but also anything one can hold in their hands to beat somebody.[28] This word does not appear in the Scala and is used in another two bilingual Bohairic–Arabic HWL as well as in our main monolingual Arabic HWL.

Both words are instrument nouns that follow the Arabic tools and instruments pattern mifʿalah[29] from the root qrʿ, which means to strike, and ḫṣr which has several meanings including waist and a verb meaning to hit on the waist.

Conclusions

After the scrutiny of the material that I have presented above, I will now try to answer some questions that are important for the research in the framework of our project:

  1. Is the Coptic word ⲫⲣⲁⲅⲉⲗⲗⲓⲟⲛ in John 2:15 a transcription of the Greek word φραγέλλιον? It seems so. In any case, it is scarcely documented elsewhere so the early Bohairic text in the 4th century Bodmer papyrus is possibly the origin of the use of this loanword in John 2:15 in the Bohairic linguistic space without becoming a well-established Coptic word.
  2. Is the Arabic word farqillah an adaptation of the Coptic word made by the Arabic translator of our HWL? Certainly not, for several reasons: a.- a transcription would have given the word as is with its ending, b.- the shape of the Arabic word indicates that it was already integrated in Egyptian Arabic before the 13th century and appears in non-biblical manuscripts, such as in the “Thousand and One Nights” and is well-known as an Egyptian Arabic word in the dictionaries.
  3. Can there be an explanation of the fact that the Sahidic text translates this word as ⲙⲁⲥⲧⲓⲅⲝ? ⲙⲁⲥⲧⲓⲅⲝ was an established loanword in Sahidic and appears across the Old Testament. The Sahidic translator, who, unlike the Bohairic translator, wrote for a readership with lesser knowledge of Greek,[30] may have preferred to use a well-known word with a well-known meaning. The Bohairic translator seems to have “possessed a thorough knowledge of the Greek language”,[31] and translated the Greek word literally.
  4. Why do all other bilingual or Arabic manuscripts use other words to render ⲫⲣⲁⲅⲉⲗⲗⲓⲟⲛ in Arabic? This question is difficult to answer and would need more research. What we can say for now is that the three translation solutions present three degrees of literality. The word farqillah may be considered the most literal translation as the word is derived from the Greek word in the source text, although one might object that its semantics has changed: most dictionaries state that it is a whip used only for animals. The word miqraʿah is a quite literal translation using a genuinely Arabic word whereas miḫṣarah is also a genuinely Arabic word but with a broad sense, which includes whips but also anything one can hold in their hands to beat somebody and hence also the instrument that Jesus made from ropes and used. What is most interesting is the fact that only the first, literal translation uses a word that is specifically Egyptian Arabic!

 

[1] It is the main codex used by Burmester in his fundamental edition of the Coptic Holy Week Lectionary, cf. Burmester O.H.E. (1933&1943). Lectionnaire de la Semaine Sainte. Texte copte édité avec traduction française d’après le manuscrit Add. 5997 du British Museum, 2 vols. Reprints 1985&1997.

[2] In the Coptic Holy Week, each day has five “night hours” and five “day hours”, and each of them has special readings.

[3] Cf. Coptic Dictionary Online, ed. by the Koptische/Coptic Electronic Language and Literature International Alliance (KELLIA), TLA lemma no. C10884, https://coptic-dictionary.org/entry.cgi?tla=C10884 (accessed 2024-02-10).

[4] Cf. Croy, C.N. (2009). The Messianic Whippersnapper: Did Jesus Use a Whip on People in the Temple (John 2:15)?, in The Journal of Biblical Literature 128.3, 555–568, p. 555.

[5] Manuscripts marked with an asterisk have been used in Förster, H./Sänger-Böhm, K./Schulz, M.H.O. (2021). Kritische Edition der sahidischen Version des Johannes-Evangeliums, Text und Dokumentation.

[6] Cf. Askeland, C. (2012). John’s Gospel. The Coptic Translations of its Greek Text, p. 69–70.

[7] Just for the sake of information and without pursuing this venue here, the manuscript Borg.ar.95 of the 9th c. preserved in Rome at the Biblioteca Vaticana (copied in Mar Saba in Palestine) uses درّه dirrah in John 2:15 as a translation of the Greek word φραγγέλιον. It is the only occurrence I was able to find in the numerous Arabic manuscripts that I have consulted. The entry in Lane, E.W. (1863). An Arabic-English Lexicon, (864a) is quite interesting: “a whip for flogging criminals as seems to be implied in TA [Taj al-ʿarūs]. I have not found any Arab who can describe it in the present day: it seems to have been a kind of whip, or scourge, of twisted cords or thongs, used for punishment and in sport, such as is now called فَرْقِلَّه [farqillah].

[8] The following passage and Figure 1 are based on the dictionaries and texts that I mention later in my detailed discussion of the words at issue.

[9] Cf. FEW = Walther von Wartburg, (1922–1987), Französisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch. Eine Darstellung des galloromanischen Sprachschatzes, 25 vols., vol. 3, p. 597, (https://lecteur-few.atilf.fr/lire/030/597). Documented in the Vetus Latina (https://itseeweb.cal.bham.ac.uk/iohannes/vetuslatina/manuscripts.html) and found in the Codex Palatinus (e) lat. 1185, copied in the fifth c. in Italy and preserved at the Museo Nazionale in Trento.

[10] The translator of John 2:15 in the Peshitta also uses a corresponding loanword that reached Syriac via Greek, cf. Butts, A.M. (2016), Latin words in Classical Syriac, in Journal of Syriac Studies 19.1, 123–192, p. 138.

[11] Cf. Kasser, R. (1958). Papyrus Bodmer III. Évangile de Jean et Genèse I–-IV, 2, en bohaïrique, 2 vols. p. 1 of the edition. In fact, the first editor Kasser had to reconstruct half of the word as it falls in a lacuna. Nevertheless, there is no alternative reconstruction, and any other specialist would have done the same.

[12] Such as Crum, W.E. (1939). A Coptic Dictionary or Förster, H. (2002). Wörterbuch der griechischen Wörter in den koptischen dokumentarischen Texten.

[13] Cf. Cherix, P. (2022). Lexique grec-copte, V.22.1, https://www.coptica.ch/Cherix-Lexigrec22.pdf, p. 170; Cherix, P. (2023). Lexique copte sahidique, V.23.1, https://www.coptica.ch/Cherix-Lexicopte23.pdf, p. 125.

[14] Cf. Trapp, E. et al. (1942–2017). Lexikon zur byzantinischen Gräzität: besonders des 9. - 12. Jahrhunderts, 2 vols, vol. 2, s.v.

[15] Cf. Liddell, H.G./Scott, R./Jones, H.S. (2006-). Greek–English Lexicon, https://stephanus.tlg.uci.edu/lsj/#eid=115194.

[16] Cf. Peust, C. (1999). Egyptian Phonology: An Introduction to the Phonology of a Dead Language, p. 92.

[17] Cf., for example, Hinds, M./Badawi, E. (1986). A Dictionary of Egyptian Arabic, s.v. or Dozy, R. (1881). Supplément aux dictionnaires arabes, 2 vols, s.v.

[18] Cf. Fleischer, H.L. (1827). Remarques critiques sur le premier tome de l’édition des Mille et une Nuits de M. Habicht, in Journal Asiatique, T. XI, 217–238, p. 230.

[19] For this kind of adaptations, cf. Buesa, N.M. (2015). The Adaptation of Loanwords in Classical Arabic: The Governing Factors. https://uknowledge.uky.edu/ltt_etds/7, p. 21–30.

[20] Cf. Coptic Dictionary Online, TLA lemma no. C9720 (ⲙⲁⲥⲧⲓⲅⲝ), https://coptic-dictionary.org/entry.cgi?tla=C9720 (accessed 2024-02-10).

[21] Cf. for example, Förster, Wörterbuch der griechischen Wörter, s.v., or Liddell/Scott/Jones. Greek–English Lexicon, s.v.

[22] Cf. Smith, W. (1859). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, 2nd edition, s.v.

[23] Khouzam, F. (2002). La langue Égyptienne au moyen âge. Le manuscrit copte 44 de Paris de la Bibliothèque nationale de France, vol. I.

[24] These lexical lists circulated mainly in the 13th and 14th centuries for the use of translators or monks, who still had to read and chant texts whose language they were no longer familiar with.

[25] Cf. Atiya, S.A. (1991). The Coptic Encyclopedia = CE: A204a-A207a.

[26] Cf. Sidarus, A. (1978). Coptic Lexicography in the Middles Ages, The Coptic Arabic Scalae, in Wilson, R. McL. (ed.) The Future of Coptic Studies, 125–142, p.128.

[27] Cf. Wehr, H. (1994). A dictionary of modern written Arabic, edited by J Milton Cowan. 4th ed, s.v.

[28] Cf. Lane, An Arabic-English Lexicon, p. 758c, 759a.

[29] Cf. Wright, W. (1874). A Grammar of the Arabic Language translated from the German of Caspari and edited, with numerous additions and corrections by William Wright, p. 147–148.

[30] Cf. Scrivener, F.H.A.(1894). A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament, vol. 2, p. 99.

[31] Cf. Askeland, John’s Gospel, p. 171.

Newsletter No. 4

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Festschrift Heike Behlmer TSKB 4

It is with special joy and affection that we announce the publication of a new volume in our project's book series Texte und Studien zur Koptischen Bibel (TSKB). TSKB 4 is a Festschrift dedicated to Heike Behlmer's 65th birthday. 57 authors from all over the world contributed 52 articles to an outstanding volume of 1076 pages. The topics of the volume cover – in an anthological variety – Egyptology, Coptic Studies, History of Scholarship, Gender Studies, and much more.

Heike Behlmer, Professor of Egyptology and Coptic Studies at the University of Göttingen, was responsible for the successful inauguration and installation of the Coptic Old Testament project at the Göttingen Academy and she supervises the project work as chair of the steering board for the project. The CoptOT team members are especially grateful to Heike for her commitment and devotion to the project.

May this book find many readers and enlighten them. The book (or e-book), or any other book of the series can be ordered with the publisher Harrassowitz. Here you can see an overview of the content of Festschrift Behlmer. 

Sahidic influences in two Bohairic Holy Week Lectionaries

As it is well known, the Coptic Old Testament is a daughter translation of the Greek Septuagint.[1] Unlike the Sahidic Old Testament, which was completely translated (unfortunately it did not survive in its entirety), the Old Testament was only partially translated into Bohairic (only the Pentateuch, Job, Psalms, and the Prophets are complete). Other books are only attested as excerpts, mostly in liturgical books as pericopae.[2]

The Sahidic influence was already observed by Burmester in some excerpts of Bohairic Old Testament books,[3] which are not widely copied, or of minor liturgical importance, as for example the Wisdom of Solomon, or Ecclesiasticus (Sirach), which are attested only as pericopae in the Holy Week Lectionary.[4]

Working on Bohairic manuscripts of the Holy Week Lectionary in the framework of the DFG project Project AT 193/2–1 “Digitale Edition und wissenschaftliche Erschließung des koptischen Paschalektionars,” I came across many Old Testament pericopae – in addition to the ones from Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus – in which a Sahidic source is undeniably present. The following tables show a comparison between some words and sentences from these pericopae from the Sahidic Holy Week Lectionary sa 16L (before 1443 AD) and their parallels from the Bohairic Holy Week Lectionaries using two manuscripts which show Sahidic influences:

  • bo 3005L = Vat. copt. 98 dated 1385 AD;
  • bo 3014L = ICP Copte-Arabe (part I) 6 & bo 3015L = ICP Copte-Arabe 7 (part II) dated 1777 AD.[5]

In addition to the forms found in the manuscripts, the expected standard Bohairic forms are given. For the Bohairic forms in the Minor Prophets, I consulted Henry Tattam’s 1836 edition, but did not always follow it.

 

  1. Phonological and orthographical peculiarities:

1.1. Aspiration

Aspiration is one of the main phonological phenomena that distinguish Bohairic from other Coptic dialects. Voiceless plosives (, , , ϫ) become aspirated (, , , ϭ) before sonorants and stressed syllables. The following table shows some examples, in which the scribe or the translator rendered the Sahidic words into Bohairic without considering the aspiration:

Table 1.1.1. 

sa 16L,
fol. 19r–19v

bo 3005L,
fol. 115r–116r

bo 3014L,
fol. 81r–81v

 Standard Bohairic form 

1Kgs 19:9

 ⲁϥⲡⲱϩ

 ⲁϥⲡⲓⲙϩⲧ (sic!)[6] 

 ⲁϥⲡ̀ⲱϩⲧ

 ⲁϥⲫⲟϩ [7]

 ⲛⲧⲟⲕ

 ⲛ̇ⲧⲱⲕ

 ⲛ̀ⲧⲟⲕ

 ⲛ̀ⲑⲟⲕ

1Kgs 19:10

 ⲟⲩⲕⲱϩ ⲁⲓ̈ⲕⲱϩ 

 ⲟⲩⲕⲟϩ ⲁⲓⲕⲟϩ

 ⲟⲩⲕⲱϩ ⲁⲓⲕⲱϩ 

 ⲟⲩⲭⲟϩ ⲁⲓⲭⲟϩ

 ⲁⲩⲕⲁⲁⲕ

 ⲁⲩⲕⲁⲕ

 ⲁⲩⲕⲁⲕ

 ⲁⲩⲭⲁⲕ

1Kgs 19:12

 ⲧⲏⲩ

 ⲧⲏⲩ

 ⲧⲏⲟⲩ

 ⲑⲏⲟⲩ

 

1.2. Hypercorrection

The following examples show unnecessary correction of some words: aspiration of before the sonorant in ⲡⲉⲧⲣⲁ and replacing ϩ with ϧ (very common).

