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Und das Leben ist siegreich!: Mandaische und samaritanische Literature.

Und das Leben ist siegreich!: Mandaische und samaritanische Literature. Edited by RAINER VOIGT. Mandaistische Forschungen, vol. 1. Wiesbaden: HARRASSOWITZ VERLAG, 2008. Pp. 286. [euro]68.

This much anticipated volume, the first in Harrassowitz's new Mandaeological series Mandaistische Forschungen, (1) contains the proceedings of the 1st Conference of Mandaic and Samaritan Studies, in memory of Rudolf Macuch, the premier scholar of the Mandaic language during the latter half of the twentieth century and one of the leading Aramaicists of his time. Fittingly, the conference took place in 2003, a decade after his death in 1993, and was hosted by the Seminar fur Semitistik and Arabistik of the Freie Universitat Berlin, which was home to Macuch for a quarter of a century.

While linguists and scholars of Middle East languages and literatures, both ancient and modern, owe Macuch a great debt of gratitude for his many contributions in diverse areas, it is undeniable that he made the greatest impact upon Mandaean and Samaritan studies, (2) and so it was also fitting that the conference be dedicated to these subjects, allowing some of his most prominent colleagues and students to discuss the present state of affairs in them.

In addition to the preliminary matter, the volume contains six scholarly contributions on the Samaritans and fourteen on the Mandaeans. In the preliminary matter., Maria Macuch, the Iranist and leading authority in the field of Sasanian jurisprudence, contributed a personal and extremely touching biography of her father, who otherwise might appear somewhat intimidating and impersonal to those who are familiar with his scholarship but who did not have the privilege of his acquaintanceship. Although brief, Macuch fille's contribution is one of the highlights of the volume. In a similar vein, Sabih Also-hairy contributes a brief resume of Macuch's academic contributions, in this instance from the perspective of a colleague and friend, and Kurt Rudolf, Macuch's longstanding colleague and collaborator, offers a few remarks on the status of the Mandaean community today, in the aftermath of Macuch's fieldwork and considerable change in the regions where they reside.

Jorunn J. Buckley delves into one of the more controversial issues within Mandaean studies in her contribution, "Once More: Mandaean Origins and Earliest History," which reviews much of the scholarship (recent and otherwise) on the question of Mandaean origins before arguing on the basis of the Mandaean evidence that the search for Gnostic origins include geographic areas further to the east that have been neglected by recent approaches. She concludes that Mandaean origins might be sought within Mesopotamian Jewish circles during the first century C.E. but that the Mandaic manuscript Inner Haran may also preserve a tradition of their flight from Palestine via the Wadi Hauran, which begins in eastern Jordan and feeds into the Tigris. Her contribution, which derives from her research on Mandaean colophons, (3) is also unique among the collected papers in that it includes three previously unpublished color images of the Mandaean community in Iran.

"The Mandaeans and the Myth of Their Origins" is also the subject of Edmondo Lupieri's contribu-tion, which focuses upon historiographic narratives in three manuscripts (the right-hand portion of the chief Mandaean scripture, the Ginza Rha, the Mandaean Book of John, and the Inner Harem). Contra Buckley, Lupieri argues that the "Inner Haran" of the manuscript of the same name is a mythical location, not a physical one, and concludes that the earliest Mandaean narrative of their own origins, as preserved in these manuscripts, is primarily an "antagonistic" account, in reaction to Christian pro-paganda, and that contemporary Mandaean accounts of their Palestinian origins and descent from the disciples of John the Baptist are primarily a product of their encounter with Western missionaries in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Voigt's student Bogdan Burtea, who assisted in the editing of the volume, also contributed an article, "Zur Entstehung der mandaischen Schrift," which deals with the debate over the origins of the Mandaic script and its relevance to the broader question of the community's own origins. Most of it is dedicated to my own hypothesis of its origins in the Parthian chancery, which I advanced in an article published a full three years after this conference had taken place, and it challenges me to address how the "largely vocalized" orthography of the later Mandaic texts could have arisen from the "relatively underdeveloped orthography" of the Arsacid-period Parthian inscriptions. This is indeed an interesting question, albeit not the specific concern of my article. Burtea begins by challenging the originality Of my hypothesise (4) before focusing upon specific points of disagreement and suggesting an alternative hypothesis, namely that the present script was specifically adopted by a Gnostic proto-Mandaean mis-sionary faction for the purposes of distinguishing themselves from other religious communities and consciously reformed to accommodate the Iranian population of southern Mesopotamia. While I must unfortunately defer a full response to his challenge, I would nonetheless like to address three of the points that he raises within his contribution.

