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Peshitta
Full name: ܡܦܩܬܐ ܦܫܝܛܬܐ mappaqtâ pšîṭtâ
Other names: Peshitta, Peshittâ, Pshitta, Pšittâ, Pshitto, Fshitto
Translation type: Syriac language
Religious affiliation: Syriac Christianity
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The Peshitta (Classical Syriac (Aramaic: ܦܹܫܝܼܛܵܐ‎) for "simple, common, vulgate") is the standard version of the Syriac Bible.

The Old Testament of the Peshitta was translated from the Hebrew, probably in the 2nd century. The New Testament of the Peshitta, which originally excluded certain disputed books, had become the standard by the early 5th century.

Contents

The name 'Peshitta'

The name 'Peshitta' is derived from the Syriac mappaqtâ pšîṭtâ (ܡܦܩܬܐ ܦܫܝܛܬܐ), literally meaning 'simple version'. However, it is also possible to translate pšîṭtâ as 'common' (that is, for all people), or 'straight', as well as the usual translation as 'simple'. Syriac is a dialect, or group of dialects, of Eastern Aramaic. It is written in the Syriac alphabet, and is transliterated into the Roman alphabet in a number of ways: Peshitta, Peshittâ, Pshitta, Pšittâ, Pshitto, Fshitto. All of these are acceptable, but 'Peshitta' is the most conventional spelling in English.

Its Arabic counterpart is البسيطة "Al-Basîṭah", also meaning "The simple [one]".

History of the Syriac versions

Peshitta text of Exodus 13:14-16 produced in Amida in the year 464.

The name 'Peshitta' was first applied to the standard, common Syriac Bible in the ninth century, when it is called such by Moshe bar Kepha. However, it is clear that the Peshitta had a long and complex history before receiving its name. In fact the Peshitta Old Testament and New Testament are two completely separate works of translation.

The Peshitta Old Testament is the earliest piece of Syriac literature of any length, probably originating in the second century. Whereas the majority of the Early Church relied on the Greek Septuagint as their translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, the Syriac-speaking church used the Peshitta, which was translated from the Hebrew independently of the Septuagint. The Hebrew text that served as a master copy for the translation must have been relatively similar to the Masoretic Text of mediaeval and modern Hebrew Bibles. Although previous studies had suggested that it was translated from Aramaic Targumim, this is now rejected. However, some isolated targumic influences can be seen in the text (especially in the Pentateuch and Books of Chronicles), with the addition of little interpretive asides. The style and quality of translation in the Peshitta Old Testament varies quite widely. Some parts may have been translated by Syriac-speaking Jews before being taken over by the church, while other parts may have been worked on by early Jewish converts to Christianity. As Syriac is the language of Edessa, it is likely that the translation took place in that region. However, Arbela and Adiabene, with its large and influential second-century Jewish population, has also been suggested as the place of origin. A few scholars have pointed to a few supposedly Western Aramaic features in the text, which may suggest that the original translation took place in Palestine or Syria. However, the interpretation of these features is extremely difficult.

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The origin of the Peshitta New Testament is complicated by the existence of two other Syriac gospel traditions: the Diatessaron and the Old Syriac. It is however unarguably the earliest instance we have of the Pauline epistles, James, 1 John and 1 Peter in Syriac (Aramaic). The earliest Gospel translation into Syriac was probably Tatian's Diatessaron ('one through four'). The Diatessaron is a continuous harmony of the four gospels into a single narrative. It, rather than the four separate gospels, became the official Syriac Gospel for a time, and received a beautiful prose commentary by Ephrem the Syrian, which remains the chief witness to its content. However, the Syriac-speaking church was urged to follow the practice of other churches and use the four separate gospels. Theodoret, bishop of Cyrrhus on the Euphrates in upper Syria in 423, sought out and found more than two hundred copies of the Diatessaron, which he 'collected and put away, and introduced instead of them the Gospels of the four evangelists'.