Table 1.2.1. 

sa 16L,
 fol. 19r–19v 

 bo 3005L, 
fol. 115v

 bo 3014L, 
fol. 81v

 Standard Bohairic form 

1Kgs 19:11

 ⲡⲉⲧⲣⲁ

 ⲡⲉⲑⲣⲁ

 ⲡⲉⲑⲣⲁ

 ⲡⲉⲧⲣⲁ

 

Table 1.2.2. 

sa 16L,
fol. 135r

bo 3005L,
fol. 336v

bo 3015L,
fol. 256r

 Standard Bohairic form 

Mic 2:1

 ⲉ̇ϩ︤ⲛ︥ϩⲓ̈ⲥⲉ

 ⲉϧⲟⲩⲛϩⲓⲥⲓ (sic!) 

 ⲉ̀ϧⲉⲛϩⲓⲥⲓ

 ⲉ̀ϩⲁⲛϧⲓⲥⲓ

 ϩ︤ⲛ︥ⲡⲉⲑⲟⲟⲩ 

 ϧⲉⲛⲡⲉⲧϩⲱⲟⲩ

 ϧⲉⲛⲡⲉⲧϩⲱⲟⲩ 

 ϩⲁⲛⲡⲉⲧϩⲱⲟⲩ

 

1.3. Other Sahidic influences on the orthography

In the following examples, the scribe did not write the words in their standard Bohairic form:

Table 1.3.1. 

sa 16L,
 fol. 19r–19v 

bo 3005L,
 fol. 115r–116r 

bo 3014L,
 fol. 81r–81v 

 Standard Bohairic form 

1Kgs 19:9

 ⲉⲕⲣⲟⲩ

 ⲉⲕⲣⲟⲩ

 ⲉⲕⲣⲟ

 ⲉⲕⲉⲣⲟⲩ

1Kgs 19:11

 ⲉϥⲧⲁϫⲣⲏⲩ

 ⲉϥⲧⲁϫⲣⲏⲟⲩ

 ⲉϥⲧⲁϫⲣⲏⲟⲩ

 ⲉϥⲧⲁϫⲣⲏⲟⲩⲧ

1Kgs 19:13

 ⲁϩⲣⲟⲕ

 ⲁϩⲣⲟⲕ

 ⲁ̀ϩⲁⲣⲟⲕ

 ⲁϧⲣⲟⲕ

 

Table 1.3.2. 

sa 16L,
 fol. 135r 

bo 3005L,
fol. 336r

 bo 3015L, 
fol. 255v

 Standard Bohairic form 

Mic 1:15

 ϩⲉⲉⲕⲉϫⲱ 

 ϩⲉⲕϫⲱ[8] 

 ϩⲉⲕⲉϫⲱ

 ϧⲉⲕϫⲱ

 

  1. Morphological and syntactical misinterpretation and misunderstanding:

Another indication of Sahidic influence is misanalysing Sahidic phrases. The Bohairic scribe or translator either copied them as they are or misinterpreted them resulting in ungrammatical phrases.

For example, the Sahidic definite article for plural ⲛ- is analyzed as the particle ⲛ- (1Kgs 19:10, Table 2.1.) and the genitive particle with the definite article for plural ⲛ- is analyzed as the possessive prefix (ⲛ︤ⲛ︥ϭⲟⲙ > ⲛⲉⲛϫⲟⲙ) (1Kgs 19:10, Table 2.1.). We can also find forms copied from Sahidic, for example, the Sahidic ⲛⲉⲣⲉ- instead of the Bohairic ⲛⲁⲣⲉ- (1Kgs 19:11, Table 2.1.), Greek Verbs without the auxiliary ⲉⲣ- (Mic 2:2 Table 2.2.), the use of the Sahidic Temporal ⲛ̄ⲧⲉⲣⲉ- instead of its Bohairic counterpart ⲉⲧⲁ- (1Kgs 19:13, Table 2.1.) and the Sahidic forms of some words, for instance, ⲛ̄ⲛ̄ⲧⲟⲩⲉⲓ̈ⲏ̇ (1Kgs 19:11, Table 2.1.) and ⲛⲁⲩ “to them” (Hos 7:13, Table 2.3.).

The most interesting, and maybe the most common phenomenon, is misinterpreting almost every consonant cluster ⲙⲛ as the conjunction/preposition ⲛⲉⲙ, for instance, ⲙ︤ⲛ︥ⲛ̄ⲥⲁ > ⲛⲉⲙ ⲛ̇ⲥⲁ (1Kgs 19:12, Table 2.1.); ⲙ︤ⲛ︥ⲧⲭⲏⲣⲁ > ⲛⲉⲙ ⲧ̀ⲭⲏⲣⲁ (Mic 1:16, Table 2.2.).

Table 2.1.

sa 16L,
fol. 19r–19v

bo 3005L,
 fol. 115r–116r 

bo 3014L,
fol. 81r–81v

 Standard Bohairic form 

1Kgs 19:10

 ⲡ̄ⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ ⲛ︤ⲛ︥ϭⲟⲙ 

 ⲫϯ ⲛⲉⲛϫⲟⲙ̇

 ⲫϯ ⲛⲉⲛϫⲟⲙ

 ⲫϯ ⲛ̀ⲧⲉ ⲛⲓϫⲟⲙ

 ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ϫⲉ ⲛ̄ϣⲏⲣⲉ

 ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ϫⲉ ⲛ̇ϣⲏⲣⲓ

 ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ϫⲉ ⲛ̀ϣⲏⲣⲓ 

 ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ϫⲉ ⲛⲓϣⲏⲣⲓ

1Kgs 19:11

 ⲛ︤ⲅ︥ⲁ̇ϩⲉ ⲣⲁⲧ︤ⲕ︥

 ⲛⲉⲅⲁϩⲉⲣⲁⲧⲕ

 ⲛⲉⲅⲁϩⲉ̀ⲣⲁⲧⲕ

 ⲛ̀ⲧⲉⲕⲟ̀ϩⲓ ⲉ̀ⲣⲁⲧⲕ

 ⲛ̄ⲛ̄ⲧⲟⲩⲉⲓ̈ⲏ̇

 ⲛⲉⲛⲧⲟⲩⲉ̇ⲓⲏ̇

 ⲛⲉⲛⲧⲟⲩⲉ̀ⲓ̀ⲏ̀

 ⲛ̀ⲛⲓⲧⲱⲟⲩ

 ⲛⲉⲣⲉⲡϫⲟⲉⲓ̈ⲥ

 ⲛⲉⲣⲉⲡ⳪︦

 ⲛⲉⲣⲉⲡ⳪︦

 ⲛⲁⲣⲉⲡ⳪︦

1Kgs 19:12

 ⲙ︤ⲛ︥ⲛ̄ⲥⲁ

 ⲛⲉⲙ ⲛ̇ⲥⲁ

 ⲛⲉⲙ ⲛ̀ⲥⲁ

 ⲙⲉⲛⲉⲛⲥⲁ

1Kgs 19:13

 ⲛ̄ⲧⲉⲣⲉϩⲏⲗⲓ̈ⲁⲥ

 ⲛ̇ⲧⲉⲣⲉⲏ̇ⲗⲓⲁⲥ

 ⲛ̀ⲧⲉⲣⲉⲏ̀ⲗⲓⲁⲥ

 ⲉⲧⲁⲏⲗⲓⲁⲥ

 

Table 2.2.    

sa 16L,
fol. 135r

bo 3005L,
fol. 336r–336v

bo 3015L,
fol. 255v–256r

Standard Bohairic form

Mic 1:16

 ⲧⲁϣⲟ
 ⲛ̄ⲧⲟⲩⲙ︤ⲛ︥ⲧⲭⲏⲣⲁ 

 ⲧⲁϣⲟ ⲛ̀ⲧⲟⲩ ⲛⲉⲙ 
 ⲉⲧⲭⲏⲣⲁ
(sic!) 

 ⲧⲁϣⲟ ⲛ̀ⲧⲟⲩ ⲛⲉⲙ 
 ⲧ̀ⲭⲏⲣⲁ
(sic!) 

 ⲟⲩⲱϣⲥ ⲉ̀ⲃⲟⲗ ⲛ̀ⲧⲉⲙⲉⲧⲭⲏⲣⲁ 

Mic 2:2

 ⲁⲩⲉ̇ⲡⲉⲑⲩⲙⲉⲓ̈

 ⲁⲩⲉ̀ⲡⲓⲑⲩⲙⲓ

 ⲁⲩⲉ̀ⲡⲓⲑⲩⲙⲓ

 ⲁⲩⲉⲣⲉ̀ⲡⲓⲑⲩⲙⲓⲛ

 

Table 2.3. 

sa 16L,
fol. 160v–161r

bo 3005L,
fol. 371v–372r

bo 3015L,
fol. 283v

 Standard Bohairic form 

Hos 7:13

 ⲛⲁⲩ

 ⲛⲁⲩ

 ⲛⲁ

 ⲛⲱⲟⲩ

 ⲟⲩⲛⲟⲩⲙ︤ⲛ︦ⲧ︥ⲉⲃⲓ̈ⲏⲛ 

 ⲟⲩⲛⲟⲩ ⲛⲉⲙ ⲧⲉⲃⲓⲏⲛ 

 ⲟⲩⲛⲟⲩ ⲛⲉⲙ ⲧⲏⲃⲛⲏⲓ 

 ϩⲁⲛⲉ̀ⲃⲓⲏⲛ[9]

 ⲟⲩⲙ︤ⲛ︥ⲧⲛⲟⲩϫ

 ϩⲁⲛⲛⲉⲙⲉⲧⲛⲟⲩϫ

 ϩⲁⲛⲛⲉⲙⲉⲧⲛⲟϫ

 ϩⲁⲛⲙⲉⲑⲛⲟⲩϫ

Hos 7:16

 ⲙ̄ⲙ︤ⲛ︥ⲧⲁⲧⲥ̄ⲃⲱ

 ⲙ̀ⲙⲉⲛⲧⲁϯⲥⲃⲱ

 ⲙ̀ⲙⲉⲛⲧⲁϯⲥⲃⲱ

 ϯⲙⲉⲧⲁⲧⲥⲃⲱ

 

Table 2.4. 

sa 16L, fol. 171v

bo 3005L, fol. 387r

bo 3015L, fol. 296r

 Standard Bohairic form 

Josh 5:10

 ϩ︤ⲛ︥ ⲥⲟⲩⲙⲛⲧⲁϥⲧⲉ ⲙ̄ⲡⲉⲃⲟⲧ 

 ϧⲉⲛ ⲥⲟⲩⲛⲉⲙⲓ︤ⲇ︥ϯ ⲙ̀ⲡⲓⲁ̀ⲃⲟⲧ 

 ϧⲉⲛ ⲥⲟⲩⲛⲉⲙⲓ︤ⲇ︥ ⲙ̀ⲡⲓⲁ̀ⲃⲟⲧ 

 ϧⲉⲛ ⲥⲟⲩⲓ︤ⲇ︥ ⲙ̀ⲡⲓⲁ̀ⲃⲟⲧ

 

  1. Lexical influences:

The Sahidic Vorlage influenced the Bohairic translation, not only on the morphophonological or syntactic level, but also on the lexical one.

