Monday, 21 December 2015

Two forgotten sources to 4 Ezra

In the last few years, I have mentioned on two occasions manuscript witnesses to 4 Ezra that have apparently been left out of scholarly discussions focusing on this writing. In this post, I propose two possible reasons for this omission, and discuss why these manuscript sources to 4 Ezra deserve our attention. My interest here is not the decisions made by individual scholars, but rather the assessment schemes embedded in philological paradigms and the structuring effects of disciplinary borders to research practices.

My first example, Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) Supplément turc 983, f 113/126, containing Syriac 4 Ezra 8:33-41a/8:41c-47, was discussed in the post “Recycling 4 Ezra” (12 February 2014) (here). As noted in that post, this single parchment leaf was published in 1993 by Bernard Outtier in the article, “Un fragment syriaque inédit de IV Esdras”. The leaf has been dated paleographically to the sixth century (Outtier) and also to the eighth to ninth centuries, by Franҫoise Briquel Chatonnet (“Manuscrits syriaque de la Bibliothèque nationale de France” […], 185). As I mentioned in the 2014 post, the fragment has played no role in the scholarly discussion of 4 Ezra.

The second example, British Library (BL) Or. 6201 C (Fragments), containing Sahidic 4 Ezra 10:32-47, was mentioned in passing in the introduction to the post, “4 Ezra in Syriac Lectionary Manuscripts” (4 September 2015). This fragmented leaf was published by Hans-Gebhard Bethge in 2004 (“Neue Bibelfragmente: Ein Überblick”), and discussed most recently by Alin Suciu in the article, “On a Bilingual Copto-Arabic Manuscript of 4 Ezra and the Reception of this Pseudepigraphon in Coptic Literature”. It was Suciu who brought the existence of the fragment to my attention some years ago. I do not know Coptic but, out of pure curiosity and general interest in the transmission history of 4 Ezra, and in order to obtain an impression of its material features, I had a brief look at the fragment when I visited the British Library for other reasons in February 2014. BL Or. 6201 C (Fragments) is a glassed collection of small, unrelated fragments from Coptic manuscripts. The leaf containing 4 Ezra is by far the largest of them, measuring approximately 17 x 11 cm. Parts of two columns of text are visible, but the parchment is dark and some of the text has faded. Neither Suciu nor Bethge date the fragment but Bethge suggests that it was “geschrieben wohl nicht vor dem 6. Jahrhundert” (“Neue Bibelfragmente”, 198). For further information about the fragment and its text, please consult the experts. For the present discussion, a pink post it-note stuck to the glass of the collection of glassed fragments in the British Library is of particular interest. This note identifies the text of the fragment as a passage from 4 Ezra and the note is signed “H.-G. B. (i.e., Hans-G. Bethge) March 89”. In other words, this note suggests that the fragment has been known to specialists of Coptic manuscripts since 1989 but, to the best of my knowledge, it was not mentioned again in the scholarship on 4 Ezra until Suciu brought it up in September 2015.

These two fragments containing passages from 4 Ezra have two important things in common. They have both been published (in 1993 and 2004, respectively), and both have been known to scholars specialising in the manuscript traditions in question, the Coptic one long before its publication, and yet they have not made their way into scholarship regarding 4 Ezra.

It is conceivable that this omission may be due to a lack in the transfer of knowledge between academic fields. The communication between those whose primary interest is the manuscripts of a given linguistic tradition and those who are interested in the writings and the narrative contents of the texts preserved in the manuscripts may sometimes mean that information gets lost between the two. Scholars may be working on overlapping empirical materials but, due to disciplinary divides, they do not necessarily share the same academic discourses and literary canons. The result may be gaps, like the one suggested here.

