MS Vatican Syriac 22 & MS Vatican Syriac 17: Syriac Manuscripts copied in South India : There are many documents available from 14th century onwards which gives precise information about the Indian Christian community and the Bishops of India. Some of these were copied locally in South India. Amongst these, the MS Vatican Syriac 22 and MS Vatican Syriac 17 are the most well known Syriac MS from India.
MS Vatican Syriac 22, the oldest known Syriac MS from India, contains a lectionary of the Pauline Epistles according to the Peshitta version. It was copied in 1301 AD ( 1612 A Gr) in Estrangelo Script at Cranganore, South India by a deacon named Zakharya bar Joseph bar Zakharya at the Church dedicated to Mar Quriaqos .
MS Vatican Syriac 17 was completed on 6th March 1510 AD (1821 A Gr) and copied by Mar Jacob “ Bishop of Hindo”, who arrived in South India in 1504 AD. According to the colophon, this was copied in the blessed and famous place Cranganore, South India at the Church of Saint Thomas. It contains the complete Estrangelo Script New testament. This is the oldest extant locally copied New Testament in India.
MS Vatican Syriac 22 & MS Vatican Syriac 17: Syriac Manuscripts copied in South India
1. MS Vatican Syriac 22
|Folios||Dimension||Lines||Columns||Language||Copied by||Copied at|
|94||35 ½ X 24 ½ cms||22||2||Estrangelo Script||Zakharya bar Joseph bar Zakharya||Church of Mar Quriaqos, Cranganore, South India|
a) About the MSS
This MS is a volume of 94 folios, of these 1 folio is from a rebound of 16th century. According to the colophon of the MS Vatican Syriac 22, this was copied on 1301 AD in Cranganore ( 1612 A Gr) at the Church dedicated to Mar Quriaqos . This MS is written in Estrangelo Script by a very young decon named Zakharya bar Joseph bar Zakharya who was just 14 at the time of writing. This is the oldest known Syriac MS copied in India. Though from the manuscripts it is evident that the scribe Zakharya knows Syriac very well, Zakharya is very apologetic about his knowledge of Syriac in the MS. ((J P M Van Der Ploeg, The syriac manuscripts of Saint Thomas Christians))
According to Levi della Vida, the first leaf was added to the book in 16th century as part of a rebounding done. A European hand in Italian has written about the contents of the book in the first leaf as “The epistles for the Sundays of Saint Paul for the whole year in Chaldean characters and language”. This is followed by a note in small Estrangelo script attributed by Levi della Vida to Mar Joseph Sulaka. The note indicates the readings of Genesis and Isaiah for the 1stSunday of Sbara ( Advent). This is followed by the Portuguese name “Gela Fonseca”. ((Levi della Vida, Ricerhe sulla Formazione del piu antico fondo dei Manoscritti Orientali della Biblioteca Vaticana ))
According to J. P. M. van der Ploeg, this book may have been in the hands of the Portuguese. As Levi Della Vida comments, this old book was rebounded by the Portuguese in 16th century and they have added the content information in the first leaf . It was given by “Gela Fonseca” to Mar Joseph Sulaka who took it with him on his last journey to Rome. Mar Joseph Sulaka, is the brother of Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Simon VIII Sulaqa ( 1551-1555). Mar Joseph Sulaka was consecrated as the Bishop of India by Chaldean Catholic Church Patriarch Abdisho IV( 1555-1571) in 1557 or 1558.Mar Joseph died in Rome in 1569. ((J P M Van Der Ploeg, The syriac manuscripts of Saint Thomas Christians))
b) Contents of the MSS
This famous MS contains a lectionary for the readings of Saint Paul in the Eucharistic liturgy of Sundays, feasts, and commemorations of the whole ecclesiastical year according to the rite of the church of Kokhe. The Church of Kokhe is the cathedral church of Seleucia- Ctesiphon, the See of the Patriarchs of the Church of the East in earlier times. This rite is different from the one of the “High Monastery” which is often quoted in Syriac MSS in Kerala.
