More than a decade ago, Amir Harrak spent three sweltering summers in his native Iraq, photographing inscriptions written in the Classical Syriac language. The University of Toronto researcher had set out to document the centuries-old engravings, knowing many would eventually be lost.
“If we have an inscription dating to, let’s say the second century, that – as the saying goes – is ‘in stone,’” said Colin Clarke, director of the Canadian Centre for Epigraphic Documents (CCED). “That record is frozen in time, whereas works of literature get rewritten as time goes on.”
Last November, the CCED – which is located at U of T but operates as an independent institution – opened access to a database of Syriac inscriptions, drawing from Mr. Harrak’s collection of more than 600 photographs, picturing many inscriptions from Iraq that are now damaged or lost. To document them, Mr. Harrak had spent long days cleaning and transcribing the inscriptions by hand.
Read the rest here, and visit the CCED here.
As recently reported, CPART’s Kristian Heal and colleagues have started the work of producing new catalog descriptions for eighty Syriac manuscripts from the collection of the Vatican Apostolic Library. As part of this project, the Vatican Library has just made new digital images of these manuscripts available online in June. These online facsimiles still lack their full metadata and descriptions, but they are already being hailed by scholars as a vital new tool for research.
Read the rest at The Maxwell Institute.
I’ve personally enjoyed the digitization efforts as the Vatican recently put a scan of Targum Neofiti up which has been absolutely delightful.
In a word: No.
In a few more words…
This claim has been circulating the Internet lately. It’s been on Brietbart, it’s been on Before It’s News, it’s spreading through Twitter and the rest of the Internet.
ISIS cannot, no matter how hard it tries, eliminate Aramaic. Aramaic is not a single language, but an entire family of languages. Sadly, the dialect spoken by Jesus is already dead. (Well, outside what I speak with my kids in reconstruction, but that doesn’t make it “living” by any means.) It died as a living language in the 6th and 7th centuries with Arab Conquest.
However, ISIS can certainly extinguish a few of the smaller Neo-Aramaic dialects if they strive to, which in some cases consist of a single surviving village — and let me not be equivocal about this: That is a serious problem.
Most Neo-Aramaic languages are severely endangered as it is and in the past 100 years we’ve seen dozens die due to violence (like this) or simply migration and adoption of another language (most Jewish Neo-Aramaic dialects have been lost due to immigration to Israel and the adoption of Modern Hebrew). These language are certainly related (the dialect in Ma’loula the closest by lineage) but none of these are the language Jesus actually spoke.
Syriac Aramaic is the language of the liturgy of the Syriac Church (Syriac Orthodox, Chaldean Catholic, Assyrian, etc.) and recited every Sunday. That’s not going anywhere. Jewish Literary Aramaic is used in the Jewish liturgy nearly every Sabbath, and that’s not going anywhere either. There are Aramaic-speaking diasporas all over the place. Aramaic is global, and ISIS is not.
Sebastian Brock, one of the foremost Syriacists (he’s a bit of a living academic legend — or that could be me as an Aramaicist geeking out — or both) was interviewed over on Marginalia. Be sure to check it out. 🙂