Another possibility is that the two fragments mentioned above may have been categorised as “bad text witnesses” and then forgotten by scholars of 4 Ezra. Within a text-critical paradigm, manuscripts are first and foremost interesting as witnesses to earlier texts. Their value as good or bad witnesses is determined by their age, availability, condition and proximity to the assumed early text. One might say that textual criticism was designed precisely to enable editors to choose between witnesses and hence, logically, to put aside the less interesting ones. From this perspective, the lack of attention to the two manuscript sources discussed here makes sense, since BnF Supplément turc 983, f 113/126 and BL Or. 6201 C (Fragments) are both fragmented and hard to read. It is also possible that the preference given to the early, complete Latin witness to 4 Ezra has reduced interest in other witnesses even further. It should be noted, however, that both the Coptic and the Syriac fragments may be relatively early compared to other available sources. Admittedly, Bethge’s suggestion of a post sixth century dating for the Coptic fragment does not say much. Concerning the Syriac sheet, two different dates have been suggested. If Outtier’s suggestion is correct, this fragment may be one of the oldest witnesses we have to any passage of (Syriac) 4 Ezra, possibly as old as, or even older than, the version of 4 Ezra surviving in the Codex Ambrosianus. Even if Briquel Chatonnet’s suggested eighth century dating is correct, this Syriac source is still quite early, compared to the extant Latin, Georgian and Armenian witnesses to 4 Ezra.

The reason I find this situation interesting is that manuscripts that may be regarded as irrelevant within the context of one paradigm, may be highly relevant within another. Today, we see a general rise in the interest taken in reception history, in the history of engagement and use of manuscripts, in the materiality of textual artefacts and in manuscript practices, as well as a renewed focus on the cultural contexts of the Jewish and Christian East. This situation suggests that fragments, such as the ones discussed in this post, should be brought out of the shadows and put under scrutiny by those who work on 4 Ezra. The two fragments may well be “bad witnesses” from a text-critical point of view, but that assessment does not make them less important as sources to the further development and engagement with the text of 4 Ezra among Syriac and Coptic Christians. Rather, such “bad witnesses” may have interesting stories to tell, and attention to other and later cultural and linguistic contexts of use might change the disciplinary story about the life of a writing and the ways in which compositions such as 4 Ezra continued to matter in late antiquity and the early middle ages.

Importantly, such an exploration would demand increased communication between those who work primarily on the manuscripts and those whose interest is first and foremost in the writings contained in them. Otherwise, sources such as these may be lost in the transmission between academic fields.

Select literature

Bethge, Hans-G. “Neue Bibelfragmente: Ein Überblick.” Pages 195-207 in Coptic Studies on the Threshold of a New Millennium. Proceedings of the Seventh International Congress of Coptic Studies. Leiden, 27 August – 2 September 2000. Volume 1. Edited by M. Immerzeel and J. van der Vliet. 2 vols. OLA 133-134. Leuven: Peeters, 2004.

Briquel Chatonnet, Franҫoise. Manuscrits syriaque de la Bibliothèque nationale de France (nos356-435, entrés depuis 1911), de la bibliothèque Méjanes d’Aix-en-Provence, de la bibliothèque municipale de Lyon et de la Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire de Strasbourg. Catalogue. Paris: Bibliothèque nationale de France, 1997.

Outtier, Bernard. “Un fragment syriaque inédit de IV Esdras” (Apocrypha 4 (1993):19-23).

Suciu, Alin. “On a Bilingual Copto-Arabic Manuscript of 4 Ezra and the Reception of this Pseudepigraphon in Coptic Literature.” JSP 25/1 (2015): 3-22.

Cf. also Adam McCollum’s post on Georgian 4 Ezra:

McCollum, Adam. “On 4 Ezra in Old Georgian, with a synoptic text example of 5:22-30” Posted on hmmlorientalia, 12 September 2015.


Thanks are due to Alin Suciu and Karina M. Hogan.

This blog post is based on my research and is part of the wider dissemination of my work. If you want to use the information in this post, please cite it!
Lied, Liv Ingeborg, “Two forgotten sources to 4 Ezra,” posted on Religion – Manuscripts – Media Culture, [21 December 2015] (URL, retrieved [date]).
If you want to discuss any of the findings or hypotheses, feel free to contact me in the commentary field below.

7 January 2016: This essay was re-published at the Women Biblical Scholars site. You find it here:

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Pseudepigrapha Section CFP, SBL Annual Meeting 2016

The SBL Pseudepigrapha Section call for papers for the 2016 Annual Meeting is out:

The Pseudepigrapha Section is planning to have four sessions at the Annual Meeting in San Antonio. The first session, ”Interaction and change in scribal cultures in the Persian and Hellenistic periods,” is jointly organized with the Hebrew Scriptures and Cognate Literature Section. This will be an invited session. The second session, “The Textual History of the Bible: The Deutero-Canonical Scriptures,” will also be an invited session. We will examine various linguistic, literary, exegetical, historical, and canonical aspects of a number of deutero-canonical books. The volume will appear with Brill in 2017. The third session, titled ”Violence,” is an open session. We invite papers that deal with violence in all of its aspects, exploring the various uses, functions, and contexts of violence in pseudepigraphical texts. The fourth session will be an open session. Young scholars and new voices in Pseudepigrapha Studies are especially encouraged to submit abstracts.