The readings of Saint Paul for the Sundays of the whole year were to be followed by those for special intentions Eucharistic liturgy. (( Assemani, Catalogue, Vol II p.174, E Tisserant, Specimina Codicum Orientalium ))
|1||Readings of Saint Paul for the Sundays|
|2||For the dedication of a new Church|
|3||For the dedication of an old Church|
|4.5.6||For the commemoration of the Patriarch Aqaq, Babay Shila and the other Patriarchs buried in the Church of Kokhe|
|7.8||When there is no rain|
|9.10||In the time of famine|
|9.10||In the time of an earthquake|
|11||For deceased Bishop|
|12||For deceased Bishops and excellent priests|
|13||For a priest who was a Malpana|
|14||For deacons, scholars and monks|
|15||In the time of plague|
|16||When one becomes an Archdeacon|
|17||When one becomes a new Doctor|
|18||For the Patriarch|
|19||For the commemoration of Saint Sirin, Martyr|
|20||For the commemoration of Saint Thomas|
|21||For the commemoration of Saint George|
|22||For the commemoration of the Saint Sabrisho, Qatoliqa|
|23||For the commemoration of Saint Shamoni and her sons|
|24||For the commemoration of Saint Sila, the weeper|
|25||For the Commemoration of Saint Petyon,|
|26||For the Commemoration of Mar Mari, the Apostle|
|27||For the Commemoration of one person: a martyr or any saint as epistle for the commemoration of Saint Quryakos has been indicated by a later hand in the margin.|
c) Passage about the “ Katholikos-Patriarch” & Bishop of India in MS
The MS has the following passage about the “ Katholikos-Patriarch” in folio 93:
“ This holy book has been written in the royal and well known and famous town Shengala ( Cranganore) in the land of India, in the holy church dedicated to the glorious martyr Mar Quriaqos …. whilst our blessed and holy father Mar Yahballaha the fifth, the Turk, qatoliqa Patriakis of the East, the head of all the countries, was great governor, holding the offices of the Catholic Church of East, the shining lamp which illuminates its regions, the head of the pastors and Pontiff of the pontiffs, Head of great high priests, Father of the fathers.. The Lord may make long his life and protect his days in order that he may govern her ( the church), a long time, for her glory and for the exhalation of her sons. Amen”
According to J P M Van der Ploeg, this Colophon is a witness of the great reverence and veneration, the copyist had for the Patriarch of his Church. ((J P M Van Der Ploeg, The syriac manuscripts of Saint Thomas Christians))
Mar Yahballaha the 3rd ( 1283-1317)
The Patriarch of Seleucia- Ctesiphon who is mentioned in the 14th century manuscript is Mar Yahballaha the 3rd ( 1283-1317) though wrongly given in the manuscript as Mar Yahabllaha the 5th. According to J P M Van der Ploeg, the fact that the young Indian copyist called him the fifth instead of the third may indicate that the Patriarch of the Church of East was not sufficiently known in Malabar, nobody had ever seen him and as far as we are aware he did not interfere with the internal affairs of the community. ((J P M Van Der Ploeg, The syriac manuscripts of Saint Thomas Christians))
The See of Patriarch of Seleucia- Ctesiphon, Yahballaha 3rd was located in the far away town of Maragha, which is to the south of Tabriz in modern Persin. This is not far from the south-east point of the Lake of Urmia.