3.1. Using Sahidic lexemes in the Bohairic translation that are usually not common in Bohairic:

Table 3.1.1. 

sa 16L,
 fol. 19r–19v 

bo 3005L,
 fol. 115v–116r 

bo 3014L,
 fol. 81r–81v 

 Standard Bohairic form 

1Kgs 19:10

 ⲁⲩⲙⲟⲟⲩⲧⲟⲩ

 ⲁⲩⲙⲟⲟⲩⲧⲟⲩ

 ⲁⲩⲙⲟⲟⲩⲧⲟⲩ

 ⲁⲩϧⲟⲑⲃⲟⲩ

1Kgs 19:12

 ⲡⲕⲱϩⲧ

 ⲡⲓⲕⲱϩⲧ

 ⲡⲓⲕⲱϩⲧ

 ⲡⲓⲭⲣⲱⲙ

 

Table 3.1.2. 

sa 16L,
 fol. 135r–135v 

bo 3005L,
 fol. 336r–337r 

bo 3015L,
 fol. 256r–256v 

 Standard Bohairic form 

Mic 1:16

 ⲛ̄ⲑⲉ

 ⲛ̀ⲑⲉ

 ⲛ̀ⲑⲉ

 ⲙ̀ⲫⲣⲏϯ

Amos 2:7

 ⲁⲩⲃⲱⲕ

 ⲟⲩⲃⲱⲕ[10] 

 ⲁⲩⲃⲱⲕ

 ⲛⲁⲩⲛⲁ

 

3.2. In some cases, the Bohairic text shows Greek words, where standard Bohairic texts (as the Bohairic NT) would use a word of Egyptian origin:

Table 3.2.1. 

sa 16L,
fol. 19r

bo 3005L,
fol. 115v

bo 3014L,
fol. 81r–81v

 Standard Bohairic form 

1Kgs 19:10

 ⲛⲉⲕⲑⲩⲥⲓ̈ⲁⲥⲧⲏⲣⲓ̈ⲟⲛ 

 ⲛⲉⲕⲑⲩⲥⲓⲁ̀ⲥⲧⲏⲣⲓⲟⲛ 

 ⲛⲉⲕⲑⲩⲥⲓⲁ̀ⲥ̀ⲧⲏⲣⲓⲟⲛ 

 ⲛⲉⲕⲙⲁ ⲛⲉⲣϣⲱⲟⲩϣⲓ[11] 

1Kgs 19:11

 ⲛⲁⲡⲁⲣⲁⲅⲉ

 ⲛⲁⲡⲁⲣⲁⲅⲉ

 ⲛⲁⲡⲁⲣⲁⲅⲉ

 ⲛⲁⲥⲓⲛⲓ

 

Table 3.2.2. 

sa 16L,
 fol. 135r 

 bo 3005L, 
fol. 336v

 bo 3015L, 
fol. 256r

 Standard Bohairic form 

Mic 1:16

 ⲁⲓ̈ⲧⲟⲥ

 ⲁⲓⲧⲟⲥ

 ⲁⲓⲧⲟⲥ

 ⲁ̀ϧⲱⲙ[12]

 

These pericopae and many others that show influences from Sahidic are not attested in other Bohairic Holy Week Lectionaries.[13] The two parts of the Bohairic Holy Week Lectionary bo 3014L & bo 3015L were used in the White Monastery[14] in Upper Egypt where the Sahidic Holy Week Lectionaries were most probably kept.

The following observations can be made from the previous examples:

  • The scribe (and/or the translator) did indeed have some basic background knowledge about the differences between Sahidic and Bohairic; for instance, S ⲙⲛ > B ⲛⲉⲙ, some Sahidic words with ϩ have ϧ in Bohairic, the atonic at the end of a word in Sahidic is written in Bohairic, and aspiration (cf. Table 1.1.1.).
  • Nevertheless, the scribe (and/or the translator) was unable to understand some parts of the Sahidic texts. This is evident from his copying Sahidic words with/without a slight modification (according to the Bohairic orthographical and phonological rules) and incorrectly analyzing the texts (cf. Table 2.1.–2.4.).
  • For these passages with Sahidic influences, the scribe seems most probably to have translated them directly from a Sahidic Vorlage and not to have used a copy of the Bohairic Bible, even if a Bohairic translation of the biblical book existed. Evidence for this is the pericope of Amos 3:1–10, which is read twice during the Holy Week according to bo 3005L and the second part of the 18th-century lectionary bo 3015L (once on Good Friday morning and once at the sixth hour of Maundy Thursday evening), and once according to the other witnesses (only at the sixth hour of Maundy Thursday evening). The one read on Maundy Thursday and witnessed in all manuscripts identified in the DFG project AT 193/2–1 shows no Sahidic influence, unlike the one read on Good Friday. What is the reason for such differences in the two versions of Amos 3:1–10? When did this difference emerge? Maybe the Amos pericope with the Sahidic influences emerged later and the scribe did not have access to a copy of the Bohairic Bible? We cannot be sure.

These observations raise questions concerning the linguistic situation at least in the White Monastery in the second millennium. It appears that Sahidic and Bohairic were not completely and mutually intelligible, and the knowledge of Coptic was in full decline. Even if Coptic was no longer understood, we can assume that these biblical passages were read aloud in Coptic; a habit that is still practiced today in the liturgy of the Coptic Church.

 

Bibliography

Böhlig, Alexander. 1954a. Die griechischen Lehnwörter im sahidischen und im bohairischen Neuen Testament, Studien zur Erforschung des christlichen Aegyptens, Heft 2, München.

________. 1954b. Register und Vergleichstabellen zu Heft 2, Studien zur Erforschung des christlichen Aegyptens, Heft 2A, München.

Burmester, Oswald Hugh Edward. 1934. “The Bohairic Pericopae of Wisdom and Sirach,” in: Biblica 15, 451–465.

________. 1935. “The Bohairic Pericopae of Wisdom and Sirach,” in: Biblica 16, 25–57, 141–174.

Feder, Frank. 2008. “The Coptic Version(s) of the Book of Jesus Sirach,” in: Géza G. Xeravits and József Zsengellér (eds.), Studies in the Book of Ben Sira, Papers of the Third International Conference on the Deuterocanonical Books, Shime'on Centre, Pápa, Hungary, 18–20 May, 2006, Leiden and Boston, 11–20.

________. 2020. “1.1.6 The Coptic Canon,” in: Frank Feder and Matthias Henze (eds.), Textual History of the Bible. The Deuterocanonical Scriptures, Vol. 2A: 1 Overview Articles, 1.1 The Canonicle Histories of the Deuterocanonical Texts, Leiden and Boston, 213a–239.

Lagarde, Paul de. 1879. Orientalia. Teil I: Die koptischen Handschriften der Göttinger Bibliothek. Bruchstücke der koptischen Übersetzung des Alten Testaments, Abhandlungen der Königlichen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen, Philologisch-historische Klasse 24, Göttingen.

Lefort, Louis Théophile. 1925. S. Pachomii vita: Bohairice scripta, CSCO 89, Scriptores Coptici 7, Paris.

Tattam, Henry. 1836. ⲛⲓϫⲱⲙ ⲛⲧⲉ ⲛⲓⲓ︤ⲃ︥ ⲛⲛⲓⲡⲣⲟⲫⲏⲧⲏⲥ ⲛⲕⲟⲩϫⲓ ϧⲉⲛ ϯⲁⲥⲡⲓ ⲛⲧⲉ ⲛⲓⲣⲉⲙⲛⲭⲏⲙⲓ Duodecim prophetarum minorum libros in lingua Aegyptiaca vulgo Coptica seu Memphitica, Oxford.

 

[1] Feder 2008, 11.

[2] Feder 2020, 235–238. See, for example, the excerpts (mostly from the Historical Books) which Paul de Lagarde collected from liturgical manuscripts (Lagarde 1879, 64).

[3] Cf. Burmester 1934, 454.

[4] Cf. Burmester 1934; Feder 2008, 16.

[5] bo 3014L and bo 3015L are actually two parts of the same codex, but each has its own binding. The former begins with Palm Sunday and ends with Maundy Thursday evening, and the later begins with Maundy Thursday morning and ends with Easter Monday.

[6] It is not uncommon for scribes to confuse the three arms of the with and .

[7] Besides being influenced by the Sahidic Vorlage, for unknown reasons the Bohairic scribe used the verb ⲡⲱϩⲧ/ⲫⲱϧⲧ in this example instead of ⲡⲱϩ/ⲫⲟϩ.

[8] It was originally written ϩⲉⲕⲉϫⲱ, but the second was then erased.

[9] The literal equivalent of the Sahidic would be ⲟⲩⲟⲛⲟⲩⲙⲉⲧⲉⲃⲓⲏⲛ.

[10] The scribe apparently interpreted it as the noun ⲃⲱⲕ “servant”.

[11] The Greek word θυσιαστήριον “altar” is not found in the Bohairic NT but appears, e.g., four times in the Life of St. Pachomius (see Böhlig 1954b, 48–49; Lefort 1925, 238). The word ⲙⲁ ⲛⲉⲣϣⲱⲟⲩϣⲓ is used instead (Böhlig 1954a, 313).

[12] The Greek word ἀετός “eagle” is not found in the Bohairic NT but is found once in a hymn for St. Pachomius (see Böhlig 1954b, 6–7; Lefort 1925, 231). The word ⲁϧⲱⲙ is used instead (Böhlig 1954a, 161).

[13] At least among the known Bohairic Holy Week Lectionaries identified in the DFG project.

[14] As read in the Arabic colophon (bo 3015L, fol. 399v): “An eternal dedication […] to the church of the greatest among the saints, the great saint, our father, Apa Shenoute […] which is also called ‘the White Monastery’”.

Peter Nagel – Collected Biblica

The services of our project website have been enhanced with a new entry under "Digital Resources": Peter Nagel – Collected Biblica. Anyone who is interested in the history and transmission of the Coptic Bible has inevitably come accross the name of Peter Nagel. As Professor of Christian Near Eastern Studies in Halle (Saale) and Bonn he has influenced several generations of scholars. Peter Nagel is undoubtedly one of the most renowned scholars in the field of Coptic Studies. He has been honored with Festschriften on occasion of his 65th and his 80th birthday. The latter was also the first volume in our project's book series Texts and Studies on the Coptic Bible.

Since the 1980s he has been worked intensively on the edition of the Sahidic version of the Old Testament in particular. He was aware from the outset that only a systematic and comprehensive collection and documentation of the mostly dispersed and fragmented manuscript witnesses would make a complete edition a feasible project. Peter Nagel supported the planning of our project from the beginning. Thus, still during the process of applying for funding for the Complete Digital Edition and Translation of the Coptic–Sahidic Old Testament, an inaugural colloquium was held at the Coptic monastery in Brenkhausen to mark his 75th birthday in 2013. Two books that have appeared in our print publication series, Das Deuteronomium sahidisch and Der sahidische Psalter Editio Minor, are important preliminary text editions on the path towards the future complete digital edition of the Sahidic Old Testament.

The Collected Biblica make all the important articles and monographs on the Coptic Old Testament by Peter Nagel visible and, if the copyright has returned to the author, also accessible for download. With this online collection, we would like to thank Peter Nagel for his commitment to the study of the Coptic Bible and to our project. And, we hope to draw the attention of a public beyond the scholarly community to the seminal works that Peter Nagel has contributed to our field.

 

A Visit to the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 5 – 16 June 2023: Autopsying Coptic Holy Week Lectionaries (Part II)

Further to our visit to the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana in June and as announced in the first blog entry in July, here follow some on-site autopsy results of a few manuscripts I had the opportunity to consult during the visit. The information pertaining to the first manuscript described below can be found as Metadata in the Göttingen Virtual Manuscript Room. The information pertaining to the other manuscripts can be considered as draft entries of a catalogue of Coptic liturgical manuscripts, which is under construction.

sa 349L, 14–15th century[1]
Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Borg. Copt. 109, cass. XXIII, fasc. 98

Four extant folios originally belonging to a bilingual Sahidic–Arabic Holy Week lectionary of which another two folios are preserved at the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Written on unwatermarked Egyptian glossy ‘two-layered’ paper,[2] with apparent laid lines and non-distinguishable chain marks. Page dimensions 36.5x22.5 cm, text coverage 31x19 cm, lines per page 25 for the Sahidic text and 25 for the Arabic text, line width 11–13 cm for the Sahidic text and ca. 5 cm for the Arabic text, intercolumn ca.1 cm. 10 lines of text: 12 cm. Ornamented hanging capital letters in black, red, yellow, and green up to 7 cm in height at the beginning of pericopes. Hanging capital letters in black, red, and yellow at the beginning of paragraphs. The last two extant folios, which preserve the readings for the Synaxis on Holy Thursday with a pericope from the book of Isaiah, namely Isaiah 32,1–16, are the only known example with this reading at that hour, whereas all other Holy  Week lectionaries I have examined have another Isaiah reading at that same hour, usually from Isaiah 52–53.

