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The Armenian Apocryphal Adam Literature.

This work, representing the author's unrevised doctoral thesis of 1983, offers an important contribution to the study of later traditions concerning the protoplasts. The three writings investigated (Armenian Adam Cycle, History of the Repentance of Adam and Eve, and Words of Adam to Seth) evince a number of unique facets, e.g., Enoch's construction and maintenance of a garden in contrition for the sin which alienated man from God as the background to his translation to the divine presence. It is also suggested that the treatment of Cain's fratricide is the richest in circumstantial detail of any that survive. The first two provide distinct (though related) synopses of primordial history up to the flood, whereas the third (and briefest) text focuses on Seth's role as comforter.

Utilizing an edition from the end of last century based on a single witness, Preuschen had argued impressionistically for a Sethian gnostic setting for the material. In response to a significant criticism of its crude form a more refined version of the theory has been proposed which, while envisioning an ultimate gnostic matrix for the data, recognizes that this aspect of the texts became attenuated in the course of transmission. Although discussing certain themes which might be considered gnostic, Lipscomb wisely avoids committing himself categorically on the issue. Rather, he concentrates attention on the second aspect, citing literary and linguistic features from which he concludes that the narratives are original Armenian compositions of the medieval period.

Nevertheless, the tradition of the Adam Cycle in particular did not crystallize into a final form but underwent considerable evolution. The author convincingly proves Stone's hypothesis that the four divisions found in the manuscripts (Transgression, Expulsion, Abel and Cain, and Tidings of Seth) are a subsequent development, directly or indirectly related to the homilies which immediately follow them in some of the witnesses. In view of the importance of Adamic material for popularizing Armenian theology it is regrettable that these commentaries have been excluded from consideration. However, a variant tradition is presented in the appendix which Lipscomb follows Anasyan in styling a second recension. Although dependent on the preceding, it reveals ongoing changes in language and thought characterized by heightened reverence towards the subject matter and stylistic streamlining of the awkward transitions and unclarities of the earlier phase.

The edition of the Adam Cycle reprints the text of the 1896 edition, supplementing this with variants from three manuscripts. This is very welcome; however, the work would have benefited materially from further revision since the author does not investigate sufficiently the impact of these new data on the work's literary development, but treats the readings atomistically. Apart from the usual copyist's mistakes certain explicitly redactional tendencies appear throughout, with diverse solutions to the same problem being proposed in each of the witnesses. Consequently, rather than positing two distinct strata, a more plausible model would be one of increasing transformation with multiple stratification, each building on the previous. Thus, the addition in two manuscripts that the ark comprised three storeys is further elucidated by "recension 11," making explicit the allocation of quarters between the birds, humans and animals.

In the absence of a general stemmatic consideration of the transmission history, several of the editor's emendations appear ill founded, Acknowledging in the introduction that the linguistic idiom is that of middle Armenian, he seems uncomfortable with many of the middle forms adduced by the base manuscript, either alluding to the classical equivalent in textual notes or substituting them in the text (usually drawn from MS D which, however, represents the most developed textual state).

This, in turn, has repercussions for the translation beyond the methodological question of rendering a diplomatic text without the apparatus. As one might expect from codices of this period (16th-17th centuries), all (including the base manuscript) adduce material from different stages of the textual process, complicating the reconstruction of the putative original. Therefore, the decision not to render the manuscript variants both deprives readers unfamiliar with Armenian of important information and endues the base text with undue prominence. The literal rendering is faithful on the whole, but also suffers from the classicizing interpretation of middle Armenian phenomena, thus altering the nuance intended.

The writings are dated on linguistic and literary grounds to the 8th-14th centuries, though the conservative lower limit could probably be advanced by three centuries to a point where middle Armenian becomes more common. The upper limit is conditioned by the earliest witness of the History of the Repentance of Adam and Eve which, as the author demonstrates, has employed the Adam Cycle as a source. However, there remains some uncertainty whether the author or a redactor was responsible for this. In passing, one might add that, apart from the Armenian version of Genesis noted, the Repentance text evinces the unexpected influence of the Song of the Three (Dan 3:58-81 [LXX]) from the breviary in the lament invoking all of creation to mourn Adam's lot.

Although certain of the Christian and Armenian features are referred to, the reception of these materials and their assigned function promises to be one of the most fruitful avenues of future research. General parallels are adduced to writings of, e.g., Philo and St. Ephrem and it may be that their Armenian translations were catalysts in the literary process. Ascetic preoccupation and the characterization of Abel as a virgin martyr suggest a monastic milieu which is likely to be significant in connection with the major thrust in monastic construction during the tenth and ensuing centuries. Similarly, the association of the protoplasts' grief at expulsion from paradise with the arajawor fast deserves much greater attention. A regular component of polemics with Byzantines and Syrians, this distinctly Armenian practice was normally interpreted as symbolizing their prebaptismal repentance or that of the Ninevites. However, the link with Adam is already adduced by Polos Taronac'i (d. 1120). In view of this, one might speculate about a paraliturgical paraenetic context for these compositions, bearing in mind that some related poetic treatments are appointed for the first Sunday in Lent.
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Author:Cowe, S.P.
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 1992
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