Edited By Vahan Hovhanessian
A Syriac Tract for the “Explanation” of Hebrew and Foreign Words (Jonathan Loopstra) 57
• J O N A T H A N L O O P S T R A • A Syriac Tract for the “Explanation” of Hebrew and Foreign Words yriac biblical interpretation between the ninth and thirteenth centuries can be characterized by an attentiveness to readings found in differing Syriac biblical versions as well as an abiding interest in the interpretation of Greek and Hebrew words.1 Syriac speakers had long understood that their Peshitta text had been translated from Hebrew, and residual elements of this Hebrew translation were obvious.2 At the same time, the theological controversies of the fifth and sixth centuries lent momentum to a growing “mirror-like” translation movement which increased awareness of the importance of the Greek versions in Syriac-speaking circles.3 By the mid- eighth century, therefore, West Syrian Christians had inherited a number of Syriac translations of the Old Testament, ranging from the Peshitta, whose origin lay in the second and third centuries, to the Syro-Hexapla and the version of Jacob of Edessa, dated, respectively, to the seventh and eighth centuries.4 It was, perhaps, because of their awareness of this complex assortment of biblical witnesses that Syriac commentators and exegetes proved quite versatile in finding ways to correlate and explain the various versions which they had inherited.5 Recent scholarly work has focused on homilies, exegetical catenae, theological treatises, and biblical commentaries to help shed light on biblical interpretation in this period.6 New work on biblical versions such as the Syro- Hexapla and the version of Jacob of Edessa has...
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