Friday veneration and a Letter (Tanzil) from Heaven in the 6th century Christianity
(пока без таблиц и схем)
Among such earliest Islamic ideas going back to Christian Jerusalem are the veneration of Friday and, in some way, the very idea of the epistle (tanzil) from Heaven.
Heribert Busse in 1984 demonstrated that the earliest Islamic accounts on the Friday as the Yaum al-Jumaca (“Day of Assembly”) go back to an eight-day-ceremony of Omar ibn Hattab entrance into Jerusalem (Busse states that the date of this event should be corrected to 635, instead of 637 or 638). The culmination of the whole ceremony took place on Friday when Omar made a prayer in the assembly on the spot of the
Be that as it may, some knowledge of the importance of Friday must be a prerequisite of such a mode of action of Omar ibn Hattab. Indeed, the discussions about the comparative importance of different weekdays were then in vogue among the Christians. As Michel van Esbroeck had shown, this was an important battlefield around the Council of Chalcedon.
I will sum up van Esbroeck’s findings in a very brief manner.
He published two sets of the texts ascribed to St Basil of
Two sets of the Pseudo-Basilian texts are obviously in polemic with each other. But the most important document engendered by the same polemics in the first half or the middle of the 6th century is the famous “Epistle on Sunday”, an autograph of Jesus Christ that has been got directly from heaven. This epistle subsists in dozens of recensions and in hundreds or even thousands of manuscripts in main languages of both Christian East and West. Of course, it insists on predominance of Sunday over all other days of the week.
All these documents are in some connection to Jerusalem, and the tradition of Wednesday and Friday goes back to the period of the monophysite rule of the anti-Patriarch of Jerusalem Theodosius immediately after the Council of Chalcedon (452—454).
M. van Esbroeck supposed that the Epistle of Christ has been created in the time of establishing in
My own purpose here will be to go further and to recuperate the traces of this lost document of the epoch of Theodosius. Indeed, we have a tradition of veneration of Friday that is certainly going back to
However, some parts of this tradition are familiar to the historians of the mediaeval literatures, while no one of them has been aware of the real breadth of dossier. The most important part of tradition subsists in the different texts dealing with “The 12 Fridays”. These texts are available in Greek, Latin and Slavonic. Another part is traceable within a 10th century
The most known part of our dossier is so-called Clement’s recension of the Twelve Fridays. It subsists in Greek, Slavonic and Latin. The Greek and Latin texts are rare (both published by Mercati in 1901 on the basis of the unique manuscripts), but the Slavonic one is available in innumerable variations, including the so-called duxovnye stixi (a kind of the Russian folk spiritual poetry). All the texts of this recension are very short enumerations of the 12 Fridays when the fasting is obligatory (sometimes, against the normal order of the Church calendar, e.g. after Christmas, or, on the contrary, during long fasts, when all the weekdays are already fasting-days). The historical motivation of such practice is reduced near to zero, but some motivations dealing with the goods of this and the future life are provided. The latter are matter of change in many derivatives of the Clement recension. We are interested in the calendar data only (see Table 1). It is easy to see that the Slavonic version follows the Greek one, while not precisely the existing Greek text.
The existence of the Slavonic version from Greek is an argument making unlikely the claims of the priority of the Latin, as some earlier scholars thought. But even more important is the very attribution of the treatise to St Clement of
The main disaccord between Clement Gr and Clement Sl, on the one hand, and Clement L, on the other, is the presence, in Gr & Sl only, of Dormition in August and Hypopante (Candlemas). This is also in a perfect accord with the realities of the 6th cent., when both feasts became very important in both
Therefore, our reconstruction of the lost Vorlage of Clement recension will be based on the mutual accord of the Greek text and the Slavonic version (Table 1, *Clement). In most cases, our choice is evident and, in one case, we have made no choice at all (Nr 10). Two cases need commentaries. Nr 7: the variety of readings must emerge from the disappearance in about 550 of the older date of the Feast of Apostles (not only Peter and Paul) on the 50th day after the Pentecost, that is, on the second Pentecost. Nr 6: an imprecise date in June remains inexplicable within the texts of the Clement recension, but its origin will become clear from an earlier calendar of the Eleutherius recension.
