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The Syriac Sinaitic (syrsin), known also as Sinaitic Palimpsest, of Saint Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinaimarker is a late 4th century manuscript of 358 pages, containing a translation of the four canonical gospels of the New Testament into Syriac, which have been overwritten by a vita (biography) of female saints and martyrs with a date corresponding to AD 778. This palimpsest is the oldest copy of the gospels in Syriac, one of two surviving manuscripts (the other being the Curetonian Gospels) that predate the Peshitta, the standard Syriac translation of the Bible. The manuscript is designated by syrs.

In Mark 10:7 phrase and be joined to his wife omitted, as in codices Codex Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Codex Athous Lavrensis, 892, 48, goth.

In Luke 23:34 omitted words: "And Jesus said: Father forgive them, they know not what they do." This omission is supported by the manuscripts Papyrus 75, Sinaiticusa, B, D*, W, Θ, 0124, 1241, a, Codex Bezaelat, copsa, copbo. Matthew 12:47 is omitted.

It lacks the last 12 verses of Mark, of the bloody sweat (Luke 22:43-44), the pericope of the woman taken in adultery (John 7:53-8:11), and the reconciliation of Pilate with Herod (Luke 23:10-12).

Both manuscripts contain similar version of the Syriac gospels, which have been "conformed" to the four Greek gospels. In this sense of the word, the text has been corrected and re-edited to be made to conform to the Greek New Testament. Even so, the Sinaitic Palimpsest retains some readings from even earlier lost Syriac gospels and from the 2nd century Greek manuscripts, which brought the four gospels into harmony with one another through selective readings and emendations.

The importance of such early, least conforming texts is emphasized by the revision of the Peshitta that was made about 508, ordered by bishop Philoxenus of Mabbog. His revision, it is said, skilfully moved the Peshitta nearer to the Greek text; "it is very remarkable that his own frequent gospel quotations preserved in his writings show that he used an Old Syriac set of the four gospels".

The palimpsest was identified in the library at St. Catherine's in February 1892 by Agnes Smith Lewis and her sister Margaret Dunlop Gibson, who returned with a team of scholars that included J. Rendel Harris, to photograph and transcribe the work in its entirety.

The German theologian Adalbert Merx devoted much of his later research to the elucidation of the Sinaitic Palimpsest, the results being embodied in Die vier kanonischen Evangelien nach dem ältesten bekannten Texte (1897-1905).

The Sinaitic Palimpsest immediately became a central document in tracing the history of the New Testament. The palimpsest's importance lies especially in making the Greek New Testament manuscripts understandable to Aramaic speaking communities during that period.

See also


  1. UBS3, p. 164.
  2. UBS4, p. 311.
  3. NA26, p. 46.
  4. H. Schumacher, A Handbook of Scripture Study (B. Herder Book Co.: London 1923), p. 39.
  5. Steven Ring: Ancient Syriac New Testament Versions.
  6. A. S. Lewis and her sister M. D. Gibson and the discovery of the Sinaitic Palimpsest.

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