‘Erased’ 1,750-Year-Old New Testament Translation Discovered

A scientist discovered a new section of the Gospel of Matthew dating back 1,750 years using new technology.

Austrian scientist Grigory Kessel, a medievalist at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, used ultraviolet photography to analyze the New Testament portion under three layers of text.

The study, published in the journal New Testament Studies, features the Old Syriac translation, a dialect of Eastern Aramaic used bye the church in Syria in the Middle East from the first century, and though it uses the same alphabet as Hebrew, the Syriac language has its own unique characters.

While the original Greek of Matthew chapter 12, verse 1 says: “At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and his disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat,” the Syriac translation says: “[…] began to pick the heads of grain, rub them in their hands, and eat them.”

The parchment for the manuscript was erased by a scribe in ancient Israel about 1,300 years ago and reused, a common practice at the time, according to the study.

The fragment of the translation of the New Testament. (Austrian Academy of Science)
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“The tradition of Syriac Christianity knows several translations of the Old and New Testaments,” Kessel said. “Until recently, only two manuscripts were known to contain the Old Syriac translation of the gospels.”

The third was recently discovered using the Sinai Palimpsests Project using imaging to recover erased texts from manuscripts in the St. Catherine’s Library at Mount Sinai.

Kessel’s discovery is said to be the only known “remnant of the fourth manuscript that attests to the Old Syriac version” of the Gospels.

Caleb Parke is the SMG managing editor. Follow him on TwitterFacebookInstagram, and connect with him at calebparke.com.

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