Borg.copt.52, 18th century[3]

Bilingual Bohairic–Arabic Holy Week lectionary written on European paper with the tre lune watermark (in transmitted light, the paper reveals the distinctive originally Italian watermark tre lune,[4] (see fig. 1 below) three moon crescents in decreasing size, specifically created for the Levant),[5] 460 folios. Page dimensions 315x215 mm, written text dimensions 240x155 mm, lines per page 22–23, 10 lines height 10 cm, line width 10–11 cm for the Bohairic text, 4–4.5 cm for the Arabic text, intercolumn ca. 1 cm. The Bohairic columns end with catchwords. All alphas (ⲁ) at the beginning of a pericope are ornamented as birds, some surmounted by a cross (more than 70 occurrences). Begins with Palm Sunday Eve and ends with the Synaxis on Easter Sunday, includes the whole text of the Apocalypse. Colophon on folio 459v dated 2 of Tout 1492 A.M., 1189 A.H., corresponding to 1775 A.D. Scribe Dāwūd Mīnā Aljīzāwī (داوود مينا الجيزاوي), surnamed al-Muwaqaʿ (الموقع), deacon of the Coptic Catholic Church.

Fig. 1: Three crescents, watermark in Isl. Ms. 589 (Yemen 1660)[6]

Vat.copt.34, 16th–17th century[7]

Bohairic manuscript with Bohairic–Arabic rubrics, 299 folios, page dimensions 295x205 mm, 21 lines per page. Begins with Palm Sunday and ends with Easter Sunday. This manuscript was written by two different hands. The first hand wrote the first 90 pages (up unto folio 45v, line 7) and the second hand undertook the writing from folio 45v, line 8 up unto the end of the manuscript. Anonymous invocations to pray for the soul of the ‘unworthy scribe’ are written in Arabic at the bottom of the page on folios 21v, 62r, 66v, 158v and 219r.[8]

Vat.copt.90, 18th century[9]

Bohairic manuscript with Bohairic–Arabic rubrics, 298 folios, page dimensions 330x225 mm, 22–25 lines per page. Begins with Palm Sunday and ends with Easter Sunday. Arabic colophon on f. 297 written by the scribe Maqarios ibn ishm Allah, monk at the Baramous Monastery in the Nitrian Desert and dated 1440 A.M., 1724 A.D.

Vat.ar.15, 14th century

We wrongly assumed that this non-digitized Arabic codex was a Holy Week lectionary. It turned out to be a Gospel lectionary with an index of all the lections from the New Testament to be read during the prayers and the masses all days of the year.[10] The 138 folios are made of unwatermarked Egyptian paper. This Gospel lectionary features a colophon on folio 135, dated 1054 A.M., 1338 A.D.

Bibliography

- Atanassova, Diliana (2018). Neue Erkenntnisse bei der Erforschung der sahidischen Quellen für die Paschawoche, in: Heike Behlmer, Ute Pietruschka and Frank Feder (eds), Ägypten und der Christliche Orient. Peter Nagel zum 80. Geburtstag (Texte und Studien zur Koptischen Bibel 1). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1–37.
- Briquet, Charles-Moise (1907). Les filigranes. Dictionnaire historique des marques du papier dès leur apparition vers 1282 jusqu’en 1600 avec 39 figures dans le texte et 16 112 fac-similés de filigranes, volume 2 (Ci-K), Paris : Alphonse Picard et Fils.
- Burmester, Oswald Hugh Edward (1933). Le Lectionnaire de la Semaine Sainte. Texte copte édité avec traduction française d’après le manuscrit Add. 5997 du British Museum, vol. I (Patrologia Orientalis, 24,2, Nr. 117). Paris: Firmin-Didot (Reprint Turnhout: Brepols 1985).
- Hebbelynck, Adolph/van Lantschoot Arnold (1937). Codices Coptici Vaticani Barberiniani Borgiani Rossiani, I: Codices Coptici Vaticani, Bibliothecae Apostolicae Vaticanae codices manu scripti recensiti. Rome: In Bibliotheca Vaticana.
- Humbert, Geneviève (2002), Le manuscrit arabe et ses papiers, in Revue des mondes musulmans et de la Méditerranée 99–100/2002, 55–77, 67. https://journals.openedition.org/remmm/1174.
- Kropf, Evyn. Watermark Wednesdays blog series. Beyond the Reading Room (2014–2016)
https://blogs.lib.umich.edu/beyond-reading-room/watermark-wednesdays-three-crescents.
- Le Léannec-Bavavéas, Marie-Thérèse (1998). Les papiers non filigranés. État présent des recherches et perspectives d'avenir. Paris: CNRS Éditions.
- Karabacek, Joseph von, (1991). Joseph von Karabacek, Arab Paper 1887, translated by Don Baker and Suzy Dittmar with additional notes by Don Baker. London: Archetype Publications.
- Mai, Angelo (1831). Catalogus codicum bibliothecae Vaticanae Arabicorum, Persicorum, Turcicorum, Chaldaicorum, Aethiopicorum, Slavicorum, Indicorum, Copticorum, Armenicorum et Ibericorum, item ejus partis Hebraicorum et Syriacorum, quam Assernanni in editione praeternisserunt Catalogus Codicum Bibliothecae Vaticanae. Rome: Typis 
Vaticanis.
- Zanetti, Ugo (1986). Filigranes vénitiens en Égypte, in Studi Albanologici, Balcanici, Bizantini e Orientali, in onore di Giuseppe Valentini S.J., (= Studi albanologici. Studi e Testi, 6). Florence: Olschki, 437–499.


[1] First identified by Atanassova as belonging to a Holy Week lectionary, Cf. Atanassova, Neue Erkenntnisse,12–13.

[2] Karabacek, Arab Paper, 29–30; Zanetti, Filigranes vénitiens, 445–446; Le Léannec-Bavavéas, Les papiers non 
filigranés, 85–86.

[3] Included as R3 in Burmester’s collation of 21 manuscripts, cf. Burmester, Lectionnaire, I, 176.

[4] Briquet, Les filigranes, 314b–315a; Zanetti, Filigranes vénitiens, 447–448.

[5] Humbert, Le manuscrit arabe, 67. https://journals.openedition.org/remmm/1174.

[6] From Evyn Kropf, Watermark Wednesdays: Three crescents, https://blogs.lib.umich.edu/beyond-reading-
room/watermark-wednesdays-three-crescents

[7] Included as R in Burmester’s collation of 21 manuscripts, cf. Burmester, Lectionnaire, I, 176.

[8] For more details on the contents, cf. Hebbelynck/van Lantschoot, Codices Coptici Vaticani, 126–135.

[9] Included as R1 in Burmester’s collation of 21 manuscripts, cf. Burmester, Lectionnaire, I, 176.

[10] Mai, Catalogus, Codices Arabici, 14–34.

Kolloquium zur koptischen Bibel, Sprache und Literatur im Gedenken an Jürgen Horn

 

This blog post also serves as an opportunity for me to introduce myself!  My name is Leila Hyde and I am from a little town on the island of Oahu in Hawaii.  I earned my bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University - Hawaii in History and then pursued a master’s degree at Indiana University in Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures with a focus in Egyptology.  I arrived in Göttingen in May to begin working as a Trainee with the project.

July 7th, 2023 allowed for the celebration of the life and work of Dr. Jürgen Horn.  As a newcomer to the Academy and the city of Göttingen, I was pleased to become acquainted with some of the individuals in attendance.  The presentations vividly reminded those in attendance of Jürgen Horn’s widespread scholarly interests, the numerous contributions he made to academia as well as the good friend he was to those he worked with. After a welcoming address by Heike Behlmer introducing Jürgen Horn as teacher, colleague, and friend, some special aspects of Horn’s research were highlighted. Frank Feder recalled their common work during the former Halle University project “Koptische Septuaginta” (1994-1999) and the important contribution which Jürgen Horn made to the reconstruction and edition of the Coptic Old Testament.

 

Sebastian Richter focused on Horn’s interest in the history of scholarship on Ancient Egypt and singled out the outstanding but unpublished introduction to a planned volume on Wilhelm von Humboldt’s (1767-1835) essay “Ueber die coptische Sprache”. The Prussian diplomat and statesman, brother of the famous scientist and explorer Alexander, had a vivid interest in the Egyptian language. Matthias Müller reminded the audience of Jürgen Horn’s research on documentary sources and suggested the location of a newly discovered monastery in Western Thebes. Finally, the “Märtyrerhelden” presented by Gerald Moers not only connected the cult of the Christian martyrs in Late Antique Egypt with today’s, but also shed light on this central topic in Jürgen Horn’s research, the martyr accounts, on which he wrote his dissertation. 

 

 

Just before Anne Boud’hors gave her impressive evening lecture “Die Macht Gottes und die Milde des Propheten”, on the policy of quoting the books of the prophets in Coptic Literature, Diliana Atanassova and Frank Feder surprised Heike Behlmer with her birthday present, a copy of her Festschrift entitled: Pharaonen, Mönche und Gelehrte, comprising more than 1000 pages with articles by 58 contributors. 

 

Following the talks and presentation of the Festschrift, a delicious dinner was served which was prepared by many of the members of the Project.  This allowed many people to continue to talk with old friends and to make new acquaintances facilitating a good environment for networking and sharing ideas.

A Visit to the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 5–16 June 2023: Autopsying Coptic Holy Week Lectionaries (Part I)

The investigation of the Coptic Holy Week Lectionary in Egypt is the primary objective of the DFG project AT 193/2–1 “Digital Edition and Critical Evaluation of the Coptic Holy Week Lectionary” currently pursued at the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities of Lower Saxony. The on-site consultation of the manuscripts constituting the backbone of the project’s research is one of its milestones. During a 14-day visit of the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, we were able to shed light on aspects up till then invisible on the digital reproductions of manuscript pages and to proceed to an autopsy of some non-digitized manuscripts. The Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana is home to two of our main Sahidic–Arabic Holy Week lectionaries (included in the digital collection of the Vatican library) and to three of the Bohairic–Arabic Holy Week lectionaries (not yet digitized by the Vatican library) used by Burmester in his “Le Lectionnaire de la Semaine Sainte”.[1] Besides the activities mentioned above, the visit also allowed us to exclude the codex Vat.ar.15, a non-digitized Arabic codex wrongly assumed to be a Holy Week lectionary. My colleague Diliana Atanassova was also there for an on-site autopsy of all Sahidic liturgical typika kept in BAV within the framework of her DFG project AT 193/1–1 “The Hymns in the Coptic Liturgy of the White Monastery in Upper Egypt”.

The autopsy results concerning the manuscript sa 16L are presented in what follows. Part II (forthcoming) will be dedicated to some other manuscripts.


sa 16L, end of the 14th century [2] 
Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Borg. Copt. 109, cass. XXIII, fasc. 99

Bilingual Sahidic–Arabic Holy Week lectionary written on unwatermarked Egyptian brownish ‘two-layered’ paper,[3] with apparent laid lines and non-distinguishable chain marks, 189 surviving folios, page dimensions 36.5x26.5 cm, text coverage 25.5x19 cm, lines per page: 26–28 for the Sahidic text and 15–22 for the Arabic text, line width 11–13 cm for the Sahidic text and ca. 6 cm for the Arabic text, intercolumn almost non-existent. 10 lines of Coptic text: 9–9.5 cm, corresponding to 7 lines of Arabic text. Initial structure: 27 quaternions. Extant: 25 quaternions, three of which with missing folios. Last quire: Three folios and a stub before a last folio added at the end. In its current state, the lectionary begins with the ninth Hour of the Day on Holy Monday and ends with Holy Saturday. Six marginal notes, four in Arabic, one in Bohairic and one bilingual in Bohairic and Arabic. Four give us details about the owner family of the manuscript before it came to Rome, as for example the marginal note dated 1160 A.M. corresponding to 1443 A.D. that provides us with a terminus post quem non for the writing of the codex.[4] 

One of the aims of the autopsy was to identify the text on f. 187r of the codex. Water leak between f. 186v and 187r had resulted in a transfer of ink from one page to the other leading to the fading of the red ink on f. 187r or to its coverage by the black ink transferred from the previous page (fig. 1).

Detail, sa 16L, f. 187r
https://coptot.manuscriptroom.com/community/modules/papyri/?site=INTF&image=620016/89052/2870/20/96

Using a magnifying glass with light as well as UV light helped identify parts of the damaged text and allowed for a tentative reconstruction.


 

Comments:
The page above begins with the first liturgical rubric mentioning that the people recite the Nicaean Creed of which the incipits are given in Greek and Coptic in the left column, and in Arabic in the right column. 
The next frame includes a liturgical instruction, the deciphering of which turned out to be a very challenging task. In spite of our efforts, and the use of the tools at our disposal in the BAV, we were not able to identify every letter on all lines. Nevertheless, we made a significant step forward. We read many and reconstructed plausibly most of the letters. As a result, four elements could be singled out. (1) Despite the fact that the first line of the liturgical instruction is completely illegible, it most probably informs us of what should happen to the Cross at the end of the first Hour of the Day of Holy Saturday. Maybe the Cross was to be lifted by the priest? (2) We guess that the third line includes the Coptic word for “linen or silk”. Should there be an object (Cross or icon) wrapped in silk or linen? The censers are clearly legible in the Arabic counterpart but not to be found in the Coptic text. (3) Many lighted lamps and candles were most probably carried around. (4) Something had to be done in the church four times. The first thing that comes to mind is the procession round the church. However, we know that the priest goes in procession “thrice round the church” [5] at that hour and not four times. The number ‘four’ is clearly legible as much in Coptic as in Arabic. Does the number ‘four’ refer to the four cardinal points and not to the procession round the church? As one can see, we still have a few questions to be answered regarding the liturgical instruction. 
The second liturgical rubric can be read without problem. First, it informs us that the ṭarḥ should be sung to the melody type ‘Adam’, a well-known praise that begins with the word ‘Adam’. Obviously, the scribe attributes this ṭarḥ to Severus. Again, new questions will need to be investigated.

