tc-list Peshitto: an example
- Is the peshitto byzantine? I must say that once again I get the feeling
that it would be much more useful to discuss variants instead of speaking
generally. That would make the discussion much more useful, because it
gets concrete and probably less emotional too. So, to the facts!
Some time ago, I had to study the variants of Mt 23 and I tried to see
what it taught me about the peshitto. Of course, I realize that studying
a chapter is not enough if one wants to issue general statements like
"the peshitto is / is not byzantine". Nevertheless, it's better to have a
concrete example about which to discuss, and an example can be useful in
that it gives an impression of the many and intricate problems of the
So here you will find a catalogue of variants from this chapter which
personnally leads me to (1) reject any clear-cut declaration like those
we have read the last days, (2) have the impression that there is still
much which I do not understand about the peshitto. Any conclusion, at
this stage, can only be a hypothesis which remains to be tested on larger
portions of text.
1. SYP as against the Greek text-types.
(a) variants of D against B and Byz
9 "umin" with D and Theta, sys and syc
15 "ina poihshte" with D only in Greek, sys and syc
39 legw gar umin: add. "oti" (syr. d-) with D Th f1 f13
(b) variant of B against D and Byz
4 desmeuousin _de_ with B Aleph f13, sys, syc
(c) variants of B and Byz against D (these are variants typical of D)
27 oitines exwqen men fainontai wraioi eswqen de gemousin, with B Byz sys
34 egw apostellw pros umas, with B Byz sys etc...
34 + kai mastigwsete en tais sunagwgais umwn, with B Byz sys etc...
(d) variants of D + Byz against Byz
4 autoi de tw: Aleph B D L 33 892 sys syc
(e) other Greek, non-Byz, variant
4 omission of kai dusbastakta L f1 892 sys syc
(f) other Byz variant against B and D, but not without extra-Byz support
5 add. "twn imatiwn autwn" after "kraspeda" Byz L 33 f13 etc, sys syc
2. variants without any known Greek support
16 tou naou: da-b-hayklo "which is in the temple" (would correspond to
"ho en tw naw") with sys syc
20 kai en pasi tois: b-kul mo (singular, indefinite) with sys syc
24 ton kwpona: plural, with sys syc
24 kamhlon: plural, with sys syc
26 farisaie tufle: plural, with sys
28 dikaioi: ayk zadiqe (would be "ws dikaioi" in Gr.) with sys
28 upokrisews kai anomias: invert the two with syp (though with different
35 dikaion: d-zadiqe, genitive plural with sys (= Gr dikaiwn ? an
possible phonetic confusion in Greek)
All these variants in (1) and (2) above show one thing: there are MANY
instances where the peshitto is not byzantine. So much in one chapter
that I can't call the peshitto "byzantine" without any other nuance.
You'll notice that variants seem to come from all the text-types (except
D when it's really isolated, I mean by this: when even theta doesn't
follow it). The most constant mss agreeing with syp are... sys and syc,
so probably they are the primary source. So Bill Petersen, I believe, is
_right_ a thousand times when he says that syp is primarily old syriac.
(3) Variants where syp eliminates the vetus syra non-greek variant
without following Byz (in other words, variants which are nither old
syriac, neither byzantine - these are the crucial ones!)
2 legwn: + le-hun (to them) This is probably just a translational
technique, as syp often adds an indirect object after a declarative verb.
5 platunousin _gar_ : with Aleph B D L f1 f13 33 etc...
7 rabbi (just once) with Aleph B L Delta Theta f1 33 892 1241 etc...
8 didaskalos AND om o Christos with Aleph B 33 892 etc...
These last variants are probably crucial. It is usually believed that the
peshitto is a revision of the vetus syra, the goal of the revisor(s)
being to bring it in agreement with the Byzantine text.
(a) I agree with the first statement: the source of syp is the vetus syra.
(b) I have counted 25 variants attested by at least one of the two vetus
syra manuscripts, which find no support whatsoever in Greek mss.
(b.a) The peshitto keeps eight of them. The revision was not a systematic
one, whatever be the reason (carelessness? unsystematic method? conscious
production of a consensual greco-syriac text? respect for the old type?
need of not shocking the public?).
(b.b) The other ones are eliminated by variants present in Greek texts.
Many of them are present in Byz (but not only in Byz), but there are
those above... They show that the Greek manuscript(s) used by the
revisor(s) were not purely Byzantine, far from it. In this chapter, there
are only three and it is not enough to say anything about which kind of
text it was, though you'll notice that B and 33 are present in all three.
We need much more of these variants before anything certain can be said.
As I already said, this is only one chapter and we should refrain from
drawing general conclusions from such a restricted sample. But at least,
it gives me a first impression, and this impression is:
(1) the mss that come most often in agreement with the peshitto are sys
(2) the peshitto is a revision attempting to bring the vetus syra closer
to a Greek text, especially by eliminating many (but not all) variants of
sys/syc which are not attested in Greek.
(3) the Greek base used in order to produce this revision, though I
cannot identify it as I need to study more text to gather more non-sys.c,
non-Byz variants, is clearly not a pure Byzantine text, as the revisors
introduce variants which are _not_ byzantine.
As to the date of the text, just one remark. I've always read that it
must have been produced before the Syrian church split between Nestorians
and Monophysites in 431. Several facts are overlooked in this too simple
(1) The Melkites were also using Syriac! If the peshitto was produced by
Melkites, it would have been more acceptable to the two other churches,
as the Melkites had a christology that placed them in the center, halfway
between the two other churches. But of course, I have not one milligramm
of evidence that the peshitto comes from the Melkites. So this is just a
(2) The real constitution of the nestorian church is not directly in 431
at the Council of Ephesus, but only in 484, when the nestorian church
declared its autocephaly at the synod of Beth-Laphat. One cannot really
speak of the nestorian church before that.
(3) It's wrong to see Nestorians and Monophysites as obscurantists that
would never accept a biblical version produced by "the other side".
Though, of course, there's been a lot of theological controverse, both
churches lived together in the same areas and there have been numerous
positive contacts, mutual help in times of distress, liturgical
influences, and conversations in a spirit of mutual respect. Also with
the Melkites of course.
But of course, what is decisive as to the date of the peshitto is
_evidence_: manuscripts and citations. As Bill Petersen already
mentioned, the studies of Voeoebus about this problem are fundamental.
And Voeoebus in his studies generally put the emphasis on "the first
commandment of resarch", which is "Thou shalt work at the sources". This
is why I chose to send you some variants in order to advance the
And now, I go back to my manuscripts... Shlomo to all,
Jean Valentin - Bruxelles - Belgique
"Ce qui est trop simple est faux, ce qui est trop complexe est
"What's too simple is wrong, what's too complex is unusable"
"Wat te eenvoudig is, is verkeerd; wat te ingewikkeld is, is onbruikbaar"