|Translation type Syriac language||Religious affiliation Syriac Christianity|
|Full name ܡܦܩܬܐ ܦܫܝܛܬܐ mappaqtâ pšîṭtâ|
Other names Peshitta, Peshittâ, Pshitta, Pšittâ, Pshitto, Fshitto
Similar Vulgate, Septuagint, Diatessaron, Samaritan Pentateuch, Novum Testamentum Graece
Bible translations peshitta aramaic english new testament aent
- Bible translations peshitta aramaic english new testament aent
- Bible translations peshitta the peschito syriac new testament etheridge new testament
- Analogy of Latin Vulgate
- The Designation Peshito Peshitta
- Syriac Old Testament
- Syriac New Testament
- Old Syriac texts
- Brief History of the Peshitta
- Old Testament Peshitta
- Main manuscripts
- Early print editions
- New Testament Peshitta
- Books of the Peshitta New Testament
- Critical edition of the New Testament
- Translations of the Peshitta
- Manuscripts of the New Testament
The general, but not universal, consensus among Bible scholars is that the Old Testament of the Peshitta was translated into Syriac from the Hebrew, probably in the 2nd century AD, and that the New Testament of the Peshitta was translated from the Greek. This New Testament, originally excluding certain disputed books (2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, Revelation), had become a standard by the early 5th century. The five excluded books were added in the Harklean Version (616 AD) of Thomas of Harqel. However, the 1905 United Bible Society Peshitta used new editions prepared by the Irish Syriacist John Gwynn for the missing books.
Bible translations peshitta the peschito syriac new testament etheridge new testament
The name 'Peshitta' is derived from the Syriac mappaqtâ pšîṭtâ (ܡܦܩܬܐ ܦܫܝܛܬܐ), literally meaning 'simple version'. However, it is also possible to translate pšîṭtâ as 'common' (that is, for all people), or 'straight', as well as the usual translation as 'simple'. Syriac is a dialect, or group of dialects, of Eastern Aramaic, originating around Edessa. It is written in the Syriac alphabet, and is transliterated into the Latin script in a number of ways: Peshitta, Peshittâ, Pshitta, Pšittâ, Pshitto, Fshitto. All of these are acceptable, but 'Peshitta' is the most conventional spelling in English.
Analogy of Latin Vulgate
There is no full and clear knowledge of the circumstances under which the Peshitta was produced and came into circulation. Whereas the authorship of the Latin Vulgate has never been in dispute, almost every assertion regarding the authorship of the Peshitta and its time and place of its origin, is subject to question. The chief ground of analogy between the Vulgate and the Peshitta is that both came into existence as the result of a revision. This, indeed, has been strenuously denied, but since Dr. Hort in his Introduction to Westcott and Hort's New Testament in the Original Greek, following Griesbach and Hug at the beginning of the 19th century, maintained this view, it has gained many adherents. As far as the Gospels and other New Testament books are concerned, there is evidence in favor of this view, which has been added to by recent discoveries; and fresh investigation in the field of Syriac scholarship has raised it to a high degree of probability. The very designation, "Peshito," has given rise to dispute. It has been applied to the Syriac as the version in common use, and regarded as equivalent to the Greek koiné and the Latin Vulgate.
The Designation "Peshito" ("Peshitta")
The word itself is a feminine form, meaning "simple", as in "easy to be understood". It seems to have been used to distinguish the version from others which are encumbered with marks and signs in the nature of a critical apparatus. However, the term as a designation of the version has not been found in any Syriac author earlier than the 9th or 10th century.
As regards the Old Testament, the antiquity of the version is admitted on all hands. The tradition, however, that part of it was translated from Hebrew into Syriac for the benefit of Hiram in the days of Solomon is surely a myth. That a translation was made by a priest named Assa, or Ezra, whom the king of Assyria sent to Samaria, to instruct the Assyrian colonists mentioned in 2 Kings 17, is equally legendary. That the translation of the Old Testament and New Testament was made in connection with the visit of Thaddaeus to Abgar at Edessa belongs also to unreliable tradition. Mark has even been credited in ancient Syriac tradition with translating his own Gospel (written in Latin, according to this account) and the other books of the New Testament into Syriac.
