Chapter II:33: Syriac Versions: Old Testament

To which we join, as our AUTHOR continues, the Syriac Versions, both of the New Testament, and also of the Old Testament, both exceedingly ancient.  The Syrians make use of a twofold Version of the Old Testament, one simple and ancient, which is drawn from the Hebrew, and is alone used in the divine offices:  and one more recent, translated from the Greek text of the Septuagint, long after the advent of Christ.  That simple Version is found in the Paris and London Polyglots, brought into the light from a variety of Manuscript Codices.  The Syrians refer this Version either unto the age of Solomon and Hiram, or to Asa the priest, who was sent from Assyria to Samaria,[1] to whatever extent the Canonical Books had already been committed to writing at that time; or unto the Apostle Thaddæus, or unto Mark the Evangelist.  It is likely that that most ancient and first Church of Christians, which was in Syria, was not long without the more intimate use of Scripture, which without translation into the vernacular tongue was not able to be so readily available to all.  The repeated mentions τοῦ Σύρου, the Syriac, by the most ancient Fathers argue that this Version is ancient enough, and that it possesses no small authority.  Now, however things may stand concerning the primeval reading of this simple version, which was able to be accommodated to the Hebrew Text with sufficient accuracy; nevertheless, that, as it is read in the Polyglots, often approaches more nearly to the Septuagint than to the Hebrew Text, the fault of which situation is perhaps to be attributed to copyists.  But in such a way that it is devoid neither of its own usefulness, nor of these and similar blemishes.

The other Syriac Version of the Old Testament, made from the Greek translation of the Septuagint, is more recent; nevertheless, no typeset edition has hitherto furnished a copy of it for us. Many Versions, or certainly editions, of this sort, translated from the Greek, appear to be together and at the same time in the hands of the Maronites.[2]  Concerning this twofold Syriac Version of the Old Testament, see CARPZOV’S Critica Sacra Veteris Testamenti, part II, chapter V, § 1, 2, pages 621-640, and the many whom he commends:  to which add PRIDEAUX in his An Historical Connection of the Old and New Testaments, part II, book I, § 10, columns 760-762; and BUDDEUS in his Isagoge ad Theologiam universam, book II, chapter VIII, § 5, tome 2, page 1528.

[1] See 1 Kings 17:27, 28.

[2] The Maronites were Aramaic-speaking and used Aramaic in their liturgy from the seventh to the eighteenth century.

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