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Western Medieval Manuscripts : Arabic hagiographic palimpsest with Greek Old Testament undertext

Western Medieval Manuscripts

<p style='text-align: justify;'>This fragment consists of a small scrap of parchment from an <i>Arabic hagiographic palimpsest with Greek Old Testament undertext</i>. The upper and lower texts are written in the same orientation, rather than at right-angles as is usually the case in palimpsests.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>While the fragment is too small for much information to be discerned from it, the manuscript from which it came has been identified. Other, much more substantial portions of it are now Sinai, Monastery of St Catherine, MS NF ar. perg. 66, Leipzig, Universitätsbibliothek, MS gr. 2 (Rescriptus Tischendorf/Codex Scythopolitanus) and St Petersburg, Rossijskaja Nacional'naja biblioteka, MS gr. 26, comprising 6, 22 and 6 folios respectively. From these it can be established that the original Greek text, found also in the Leipzig and St Petersburg fragments, is that of the Old Testament, and can be dated stylistically to the 7th or 8th century. The leaves of the Sinai fragment were reused in palimpsest from a different original manuscript, written in Christian Palestinian Aramaic.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The overtext comprises a series of Lives of Saints translated from Greek into Arabic, and was copied by one Ḏāwīḏ al-Ḥimṣī (David of Homs) for Yannah of Raqqa, a monk of the great Monastery of St Sabas (Mar Saba) in the Jordan valley. It can be dated quite closely, since the translation of one of these texts, the Life of St Stephen the Sabaite by Leontios of Damascus, was composed at St Sabas and completed only in 903, while by 924/5 Yannah had been appointed abbot of the monastery. (M. van Esbroeck, 'Le codex rescriptus Tischendorf 2 à Leipzig et Cyrille de Scythopolis en version arabe', <i>Actes du deuxiėme Congrės international d'études arabes chrétiennes (Oosterhesselen, septembre 1984)</i>, ed. S. K. Samir (Rome 1986), pp. 81-91; André Binggeli, 'Les trois David: copistes arabes de Palestine aux 9e-10e s.', <i>Manuscripta Graeca et Orientalia: mélanges monastiques et patristiques en l'honneur de Paul Géhin</i>, ed. André Binggeli, Anne Boud'hors and Matthieu Cassin (Leuven 2016), pp. 79-117 at pp. 100-106)). The style of the Greek text suggests that the original manuscript had also been produced in Palestine (Tchernetska, 'Add. 1879.5', p. 205).</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The Leipzig, St Petersburg and Cambridge fragments were all acquired in the mid-19th century by Constantin von Tischendorf, on two different trips to the Middle East. However, while he visited St Sabas on both occasions and acquired manuscripts there, including palimpsests, the presence of another fragment of the manuscript in the Monastery of St Catherine on Mount Sinai, which he also visited during these journeys, indicates that this palimpsest had entered the library of that institution by the time he encountered it. Tischendorf evidently had the various parts of the manuscript in his possession, including this fragment, treated with a chemical reagent to make the Greek text more visible, which have left the ink blurred and discoloured.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Dr Christopher Wright</p>

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