A Project on the Antiochian Chalcedonian Orthodox Manuscripts : Syriac, Arabic, Cpa and Greek
Parole de l’Orrient 31 (2006) 1-9
A PROJECT ON THE ANTIOCHIAN CHALCEDONIAN
SYRIAC, ARABIC, CPA AND GREEK
Elia N. KHALIFEH
First of all, I want to thank so much Dr. Sebastian Brock. Because of
him, I had the great opportunity to continue my studies and research in Ox-
ford on this important project. Also, I would like to thank Fr. Samir Khalil
for giving me the opportunity to be among you today.
My paper will consist of a few short words on my project on the Or-
thodox Chalcedonian Manuscripts in Syriac, Arabic, Christian Palestinian
Aramaic (CPA) and Greek.
1 - THE TRILINGUAL ICON
Before I begin my talk, I want to show a beautiful icon from the very
old Monastery of the Dormition of the Theotokos in Kaftun1, Northern
Mount Lebanon, to summarise how the three languages: Greek, Syriac and
Arabic were used all along in the Orthodox Chalcedonian Patriarchate of
Antioch and all the East. This icon is painted on both sides (i.e. bilateral):
- The first side shows an icon of the Theotokos Hodigitria from the 11th
century by an unknown iconographer. [Plate 1]
- The second side shows an icon of the Theophany (the Baptism of Jesus
Christ) from the 13th century also by an unknown iconographer. [Plate 2]
1) For further information concerning the monastery and the bilateral icon of Kaftun
see: LAMENS, «Notices» (1996) 21-27. MOUAWAD, «Les Mystérieux Monastères de Kaftun»
(2001-2) 95-113. HÉLOU, «L’icône bilatérale de la Vierge de Kaftoun» (2003) 101-31.
IMMERZEEL, «Medieval Wall Paintings» (2004) 11, 25, 31.
Here, I would like also to bring to attention to the recent and extremely important dis-
covery of the ancient and wonderful frescoes in the Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus
near the Monastery of the Theotokos in Kaftun. A project was set up to reveal and preserve
these frescoes hidden under plaster. These frescoes contain a number of inscriptions in Greek,
Syriac Chalcedonian, and Arabic.
ELIA N. KHALIFEH
What is distinctive about the second side of this icon (the Theophany) is
that the inscriptions are written in three languages:
1st) In Greek: we have: “the Baptism” and “Jesus Christ” (in the cen-
tre), “the Prophet Isaiah” (in the upper right corner), and “the Prophet
David” (in the upper left corner).
2nd) In Syriac Chalcedonian: on the open scroll that the Prophet Isaiah
holds in his hand, we read a liturgical composite text taken from Isaiah I: 16,
LV: 1 and XII: 3.
“Thus the Lord says: wash yourselves, make yourselves clean and put
away the evil of your doings from before my eyes. And everyone who
thirsts goes and draws the waters from the spring of salvation.”
3rd) In Arabic: on the open scroll that the Prophet David holds, we read
a liturgical composite text taken from the Psalms CXIV [CXIIIA]: 3-5 and
LXXVII [LXXVI]: 17 .
“The sea saw it and fled, and the Jordan turned back. The mountains
feared like the ram, and the hills like the lambs. What ails you O sea that
you fled, and you O Jordan that you turned back. The waters saw you O
God, the waters saw you and were afraid.”
2 - THE PROJECT
In my research, I am trying, through my work on manuscripts, micro-
films, microfiches, checklists, catalogues and other published bibliographies,
to determine the location of manuscripts which originated in the Chalcedo-
nian Orthodox (or Rum Orthodox) patrimony of the Patriarchate of An-
tioch (commonly referred to as the Melkite or Greek Orthodox Church),
along with any relevant material from the Patriarchates of Jerusalem and Al-
exandria - including Sinai.
These manuscripts are in Syriac, Arabic, CPA and Greek, and date from
the 5th to the 19th centuries.
So far, based on catalogues, other publications and on some of the
manuscripts themselves or their copies, I have collected information from
more than 50,000 manuscripts spread around the world. Of these, approxi-
mately, 4250 are definitely Rum Orthodox: 3250 are in Arabic and 1000
are in Syriac and CPA.
My ultimate aim is to compile a catalogue of this corpus of manuscripts
with repertories, inventories, indices and bibliographies.
A PROJECT ON THE ANTIOCHIAN CHALCEDONIAN ORTHODOX MANUSCRIPTS 3
Plate 1 - Theotokos
Plate 2 - Theophany
ELIA N. KHALIFEH
Here I should mention that there are a lot of mistakes and errors in some
of the notes and information on the manuscripts to be found in the catalogues
and other bibliographies.
