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-Cyprus: An ‘Ancient’ Syriac Bible Found?

by Dr. D ~ February 7th, 2009

image Reuters: A Syriac Bible manuscript was found by Turkish Cypriot police in a raid on suspected antiquity smugglers. The police in a court hearing characterized the Bible as being about 2,000 years old. However, Bible scholars are certain that the manuscript in question is much later.

Peter Williams, Warden of Tyndale House, University of Cambridge told Reuters:

“I’d suspect that it is most likely to be less than 1,000 years old.”

After looking at the photographs of the book, JF Coakley a manuscripts specialist at the University of Cambridge library suggested that the book was probably written much later:

“The Syriac writing seems to be in the East Syriac script with vowel points, and you do not find such manuscripts before about the 15th century.

“On the basis of the one photo…if I’m not mistaken some words at least seem to be in modern Syriac, a language that was not written down until the mid-19th century.”

These are a couple of preliminary judgments based upon photos. More scholarly evaluations will come later.

Response: It is always interesting how the news media reports on such discoveries. It always starts out with some sensational claims that are later tempered by scholarly examinations. The completed  in-depth evaluations by scholars rarely make the news since it usually proves to be far less sensational.

The preliminary manuscript age placement is pretty incredible, starting with the police who naively claim that it is 2,000 years old all the way to photo comments that place it in the mid 19th century.

Wow, a 900 year difference of opinion! It will be interesting to follow later developments in this story, though my guess is that we have seen the last of it on a major news line. From the little I know about manuscripts, the gold leaf lettering and the pictures written on strung together vellum are good indicators that it was probably written after the 5th century for sure.          *Top 

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