Review of Nikolai Seleznyov (ed. and trans.), Elias of Nisibis' Kitāb al-Maǧālis and Epistle to the Vizier Abū l-Qāsim al-Ḥusayn ibn ʿAlī al-Maġribī

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Review of Nikolai Seleznyov (ed. and trans.), Elias of Nisibis' Kitāb al-Maǧālis and Epistle to the Vizier Abū l-Qāsim al-Ḥusayn ibn ʿAlī al-Maġribī
  Nikolai N. Seleznyov (ed. and trans.), !"#$%   &'()&)*'+%"#,   -.## , /#01'2'.#0%   3#&#+#"% , &   +)4#1'/    5( ! - . - 6   "# &#/'/   %. - $%   7&%,"'/   #("   85. &   %. - 9% '% 1#( &   #   :'&.%"#)   /#01'2'.#0%   -.##   +)4#17      5( ! - . - 6   "# &#/7    / Kit ; b al-Ma !  ; lis li-M ; r Iliyy  ;  mu < r ; n Nu = ayb  >   n wa-Ris ; latuhu il ;  l-waz  >   r al-k  ; mil Ab  >    l-Q ; sim al- ? usayn ibn 8  Al  >    al-Ma @   rib  >    /Liber sessionum sive disputatio inter Eliam metropolita n Nisibenum et vezirum Ab A   B l-Q ; sim al- ? usayn ibn 8  Al  >    al-Ma @   rib  >    et Epistola eiusdem Eliae Nisibeni ad vezirum Ab AB l-Q ; sim missa (Moscow: Grifon, 2017/8). Pp. 210 + !"# . ISBN 978-5-98862-366-3 + 978-5-98862-367-0 (two vol-umes); 978-5-98862-371-7 (one-volume edition).  A  LEXANDER   T REIGER  , D  ALHOUSIE  U NIVERSITY     The East Syriac theologian Elias of Nisibis (975–1046) has been rightly acclaimed as one of the most influential Syriac and Christian Arabic writers. The book under review presents a first complete critical edition and Russian translation of two of Elias’ Arabic treatises: Book of Sessions   (  Kit  !  b al-Ma   !  !  lis   ) and  Epistle to the Vizier Ab  "   l-Q !  sim al-Ma   #  rib  $  . Previous editions of the Sessions   include Louis Cheikho’s uncritical and abridged edition, Samir Khalil Samir’s editions 1 of Elias’ Introduction and the First, Sixth, and (partially) Sev-  Louis Cheikho, “  Ma   !  !  lis    C liyya mu < r ; n Nu = ayb  >   n,” al-Ma  %  riq   20 1 (1922), 33–44, 112–122, 267–272, 366–377, 425–434 (reprint: Louis Cheikho, Trois traités anciens de polémique et de théologie chrétiennes  , Beirut, 1923, pp. 26–73). Cheikho presents a collated text with no critical apparatus, based on four manuscripts: Beirut, Bibliothèque Orientale 564 (year 1826, a copy of a copy of Vat. ar. 645, written in 1234) – B  in Seleznyov’s edition; Beirut, Bibliothèque Orientale 676 (year 1715) – !  in Seleznyov’s edition; an unspecified Beirut manuscript, which Cheikho dated to the thirteenth century (cf. Louis Cheikho, “al-Ma D<A<; t al- 8 arabiyya f   >     D iz ; nat kulliyyatin ;  al- E arqiyya,” al-Ma  %  riq   6 (1909), 374–378, at p. 376, No. 99); and Aleppo, Maronite Archdiocese 258 (year 1631).   236    Book Reviews237enth Sessions, and Martino Diez’s recent edition of the Fifth 2 Session. The Sixth Session, in particular, has a paramount 3 importance for Syriac Studies in that there Elias offers a de-tailed comparison between Syriac and Arabic with reference to grammar, lexicography, and script and makes a case for the superiority of Syriac over Arabic. The  Epistle  was never pub 4 -lished before. Introduction and First Session: Samir Khalil Samir, “Entretien 2 d’Élie de Nisibe avec le vizir Ibn 8  Al  >    al-Ma @   rib  >    sur l’Unité et la Trinité,” Islamochristiana   5 (1979), 31–117 (reprint: Samir Khalil Samir, Foi et culture en Irak au XI  e   siècle  , Aldershot: Variorum, 1996, Essay VII). Sixth Session: Samir Khalil Samir, “Deux cultures qui s’affrontent: une controverse sur l’i 8 r ; b au XI e  siècle entre Élie de Nisibe et le vizir  Ab A  l-Q ; sim,”  Mélanges de l’Université Saint-Joseph   49 (1975–1976), 619–649 (reprint: Samir, Foi et culture  , Essay XI); Samir Khalil Samir, “Langue arabe, logique et théologie chez Élie de Nisibe,”  Mélanges de l’Université Saint-Joseph   52 (1991–1992), 229–367. I was unable to consult Samir Khalil Samir, Iliyy  !   al-Na  " $  b  $  : Kit  !  b al-Ma   !  !  lis, al-Ma   !  lis al-s  !  dis f  $   al-na  # w wa-l-lu   #  a wa-l-  &  a   $$   wa-l-kal  !  