 

Bibliography
- Burmester, Oswald Hugh Edward (1933). Le Lectionnaire de la Semaine Sainte. Texte copte édité avec traduction française d’après le manuscrit Add. 5997 du British Museum, vol. I (Patrologia Orientalis, 24,2, Nr. 117). Paris: Firmin-Didot (Reprint Turnhout: Brepols 1985).
- Burmester, Oswald Hugh Edward (1943). Le Lectionnaire de la Semaine Sainte. Texte copte édité avec traduction française d’après le manuscrit Add. 5997 du British Museum, vol. II (Patrologia Orientalis 25,2, Nr. 122). Paris: Graffin (Reprint Turnhout: Brepols 1997).
- Burmester, Oswald Hugh Edward (1967). The Egyptian or Coptic Church. A detailed description of Her Liturgical Services and the Rites and Ceremonies observed in the Administration of Her Sacraments. Cairo: Société d’archéologie copte. 
- Elhage-Mensching, Lina (forthcoming). The Owner Family of a Sahidic–Arabic Holy Week lectionary: Arabic and Bohairic marginalia in the 14th century codex sa 16L, to appear in Acts of the Twelfth International Congress of Coptic Studies, Brussels 11–16 July 2022.
- Le Léannec-Bavavéas, Marie-Thérèse (1998). Les papiers non filigranés. État présent des recherches et perspectives d'avenir. Paris: CNRS Éditions.
- Karabacek, Joseph von, (1991). Joseph von Karabacek, Arab Paper 1887, translated by Don Baker and Suzy Dittmar with additional notes by Don Baker. London: Archetype Publications.
- Zanetti, Ugo (1986). Filigranes vénitiens en Égypte, in Studi Albanologici, Balcanici, Bizantini e Orientali, in onore di Giuseppe Valentini S.J., (= Studi albanologici. Studi e Testi, 6). Florence: Olschki, 437–499.

 

 

[1] Burmester, Lectionnaire I–II.

[2] Included as R4 in Burmester’s collation of 21 manuscripts, cf. Burmester, Lectionnaire, I, 176.

[3] Karabacek, Arab Paper, 29–30; Zanetti, Filigranes vénitiens, 445–446; Le Léannec-Bavavéas, Les papiers non filigranés, 85–86.

[4] Cf. Elhage-Mensching, The Owner Family of sa 16L.

[5] Burmester, The Egyptian or Coptic Church, 291.

The cataloguing of the newly-digitized Coptic manuscripts of the British Library

A collaboration between the Digital Edition and Translation of the Coptic-Sahidic Old Testament Project and the British Library

By Chrysi Kotsifou

In May 2019, I visited the British Library to work on some Coptic Old Testament manuscripts from their collection. It was also then that I met for the first time with Dr Ilana Tahan, Lead Curator of the Hebrew and Christian Orient Collections. I was very glad to find out from her that the British Library would be starting a project of digitizing selected manuscripts from their Christian Orient Collections. Ilana Tahan had already created the Hebrew Manuscripts Digitisation Project and now with the Eastern Christian Manuscripts Digitization Project, her department would be digitizing for the first time selected Coptic, Armenian, and Syriac manuscripts. This project has been part of the Heritage Made Digital (HMD) programme initiated and funded by the British Library. For Ilana Tahan it was imperative that the selection of the manuscripts to be digitized reflected the diverse fields of knowledge represented in each collection. Besides religious texts, the selection included secular topics such as linguistics, sciences, philosophy, and various others.

She asked me if our project would be willing to assist her in the selection of the Coptic manuscripts to be digitized. It was a great opportunity and honour to be part of this very important endeavor, especially if we consider that so far, the British Library has online only four items, namely Papyrus 98, Papyrus 1442, Or.6801, and Or.7029, and these newly-digitized manuscripts will be made available to everyone online for free. Ilana Tahan had already a list of selected Coptic manuscripts and immediately in May 2019, we offered her our recommendations and additions to that list. In the years to follow, I maintained a continuous collaboration with Dr Tahan and was able to follow how this project evolved and is now close to its completion. The years of the pandemic certainly delayed matters but the digitization project managed to carry on. With the first list of Coptic manuscripts having been established, the British Library then needed to proceed to the conservation of these items. Some of these manuscripts are papyrus and some parchment and many items are mounted in glass frames, especially the papyrus ones. All issues of conservation of the selected items needed to be addressed, before any digitization took place. In April 2021, I also contacted Prof. Siegfried G. Richter (then at the Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung at Münster University) who also recommended to us more Coptic manuscripts to be digitized.

During my second visit at the British Library in May 2022, Dr Tahan was very happy to inform me that most of the Coptic manuscripts had already been restored and digitized. Unavoidably before any of these manuscripts could be made available to the public, they needed to be newly-catalogued and have all their metadata updated. Our project offered then to Dr Tahan that we undertake the task of creating this new catalogue. The digitization of the Coptic manuscripts was concluded by the winter of 2022; our project and the British Library signed a Memorandum of Understanding in February 2023; and in the months to follow we received in numerous batches the digital images. Here is the list of the Coptic manuscripts that have been digitized:

  • Add MS 5114 (Pistis Sophia)
  • Add MS 5996 (Lectionary)
  • Add MS 5997 (Lectionary)
  • Add MS 17725 (The Euchologion)
  • Add MS 18997 (Bohairic Proverbs, Job)
  • Add MS 19902 (Sahidic NT Fragment)
  • Or 424 (Bohairic Pauline Epistles)
  • Or 425 (Four Gospels Coptic & Arabic)
  • Or 429 (The Euchologion)
  • Or 433 (Baptismal service)
  • Or 438 (Consecration of the Holy Oil)
  • Or 1241 (Liturgical and Biblical Fragments)
  • Or 1314(1) (Bohairic Minor Prophets, Daniel)
  • Or 1314(2) (Bohairic Minor Prophets, Daniel)
  • Or 1315 (Four Gospels)
  • Or 1318 (Pauline Epistles)
  • Or 1319 (OT Isaiah, Corpus Ieremiae)
  • Or 1320 (Canons of Apostles)
  • Or 1322 (Services for the consecration of Monks & Nuns)
  • Or 1325 (Arabic-Coptic grammars and vocabularies)
  • Or 3381 (Four Gospels)
  • Or 3579A (Sahidic OT)
  • Or 3579B (Sahidic NT)
  • Or 3581 A (Homilies)
  • Or 4844 (Psalms)
  • Or 5000 (Budge Psalter)
  • Or 5001 (Budge Homilies)
  • Or 5287 (Misc. Coptic Fragments)
  • Or 5984 (Wisdom Books)
  • Or 5987 A–C (Magical Charm)
  • Or 6010 (Prochorus, Acts of John)
  • Or 6019 (A charm)
  • Or 6695 (Pauline Epistles and John)
  • Or 6781 (Ps.-Theodosius of Alexandria)
  • Or 6783 (Miscellany)
  • Or 7021 (Encomium of Theodosius)
  • Or 7029 (Life of Aaron)
  • Or 7594 (Biblical Misc. Papyrus)
  • Or 8799 (Miscellany)
  • Or 8800 (White Monastery fragments of Shenoute)
  • Or 8802 (White Monastery palimpsest fragments)
  • Or 8808 (Psalms)
  • Or 8810 (White Monastery fragments)
  • Or 13825 (Book of Sirach)
  • Or 14149 (Gospel Fragments)
  • ORB.99/260 (Book bindings)
  • Papyrus IV (Deed)
  • Papyrus 91 (Letter)
  • Papyrus XLVIII (Job)

A priority list of Coptic manuscripts to be catalogued has been established in our contract with the British Library. These are the 46 underlined shelfmarks in the list above. Alin Suciu and I will carry out this first phase of the cataloguing. In the meantime, Alin Suciu has been in contact with Michael Erdman in the British Library and together they have updated the British Library Metadata Template to reflect better the cataloguing needs of Coptic manuscripts, especially the ones that are dispersed piece by piece in numerous countries and collections. This new catalogue will certainly be a welcome addition to Walter E. Crum’s Catalogue of the Coptic manuscripts in the British Museum, London, 1905, and Bentley Layton’s Catalogue of Coptic literary manuscripts in the British Library acquired since the year 1906, London, 1987. Besides cataloguing, in due course our project will also edit all the newly-digitized Old Testament manuscripts on our Virtual Manuscript Room (VMR).

Last but not least, I would like to mention that the British Library also digitized the book bindings of the Coptic manuscripts in their collection. We received those photographs, as well, and I intend to catalogue them after the priority phase of the cataloguing is completed.

This collaboration is ongoing for five years now and there are still goals to be achieved. Our project believes that the British Library and Ilana Tahan undertook a very worthy cause and we are pleased to be part of it and to assist in any way possible towards its completion. Coptic studies are bound to be enriched in numerous ways when all the above-mentioned manuscripts will be made available to the public. But also, the contemporary Coptic communities in Egypt and abroad, whether lay or monastic, will be thrilled to see their heritage so carefully and scientifically treated and easily accessible to them.

The Digital Edition and Critical Evaluation of the Coptic Holy Week Lectionary: 2022 progress report

On 4/11/2022, I reported on the new project dedicated to the Coptic Holy Week Lectionary (HWL), co-led by Diliana Atanassova and Frank Feder. Now, almost one year after its launch, it is time to provide a first progress report with the highlights of the period from April 1 to December 31, 2022.

1. New dedicated Holy Week Lectionary space in the VMR

The VMR now hosts three new dedicated sections for the Holy Week Lectionaries: Holy Week Lectionary Sahidic, Holy Week Lectionary Bohairic, and Holy Week Lectionary Arabic. We have updated the existing stock of digital copies of Holy Week lectionaries in the VMR with further manuscripts listed separately under the respective dedicated sections and henceforth available for transcription.

1.1 Uploading and display

The list in the new Holy Week Lectionary Sahidic section displays the five lectionaries that were already hosted in the Göttingen CoptOT manuscript workspace. These are sa 16L (1), sa 292L (2), sa 298L (3), sa 299L (4), and sa 349L (5) and correspond to more than 270 leaves.

The list in the new Holy Week Lectionary Bohairic section now includes six Holy Week lectionaries and four Ṭuruḥat for the Holy Week codexes, all newly prepared and uploaded. These are bo 3000L (6), bo 3003L (7), bo 3004L (8), bo 3004L (9), bo 3005L (10), bo 3006L (11), and bo 3007L (12), totalling more than 2000 leaves. The Ṭuruḥat are bo 3009L (13), 3010L (14), 3011L (15), and 3013L (16) and total 272 leaves.

The list in the new Holy Week Lectionary Arabic section includes all bilingual Sahidic–Arabic and Bohairic–Arabic Holy Week lectionaries already included in the other two dedicated sections as well as the monolingual Holy Week lectionary ar 1L (17) (185 leaves).

1.2 Indexing and tagging

Indexing in our context means identifying the contents of each page of a manuscript, i.e. biblical passages, liturgical instructions, liturgical rubrics, homilies, hymns, etc. Indexing is an essential work in preparation of the transcription of the texts in the codices. This step was further expanded by the development of a new feature tagging system specific to the Holy Week Lectionary, where the period, the day of the Holy Week and the time of the service are encoded. This can be seen in the following illustration

 

In this case, the relevant pages have been indexed for the biblical passages they contain. The lines in red are the so-called features, which were created specifically for the HWL project. They contain information on the day of the Holy Week, the service at issue (Night or Day) and the hour at which the biblical passage is read. For example, the features for Page ID 10, “P: HolyW WD5 SvcD12” read: Holy Week, Day 5 (i.e. Holy Thursday), 12th Hour of the Day.

 

The three Sahidic–Arabic and one of the two monolingual Sahidic HWLs were fully indexed and tagged (245 leaves) by me. I also set off and progressed on the indexing and feature-tagging of the monolingual Arabic HWL. More than 1100 leaves of the Bohairic HWLs were indexed by Peter Missael.

