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Important comments on the Arabic translation

I had the great opportunity to participate last week at the international conference “Translators, copists and interpreters: Jews, Christians and Muslims and the transmission of the Bible in Arabic in the Middle Age”, 26-28 April in Cordoba.

For the occasion, I presented a paper about the Marc. Gr. Z. 11 (379). I demonstrated that the Arabic translation has a Latin origin, more precisely a Vulgate text.

There are two other known manuscripts with a translation of the letters of Paul of Latin Vorlage:

Vat. Lat. 12900, which contains fragments of Galatians (1:1-15; 3:6-24) and goes back to the 9th century. See: Tisserant, Eugène. ‘Une feuille arabo-latine de l’épître aux Galates’. Revue Biblique N.S. 7 (1910): 321–43).

Madrid BN 4971, which contains parts of the Gospels and Rm, 1-2 Co, Ga, Eph, Ph, Col, Laodiceans, 1-2 Thess, 1-2 Tm. It is a 16th century manuscript but the study of Potthast shows that the translation is earlier. See Potthast, Daniel. ‘Die andalusische Übersetzung des Römerbriefs’. Collectanea Christiana Orientalia 8 (2011): 65–108.
According to Graf, the Madrid BN 3484 is a copy of Madrid BN 4971 (Graf, GCAL I, p. 180)

A comparison of the three manuscripts Marc. Gr. Z. 11 (379), Vat. Lat. 12900 and Madrid BN 4971 shows that their texts are very similar.

Here is a preview of the comparison of Marc. Gr. Z. 11 and Vat. Lat. 12900. We see that the differences are minimal.

Comparison Marc. Gr. Z. 11/Vat. Lat. 12900 (snippet). Click to enlarge

The texts of Marc. Gr. Z. 11 and of Madrid BN 4971 are also very close:

Comparison Marc. Gr. Z. 11/Madrid BN 4971 (snippet). Click to enlarge

This brief comparison already shows the close relationship among the three texts. Dated in the 9th century, the fragments of Vat. Lat. 12900 are the oldest witnesses we have for a translation of the New Testament from Latin into Arabic.

In this perspective, Marc. Gr. Z. 11, which is almost complete, is a very interesting new chain link for the study of New Testament Arabic translations of Latin origin. This also sheds light in the influences of Mozarab culture in Sicily. 

Conference proceedings are expected to be published in the Brill series Biblia Arabica; we will let you know on the website.

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