I was reading a book [pdf] that defends the translation Reina-Valera 1960 and the Textus Receptus (its base text for the New Testament). One argument says that the version Peshitta used as base text the Textus Receptus for the New Testament and such translation was made in around the year 150. This argument suggests that the Textus Receptus is older than the critical text.

I am familiar with a translation in Syriac of the New Testament, the Diatessaron, where the Gospels are together, as a Harmony of the Gospels without columns like as the current ones.

However, my question: Is there some evidence that suggests an approximate date when the translation of the New Testament in Syriac was made? In other words, what date are the most ancient manuscripts found?


1 Answer 1


This is controversial subject you're inquiring into. You must know that there seems to exist a strong bias among Western scholars toward proving that original texts of New Testament were written in Greek. This bias seems to be rooted partially in tradition of Catholic and Orthodox Churches and is "inherited" by Protestants. Because of that everything NOT written in Greek is being seen as translation and sometimes strange theories are constructed about who and when translated New Testament. In reality, there exist quite a number of facts that may lead to think that original New Testament was written in Aramaic - and Greek and Latin manuscripts are but a poor quality copies. I would be VERY careful about anything you read about alleged translations made between Greek, Syriac and Aramaic. Also be VERY careful about what you read about Diatessaron, Old Syriac and Peshitta. I would advise to be VERY careful about dating of manuscripts and giving opinions thich one is "the best version". Such opinions can be VERY biased.

But about your question. One of the earliest complete manuscripts of Peshitta is Khabouris Codex (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khaboris_Codex) which is carbon-dated to 4th century but colophon states that it is a copy from older manuscript written in 164 AD. Apart of manuscripts there are found inscriptions on walls written in Estrangelo script which are dated to around 150 AD and are identical with what is found in Khabouris and other Peshitta codexes.

Khabouris is written in Aramaic. If you're interested in Syriac, then there is something you should know. There are at least two versions of pure syriac texts which are both younger by a few centuries from Khabouris. First version is tranlation from Aramaic Peshitta and second version is translation of Greek and Latin texts - probably even from Textus Receptus. This second version was created by European monks when they ventured from Europe to Asia to spread Christianity and they didn't know that Christianity was already there. They didn't understand ancient Aramaic but they've known Syriac and so they translated Greek and Latin into Syriac while ignoring already existing Peshitta. This is one of reasons of many misunderstandings about who was translating who.

Some others points that may be important in helping you determining what is what. Contrary to what Western scholars may say, internal evidence shows that Diatessaron was made from Peshitta not otherwise. Also Peshitta was not created by Rabulla, who created so-called Old Syriac from Greek sources. If you want to further read on these subject I would recommend looking for some Aramaic vs Greek Primacy disputes on the Internet. They're very lengthy, very detailed and show how greatly biased all the text criticism, archeology and manuscript dating is.


Something thay you might find interesting: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_the_Syriac_New_Testament_manuscripts

  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange! Be sure to take our site tour to learn more about us. We're a little different from other sites. This is definitely a very biased field where little of the literature does a good job remaining neutral and presenting only the facts. Do you have any sources other than Wikipedia articles? Are you familiar with Matthew Black's An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts?
    – Dan
    May 27, 2014 at 18:10
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    @Daи, Hello! I'd like to kindly inform you, that this question was migrated from Christianity at Stack Exchange and my answer conforms to rules from Christianity. If you do not like it, downvote it, edit, delete or write your own alternative answer and users of BH-SE will upvote it. May 27, 2014 at 20:02
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    no problem. It's not worthy of a DV, I was just curious if you had read Black's book and if you wished to add any additional sources. There is no need to do so.
    – Dan
    May 27, 2014 at 21:03
  • @Daи, I haven't read Black's book and I will gladly do so. Thank you for recommending it! May 28, 2014 at 7:11
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    digging a bit deeper I see the Wikipedia article has been updated Oct 30, 2014 at 8:35

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