CODEX ARABICUS

MS 579
MS Short Title CODEX ARABICUS
Text
  1. BIBLE: APOCRYPHA. TRANSITUS MARIAE (VIRGIN MARY'S ASSUMPTION INTO HEAVEN), BOOKS 1 AND 2
  2. IBN AL'AMA, BISHOP: QUESTIONS ON EDESSA AND B'ARSAMJA
  3. ROMAN PEOPLES' MESSAGE (EPILOGUE OF ACTS OF SARBIL)
  4. BIBLE: JOHN 9:16 - 38
  5. APOLOGY OF CHRISTIANS AGAINST JEWS
Description MS palimpsest on vellum, Syria or Egypt. Text 1 (underlying text): in Syriac, 5th c., 4 ff. 15x23 cm, originally ca. 30x23 cm, 2 columns, 14 lines (originally ca. 28 lines), Syriac estrangela book script. Texts 2-5 (overlying text): In Arabic, Mt. Sinai, ca. 900, 23x15 cm, single column, (22x12 cm), 23-25 lines and 12 long lines in Arabic naskhi book script in old Sinaitic ductus.
Binding Barking, Essex, 1990, green cloth gilt folding case by Aquarius.
Context Part of Codex Arabicus, MS. Sin. Ar. 514, the famous trilingual quintuple p alimpsest, still at Monastery of St. Catherine, Mt. Sinai. After Codex Sinaiticus (4th c.) left the library in 1859, Codex Arabicus is, with Codex Syriacus Rescriptus (5th c.), the oldest and most important codex in the monastery.
Provenance 1. Monastery of St. Catherine, Mt. Sinai (6th - 19th c.); 2. Friedrich Grote, Germany (ca. 1900); 3. Walther Adam, Magdeburg and Goslar, S 5 (1918/30-1964); 4. Carl Wilhelm Adam, Goslar (1964-1987); 5. F. Dörling, Hamburg 1.6.1987:35; 6. Wolfgang Görigk, Germany (1989); 7. Sam Fogg Rare Books Ltd., London.
Commentary

Text 1 is with 4 other Syriac MSS of the 5th c., the earliest extant. The Greek original, sometimes erroneously ascribed to Melito of Sardes, is lost. Mary's departure from this world and assumption into Heaven was first mentioned by Epiphanius in the 370ies. It was condemned as a heretical work in the 6th c. Nevertheless this famous story has been venerated in the Catholic church ever since, and the theme, as coronation of the Virgin in Heaven, has been used over and over again by the world's greatest painters, particularly in the late medieval period and the renaissance. The doctrine was finally dogmatically defined by Pope Pius XII on 1 Nov. 1950.

The text is quite specific about its origins and dissemination: " This was written concerning the six books, each book by two of the apostles. – These books were written in Hebrew and Greek and Latin, and the apostles deposited it with Mar John -. Because we apostles are twelve, it is fitting that twelve copies should be written of this book of my Lady Mary, and that a copy should go with each of us -." (Book 4), and "This volume was translated from Greek into Syriac at Ephesus; and was written out and sent to Mount Sinai; and from Mount Sinai it was transcribed and sent to Jerusalem" (Book 1). This 1st book also quotes a letter from Cyrus, bishop of Jerusalem, sent to the brethren at Mount Sinai "We have made inquiries in Jerusalem concerning the book of the departure of my Lady Mary, but we have not found it. We have found, however, an autograph note of James written thus: The six books which were written about the death of my Lady Mary in the year 345 (=33/34 AD), John the young used to carry them, and Paul and Peter and John the young know where they are, because they went along with them from Jerusalem –". The presence of this oldest witness of the text in Codex Arabicus, right from Mount Sinai, adds some credibility to the account in the text, and calls for some re-evaluations of its origins.

Texts 2-3 are all the earliest extant. Text 5 is unique. This part of the palimpsest contains the lowest layer of script (no. 1) and the uppermost (no. 5). The 5 layers are: 1. Syriac 5th c., 2. Syriac 6th c., 3. Greek ca. 600, 4. Arabic ca. 700, and 5. Arabic ca. 900.

There are 20 MSS from Mt. Sinai in The Schøyen Collection. Besides the monastery's own famous library (4300 MSS), only British Library (8 MSS) and The National Library of Russia, St. Petersburg (60 MSS, mostly fragments), have comparable holdings. Assfalg: Syrische Handschriften, pp. 215-20, No. 114, S 5.

See also MS 2752, Bible: Jesus saying: Hail my most chosen Apa Chamoul, Egypt, ca. 550-650
Place of origin Syria or Egypt
Dates 5c AD

Location