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Re: [textualcriticism] Re: Caucasian Albanian

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  • Viktor Golinets
    Professor Wolfgand Schulze from the University of Munich works on the edition of some Fragments of NT in Caucasian Albanian. He has shown me two photos of
    Message 1 of 8 , Mar 17, 2005
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      Professor Wolfgand Schulze from the University of Munich works on the edition of some Fragments of NT in Caucasian Albanian. He has shown me two photos of palimpsest manuscripts.
      Viktor Golinets, M.A.

      AndysDad <elwabuck@...> wrote:

      Well, I've read through the whole forum and this was the last reply,
      so the mystery is at last revealed below, right here on the TC Forum.

      ----- Original Message -----
      Ron Minton asked:

      Andrew Criddle replies:
      << In 'the early versions of the New Testament' Metzger lists
      versions before 1000 CE. The list includes (ignoring dialects):
      Caucasian Albanian ? (Entirely lost if ever existed) >>

      No longer lost! Thanks to the 'bottomless basement' at Sinai.

      From Azer.com:
      Much of the territory of modern Azerbaijan was once known as Caucasus
      Albania - not to be confused with the modern country of Albania found
      in the Balkans. Caucasus Albania remained a cohesive, mostly
      Christian, political entity in the area from the third to eighth
      centuries A.D. But even though the ancient Albanians were highly
      advanced and had their own writing system, very few remnants are left
      from their civilization. A few Albanian inscriptions were found in
      Azerbaijan in 1948-49 during an archeological excavation, but until
      recently, no one could figure out how to decipher them.

      According to Professor Zaza Alexidze:

      "Some scholars believed that the Caucasus Albanians in this area never
      had their own written language and alphabet. All known Albanian texts
      had been preserved only in the Armenian language.

      But in 1996, I discovered an ancient manuscript that proved
      conclusively that Caucasus Albania once had its own highly developed
      written language. During an expedition to St. Catherine's monastery on
      Mt. Sinai in Egypt, I found a unique palimpsest, a type of parchment
      manuscript that has two layers of text. The top layer of text was
      Georgian, but beneath it was another layer - this one, written in
      Albanian script.

      Back in the Early Middle Ages, parchment was very expensive and in
      great demand, so it was typical for manuscripts to be reused. In this
      particular manuscript, the lower Albanian text was washed away so that
      the 10th-century Georgian text could be written on top of it. That
      makes the lower-layered Albanian text very difficult and time
      consuming to read, but with the help of modern technology and special
      illumination, we can determine what it says.

      My work of deciphering the lower layer of the Georgian-Albanian
      palimpsest continued until the beginning of 2001.

      Ancient Lectionary
      The palimpsest, as it turns out, is from a Christian Albanian
      lectionary, a church service book that contained a collection of
      liturgical lessons that were read throughout the church year and
      mainly consisted of readings from the Old and New Testaments. To
      compile a lectionary, one must first have a translation of the Bible
      available in that language.

      This Albanian lectionary is very simplified, with only readings for 12
      religious feasts along with some psalms and praises (alleluias).
      Unlike other ancient lectionaries, there is no evidence of a calendar
      system, no mention of any saints or ecclesiastical Fathers and nothing
      about liturgical processions to the holy places in Jerusalem and stops
      at relevant churches.

      Traditionally within the church, lectionaries have evolved from being
      very simple to more and more complex. This means that in all
      probability, the Albanian text represents one of the first
      lectionaries ever written. It may even date back to the second half of
      the 4th century. In turn, that would mean that the written Albanian
      language had been created even earlier.

      It's also interesting to note that some of the lessons given in the
      Albanian lectionary are not found in ancient Armenian and Georgian
      lectionaries. This may indicate that the Albanian lectionary was not
      translated from those other languages but was composed independently
      based on a Greek lectionary, which no longer exists.

      Lost for Centuries
      So why did the Albanian script disappear in the first place? In the
      8th to 10th centuries, Arab invaders and Armenian clerics burned
      documents that were written in the Albanian language. The Albanian
      Church until around 720 AD was Diophysite, meaning that it perceived
      Christ as having a dual nature - both human and divine. The Armenian
      Church, however, was Monophysite and believed that Christ's nature was
      altogether divine. It wanted to stamp out any literature that was
      considered to be Diophysite.

      From about 720 onwards, the Albanian church was strongly affected by
      the influence of the Monophysite Armenian Church. Albania gradually
      adopted the Armenian language and script, and thus, step by step, lost
      its national identity and written language. Up until recently, the
      only Albanian historical and ecclesiastical texts we had access to
      were translations that had been preserved in the Armenian language.

      By examining the language found in the palimpsest, I discovered that
      the direct descendants of the Albanian people, the Udis, still speak a
      language that is very similar to the ancient Albanian language. Up
      until recently, the Udis wrote their language in the Cyrillic
      alphabet; now that Azerbaijan has opted for a Latin-based script,
      they, too, have switched to the Latin alphabet. But neither alphabet
      can handle the 50 or more phonemes found in the Udi language without
      creation of additional symbols. [As of this writing, the work on the
      Udi grammar has not yet been finished. Some scholars identify 52
      letters, some 54, others 48]. Perhaps this new discovery will mean
      that the Udis can reclaim their long-forgotten alphabet once again."
      [The website has a photo which I'm sure our moderator will want to add
      to his online collection]

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