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Nine arrested over 2,000 year-old Syrian bible

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  • Chev. Thomas Daniel
    Nine arrested over 2,000 year-old Syrian bible By Simon Bahceli A TWO THOUSAND year-old Syrian Orthodox bible, believed to have been smuggled into the island
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 4, 2009
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      Nine arrested over 2,000 year-old Syrian bible

      By Simon Bahceli


      A TWO THOUSAND year-old Syrian Orthodox bible, believed to have been
      smuggled into the island from southeastern Turkey, has become the
      subject of major police operation in the north that has so far led to
      the arrest of nine suspects.

      The bible, estimated to be worth around €2 million, was seized during
      a raid at the Famagusta bus terminal last Friday where smugglers were
      seeking to sell it to buyers in the north. It is thought Turkish
      Cypriot police had been tipped off about the impending sale.
      Although the north's `antiquities department' refused yesterday to
      comment on the bible, because it was "the subject of an ongoing
      inquiry", a statement from police said it was bound in deerskin,
      written in gold letters in the Syriac language, and believed to be
      around 2000 years old. The bible may have come from the heartland of
      the Syrian Orthodox community in southeastern Turkey, where a
      small community remains, despite often being caught in the crossfire
      between Kurdish rebels and the Turkish military.

      "It is very likely to come from the Tur-Abdin area of Turkey, where
      there is still a Syriac speaking community," Dr Chalotte Roueche,
      professor of Late Antique and Byzantine Studies at King College,
      London told Reuters yesterday.

      In 1994, the British historian William Dalrymple wrote that the
      community "could die out within one generation". However, conditions
      are reported to have improved in recent years with the Turkish
      government making efforts to protect religious minorities in the
      country.

      Roueche added, however, that it was impossible to say for sure
      whether the bible was either from that area, or whether it was as old
      as the Turkish Cypriot police thought.

      "The problem about this description is that a Syriac gospel-book
      could be from the 4th century, but it could date from several
      centuries after that, well into the middle ages. Indeed, I think that
      gospel books may still have been being written in Syriac then.
      Obviously the smugglers will have wanted to date it as ancient as
      possible," Dr Roueche added.

      Police in the north believe that those arrested may have been
      involved in a wider antiquities smuggling operation after a Christian
      prayer statue and a carving of Christ were found in the Karpas
      village home of one of the suspects. Five sticks of dynamite were
      also found, which police believe were to be used for later
      excavations by the suspects.

      The individual believed to have smuggled the bible onto the island is
      still being sought. He and one other suspect fled from the scene of
      Friday's raid, during which police fired warning shots. All nine
      suspects are being held in the north on charges of smuggling
      antiquities, carrying out illegal excavations and possession of
      explosives.

      The smuggling of antiquities from churches and ancient sites in the
      north has been an ongoing problem since the division of the island in
      1974, but questions are being asked why such a valuable item would
      have been smuggled into the north from Turkey. Some reports said the
      bible may have been destined for a buyer in the south of the island.

      Source: http://www.cyprus-mail.com/news/main.php?id=43870&cat_id=1
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