The MS has the following passage about the Bishop of India: Governor of the Holy See of the Apostle Mar Thomas in folio 93:
“ And Mar Jacob, Bishop- Metropolitan, Superintendent and Governor of the Holy See of the Apostle Mar Thomas, is our Governor and also of the whole Christian Church of India. The lord may give him strength and help to be our zealous superior, to govern us according to the will of the Lord, to teach us His commandments and to make us walk in His paths in length of days, through the prayer of the holy Apostle Mar Thomas and of all those who are with him. Amen”
2. MS Vatican Syriac 17
|Folios||Dimension||Lines||Columns||Language||Copied by||Copied at|
|480||15 X 10 ½ cms||21-13||1||Estrangelo Script||Mar Jacob “ Bishop of Hindo”||Church of Saint Thomas, Cranganore, South India|
a) About the MS
This MS is a volume of 480 folios. It was completed on the 6th of Adar (March) of the year 1821 A Gr ( 1510 AD) by Mar Jacob “ Bishop of Hindo”, who arrived in South India in 1504 AD. It was copied in the Church of Saint Thomas the Apostle, “ in the blessed and famous place Sangalla which is called qrwngalur (Cranganore) which is in Malabar in the country of India”
b) Contents of the MS
The MS contains the complete ES New testament in the order: the IV Gospels, Acts, James, Peter, 1 John and XIV Epistles of Saint Paul. In John, the passage of the adulterous woman is lacking. This is the only manuscript known to have been copied by the Metropolitan Mar Jacob himself. Between folio.477 and folio. 478 a leaf has been taken away. On f.477 v, line 12, a word has been erased in the middle of the line, which may have been done by Mar Jacob himself. The Bishop copied this MS for his disciple ” for his blessed son and pure deacon and trusty levite .. Giwargis, son of the noble Joseph, son of Giwargis of the blessed village mnwr, he prays that the Lord may give the reader to profit from the contents By the prayers of the blessed Mart Maryam and the Apostle Saint Thomas.”
This is the oldest known New Testament copy from India.
There are scores of evidence from extant manuscripts associating many East Syrian prelates with India and the hierarchical relationship Church of India shared with Patriarch of Seleucia- Ctesiphon of the Church of East. There are references about David of Basrah ( ca.295 AD), John of Persia and Greater India ( 325 AD), Mar Komai ( 425 AD), Ma’na of Riwarddasir ( Persia) ( 470 AD), a Persian bishop whose name is not known ( 535 AD), Patriach Sabrisho I ( 6/7th century), Bishop Thomas ( 8th century), Mar Sabrisho and Mar Peroz ( 9th century), Mar Jacob (14th Century).Precise evidence is available in the letters of two East Syrian Patriarchs, Mar Ishoyahb III ( 647/8 or 650/1) and Mar Timothy I ( 780-823 AD). Patriarch Thimothy in 8th Century calls Archdeacon ( Arken), head of faithful of India.
Of these, the locally scribed MS Vatican Syriac 22 & MS Vatican Syriac 17 gives evidence on the nature, faith, constitution, rite, Eucharistic liturgy, Bishops, Patriarch and the hierarchical relationship of the Indian Christian community in South India before the advent of the Portuguese. The local scribe aged 14 years old Zakharya bar Joseph bar Zakharya of MS Vatican Syriac 22 had very good knowledge of Syriac as commented by Assemani and J P M Van der Ploeg.
The titles given in the MS Vatican Syriac 22 for Mar Jacob is “Metropolitan, Superintendent and Governor of the Holy See of the Apostle Mar Thomas, and also of the whole Christian Church of India”. The Patriarch of Seleucia- Ctesiphon of Church of East who is mentioned in the 14th century manuscript is Mar Yahballaha the 3rd ( 1283-1317) though given in the manuscript wrongly by the scribe as Mar Yahabllaha the 5th.
The title given in the MS Vatican Syriac 17 for the Metropolitan Mar Jacob “ Bishop of Hindo”. Mar Jacob was consecrated by Patriarch: Eliah V ( 1502-1503) in 1503 AD. Other two MS, Vatican Syriac 204 MSS and MS Syr 25.f.7r of the Bibliotheque Nationale of Paris contains the letter sent by Mar Yahballaha, Mar Thomas, the Metropolitans and Mar Denha, Mar Jacob ,the Bishops after their arrival in South India in 1504 AD. Mar Jacob became the Metropolitan after the death of Mar Yahballaha and continued until his death in 1533 AD.
MS Vatican Syriac 22, was copied at the Church of Mar Quriaqos, Cranganore, South India. MS Vatican Syriac 17, was copied at Church of Saint Thomas, Cranganore, South India.The long line of east Syrian prelates ended with the demise of Mar Abraham who died in Malabar in 1597.According to Bishop Francis Roz ( 1604 AD) who succeeded Mar Abraham , based on a Chaldean book he has read, there were three Churches in Cranganore. One was dedicated to the Apostle Thomas, another one to Saint Kuriakose, and the third one was dedicated to Our Lady.
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