7. Theology & Religion


120.  Aurelius Isidoros (4th century CE).  Petition to Dioskoros Caeso. Papyrus, in Greek. Karanis, 324 CE. RBML, Papyrus P. Col. VII 171

This petition by Aurelius Isaidoros, the son of Ptolemaios, from the village of Karanis, to Dioskoros Caeso, praepositus of the 5th pagus, is among the earliest known documents relating to the history of the early Christian church. It contains Isidoros's vivid account of how cattle owned by Pamounis and Harpalos had damaged his crops, and how their cow had "grazed in the same place so thoroughly that my husbandry had become useless." He continues: "I caught the cow and was leading it up to the village when they met me in the fields with a big club, threw me to the ground, rained blows upon me and took away the cow ... and if I had not chanced to obtain help from the deacon Antonius and the monk Isaac, who happened by, they would probably have finished me off completely."

An image of this petition, along with the translation used here, in addition to entries for all of Columbia's papyrus holdings, can be found on the Advanced Papyrological Information System (APIS), a multi-institutional database.

Purchased from Dr. Askren, through H. I. Bell, 1924

121.  Anthology of Church Dogma. Southern France, second third of the 9th century. Manuscript on parchment, 113 leaves. RBML, Plimpton MS 58

This codex is composed of some twenty pieces of text, as if it were the casual compilation of an owner-scribe, copying out passages of beauty or interest. Scholars suggest, however, that the volume constitutes an intentionally formed sequence, since six other manuscripts, all of the 9th century, repeat the same series of texts. One text draws our attention: it is an extract of a letter written ca. 798 by Alcuin to the future emperor, Charlemagne. It ends, in the anthologies but in no other copies, with the wish that the recipient's power grow and prosper. Was the compiler of the anthology a member of Charlemagne's court circle? Following straight on after the pious closing of the letter is an astronomical observation on the movement of the planet Mars during the summer of 798. The wish and the astronomy were copied as a unit, in alternating lines of red and black.

Gift of George Arthur Plimpton, 1936

122.  Quran: 3rd section, in muhaqqaq script with Persian interlinear translation. Manuscript on paper, copied by the calligrapher Mes`ud and illuminated by Mahfuz, two sons of `Abd al-Malek, scribe of Ghiyath, 91 leaves, 657 A. H. (1259 CE) RBML, Smith Oriental MS 263

Along with his magnificent collection of primarily western printed books and manuscripts on the history of mathematics and astronomy, David Eugene Smith gave to Columbia a number of Arabic and Persian manuscripts, including a number of Qurans and Quran fragments. This third volume of the Quran, from a set of thirty, is similar to volumes from the later Abbasid period in the Iranian-Iraqi tradition such as the eleventh-century Quran manuscript by Ibn al-Bawwab in the Chester Beatty Library, dated 1marc001.

The Persian interlinear translation is in a version of naskh script and appears in clusters of words and phrases, hanging at a forty-degree angle beneath the corresponding Arabic phrase. The muhaqqaq, used for the Arabic lines, was a favored script for the large Qurans of the 14th and15th centuries. Here, the majestic muhaqqaq, outlined in gold, allows only three lines per borderless page. In a reversal, the vocalizations are marked in gold that is highlighted by black. Other aids to pronunciation are marked in blue ink. The dots of the letters are black, nearly perfect circles. The text is punctuated with roundel verse endings illuminated in gold, brown and blue. Larger versions of these mark the end of every tenth verse, as well as the points of prostration, in the wide margins. An illuminated teardrop-shaped roundel in the margin also marks every fifth verse.

Gift of David Eugene Smith, 1931

123.  Lexicographical Works. Manuscript, Nestorian, on paper, 19th century. Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Syriac MS 19

The Syriac language was based on the East Aramaic dialect of Edessa, present-day Sanliurfa in Southeastern Turkey, which became one of the chief centers of Christianity in the Middle East at the end of the 2nd century. During the 5th century, Syriac-speaking Christians divided over theological disputes into Nestorians, or East Syrians, under the influence of Persia, and Jacobites, or West Syrians, under Byzantine influence. The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary houses a significant number of Syriac manuscripts, the earliest dating from the 10th-11th century CE. This volume contains two works that show the differences between words written with the same letters.

