Thursday, April 05, 2007

Middle Persian Psalter piccies

I'm currently carrying out research for a dictionary article surveying all the ancient Bible translations. There are some that almost certainly are not going to get into the article. These include the Sogdian version and the Middle Persian version. However, I thought I ought at least to find out what I could about them. I have come across some very nice looking pictures of a Middle Persian psalter here. On the same site we can also see some Sogdian Christian texts written in Syriac script. Not knowing any Sogdian (or Persian) I have not been able to see whether any of the texts are biblical ones. I'd be grateful for any enlightenment. If you look on the second line of the first picture here you may be able to make out the name 'George' [Gyorgis].

One further question: in his The Bible in the Syriac Tradition (2nd edn, p. 146) Sebastian Brock states that the Middle Persian version dates to the sixth century and that the Psalms preserved are 94-99, 118, and 121-36 (I'm presuming he's talking about Syriac Psalm numbers here). However, I cannot see how these numbers relate to the numbering of the images on the site. Are there two different Middle Persian psalters, or are the numbers on the site not the numbers of Psalms?


  1. Come on Pete, you can't miss out on Sogdian. Don't be reductionist.

  2. If you really want to find out about all the ancient versions, that can serve as a reminder to me to post something about the recently discovered ancient Caucasian Albanian one which I mentioned in a comment recently. Then there will be a challenge for you to learn an even more obscure language than Sogdian!

  3. I posted to the TC-list about that Alva lectionary palimpset at least a year ago. It
    really should be included in the online lists of ancient versions by now!

    That website has Sogdian texts in a bewildering variety of scripts, including Sogdian, which most resembles Persian. The Chinese- and Hindu-script texts aren't likely Christian, but the "Brahmi-Schrift" most resembles Amharic! This calls for more investigation, certainly.

    Daniel Buck

  4. There is one single Middle Persian Psalter the facsimile of which you have found on the BBAW homepage. There is an transliteration on the TITUS homepage:

    The dating of this Psalter is not so easy, the 4th century is quite probable due to the rather archaic grammar used in the text. However, the system of diacritics may well be younger, cf. Andreas/Barr: Bruchstücke einer Pehlevi-Übersetzung der Psalmen, 1933.

    From my own experience, I can tell that the number of psalms do not always agree with the Luther bible, sometimes plus/minus one.