 

 

 

1.3 Transcription

Of the manuscripts mentioned in section 1.1, I fully transcribed the Sahidic and the Arabic texts of the three Sahidic–Arabic HWL manuscripts sa 16L, sa 292L, and sa 349L as well as of the Sahidic texts of the monolingual sa 298L in the Transcription Editor of the Göttingen VMR in line with the rules worked out by the CoptOT team (250 leaves). The diplomatic editions of the Sahidic texts contained in the above HWLs were part of two critical editions carried out by the CoptOT team: Isaiah 53  and Leviticus.

The Bohairic parts of the bilingual Bohairic–Arabic HWLs are being transcribed. The Bohairic texts already transcribed by Diliana Atanassova and Peter Missael amount to 370 leaves.

My transcription of the Arabic text of the monolingual HWL ar 1L (Paris, BnF, Arab 113) was also set off in 2022.

1.4 Special challenges

During the transcription of the HWL manuscripts, special challenges were met, such as the introduction and adaptation to the LXX versification of a Bohairic biblical base text and of an Arabic biblical base text in the essentially Sahidic environment of the Göttingen CoptOT VMR. Moreover, transcribing Arabic text, which must read from right to left, in an environment where all other transcriptions read from left to right was yet another challenge that had to be tackled.

Our special thanks go to our colleagues from the CoptOT team and more specifically to Troy A. Griffitts and Ulrich B. Schmid for their support, understanding and creativity in helping us overcome the above-mentioned challenges and enabling the integration of a new language and new features in the VMR.

2. Talks at Congresses

Diliana Atanassova and Lina Elhage-Mensching were present at two important liturgical events:

  • The Interdisciplinary Symposium “The Liturgy of St James” of the University of Regensburg, 6–10 June 2022, Regensburg, Germany with a joint contribution with the title “The Anaphora of St James in a Sahidic Euchologion”
  • The 8th International Congress of the Society of Oriental Liturgy,13–18 June 2022, Thessaloniki, Greece with a joint contribution with the title “The Digital Edition and Critical Evaluation of the Coptic Holy Week Lectionary”.

Diliana Atanassova, Lina Elhage-Mensching, and Frank Feder attended the 12th International Congress of Coptic Studies of the International Association of Coptic Studies, 11–16 July 2022, Brussels, Belgium.

  • Diliana Atanassova presented the plenary paper on the developments in the research on Coptic Liturgy from 2012 to 2022, and
  • Lina Elhage-Mensching contributed with a talk titled “The Owner Family of sa 16L” 
  • Frank Feder held a talk related to the Digital Edition of the Coptic Old Testament.

3. Blog articles

Elhage-Mensching, Lina, “New DFG Project at the Göttingen Academy: ‘Digital Edition and Critical Evaluation of the Coptic Holy Week Lectionary’ (01.04.2022 – 31.03.2025).” In: Digital Edition of the Coptic Old Testament, https://coptot.manuscriptroom.com/blog/-/blogs/new-dfg-project-at-the-gottingen-academy-digital-edition-and-critical-evaluation-of-the-coptic-holy-week-lectionary-01-04-2022-31-03-2025-, 11 April 2022.

Elhage-Mensching, Lina, “The Arabic Bible in the new DFG project “Digital Edition and Critical Evaluation of the Coptic Holy Week Lectionary.” In: Biblia Arabica, https://biblia-arabica.com/the-arabic-bible-in-the-new-dfg-project-digital-edition-and-critical-evaluation-of-the-coptic-holy-week-lectionary/, 6 June 2022.

4. Publications

Atanassova, Diliana, “Die Predigten Schenutes in den liturgischen Typika des Weißen Klosters,” in: The Rediscovery of ShenouteStudies in Honor of Stephen Emmel, edited by Anne Boud’hors, with the assistance of David Brakke, Andrew Crisip, and Samuel Moawad (OLA 310), Leuven, 2022, 27–75.

––––––, “Coptic Monastic Canons,” in: Coptic Literature. Proceedings of the Ninth International Symposium of Coptic Studies by the Saint Mark Foundation. Monastery of St. Bishoi (Wadi al-Natrun), 10–14 February, 2019, edited by Samuel Moawad, Cairo 2022, 75–90.

Feder, Frank, “A New Textual Witness of the Sahidic Version of Jeremiah and Its Text Historical Assessment,” in: Editing the Septuagint: The Unfinished Task, edited by Frank Feder and Felix Albrecht, De Septuaginta Investigationes 16, Göttingen, 2022, 123–28.

––––––, “Eine sahidische Palimpsesthandschrift aus dem Weißen Kloster,” in: Sortieren – Edieren – Kreieren: Zwischen Handschriftenfunden und Universitätsalltag. Stephen L. Emmel zum 70. Geburtstag gewidmet, edited by Angelika Lohwasser, Gesa Schenke, and Frank Feder, Aegyptiaca Monasteriensia 8, Aachen, 2022, 233–43.

––––––, “The Complete Reconstruction and Edition of the Coptic Sahidic Old Testament and Its Relevance for the Textual History of the Septuagint,” in: XVII Congress of the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies, Aberdeen 2019, edited by G. R. Kotzé, M.N. van der Meer, and Martin Rösel, Septuagint and Cognate Studies 76, Atlanta, 2022, 61–87.

New Standard Edition of Sahidic Psalms

A brand-new volume in our Series Texts and Studies on the Coptic Bible just appered with the Publisher Harrassowitz: Peter Nagel's editio minor of the Sahidic Psalms. It is based on the important London Papyrus manuscript British Library Or. 5000 (sa 2031, ca. 500 CE), the only completely preserved manuscript of the Sahidic Psalter, and the variant readings of two miniature manuscripts (Chester Beatty Library n. 815 with Ps 1-50, sa 6; and Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Library Collection n. 167 with Ps 51-151, sa 2010; both ca. 600 CE). Since the digital editio maior of the many but fragmentary Sahidic Psalm manuscripts will need more time, the importance of Nagel's edition is multifold: first it replaces the notorious edition by Budge from 1898 ("Budge Psalter") providing a reliable edition of the London Psalter with the variant readings of two other manuscripts; second, it provides the indispensable reference text for the fragmentary Sahidic manuscript transmission; and third, the complete translation and the comprehensive indices make it, at the same time, an indispensable reference work for scholars specialised in the Septuagint Psalter tradition and its versions.     

An unforgettable conference in the Wadi El Natrun valley (near Cairo, Egypt)

 

From 28 January to 2 February, Frank Feder, Chrysi Kotsifou and I attended the 10th Symposium of the Saint Mark Foundation for Coptic Heritage. This meeting's topic was "The Coptic Bible". Scholars from Egypt, the United States, and eight European countries gathered to address issues such as the transmission of the Coptic Bible in various dialects, its usage in education and in liturgy, and its role in inspiring Coptic monks and artists. Some of the speakers offered philological/linguistic papers relying upon biblical books in Coptic.

As far as the Göttingen Academy is concerned, the conference featured representatives of both the Coptic Old Testament project (our "big project") and the Pauline epistles project. Frank Feder gave an overview of the CoptOT project, in which he also detailed the historical attempts to edit and translate books of the Sahidic Old Testament. Chrysi Kotsifou's topic was: "Editing the Sahidic Book of Psalms".

Katharina Sandmeier's talk was focused on the history of research on the Coptic New Testament at the Institute for New Testament Textual Research (INTF). My own presentation outlined Göttingen and Münster's work on the Pauline epistles in Coptic. It is my impression that our two speeches usefully complemented each other.

Unlike the regular conferences of, say, the IACS or the AFC, the Saint Mark Foundation's events are aimed at both Coptologists and members of the Coptic community in general. The presentations were abundantly recorded and photographed. Katharina Sandmeier and I volunteered to be interviewed by the COC Channel.

Our stay allowed us to catch up with old friends and meet new colleagues as well. On a personal note, I was especially delighted to meet Professor Lilian Larsen, a specialist of monastic education in Late Antiquity. I heartfully thank the Saint Mark Foundation and especially Hany Takla and Akhnoukh Fanous for their invitation and their wonderful hospitality.

K 57 – ein neuer Zeuge für den koptisch-sahidischen Jesus Sirach in der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek

1936 veröffentlichte Walter C. Till in Le Muséon 49 einen Beitrag über „Wiener Faijumica“ (S. 170-217). Zu diesen Wiener Faijumica rechnete er auch das Pergamentfragment K 57 (S. 213f). Till hatte auf der Haarseite zweimal ⲛⲟⲩϯ gelesen und dies als faijumische oder bohairische Schreibweise des Wortes für „Gott“ interpretiert, war sich aber selbst nicht sicher, da sonst keinerlei Dialekteinfluss festzustellen war. Identifiziert hatte Till den Text nicht. Dies gelang erst kürzlich Christian Askeland (E-Mail vom 6. Februar 2023), der den Text der Fleischseite als Sir 20,1ff erkannte. Bei näherer Betrachtung entpuppte sich der Text beider Seiten als sahidischer Standardtext von Sir 20. Das von Till auf der Haarseite gelesene zweimalige ⲛⲟⲩϯ ist jeweils Bestandteil der Phrase ⲟⲩⲛ-ⲟⲩ-ϯ „es gibt eine Gabe“, griechisch ἔστιν δόσις, in Sirach 20,10. Die Fleischseite ist also das recto dieses Pergamentfragments, die Haarseite das verso. Die Onlinepräsentation der Fotos auf der Seite der ÖNB weist noch, entsprechend der Edition von Till, die umgekehrte Reihenfolge auf. Dieser neue Wiener Zeuge des koptischen Jesus Sirach war sehr wahrscheinlich gemeinsam mit dem bereits bekannten Wiener Zeugen für Jesus Sirach K 8689 (Sir 45,9-10/Sir 45,13-15) ursprünglich Bestandteil ein und desselben Codex. Den beiden Zeugen wurde daher im Rahmen des Göttinger Akademievorhabens Digitale Gesamtedition des Koptisch-sahidischen Alten Testaments die Handschrift sa 2182 zugewiesen. Das auf den Fotos der ÖNB oberhalb des größeren Fragments platzierte kleinere Fragment (von Till nicht mitediert) gehört an den unteren Rand und fügt sich dort passgenau ein. Die Schrift ist auf der Fleischseite stark verblasst, was die Transkription anhand des Fotos erschwert.

K 57: Vorläufige Transkription

 

Job Offer: Trainee position

The Digital Edition and Translation of the Coptic Old Testament at the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Lower Saxony is dedicated to digitally describe, edit and analyse the transmission of the Coptic Old Testament with a focus on the Sahidic tradition. The long-term project has an opening for a one-year paid trainee program, to be filled at the earliest possible date. This trainee program will give the successful applicant the opportunity to expand their knowledge about the Biblical tradition in Coptic and to receive further hands-on training in editorial methods, manuscript studies and digital humanities, as applied to the Coptic Bible and Coptic literature.

The trainee will commit to working 30 hrs per week in a variety of tasks, which will depend on their experience and interests and the current Old Testament project focus. If pursuing a research project within the wider field of the Coptic Bible the trainee will be able to dedicate up to 50% of this time to their own research.

Prerequisites are a degree in Coptic Studies or a project-related field (Egyptology, Biblical Studies, History of Christianity, Digital Humanities or similar) and a working knowledge of Coptic. Other language skills (in particular in Ancient Greek or Arabic) are welcomed.

Please direct enquiries and (electronic) applications (short CV, digital copies of diplomas or transcripts and letter of motivation) by February 28, 2023 to adw.bewerb@gwdg.de.

For further information contact Prof. Heike Behlmer (heike.behlmer@uni-goettingen.de) or Dr Frank Feder (ffeder@uni-goettingen.de). Information about the project is available on its website: http://coptot.manuscriptroom.com.

The Academy aims to increase the proportion of women in areas where they are underrepresented and therefore explicitly invites qualified women to apply. It also sees itself as family-friendly and supports the compatibility of work and caring commitments.

Disabled persons or those of equal status will be given special consideration if their qualifications make them suitable candidates.

We would like to point out that submitting an application constitutes consent under current data protection law for us to process your application data. You can find more details on the legal basis of this and the use of your data at: https://adw-goe.de/ueber-uns/datenschutzerklaerung/.

Travel and application expenses cannot be reimbursed.

Newsletter No. 3

We're happy to announce the third issue of our project's official newsletter.

If you wish to receive future issues of this newsletter automatically, please subscribe to our copt-ot-newsletter mailing list.

 

New AHRC-DFG Project on Pauline Epistles has started

We are glad to annouce that the British-German joint project on the Earliest Translations of the Pauline Epistles (GALaCsy) has already started at the Göttingen Academy. For the British side, Hugh Houghton (University of Birmingham), for the German side, Holger Strutwolf (INTF Münster), and Frank Feder (Göttingen Academy) are the Principal Investigators. Göttingen and Münster are primarily responsible for the Coptic transmission which is rich and early, and extant in several Coptic dialects (Sahidic, Bohairic, Fayyumic, and Mesokemic). Two post-doc researchers could be hired for the project: Samuel Moawad (at Münster) and Julien Delhez (at Göttingen). The GaLaCsy project received funding for three years (2022-25) and will explore also the Old Latin and Syriac versions of the Pauline Epistles.

