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Ancient translations of late antique Christian literature serve to spread the body of knowledge to wider audiences in often radically new cultural contexts. For the texts which are translated, their versions are not only sometimes crucial textual witnesses, but also important testimonies of independent strands of reception, cast in the cultural context of the new language. This volume gathers ten contributions that deal with translations into Latin, Syriac, Armenian, Georgian, Coptic, Old Nubian, Old Slavonic, Sogdian, Arabic and Ethiopic, set in dialog in order to highlight the range of problems and approaches involved in dealing with the reception of Christian literature across the various languages in which it was transmitted.
In The Arabic Life of Antony Attributed to Serapion of Thmuis, Elizabeth Agaiby demonstrates how the redacted Life of Antony, the “Father of all monks and star of the wilderness”, gained widespread acceptance within Egypt shortly after its composition in the 13th century and dominated Coptic liturgical texts on Antony for over 600 years – the influence of which is still felt up to the present day. By providing a first edition and translation, Agaiby demonstrates how the Arabic Life bears witness to the reinterpretation of the religious memory of Antony in the Coptic Orthodox Church.
As senders of letters, copyists of literary texts, compilers of accounts, readers, and teachers, the monks of late antique Egypt articulated their interactions with their ascetic and secular environments via their role as authors, scribes, and owners of written text. This volume edited by Malcolm Choat and Maria Chiara Giorda examines the presence and practice of writing, modes of written communication, and the symbolic and spiritual value of the written word in monastic communities. Contributions cover evidence from papyri and inscriptions to literature transmitted in manuscripts, positioned within the shift in recent scholarship away from literature such as hagiography as a source of positivistic history, towards evidence that derives more directly from the monk or period in focus.
In Stanzaic Syntax in the Madrashe of Ephrem the Syrian, which focuses on madrāšê V and VI in the Paradise cycle, Paul S. Stevenson looks at Ephrem’s poetic art from the point of view of a linguist. This study goes beyond the traditional levels of analysis, the clause and the sentence, and examines the structure of whole stanzas as units. The result is a surprisingly rich tapestry of syntactic patterning, which can justly be considered the key to Ephrem’s prosody. The driving force behind Ephrem’s poetry turns out not to be meter or sound play, but a variety of syntactic templates, which include even vertical patterning of constituents.
Using the VU University syntactically analyzed, hiearchically structured database of ancient languages, the authors compared the Masoretic text of Kings to the Syriac Peshitta translation. The core question in this comparison is: which deviations between the two texts are related to the requirements of the distinct language systems, which are related to other aspects of the translation process, and which are related to the transmission history of the translated text? Though linguistic and text-historical approaches differ in method and focus, research into ancient biblical translations must take both into account. On the basis of a synoptic matching at clause level, corresponding phrases within the clauses are matched, and corresponding words within phrases. A choice out of a wealth of detailed differences thus brought to light are discussed at the syntactic level at which the phenomenon best fits: word, phrase, clause and above the clause.