The Book of The Bee

The Book of The Bee

OF THE AUTHOR OF ‘THE BOOK OF THE BEE,’ the bishop Shelêmôn or Solomon, but very little is known. He was a native of Khilât or Akhlât (in Armenia, at the western end of lake Vân), and by religious profession a Nestorian. He became metropolitan bishop of al-Basra (in al-`Irâk, on the right bank of the united streams of the Tigris and Euphrates) about A.D. 1222, in which year he was present at the consecration of the catholicus or Nestorian patriarch Sabr-îshô` (Hope-in-Jesus)[1] (see Assemânî, Bibl. Orient., t. ii, p. 453, no. 75; Bar-hebraeus, Chron. Eccl., t. ii, p. 371). In the Catalogue of Ecclesiastical Works compiled by `Ebêd-yêshû` or `Abd-îshô` (the-Servant-of-Jesus) he is stated to have written, besides ‘the Bee,’ a treatise on the figure of the heavens and the earth, and sundry short discourses and prayers (see Assemânî, Bibl. Orient., t. Iii, pt. i, p. 309, where there is a lengthy analysis of the contents of ‘the Bee’). A Latin translation of ‘the Bee’ by Dr. J. M. Schoenfelder appeared at Bamberg in 1866; it is based upon the Munich MS. only, and is faulty in many places.

The text of ‘the Bee,’ as contained in this volume, is edited from four MSS., indicated respectively by the letters A, B, C and D.

The MS. A[2] belongs to the Library of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland. It is dated A.Gr. 1880 = A.D. 1569, and consists of 188 paper leaves, measuring about 8 in. by 5¾. Each page is occupied by one column of writing, generally containing 25 lines. This MS. is so stained and damaged by water in parts that some of the writing is illegible. The quires are twenty-one in number and, excepting the last two, are signed with letters. Leaves are wanting after folios 6, 21, 49, 125, 166 and 172; and in several pages there are lacunae of one, two and more lines. The volume is written in a good Nestorian hand, with numerous vowel-points. Originally it was the property of the priest Wardâ, son of the deacon Moses, who was prior of the convent of Mâr Ezekiel. Later on, it belonged to one Mâr John of Enzelli (near Resht, on the south shore of the Caspian Sea). In the year A. Gr. 1916 = A.D. 1605 it was bound by a person whose name has been erased.

The Book of the Bee occupies foll. 26 a to 92 b, and the colophon runs: ‘By the help of our Lord and our God, this Book of the Bee was completed on the 16th day of the month of Tammuz, on the Saturday that ushers in the Sunday which is called Nûsârdêl[3]. in the year 1880 of the blessed Greeks, by the hands of the sinful servant the faulty Elias. Amen.’

The MS. B is on paper, and is numbered Add. 25,875 in the British Museum. See Wright’s Catal., p. 1064, no. dccccxxii, ff. 81 b-158 a. It is written in a good Nestorian hand, with numerous vowel-points, etc., and is dated A.Gr. 2020 = A.D. 1709. The colophon runs:–

‘It was finished in the year 2020 of the Greeks, on Friday the 22nd of the blessed month Tammûz, by the wretched sinner, the deacon Hômô of Alkôsh[4]. I entreat you to pray for him that perchance he may obtain mercy with those upon whom mercy is freely shewn in the day of judgment, Amen. And to Jah be the glory, Amen.