Deadline 1 March 2016.

Monday, 30 November 2015

NNJCI excursion/seminar to Ethiopia

The Church of Ethiopia in Antiquity and the Middle Ages – Jewish traditions, Islamic context and indigenous developments

The Nordic Network for the Study of Judaism, Christianity and Islam in the First Millennium (NNJCI) is proud to present its new seminar on Ethiopian Christianity and its contacts with Jewish and Islamic traditions. This is a unique opportunity to visit Ethiopia, its several awe-inspiring places (such as the stone hewn churches in Lalibela, the ancient Aksum and several monasteries) in the guidance of both local and Nordic experts.
The duration of the seminar is two weeks (October 23 to November 6, 2016). It will include preparatory readings and short presentations of each participants which equals 5 ECTS. The seminar is primarily intended for PhD-students, but it will also be open for advanced master’s students and postdoctoral researchers. 
The preliminary program and more information can be found on the NNJCI website
At the moment, the price of the seminar which reflects the actual costs of the trip, is about $ 2500 plus the flights to Ethiopia and back. The price is likely to go down. We have applied for funding but the result is still pending.
To keep track of updated information about the course, please join NNJCI Facebook group at
The application period will be in March 1 - April 30, 2015 (the final price will be announced before that). You can express your initial interest in the trip and direct further question to Outi Lehtipuu (

Friday, 27 November 2015

The hyperconnected super busy academic overkill

I am sure you have seen them: the posts in the news feeds of various social media from colleagues telling you that they have three articles to write this week, two papers to finish on the plane to the conference venue, and six time zones to cross twice this fortnight. In between tons of mails, service, teaching, and grading. You may even have received such a message from me.
On the one hand, the contents of these posts may probably refer to real situations. Many of the posts are intentionally witty, others may reflect a desperate need to share the craziness of the situation. Either way, we should take these signs of academic overload seriously on the systemic and institutional level. On the other hand, these posts also make up a new sharing practice in social media. They constitute a genre of academic hyperconnected, super busy overkill. It is this genre of interaction I am addressing in this post. I think we should reflect, just briefly, on what this particular form of online sharing culture may create and reinforce.
First, and, importantly, the job of those of us who are working at academic institutions is to acquire, create, reshape, and share knowledge of various sorts. Think about it. When we present this process of “knowledge production” (yes, I hate that metaphor too) in terms of rush, jet set, and fast food, what are we really doing? I fear that we are systematically reducing the value and trustworthiness of our own work. We sanction a practice of publishing articles that would have benefitted from another round of revision and we applaud the unfortunate fact that most large conferences have their fair share of crappy papers crafted on board an Easyjet carrier the night before. I am also afraid that we are affecting our own image as academics – what are we if we are so intensely jetlagged and stressed all the time that we are unable to think long thoughts?
Second, when we share how busy we are, how much we travel, and how much we can accomplish in a very short time we create a certain type of online academic persona. This form of sharing has become a way of marketing and branding ourselves as sought after, successful scholars. However, it also means that we enter a kind of contest with winners and losers. Seemingly, the losers are those who cannot keep up, the winners are those who continue to run until they drop (paraphrasing Tyra Banks, “Congratulations, you are still in the running to become America’s next top scholar”). This practice, and the instant gratification created by likes and affirmations may easily become a stress spiral both for ourselves and our colleagues. And remember, the game is no longer restricted to conferences and other traditional offline meeting places, it is constant and at your fingertips.
Third, this online practice may also – unintentionally – serve as a legitimation for academic institutions to continue filling up our schedules. After all, we sanction that hyper-stress and über-performance is part of the game. We end up reinforcing the system.
Dear hardworking and hyperconnected colleagues in the academy. I have a suggestion for you, for me (!), and for all of us: let us stop tweeting, posting, and sharing how extremely busy we are. Not because it is not true - I suspect we are busier than ever.  Not that I do not see the intense need to share – it means survival to many. However, I think we should pause and reflect, in between all those other things we have to do today, on what this particular genre of online sharing is doing for us.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

JSP December issue - What is an Old Testament Pseudepigraphon?

