Thursday, August 26, 2021

A Syriac liturgy in Cairo and China?

THE GENIZA FRAGMENTS BLOG: Throwback Thursday: A surprise in Syriac script (Melonie Schmierer-Lee). The surprise is the discovery in the early 1980s of Nestorian Syriac liturgical fragments, some unparalleled. That is notable in itself, but what caught my eye is the following:
Very little is known of the dwindling “Nestorian” community in Cairo after the end of the twelfth century, and so these small fragments provide tangible evidence for its continuing existence into the thirteenth or even fourteenth century; perhaps the manuscript was sold as scrap when the community finally faded out of existence.

It is a remarkable coincidence that one of the fragments contains a text which overlaps with one that occurs in an even earlier Syriac liturgical fragment – found in Chinese Turkestan! These two identical liturgical fragments thus provide unexpected testimony to the far-flung geographical extension of the Church of the East in the Middle Ages.

I don't know which discovery in Turkestan is involved here. PaleoJudaica posts on Syriac discoveries in China are collected here (final paragraph).

A parallel Nestorian liturgical fragment from medieval Cairo and earlier Chinese Turkestan is intriguing. This is well outside my expertise, but was there regular communication between Egypt and China in the Middle Ages? Or was this liturgy disseminated independently to both countries in late antiquity?

Cross-file under Syriac Watch.

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