124.  Antiphonal. Manuscript on parchment, 171 leaves. Perugia, Italy, 1473. RBML, Plimpton MS 41

Payment records survive to document the date, the scribe, and the miniaturist of this antiphonal: it was copied in 1473 by one Don Alvise, and the artist was Giapeco Caporali. It is one of a set of four antiphonals: the present book covers the Sanctorale from the vigil of Andrew (29 November) through John and Paul (26 June); a second volume finishes the Sanctorale, and the Temporale occupies another two. The other three volumes of the set are in Perugia to this day. All bear the characteristic ownership note and call number inscribed at the foot of f. 1: "This antiphonal belongs to the congregation of St. Justina (the saint with the martyr's palm in the roundel in the upper margin), of the order of St. Benedict (in his black robes in the roundel to the right), assigned to the use of the monks of St. Peter's in Perugia (Peter with his keys is in the bottom roundel)." The historiated initial depicts the calling of Andrew, as he leaves his boat to follow Jesus (Mark. 1:16-18).Though this antiphonal is bound in diced Russia leather dating from the 17th century, it retains most of the original 15th century metal ornaments (including the stamps of the Holy Monogram, the Agnus Dei, a sunburst, and a flower).

Gift of George Arthur Plimpton, 1936

125.  Biblia Germanica. Nuremberg: Anton Koberger, 1483. Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Frederick Ferris Thompson Collection

Anton Koberger's Biblia Germanica, the ninth German Bible to be printed, appeared in 1483, the year that Martin Luther was born. It contained a set of 109 woodcuts illustrating major incidents of biblical history by the "Master of the Cologne Bibles." This set became the standard for German biblical illustration through the 16th century. Koberger (ca. 1445-1513) became one of the most important printers in fifteenth-century Germany. He may have operated as many as twenty-four presses and produced some 250 works between ca. 1471 and 1504.

Gift Mrs. Mary Clark Thompson, 1923

126.  Book of Hours, use of Paris. Manuscript on parchment, 197 leaves. Paris, ca. 1485. RBML, Phoenix Collection

The artist of this book of hours is known as the Chief Associate of Maître François or sometimes as the Master of Jacques de Besançon. Large numbers of works are attributed to his hand, in particular books of hours. He painted these with unvarying competence but also with constancy in his choice of subject matter and arrangement: the same compositions are repeated again and again. Here on ff. 194v-195 we see his usual martyrdom of St. Catherine of Alexandria: the wheel on which she would have been tormented stands ruined behind her, and the frustrated executioner has finally opted for beheading. On the facing page, a somewhat less frequent scene shows dainty Genevieve picking her way along a country path; as a tiny devil with large bellows attempts to extinguish the flame of her taper, an angel constantly relights it.

Bequest of Stephen Whitney Phoenix, 1881

127.  Nocturnale for Carthusian Use. Manuscript on parchment. Germany, in or after 1514-15. Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, MS 111

"I look from afar, and behold I see the Power of God, coming like as a cloud to cover the land . . ." This response to the first reading in Advent is what normally determines the iconography of its historiated initial. It seems to have been the inspiration for the present illumination, but here, instead, the vision of God's power is incarnated in the Virgin and Child.

While the iconography is unusual on medieval terms, the late date of production of this manuscript may explain a loosening of traditional image patterns. The manuscript was copied in or after 1514/15, when the Carthusian order received authorization to celebrate the feast of their founder, St. Bruno. In the calendar of this manuscript, in the hand of the original scribe, we find the feasts of Bruno (6 October), Hugh of Lincoln (a bishop of that order; 17 November), and the feast of the relics, celebrated by Carthusians on 8 November. The three feasts are to be honored cum candelis, ‘with candles,’ just as we might put candles on a birthday cake to signal the importance of the day.

The codex itself is a celebration of Milton McC. Gatch, librarian of the Burke Library for many years. The library's Friends purchased the manuscript in his name, in recognition of his studies on Leander van Ess (1772-1847), a German who had owned this same manuscript some one hundred and fifty years earlier.