Syriac Old Testament
But what Theodore of Mopsuestia says of the Old Testament is true of both: "These Scriptures were translated into the tongue of the Syriacs by someone indeed at some time, but who on earth this was has not been made known down to our day". F. Crawford Burkitt concluded that the translation of the Old Testament was probably the work of Jews, of whom there was a colony in Edessa about the commencement of the Christian era. The older view was that the translators were Christians, and that the work was done late in the 1st century or early in the 2nd. The Old Testament known to the early Syrian church was substantially that of the Palestinian Jews. It contained the same number of books but it arranged them in a different order. First there was the Pentateuch, then Job, Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Ruth, the Song of Songs, Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah, Isaiah followed by the Twelve Minor Prophets, Jeremiah and Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel. Most of the Deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament are found in the Syriac, and the Wisdom of Sirach is held to have been translated from the Hebrew and not from the Septuagint.
Syriac New Testament
Of the New Testament, attempts at translation must have been made very early, and among the ancient versions of New Testament Scripture the Syriac in all likelihood is the earliest. It was at Antioch, the capital of Syria, that the disciples of Christ were first called Christians, and it seemed natural that the first translation of the Christian Scriptures should have been made there. The tendency of recent research, however, goes to show that Edessa, the literary capital, was more likely the place.
If we could accept the somewhat obscure statement of Eusebius that Hegesippus "made some quotations from the Gospel according to the Hebrews and from the Syriac Gospel," we should have a reference to a Syriac New Testament as early as 160–180 AD, the time of that Hebrew Christian writer. One thing is certain, that the earliest New Testament of the Syriac church lacked not only the Antilegomena – 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, and the Apocalypse – but the whole of the Catholic Epistles. These were at a later date translated and received into the Syriac Canon of the New Testament, but the quotations of the early Syrian Fathers take no notice of these New Testament books.
From the 5th century, however, the Peshitta containing both Old Testament and New Testament has been used in its present form only as the national version of the Syriac Scriptures. The translation of the New Testament is careful, faithful and literal, and the simplicity, directness and transparency of the style are admired by all Syriac scholars and have earned for it the title of "Queen of the versions."
Old Syriac texts
It is in the Gospels, however, that the analogy between the Latin Vulgate and the Syriac Vulgate can be established by evidence. If the Peshitta is the result of a revision as the Vulgate was, then we may expect to find Old Syriac texts answering to the Old Latin. Such texts have actually been found. Three such texts have been recovered, all showing divergences from the Peshitta, and believed by competent scholars to be anterior to it. These are, to take them in the order of their recovery in modern times, (1) the Curetonian Syriac, (2) the Syriac of Tatian's Diatessaron, and (3) the Sinaitic Syriac.
The Curetonian consists of fragments of the Gospels brought in 1842 from the Nitrian Desert in Egypt and now in the British Museum. The fragments were examined by Canon Cureton of Westminster and edited by him in 1858. The manuscript from which the fragments have come appears to belong to the 5th century, but scholars believe the text itself to be as old as the 100s AD. In this recension the Gospel according to Matthew has the title Evangelion da-Mepharreshe, which will be explained in the next section.
The Diatessaron is the work which Eusebius ascribes to Tatian, an early Christian author considered by some to have been a heretic. Eusebius called it that "combination and collection of the Gospels, I know not how, to which he gave the title Diatessaron." (Ecclesiastical History book 4, 29:6) It is the earliest harmony of the Four Gospels known to us. Its existence is amply attested in the churches of Mesopotamia and Syria, but it had disappeared for centuries, and not a single copy of the Syriac work survives.
A commentary upon it by Ephraem the Syrian, surviving in an Armenian translation, was issued by the Mechitarist Fathers at Venice in 1836, and afterward translated into Latin. Since 1876 an Arabic translation of the Diatessaron itself has been discovered; and it has been ascertained that the Cod. Fuldensis of the Vulgate represents the order and contents of the Diatessaron. A translation from the Arabic can now be read in English in Dr. J. Hamlyn Hill's The Earliest Life of Christ Ever Compiled from the Four Gospels.
Although no copy of the Diatessaron has survived, the general features of Tatian's Syriac work can be gathered from these materials. It is still a matter of dispute whether Tatian composed his Harmony out of a Syriac version already made, or composed it first in Greek and then translated it into Syriac. But the existence and widespread use of a Harmony, combining in one all four Gospels, from such an early period (172 AD), enables us to understand the title Evangelion da-Mepharreshe. It means "the Gospel of the Separated," and points to the existence of single Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, in Syriac, in contradistinction to Tatian's Harmony. Theodoret, bishop of Cyrrhus in the 5th century, tells how he found more than 200 copies of the Diatessaron held in honor in his diocese and how he collected them, and put them out of the way, associated as they were with the name of a heretic, and substituted for them the Gospels of the four evangelists in their separate forms.
