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Dr. Estiphan Panoussi

Dr. Estiphan Panoussi was born on September 11th, 1935 in Sanandaj, Iran, as the third among four brothers and one sister. At home and with his surrounding community, he spoke Senaya, a new Aramaic dialect. Out of home, he spoke Kurdish with the population, and at school he learned Modern Persian (Farsi).

After elementary school in Sanandaj, he was sent to Tehran where he started to attend “St. John Bosco, Boarding School” of the Salesian Fathers. At the age of fifteen, he was sent to Mosul Iraq to attend the Chaldean Patriarchate School for the preparation of the potential priests. Although he had then just started to learn Arabic and Syriac, liturgical language, he got the third position in the class at the first year of study. He got the second position in the second year and the first position in the third year of the study among the Iraqi students.

The rule of the school was to send those who had gotten the best scores in the school to Rome where they would be further prepared for the task of the priesthood. The first year in Rome, at the age of 19, he attended a special program of the Collegio Romano to prepare him for entering the Pontifical University of Vatican: “Pont. Universitas Urbaniana de Propaganda Fide,” where the teaching was mainly in Latin besides some courses in Italian.

The courses in 1955-1956 consisted of: “Logica, Psychologia Rationalis, Introductio in Philosophia Morale et Sociale, Cosmologia, Historia Philosophiae Antiquarum, Introduction in Philosophia Naturale, Psychologia experimentalis,” and “Lingua Latina.”

The courses in 1956-1957 consisted of: “Theodicea, Cosmologia, Historia Philosophiae Medioevalis, Psychologia Rationalis, Ethica, Critica, Ontologia, Historia Philosophiae Modernae, Interpretatio Textualis S. Th. [St. Thomas Aquinatis]”.

The courses in 1957-1958 consisted of “Psychologia Rationalis, Philosophia Socialis, Philosophia Artis, Historia Philosophiae Modernae, Historia Philosophiae Contemporalis, Pedagogia, Interpretatio Textualis S. Th. [St. Thomas Aquinatis]”.

He obtained a B.A. (Baccalaureatus in Philosophia) in 1957 and M.A.  (Prolytatus in Philosophia) in 1958 with “Summa Cum Laude.”

At 23 years of age, he started theological studies in 1958. The courses in 1958-1959 were “Introductio Biblica, Theologia Fundamentalis, Apologetica, Theologia Moralis, Historia Ecclesiastica, Archeologia Christiana, Patrologia, Jus Ecclesiae Fundamentalis, Lingua Graeco Biblica, Lingua Hebraica, Medicina.”

Upon a critical phase in his life, which had started with the study of philosophy, where you could relatively be critical followed by the analysis of theology, where you were mostly submissive to the doctrines of the Church, and upon reading many books in psychoanalysis, he became more and more aware of the parental influence for having chosen the path leading to the priesthood.

In 1959, he decided to walk away from becoming a priest. He contemplated the options of studying the Oriental languages academically or medicine, leading to a specialization in psychiatry or psychoanalysis. Having already earned a B.A. and an M.A. in philosophy, he could also register for a Ph.D. in philosophy.

He decided first to try the study of medicine.  He moved to Louvain, Belgium, to start his new studies there, and in French, a new language to be added to his collection of languages. In the summer of 1960, in his first year of medicine at the “Universite’ Catholic de Louvain,” the then King of Iran, Muhammad Reza Shah, was visiting European countries. Estiphan Panoussi, on behalf of the students in Belgium, was chosen by the Embassy of Iran in Paris to write a speech to welcome the Shah. After the Speech, the cultural attaché of the Iranian Embassy met with him in Brussels. It informed him that they had received his reports from the Iranian Embassy in Rome and that those results were brilliant. He was then asked why he had not continued with philosophy and pursued the study of medicine. The reason was simply that the financial aid and scholarships were granted to Iranian natural sciences students but not humanistic. The cultural attache assured him they would offer him a scholarship if he continued his studies in humanistic disciplines.

In 1960-1961, he simultaneously registered for PhD in philosophy and in M.A. in Oriental languages.  His courses in Philosophy consisted in: “Cours approfondis de Logique et Epistemology, Psychology Philosophique, Psychology Expe’rimental, Me’taphysique, The’odice’e, Philosophie Morale, Cosmologie et Critique de sciences, Explication d’auteurs anciens, de texts de Saint Thomas, d’auteurs moderns, Logique formalis’ee, Me’taphysique ge’ne’rale e spe’ciale.”

On October 19, 1961, he received his first degree of Ph.D.  To obtain the second degree of Ph.D., it was necessary to present and publicly defend a dissertation he wanted to perform after continuing his studies of the Oriental languages in Germany.  The German language was, not only for him but also for any other serious researcher in the field, the primary key condition to access reliable sources for his Ph.D. thesis in philosophy. 

