Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Orthodox Liturgy in Syriac: The Sinai Manuscripts

On an earlier thread in this blog, there was some discussion about the Syriac heritage of the Patriarchate of Antioch, where it was asserted that Syriac is the sole provenance of the other Near Eastern churches, but has no role in the Orthodox heritage, which is imagined to be purely Greek. This is a popular but dangerous discourse, as it feeds into two false discourses about the history of Christianity in Syria: The first is the "perpetual Orthodoxy of the Maronites" where it is claimed that the Maronite Church always accepted Chalcedon and was never Monothelite and that it broke off from the Byzantine Church because it wanted to maintain itsSyriac heritage rather than being Hellenized. This discourse is proven false by the fact that the Maronite liturgy is demonstrably descended from an anti-Chalcedonian liturgy, as well as the widespread use of Syriac by Chalcedonian Christians in Syria. The second false discourse is that the dispute between pro- and anti-Chalcedonian factions ultimately boils down to an ethno-linguistic dispute between Greeks and Syriac-speakers. Again, this is shown false by both the central importance of Greek-speakers such as Severus of Antioch in the anti-Chalcedonian camp, as well as the widespread use of Syriac by the pro-Chalcedonian rank-and-file in Syria. Instead of seeing ecclesial affiliation among Syrian Christians as somehow being a function of ethnicity, we should recognize that while Greek was the main language of culture among Chalcedonian Orthodox prior to the end of the 8th Century, dialects of Aramaic such as Syriac and Christian Palestinian Aramaic (a language whose literature was purely produced in pro-Chalcedonian milieux) were the main everyday languages of the majority of ordinary Orthodox Christians in Syria and Palestine. This is how Arabic came to be the main cultural and liturgical language among Orthodox around the turn of the 9th century, centuries before the other Christians of the region started using Arabic liturgically: the transition from one foreign language of government and culture to another was not so great a leap, especially when the new language was much more similar to what people were speaking at home.

One presumes that the reason that the place of Syriac in the Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch (and Palestinian Christian Aramaic in the Patriarchate of Jerusalem) is not widely recognized is simply because it has fallen into disuse in the past few hundred years, really coming to an end only in the 16th or 17th centuries. If we look earlier, however, we can find ample evidence of the liturgical use of Syriac among the Orthodox in the form of the large numbers of Orthodox liturgical manuscripts extant in Syriac, we can start to get a feel for the huge importance that that language had among the Orthodox Christians of Syria.

By far, the largest collection of medieval Orthodox manuscripts in Syriac is the Monastery of St. Catherine on Mount Sinai. The Syriac manuscripts found in St. Catherine's Monastery are listed in the volume Catalogue of the Syriac mss. in the Convent of S. Catharine on Mount Sinai, which was published in 1894 and, being well out of copyright, can be read and downloaded on Google Books here. In the 1950's, most of the manuscripts at Sinai, primarily in Arabic, Georgian, Greek and Syriac were microfilmed by a project sponsored by the Library of Congress and so have generally been quite easily available on that format simply by ordering copies of the films from them. However, a major leap forward has happened recently, and many, though not yet most, of these microfilms have been digitized by some good folks in Louvain. This digitized collection can be accessed for free here.

I thought it might be useful, in the context of discussing the use of Syriac by Orthodox, to give links for all manuscripts from Sinai of liturgical texts in Syriac that can be accessed online. Although the earliest manuscript listed here is 9th Century and the latest is 15th Century, 13th Century manuscripts have a very notable preponderance in the collection. This is directly related to the Mamluk conquest of Syria at that time, which led to the destruction of Antioch as a cultural center and the dispersal of manuscripts from the region. As it was with pre-Iconoclastic icons, Sinai is also nearly the sole safe haven in the region against the vicissitudes of time, and thus there is a very large collection of manuscripts from Syria that wound up in Sinai following the turmoil of the 13th Century.



The list of manuscripts and links can be found after the jump.




Anthologion:
Sinai Syr 111: undated.
Sinai Syr 126: 13th Century, not yet digitized.


Euchologion:
Sinai Syr 42: 12th Century.
Sinai Syr 109: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 113: 13th Century.
Sinai Syr 114: undated.
Sinai Syr 115: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 117: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 123: undated.
Link
Sinai Syr 140: undated.
Sinai Syr 152: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 171: undated, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 173: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 174: undated, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 177: undated, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 178: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 224: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 239: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 258: undated.