Acquired by the Friends of the Burke Library in Honor of M. McC. Gatch, 1995

128.  Martin Luther (1483-1546).  Der Prophet Jona. Augsburg: Johannes Knobloch, 1526. Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Leander van Ess Collection

Jonah was the first of the prophetic books Luther translated. Others appeared separately over the next few years, before a complete translation of the Prophets was issued in 1532. According to Luther, Jonah was "well suited for the present time" immediately following the Peasants' War because it taught trust in God and reminded readers of Christ's death and resurrection. It was printed sixteen times in 1526 alone, thirteen in German and three in Latin. Reformation pamphlets commonly had woodcuts on their covers or title pages. The woodcut on the title page of this unbound Augsburg printing of the pamphlet shows Jonah at various points in his story.

The library of Leander van Ess, a Roman Catholic priest, was particularly strong in materials on the German Reformation, and contained a number of Luther's "Flugschriften," literally "flying writings," ephemeral pamphlets such as this one. He kept these pamphlets in a separate part of his collection and they have been reconstructed on the basis of numbered stickers which remain on most of them. A man far ahead of his time, van Ess instituted a number of reforms in his Marburg church, including the use of vernacular throughout the service, turning the priest to face the congregation, and giving detailed explanations of what was going on as mass was celebrated. He was a very popular preacher and his sermons attracted both Catholics and Protestants.

Purchased with the Leander van Ess Collection, 1838

129.  Babylonian Talmud. Manuscript on paper, 152 leaves, Yemenite Rabbinic, 1546. RBML, Hebrew Manuscripts

Although the two versions of the Talmud, the Jerusalem Talmud completed about 400 CE and the Babylonian Talmud completed one hundred years later, constitute the primary body of Jewish law and thought, its text exists in only one complete manuscript copy of each version, and even incomplete copies are scarce. This one, copied in the 16th century in Yemen, is known as the "Columbia Talmud." It, and a companion volume containing the Megillah, was copied by David ben Me’oded of San‘a, who appears to come from a family of scribes. The text has been found to differ from all of the other known manuscript copies, and from the first printed edition of 1516, in a large number of cases, establishing beyond doubt that it came from an independent source.

These two volumes came to Columbia along with a collection of Jewish manuscripts, in Hebrew and Arabic, acquired by Professor Richard J. H. Gottheil for the library in 1890. With the financial support of Temple Emanu-El in New York, Gottheil had been appointed professor of Rabbinic Literature and Semitic Languages in 1887. It was the first endowed chair for Jewish studies in the United States. The foundation of the library's Judaica resources also came from Temple Emanu-El, through their gift of 2,500 printed books and 50 manuscripts from their library in 1892. Today, the Rare Book and Manuscript Library holds more than 1,000 manuscripts in Hebrew and a variety of European languages, as well as 28 fifteenth-century and 300 sixteenth-century printed Hebrew books.

Purchased from Ephraim Deinard, 1890

130.  Gospel lectionary. Manuscript on parchment, 99 leaves. Spain, second half of the 16th century. RBML, Western MS 29

This book containing the gospel readings for the mass is an example of the influence of printed books on manuscripts during the 16th century. According to the prefatory statement on folio ii verso, the text of this manuscript was corrected on the basis of comparison with a Roman missal printed in Venice in 1577 and then compared to another missal printed in Salamanca in 1588. The style of illumination shows Flemish influence in the naturalistic fruits and flowers on a gold ground. The text appears as if in a frame hung against a tapestry of lush vegetation. On the right is the gospel for the first Sunday of Advent, Luke 21. The binding is in contemporary calf over wooden boards, gilt stamped, with gilt edges.

Gift of John M. Crawford, Jr., 1971

131.  The Holy Bible, Conteyning the Old Testament, and the New: Newly Translated out of the originall tongues & ... revised, by his Maiesties speciall Cōmandement. London: Robert Barker, 1611. Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Frederick Ferris Thompson Collection

The King James version, or the "Authorized" version of the English Bible was made by a team of translators appointed by James I. It was first published in this edition of 1611 and remained the standard English Bible until the nineteenth century. This copy, with a contemporary English binding, is one of the treasures of the Burke Library's Thompson Collection.

