The Book of the Interpreter

Description

This 16th-century manuscript is an old copy of the classified Syriac–Garshuni glossary by  Elias of Nisibis (975–1046). Elias was an eastern Syriac scholar and monk, who was later a bishop and from 1008–46 metropolitan of Nisibis in northern Mesopotamia (present-day Nusaybin in southeastern Turkey). He was an important figure in Syriac and Christian Arabic literature and an early grammarian. In addition to this glossary, his literary output included a bilingual (Syriac–Arabic) chronicle, liturgical poetry, and letters. This work is prefaced by Eliya's address to the man for whom he wrote the book. The text is very important for the history of Arabic lexicography, especially among Christians. A great number of topics are covered, including not only Christian themes, but also scientific subjects, particularly medicine. Syriac is an eastern dialect of Aramaic, which was spoken by Christians in the lands between the Roman Empire and the Arabian Sea from the first century to the 12th century. Garshuni came into use when Arabic became the dominant spoken language in the lands of the Fertile Crescent before a written form of the Arabic language had developed. It is still in use among some Syriac Christian congregations.

Last updated: July 12, 2012