Since the Pauline Epistles were widely used in the Liturgy of the Coptic Church GALaCsy will closely cooperate with the sister DFG-Project at the Göttingen Academy the Digital Edition and Critical Evaluation of the Coptic Holy Week Lectionary.

All Coptic manuscripts will be digitally edited in our Virtual Manuscript Room. And, not only the texts will soon be publicly available, but also images of the beautiful manuscripts themselves. Finally, the Coptic texts will enter the synoptic tables and the apparatus of variant readings of the Editio Critica Maior of the Greek Pauline Epistles.  

   

New DFG Project at the Göttingen Academy: ‘Digital Edition and Critical Evaluation of the Coptic Holy Week Lectionary’ (01.04.2022 - 31.03.2025)

Timely for Easter comes the launch at the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities of a new project closely related to and hosted on the same premises as the Digital Edition of the Coptic Old Testament. This new satellite project is dedicated to the Coptic Holy Week lectionary which is one of the fundamental books for Christian worship in Egypt. It is co-led by Diliana Atanassova and Frank Feder. Lina Elhage-Mensching occupies the position of Research fellow and Peter Missael is the Research assistant. 

Despite its significance, the Coptic Holy Week lectionary in Sahidic, Bohairic and Arabic is still under-researched. The text of the oldest Sahidic Holy Week lectionaries (10th to 14th c.) has been only sporadically used for comparison when investigating the younger Bohairic tradition but has otherwise remained completely unexplored. What is more, the Arabic texts in the Coptic Holy Week lectionaries have been studied only superficially or not at all. The existing editions of the Bohairic Holy Week lectionaries no longer correspond to current scholarly standards. In contrast to earlier research, which can only be described as sporadic, selective, and incomplete, the project aims at a comprehensive and systematic investigation of the Holy Week lectionary in Egypt.

The first principal objective of the project is to provide a digital edition of the oldest extant Holy Week lectionary of the Egyptian Christians. The digital edition will generate both a semi-diplomatic edition of the individual textual witnesses and a critical redaction of the Holy Week lectionary, in which Sahidic, Bohairic and Arabic texts from parchment and paper manuscripts will be compared with each other. For the purposes of this study, the digital edition will use and further develop the infrastructure of the Virtual Manuscript Room (http://coptot.manuscriptroom.com) of the Göttingen Digital Edition of the Coptic Old Testament. 

The second principal objective is the exhaustive analysis of the Holy Week lectionary and of its development as a lectionary type in Egypt. The analysis will involve a text-historical classification of the biblical transmission in the lectionaries in comparison to the overall transmission in the biblical manuscript tradition. The Göttingen Virtual Manuscript Room will be of great help in achieving the second principal objective as well.

Through the use of innovative editorial tools and methods, the digitally based analysis of the Holy Week lectionary will close the research gaps described above. The project is therefore of the greatest significance both for Coptic and for Liturgical Studies and will provide a deeper understanding of the religious life of the Coptic Church, one of the largest and most important Oriental Orthodox Churches.

 

Job Opening for Pauline Epistles Project

The Coptic Old Testament project is pleased to announce a new job opening in a new satellite project. Hugh Houghton (University of Birmingham), Holger Strutwolf (INTF Münster), and Frank Feder (Göttigen Academy) have been successful in obtaining a joint AHRC-DFG grant for the project "The Earliest Translations of the Pauline Epistles (GALaCSy)". Applications for a full-time research position for a 30 month period are now being accepted by the Göttingen Academy.

Applicants are required to have a completed Ph.D. in Coptic Studies, Egyptology, Theology, Christian Languages and Cultures of the Near East or neighboring fields. Proficiency in Coptic, and a good command of (NT-)Greek, as well as familiarity with the textual history of the Bible are expected. Practical knowledge and experience in editing Coptic original manuscripts and their documentation and annotation in electronic databases and online-based web systems would be advantageous.

The main task of the successful applicant will be the documentation and edition of the earliest Coptic witnesses of the Pauline Epistles in the Virtual Manuscript Room of the Coptic Old Testament project in close coordination and cooperation with the project partners in Birmingham and Münster.

For further information about the application and selection process please consult the job advertisement on the Göttingen Academy website.

Applications with a cover letter and the usual documents should be sent until January 23, 2022, to Frank Feder (ffeder@uni-goettingen.de) who will be happy to answer any questions.

Vorwärts in die Vergangenheit: Beobachtungen zur AT-Übersetzung der BasisBibel

BasisBibel, Stuttgart (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft) 2021

2960 S. (Die Komfortable), 1968 S. (Die Kompakte)

Vor elf Jahren erschien zunächst die BasisBibel – Neues Testament, etwas später dann auch die Psalmen (auch kombiniert in einem Band), und die hohe Qualität dieser Übersetzungen machte Lust auf mehr. Einige der damals augenfälligen Vorzüge zeichnen auch die nun erschienene Gesamtübersetzung der BasisBibel mit AT und NT aus: modernes Design, lesefreundliche Gestaltung mit zahlreichen Erklärungen am Rand, Onlinespiegel des Bibeltextes.

Alle folgenden Bemerkungen beziehen sich ausschließlich auf die neu hinzugekommene Gesamtübersetzung des Alten Testaments.

Da ich mir kein vorschnelles Urteil anhand von Lieblingsstellen bilden wollte und aus purer Neugier, habe ich zunächst begonnen, von Anfang an zu lesen, stolperte aber rasch von einer Irritation in die nächste. Die erste Verstörung findet sich gleich in Gen 1,27. Hier wird ganz traditionell übersetzt: „Gott schuf den Menschen nach seinem Bild. Als Gottes Ebenbild schuf er ihn, als Mann und Frau schuf er sie.“ Da die BB für sich in Anspruch nimmt, eine kommunikative Übersetzung zu sein, ist diese traditionelle, eine dogmatische Aufladung (mit verheerender Wirkungsgeschichte) fortschreibende Übersetzung doch ziemlich überraschend. Sie ist auch nicht textgetreu (ein weiterer Anspruch der BB), denn von Mann und Frau ist im hebräischen Text gar nicht die Rede. Eine kommunikative Übersetzung dieser wichtigen Stelle hätte etwa so lauten können: Gott schuf die Menschheit nach seinem Bild. Als sein Abbild schuf er sie, die einzelnen Menschen schuf er von männlich bis weiblich. (Oder, wenn man es weniger gendertheoretisch aufgeladen möchte, das ängstigt ja viele: die einzelnen Menschen schuf er männlich und weiblich). Ab Gen 2,4b wird dann der Gottesname JHWH ganz traditionell mit Herr wiedergegeben, verblüffend in einer Bibelübersetzung, die eine „Übersetzung für das 21. Jahrhundert“ (Werbetext) sein möchte. Eine ausführliche Erklärung, warum sich die BB hier in eine bestimmte (nicht: die) jüdische Tradition stellt, wird auf S. 1950 (alle Angaben nach „Die Kompakte“) gegeben. Sie ist zweiteilig und höchst sonderbar. Zunächst wird die Herkunft dieser Tradition erläutert, die erste Begründung ist also im Kern: Das wurde schon immer so gemacht. Die zweite Begründung ist dann, dass Jesus im NT ja auch oft mit Herr angeredet würde. Der zweite Grund ist also, dass hier eine christologische Konnotation in den Text des AT eingetragen werden soll. Theologisch unbedarft ist noch das Mildeste, was mir dazu einfällt. Möglichkeiten, es besser zu machen, gäbe es viele: G’tt (auch eine jüdische Praxis), Gott, JHWH oder auch Adonaj entsprechend der hebräischen Vokalisation. Wer meint, ein unvokalisiertes Wort sei der intendierten jugendlichen Leserschaft nicht zuzumuten, irrt. Jedes Kind kann den Aufkleber FCK NZS entschlüsseln.

Gen 4,1b, Evas Ausruf nach der Geburt von Kain, ist ein anspielungsreicher und kaum zu übersetzender Satz. Sein Ende (ʾt jhwh) ist vermutlich eine Textverderbnis und die übliche Übersetzung (mit Hilfe des Herrn) nur eine an der Septuaginta orientierte Verlegenheitslösung. Evas auf Kain bezogener Satz „Ich habe einen Mann gewonnen“ ist eine volksetymologische Erklärung des Kindsnamens („Gewinn“), denn alle Figuren in der Geschichte haben sprechende Namen, die gewissermaßen das Grundgerüst der Brudermordgeschichte bilden. Die BB erklärt nun weder das Wortspiel noch übersetzt sie angemessen. Zu allem Übel wird das problematische Ende des Satzes auch noch, als frömmelnde Pointe, an die Spitze des Satzes gezogen – als hätte hier jemand abschließend geglättet ohne die geringste Kenntnis von Tiefendimension und Tücken des hebräischen Textes. Aus „Ich habe einen Mann gewonnen ʾt jhwh“ wird in der BB „Mithilfe des Herrn habe ich einen Sohn bekommen.“

Seit dem 19. Jahrhundert hat sich die Deutung des Lamechliedes (Gen 4,23f) als Prahllied (so auch Westermann) auf dem Hintergrund eines Völkerstereotyps eingebürgert (frei nach Wellhausen: der Orientale neigt zur Gewalttätigkeit und brüstet sich gern vor seinen Weibern). Die jüdische Tradition sieht dagegen hinter dem Lied ein einmaliges tragisches Ereignis und versteht (wie viele christliche Ausleger auch) das Perfekt des hebräischen Textes als Vergangenheitstempus. Die BB treibt die vor allem deutsche Auslegungstradition nun auf die Spitze und übersetzt (mit Westermann) präsentisch: „Lamech sagte zu seinen Frauen: Ada und Zilla, hört mir gut zu! / Ihr Frauen Lamechs, merkt euch meine Worte! / Ich erschlage den Mann der mich verwundet. / Ich erschlage das Kind, das mich schlägt.“ Die Übersetzung ist auch deshalb problematisch, weil sie die hebräische Präposition le, an der die ganze Deutung hängt, nicht mitübersetzt, sondern den Text vereindeutigt, letzteres eine durchgängige Tendenz der BB (vgl. z.B. auch Ex 4,24-26, wo die zahlreichen mehrdeutigen Personalpronomina zu eindeutigen Nomina aufgelöst werden).

Aus den Göttersöhnen in Gen 6,2 werden wie in anderen Bibelübersetzungen Gottessöhne, was einen der hier aufgenommenen alten Tradition widersprechenden Monotheismus in den Text einträgt (der dann in der Randerklärung wieder ausgehebelt wird).

Fünf (unterschiedlich gravierende) Irritationen in den ersten sechs Kapiteln sind eine beunruhigende Quote. Zeit also, einen Blick auf die übrigen Textgruppen des AT zu werfen um zu sehen, ob sich der Eindruck verfestigt oder vielleicht nur die Genesis schlecht übersetzt ist.

Thora: In Lev 18 werden die Verbote sozial problematischer sexueller Beziehungen gleichzeitig zu verschwommen und zu explizit übersetzt. Vers 7: „Du darfst nicht mit deiner Mutter schlafen. Das ist, als ob du mit deinem Vater schläfst.“ Der hebräische Text ist dagegen metaphorisch und bringt so zugleich die konkreten sozialen Verhältnisse zum Ausdruck: Die Blöße deines Vaters und die Blöße deiner Mutter sollst du nicht enthüllen. Die Verbote richten sich an israelitische Männer, an Geschlechtsverkehr mit dem eigenen Vater ist hier kaum gedacht, vielmehr gehört die Frau dem Mann und ihre Schändung wäre zugleich seine Schändung. Die Übersetzung der BB verwischt den Begründungszusammenhang: Sex mit Vater oder Mutter wäre ja gleich schlimm. Dass die Übersetzung nicht aufgeht, zeigt Vers 10, wo die nämliche Metapher gebraucht wird: Die Blöße der Tochter deines Sohnes … sollst du nicht enthüllen, denn deine Blöße ist es. In der Logik der BB müsste dann hier stehen: Das ist, als ob du mit dir selbst schläfst. In Vers 22 wird das Verbot von schwulem Sex (lesbischer Sex wird im AT nicht thematisiert) durch die Übersetzung seiner religiösen Konnotation beraubt, die zugleich eine für uns heutige Leserinnen und Leser notwendige Distanz schafft: Aus twʿvh (Luther: Gräuel, im Sinne von Götzendienst) wird in der Basisbibel einfach „eine abscheuliche Tat“, womit das Verbot zugleich absolut gesetzt wird. Die Erklärung am Rand ist abenteuerlich.

