Bishop Gregory (hgr) wrote,
Bishop Gregory


небольшая заметка, основная ее часть.

In his recent article Anatolij Alekseev[1] has repeated, in the most systematic way,  Meščerskij’s and his own[2] thesis that so-called Courts of Solomon, preserved in the Slavonic translation within Palaea Interpretata, were translated into Slavonic from Hebrew. His arguments are twofold: Semitisms in the Slavonic text that he takes as Hebraisms and parallels in Talmud and midrashim, already known for the major part of this cycle of Solomon.

Alekseev seems to know that Hebrew and Aramaic are different languages. In one instance, he tries to explain by Aramaic influence a mistranslation from Hebrew (see below). Nevertheless, he certainly does not know that a great part of the Babylonian Talmud, and especially that that he is referring to, is in Aramaic and not in Hebrew: “It seems to be, in the present case, a significant circumstance, Alekseev said, that all the Hebrew originals used for the cycle of Solomon go back to the Babylonian Talmud or appeared in Babylonia...”[3]. Indeed, it is a significant circumstance. It reveals that Alekseev is not only unable to differ between Aramaic and Hebrew in the printed text, but has a bit distant knowledge of the allegedly “Hebrew sources” he deals with; his use (or, more exactly, non-use, except the only case) of the exact references to bGittin is, moreover, a proof that even a translation of Talmud was inaccessible to him.

Alekseev’s methodology in interpretation of the parallels between the Slavonic and Hebrew texts[4] has been criticised many times, as well as his search of Semitisms[5]. However, in the case of Courts of Solomon, Alekseev’s search of Semitisms has a rational nucleus and needs to be revisited. His observations are especially interesting in two cases:

1. Šamir and the way to find it out,

2. The name of the Queen of Sheba.

Some other cases are more difficult to evaluate. Below we have to review all of them.


Šamir and how to find it out


The stones for the Temple of Solomon must be treated without iron. The proper instrument is called шамиръ. This is obviously the tool of diamond known in such use from the Bible (Jer 17:1). This word has the same form in both Hebrew and Aramaic, including Targums and Syriac (Alekseev a priori takes it as Hebrew). However, it is unknown in Slavonic outside this text. This šamir must be obtained from the nest of some bird called кокоть дѣтьскыи (“childish cock”). The story has a parallel in bGittin 68b[6] where the mysterious bird is called תרנגול ברא[7] “cock of prairies”. “In its rendering, Alekseev concludes, Hebrew בּר has been interpreted as Aramaic ‘son’” (p. 48).

Needless to say that the parallel text in Talmud is in Aramaic as well as the name of the bird is Aramaic itself[8]. Its Hebrew equivalent (Lev 11:19 etc.) is the name of an unclean bird, דּוּכִיפַת</span></span>, with probable meaning “hoopoe” (ἔποψ in the Greek Bible). This Semitism is completely Aramaic, with no connection to Hebrew at all.

Alekseev’s explanation is not satisfying even in supposition of “son” as the wrong meaning substituted by the translator. “Childish” does not mean the same as “son”. In fact, the corresponding word in all dialects of Aramaic has also the meaning of something small[9]. This meaning is much closer to the Slavonic дѣтьскыи (“childish”). However, the exact correspondence is available only from Syriac, not from Aramaic of Rabbis: “the young of animals”[10]. In the Slavonic mistranslation from the Rabbinic Aramaic one would expect “son’s cock”, “offspring’s cock” or “small cock” rather than “childish cock”. This is interesting to take into account for the further studies, even if in the present note the possible Syrian connections of the text are out of my scope.


The name of the Queen of Sheba


The name of the Queen of Sheba in our cycle of Solomon is малкатошва or малкатъшка (different readings within the same manuscripts). It is obvious that the latter reading is erroneous (confusion between two similar letters in Cyrillic, vedi в and kako к). The difference in the vowels (full vowel о and reduced vowel ъ) is of orthographic nature. This name was initially considered as consisting from two words (*малкатъ шва), and, thus, ъ at the end of the first word was necessary after the consonant.  Therefore, it is the reconstructed reading *малкатъшва that the modern scholars interpret. Of course, its meaning is transparent, “Queen of Sheba”. The problem is, in what Semitic language it is.