The Eleutherius recension of the Twelve Fridays is known only in Slavonic in an early translation of the South-Slavonic origin. The text of this translation still needs to be studied properly. All published manuscripts preserve somewhat different recensions of the same work (Eleutherius III being an excerpt containing the calendar part only). I will limit my study to the earliest copies.
The text about the Fridays is incorporated in a text of anti-Jewish polemics of the 7th century, something in the kind of the Doctrina Jacobi nuper baptizati. Eleutherius is the name of the Christian polemist against the Jews. I think that its Sitz im Leben must be close to that of the Apocalypse of Pseudo-Methodius, because our text represents a peculiar doctrine that the Arab rule will end after 63 years (that is, in the beginning the tenth week of years, repeating the peculiar chronology of the Babylonian captivity with 63 years and not 70). So far, we knew such doctrine from Ps.-Methodius only. Of curse, this is a true prophesy, not a vaticinium ex eventu, but, as most of such true prophesies, it is false in the sense that it has never accomplished. The texts contains some toponymes that may point out a town in Loristan in
One place in the text preserves a mark of the Syriac original while this does not mean that the Slavonic version has been produced without Greek intermediary. (The existence of such an intermediary is another question that I will avoid for the present discussion.) When Eleutherius and his Jewish adversary went deeper into the discussion, text states: “Then they went into a deep povēst’ ” The last word means “narration”, a standard rendering of Greek διήγησις. Some later scribes tried to emendate this reading, but both earliest manuscripts are here in accordance. I think, this is a mark of a confusion common in Syriac texts and their translations between Ethpeel (“to play”, “to compete (e.g., in sport)”), and Ethpaal (“to narrate”) of the verb ܫܥܐ (Payne Smith, cols. 4248-50), and so, the meaning of the Syriac original was something like “they went into deep of the struggle” (a confusion took place between derivatives such as, e.g., ܫܘܽܥܳܝܳܐ “διήγησις” and ܫܥܳܝܽܘܬܳܐ “play, competition”).
Eleutherius out-argued his Jewish adversary, but then, the Jew proposed a riddle about the Fridays and left the room. His son, however, remained on the place and, asked by Eleutherius, explained him the matter. In ancient days, the Jews slew some Christians who preserved a book on the Fridays left by the apostles. Then, the Jews burned the book but learned its contents by heart and handed it down in generations. When the Jew returned, Eleutherius repeated to him the whole story, and the Jew killed his son and committed suicide. Thus, the teaching of the apostles about the Fridays has been regained for the Christians. It is worth noting that this story itself has no mark of the time of Arabic conquest, and so, I am uncertain about its dating. All the mentions on the Arabs are but secondary additions in the calendar part (see Table 2). Their secondarity is clear from the fact that they appear among the motivations of keeping some particular Fridays, but always aside from other motivations taken from the sacred history. The latter motivations are quite important.
The reconstruction of the prototype calendar *Eleutherius is more or less obvious (Table 2). In Nr 7, I replace “Peter’s Day” by a movable feast on the 2nd Pentecost (cf. above, in reconstruction of *Clement).
A Jewish-Christian calendarical substrate under *Eleutherius is clearly discernible in most of the cases (everywhere where it provides antecedents from the Jewish history). As it is normal, especially in
The most remarkable is the date of destruction of
Another archaic feature of possible Egyptian Jewish-Christian origin is the memory of Noah’s Flood before the Pentecost (Nr 5; cf. Lourié, Computus…). Such features would be hardly quite common in the middle 5th century
The presence in the *Eleutherius calendar of the memory of the destruction of
This is a Georgian calendar of the 10th century written in
In Table 3 we compare the list of the immovable great feasts of this John Zosimos calendar with our data from *Clement and *Eleutherius calendars. One can see that, in John Zosimos, we have a later development of the same idea. This is important because it proves the persistency of our ancient calendars in
Finally, let us turn to the emerging Islam. The importance of the Christian Great Friday in the establishment of the Yaum Al-Jumaca by Omar ibn Hattab in
First of all, our *Jerusalem Friday calendar is unique in the fact that it contains a liturgical memory of the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, that is, an avatar of the Jewish feast of Tišca b-’Ab, the 9th Ab. We have no information on the stational liturgy presupposed by our calendar, but it is a priori likely that the memory of destruction presupposes some importance of the spot on the
Another peculiar point in our calendar is the memory of Moses’ Passover in September-Tishri, that is, in autumn instead of spring, in obvious contradiction to the biblical narrative. The reversibility of the autumn and spring Jewish feasts is a well-known feature of the Hellenistic Jewish calendars, resulted in Jerusalem Christian formation of the September feasts in the Anastasis after the pattern of the Easter. The Georgian Jerusalem Lectionary preserves name “Easter” (zatik; term of Armenian origin belonging to the earliest substrate of the Georgian liturgical terminology) for the Feast of the Cross in September. Even in the modern Byzantine rite the Feast of the Cross is connected with Moses’ Passover. However, in our calendar, in September we have not a secondary, but the first and the only commemoration of the Passover.
