The doings of American philologasters are, in truth, a curious study.

Bringing in the Sheaves

After a long period during which I was occupied in fine-tuning the Fieldworks parser by reentering old data (portions of the text that had already been parsed and translated), I have returned to that portion of the Doctrine of John that Lidzbarski named “The Good Shepherd.”  I’ve gotten as far as the part in which the shepherd is watching his flocks peacefully graze, when a terrible storm arises and menaces them.

As in the earlier portions I recently translated, this text contains some interesting “post-Classical” forms, such as aqariun ziqia mardia “boisterous winds broke loose” and ahlipiun [sic] mia “waters carried off.” Lidzbarski’s edition contains clues to most of the mysteries of these texts, but occasionally he translates a word without any explanation, as in the following passage from p. 42, lns. 5-6:

šurit alit ldibna

lmiṭib ainai mn duktin

Da sprang ich auf und trat in die Hürde,

um meine Schafe von ihrem Orte fortzutragen.

In the footnote to this verse, Lidzbarski notes that ainai “my eyes” is likely some kind of scribal error for a[q]nai “my sheep,” influenced by the presence of the same word ainai in the following line. He does not, however, attempt to justify his translation of as lmiṭib  “to bring back,” which is a real pity, as Drower and Macuch don’t include this form in their dictionary, either. Logically, it doesn’t make much sense for the narrator to enter the sheep fold to bring the sheep back, either, unless of course he were accompanied by them, but this fact certainly would have been mentioned.

The form miṭib, which belongs to the pattern migṭil, a less commonly attested alloform for the more usual infinitive form migṭal, suggests that we’re dealing with a verbum mediae infirmae such as √ṭ-w-b or possibly a verbum mediae geminatae √ṭ-b-b. The first is a complete non-starter, being stative where the context demands a transitive root, but the second, which means “to inform oneself; explore” in Syriac does indeed fit the context, even if it is not otherwise attested in Mandaic, at least not in the texts consulted by Drower and Macuch.  Consequently, I’d propose the following translation:

I leaped up and entered the fold,

to learn about my sheep from their positions.


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One thought on “Bringing in the Sheaves

  1. Pingback: The Mandaean Good Shepherd

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