Free Online Bible Library | Old Syriac Versions of the New Testament

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Old Syriac Versions of the New Testament

These are represented by two incomplete texts of the four gospels: (1) a manuscript discovered by William Cureton and subsequently published by him in 1858; (2) a palimpsest found in 1892 by Mrs. A.S. Lewis in St. Catherine's Monastery, Mt. Sinai. The manuscripts date from the fourth or fifth century, but their texts are as old as the second or third century, the Sinaitic being the earlier. Differences between the texts show that we have two recensions of the Old Syriac gospels. “Western” readings may be attributed either to their Greek vorlage or to the influence of Tatian's Diatessaron. There is also some evidence of an Old Syriac gospel text of the Caesarean type. Traces of Palestinian dialect in the Sinaitic recension suggest that the authors were converts from Judaism; the Curetonian text has largely been purged of Palestinian elements and has been revised according to a later Greek text. Burkitt's opinion that the Old Syriac version originated in Edessa is rejected by Kahle in favor of Adiabene. Ephraim Syrus's commentary on Acts, extant only in an Armenian translation, is evidently based on a text which differs from the Peshitta and which may be identifiable as an Old Syriac recension.

W. Cureton, Remains of a Very Ancient Recension of the Four Gospels in Syriac, hitherto unknown in Europe (1858); F.C. Burkitt, Evangelion da-Mepharreshe: the Curetonian Version of the Four Gospels, with the Readings of the Sinai Palimpsest and the early Syriac Patristic evidence (2 vols., 1904); A. Hjelt, Syrus Sinaiticus (1930); P.E. Kahle, The Cairo Geniza (2nd ed., 1959).

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