On November 20, 1961, he was registered at the University of Tuebingen in Germany.  His courses in 1961 consisted in: “Zarathustra Der Prophet, Arabisch fuer Fortgeschrittene, Algazzali, Syrisch Aramaeish II, Einfuehrung in die Awesta Sprache, Mittelpersisch, Omar Chayyam als Dichter, Litterature et Politic en France.” His courses in 1962 consisted of Sprachphilosophie, Philosophie der Renaissance, Philosophische Grundfragen, Ueber Indogermanische Wortforschung, Arabisch fuer Fortgeschrittene, Syrisch Aramaeisch fuer Fortgeschrittene, Awesta Sprache, Altpersisch, Neupersisch III.”  His courses in 1963 were: “Gesellschaft and Soziologie in USA, Geschichte des Begriffs Matterie, Philosophie der 19. Jahrhunderts, Seminar in Anschluss an der Vorlesung, Divina Commedia, Arabisch fuer Fortgeschrittene: Koran, Modernes Hocharabisch, Syrisch Aramaeisch II: Lektuere, Awesta Sprache, Mittelpersisch, Neupersisch II, Neupersisch III, Neupersisch IV, Fruehmittelalterliche Hochschule [Gundishapur].”

His courses in “Winter-Semester” of 1963 were: Geschichte des Begriffs Matterie II, Philosophie der Gegenwart, Seminar: Begriff der Antizipation, Baladhuri: Futuh al-buldan, Tausenundeine Nacht, Arabisch Gedichte, Mittelpersisch, Neupersisch II, Aramaeisch fuer Anfaenger, Syrisch Lektuere fuer Fortgeschrittene.”

His courses in the “Sommer-Semester” of 1964 were: Marx und Engels, Seminar: Philosophische Anthropologie, Seminar: Der Begriff der Antizipation, Deutsche Wortbildung, Arabisch III, Arabische Mystiker, Pflanzen und Drogenkunde der Perser, Gathisch und Vedisch, Mittelpersisch III, Neupersisch IV.”

At this stage of his studies in Tuebingen (1961-1964), one of the professors (Professor Otto Roessler) was offered by the University of Marburg to go there and establish Semitic Studies. Close to Marburg, the University of Giessen needed a lecturer in oriental languages. Professor Roessler suggested that Professor Panoussi follow him to both universities, Giessen and Marburg, and teach some of the subjects he had already mastered. Professor Panoussi followed his advice and went to Giessen to continue his education and to have the opportunity to drive to Marburg to teach there.

The courses taught by Professor Panoussi in Giessen in “Wintersemester” of 1964 were: “Neusyrisch I, Einfuehrung in das Persische, Klassisch-Arabische Konversation fuer Anfaenger, Klassisch-Arabische Konversation fuer Fortgeschrittene.” The courses taught in “Sommersemester” of 1965 were: Arabische Lese-, Schreib- und Sprechuebungen fuer Anfaenger, Die 9. Abhandlung von Avicennas Metaphysik, verglischen mit den Elementa Theologica von Proklus und dem Liber de Causis, Deutsch-arabische Uebersetzungsuebungen, Neusyrisch II, Lektuere und Stiluebungen an moderner Persischer Literatur.”  His courses taught in “Wintersemester” in 1965-1966 were: “Syrisch und Arabische philosophische Begriffe und ihre Lateinischen Aequivalente, Uebung zu Neusyrischen

Dialektologie an Hand von Texten und Tonbaendern.”  His courses taught in “Sommersemester” of 1966 were:  “Lektuere der Syrischen und Arabischen Uebersetzung der Isagoge des Porphyrius, Lektuere von Avicennas  Danishnama-yi Ala’I, Deusch-Persische Uebersetzungen, Persische Konversation.”

The courses taught in Marburg, in “Wintersemester” of 1964/65 were: "َ Arabische Konversation fuer Anfaenger, Arabische Konversation fuer Fortgeschrittene, Persische Konversation fuer Anfaenger, Neusyrisch fuer Anfaenger.” His courses taught in “Sommersemester “ in 1965 were:  “Arabische Uebung fuer Anfaenger, Arabische Uebung fuer Fortgeschrittene, Neupersische Uebungen  I,  Neupersische Uebungen II,  Neusyrisch , Die  9 Abhandlung von Avicennas Metaphysik, verglichen mit den Elementa Theologica von Proklus und dem Liber de Causis.” His courses in “Wintersemester” in 1965/1966 were: : "َ Arabische Konversation I,  Arabische Konversation II, Neupersische Konversation I, Neupersische Konversation II, Neusyrisch,  Begegnungen arabischer und abendlaendischer Philosophie.”  The courses taught in “Sommersemester” in 1966 were: "َ Arabische Konversation I, Arabische Konversation II, Neupersische Konversation I, Neupersische Konversation II, Die Kategorien des Aristoteles in ihrer Syrisch-Arabischen Version, Lektuere aus den persischen philosophischen Schriften Avicennas.”