Horologion:
Sinai Syr 43: 12th/13th Century.
Sinai Syr 106: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 116: undated.
Sinai Syr 130: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 142: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 150: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 151: undated.
Sinai Syr 153: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 158: undated.
Sinai Syr 166: undated.
Sinai Syr 169: undated.
Sinai Syr 179: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 249: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 264: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 278: 13th Century, not yet digitized.

Irmologion:
Sinai Syr 40: undated.
Sinai Syr 64: undated.
Sinai Syr 69: 11th Century.
Sinai Syr 122: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 141: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 154: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 273: 13th Century, not yet digitized.

Menologion:
Sinai Syr 18: 11th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 22: 12th Century.
Sinai Syr 36: 13th Century.
Sinai Syr 44: 11th Century.
Sinai Syr 78: undated.
Sinai Syr 84: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 85: undated.
Sinai Syr 86: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 87: undated.
Sinai Syr 88: undated.
Sinai Syr 90: undated.
Sinai Syr 91: undated.
Sinai Syr 105: 13th century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 110: undated, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 182: undated, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 185: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 188: undated, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 191: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 195: undated, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 198: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 204: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 206: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 212: undated.
Sinai Syr 233: undated.
Sinai Syr 237: undated, not yet digitized.

Octoechos:
Sinai Syr 72: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 73: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 79: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 97: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 107: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 156: undated.
Sinai Syr 197: undated, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 208: undated.
Sinai Syr 210: undated.
Sinai Syr 263: 13th Century, not yet digitized.


Paraklitiki:
Sinai Syr 187: undated, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 209: 13th Century, not yet digitized.

Pentekostarion:
Sinai Syr 163: undated, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 243: undated, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 248: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 252: 13th Century, not yet digitized.

Sticherarion:
Sinai Syr 25: 11th Century.
Sinai Syr 48: 10th/11th Century.
Sinai Syr 50: 12th Century.
Sinai Syr 118: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 133: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 148: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 175: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 221: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 250: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 274: 9th Century, not yet digitized.

Triodion:
Sinai Syr 4: 12th Century.
Sinai Syr 70: 12th/13th Century.
Sinai Syr 71: 11th Century. (With Pentekostarion)
Sinai Syr 77: undated. (With Pentekostarion)
Sinai Syr 80: undated. (With Pentecostarion)
Sinai Syr 183: undated, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 190: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 207: undated.
Sinai Syr 211: 13th Century, not yet digitized.

Typikon:
Sinai Syriac 129: 1255.
Sinai Syraic 136: 13th Century.
Sinai Syriac 192: undated, not yet digitized.


Services (Unspecified in the Catalog):
Sinai Syr 21: 11th Century.
Sinai Syr 45: undated, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 83: undated.
Sinai Syr 93: 15th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 95: undated, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 96: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 104: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 119: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 127: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 131: not dated.
Sinai Syr 137: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 138: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 146: undated.
Sinai Syr 147: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 167: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 168: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 180: undated, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 184: undated, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 186: undated, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 193: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 196: not dated, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 202: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 203: undated.
Sinai Syr 220: undated.
Sinai Syr 235: undated.
Sinai Syr 251: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 254: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 255: undated, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 256: undated, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 261: undated.
Sinai Syr 262: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 265: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 270: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 276: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 277: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 280: 13th Century, not yet digitized.
Sinai Syr 281: 13th Century, not yet digitized.

11 comments:

Jon Marc said...

How interesting! Just to be clear, these are Byzantine Rite texts in Syriac? Are there any extent West Syrian Rite texts that were in use by the pro-Chalcedon Orthodox in greater Syria after the schism between the pro and anti-Chalcedonians had hardened?

Samn! said...

Well, you can't so much divide stuff into "Byzantine Rite and "West Syrian Rite" unless you're looking at two distant ends along a spectrum. That is, things gradually became more like what was done in Constantinople fairly gradually, with some major points where big changes were made, most notably in the 10th/11th Century, when Antioch came back under Byzantine control, and again during the Crusades when there were Patriarchs exiled in Constantinople. But also, a lot of what made the liturgy of the Church of Antioch "Byzantine" in today's terms is actually Constantinople and Antioch both being influenced by the usage of Jerusalem-- it's my understanding that the Typikon of Mar Sabba was adopted later in Constantinople than in Antioch, for example.

