Paratext Material in Sinai Syriac 19–Christian Palestinian Aramaic

Recently I was perusing through the newly available digitized Syriac manuscripts from St. Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai on the Library of Congress website.

While looking through, my attention was caught by Sinai Syriac 19, which is listed is an anonymous set of homilies on the Song of Songs. Upon brief examination, this  appears to be a Syriac translation of Gregory of Nyssa’s Homilies on the Song of Songs. There are some publications about Gregory’s Homilies in Syriac, but there is not yet an edition. [For more info, see Allison Salveson’s article “Song of Songs in the Syrian Tradition” in Perspectives on the Song of Songs, ed. Anselm C. Hagedorn (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2005).]

Nyssa’s homilies on the Song of Songs are also attested in Vatican Syr. 106. There may be other manuscript witnesses as well. But with these two important manuscripts available already in digitized form, someone really needs to create an edition.

However, while I was initially intrigued by the textual content of this manuscript, as I skimmed through an interesting paratextual element caught my eye. Namely, on folios 28b-29a, there is an interesting addition across the bottom of the page:

Although the text of the manuscript is Syriac (Estrangela script), the inscription here appears to be in Christian Palestinian Aramaic (CPA). [Compare with the two CPA folios at the end of Sinai Syriac 7 and especially with the text of Vatican Syr. 19.

In Syriac, the inscription would read:

ܫܘܒܚܐ ܠܟ ܐܠܗܐ ܚܝܐ ܠܥܠܡ ܥܠܡܝܢ ܐܡܝܢ

“Glory/praise to you, living God, forever and ever, amen.”

The text itself is not noteworthy. But the fact that this CPA inscription appears in this manuscript tells us something about the use and life of this manuscript. And, furthermore, it adds more orthographic data to the very small corpus of surviving Christian Palestinian Aramaic texts.