This is the very situation of the earliest Islamic accounts (hadiths collected by Al-Buhari and Al-Muslim) on the Fast of Ashura. It is known (s. esp. Vajda) that it was established by Muhammad as a copy of the Jewish “Day of Atonement” (Yom kippur) on Tishri 10. However, according to these hadiths, the Jews were celebrating on Tishri 10 the memory of Moses’ Passover. Al-Biruni rejected the historicity of these hadiths because of their obvious contradiction to the Torah as well as the actual Jewish customs known to him. It is hardly probable that such an explanation of the fast of Ashura goes back to any Jewish milieu of the 7th century. But our *
Our calendar insists on a special veneration, by the prayers and fasts, of only 12 Fridays in the year, that is, about one Friday per month. This is not the same as the veneration of the Friday each week. However, such an importance of the Friday already presupposes, both in our calendar and in Armenian Ps.-Basil text, some kind of veneration of the Friday as such. I think, that the further investigations in the origins of the personified Friday cult, St Paraskeve, will result in even more precise data…
Finally, let us say a bit on the very idea of a letter from heaven, of a tanzil two different kinds of which present both the Epistle of Jesus Christ mentioned here and the Qur’an. It is M. van Esbroeck who observed first that the very idea of tanzil from heaven was, before the Qur’an, in vogue in the Christian world in the 6th century. He supposed as well that the Christian letter that could influence the early Islam could be the lost document that has been the direct target of the Epistle of Jesus Christ.
Our enquiry corroborates van Esbroeck’s intuitions. We have seen, in our dossier, not a balanced veneration of Wednesday and Friday, as it is the case in the Armenian Pseudo-Basil, but unilateral prevalence of Friday, like in the Muslim tradition. Our Eleutherius narrative provides some other important stuff.
Its reference to an early Christian document of apostolic origin burned by Jews is in accordance with the really existing practice of Jews to burn the Christian books. For instance, in Tosefta, we have such a prescription on behalf of R. Tarfon (late 1st – early 2nd cent.), tShabbat 13(14):5, who said that ha-gilyonim (gospels) and other books of minim (heretics) should be burnt. And, I should add, the motive of the veritas hebraica recovered from the hostile Jews is a pillar of the
Eleutherius’ recension presupposes an existence of a particular apostolic document, not a simple supplement to the Octateuch of Clement. We know, at least, one document of similar nature that presents himself as a letter from the 11 apostles (still without Paul) containing a revealed message of Christ Himself — the 2nd century Epistula Apostolorum preserved in Egypt (cf. its opening words: “The book which Jesus Christ revealed unto his disciples: and how that Jesus Christ revealed the book for the company (college) of the apostles, the disciples of Jesus Christ, even the book which is for all men”). The actuality of the Epistula Apostolorum for the Christians in our epoch is testified by the constellation of the dates of the manuscripts (4th or 5th cent. for the Coptic, 5th cent. for Latin) and versions (Ethiopic translation, even if from Arabic [Duensing], testifies its actuality in Egypt for a long time).
Our lost document on Friday could be a kind of such an Epistula Apostolorum revealing some direct teaching of Christ — but nobody knows whether transmitted orally or written by Jesus’ hand.
 See especially John Wansbrough, The Sectarian Milieu: Content and Composition Of Islamic Salvation History (