The early Syriac versions of both Old and New Testament with the four gospels, excluding the Diatessaron, is called the Old Syriac (Vetus Syra) version. There are two fifth-century manuscripts of the Old Syriac separate gospels (the Sinaitic Palimpsest and Curetonian Gospels). These are a comparatively free translation of the Greek text, the so-called 'Western' recension of it, and apparently making use of the Diatessaron text for phrasing. The Old Syriac Gospels were probably produced in the third century (although some date it to the early fourth century). The Old Syriac uses the Peshitta Old Testament for Old Testament quotes (and thus is the earliest witness to its existence) in the gospels, even in places where the quote is quite different in the Greek.

The Peshitta version of the four gospels and Acts is thought to be a reworking of Old Syriac material to form a unified version of the scriptures for the Syriac-speaking churches. The name of Rabbula, bishop of Edessa (d. 435) is popularly connected with the production of the Peshitta. However, it is extremely unlikely that he was involved with its production. By the early fifth century, the Peshitta was the standard Bible of the Syriac-speaking churches. Unlike the Greek canon, the Peshitta did not contain the Second Epistle of Peter, the Second Epistle of John, the Third Epistle of John, the Epistle of Jude and the Book of Revelation. However, examination of the earliest extant Peshitta manuscripts shows some variation, including Diatessaric and Old-Syriac features existing long after their supposed replacement. The subsequent divisions of the Syriac-speaking church did not displace the Peshitta as the common scriptures of all groups.

In the West-Syriac Church, theological dispute within the Byzantine Empire necessitated the production of a Syriac Bible that was closer to the Greek text. Philoxenus of Mabbog (died 523) produced a New Testament text along these lines, the Philoxenian Version, but it appears that this may have just covered a few key passages and text for those books in the Greek canon that were not in the Peshitta. In the seventh century, a complete Syriac Bible based on the standard Greek was produced. The Syro-Hexapla is a version of the Old Testament based on the fifth column of Origen's Hexapla (to which it is now the most important witnesses). The Harklean Version, under the supervision of Thomas of Harkel, is a fairly close Syriac translation of the Greek New Testament, but oddly containing a few Old-Syriac features. In spite of the existence of these translations, the Peshitta remained the common Bible of the Syriac-speaking churches, and these more technical (called 'spiritual' in their time) translations were mostly confined to the desks of Syriac theologians.

Old Testament Peshitta

The inter-relationship between various significant ancient manuscripts of the Old Testament (some identified by their siglum). LXX here denotes the original septuagint.

The Peshitta version of the Old Testament is an independent translation based largely on a Hebrew text similar to the Proto-Masoretic Text. It shows a number of linguistic and exegetical similarities to the Aramaic Targums but is now no longer thought to derive from them. In some passages the translators have clearly used the Greek Septuagint. The influence of the Septuagint is particularly strong in Isaiah and the Psalms, probably due to their use in the liturgy. Most of the Deuterocanonicals are translated from the Septuagint, and the translation of Sirach was based on a Hebrew text.

The choice of books included in the Old Testament Peshitta changes from one manuscript to an other. Usually most of the Deuterocanonicals are present. Other Biblical apocryphas, as 1 Esdras, 3 Maccabees, 4 Maccabees, Psalm 151 can be found in some manuscripts. The manuscript of Biblioteca Ambrosiana, discovered in 1866, includes also 2 Baruch (Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch).

Main Manuscripts

More than 250 manuscripts of the Old Testament Peshitta are known, and the main and older ones are:

Early Print Editions

New Testament Peshitta

The Peshitta version of the New Testament shows a continuation of the tradition of the Diatessaron and Old Syriac versions, displaying some lively 'Western' renderings (particularly clear in the Acts of the Apostles). It combines with this some of the more complex 'Byzantine' readings of the fifth century. One peculiar feature of the Peshitta is the absence of 2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John, Jude and Revelation. Modern Syriac Bibles add sixth or seventh century translations of these five books to a revised Peshitta text.

Almost all Syriac scholars agree that the Peshitta gospels are translations of the Greek originals. A minority viewpoint is that the Peshitta represent the original New Testament and the Greek is a translation of it. The type of text represented by Peshitta is the Byzantine. In a detailed examination of Matthew 1-14 Gwilliam found that the Peshitta agrees with the Textus Receptus only 108 times and with Codex Vaticanus 65 times, while in 137 instances it differs from both, usually with the support of the Old Syriac and the Old Latin, in 31 instances is stands alone.[4]

In reference to the originality of the Peshitta, the words of Patriarch Mar Eshai Shimun XXIII are summarized as follows:

"With reference to....the originality of the Peshitta text, as the Patriarch and Head of the Holy Apostolic and Catholic Church of the East, we wish to state, that the Church of the East received the scriptures from the hands of the blessed Apostles themselves in the Aramaic original, the language spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and that the Peshitta is the text of the Church of the East which has come down from the Biblical times without any change or revision."[5]

For more information, see Peshitta primacy.

