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Dr. Julia Furman

furman 2

Seminar für Semitistik und Arabistik

Fabeckstr. 23/25
Raum 0.1010
14195 Berlin
  • Neo-Aramaic languages
  • Syriac literature
  • History of Aramaic languages
  • Semitic languages

DFG Project: East Syrian Historiography at the Dawn of Islam: Study and Digital Edition of “The Book of the Main Points” by John bar Penkaye

The focus of the present project lies on the historiographical work ‘The Book of the Main Points, or The History of the Temporal World’, written in Classical Syriac at the end of the 7th century in Northern Mesopotamia by a monk of the Church of the East, John (Yoḥannān) bar Penkāyē.

In the 7th century, historiographical genres were only beginning to establish in the Syriac tradition. As extant sources show, there was never a clear boundary between different historiographical and related sub-genres to the extent that such a writing could comprise elements of a chronicle, universal history, local history, exegetical treatise, and hagiography. ‘The Book of the Main Points’ is a rare example of a historiographical work born within the East Syrian tradition, which represents a complex interconnection of various genres. It was written after 686 CE, during a period when the population of Northern Mesopotamia experienced political crisis in the nascent Umayyad caliphate, known as the Second Fitna, famine, and severe plague. Bar Penkāyē’s work aimed to provide an answer to the reasons for these calamities. This makes it an invaluable source for the intellectual and social history of Christian communities in the late 7th c.

The way in which histories were composed provides important insights on how the authors of these histories saw themselves, their community, and the outer world, as well as the system of values they shared. It also sheds light on the paths of intellectual history, revealing how certain patterns and ideas roamed from one culture to another, how they were adopted in the target culture, and how they were then modified. 

Of equal importance is the fact that ‘The Book of the Main Points’ is one of the few sources for this period, as neighboring cultures, such as Greek Byzantine and Muslim Arabic, did not preserve or produce contemporary writings during this turbulent period.

The main objective of the present project is to study ‘The Book of the Main Points’ in its historical and literary setting, providing insight into how this work should be understood and what it can tell us about the intellectual culture of the author’s community. Additionally, a comprehensive critical edition of the text, both in print and digital formats, will be prepared, along with an English translation and philological commentary.

The results of the project will be of interest for scholars working primarily on Christian culture and literature of Late Antiquity, as well as those specializing in Islamic Studies, the history of the early caliphate, and intercultural and interreligious relations in Middle Eastern society.

Artikel / Buchbeiträge

Furman Y., The Legend of the Egyptian King Arsanis. An Edition and Study of the Syriac Tour of Hell, in From Moscow to Baghdad: Studies on Middle Eastern Christianity in Memory of Nikolai Seleznyov / Eds. S. Minov and S. Loesov, Texts and Studies in Eastern Christianity, Brill, [forthcoming].

Furman Y., The End of Muʿāwiya’s Reign and that of the Whole World, or Why Write a Universal History Before the End of Times, in From Oriens Christianus to the Islamic Near East / Eds. M. Ulbricht and J. Scheiner, Bochumer Altertumswissenschaftliches Colloquium, [forthcoming].

Cherkashin D., Furman Y., “Superiority is due to us, and the king should come from among us”: The Arab conquests and conflicts of the early Umayyad era in a 7th-century Syriac universal history, [forthcoming].

Furman Y., “They did not let God become God Almighty, and they did not become a people to him”: Anti-Jewish Polemic in the 7th Century Universal History The Book of the Main Points [forthcoming].

Furman Y., Kuzin N., Demir G., ’Metran Isa! Do not stir up toruble, toruble is bad’: A Kurdish Folk Song through a Christian Lens, in Oral Tradition 35/2 (2022). P. 441-62.

Barsky E., Furman Y., Remarks on Selected Exponents of the 208-Swadesh List in Turoyo, in Studies in the Grammar and Lexicon of Neo-Aramaic/ Eds. G. Khan, P. Noorlander. Cambridge Semitic Languages and Cultures 5. Cambridge: University of Cambridge & Open Book Publishers, 2021. P. 353-386.

Furman Y., The Zuqnin Chronicle as Evidence of Vernacular Aramaic in 8th-Century Northern Mesopotamia, in Aramaic Studies 18.2 (2020). P. 240-267.