The December issue of The Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha is just out. My review article of the 2013 volume Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures (eds. R. Bauckham, J.R. Davila and A. Panayotov) (here) is part of it. You find my article here.

The review essay was first presented at a session at the 2013 SBL Annual Meeting. An early version of it has been available on for a while. The essay published in JSP is a longer, revised version, including discussions of two entries/two dilemmas (not one as in the original paper version).

"Text - Work - Manuscript: What is an Old Testament Pseudepigraphon?"

The 2013 volume Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, edited by Richard Bauckham, James R. Davila and Alexander Panayotov, is a highly important contribution to the field of Pseudepigrapha studies, making previously unpublished material available for further study. This review essay discusses the editorial strategies that have shaped the volume, focusing in particular on the representation of its basic building block, the pseudepigraphon. Exploring two entries in the volume, ‘The Book of Noah’ and ‘The Story of Melchizedek with the Melchizedek Legend and the Chronicon Paschale’, this article demonstrates how privileging the early ‘work’ as the default mode of representation creates imaginations of Pseudepigrapha that may not match the manuscript sources that have in fact survived.

Some absolutely shameless self promotion: my article was the most read article of the JSP in December 2015.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

SBL Annual Meeting 2015

I'm off to Atlanta to attend the SBL Annual Meeting.

I am giving two papers this year. The first paper is entitled "Do Paratexts Matter? Transmission, Re-identification, and New Philology" and, the second "Digitization and Manuscripts as Visual Objects: Reflections from a Media Studies Perspective" (More information below and abstracts here).

If you want to meet me in Atlanta, you'll find me in the crowd at the Nordic Universities Reception (Sunday 22 November, 7:00-9:00 pm, at the Marriott Marquis C) from 7:00 to 8:00 pm.


Book History and Biblical Literatures
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: M102 (Marquis Level) - Marriott
Theme: Paratexts
Eva Mroczek, University of California-Davis, Presiding
Liv I. Lied, Det Teologiske Menighetsfakultet
Do Paratexts Matter? Transmission, Re-Identification, and New Philology (20 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Francis Borchardt, Lutheran Theological Seminary, Hong Kong
The Prologue to Sirach and the "Book" of Sirach in a Chain of Text Traditions (20 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Eric Scherbenske, Independent Scholar
“In Other Copies”: Transmitting and Negotiating Textual Variation on the Margins (20 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Gregory Fewster, University of Toronto
From Paul's Letter Collection to the Euthalian Apparatus: An Archival Perspective on Pauline Paratexts (20 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Malcolm Choat, Macquarie University
Text and Paratext in Documentary Papyri from Roman Egypt (20 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Discussion (25 min)


Digital Humanities in Biblical, Early Jewish, and Christian Studies
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: L404 (Lobby Level) - Marriott
Theme: Data Visualization, Digital Paleography and Images
David Hamidovic, Université de Lausanne, Presiding
Liv Ingeborg Lied, Det Teologiske Menighetsfakultet
Digitization and Manuscripts as Visual Objects: Reflections from a Media Studies Perspective (30 min)
Heather Dana Davis Parker, Johns Hopkins University and Christopher A. Rollston, George Washington University
Teaching Epigraphy in the 21st Century: The Epigraphic Digital Lab (30 min)
Peter M. Phillips, University of Durham
Is "Millennial Christianity" Changing the Public Face of the Bible through Online Searching and Social Media Messaging (30 min)
Drayton C. Benner, University of Chicago
A Novel Visualization of Biblical Texts Aligned at the Word-Level (30 min)
Joshua L. Mann, University of Durham
(Re)Presenting Biblical Texts Online: Luke 19 as Test Case (30 min)

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Pseudepigrapha Sunday

The SBL Annual Meeting is less than a week away and next Sunday (22 November) is "Pseudepigrapha Sunday". The Pseudepigrapha Section marathon starts at 9:00 am with the traditional Open Session, continues at 1:00 pm with a session on Pseudepigrapha and Method, and finally, at 4:00 pm, in cooperation with the Hellenistic Judaism Section we host a review session dedicated to Ben Wright's new commentary on the Letter of Aristeas.

Come join us!