In 1892 the discovery of the Third text, known, from the place where it was found, as the Sinaitic Syriac, comprising the four Gospels nearly entire, heightened the interest in the subject and increased the available material. It is a palimpsest, and was found in the monastery of Catherine on Mt. Sinai by Mrs. Agnes S. Lewis and her sister Mrs. Margaret D. Gibson. The text has been carefully examined and many scholars regard it as representing the earliest translation into Syriac, and reaching back into the 2nd century. Like the Curetonian, it is an example of the Evangelion da-Mepharreshe as distinguished from the Harmony of Tatian.
The discovery of these texts has raised many questions which it may require further discovery and further investigation to answer satisfactorily. It is natural to ask what is the relation of these three texts to the Peshitta. There are still scholars, foremost of whom is G. H. Gwilliam, the learned editor of the Oxford Peshito, who maintain the priority of the Peshitta and insist upon its claim to be the earliest monument of Syrian Christianity. But the progress of investigation into Syriac Christian literature points distinctly the other way. From an exhaustive study of the quotations in the earliest Syriac Fathers, and, in particular, of the works of Ephraem Syrus, Professor Burkitt concludes that the Peshitta did not exist in the 4th century. He finds that Ephraem used the Diatessaron in the main as the source of his quotation, although "his voluminous writings contain some clear indications that he was aware of the existence of the separate Gospels, and he seems occasionally to have quoted from them. Such quotations as are found in other extant remains of Syriac literature before the 5th century bear a greater resemblance to the readings of the Curetonian and the Sinaitic than to the readings of the Peshitta. Internal and external evidence alike point to the later and revised character of the Peshitta.
Brief History of the Peshitta
The Peshitta had from the 5th century onward a wide circulation in the East, and was accepted and honored by all the numerous sects of the greatly divided Syriac Christianity. It had a great missionary influence, and the Armenian and Georgian versions, as well as the Arabic and the Persian, owe not a little to the Syriac. The famous Nestorian tablet of Sing-an-fu witnesses to the presence of the Syriac Scriptures in the heart of China in the 7th century. It was first brought to the West by Moses of Mindin, a noted Syrian ecclesiastic, who sought a patron for the work of printing it in vain in Rome and Venice, but found one in the Imperial Chancellor at Vienna in 1555—Albert Widmanstadt. He undertook the printing of the New Testament, and the emperor bore the cost of the special types which had to be cast for its issue in Syriac. Immanuel Tremellius, the converted Jew whose scholarship was so valuable to the English reformers and divines, made use of it, and in 1569 issued a Syriac New Testament in Hebrew letters. In 1645 the editio princeps of the Old Testament was prepared by Gabriel Sionita for the Paris Polyglot, and in 1657 the whole Peshitta found a place in Walton's London Polyglot. For long the best edition of the Peshitta was that of John Leusden and Karl Schaaf, and it is still quoted under the symbol Syrschaaf, or SyrSch. The critical edition of the Gospels recently issued by Mr. G. H. Gwilliam at the Clarendon Press is based upon some 50 manuscripts. Considering the revival of Syriac scholarship, and the large company of workers engaged in this field, we may expect further contributions of a similar character to a new and complete critical edition of the Peshitta.
Old Testament Peshitta
The Peshitta version of the Old Testament is an independent translation based largely on a Hebrew text similar to the Proto-Masoretic Text. It shows a number of linguistic and exegetical similarities to the Targumim but is now no longer thought to derive from them. In some passages the translators have clearly used the Greek Septuagint. The influence of the Septuagint is particularly strong in Isaiah and the Psalms, probably due to their use in the liturgy. Most of the Deuterocanonicals are translated from the Septuagint, and the translation of Sirach was based on a Hebrew text.
The choice of books included in the Old Testament Peshitta changes from one manuscript to another. Usually most of the Deuterocanonicals are present. Other Biblical apocryphas, as 1 Esdras, 3 Maccabees, 4 Maccabees, Psalm 151 can be found in some manuscripts. The manuscript of Biblioteca Ambrosiana, discovered in 1866, includes also 2 Baruch (Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch).
More than 250 manuscripts of the Old Testament Peshitta are known, and the main and older ones are:
Early print editions
New Testament Peshitta
The Peshitta version of the New Testament is thought to show a continuation of the tradition of the Diatessaron and Old Syriac versions, displaying some lively 'Western' renderings (particularly clear in the Acts of the Apostles). It combines with this some of the more complex 'Byzantine' readings of the 5th century. One unusual feature of the Peshitta is the absence of 2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John, Jude and Revelation. Modern Syriac Bibles add 6th or 7th century translations of these five books to a revised Peshitta text.
