Tuesday, 6 May 2014

2 Baruch and 4 Ezra: Another Syriac lectionary manuscript

Today I have some real news for those of you who are fans of 2 Baruch and 4 Ezra: Lections from 2 Baruch and 4 Ezra have been identified in yet another, hitherto unpublished, Syriac lectionary manuscript.

Manuscripts containing (parts of) 2 Baruch, in particular, do not come to light very often. This is the first time since the late 1970s/early 1980s that a manuscript containing any part of 2 Baruch surfaces. The last manuscript to appear was the Arabic Mount Sinai manuscript, nr. 589 of the Atiya handlist. The last time a lectionary manuscript containing a lection from 2 Baruch was identified was back in the early 1970s (Ms 77 of the A Konath collection). That is forty years ago.

Sebastian Brock and Lucas Van Rompay's Catalogue of the Syriac Manuscripts and Fragments in the Library of the Deir al-Surian, Wadi Al-Natrun(Egypt) has just been published by Peeters Press. Congratulations to the editors! This is a great accomplishment and very helpful for many of us.

One of the manuscripts described in the new catalogue is Dayr al-Suryan Ms 33 (DS Syr 33), formerly MK 10bis. Unlike so many other codices, this lectionary manuscript was apparently not brought to Europe in the 19th century but remained in the Syrian Monastery. Although the existence of the manuscript was already known, the content (i.e., the identity and order of the lections) of this lectionary manuscript has as far as I know not been published before, and it has definitely not been known among scholars of 2 Baruch and 4 Ezra. I have not had the chance to examine DS Syr 33 myself, but Brock generously shared his entry on the manuscript with me some time ago and I have had the opportunity to work on it for a while.

According to Brock, DS Syr 33 probably dates from the 13th century. The manuscript unfortunately lacks the last folios and hence the colophon (which was assumedly there), but the hand resembles the hand responsible for DS Syr 42, which was copied in Tripoli, Lebanon, in 1221. It is unknown whether DS Syr 33 was copied in the Syrian Monastery, or whether the manuscript was brought there later on. In any case, the list of readings of the manuscript is very similar, partly identical, with the order of lections in Add 14686 of the British Library, which according to the colophon was copied in the monastery in 1255. Add 14686 is a manuscript I have worked on for a while now. (More on this manuscript on this blog later.)

The lection from 2 Baruch in Ds Syr 33 is 2 Bar 44:9-15, identified in the rubric as “From Baruch the Prophet”. It is found on folios 74v-75r and was read on the Sunday of the Departed. There are two lections from 4 Ezra in the lectionary manuscript. The first, 4 Ezra 7:26-42 identified as “From the Prophecy of Ezra”, is found on folios 72v-74v and was read immediately before the lection from 2 Baruch on the Sunday of the Departed.  The second lection, 4 Ezra 6:18-28 (“From Ezra the Prophet”) is one of the readings for the Feast of Mount Tabor (ff. 222r-223r).

As could be suspected due to the similarities between the two manuscripts, the lections from 2 Baruch and 4 Ezra and the occasions of reading in Ds Syr 33 are the same as in Add 14686. In Add 14686, 4 Ezra 12:31-38 is also read at the event of the Revelation of Joseph (ff. 16r-v). It is possible that this event and the reading were originally there in DS Syr 33 as well, but the relevant folios are unfortunately missing from the codex. We don’t know what the relationship between the two manuscripts is in terms of production and copying, but it is at least likely that DS Syr 33 is  somewhat older than Add 14686. In effect, DS Syr 33 is probably the oldest known lectionary manuscript attesting to the explicit liturgical use of a passage from 2 Baruch.

So, what’s new and why is this important?

The fact that lections from 2 Baruch and 4 Ezra were read during worship by groups of medieval Syriac Christians have been known for a while (W. Baars, 1963; L.I.Lied, 2013). However, what DS Syr 33 shows us is that there probably was a “chain of transmission” (I hesitate using “tradition”) of reading lections from 2 Baruch and 4 Ezra in West Syriac worship practice – at least in some monastic milieus in the Middle Ages. I neither suggest that these lections and the texts they were excerpted from were read by everyone, nor that they were the most important texts in the world. I am saying that they were in use in a liturgical tradition that is known for its lack of uniformity (or in other words: its ability to adjust and to use texts and traditions creatively). DS Syr 33 is so far the fifth known Syriac manuscript from this period that contains lections from both or one of these texts. It shows us that passages once excerpted from 2 Baruch and 4 Ezra were read as "scripture"/biblical books/parts of the “biblical story”/associated with the figures Baruch and Ezra, and that they continued to be copied as such.  

It is a big day! Go celebrate!

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