Since his first Ph.D. in 1961 up to this stage of the course of his academic life, he had, during his stay in Germany, gathered enough material for the philosophical thesis as having been required by the Universite’ Catholic de Louvain, Belgium, to obtain also the second Ph.D. in philosophy.  He then applied for a one-year scholarship (for 1966-1967) from Belgium’s Ministry for Higher Education to facilitate the redaction and presentation of his thesis in Louvain. After receiving the scholarship, he returned to Louvain, where he worked on the redaction of his thesis: “La Notion de Participation dans la Philosophie d’Avicenne. E’tudes Historiques et Doctrinals,” in VIII + 327 pages. On May 6th, 1967, his thesis's public presentation and defense took place at the Universite’ Catholique de Louvain, whereupon he received the second Ph.D. requirement leading to the title “DOCTEUR EN PHILOSOPHIE.”

At 32, Professor Panoussi received a letter from Professor Rudolf Macuch, Freie Universitaet Berlin. Prof. Macuch had read some of his publications and has been a great Orientalist in the professional fields of Semitic languages, especially in Mandean Studies; Prof. Macuch had received an invitation from the Freie Universitaet Berlin to go there and overtake the Department of the Semitic and Arabic Studies of the Orient Institute at that university and proposed to Prof. Panoussi to go to Berlin to join him and become his professional assistant “Wissenschaftlicher Assistant” at the Freie Universitaet Berlin. Prof. Panoussi moved to Berlin in April 1967 to be “Wissenschaftlcher Assistant” at “FREIE UNIVERSITAET BERLIN. Orient Institut. Abt. Semitistik und Arabistik.”

The courses taught in “Sommersemester “in 1967 were: “Altsyrisch I, Altsyrisch II.” His courses taught in “Wintersemester” in 1967/68 were: “Altsyrisch I, Altsyrisch II. The courses taught in “Wintersemester” in 1967-68 were: “Altsyrisch I, Altsyrisch II, Die Kategorien des Aristoteles in ihrer syrisch-arabischeen Version.” In “Sommersemester” in 1968, his courses were: “Altsyrisch I, Altsyrisch II, Neusyrisch.” His courses taught in “Wintersemester” in 1968-69 were: “Die Logik Avicennas nach Kitāb aš-Šifā' (Panoussi – Macuch), Altsyrische Grammatik fuer Anfaenger, Altsyrische Lektuere fuer Mittlere Stufe, Die Rhetorik des Aristoteles in der arabischen Uebersetzung, Neusyrische Grammatik und Lektuere.”  My courses taught in “Sommersemester” in 1969 were: “Die Logik Avicennas (Fortsetzung), Altsyrisch II, Altsyrisch III.”  His courses taught in “Wintersemester” in 1969-70 were: “Die Logik Avicennas (Fortsetzung), Altsyrisch I (Grammatik), Altsyrisch II (Lektuere), Probleme mittelalterlicher Philosophie am Leitfaden juedisch-islamischer Quellen (Panoussi-Taubes).” His courses taught in “Sommersemester” in 1970 were: “Altsyrisch I und II, Neuszrisch II.” His courses taught in “Wintersemester” in 1970-71 were: “Altsyrisch III.” The courses taught in “Sommersemester” in 1971 were: Altsyrisch fuer Anfaenger, Einfuehrung in neusyrischen Dialekten.”  The courses taught in “Wintersemester” in 1971-2 were: “Lektuere aus Macuch-Panoussi, Neusyrische Chrestomathie, Altsyrisch I und II.”  While in Berlin, Prof. Panoussi also published several articles, mainly from his philosophical dissertation.

During his years in Berlin, Prof. Panoussi received recognition for helping Prof. Kassel with his Der Text der Aristotelischen Rhetorik: Prolegomena Zur Einer Kritischen Ausgabe, in comparing the erroneous edition, by Abdel Rahman Badawi, of the unique Arabic version of Aristotle’s  Rhetoric, of ca. eight century A.D, with the original Arabic manuscript, preserved in the Bibliotheque National de Paris, and in comparing the manuscript of Paris with the original text in Greek, as well as translating many passages from the Arabic version into German to be used by Prof. Kassel in his book.

At this stage of his academic achievements in his life, Prof. Panoussi received an invitation from the then Prime Minister of Iran, Amir-Abbas Hoveyda, to be a guest of the Iranian government during his summer vacation and to take the opportunity to contact the Iranian Universities and consider employment there. During that summer, Prof. Panoussi accepted the invitation and visited Tehran, Isfahan, Shiraz, and Sanandadj, his birthplace. In Tehran, he contacted the leading University of Tehran and secured a position in the Department for Ancient Cultures and Languages. The courses he taught from 1972 to 1978 were Ancient Syriac, Ancient Aramaic, Biblical Aramaic, and Latin as an Indo-European language.