Use

The Peshitta, lightly revised and with missing books added, is the standard Syriac Bible for churches in the Syriac tradition: the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Syrian Catholic Church, the Assyrian Church of the East, the Ancient Church of the East, the Indian Orthodox Church, the Chaldean Catholic Church, the Maronite Church, the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church, the Mar Thoma Church, the Syro-Malabar Church and the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church. The Syrian Christians in India have mostly replaced Syriac with the Dravidian language, Malayalam. The Arabic language is becoming more common, if not for liturgical readings, for sermons and personal study of the Bible among Syriac Christians in the Middle East.

The sixth beatitude (Matthew 5:8) from an East Syriac Peshitta.
Ṭûḇayhôn l'aylên daḏkên b-lebbhôn: d-hennôn neḥzôn l'alāhâ.
'Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.'

Translations and Modern developments

A 1933 translation of the Peshitta into English, edited by George M. Lamsa, is known as the Lamsa Bible.

From 1961, the Peshitta Institute of Leiden has published the most comprehensive critical edition of the Peshitta as a series of fascimiles.

In 1994, Dr. Curien Corepiscopa Kaniamparambil translated Peshitta into Malayalam, which is popularly known as Vishudhagrandham, published by The Syrian Orthodox Bible Society of India, Kerala, India.

New Testament Translations

Both John Wesley Etheridge (1846–1849) and James Murdock (1852)[6] produced translations of the New Testament Peshitta in the 19th century.

In 1901, P. E. Pusey and G. H. Gwilliam published a critical text of the Peshitta with a Latin translation. Then, in 1905, the British and Foreign Bible Society produced a clear, non-critical version of the Peshitta gospels. In 1920, this version was expanded to a complete New Testament.

In 1996, the first edition of George Anton Kiraz's Comparative Edition of the Syriac Gospels: Aligning the Old Syriac Sinaiticus, Curetonianus, Peshitta and Harklean Versions (abbr. CESG; the Harklean text was prepared by Andreas Juckel) was published by Brill. The subsequent second (2002) and third (2004) editions were printed by Gorgias Press LLC.

Manuscripts of New Testament

See also

Notes

  1. ^ a b c d for the order of the books in the manuscripts see S. Brock The Bible in the Syriac Tradition ISBN 1593333005 pag 116
  2. ^ A. S. van der Woude In Quest of the Past ISBN 9004091920 (1988), pag 70
  3. ^ Syriac Catholic Archbishop of Damascus, born 1829
  4. ^ Bruce M. Metzger, The Early Versions of the New Testament: Their Origin, Transmission and Limitations (Oxford University Press 1977), p. 50.
  5. ^ His Holiness Mar Eshai Shimun, Catholicos Patriarch of the Holy Apostolic Catholic Church of the East. April 5, 1957
  6. ^ The New Testament of the Book of the Holy Gospel of our Lord and our God Jesus the Messiah a Literal Translation from the Syriac Peshito Version.

Sources

  • Brock, Sebastian P. (2006) The Bible in the Syriac Tradition: English Version Gorgias Press LLC, ISBN 1593333005
  • Dirksen, P. B. (1993). La Peshitta dell'Antico Testamento, Brescia, ISBN 8839404945
  • Flesher, P. V. M. (ed.) (1998). Targum Studies Volume Two: Targum and Peshitta. Atlanta.
  • Kiraz, George Anton (1996). Comparative Edition of the Syriac Gospels: Aligning the Old Syriac Sinaiticus, Curetonianus, Peshitta and Harklean Versions. Brill: Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2002 [2nd ed.], 2004 [3rd ed.].
  • Lamsa, George M. (1933). The Holy Bible from Ancient Eastern Manuscripts. ISBN 0-06-064923-2.
  • Pinkerton, J. and R. Kilgour (1920). The New Testament in Syriac. London: British and Foreign Bible Society, Oxford University Press.
  • Pusey, Philip E. and G. H. Gwilliam (1901). Tetraevangelium Sanctum iuxta simplicem Syrorum versionem. Oxford University Press.
  • Weitzman, M. P. (1999). The Syriac Version of the Old Testament: An Introduction. ISBN 0-521-63288-9.