3 - THE BODLEIAN LIBRARY
To give you one result of the research, I will mention only the Syriac,
Arabic and CPA manuscripts in the Bodleian Library in Oxford.
a - Syriac Manuscripts:
Among the collection of the 205 manuscripts, I found 53 which are
definitely Rum Orthodox. The rest belong to the Syriac Orthodox, the
Church of the East, the Maronite, and some of which cannot easily be classi-
fied under any of these patrimonies.
The proportion of Rum Orthodox manuscripts in the Bodleian Library
happens to be considerably higher than that for most other British libraries.
These 53 manuscripts are written in the Syriac Chalcedonian Script
that began to appear in the 10th-11th century.
As for the contents of these manuscripts, all of them are liturgical. Such
as: Horologion  (the most used and the less likely to survive), Menaion and
Anthologion , Octoechos , Triodion (Triodion I) , Pentecostarion
(Triodion II) , Antiphonarion , Alleluiarion, Exapostolarion and
Troparion , Lectionary and Epistolarion , Psaltirion and hymns .
All of them show the particularities of the Rum Orthodox Antiochian li-
From the colophons, rubrics and notes of these manuscripts we can learn
a great deal of different and helpful information of importance; for example:
* These manuscripts date from between the 12th and the 16th centuries
when the usage of the Syriac language began to decrease in the Rum Ortho-
dox Antiochian Patriarchate. We have from the: 12th c. (1), 13th c. (2), 15th c.
(7), 16th c. (14).
They use different eras: Era of Adam [Annus Adami, AA], Era of the
World (i.e. Era of the Creation) [Annus Mundi, AM], Era of the Greeks
(i.e. Seleucid Era) [Annus Greacorum, AG], Era of the Incarnation [Annus
Incarnationis, AI], and Era of the Hijrah [Annus Higrae, AH].
* They mention numerous towns, villages, churches and monasteries;
A PROJECT ON THE ANTIOCHIAN CHALCEDONIAN ORTHODOX MANUSCRIPTS
mainly from Mount Lebanon and the Syrian Kalamun (between Damascus
and Homs). The places mentioned are: where they were copied, or where
they were located.
These manuscripts were written in or for places like: Balamand (Mon-
astery of the Theotokos), Hardin (Monastery of St. Thomas), Kaftun (Mon-
astery of the Theotokos, and Church of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus), Kfur al-
‘Arbeh (Church of St. George), Amiun, Btorram, Baalbeck (Church of St.
Barbara), Ras Baalbeck (Church of St. Elian), and Tabshar (Church of St.
George) in Lebanon. Or in places like: Bludan (Monastery of St. George),
and Yabrud in Syria.
These enable us to draw up a map of the derivation of the manuscripts.
* Also, they mention names of scribes: laymen, monks, deacons,
priests, bishops and patriarchs. We have from the:
- 12th c.: Priest Ibrahim [1 manuscript], Priest Sa‘id . [2 names]
- 13th c.: Priest Sham‘un ben Freij ben Siar ben La‘azar ben Khuri .
- 15th c.: Priest Musa ben Ya‘qub from Mout Lebanon , Priest Tuma
ben Ibrahim ben ‘Issa from Fahrah , Deacon Ya‘qub ben Deacon Yu-
hanna from Hardin , Deacon Saliba ben Srur ben Sa‘id from Kfur (al-
‘Arbeh) . [4 names]
- 16th c.: Bishop Gerasimos of Baalbeck , Bishop Yuhanna of
Yabrud ben Priest Ibrahim , Hieromonk Saba in Kaftun , Hieromonk
Dawud ben Salam from Ras Baalbeck , Deacon Makarios in Kaftun dis-
ciple of Yuakim Bishop of Beirut , Deacon Gerasimos ben Yusef ben
Musa from Saidnaya , Monk Ibrahim ben Dawud from Qara , Zosima
ben Priest Dawud from Btorram , Yuhanna ben Priest Dawud from Btor-
ram . [9 names]
* We can also find further information in colophons, such as notes
1st) Wakf (donation, dedication, legacy).
2nd) For overeager and acquisitive collectors and scholars, almost all
contain anathemata and curses against anyone who steals the manuscripts.
3rd) Additional historical information provided at a later date (e.g.
earthquakes, famine, plagues, etc.).
4th) Additional material of sociological and demographical changes.