The Judaeo-Syriac Version of Bel and the Dragon: An Edition with Linguistic Comments

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The phenomenon of Syriac texts written by Jews in Hebrew letters is a curiosity, albeit one with important implications for cultural history. The recent publication by Siam Bhayro of a hitherto unknown text, a medieval Judaeo-Syriac medical frag- ment, has once again moved this fringe phenomenon to the spotlight. Bhayro edited and translated the text and offered an analysis of the language and aspects of the transcription system as well as some remarks on its importance for assessing the transfer of scientific knowledge between different communities during the Abbasid period. He did not, however, discuss the fragment in the context of the other known Judaeo-Syriac texts. Indeed, Bhayro even claimed erroneously that the medical text “represents the only fragment of Judaeo-Syriac hitherto discovered”
In this article, we shall offer a short overview of the small corpus of Syriac texts in Hebrew letters, most of which are in need of new editions. We shall then treat one such text in more detail. The Judaeo-Syriac version of Bel and the Dragon is pre- served in three witnesses: In a late Jewish manuscript, in Ramón Martí’s Pugio fidei, and in the Midrash Bereshit Rabbati. We shall evaluate the existing editions, re-edit the text from the Pugio fidei based on MS Lat. 1405 from the Bibliothèque de sainte Geneviève in Paris, and compare the Jewish version to the Peshitta, from which it derives, in order to characterize the linguistic reworking it was submitted to. The findings have implications for assessing the linguistic milieu of Late Jewish Literary Aramaic.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-31
Number of pages31
JournalMediterranean Language Review
StatePublished - 2016


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