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The Earliest Translations of the Organon into Syriac

The team is also preparing to produce an edition of the anonymous translation of the Categories preserved only in one manuscript in the British Library (Add. 14658). The text is not only of great interest as the earliest attempt (of many) to put Aristotle into Semitic dress, but also provides important insights into the approaches and paradigms of those Syrian churchmen of the fifth-seventh centuries who first embarked on this enterprise. The text is without doubt the work of a pioneer who had little idea how to go about putting such Greek ideas and expressions into a wholly different language. In the translation, however, we can watch the translator as he wrestles with the issues, both linguistic and philosophical, and arrives at his own solutions.

We are then also able to compare his work with the revisions of his translation produced by the members of the Qenneshre school, Jacob of Edessa and George of the Arabs, in the seventh century. Basing themselves on the pioneer’s work, they have developed a much more sophisticated and yet idiosyncratic way of ‘explaining’ Aristotle in Syriac, using an almost ‘interlinear’ method designed for the scholastic schoolroom of late antiquity.

Click here for a working translation into English of the Syriac Categories