9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: L404 (Lobby Level) - Marriott
John Levison, Southern Methodist University, Presiding
Katell Berthelot, CNRS (National Center for Scientific Research)
A New Perspective on the Kinship between Jews and Spartans in 1 and 2 Maccabees: The Issue of Ancestral Territory (30 min)
Veronika Hirschberger, University of Regensburg
Jeremiah 7 and 5 Ezra — An Underrated Connection? (30 min)
Jackie Wyse-Rhodes, Emory University
The Natural World as Sign in Early Jewish Apocalyptic Literature (30 min)
Ryan E. Stokes, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Reading the Book of Watchers on the Origin of Evil (30 min)
John W. Fadden, Saint John Fisher College
God, the Lord, and Angels in the Sahidic Testament of Isaac (30 min)


1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: M101 (Marquis Level) - Marriott
Theme: Pseudepigrapha and MethodRandall Chesnutt, Pepperdine University, Presiding
Uta Heil, Universität Wien
A Mixture of Error and Purpose: Pseudepigrapha among the Writings of the Church Fathers (25 min)
Nicholas A. Elder, Marquette University
On Transcription and Oral Transmission in Aseneth: A Study of the Narrative’s Conception (25 min)
Gavin McDowell, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes
A New Perspective on the Pseudepigrapha: The “Matter of Israel” (25 min)
Benjamin Wright III, Lehigh University
Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, the Scrolls, and Early Judaism as a Scholarly Category (25 min)
Eva Mroczek, Indiana University (Bloomington)
How the Forger Became an Exegete: Value Judgments and Publishing the Pseudepigrapha (25 min)
Matthias Henze, Rice University
How Do the Pseudepigrapha Change the Way We Read Early Jewish Literature? (25 min)


Hellenistic Judaism; Pseudepigrapha
Joint Session With: Hellenistic Judaism, Pseudepigrapha
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: 404 (Level 4) - Hilton
Theme: The Letter of Aristeas and Its Interpretation
We will pay particular attention to the new commentary on the Letter of Aristeas by Benjamin Wright (CEJL 2015).René Bloch, Universität Bern - Université de Berne, Presiding
Francis Borchardt, Lutheran Theological Seminary, Hong Kong, Panelist (25 min)
Sylvie Honigman, Tel Aviv University, Panelist (25 min)
Timothy Michael Law, Panelist (25 min)
Maren Niehoff, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Panelist (25 min)
Benjamin Wright, Lehigh University, Respondent (30 min)
Discussion (20 min)

Monday, 19 October 2015

Peter Horsfield visits Oslo

Professor of Media and Communication at RMIT University in Melbourne, Peter Horsfield, visits MF Norwegian School of Theology. He will give the lecture "Re-viewing the origins of Christianity through a media lens" on Friday 23 October, 09:15-11:00 (Room 371). If you are in Oslo that day, feel free to join us!

Professor Horsfield has recently published the book From Jesus to the Internet: A History of Christianity and the Media. Here:

Monday, 12 October 2015

ThALES up and running

ThALES is a new lectionary database giving scholars access to ancient and medieval Christian and Jewish lectionaries.

Nils H. Korsvoll and I are responsible for the Syriac lectionary manuscript Add 14686 of the British Library (one of the lectionaries that includes readings from 2 Baruch and 4 Ezra, of course!). As far as I know, this is the first published/publicly available edition of the list of readings of this particular lectionary manuscript.

Check out ThALES here:

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Details in the margin – not marginal details: A liturgical annotation in the Syriac Codex Ambrosianus

I have been interested for a while in the importance of marginal annotations for the study of manuscripts and the texts they contain. In the same period I have also been working on the attestation of the so-called First Epistle of Baruch in Syriac manuscripts. In this blog post I combine these two interests, discussing a marginal note in the 6th or 7th century Codex Ambrosianus, also known as the important ms 7a1 of the Leiden List of Old Testament Peshiṭta Manuscripts.

This blog post deals with an annotation in the margin of folio 177v, situated close to the first column containing the end of chapter 7 and the beginning of chapter 8 of the First Epistle of Baruch. The note reads q (with a superlinear stroke) dzdyq’. The note is written vertically, in red ink, by a second hand, and according to Antonio M. Ceriani, in “charachtere maronitico” (Monumenta V,2, 177n83). I read this annotation as a liturgical note and I would translate it as “Lection for [the commemoration of] the just”, suggesting that the passage in the column next to it was intended by someone, who at a certain point engaged with the codex, to be read at an occasion of commemoration of the just (pl.), alternatively at a commemoration of a particular just person (sg.).  


