Old Syriac - 5th century

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In 1842 a great mass of Syriac manuscripts reached the British Museum from the library of a monastery in the Nitrian Desert in Egypt - the result of long negotiations with the monks by various travellers. Among them was the palimpsest under whose Syriac text is the copy of the Greek Gospels known as R (see p.150), many copies of the ordinary Syriac Bible, and other precious documents. But among them also were some eighty leaves of a copy of the Gospels in Syriac which Dr. Cureton, one of the officers of the Museum, recognised as containing a completely different text from any manuscript previously known. These leaves were edited by him, with a preface in which he contended that in this version we have the very words of our Lord's discourses, in the identical language in which they were originally spoken. The manuscript itself (of which a facsimile may be seen in Plate X above) is of the fifth century, practically contemporary with the earliest manuscripts which we possess of the Peshitta Syriac; but Cureton argued that the character of the translation showed that the original of his version (which from the name of its discoverer is often known as the Curetonian Syriac, and is so referred to in the Variorum Bible) must have been made earlier than the original of the Peshitta, and that, in fact, the Peshitta was a revision of the Old Syriac, just as the Vulgate Latin was in part a revision of the Old Latin.

Description & picture from 'Our Bible & the Ancient Manuscripts' by Sir Frederick Kenyon (1895 - 4th Ed. 1939) Page 160 & Plate X. (Illustration: 24 x 18cm - Original page-size: 29.5 x 22.5cm. ) 
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