Barsky E., Furman Y., Loesov S., Two-Hundred-Word Swadesh List for a Modern Aramaic variety (Turoyo), in AULA ORIENTALIS 36.1 (2018). P. 75-110.

Furman Y., Supporters and Opponents of the Divine Providence in John bar Penkaye’s “Book of the Main Points”, in Christian Orient 8 (XIV) (2017). P. 339-360. [in Russian]

Furman Y., Loesov S. Five Essays in Lexical Interaction between Spoken Arabic and Turoyo, in Zeitschrift für Arabische Linguistik 63 (2016). P. 5-18.

Furman Y., Loesov S. Notes on Historical Morphology of Turoyo, in Babel und Bibel 9: Selected Papers Presented at the 6th Biennial Meeting of the International association for Comparative Semitics / Eds. L. Kogan, S. Loesov, N. Koslova, S. Tischenko. Winona Lake : Eisenbrauns, 2016. P. 37-53.

Furman Y., Bar Penkāyē and Alphons Mingana: The History of One Manuscript, in Источниковедениекультурных традиций Востока: гебраистика — эллинистика — сирология — славистика. Сборникнаучных статей в честь Е.Н. Мещерской. [Istochnikovedenie kulturnih tradicij Vostka: gebraistika – ellinistika – sirologija – slavistika. Sbornik naychnih statej v chest’ E.N. Mesherskoj] / Eds. K.A. Buettner, N.S. Smelova. St. Petersburg, 2016. P. 222-228. [in Russian]

Furman Y., Loesov S. Studies in the Turoyo Verb, in Neo-Aramaic in its Linguistic Context. Gorgias Press, 2015. P. 1-28.

Furman Y., The Concept of “Temporal World” in the Syriac Literature and John bar Penkaye’s “History”, in Вестник Российского Государственного Гуманитарного Университета (Серия « История. Филология. Культурология. Востоковедение») [Vestnik Rossijskogo Gosudarstvennogo Gumanitarnogo Universita (Series “History. Philology. Culurology. Oriental Studies”)] 3 (2015). P. 21-38. [in Russian]

Furman Y., The Origins of the Temporal World: The First Mēʾmrā of the Kṯāḇā d-rēš mellē of John bar Penkāyē, in Scrinium: Journal of Patrology and Critical Hagiography 10 (2014). P. 3-46.

Furman Y., Zeus, Artemis, Apollo: John bar Penkāyē on Ancient Myths and Cults, in Scrinium: Journal of Patrology and Critical Hagiography 10 (2014). P. 47-96.

Furman Y., Der erste Schöpfungstag und die „ersten Naturen“ in der „Geschichte der zeitlichen Welt“ von Johannes bar Penkaye, in Miscellanea Orientalia Christiana. Восточнохристианское разнообразие. [Miscellanea Orientalia Christiana. Vostochnohristianskoje raznoobrazije] / Eds. N.N. Seleznyov & Y.N. Arzhanov]. Moscow, 2014. P. 9-25. [in Russian]

Furman Y., John bar Penkaye and his “History”: Misinterpretations of the Author’s Name and the Title of his Main Work, in Вестник Российского Государственного Гуманитарного Университета (Серия «Востоковедение, африканистика») [Vestnik Rossijskogo Gosudarstvennogo Gumanitarnogo Universita (Series “Oriental Studies. African Studies”)] 100:20/12 (2012) P. 93–109. [in Russian]

Furman Y., The Persians and their Religion in the History of John bar Penkāyē, in Символ 61: Syriaca • Arabica • Iranica. [Simvol 61: Syriaca • Arabica • Iranica] / Eds. N.L. Muskhelishvili & N.N. Seleznyov. Paris–Moscow, 2012. P. 122–146. [in Russian]

Furman Y., The Chronicle of John bar Penkāyē on the Arab Conquests, in Символ 58: Syriaca et Arabica. [Simvol 58: Syriaca et Arabica] / Eds. N.L. Muskhelishvili & N.N. Seleznyov. Paris–Moscow, 2010. P. 365–385. [in Russian]


Furman Y. Review of Daniel King (ed.), The Syriac World. Routledge worlds. // Bryn Mawr Classical Review. 2019. Vol. 08. No. 60

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