Gift of Mrs. Mary Clark Thompson, 1923

132.  Hymnal. Manuscript on parchment, 399 leaves. Crimea, Kafay, 1646. Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Armenian MS 1

The binding on this hymnal is a fine example of traditional Armenian bookbinding techniques that were still being used in 17th-century Crimea, including a loop board attachment, cloth doublures, traditional endbands, blind-tooled leather fore-edge flaps, and a vertically ruled spine. What is particularly notable is that the illuminator and scribe, Nikoghayos, also bound the book. The text is an abbreviated version of the Armenian Hymnal (Sharaknots‘), with decorated headpieces at the major divisions of the book.

133.  Solomon Stoddard (1643-1729).  Common Place Book and Sermon Notes. Manuscript on paper, 1660-64. Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, MS 104

Solomon Stoddard was born in Boston in 1643 and graduated from Harvard College in 1662. From 1667 to 1674 Stoddard served as the first librarian at Harvard. This volume contains his college notes. These include the name of the instructor for the day, as well as the scripture that was expounded in class and then applied to seventeenth-century society. Using what would have been the blank portions of the pages, and turning the volume upside down, Stoddard also used the volume to make notes for sermons that he preached during the early years of his ministry at Northampton, where he served until his death in 1729. His grandson, Jonathan Edwards, was ordained associate pastor of the Northampton church in 1727.

134.  The African Union Hymn book, designed as a companion for the pious, and friends of all denominations ... compiled by Peter Spencer. Wilmington: Published by P. Spencer, for the African Union Church, 1822. Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary

An extremely rare early hymnal for the African American Church, this is the only copy recorded in the national databases. The "Union Church of Africans," also called the "African Union Church," was chartered by Peter Spencer (1782-1843) in Willmington, Delaware in 1813. Now known as the African Union First Colored Methodist Protestant Church and Connection, usually called the "A.U.M.P. Church," it is the oldest independent black denomination in the United States. Although it began as a Methodist Protestant church, by the 1880s it considered changing to an episcopal structure, a change that was not formally adopted until 1967 when it consecrated its two leaders as bishops.

135.  Amanda Smith (1837-1915).  An Autobiography: the story of the Lord's dealing with Mrs. Amanda Smith, the Colored Evangelist; containing an account of her life and work of faith, and her travels in America, England, Ireland, Scotland, India and Africa, as an Independent Missionary. Chicago: Meyer and Brother, 1893. Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary

Amanda Smith's Autobiography reflects a remarkable career. This is the first edition of her often-reprinted narrative. The Burke Library was supported by the interest and knowledge of the late Professor James M. Washington in building this area of the collection.

136.  Collection of magical prayers and "images". Manuscript on parchment, 191 leaves, early 20th century. Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Ethiopic MS 5

This collection of Ethiopian magical prayers includes those that can be used against demons for each day of the week, and prayers for overcoming enemies. It also includes "images," an "image" being a hymn in honor of a saint in which the different members of his or her body are addressed in successive stages. The book is bound in wooden boards covered in reddish tooled leather in which crosses have been worked. The leather carrying case was used to facilitate easy and safe transport. The manuscript's elegant script is enhanced by two kinds of decoration: abstract, linear motifs that highlight textual transitions and figural representations. This is a fine example of an African-Christian culture to which the African-American community has, from earliest days, looked as a source and model.

137.  Emily Grace Briggs (1867-1944).  The Deaconess in the Ancient and Medieval Church: A Study in the History of Christian Institutions. Autograph manuscript, written in partial fulfillment of the Ph.D., Union Theological Seminary, 1913-1925. Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Archives, Emilie Grace Briggs Papers

In 1897, Emilie Grace Briggs became the first woman to earn a degree from Union Theological Seminary. Union was one of the first institutions of theological education to admit women students in great quantity and to hire and tenure women faculty. Briggs later enrolled in the Doctoral program at Union, and wrote this dissertation, now among her papers held by the Burke Library Archives. Between 1913 and 1925, as women elsewhere were marching for the right to vote, she revised her manuscript for publication as the final step toward receiving her Ph.D. degree. She was unable to find a publisher, and she and her work were largely forgotten.