m  , Cairo: n.p., 1975, 53 pages). Samir Khalil Samir, “Bibliographie du dialogue islamo-chrétien,” Islamochristiana   3 (1977), 257–286 (reprint: Samir, Foi et culture  , Essay I), p. [10]/264 describes it as an “édition poly-copiée,” i.e., a handwritten or typewritten text reproduced by a duplication machine; no copy of it seems available in major university libraries. Seventh Session: Samir Khalil Samir, “La réfutation de l’astrologie par Élie de Nisibe,” Orientalia Christiana Periodica   43 (1977), 408–441 (reprint: Samir, Foi et culture  , Essay X); revised edition: Samir Khalil Samir, “ C liyy  ;  al-Nu = ayb  >   n  >    (975–1046 m) wa-l-waz  >   r Ab A  l-Q ; sim al-Ma @   rib  >   . II. I 8 tiq  ; d al-na =; r ;  f   >    a G k  ; m al-nu !  A m,” al-Ma  %  riq   77 (2003), 83–105. Martino Diez, “The Profession of Monotheism by Elias of Nisibis: 3  An Edition and Translation of the Fifth Session of the Kit  !  b al-maj  !  lis  ,” Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations   28.4 (2017), 493–514. David Bertaina, “Science, Syntax, and Superiority in Eleventh-Cen 4 -tury Christian-Muslim Discussion: Elias of Nisibis on the Arabic and Syriac Languages,” Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations   22.2 (2011), 197– 207. On Elias of Nisibis’ contribution to Syriac lexicography, see Adam McCollum, “Prolegomena to a New Edition of Eliya of Nisibis’s Kit  !  b al- turjum  !  n f  $   ta  '  l  $  m lu   #  at al-sury  !  n  ,”  Journal of Semitic Studies   58.2 (2013), 297– 322.   Book Reviews 238For his edition of the Sessions  , Seleznyov consulted thir-teen manuscripts, five of which were collated systematically (   V   = Vat. ar. 143, adopted as the manuscrit de base  ; "  = Vat. 5 ar. 155; #  = Vat. ar. 180; P  = Paris, BnF ar. 206; K   = Berlin, Staatsbibliothek syr. 115 [Sachau 67] in Gar EA n  >    ), and three others partially (  H  = Oxford, Bodleian, Huntington 240 [Uri 38];  A   = Aleppo, Salem ar. 274 [Sbath 1080]; S  = Berlin, Staatsbibliothek syr. 114 [Sachau 205]). Five additional man 6 -uscripts of the Sessions   —including two of the Beirut manu-scripts employed by Cheikho—were judged to be unreliable and disregarded. The  Epistle   is edited on the basis of the only accessible manuscript: Aleppo, Salem ar. 318 [Sbath 1131]. 7 Seleznyov’s publication breaks new ground in two re-spects. First, it offers, for the first time, a reliable integral text of the Sessions  . This is particularly significant for those parts of the Sessions   that had been hitherto available only in Cheikho’s edition: i.e., the Second, Third, and Fourth Ses-sions. Crucially, Seleznyov’s edition (pp. $! :9–  "% :7) includes an important passage from the Second Session in which Elias discusses the notion of (  ul  "  l  , “inhabitation,” of the Divine  Word in Jesus. (The Christology of the Church of the East, espoused by Elias of Nisibis, is peculiar in that it construes the Divine Word and Jesus as two distinct subjects—divine / uncreated and human / created, respectively—and hence is predisposed to speaking about the Incarnation in terms of “inhabitation” of the former in the latter.) This passage had Online: https://digi.vatlib.it/view/MSS_Vat.ar.143. 5  The critical apparatus includes only the most significant variant 6 readings (minor variants, e.g., wa-   vs.  fa-  , are disregarded). As Seleznyov indicates (p. 29, n. 3), the only other manuscript of 7 the  Epistle   —Sbath 1130 (year 1231)—is now kept in a private collection in London. See Peter J. Starr, “The  Epistle to Bi  %  r b. Fin  (!  s   (   Maq  !  lah '  amilah  !   il  !   Bi  %  r b. Fin  (!  s   ) of Ibn Zur 8 ah (m. A.H. 398 / A.D. 1008): Edition,  Translation, and Commentary,” PhD diss., University of Cambridge, Emmanuel College, 2000, p. 74.    Book Reviews239been omitted in Cheikho’s edition for doctrinal reasons, and 8 had therefore remained unpublished. 9 Second, Seleznyov’s publication presents an editio princeps   of the  Epistle  . This allows him to reconstruct the relationship between the two works. Seleznyov argues (pp. 12–13) that the  Epistle   was written first, in response to Ab A  l-Q ; sim’s letter. 