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The Early Armenian Scholia on the Corpus of Works Attributed to Dionysius the Areopagite

Sergio La Porta, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Summer Fellow 2004/05

The corpus of works attributed to Dionysius the Areopagite was translated from Greek into Armenian by Step'anos Siwnec'i at the beginning of the eighth century. Subsequently, scholia on the corpus were composed in Armenian. I am currently preparing an edition and translation of the scholia attributed to Hamam Arewelc'i (9th c.) and the scholia attributed to Dawit' Kobayrec'i (d. c.1220) and a certain Yakob. My research has shown that none of these authors could have composed the scholia, since they must be dated to the second half of the thirteenth century. Furthermore, the sets of scholia attributed to Hamam and to Dawit' and Yakob share a complete set of scholia (Set A), while some manuscripts also preserve a second, possibly contemporaneous, set of scholia (Set B). In total there are approximately 1500 scholia, of which approximately 1200 or four-fifths may be assigned to Set A.

I have also been able to suggest the monastic communities around Mt. Sepuh in Erznka (Erzincan) as the center of either production or compilation of these scholia. The corpus of works attributed to Dionysius played an important role in the medieval Armenian monastic schools. The language of the scholia witnesses many Middle Armenian forms and words and may reflect the recording of oral classroom instruction. One may also detect loan words from Arabic or Persian. In addition to shedding light on how the Dionysian texts were read in the monasteries, the scholia highlight some of the pressing issues of the day especially concerning monastic and liturgical practice. The scholia display knowledge of Latin and Greek liturgical and monastic traditions and encourage tolerance for differing practices. The author may have tried to ease tensions between the Latin-influenced or informed Armenian clergy of the Kingdom of Cilicia and the more conservative Armenian clergy of Greater Armenia.

While at Dumbarton Oaks, I was able to complete a translation of all the scholia and assess the authorship, dating, and provenance of the scholia. I was further able to examine secondary literature on the Dionysian Corpus itself as well as on its role and reception in other Christian communities.

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