History of the Virgin (East Syriac)

Vita Virginis Nestoriana

Standard abbreviation: Hist. Vir.

Other titles: History of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Clavis numbers: CANT 94; BHO 643-644.

Categories: Infancy Gospels, Dormition Accounts, Hagiographa

Related literature: Arabic Infancy Gospel, Infancy Gospel of ThomasProtevangelium of James, Dormition of the Virgin

Compiled by Tony Burke, York University (tburke@yorku.ca)

Citing this resource (using Chicago Manual of Style): Burke, Tony. “History of the Virgin (East Syriac).” e-Clavis: Christian Apocrypha. Accessed DAY MONTH YEAR. http://www.nasscal.com/e-clavis-christian-apocrypha/history-of-the-virgin-east-syriac/.

Posted February 2017.


Hist. Vir. is a compilation of traditions about Mary culled from Prot. Jas., Dorm. Vir., the canonical gospels, and other sources. Among these sources are an account of the Holy Family’s travels in Egypt, during which a number of miracles are wrought using Jesus’ bath water and swaddling bands, and a series of stories, shared with Arm. Gos. Inf., of the young Jesus performing miracles in Nazareth. All of this material is best known to readers via Arab. Gos. Inf., which appears to be an abbreviated translation of Hist. Vir. or a direct translation of one of its sources. The text comes in two versions: recension A, which features some additions in the Dormition section and, in some manuscripts, the incorporation of much of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas; and recension B, a shorter text likely more representative of the earliest form of the text. The only edition of Hist. Vir. published to date is that of E. A. W. Budge, which favors the A recension. Unfortunately, the edition is not separated into chapters and verses, making a description and the citing of the text awkward. Nevertheless, the basic shape of the text is as follows (page and line numbers correspond to Budge’s Syriac edition; chapter numbering for Arab Gos. Inf. corresponds to the French translation by Genequand, “Vie de Jésus en Arabe.”):

3,1–28,3          Prot. Jas. 1–16
28,4–30,3        Prot. Jas. 17–19/Arab Gos. Inf. 2–4
30,3–36,15      Arab Gos. Inf. 5–8
36,15–37,9      Prot. Jas. 22/Arab Gos. Inf. 9
37,9–38,11      Prot. Jas. 23–24
38,12–66,10    Arab Gos. Inf. 9 (cont’d.)–33
66,11–69,25    IGT (chs. 4–7, 11–16, 19, with changes in sequence; recension A only)
70,1–73,9        Arab Gos. Inf. 34, 39–41
73,9–75,11      Man with the Serpent around His Neck; Young Man on an Ass (no parallels)
75,12–93,3      Arab Gos. Inf. 42–54
93,3–145,1      Dorm. Vir.
145,1–146,6    Blessings, etc.

For more details on the contents of Hist. Vir.’s sources, see their individual entries.

Named historical figures and characters: Aaron, Abgar, Abigail, Abraham (patriarch), Adam (patriarch), Alexander (the Great), Andrew (apostle), Anna (mother of Mary), Anna (prophet), Arbolos, Archelaus, Asta, Arzami, Bartholomew (apostle), Caesar Augustus, Cherubim, Cleophas, Daniel (prophet), daughter of Jairus, daughter of Nicodemus, David (king), Dumachus (Bad Thief), Eleazar, Elijah, Elisha, Elizabeth, Enoch (patriarch), Gabriel (angel), Gershon, Gideon, Habakkuk (prophet), Heli, Herod (the Great), Holy Spirit, Isaac (patriarch), Isaiah (prophet), Jacob, Jacob (patriarch), James (the Righteous), Jephonias, Jeremiah (prophet), Jesus, Joachim (father of Mary), John (the Baptist), John (son of Zebedee), Jonadhabh, Joseph, Joseph of Arimathea, Joseph (of Nazareth), Judah (patriarch), Judas (Iscariot), Lazarus (of Bethany), Legion, Luke (evangelist), Magi, Malco, Mani (father of Abgar), Mark (evangelist), Mary (mother of Cleophas), Mary (mother of James), Mary (of Bethany), Mary (virgin), Matthan, Mattatha, Matthew (apostle), Michael (angel), Moses, Nathan, Nathaniel, Nero, Neshri (daughter of Gamaliel), Nicodemus, Noah (patriarch), Nubkhar, Palona, Paraclete, Paul (apostle), Peroghitha, Peter (apostle), Pharaoh, Pharaoh (of Exodus), Philip (apostle), Pontius Pilate, Reuben, Sabinus, Salome (midwife), Samuel, Sarah (matriarch), Satan, Seraphim, Seth (patriarch), Shaphat, Simeon, Simon (the Canaanite), Sham‘i, Shem (patriarch), Simon the Zealot, Solomon (king), Sufran, Tabitha (daughter of Komnitos), Thomas (apostle), Tiberius, Titus (Good Thief), Watchers, Widow of Nain, Zacchaeus (rabbi), Zadok, Zechariah (priest), Zeno.