Half a century later, with the re-emergence of the womens movement, large numbers of women entered seminaries, pursuing careers in theological education, positions of church leadership, and religious scholarship. In 1997, one hundred years after Briggs had received her first degree, she inspired the founding of the Archives of Women in Theological Scholarship (AWTS) at Union. At that time, no institution had a program devoted to preserving the records of women theologians. The inaugural collection received by the Archives came from Phyllis Trible, formerly Union's Baldwin Professor of Sacred Literature. The archive now houses 17 personal and institutional collections that document a diverse range of individuals and groups.

138.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945).  Application to Union Seminary. Printed document, completed by the author and signed in ink. Berlin, February 12, 1930. Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Archives, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Manuscript Collection

Dietrich Bonheoffer was raised in the academic circles of the University of Berlin where his father was a professor of psychiatry and neurology. He studied theology at the universities of Tübingen and Berlin from 1923 to 1927, and served for a year as assistant pastor for a German-speaking congregation in Barcelona. With this document he then applied for one year of graduate study at Union Theological Seminary that began in September, 1930. He returned to Germany the following year.

With the rise to power of the Nazis in 1933, Bonhoeffer was a vocal opponent of the regime, speaking out in particular against its policies of anti-Semitism. His stance became politicized in 1938 after he became involved through his brother-in-law, Hans von Dohnanyi, in a plot to overthrow Hitler. Although he returned to New York in 1939, he stayed for only two weeks, writing to Union's Seminary's Reinhold Niebuhr: "I will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people." Following the failure of the July 20, 1944 attempt to assassinate Hitler, Bonheoffer was arrested and executed on April 9, 1945. His Letters and Papers from Prison, published in 1951, contain some of his most profound writing.

139.  Elizaveta Kuzmina-Karavaeva Skobtsova (1891-1945).  Untitled. Watercolor, (21 x 27 cm.) Paris, [1930s] RBML, Bakhmeteff Archive, Mother Maria Papers

Elizaveta Iurievna Kuzmina-Karavaeva Skobtsova, later known as Mother Maria, was a Russian Orthodox religious thinker, poet and artist. Her multi-faceted legacy includes articles, poems, art, and drama. In the 1910s she was part of the literary milieu of St. Petersburg and was a member of the Socialist Revolutionary Party. She fled Russia soon after the Bolsheviks' takeover and lived in Paris, where she became a nun. In 1935, she participated in organizing the so-called Orthodox Action, which was designed to help Russian immigrants in France. She and her fellow-workers from Orthodox Action opened a house for homeless and sick immigrants in Paris. During the Nazi occupation of the city, the house was transformed into a refuge for Jews and displaced persons. Mother Maria and her son were arrested by the Gestapo in 1943 and died in the Ravensbruck camp in Germany. Mother Maria's selfless devotion to people and her death as a martyr will never be forgotten. In 2004, the Holy Synod confirmed the glorification of Mother Maria.

Gift of Sofia Pilenko, 1955

140.  Thomas Merton (1915 -- 1968).  The Seven Storey Mountain. Typed manuscript, with Merton's emendations in ink, 649 pp. Trappist, Kentucky, 1948. RBML, Thomas Merton Papers

Thomas Merton graduated from Columbia College in 1938, and received his Master's in English in 1939. He had converted to Catholicism while at Columbia, but surprised his many friends and professors, including Mark Van Doren, by becoming a Trappist monk, a member of the Cisterian Order of the Strict Observance, in 1941. He was later ordained a priest, taking the name of Father M. Louis. Among Merton's most widely read writings is his autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, shown here in the original setting-copy for the first edition. In addition to Merton's own changes, the typescript also has editor Robert Giroux's corrections in pencil and a copy editor's marking in red pencil. Less well known material in Columbia's Merton Papers are most of his lecture and conference notes which he used while serving as master of scholastics and, later, master of novices, prior to his untimely death in Bangkok in 1968.

Gift of Robert Giroux, 1991