by Yuri Kuchinsky

The Old Syriac Aramaic versions of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John exist at this time in two ancient manuscripts -- the manuscripts that date to about the same time as our best Greek-language manuscripts of the gospels, on which most of the Bibles published today are based.

1. Old Syriac Codex Sinaiticus, dated to the mid- or late-fourth century.
2. Old Syriac Codex Curetonianus, dated to the early fifth century.

Both of these manuscripts were first discovered in the 19th century. Codex Curetonianus was the first one to have been discovered by Dr. William Cureton, who then transcribed and published it in 1858.

And later on, in 1892, the Codex Sinaiticus was discovered in Egypt by two British scholars, Dr. Agnes Lewis, and her sister Margaret, who were then visiting St. Catherine's Monastery on Mt. Sinai.

After their discovery, both of these manuscripts were studied by a team of eminent scholars, who then published their definitive English translations in 1904 (Curetonianus), and 1910 (Sinaiticus). But since that time, these texts have basically remained ignored by the subsequent generations of NT scholars. No further editions appeared until very recently, in 2002, when Gorgias Press has put out a new translation of these Old Syriac gospels by Dr. Jan Wilson.

At this time, there are many disputes among the specialists about how these ancient Aramaic gospels are related to the Greek gospel texts. Although the majority of NT scholars today prefer to think that these Aramaic texts had originally been based on the Greek manuscripts (i.e. presumably on some Greek manuscripts that would have been even earlier than these Old Syriac ones), this opinion is not universal. Some scholars also claim that the Aramaic text is more original than the Greek -- or that at least some of these Aramaic texts are more original than their Greek counterparts.

The language of these gospels, the Old Syriac Aramaic, is widely believed to be pretty close to what the Historical Jesus, himself, spoke.

Here you can learn the story of how the Aramaic Sinaiticus manuscript was discovered,

"Light on the Four Gospels from the Sinai Palimpsest", by Agnes Smith Lewis,

Dr. Burkitt's biography,

The Gorgias Press has recently put out a new edition of these valuable texts. And they are also planning to reprint some older editions.

Here's a link to the Gorgias Press Bookstore

And here is the description of the three published editions that all contain the Old Syriac Aramaic gospels. Wilson's edition is the only one that's available at this time, and the other two, the reprints of older editions, are scheduled to appear in the near future, I presume. (But it also looks like they can already be ordered at a special low price.)

         Wilson, Jan.The Old Syriac Gospels, Studies and
         Comparative Translations
         Code: 1-931956-17-0
         Price: $85.00
         Series: Eastern Christian Studies I, II
         Format: Cloth
         Size (in): 6 x 9
         Volumes: 2
         Pages: lxv + 850
         Co-Publisher: Notre Dame University, Louaize
         Publication Year: 2002
         eBook Version Available From Amazon: Purchase eBook
         for $70.00
         Brief Description: A comparative translation into English
         of the two earliest versions of the Syriac (or Aramaic)
         Gospels (codex Sinaiticus and codex Curetonianus),
         with some interesting differences between the Aramaic
         and traditional Greek texts.

  Burkitt, F.C. Evangelion Da-Mepharreshe, The Curetonian Version ...
  Code: 2002-52 Forthcoming
  Price: $95.00
  Available at pre-publication discount.
  Post Publication Price: $120.00, SAVE $25.00 (while copies last)
  Subtitle: The Curetonian Version of the Four Gospels, with the
  readings of the Sinai Palimpsest, and the early Syriac Patristic
  Format: Paperback
  Size (in): 6 x 9
  Volumes: 2
  Pages: vol 1: xix + 556; vol 2: vii + 322
  Photos/Illustrations: 4
  Publication Year: Forthcoming (from the 1904 ed.)
  Brief Description: The standard edition of the Curetonian
  manuscript, with the Sinai text in the footnotes.

  Lewis, Agnes. The Old Syriac Gospels of Evangelion
  Code: 2002-55 Forthcoming
  Price: $65.00
  Available at pre-publication discount.
  Post Publication Price: $75.00, SAVE $10.00 (while copies last)
  Subtitle: Being the text of the Sinai or Syro-Antiochene
  Palimpsest; including the latest additions and emendations, with
  variants of the Curetonian text, corroborations from many other
  mss, and a list of quotations from ancient authors
  Format: Paperback
  Size (in): 8 x 11
  Pages: lxxviii + 334
  Publication Year: Forthcoming (from the 1910 ed.)
  Brief Description: The standard edition of the Sinai Codex
  containing the Old Syriac Gospels.

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