On p. 53, Burtea challenges the conventional wisdom that the Mandaic language and its literature were first recorded in the present script, on the grounds that a small number of common words are consistently spelt defectively, seemingly following the orthography of other Aramaic scripts--indicating to him that the Mandaeans must previously have been literate in one of these other scripts before adopting their present script. lie does not consider the possibility that the defective spelling of these common words might indeed reflect a survival of the "relatively underdeveloped orthography" of the Parthian inscriptions, or that they might even have been influenced by the orthographic practices of neighboring Aramaic-speaking communities.

On pp. 54-55, Burtea disputes my claim that the Mandaic script is characterized by a system of vowel letters rather than matres lectiones on the grounds that "It is enough to take a superficial look at the oldest evidence of the Mandaean literature to declare immediately that beside the scriptio plena also appears a frequently defective orthography" and "it is not true that [i and u] are only used to indicate vowels and semi-vowels ... [they] clearly have a consonantal function." This is quite irrelevant to the question at hand, since the so-called Mandaic matres lectiones do not in fact serve as consonants save when i and u serve as semi-vowels (by which I intend glides, possibly the source of Burtea's confusion). "Matres lectiones" which have ceased to serve as consonants are no longer matres lectiones: they are vowel letters, regardless of whether they are written defectively or not.

On p. 56, Burtea claims that "there is no ez[]fe in Parthian," and on p. 60 he suggests that my attempt to derive the ligatured ZY from an Iranian origin "presents some difficulties" due to the lateness of the Iranian data and the fact that it only represents the Book Pahlavi ez[]fe before a personal pronoun. Nevertheless, the heterogram ZY (which I argue to be the origin of the Mandaic d and the ZY of the Psalter and Book Pahlavi scripts) does in fact occur in the Parthian inscriptions of the Arsacid period. It is not at all clear whether it represents the linking element c[], as it does in the later Manichaean Parthian texts, or some form of the ez[]fe as found in other Western Iranian languages, but it nonetheless appears in the same syntactic context as both the Mandaic d and the Middle Persian ez[]fe. (5)

Two other contributions also focus on issues of Mandaean history and historiography. Harald Gropp contributes an introduction to the "Mathematics and Astronomy of the Mandaeans" targeted towards non-specialists outside the field of Mandaean studies. In a similar vein, Sinasi Gunduz offers an overview of "Islamic Influence and Speculation in Mandaic Literature," with a focus upon Mandaean polemics against Muslims, and, conversely, beliefs, concepts, and attitudes common to both groups demonstrating a long history of contact and interaction.

A number of contributions deal with the Mandaean manuscript tradition and Mandaean literature from a decidedly philological perspective. Two contributions offer preliminary remarks on unpublished manuscripts from the Drower Collection (DC): Michael Guterbock on the Sarh d-Masbuta Rabtia (DC 50), a ritual roll that describes the 360 baptisms required to purify a polluted priest, and Michael Tarelko on the gapta d-Mihla (DC 40), which invokes a personified Salt to perform the exorcism of illness, barrenness, and evil spirits. Additionally, Victor Rebrik presents some general remarks on the Mandaean baptism ritual, with a focus on its presentation in the manuscript Zihrun Razia Kasia (DC 27). (6) Karl Gunther compares the Biblical creation narrative with two of the seven creation narratives preserved in the Ginza Yamina (GY), or right-hand portion of the chief Mandaean scripture, specifically GY 1 and the first portion of GY 2. (7) Gabriele Mayer offers a reading of selected sections of Chapter 18 of the Mandaean Book of John in light of other related texts on John the Baptist from Chapters 18 and 32 of the same work, as well as the Ginza Yamina.

Finally, two of the remaining Mandaean contributions deal with issues related specifically to the Mandaic language. Erica C. D. Hunter discusses the orthography and language of three incantation bowls discovered in a secure archaeological context at Nippur. In a thought-provoking study, Rainer Voigt tentatively reconstructs Mandaic meter, coming to the conclusion that the basic unit of Mandaic poetry is a half-line consisting of seven syllables, of which three are stressed. While he acknowledges that other metrical possibilities exist and further examples are needed, he suggests that these observations could potentially lead to the reconstruction of the original form of metrically structured texts that have subsequently been enlarged.