The pdf of the facsimile edition of the codex is available online at

A small annotation such as this one may seem (literally) a marginal detail. However, it may turn out to be an interesting detail, since it sheds some additional light on a hypothesis that has been repeated in scholarship ever since Ceriani published the facsimile edition of the codex in 1876/1883. In the Praefatio of this edition, Ceriani suggestes that the codex was probably not produced for ecclesiastical use, since it includes neither liturgical notes, nor an index of lessons. He notes, though, that the occasional liturgical note occurs in the columns of some texts, but suggests that this is due to the fact that the scribe copied the texts in question from an exemplar that contained such notes (p. 8).

Ceriani’s hypothesis was reiterated and discussed critically by Konrad D. Jenner in, for example, the 1993 article “A Review of the Methods by Which Syriac Biblical and Related Manuscripts Have Been Described and Analysed: Some Preliminary Remarks,” and other scholars have later chimed in. In this article, Jenner engages Ceriani’s arguments one by one. He also points out that, in addition to the notes in the texts of the columns mentioned by Ceriani, the Ambrosianus also contains some liturgical notes in the margins added by later hands. He points to a series of notes in Genesis (1-39), to nine notes mentioning the Consecration of the Myron/Chrism (my inspection of the manuscript suggests that there are more), and to two liturgical titles in Genesis and Numbers. Jenner concludes that the codex could have been used in public worship after all (pp. 256-57).

Despite Jenner’s finds, Ceriani and his hypothesis continues to be referenced in books and articles discussing the codex and/or the writings contained in it. It is repeated even in recent publications, and I must confess that I am myself guilty of that crime (Lied, “Reception of the Pseudepigrapha”). Sometimes Ceriani’s hypothesis is even rephrased in research literature, now saying that the codex has not been used liturgically. In other words, an argument about production and intent has become an argument about later use.

The note qdzdyq’ on folio 177v of the Codex Ambrosianus displays a quite common format for liturgical annotations in Syriac biblical manuscripts.  The qoph with the superlinear stroke is a widely used abbreviation for qryn’, “lection.” It should be noted, furthermore, that the note is written in red ink (The red ink does not show neither in the printed facsimile edition, nor in the online pdf, but it is easy to spot in the manuscript itself). Hence, it generally resembles the format of rubrics in Syriac manuscripts, and appears similar to the liturgical notes that were in fact copied in the columns of the Codex Ambrosianus by the scribe for instance, in Job (folio 62v, column 1, line 13) and in 1 Samuel (folio 82r, column 1, line 15). It is likely that the note on folio 177v is recorded in this way to appear like a rubric. Anyhow, it serves as a bookmark, noting that this is a reading for the commemoration of the just.

As noted above, the marginal annotation appears close to the column containing Ep Bar 8:1 (also identified and known, imprecisely, as 2 Bar 85:1). This means that the note is located in the proximity of the first line of a passage that is copied as a lection in a handful of Syriac lectionary manuscripts, and which is surely appropriate reading at a commemoration of the just. Although of varying length (Ep Bar 8:1-7, or Ep Bar  8:1-15, or  Ep Bar 8:1-3 and 8-15), this excerpted passage is attested in, for instance, Add 14486 (folio 74v), Add 14485 (folios 63v -64r), and Add 14687 (folios 74r-75v) of the British Library. It is also present in a manuscript found in the Church of St George in Bartella (dated 1466 ce) and a manuscript in the Monastery of St Mark in Jerusalem (dated 1559 ce; I am indebted to the work of the Peshiṭta Institute [Willem Baars], and grateful to Jenner for pointing me to the last two manuscripts).

In these manuscripts the excerpted passage is scripted to be read, for example, on the Sunday before Lent, on the Sunday of the departed, and for the commemoration of saints. The term dzdyq’ (in the plural), as well as the event of the commemoration of the just, appears in, e.g., the gospel lectionary manuscript Add 14490 of the British Library (folio 264v), among other commemoration days attributed to the apostles, martyrs, patriarchs, etc. In other words, a hypothesis might be that the annotation on folio 177v of the Codex Ambrosianus points to a passage that has been known to this later active reader as a lection read at occasions of commemoration and for this reason he may have decided to make note of the location of the passage in the margin.