10  After Ab A  l-Q ; sim’s death in 1027, Elias compiled the Ses- sions  , which is a reworking of the  Epistle   with several omis-sions and additions. The division into seven “sessions” is, ac-cording to Seleznyov, a literary ploy. Though it loosely reflects the chronology of Elias’ meetings with Ab A  l-Q ; sim, it is doubtful that all the subjects treated in the Sessions   were dis-cussed in these meetings. It is more likely that Elias used this occasion to engage more deeply in various subjects of Christ-ian-Muslim polemic. Cheikho explains this omission in the introduction to his edition: 8 “We shall print these Sessions   in our journal with the exception of the Sec-ond Session, of which we shall publish only a short fragment, because [this Session] contains Nestorian heresy [  al-bid  '  a al-nas  )"  riyya   ] concerning the Incarnation of the Lord Christ, and [if we were to publish it in full], it [would] necessitate a long rebuttal” (Cheikho, “  Ma   !  !  lis  ,” p. 34; cf. p. 117, n. 1). Nikolai N. Seleznyov, “« -   +&).#& !   +H   "I »: J'$'+&).)"#)  (  al-  (  ul  "  l   ) 9 +   /7&7.K/%"&L' - M1#&0#%"&L'/   *#%.'$)  —  -.#N   3#&#+#"&L#,   #    5( ! - . - 6   " # &#/   %. - 9% '% 1#( & ” [“‘And Dwelled in Us’: Divine Inhabitation (  al-  (  ul  "  l   ) in Muslim-Christian Disputation—Elias of Nisibis and Ab A  l-Q ; sim al-Ma @   rib  >   ”],  *+,-.  i  /0-1  i  2    34-.415  / Christian Orient   8 (14) (2017), 297–312. On the peculiarities of the Christology of the Church of the East in an Arab Christian milieu, see also Alexander Treiger, “The Chris-tology of the Letter from the People of Cyprus  ,”  Journal of Eastern Christian Studies   65.1–2 (2013), 21–48. This letter as well as Ab A  l-Q ; sim’s response to Elias’  Epistle   are 10 also included in Seleznyov’s publication (pp. &"$  –  &"%  and !$'  –  !$$  re-spectively).   Book Reviews 240Minor shortcomings of the publication include occasion-al misprints, an overly literal translation, and omission of 1112 folio numbers of the manuscrit de base   (though the beginning of every manuscript page is helpfully indicated). While it is commendable that the Arabic text is reproduced the way it appears in the manuscripts, some punctuation would have been useful for most readers. Occasionally, it is noticeable that the text diverges slightly from the manuscrit de base   with no explanation. 13 Despite these minor deficiencies, Seleznyov’s edition of the Book of Sessions   and the  Epistle to the Vizier Ab  "   l-Q !  sim al-  Ma   #  rib  $   —the first to provide a complete and reliable access to these two works—is certainly a landmark contribution to Syr-iac and Christian Arabic Studies. It is to be hoped that it will stimulate further research into the thought of Elias of Nisi-bis, one of the most influential medieval Syriac and Christian  Arabic theologians and a central figure in the history of Christian-Muslim polemic. For example, wa-  6!  lika   on p. !( :4 should be corrected to wa-li-  6!  li  11 - ka   (the reading of Vat. ar. 143, fol. 19r); aw laysa   on p. %& :10 should be corrected to a-wa-laysa   (spelled as one word); k !  na l-amr h  !6!   on p. $! :5 should be corrected to k !  na l-amr '  al  !   h  !6!   (the reading of Vat. ar. 143, fol. 42r). For example, the term qawl  , literally “statement” but frequently 12 employed in the sense of “teaching” or “doctrine” (cf. the title of al- A E8 ar  >   ’s heresiographical work  Maq  !  l  !  t al-isl  !  miyy  $  n  , Doctrines of the Muslims   ), is translated throughout as “statement” [  +I&L%4I+%"#)  ] or “affirmation” [  70+)1O*)"#)  ], though “doctrine” [  7P)"#)  ] would have been more idiomatic and, arguably, more precise. For example, Vat. ar. 143, fol. 19r:4 reads: wa-li-  6!  lika (  a  7  ala l-  6!  t 13  #  ayr '  ara  8   wa-   #  ayr q  !  bil li-l-a  '  r  !8  ; Seleznyov’s edition, p. !( :4–5 has: wa-  6!  lika (  a  7  alat l-  6!  t {bi-mu   !  arradih  !   —supplied from manuscripts P () }  #  ayr '  ara  8     #  ayr q  !  bila li-l-a  '  r  !8  .
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