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879Syriac Manuscripts at the British Library Sacred Texts Exhibition

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  • drthomas_joseph
    May 22, 2007
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      The British Library has a vast collection of ancient sacred texts
      acquired during the heydays of the Empire. The Library is currently
      exhibiting a selection of early Jewish, Christian and Islamic holy
      books until Sep 23, 2007 in London. I had the opportunity to visit
      the Pearson Gallery recently and would recommend this to anyone who
      has an opportunity to be in London and interested in seeing the
      treasures of the Syriac Christian tradition on display.

      Several manuscripts in Syriac are prominently displayed. The catalog
      of the main displays are at

      The prominent Syriac manuscripts are listed below:

      Section 5: Establishing the Sacred Texts (showing the earliest texts)

      1. Syriac Peshitta Bible dated 463-4 scribed by a bishop John in Amid
      (now Diyarbakr, Turkey) with the first 5 books of the Bible
      (http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/sacredtexts/syriacbib.html; Note: The
      web page section "What does the picture show?" wrongly notes that the
      image of Holy Women visiting the tomb of our Lord illustrates the
      text of St. Matthew 28:5-6. However, the text above the image is from
      Luke 24:12 in Peshitta, as noted by Dr. David Taylor of Oxford in
      2. Commentary of St. Ephrem on the Diatessaron (Gospel Harmony) of
      Tatian (c. 490-510)

      The other exhibits in this section include a fragment of the Dead Sea
      Scrolls, the Codex Sinaiticus (c. 350), an early codex of the Hebrew
      Torah (c. 9th cent.), and one of the earliest Qur`an's from the
      Arabian Hijaz (8th cent). It is noteworthy that of 7 documents
      highlighted in their brochure in this section, 2 are Syriac. The
      importance of Syriac is highlighted noting that Syriac was the first
      language into which the New Testament was translated.

      Section 6: Illuminating the World
      1. A profusely illustrated Syriac Gospel lectionary produced in N.
      Iraq in c. 1190-1240

      Other mss with Syriac include the canons of the early Synods, the
      Walton Polyglot (London, 1657) which has the Bible in Syriac text
      along with Greek, Latin, etc. A bronze censer (7th cent.) from the
      Syriac tradition is displayed depicting in its art work the
      ordination of a priest.

      The British Library is close to King's Cross in London and can be
      easily accessed by the London tube. The exhibition has free admission.

      Thomas Joseph, Ph.D.
      Web Master, Syriac Orthodox Resources [ http://sor.cua.edu/ ]
      Tech. Editor, Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies [
      http://bethmardutho.cua.edu/Hugoye/ ]