Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Sinai Arabic 154 and Paris arabe 6725

Sinai Arabic 154, from the 9th century, containing Acts and the Catholic Epistles, has been published by Margaret Dunlop GIBSON (Studia Sinaitica VII, 1899). Mrs GIBSON's publication could not include Acts 7:49b-9:30, because 6 folios were lacking when she was staying in the Sinai monastery.

In Oriens Christianus 12-14 (1925), p. 218, Georg GRAF mentions that these 6 folios had been seen in Cairo, together with some other pieces of Arabic Christian manuscripts, by H. Dr. GROTE (who died in 1919). But, GRAF adds, "über der jetzigen Verbleib der Mehrzahl dieser Fragmente ist mir nichts bekannt" (see also GRAF's Geschichte der christlichen arabischen Literatur, p. 173).

When examining a microfilm of Paris arabe 6725 at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, I located the images of the 6 lacking folios of Sinai Arabic 154. The kind of Arabic writing found in this manuscript made it difficult to read for me. With the help of two friends, Jean VALENTIN and Mohammed Wali AIT, who know Arabic better than I, I undertook to make a French translation of these Arabic folios. For text-critical purposes, this translation is as litteral as possible. I can send this translation by E-mail on simple request to any reader of this blog. Perhaps one day I will publish the Arabic text ?

An increased knowledge of the text of Acts in Sinai 154 can be important to help us understand the textual history of the Syriac Apostolos. Sinai 154 was translated from a Syriac Apostolos. But at many places, the Arabic translation shows that its Syriac Vorlage must have been different from the Peshitta.

Paris arabe 6725 gave me another surprise. In another part of the microfilm, I found images of another fragmentary Arabic translation of the Acts of the Apostles (9:15-13:?), also from the 9th century, and from a Syriac Vorlage. This translation is sometimes close to the one published by Erpenius from a later manuscript (12th century), but sometimes it goes its own way. So we now have, including Sinai Arabic 151, at least three different translations of Acts, all made from the Syriac in the 9th century, if not earlier.

Much remain to be studied about the Arabic Apostolos. As far as I know, at the present time nobody is able to say even how many Arabic translations were made (there were also translations from Greek, from Coptic, and from Latin). A whole field of investigations for younger searchers ...


  1. It is always exciting to rediscover lost bits. Congratulations and well done!

  2. Thanks a lot JS. Keep up the good work and thanks for sharing it!

  3. Jean, you're quite proficient in English. Any chance you could make it a triglot?

  4. Well done for tracking these down!

    As I understand it, quite a lot of Sinai Arabic manuscripts were damaged by someone -- someone who must have been a monk -- at some point in the early 20th century, and chunks of them sent to dealers in Cairo. There are more treasures to be found.

    Would there be any possibility of placing a draft of the French translation online? I know the editor will want to publish it, doubtless with notes, but perhaps a cut-down form could be managed?

    As for translating into a language not your own... that is really very difficult indeed, however good your English is!