As mentioned above, this note in the margin may not be a marginal detail.

First, it adds one more example to Jenner’s list of annotations by later hands. The number of liturgical annotations in the Ambrosianus is still not high. Compared to other relevant biblical manuscripts, the contrary is rather the case. But the notes are there, and they suggest that this codex may well have been used liturgically, at least by some and on some occasions. In other words, although the Codex Ambrosianus may originally neither have been produced, nor offered to the monastery that kept it (cf. the colophon, folio 330r), in order to be applied liturgically, that did not prevent some later users from using it in this way.

Second, these occasional annotations in the Codex Ambrosianus invite an insight from the field of book history that cannot be repeated too often – namely that although a given manuscript may have been produced with a particular use in mind, the intentions of the producers are often not obeyed by later users. Codices such as the Ambrosianus have lived long lives and they may have been part of a variety of practices. Logically, we cannot use a hypothesis about intent of production to say something about later use. Still, there is this tendency in scholarship to focus on the origin and to make the judgment of that origin valid to the otherwise long history of a given manuscript. The origin is allowed to decide what the manuscript “is,” whatever happens to it later, since, after all, that was what the manuscript once was and was meant to be. This line of reasoning implies that we privilege one point in time over all the others, and we overlook signs of later usage which could have been important correctives to our overall understanding of a manuscript. This scholarly focus also implies that we stop taking interest in the history of the manuscript at the point when it becomes an artifact of relevance to social practice. The result is that we lose sight of the social and cultural functions the codex may have had to those who engaged with it, although this later engagement may be an interesting topic for discussion per se 

Third, this nuancing of the scholarly use of Ceriani’s hypothesis matters to those of us who work on 2 Baruch and 4 Ezra, and their reception history. The inclusion of these two apocalypses, as well as Josephus’s Jewish War, Book 6, in the codex has been mentioned as one possible reason why the codex was not used liturgically (Baars, “Neue Textzeugen,” 477n3). However, given that the observations above are correct, the Codex Ambrosianus does display signs of occasional liturgical use, and hence the inclusion of these unexpected writings may not have been a disqualifying element after all – at least not to all users.  

Literature (selection)

Baars, Willem. “Neue Textzeugen der syrischen Baruchapokalypse.” Vetus Testamentum 13.4 (1963): 476-78.

Ceriani, Antonio M. Monumenta sacra et profana ex codicibus praesertim Bibliothecae Ambrosianae V, 2. Milan: Bibliotheca Ambrosianae Mediolani, 1868.

Ceriani, Antonio M. Translatio Syra Pescitto Veteris Testamenti ex codice Ambrosiano, sec. fere VI photolithographice edita. Volume 2. Milan: Bibliotheca Ambrosianae Mediolani, 1883.

Jenner, Konrad D. “A Review of the Methods by Which Syriac Biblical and Related Manuscripts Have Been Described and Analysed: Some Preliminary Remarks,” ARAM (1993):255-66.

Jenner, Konrad D. De perikopentitels van de geïllustreerde Syrische kanselbijbel van Parijs (MS Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, Syriaque 341). Een vergelijkend onderzoek naar de oudste Syrische perikopenstelsels”, Ph.D. dissertation, Universiteit Leiden, 1993.

Lied, Liv Ingeborg. “The Reception of the Pseudepigrapha in Syriac Traditions: The Case of 2 Baruch”. In ‘Noncanonical’ Religious Texts in Early Judaism and Early Christianity. Edited by James H. Charlesworth and Lee M. McDonald. Library of Second Temple Studies. London: T&T Clark, 2012.

Lied, Liv Ingeborg and Marilena Maniaci, eds. Bible as Notepad. Manuscripta Biblica. Berlin: De Gruyter. In progress.

Thanks are due to Konrad D. Jenner, Jeff Childers, Philip M. Forness, and Wido T. van Peursen.

This blog post is based on my research and is part of the wider dissemination of my work. If you want to use the information in this post, please cite it!

Lied, Liv Ingeborg. “Details in the margin – not marginal details: A liturgical annotation in the Codex Ambrosianus,” posted on Religion – Manuscripts – Media Culture, 24 September 2015 (URL, retrieved [date]).

If you want to discuss any of the findings or hypotheses, feel free to contact me in the commentary field below.