Geschichtsbücher: Trauriger Höhepunkt im vielleicht unschönsten biblischen Buch ist Nehemias stolzes Fazit nach seiner erfolgreichen gewaltsamen Auflösung ethnisch gemischter Ehen aus Juden und Nichtjuden: So reinigte ich sie von allem Ausländischen (Neh 13,30 LÜ). Die BB macht daraus einen Text, der weder Übersetzung ist noch Nacherzählung, er ist einfach nur falsch: „So reinigte sich das Volk von allen fremden Einflüssen.“ Der Charakter der stilisierten Autobiographie Nehemias wird hier plötzlich aufgehoben; es bleibt unklar, ob dieser Text intentional geschaffen wurde oder bloßes Versehen ist. Möglicherweise ist es einfach ein Druckfehler oder eine nachträgliche Verschlimmbesserung: „So reinigte ich das Volk …“ entspräche in etwa dem hebräischen Text.

Der Antitext zum nationalreligiösen Nehemiabuch ist das Buch Rut, in dem eine moabitische Frau mit Hilfe ihrer jüdischen Schwiegermutter durch eigene Tatkraft zu ihrem Recht kommt und zur Urgroßmutter des großen Königs David wird. In der Inhaltsübersicht der BB wird das Buch Rut zu Recht als ein Buch „zum Verlieben“ angepriesen. Wenn es dann aber im Buch Rut wirklich zur Sache geht, wird die Übersetzung der BB plötzlich merkwürdig verklemmt. Damit aus Boas für Rut der Löser und Mann werden kann, gibt Noomi Rut in Rut 3,4 einen Rat, den Rut anschließend auch befolgt: „Und sie kam leise und deckte zu seinen Füßen auf (d.h. sie rollte sein Obergewand auf, um seine Genitalien freizulegen) und legte sich hin.“ Der Rest findet sich. In der BB wird daraus: „Mitten in der Nacht wurde es Boas kalt.“ Aus Noomis Anweisung zum Aufdecken der Genitalien wird: „Gib acht, wo er sich zum Schlafen hinlegt.“ Aus der mutigen Frau, die ihr Schicksal beherzt in die eigenen Hände nimmt, wird ein passives Geschöpf, das irgendwie nur daliegt und wartet.

Überhaupt hatte das Übersetzungsteam der BB mit allem, was „untenrum“ so abgeht, offenbar seine Schwierigkeiten (im Unterschied zum Alten Testament selbst!). In einer Werbezeitung für die BB gibt es ein aufschlussreiches Interview mit der BB-Übersetzerin Tina Arnold:

Frage: Ist Ihnen etwas besonders Kniffliges oder Lustiges in Erinnerung geblieben?

Tina Arnold: Manchmal waren es ganz banale Dinge. Wir sagen zum Beispiel: Wir gehen auf die Toilette. Nun gibt es auch in der Bibel einige Stellen, wo eine Person ein größeres Geschäft machen muss und sich deswegen in eine Höhle zurückzieht, zum Beispiel bei Saul und David. Natürlich könnte man schreiben: Saul musste auf die Toilette. Aber ein Konfirmand, der das liest und den kulturellen Hintergrund nicht kennt – was stellt der sich vor? Einen gefliesten Raum mit einer Toilette, vielleicht. Das kann zu einem völlig falschen Bild führen und nicht erklären, warum Saul in eine Höhle geht. Da dann andere Begriffe zu finden, die nicht gleich in Richtung Hochsprache gehen, braucht viele Gedanken.

Also bei mir nicht. Für den Satz: „Saul musste kacken.“ brauche ich keine fünf Sekunden und kein kollektives Nachdenken. Herausgekommen (!) ist in der BB dann: „Denn er musste sich dringend erleichtern“. Als Erklärung am Rand steht dann noch sicherheitshalber: „Die Formulierung umschreibt die Situation, dass Saul aufs Klo musste.“ (1.Sam 24). Übrigens hatte schon Luther das Verb štn in 1.Sam 25,22 u.ö. treffend mit „(an die Wand) pissen“ übersetzt (im 20. Jh. dann leider herausrevidiert, seit 2017 wieder drin). Sehr merkwürdig ist hier wieder die Übersetzung der BB: „Ich werde keinen von Nabals Leuten am Leben lassen, die da wie Hunde an die Wand pissen.“ Von Hunden ist im hebräischen Text gar nicht die Rede, der Stehpisser ist einfach der Mann (weil er’s kann). David schwört schlicht, alle Männer Nabals zu töten. Der Ausdruck wird auch an anderer Stelle als derbe Umschreibung von „männlich“ gebraucht.

Jene leicht bizarre Episode aus der Genese der BB beschreibt ein generelles Problem dieser Übersetzung. Verständlichkeit ist zweifellos für jede Übersetzung ein erstrebenswertes Ziel, das aber nicht impliziert, die Leserinnen und Leser für dumm halten oder verkaufen zu müssen. Bei der Übersetzung des AT ist das besonders fatal, denn anders als beim Neuen Testament sind die hebräischen Texte des Alten Testaments fast immer zugleich auch große Literatur. Deren poetische Kraft einzufangen, gelingt der BB in ihrem verdrucksten Bemühen, um jeden Preis leicht verständlich zu sein, so gut wie gar nicht. Das Übersetzungsprogramm der BB ist letztlich ein Irrweg.

In der Geschichte von Jael, die den Kopf des Feldhauptmanns (BB: Kommandant) Sisera an den Zeltboden nagelt (Richter 4), werden am Rand lauter entbehrliche Informationen gegeben, alle für das Verständnis der Geschichte wesentlichen aber fehlen. So heißt es zum Stichwort „Schlauch mit Milch“: Ein aus Tierhaut genähter Beutel. Relevant für die Geschichte ist aber, dass Jael Sisera Milch gibt anstelle des Wassers, um das er gebeten hatte, sodass sie das Gastrecht nicht gewährt, dass Sisera für sie unantastbar gemacht hätte. So befreit sich Jael selbst aus einer heiklen, für sie lebensbedrohlichen Situation. Wie die Lutherbibel verwendet auch die BB Zwischenüberschriften als Element der Leserlenkung. Über dieser Perikope steht: „Sisera wird von einer Frau erschlagen“. So rückt der Mann in den Mittelpunkt der Geschichte, deren Protagonistin doch Jael ist, die in der Überschrift zugleich ihres Namens beraubt wird. Außerdem wird das Motiv der Schande fortgeschrieben, dass ein Mann durch die Hand einer Frau stirbt, darum geht es in der Geschichte aber nur am Rande. Thematisiert wird es vielmehr zuvor im Zwiegespräch zwischen Deborah und Barak, der sich allein, ohne Deborah, nicht traut, in den Krieg zu ziehen.

Prophetische Bücher: In Amos 3,8 heißt es in der BB: „Der Löwe hat gebrüllt! Wer wird sich da nicht fürchten? Gott, der Herr, hat geredet! Wer wird da nicht zum Propheten?“ Der letzte Satz enthält aber einen Verbalausdruck, analog zu dem parallelen Satz zuvor: Wer wird da nicht prophetisch reden? So wird der Text unnötig nominalisiert (schlechtes Deutsch) und unnötig maskulinisiert, schließlich kennt die Bibel auch Prophetinnen. Prophet sein und prophetisch reden ist auch nicht dasselbe.

Die Revision der Lutherbibel 2017 hatte es sich zum Ziel gesetzt, antijudaistische Stereotype aus den Zwischenüberschriften zu tilgen, was auch weitgehend gelungen ist. Dort heißt es (wie schon in der Lutherbibel von 1984) über Amos 3: „Erwählung bewahrt nicht vor Gericht“. Die BB setzt über Amos 3: „Gottes Gericht über Israel“. Unfassbar.

Zur Erleichterung der Annäherung an die Bibellektüre enthält die BB am Anfang (S. 13-17) allerlei Zehnerlisten (Die 10 schönsten …), worüber sich natürlich trefflich spotten lässt. Besonders verstörend ist die Liste: „Die 10 verrücktesten Geschichten der Bibel“ (S. 13). In drei der zehn „verrücktesten“ (was immer das Kriterium dafür sein mag) Geschichten spielen Frauen eine wichtige Rolle. Platz 4: „Wer andern eine Grube gräbt: Ester 5-8“. Platz 3: „Ein verhängnisvoller Haarschnitt: Richter 16,4-31“. Es handelt sich um die Geschichte, in der die hinterhältige Philisterin Delila den Helden Simson durch eine neue Frisur seiner Kraft beraubt. Platz 6: „Noch böser als im Märchen: Die fiese Königin Atalja: 2. Könige 11“. Nach dem Tod des Königs Ahasja lässt die Königinmutter Atalja die Königsfamilie töten, um selbst Königin zu werden, ein in orientalischen Despotien durchaus übliches Verfahren, man denke nur an die Machtübernahme Davids oder den König Herodes mit dem Kindermord zu Bethlehem (nicht verrückt genug für die Top 10). Atalja wird dann ihrerseits durch eine Priesterintrige gestürzt und ein minderjähriger Knabe an ihrer Stelle als König installiert. Die Frau als Intrigantin, die Frau als Hexe: Verrückt ist vor allem diese Liste.

Laut Begleitmaterial zur BB wurde die Übersetzung wissenschaftlich begleitet. Das ist beunruhigend, denn begleitet heißt eben nicht: verantwortet. Und es ist verstörend, dass niemand, der das Projekt wissenschaftlich oder verlegerisch begleitet hat, wenigstens bei dem hier (in einer Bibelausgabe!) kolportierten antediluvianischen Frauenbild aufgemerkt und die Notbremse gezogen hat.

Laut Werbetext wurden für diese Gesamtausgabe auch die Psalmen und das Neue Testament „vollständig überarbeitet“. Das lässt Schlimmes befürchten. Eine Bibelübersetzung „für das 21. Jahrhundert“ im Geist des 19. kann nicht funktionieren. Sie ist für niemanden zum Gebrauch zu empfehlen.

Habent Sua Fata Libelli: The Virtual Re-Unification of a Parchment Leaf in London

It is not a new fact that we deal in case of the Sahidic Bible with a very fragmentary manuscript tradition. However, the inquisitive researcher is sometimes rewarded with surprising succes. During our research trip to London in 2017 we visited also the Victoria and Albert Museum where Alin Suciu had detected some Coptic manuscript fragments. Among them was the lower half of a parchment leaf with passages from the book of Jeremiah. Thanks to the generosity of the VAM staff we received soon good images and information about the purchaser of this fragment. The painter, ceramics specialist, and collector Henry Wallis (1830–1916) must have acquired the fragment in Egypt before 1888, when it entered the VAM according to the inventory (and acquisition) number VAM 434A-1888.  As we will see below, Wallis gave also manuscripts to the British Museum. He was, however, certainly more interested in the illumination of the leaf than in its biblical text content.

About the same time, the upper half of the leaf must have come, together with other fragments, to the British Museum. The British Museum curator, Ernest A. Wallis Budge (1857–1934) acquired it apparently himself. W.E. Crum informs us about in his catalogue of the Coptic Manuscripts in the British Museum (1905, p. x): "The first instalment to reach here was that brought in 1886 by Mr. H. Wallis (Or. 3367); a far larger quantity was obtained in 1888 through Dr. Budge (Or. 3579-3581), to whom indeed, more than to any other, the British Museum owes its large acquisitions of Coptic MSS." In the 1970s this fragment with the inventory number Or. 3579 A.32, together with the entire Coptic manuscript collection, was transferred to the British Library, where it is kept still today. For more than 100 years, the two halves of the leaf were deposited in London in different collections, and nobody found out that they actually form a single leaf, because the VAM fragments remained unknown to Coptologists.

Our team discovered via the biblical text content that these fragments belong together and the virtual reconstruction shows that the parchment leaf is almost intact. The leaf belonged to the White Monastery Codex sa 2059 (9th–10th century), and it is the first extant leaf of 20 which survived from this codex with the books Jeremiah, Baruch, Lamentations, and Epistle of Jeremiah. Typically, the remaining leaves and fragments are dispersed, besides our two collections in London, over the collections in Ann Arbor (MI, USA), Manchester (UK), Paris (BNF and Louvre), and Vienna. After having read this breath taking discovery report you can vistit the re-unified leaf (already transcribed) with all the other leaves in the original sequence (the other leaves will be indexed and transcribed successively) in our Virtual Manuscript Room. 

However, the story can still be enlarged. If you take a careful look at the color image of the lower manuscript half (VAM) you recognize at the lower outer margin of the leaf that a parchment strip was glued to the folding of the (former) double leaf to stabilize it, a quite typical procedure with parchment manuscripts. Interestingly, the strip bears the rests of the Greek text of John 6:52! So, material of still another (Greek) parchement manuscript was used to maintain the material integrity of the manuscript. Who knows what the other leaves of the manuscript still conceal?

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