Front fencing was introduced and explained in a previous post. It’s time to raise the bar.
Psalm references leap out at the passer-by from a cluttered scenery when easily identified. When hidden in a different language and script it gets a little harder.
The example on the positive organ used last week was easy. German, Latin, French . . . the word for psalm is still easily recognisable in many Western languages.
When the text is in some language or script unknown, you get extra points. Psalms in Arabic, for example, occur quite frequently but are hidden to most of us. So the front fencing focus has to be refined.
Psalms in Arabic can be said to be frequent because of one of the fine features of psalmody; they are established, sung and loved in all the three major Abrahamic faiths — Judaism, Christianity and Islam. (Recent followers will probably not have read a previous post, David and Da’ud, on this topic but may find that interesting at this point.)
The manuscript shown above, according to an explanatory note in the Altes Museum, is an early transcription of an unidentified psalm of the Prophet. It’s truly lovely and makes one wish for greater expertise in reading, writing and understanding this beautiful flowing calligraphy.
Before Arabic spread with Islam into Egypt centuries ago, the Coptic language and script were used, particularly in the Coptic churches. The illustration at right (click pics to enlarge) is also of ‘a Christian text’ from Exodus.
And since the associated lectionary readings have been from Exodus in recent weeks, much to RevR’s excitement, I may be permitted to include this early codex text of Exodus, two pages written in Greek about the 4th century CE in Byzantine times.
Room with a view
Amongst the impressive but wearying collections of ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian artefacts in the Pergamon and other nearby museums, front fencing on psalms is on the whole, despite finding the little treasures described above, an unproductive activity.
So it was with surprise that, when we walked into a reconstruction of a highly decorated room of a comfortable house from Aleppo and read the associated blurb, we discovered that the calligraphy above the windows and door panels is actually psalm quotes. Linking Islamic and Christian cultures again, the house was that of a prominent Christian trader.
Whatever views the windows originally revealed, the interior view was notable.
A broad tapestry
I am not sure that I could live with that degree of decoration first thing in the morning; but again, that calligraphy is certainly attractive.
Even more attractive is the hidden evidence of how important the psalms were, however written, sung or interpreted, across so many cultures, religious traditions and eras stretching back to the time of King David.
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