External links


Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

The oldest Syriac translation of both the Old and New Testaments. The term "Peshiṭta" means "the simple one" in distinction from Origen's Hexapla. This term was first used by Moses bar Kepha (died 913), then by Gregory bar Hebræus (Preface to his "Auẓar Raze," and in his "Historia Dynastiarum," ed. Pocock, p. 100). But a Syriac version of the Bible was known to the Church Fathers much earlier; and even Melito of Sardis, who lived in the second century, speaks of a Syriac version of the Old Testament. The Peshiṭta is more frequently mentioned by the Church Fathers of the fourth century, as Augustine, Chrysostom, and others, and more particularly by Ephraem Syrus.

Contents

Traditional Ascription to Abgarus.

As to the epoch in which the translation of the Bible into Syriac was made, there are different traditions, more or less legendary, as well as different opinions of later scholars. Recent investigations have shown that the Syriac version, even of the Old Testament, has been made neither by one translator nor at one time, but that it was the product of several centuries. The time at which the Peshiṭta was begun, however, is the most important point. The tradition which connects the version with Abgar, King of Edessa, is the most probable one. Wichelhaus ("De Novi Testamenti Versione Syriaca Antiqua," pp. 97 et seq.) was the first to identify Abgarus with Izates, King of Adiabene; and he was followed in his argument by modern scholars. Wichelhaus' argument is based on the account of Abgarus given by Moses of Chorene, who states that Abgarus' father was called Monobaz, and his mother Helena. The tradition that Abgarus sent men to Palestine who translated the Bible into Syriac (Bar Hebræus, commentary to Ps. x.) agrees with the statement of Josephus ("Ant." xx. 3, § 4) that Izates sent his five sons to Jerusalem to study the language and learning of the Jews. Thus the Pentateuch that Izates read (Josephus, l.c. xx. 2, § 4; Gen. R. xlvi. 8) may have been the Syriac version otherwise known as the Peshiṭta (comp. Grätz, "Gesch." 3d ed., iii. 405). It may consequently be accepted that the Pentateuch was translated into Syriac in the first century, in the time of Izates.

Influence of the Septuagint.

The work of translation continued till the fourth century, in the time of Ephraem Syrus, when the whole Bible was rendered into Syriac. The Peshiṭta was translated directly from the Hebrew, in accordance with Jewish tradition current in Palestine. But as this translation is a collection of popular versions, it was inevitable that several parts of the Old Testament should be influenced by the Septuagint. In the Pentateuch the Book of Genesis is more strongly influenced by the Septuagint than the four other books; yet this does not prove that the whole Pentateuch was not translated by one man. While Ezekiel and Proverbs closely agree with the Jewish Aramaic version (Targum), the twelve Minor Prophets on the other hand follow the Septuagint. The translation of Chronicles is partly midrashic, and it seems to be of a much later epoch, as it differs greatly from that of the other books. It is apparent that the translation of the Pentateuch, which, most of all the books of the Old Testament, bears the Hebrewstamp, was known to the later translators of the other books.

Translated by Jews.

