Syriac Manuscripts at the British Library Sacred Texts Exhibition
- 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 [