Geographical locations: Alexandria, Anzianzu, Asia, Athens, Beirut, Bethlehem, Byzantium, Cana, Cave of Treasures, Edessa, Egypt, Ephesus, Galilee, Gehenna, Gilead, Israel, Jerusalem, Judea, Jordan, Mount of Olives, Mount Sinai, Paradise, Pontus, temple (Jerusalem), Thebaid, Thebes, Thessalonica, Tiberias.



3.1 Manuscripts and Editions

Budge’s edition and translation (see below) is based on manuscript A with readings from B in the apparatus. Burke 2017 tabulates the available manuscripts.

Budge, Ernest  A. Wallis, ed. and trans. The History of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the History of the Likeness of Christ, 2 vols. London: Luzac & Co., 1899.

Burke, Tony. The Infancy Gospel of Thomas in the Syriac Tradition. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2017.

3.1.1 Recension A

A  Leeds, University of Leeds, Syr. 1 (1890)

M Mardin, Chaldean Cathedral, 2 (1678)

N Edgbaston, University of Birmingham, Mingana Syr. 502 (1836)

D Edgbaston, University of Birmingham, Mingana Syr. 122 (1670)

E  Cambridge, Cambridge University Library, Add. 2020 (1697)

New York, Columbia University, Butler Library X893.4 B47 (1796)

G Vatican, Biblioteca apostolica, Syr. 587 (1917)

New York, Union Theological Seminary, Syr. 32 (1779)

I  Vatican, Biblioteca apostolica, Syr. 597 (17th cent.) — fragmentary

J  Edgbaston, University of Birmingham, Mingana Syr. 524 (ca. 1550) — fragmentary

3.1.2 Recension B

B  London, Royal Asiatic Society, Syr. 1 (1569)

P  London, British Library, Or. 4526 (1727)

Q  Princeton, Speer Library, Cabinet C, Ms. 40 (olim Urmia, Oroomia Mission Library, 43) (1813)

R  Cambridge, University Library, Or. 1341 (1899)

S  Tehran, Chaldean Church of St. Joseph, 8 (Fonds Issayi 18), fols. 1v–44v (1741/1742)

T  Cambridge Mass., Harvard Houghton Library, Syr. 168 (olim SMH 535, access 2177) (1779)

Berlin, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Or. Oct. 1130 (1815)

3.1.3 Lost or Inaccessible Manuscripts

Baghdad, Chaldean Patriarchate, 80.7 (olim Mosul, Chaldean Patriarchate, 29) (1725)

Baghdad, Library of the Chaldean Monastery, 588 (olim Alqoš, Notre-Dame des Semences, Scher 98/Vosté 183) (1680)

Siirt, Chaldean Episcopal Library, 82 (16th cent.)

