Book Series Berliner Turfantexte, vol. 45

From Liturgy to Pharmacology

Christian Sogdian texts from the Turfan Collection

Nicholas Sims-Williams (ed)

  • Pages: 232 p.
  • Size:210 x 297 mm
  • Illustrations:7 b/w
  • Language(s):English, Sogdian, Syriac
  • Publication Year:2019

Out of Print
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-58419-5
  • Paperback
  • Out of Print

Containing a variety of texts ranging from liturgy to pharmacology via hagiography, calendars and ascetical works by Isaac of Nineveh, this volume completes the publication of all known Christian Sogdian texts.


« Le livre s’adresse aussi bien aux philologues qu’aux historiens dans des domaines aussi variés que l’iranologie, l’histoire du christianisme syro-oriental, des processus missionnaires, des transmissions interlinguistiques, des échanges entre Iran et Asie Centrale, ou encore des cultures manuscrites. Il vient compléter avec science et savoir-faire la collection des textes chrétiens en sogdien déjà publiés. » (Christelle Jullien, dans Abstracta Iranica, 42-43, 2020)


Nicholas Sims-Williams is Emeritus Professor of Iranian and Central Asian Studies at SOAS University of London. His research is focused on Sogdian, Bactrian and other Iranian languages of pre-Islamic Iran and Central Asia. Publications on Christian Sogdian include four previous volumes in the series Berliner Turfantexte as well as the comprehensive catalogue Iranian manuscripts in Syriac script in the Berlin Turfan collection (Steiner, 2012) and A Dictionary: Christian Sogdian, Syriac and English (Reichert, 2016).


This volume completes the publication of the Christian Sogdian texts of the Berlin Turfan Collection begun by F. W. K. Müller in 1907. Several Syriac texts are also included, in particular a series of liturgical texts in Syriac with Sogdian rubrics (edited in collaboration with J. F. Coakley).

The texts edited here are mostly short but extremely varied and interesting. The Syriac liturgical fragments are some of the earliest surviving witnesses to the liturgy of the "Church of the East", though the Sogdian rubrics which accompany them show that those who performed them were not native speakers of Syriac. Other texts connected with the liturgy include a Sogdian version of the Gloria in excelsis and a text explaining how to calculate the date of Easter or Lent. Hagiographical texts include fragments of the martyrdoms of St George and of Cyriacus and Julitta as well as part of the so-called "Six Books" on the Dormition of the Virgin Mary. Two pharmacological fragments (edited in collaboration with Dieter Maue) show familiarity with Indian medicine, while a "prayer-amulet" belongs rather to a Syriac tradition. Finally, a chapter contributed by Adrian Pirtea contains the re-edition of a well-preserved folio identified by him as a Sogdian version of a work by Isaac of Nineveh.

The edition and translation of the texts is accompanied by a detailed commentary. The volume is completed by a full glossary, a bibliography, and a word-index covering all five of the author’s volumes of Christian Sogdian texts in the series BTT.