The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Thursday, October 06, 2016

The Armenian Koran

Sean Anthony recommends for subscribers, Adam C McCollum's "Greek Literature in the Christian East: Translations into Syriac, Georgian, and Armenian". I recommend it too - after warning that the typesetting will give you a headache. The article'll be useful for those studying the Syriac-speaking Christian world of Late Antiquity, especially.

I'm interested here in McCollum's quote: there is a manuscript at the British Library with a Qur'an in classical Armenian (translated from Arabic), which dialect the Armenians call "Grabar". McCollum cites Frederick Conybeare, A catalogue of the Armenian manuscripts in the British museum (1913), 350-1. McCollum is unaware of any further scholarly work on this MS. For my part some googling has turned up Mesrovb J Seth, A manuscript Koran in classical Armenian (1924) but this might be a different MS.

Naturally I have some questions.

First, when was this done? Never mind the script or radiocarbon (except as upper bound) - books can be copied and radiocarbon sucks. Are there hints in the dialect of Grabar? Glosses? Translation-decisions specific to time and place?

Why was it done? Armenians have plenty of modern Korans in their language today. But until recently, Muslims have tended to be more jealous of their text. For instance the first Latin translations were done by Christians, to aid in refuting it: the Toledan Collection is the most famed of these. The Greeks and Syrians, also, produced translations - we don't own those translations, but we do own Niketas and Bar Salibi (respectively) who used those translations, again, against the Muslims. Depending on when the Grabar Armenian translation was done, a hostile priest seems more likely as translator.

Obviously all translations of this Arabic book derive from an Arabic original. But how do we know that this translation was so direct - since nobody's studied it? I would expect an Armenian to prefer a translation from the (also Indo-European) Greek as easiest, then to check that against an Arabic exemplar. That was generally how they played the game of translation. (After all, that is how I play the game of translation.) I suspect that somebody stuck a foreword onto it, or a title, maybe even the translator claiming he did it from Arabic. But I don't have to believe him.

posted by Zimri on 17:34 | link | 0 comments

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