Urmia, Oroomia Mission Library, 38 (1885)

Urmia, Oroomia Mission Library, 47 (1885)

3.2 Modern Translations

3.2.1 English

Budge, Ernest  A. Wallis, ed. and trans. The History of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the History of the Likeness of Christ, 2 vols. London: Luzac & Co., 1899.

3.3 General Works

Burke, Tony. De infantia Iesu euangelium Thomae graece. CCSA17. Turnhout: Brepols, 2010.

_________. “An Unpublished Syriac Manuscript of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas: Introduction, Text, Translation, and Notes.” Hugoye 16.2 (2013): 225–99.

_________. “The Infancy Gospel of Thomas (Syriac).” Pages 52–68 New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures. Vol. 1. Edited by in Tony Burke and Brent Landau. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2016.

Desreumaux, Alain. “Les apocryphes syriaques sur Jésus et sa famille.” Pages 51–69 in Les apocryphes syriaques. Edited by Muriel Debié, Alain Desreumaux, Christelle Jullien, and Florence Jullien. Études syriaques 2. Paris: Geuthner, 2005.

Ebied, Rifaat Y. “Some Syriac Manuscripts from the Collection of Sir E.A. Wallis Budge.” Pages 509–39 in Symposium Syriacum 1972: célèbre dans les jours 26–31 octobre 1972 à l’Institut Pontifical Oriental de Rome. Edited by Ignacio Ortiz de Urbina. OrChrAn 197. Rome: Pontifical Institutum Orientalium Studiorum, 1974.

Esbroeck, Michel van. “Les textes littéraires sur l’assomption avant le Xe siècle.” Pages 265–85 in Les actes apocryphes des apôtres. Edited by François Bovon. Geneva: Labor et Fides, 1981.

Frank, Erica C. D. “The History of the Blessed Virgin Mary; Its Apocryphal Basis and the Purpose of the Composition.” PhD diss., University of Melbourne, Australia, 1974.

Graf, George. Geschichte der christlichen Arabischen Literatur. Vol. 1. Vatican: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 1944.

Horn, Cornelia B. and Robert R. Phenix. “Apocryphal Gospels in Syriac and Related Texts Offering Traditions about Jesus.” Pages 527–55 in Jesus in apokryphen Evangelienüberlieferungen. Edited by in Jörg Frey and Jens Schröter. WUNT 254. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2010.

Merscherskaja, Elena N. “‘L’Adoration des mages’ dan l’apocryphe syriaque Histoire de la Vierge Marie.” Pages 95–100 in Sur les pas des Araméens chrétiens. Mélanges offerts à Alain Desreumaux. Edited by Françoise Briquel Chatonnet and Muriel Debié. Cahiers d’études syriaques 1. Paris: Geuthner, Paris, 2010.

Mimouni, Simon Claude. “Vies de la Vierge. État de la question.” Apocrypha 5 (1994): 211–48. Reprinted in Simon Claude Mimouni, Les traditions anciennes sur la Dormition et l’Assomption de Marie : études littéraires, historiques et doctrinales VCSupp 104. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2011.

_________. Dormition et Assomption de Marie. Histoire des traditions anciennes. Théologie historique 98. Paris: Beauchesne, 1995.

Naffah, Charles. “Les ‘histoires’ syriaques de la Vierge: traditions apocryphes anciennes et récentes.” Apocrypha 20 (2009): 137–88.

Peeters, Paul. Évangiles apocryphes, vol. 2. Series ed. Charles Michel and Paul Peeters. Textes et documents pour l’étude historique du Christianisme 18. Paris: Librairie Alphonse Picard & Fils, 1914.

Pritula, Anton. “A Hymn by Givargis Warda on the Childhood of Christ.” Pages 423–51 in Die Suryoye und ihre Umwelt. 4. deutsches Syrologen-Symposium in Trier 2004, Festgabe Wolfgang Hage zum 70. Geburtstag. Edited by Martin Tamcke and Andreas Heinze.  Studien zur Orientalischen Kirchengeschichte 36. Münster: Lit-Verlag, 2005.