There's very little study done on the history of the liturgy in Syria, though, and it would take a lot of manuscript work, though now if you have decent Syriac you can start out by just digging around online--- there's an equal amount of Arabic liturgical texts online from the Sinai collection from the same period. At antiochcentre.net, there are some downloadable articles about earlier Chalcedonian Syriac liturgical stuff....

Eric said...

Samn!, thank you so much for this great labor of linking to these mss. I have been trained in Syriac at the University of Chicago, and, while it is not my primary area of study, I would love the opportunity to do some work here, perhaps producing an edition of one or more of these mss. I have worked a bit in the Arthur Vööbus Syriac manuscript archive at the Oriental Institute, so I do have some experience in editing manuscripts of this type. I hope I can find some time in the midst of my dissertation writing to work on them.

Eric said...

By the way, I have also read some Christian Palestinian Aramaic, and have always wanted to look into whatever liturgical material might be available, but I have never had enough time to do the research for it. Are there any easily accessible editions of that material that you know of?

blogger said...

Thank you Samn! for taking the time to post these links. It would be wonderful to see some academic work on this in the future.

blogger said...

could not send a message to Eric on FB, so I post this here in case anyone would find CPA lectionaries of interest...

http://www.archive.org/search.php?query=palestinian%20lectionary%20AND%20mediatype%3Atexts

Samn! said...

Eric,

There's only something like 110 CPA manuscripts in existence, as far as I know, and some of those are palimpsests. For background on its social position and some bibliography, see:

Sidney Griffith, "From Aramaic to Arabic: The Language of the Monasteries of Palestine in the Byzantine and Early Islamic Periods" in Dumbarton Oaks Papers 51 (1997)

Also essential is:

Jacob Barclay, "Melkite Orthodox Syro-Byzantine Manuscripts in Syriac and Palestinian Aramaic" in Liber Annuus 21 (1971 pp. 205-219


The only published texts in CPA I know of, none of which are liturgical, are found in the Corpus of Christian Palestinian Aramaic: http://www.brill.nl/publications/corpus-christian-palestinian-aramaic



Do you have an email address I can reach you at?

Fr. Stephan J. Koster said...

This article is a milestone indeed, remembering that against claims of the Jacobites for obtaining Saydnaya Monastery in Syria, arabic having replaced syriac already, Syriac Manuscripts there were burnded, thought to be Jacobite by the Melkites; knowledge of Syriac by the Melkites having been lost, even a conscience of it. Much more important though as for today; Syriac Melkite Manuscripts are still present in Syria and Lebanon; even though Church authorities in the last 2 centuries having repeated the aforementoned error and handing them to 'syriac institutions'. Hence in the catholic sphere they still ought to be looked up and duly documented in the Syrian-Catholic Patriarchal Convent in Chiarfé in Lebanon, and seemingly much of it in the Library of the Maronite Archdiocese of Aleppo in Syria. The Manuscripts in Melkite Hands in Aleppo, Damascus and elsewere in the Middle East are mostly arabic, starting in the 16th century, cfr. the Karamé-Euchologion in Aleppo, or. the oldest arabic Archieraticon with a Syriac eiriniká for the Ordination of a Bishop, from the 15th.cent. preserved in St. Joseph's Jesuit-University Library in Beirut.

Thank You so much for this most valuable work. May it, as the comments show, boost much interest for a deeper love for Antioch, whose preeminent daughter is Constantinople (Jerusalem first belonging to Antioch as well - later liturgically giving so much to all of apostolic christianity).

Eric said...

Samn!, thanks for the info. I'll look them up.

You can reach me at

ejobe AT uchicago DOT edu

Ingemar said...

I have a question that is somewhat related:

On a forum someone mentioned that Syriac was St. John Chrysostom's native language. Is there any truth to this claim besides the fact that he was born in Antioch?

Samn! said...

Ingemar,

None I know of. 4th century Antioch was a pretty Hellenized place, so far as I'm aware, though its hinterland would have spoken Aramaic. I mean, Antioch was a cosmopolitan city where Aramaic-speakers were doubtless a presence, but I know of no clear reason to count St. John Chrysostom as one....