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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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."
website has a photo which I'm sure our moderator will want to add
to his online collection]
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