Moberg, Axel (1872–1955)

Professor of Near-Eastern languages at Lund University, Sweden, 1908–37, and Vice Chancellor of the same university, 1926–36. In his research, Moberg dedicated himself mainly to Syriac and Arabic. He started his career under the mentorship of K. V. Zetterstéen at Uppsala University and submitted an edition of an Arabic Mamluk text as his doctoral dissertation in 1902. Throughout his career, Moberg continued to work on Arabic materials. He also translated classical and popular Arabic literature into Swedish and was known as a distinguished lecturer. His main scholarly contributions, however, were in the field of Syriac. With his research on the Syriac grammar of Bar ʿEbroyo and on ‘The Book of the Ḥimyarites’ (see Ḥimyar), he became famous as a Syriac scholar whose achievements continue to play a role in contemporary Syriac scholarship.

One of Moberg’s main contributions was his study of the Syriac grammar of Bar ʿEbroyo. Between 1907 and 1913 he translated the text into German along with text-critical notes (2 vols.). In 1922, he expanded his studies in this field by producing a complete critical edition of the Syriac text based on a wide range of mss. Bar ʿEbroyo’s grammar is a pioneering work in which the author seeks to regenerate Syriac grammar by using the methods and the terminology of the classical Arabic grammarians.

In the spring of 1920, Moberg was asked to examine a Syriac ms. containing a collection of well-known liturgies. More interesting were the fragments in the boards of the volume that consisted of portions of much older mss. Having taken out, cleaned, and treated the leaves in the boards of the ms., Moberg discovered that most of them belonged to a work on the Ḥimyarite martyrs of Nagran. In 1924, Moberg published an edition, translation, and study of these fragments, which shed new light on the history of South Arabia in the 6th cent. This study is the one most connected to Moberg’s name and the one that has had the most lasting influence on other scholarly research.

    Select publications by Moberg

    • Buch der Strahlen. Die grössere Grammatik des Barhebräus. Übersetzung nach einem kritisch berichtigten Texte mit textkritischem Apparat und einem Anhang: Zur Terminologie (2 vols.; 1907–13).
    • Le livre des splendeurs. La grande grammaire de Grégoire Barhebraeus. Texte syriaque édité d’après les manuscrits avec une introduction et des notes (1922).
    • The Book of the Himyarites. Fragments of a hitherto unknown Syriac work (1924).

    Secondary Sources

    • G.  Vitestam, ‘Moberg, Carl Axel’, Svenskt Biografiskt Lexikon 25 (1985–87), 574–6.

How to Cite This Entry

Bo Holmberg , “Moberg, Axel,” in Moberg, Axel, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay,

Footnote Style Citation with Date:

Bo Holmberg , “Moberg, Axel,” in Moberg, Axel, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay (Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018),

Bibliography Entry Citation:

Holmberg, Bo. “Moberg, Axel.” In Moberg, Axel. Edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay. Digital edition prepared by David Michelson, Ute Possekel, and Daniel L. Schwartz. Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018.

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