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Speaking from the Sides: Marginal Annotation and the Collection of Knowledge in Early Medieval Syriac Christianity

In Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, Syriac biblical interpreters collected interpretations of scripture in exegetical collections, bringing together material from diverse authors and time periods. This project combines new approaches to compilation literature and marginal annotation in order to investigate how and with what aims Syriac compilers and annotators organised, transmitted, and transformed the interpretations of their Greek and Syriac predecessors. 

The project provides an edition and English translation of the unstudied commentary on 1-2 Kings in the Collection of Simeon, extant in a richly annotated Syriac manuscript from the late ninth or early tenth century. The commentary is analysed in the context of other Greek and Syriac interpretations of Kings and collections of patristic extracts up until the tenth century. Focusing on the interplay between margin and main text, the project examines four of the commentary’s characteristic features: 1) the portrayal of characters from Kings, 2) the use of mystical and ascetic texts in biblical interpretation, 3) the transmission of texts in the form of extracts, and 4) the explanation of obscure words in the text of Kings and the use of signs and symbols in the margin. 

In this way, the project sheds light on the reception of 1-2 Kings, the formation of a Syriac Miaphysite commentary tradition, and the religious and intellectual contexts in which Syriac collections were used.

Date:1 Oct 2021 →  Today
Keywords:Syriac Christianity, reception history of the Hebrew Bible, transmission and organisation of knowledge in manuscripts
Disciplines:Middle Eastern history, Other Middle Eastern literatures, History of religions, churches and theology, Study of Christianity, Biblical studies