Almost all Syriac scholars agree that the Peshitta gospels are translations of the Greek originals. A minority viewpoint, variants of an Aramaic original New Testament hypothesis, is that the Aramaic New Testament of the Peshitta represents the original New Testament and the Greek is a translation of it. The type of text represented by Peshitta is the Byzantine. In a detailed examination of Matthew 1–14, Gwilliam found that the Peshitta agrees with the Textus Receptus only 108 times and with Codex Vaticanus 65 times, while in 137 instances it differs from both, usually with the support of the Old Syriac and the Old Latin, in 31 instances is stands alone.
In reference to the originality of the Peshitta, the words of Patriarch Mar Eshai Shimun XXIII are summarized as follows:"With reference to....the originality of the Peshitta text, as the Patriarch and Head of the Holy Apostolic and Catholic Church of the East, we wish to state, that the Church of the East received the scriptures from the hands of the blessed Apostles themselves in the Aramaic original, the language spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and that the Peshitta is the text of the Church of the East which has come down from the Biblical times without any change or revision."
In the first century AD, Josephus, the Jewish priest, testified that Aramaic was widely spoken and understood accurately by Parthians, Babylonians, the remotest Arabians, and those of his nation beyond Euphrates with Adiabeni. For Example, Josephus points out how people from what are now Iran, Iraq, and remote parts of the Arabian Peninsula knew "accurately" about the war of the Jews against the Romans due to the books he wrote "in the language of our country", books which he then translated into Greek for the benefit of the Greeks and Romans (see quote below).
Jewish Wars (Book 1, Preface, Paragraph 1)(1:3)- "I have proposed to myself, for the sake of such as live under the government of the Romans, to translate those books into the Greek tongue, which I formerly composed in the language of our country, and sent to the Upper Barbarians. Joseph, the son of Matthias, by birth a Hebrew, a priest also, and one who at first fought against the Romans myself, and was forced to be present at what was done afterwards, [am the author of this work]."
Jewish Wars (Book 1 Preface, Paragraph 2) (1:6)- "I thought it therefore an absurd thing to see the truth falsified in affairs of such great consequence, and to take no notice of it; but to suffer those Greeks and Romans that were not in the wars to be ignorant of these things, and to read either flatteries or fictions, while the Parthians, and the Babylonians, and the remotest Arabians, and those of our nation beyond Euphrates, with the Adiabeni, by my means, knew accurately both whence the war begun, what miseries it brought upon us, and after what manner it ended."
Dead Sea Scrolls Archaeologist Yigael Yadin also agrees with Josephus' testimony, pointing out that Aramaic was the lingua franca of this time period (Source - Book "Bar Kokhba: The rediscovery of the legendary hero of the last Jewish Revolt Against Imperial Rome" Page 234).
The testimony of Josephus about Aramaic being "accurately understood" is also supported by New Testament (Matthew 4:24-25, Mark 3:7-8, Luke 6:17) where people from Galilee, Judaea, Jerusalem, Idumaea, Tyre, Sidon, Syria, Decapolis, and from beyond Jordan came to see Jesus for healing and to hear his discourse.
Books of the Peshitta New Testament
Note: The following list does not necessarily reflect the historical canonicity or typical order of New Testament books in the Peshitta translation.
Critical edition of the New Testament
The standard United Bible Societies 1905 edition of the New Testament of the Peshitta was based on editions prepared by Syriacists Philip E. Pusey (d.1880), George Gwilliam (d.1914) and John Gwyn. These editions comprised Gwilliam & Pusey's 1901 critical edition of the Gospels, Gwilliam's critical edition of Acts, Gwilliam & Pinkerton's critical edition of Paul's Epistles and John Gwynn's critical edition of the General Epistles and later Revelation. This critical Peshitta text is based on a collation of more than seventy Peshitta and a few other Aramaic manuscripts. All twenty seven books of the common western canon of the New Testament are included in this British & Foreign Bible Society's 1905 Peshitta edition, as is the adultery pericope (John 7:53–8:11). The 1979 Syriac Bible, United Bible Society, uses the same text for its New Testament. The Online Bible reproduces the 1905 Syriac Peshitta NT in Hebrew characters.
Translations of the Peshitta
In Spanish exists Biblia Peshitta en Español (Spanish Peshitta Bible) by Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville, TN. U. S. A., published 2007.
Manuscripts of the New Testament
The following manuscripts are in the British Archives.