Again, Alekseev does not consider any possibility other than Hebrew. Again, he is not alarmed by the parallels known to him to the corresponding part of the cycle of Solomon in Targum Sheni to Esther. In fact, there are parallels in other sources[11], but Alekseev, once more, does not realise that the only known to him source, Targum Sheni to Esther is in Aramaic (p. 50).

The Hebrew phrase for “Queen of Sheba”, mleket šba, even if read as mleket šva, differs substantially in vocalism with its Slavonic rendering. However, if the original of the Slavonic phrase is Aramaic (either Hebrew Aramaic of Rabbis or Christian Syriac), the Slavonic transcription is perfect: malkat šva. In this case, the only difference in vocalism is resulting from the so-called rule of open syllable in Old Slavonic: the consonant at the end of the word should accept a reduced vowel, ъ.

[1] Todrl 41–57, here 47–53.

[2] А. А. Алексеев, Русско-еврейские литературные связи до 15 века [A. A. Alekseev, Russian-Jewish literary connections up to 15th century], Jews and Slavs 1 (1993) 44–75, esp. 67–70.

[3] 53: «Значимым в данном случае представляется то обстоятельство, что все еврейские оригиналы, использованные для Соломонова цикла, восходят к вавилонскому Талмуду или возникли в Вавилоне…»

[4] Whose main principle is non sequitur (cf. ////). Thus, in the present paper (p. 52): “First, in the Hebrew mediaeval literature, the whole collection of the same kind as we see in the Slavonic cycle of Solomon is not found; consequently [emphasis is mine, B. L.] one can consider the creation of this cycle to be a work of the translator.” Then, Alekseev submerges deeper in fantasies speculating how large would be the Hebrew library of the translator to allow him to produce such a cycle: “Talmud and its accompanying midrashim”. Of course, only an “enlightened Jewish scribe” would have had such a library. Then, Alekseev’s fantasy makes a further step supposing two scribes instead one: one to find out the places to quote from the Talmud, another to translate them into Russian (sic!). However, Alekseev does not insist on the latter possibility.

[5] The most rich data are accumulated concerning the Slavonic version of Book of Esther whose Hebrew Vorlage is lost. Nevertheless, the lost original of the Slavonic version is Greek. See, for a résumé of the previous discussion and for additional arguments: A. Kulik, Judeo-Greek Legacy in Medieval Rus', Viator 39 (2008) 51–64, here 58­–62. Cf., briefly, А. Кулик, Евреи в Древней Руси: источники и историческая реконструкция [A. Kulik, The Jews in in Old Rus’: Sources and Historical Reconstruction], Ruthenica 7 (2008) 52–70, here 68­–69.

[6] Alekseev gives the exact reference for the previous parallel between the Slavonic cycle and bGittin, 68a. Then, he refers to Gittin, with no folios.

[7] Thus in the Talmud. Alekseev reproduces in a “Hebraised” form, תרנגול בר (p. 48).

[8] M. Jastrow, A Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature (London/New York, 1903) 1700 (“the hen of the prairie”); J. Levy, Neuhebräisches und chaldäisches Wörterbuch über die Talmudim und Midraschim, 4 (Leipzig, 1889) 672 (“der Auerhahn”, that is, Tetrao urogallus, “wooden grouse”, “cock of the wood”); R. Payne SmithThesaurus Syriacus (Oxonii, 1879—1901) 4501 (ܬܪܢܓܘܠ ܒܪܐ “upupa” = “hoopoe”).

[9] Jastrow, A Dictionary…, 188–189 (meaning “son, offspring”). Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon (Cincinnati, ), s.v. br” distinguishes its meaning in compounds “small version of something”.

[10] J. Payne Smith, A Compendious Syriac Dictionary founded upon the Thesaurus Syriacus of R. Payne Smith, D. D. (Oxford, 1903) 33; Cf. Payne SmithThesaurus Syriacus, 578–579 (“ prole animalium”).

[11] jjj


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