Though fewer in number, the Samaritan contributions are even more eclectic than the Mandaean. Two of the contributions deal with issues of tradition and continuity: Ulrike-Rebekka Nieten discusses the cantillation tradition of the Samaritans, with specific reference to the first three verses of the Song of the Sea (Exodus 15:1-18), and Stefan Schorch examines the evolution of the Passover sacrifice within the Samaritan tradition, as reflected in the accounts of travelers to the region at the beginning of the twentieth century. Schorch concludes that the Paschal lamb has shifted from a communal sacrifice to a priestly offering, reflecting a relatively recent innovation in the Halakha governing the sacrifice. A third essay belongs firmly in the domain of semantics: Gerhard Wedel illustrates lexical field theory with some examples relating to the field of "punishment" from the Kitab al-Tabb[]h, a Samaritan Arabic text on Halakha and theology that probably dates to the eleventh century C.E., demonstrating how words within the same basic field are defined through their relationship to one another.

Three of the contributions focus upon issues of canon and canonicity. Magnar Kartveit surveys questions surrounding the formation of the Samaritan canon, specifically related to the selection of a particular version of the Pentateuch to the exclusion of the remainder of the Hebrew Bible. This process, Benyamim Tsedaka reminds us, continues to the present date: "not one of the Samaritan manuscripts of the Torah completely resembles another." Tsedaka's article focuses upon personal and inter-familial disputes within the Samaritan community concerning the pronunciation of words from the Samaritan Torah. and the probable causes of these disputes. In a fitting final tribute to Macuch's scholarship, Josef Zsengeller closes the volume in reopening the question of the identity of a Samaritan inscription from a temple at Tell Qasile, which had previously been the subject of a study by Macuch himself. (8) Macuch concluded, on the basis of various features of the text, that the temple was not a Samaritan Christian synagogue, as some scholars had claimed, but simply a Samaritan one. Zsengeller turns this question on its head, and examines the role that temples play in defining the texts that are stored within them, concluding that it was the placement of texts that had become canonical within the temple that made them holy.

The publication of this volume not only attests to the continuing relevance of Mandaean and Samaritan studies, the fields to which Macuch dedicated his life, but to the breadth of these fields and the depth of academic interest in them at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

(1.) While Und das Leben ist siegreich! is vol. 1 in the series Mandaistische Forschungen (MF), two subsequent volumes in this series have already appeared: Bogdan Burtea, Das mandaische Fest der Schalttage, MF 2 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2005), and Zihrun, das vorbergen Geheimnes, MF 3 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2008). My own reviews of these volumes appear in JAOS 127 (2007): 208-10 and JNES 71, respectively.

(2.) His contributions in these two areas include such fundamental works such as A Mandaic Dictionary (Oxford: Clarendon, 1963), which he co-authored with E. S. Drower, and his Handbook of Classical and Modern Mandaic (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1965), Grammatik des samaritanischen Hebraisch (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1969), Zur Sprache and Literatur der Mandaer (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1976), Grammatik des samaritanischen Aramaisch (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1982), Neumandaische Chrestomathie (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1989), and Neumandaische Texte im Dialekt von Ahwaz (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1993), among many others.

(3.) For which, see Jorunn J. Buckley. The Great Stem of Souls: Reconstructing Mandaean History (Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias, 2006).

(4.) On the grounds that Klaus Beyer had previously floated the possibility of an Arsacid origin for the Mandaic script in his monumental survey of Aramaic: Klaus Beyer, Die aramdisch.en Texte vom Toten Meer (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1984). 44. I thank Burtea for drawing my attention to Beyer's comment, and also for having drawn my attention to A. Klugkist's article "The Origin of the Mandaic Script," in Scripta Signa Vocis, ed. H. L. J. Vanstiphout et al. (Groningen: Forsten, 1986), 111-20.

(5.) On the use of ZY in the Arsacid-period Parthian texts and the question of the ezafe, see Werner Sundermann's comments in his article "Parthisch," in Compendium Linguarum Iranicarum, ed. Rudiger Schmitt (Wiesbaden: Reichert, 1989), 132-33.

(6.) This same manuscript subsequently received its first critical treatment in Burtea 2008.

(7.) The other creation narratives are found in GY 3, 10, 13, 15, and 18. GY 3, which is the largest of the seven creation narratives, is the subject of Sabah Aldihisi's unpublished doctoral dissertation: Sabah Aldihisi, "The Story of Creation in the Mandaean Holy Book the Ginza Rba" (University College London, 2009).

(8.) Rudolf Macuch, "A New Interpretation of the Samaritan Inscription from Tell Qasile." Israel Exploration Journal 35 (1985): 183-85.

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Author:Haberl, Charles G.
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book review
Date:Apr 1, 2011
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