As to the most important question. "To which religion did the Peshiṭta translators belong?" Richard Simon ("Histoire Critique du Vieux Testament," p. 305, Paris, 1678) is the only Christian scholar to affirm that the translators belonged to the Jewish faith. The others, as Michaelis, Kirsch, Hirzel, and Nöldeke, ascribe the translation to born Christians; Dathe and others, to Judæo-Christians. It seems also that Samuel b. Ḥofni considered the Peshiṭta to have been made by Christians, for in his commentary on Gen. xlvii. 31 he says, "The Christian translators, reading 'ha-maṭṭeh' instead of 'ha-miṭṭah,' rendered this word by 'the rod.'" This rendering is found only in the Peshiṭta. The partizans of Christian translatorship base their theory on the assertion that the Peshiṭta is never quoted in the Talmud, and that the superscriptions of the Psalms and translations of certain verses in Isaiah clearly show a Christian spirit. Nöldeke, besides, contends that the language of the Peshiṭta of the Old Testament resembles that of the Peshiṭta of the New Testament, and he further dogmatically says that while this version has been accepted by all the sects of the Syrian Church, it has never been used in the synagogue ("Die Alttestamentliche Literatur," p. 263). Joseph Perles ("Meletemata Peschittoniana," Breslau, 1859), however, proves that the Syriac version of the Old Testament was the work of Jews; and it will be shown below that the Peshiṭta was used by the Jews in their synagogues. Moreover, the argument that it is not quoted in the Talmud is not conclusive; for the citations of the Targum which are met with in the Talmud (for instance, Shab. 10b; R. H. 33b; Meg. 10b; and elsewhere) may refer to the Peshiṭta as well, the two versions in the quoted passages being absolutely identical. As to the Christian superscriptions and interpretations which are found in the Old Testament, they were certainly added and changed later by Christian revisers.

Midrashic Interpretations.

It is known that Jacob of Edessa spent several years in correcting and revising the Syriac version; and it seems also from the citations made by Ephraem Syrus that in his time the text was in many places different from that which now exists. The emendations were particularly made in agreement with the Septuagint. On the other hand, the proofs which show the Peshiṭta to have been a Jewish work are numerous. The Judæo-Aramaisms with which this version abounds could not have been understood by non-Jews. Besides, it seems to have been originally written in Hebrew characters; for the remark of Al-Takriti (Hottinger, "Bibl. Orient." pp. 87 et seq.), that the Bible was read in the churches in Hebrew till Ephraem prohibited it, means that this version was written in Hebrew characters. It is true that these arguments may be refuted by the assumption that the work was made by Judæo-Christians, or, as Nöldeke says, by Christians assisted by Jews. But there are other incontestable proofs that the Peshiṭta was the work of Jews; namely, its halakic and haggadic interpretations and the indications that it was used in the synagogues for the weekly lessons. There are many instances where the verses are interpreted according to the Talmud and Midrashim; some of them may be given here. "Ye shall not eat any flesh that is torn by beasts in the field" (Ex. xxii. 30) is rendered in the Peshiṭta, "Ye shall not eat any flesh that is torn off from a living beast" (comp. Targumim and Ḥul. 102b). "And he set them before the Lord" (Lev. xvi. 7); Peshiṭta, "And he set them while they are still alive before the Lord" (Ḥul. 11a). "And thou shalt not give any of thy seed to make them pass to Molech" (Lev. xviii. 21, Hebr.); Peshiṭta, "And thou shalt not marry any of thy sons to a strange wife" (Meg. 25a). "Every Sabbath he shall set it in order" (Lev. xxiv. 8); Peshiṭta, "Every Friday he shall set it in order" (Men. 97a).

Jewish Superscriptions.

Even the Psalms, which most of all have undergone emendation, offer many evidences that the translation was made by Jews. Like the Hebrew Psalter, the Syriac version is divided into five books; and in several places (e.g., Ps. lxviii. 15, 18; lxxxix. 24) the word "pasuḳa" (= "disjunction") is inserted, to indicate a pause in agreement with the rabbinical law. Even among the superscriptions of the chapters, many of which show a Christian hand, there are several that have been made in the rabbinical spirit; for instance, that to ch. xliv., "This chapter was sung by the people with Moses near Mount Horeb," is after Deut. R. iii. The superscription to ch. liii., referring it to Ahithophel, by whom Absalom is advised to slay his father, is in agreement with Midr. Teh. ad loc. As to the word (image) , which is rendered in the Septuagint διάψαλμα, there is great confusion in the Peshiṭta. This word is sometimes omitted entirely, sometimes it is rendered as in the Septuagint, and in seven instances it is translated "for ever" as in the Targum (comp. 'Er. 54a).

Used in the Synagogues.

