<nc> in the Pahlavi Documents

namāz in P 196
namāz in P 196

Zeini, Arash. 2015. Preliminary Remarks on Middle Persian <nc> in the Pahlavi Documents. In Anna Krasnowolska & Renata Rusek-Kowalska (eds.), Studies on the Iranian World I: Before Islam, 67–73. Kraków: Jagiellonian University Press.


In the Pahlavi documents we find a sequence of characters that are commonly transliterated as 〈nc〉, representing Middle Persian namāz `reverence’. The vocalisation as namāz, a word most commonly found in the greeting formulae of letters, is not disputed. The question is rather whether these characters stand for a phonetic, albeit abbreviated, spelling of namāz or whether they constitute an abbreviation that developed out of the heterogram 〈ʿSGDH〉.
In light of recent developments in the field and the rather sizeable evidence, I will revisit the arguments brought forward thus far and propose a new interpretation.

A coin of Shāpūr I

Shavarebi, Ehsan. 2014. Some remarks on a newly-discovered coin type of Shāpūr I. Studia Iranica 43(2). 281–290.

In this paper a unique gold coin of Shāpūr I, first published by Michael Alram, is reexamined from some iconographic details as well as from an epigraphic point of view, comparing the legend of the coin’s obverse with the Sasanian royal inscriptions.

Ohrmazd’s better judgement

Agostini, Domenico, Eva Kiesele & Shai Secunda. 2014. Ohrmazd’s better judgement (meh-dādestānīh). A Middle Persian legal and theological discourse. Studia Iranica 43(2). 177–202.

This article presents a transcription, translation, commentary, and discussion of a ritual and theological passage taken from the long-neglected Middle Persian work, the Zand ī fragard ī Jud-dēw-dād. The selection is notable for the way it mixes theological and ritual forms of discourse while considering situations in which impure or Evil things, like corpses, wolves, and sins, naturally come into contact with pure and Good elements, like water, fire, and good deeds. Along with explaining this rich text and its various textual parallels, the article considers the potential research value of the Zand ī fragard ī Jud-dēw-dād for Iranists and scholars of late antique religious literature.

Middle Persian and Parthian hymns in the Turfan Collection

Durkin-Meisterernst, Desmond (ed.). 2014. Miscellaneous hymns: Middle Persian and Parthian hymns in the Turfan Collection (Berliner Turfantexte 31). Brepols Publishers.

This is an edition of a large number of fragments of Middle Persian and Parthian Manichaean hymns in the Berlin Turfan Collection.  M. Boyce in the register of her 1960 Catalogue of the Iranian Manuscripts in Manichaean script in the German Turfan Collection identified fragments of hymns ‘to the Third Messenger’ (group 44); ‘Parthian hymns written in couplets, unclassified’ (group 58) and ‘Hymns, unclassified, including poems’ (group 81). Though some of these fragments have been published in the meantime and others are very small, this yields more than 250 previously unpublished fragments, many of considerable size. The fragments are presented in diplomatic edition together with a transcription and translation into English. Since most of the hymns are abecedarian they are presented as far as possible in strophic form. An extensive introduction, notes, a complete glossary and facsimiles of joined fragments accompany the edition.

For more information, see the publisher’s website.

Women in the Hērbedestān

Strauch Schick, Shana. 2014. Women in the Hērbedestān: A re-examination of the Bavli’s Beruriah narratives in light of Middle Persian literature. Zion 79(3). 407–424.

The Babylonian Talmud contains a number of dicta which unambiguously exclude women from the study of Torah. Yet the narratives concerning Beruriah, supposedly the daughter of R. Hanina b. Teradyon and wife of R. Meir, suggest otherwise. She is depicted as having received formal instruction at the same level as rabbinic sages. Yet, these traditions appear only in the Babylonian Talmud, a few centuries after she would have lived, and contain a number of common literary motifs. This and other factors indicate the constructed nature of these stories, as David Goodblatt and Tal Ilan have noted. While it is possible to explain the local function of these narratives on literary and didactic grounds, given the Babylonian Talmud’s general stance regarding women and Torah study, the figure of a woman well-versed in Torah learning is indeed surprising.
This paper proposes that the appearance of the character of Beruriah is best understood within the Middle Persian milieu when the late Talmudic narratives arose. It is clear from Zoroastrian texts that religious study was a possibility open to men and women and that both were equally viable candidates to leave their home in order to engage in religious training at the Hērbedestān. A passage from Mādayān ī Hazār Dādestān, for example, depicts women who are well versed in jurisprudence and shares other significant parallels with the Beruriah narratives. By turning to relevant Middle Persian sources it thus becomes clear that the idea of the scholarly woman was not simply a literary motif called into existence, but was in fact a real possibility that Jews of Babylonia had to confront—a novel phenomenon unknown (or perhaps suppressed) in earlier Palestinian sources. Within a larger culture in which women participated in religious scholarly pursuits, the exclusion of women from Torah study and the community of scholars was addressed by the creation of Beruriah. Although the existence of a woman of Beruriah’s erudition within an elite rabbinic family could now be presented as a plausible historical persona, her existence served as a cautionary tale to justify the importance of keeping Torah study exclusively male.

The verbal particle BE in Middle Persian

Jügel, Thomas. 2013. The verbal particle BE in Middle Persian. Münchener Studien zur Sprachwissenschaft 67(1). 29–56.

Read the article here. Abstract:

The verbal particle BE in Middle Persian can be linked to three Old Iranian inputs: an adverb and an emphatic particle, both inherited from Proto-Indo-European, and an Old Iranian adverbial compound. After a short overview of previous studies, the use of various forms of BE in Middle Persian will be exemplified and the semantic and functional development will be discussed.