Antioch, the capital of Syria, was the third-largest city of the Roman Empire around the time of Jesus’ birth, and it was in Antioch that the disciples of Jesus were first called “Christians.” Between the second and the sixth centuries, more translations and revisions of the New Testament were prepared in Syriac than in any other language. By the early fifth century a version that was later called Peshitta, that is “the simple” or “the clear” one, was being perceived as the standard text and was gradually replacing the other translations. The Peshitta New Testament does not include the book of Revelation, the four minor Catholic Epistles (2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, and Jude), and a few shorter texts from the Gospels. The text of the Peshitta was revised in 508 by Bishop Philoxenus and in 616 by Bishop Thomas of Harkel.
The first book ever printed in Ancient Syriac was an edition of the New Testament published in 1555 in Vienna. The critical edition displayed here was prepared by the theologian Joseph White (1746-1814) based on two manuscripts of the Harkleian text preserved in Oxford libraries. It includes all the canonical books with the exception of Revelation. White added to the Syriac text his own literal Latin translation, a set of prefaces, and some textual notes.
This important edition of the Syriac New Testament was recently added to the ABS Scripture Collection thanks to the generosity of two long-standing Friends of the Library.
New Testament in Ancient Syriac
Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1778-1803