That the Peshiṭta of the Pentateuch was in use in the synagogues is seen from the fact that it is divided into the weekly lessons for the Palestinian or triennial cycle. Even those parts which are read in the synagogue on various holy days are indicated; for instance, before Lev. xvi. 1, the indication is given that the following part is to be read on the Day of Atonement (comp. Meg. 30b). Other superscriptions show the rabbinical spirit of the translator, as Ex. xxi.: "'esra pitgamin" (= "'aseret ha-dibrot" = "decalogue"; Ber. 11b); Lev. xvii. 1: "namusa de-ḳurbane" (= "parashat ha-ḳorbanot" = "the chapter of sacrifices"; Meg. 30b). Later in the second century, when Biblical exegesis reached a higher plane in the flourishing schools of Tiberias and Sepphoris, the Peshiṭta, which is a somewhat literal translation, began to fall into disuse. It was finally superseded in Palestine in the second century by the translation of Aquila, which was made on the basis of Akiba's teaching, and in the third century in Babylonia by the Targum of Onḳelos, which was based on the Peshiṭta itself.

It has been already stated that the Peshiṭta, fromits earliest appearance, was accepted in the Church. This rendered necessary the institution of the office of interpreter ("meturgeman") as in the synagogues; for, besides the fact that the Peshiṭta, was written in Hebrew characters, the language itself and the mode of interpretation were not familiar to Christians. It is evident, however, that the Peshiṭta did not assume canonical authority till many centuries later, as Bar Hebræus gave the preference to the Septuagint (see above). It is worth while mentioning that Naḥmanides quotes, in the introduction to his commentary on the Pentateuch, the Syriac translation of the Wisdom of Solomon ("Ḥukmeta Rabbeta di-Shelomoh"), and in his commentary (on Deut. xxi. 14), the Book of Judith ("Megillat Shushan").

Editions.

The Peshiṭta was first printed in the Paris Polyglot of Le Jay (1645), in which edition the Apocrypha was omitted. In 1657 it was reprinted in Walton's Polyglot with the addition of the apocryphal books. From Walton's Polyglot, Kirsch, in 1787, published a separate edition of the Pentateuch. The Psalter alone was edited several times; it first appeared in 1610. Later the British and Foreign Bible Society issued the Syriac Old Testament in a separate volume (London, 1823). The text was revised by Lee from several Syriac manuscripts; and in 1826 the Syriac version of the New Testament was published by the same society. Recently Eisenstein made an attempt toward publishing the Peshiṭta in Hebrew characters; but only the first two chapters of Genesis, the first chapter vocalized, appeared, in "Ner ha-Ma'arabi," 1895, i., No. 1. The Peshiṭta (particularly parts of the Old Testament) was also the subject of several dissertations, e.g., H. Weiss, "Die Peschitta zum Deuterojesaja," Halle, 1893; L. Warszawski, "Die Peschitta zu Jesaja" (ch. i.-xxxix.), Berlin, 1897; P. F. Frankl, "Jeremiah," in "Monatsschrift," xxi. 444, 497, 545.

Bibliography: R. Duval, in R. E. J. xiv. 49; Nöldeke, Die Alttestamentliche Literatur, French transl. by H. Derenbourg and J. Soury under the title of Histoire Littéraire de l'Ancien Testament, pp. 379 et seq., Paris, 1873; Perles, Meletemata Peschittoniana, Breslau, 1859, a résumé of which is given in Ben Chananja, ii. 371 et seq.; Prager. De Veteris Testamenti Versione Peschitto, Göttingen, 1875; J. Reifmann, in Bet Talmud, i. 383 et seq.; N. Wiseman, Horæ Syriacæ, pp. 79 et seq., Rome, 1828.

This entry includes text from the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.

Simple English

Peshitta
Full name: ܡܦܩܬܐ ܦܫܝܛܬܐ mappaqtâ pšîṭtâ
Other names: Peshitta, Peshittâ, Pshitta, Pšittâ, Pshitto, Fshitto
Translation type: Syriac language
Religious affiliation: Syriac Christianity
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The Peshitta (Classical Syriac (Template:Lang-arc) for "simple, common, straight, vulgate") is the standard version of the Syriac Bible.

The Old Testament of the Peshitta was translated from the Hebrew, probably in the 2nd century. The New Testament of the Peshitta, which originally excluded certain disputed books (2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, Revelation), had become the standard by the early 5th century.








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