One year before the Islamic revolution against the Iranian monarchy, Prof. Panoussi received an invitation from the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, to go there as a Visiting Scholar and offer his academic abilities to a few candidates in the Ph.D. level of the Oriental languages. After accepting this invitation, he first went to Pocatello, Idaho, to take part in an intensive English course offered by the American Language Academy on the Idaho State University campus to improve his English language skills. After a half year, he took over the duties at the University of Utah, where he started teaching in Syriac and Persian language, linguistics, and literature from December 14, 1978, to May 29, 1981. While in Salt Lake City, he collaborated with Prof. Mehdi Marashi to translate the Book of Mormon into Modern Persian. While in Salt Lake City, M. C. Lyons, Scotland, wrote Prof. Panoussi a letter asking for his collaboration in a new edition of the Aristotelian Rhetoric. Prof. Panoussi sent him all the additions and omissions in the Arabic version versus the Greek original and many of his emendations. M.C. Lyons, however, published his new edition of the Arabic Aristotelian Rhetoric without duly mentioning any specified contribution of Prof. Panoussi to his work!

In 1981, Prof. Panoussi returned to the University of Tehran, where he continued with his previous teachings of Ancient Syriac, Ancient Aramaic, Biblical Aramaic, and Latin as an Indo-European language. In addition, he took over the Italian division of foreign languages, where he started to teach Italian as well. While in Tehran, he also started to reverse the three volumes of Johann August Vullers’ Lexicon Persico-Latinum Etymologicum, gathering material for a potential first Latin Persian dictionary to be compiled.

In 1988, he received an invitation from the Catholic University of Eichstaett in Germany to spend one year at that university on the basis of a scholarship offered by KAAD.

Managing to be once again in Europe, accompanied by his family, he started working on a computer-assisted research project while also teaching some courses as needed at the Catholic University of Eichstaett. The courses taught there consisted of Biblical Aramaic, Arabic, Persian, and East- and West confrontation in philosophy as guided by quotations from the related research on the field. While in Eichstaett, he had published some articles upon the Neo-Aramaic dialect of Senaya, and in the subject matter of philosophy. His main work, however, was to put the material that he had previously, while still in Tehran, gathered for a Latin-Persian dictionary in a computer data bank, which resulted in ca. 900 pages, still ready to be further worked on.  

His one-year planned stay in Eichstaett extended to three years, but in 1992, after being selected out of many candidates from all over the world to become The Arabic Senior Lecturer at the Swedish University of Gothenburg, Department of Oriental and African Languages, Prof. Panoussi alongside his family moved to Gothenburg, Sweden.

Once in Sweden, he started teaching his subject matters in English while learning Swedish to be added to his collection of languages.  From 1992 to 2000, the year of his mandatory retirement with 65 years of age, his teachings consisted in: “Arabisk Grammatik (levels B and C), Arabisk textkurs (levels B and C)., Arabisk Sprakfaerdighet (levels B and C), Arabisk klassik prosa (level C), Arabisk classic poesi (leverl C), Textkurs: Koranen (level C), Several courses in level D and magisterkurs (advanced Arabic).” In the last year, 1999, a course, “An Introduction to Neo-Aramaic Dialect,” was added for students at the Ph.D. level.

During 1995-1998, a research project was granted to him by the Swedish Council for Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences to work on “The Christian Senaya Dialect on Neo-Aramaic Texts, Grammar and Dictionary. His project has produced three volumes consisting of I. Senaya, A Christian Neo-Aramaic Dialect (Originally in Persian Kurdistan). With an Introduction by now late Professor Wolfhart Heinrichs, Harvard University, (ca. 400 A4-page).  II. Senaya Grammar (ca. 300 A4-pages). III.  A Dictionary of the Neo-Aramaic Senaya Dialect (ca. 800 A4 pages).

After their retirement from Gothenburg University on Sept. 11, 2000, he attended Harvard University as a Visiting Scholar to work further on his Senaya project and to benefit from the expertise of his friend and colleague, the late Prof. Wolfhart Heinrichs. 

In 2002, he joined his family in Palmdale, California. He approached the Languages and Art Division of Antelope Valley College to get an opportunity to teach any of the languages he had learned during his long academic experience. He did not have any openings in the Languages and Art Division, so he approached the Social Sciences Division of AVC. Thus, since 2002 – ongoing, he has been teaching some classes in Philosophy: Phil 105: Ethics, Moral Issues in Society, Phil 106: Intro to Philosophy, Phil 109: World Religions, and Phil 110: Introduction to Logic at AVC.

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