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Syriac Bible - The Peshitta

We see Syriac referenced in footnotes in many Bibles when alternate  readings are provided.  These are generally in the Old Testament.   When I was looking for information on these Syriac documents I found that some  of the oldest Biblical manuscripts in existence are of the Peshitta but it is far from some dusty old  collection of arcane texts.  There are Christians who use it as their  Bible today.  The Peshitta is the standard version of the Bible in the Syriac  language.  Peshitta literally means 'simple version'.  However, it is  also possible to translate it as  'common' (that is, for all people), or  'straight.'  Syriac is a  dialect, or group of dialects, of Eastern Aramaic.  It is written in the Syriac alphabet. 

Churches that use the Peshitta as their standard Bible include: the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Syrian Catholic Church, the Assyrian Church of the East, the Orthodox Syrian Church of the East, the Chaldean Catholic Church, the Maronite Church,  the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church, the Mar Thoma Church, the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church and the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church.

The Peshitta is indeed an important witness.  A manuscript dated A.D.  464 containing the five books of Moses is in the British Museum today. This manuscript is the oldest dated biblical manuscript in  existence. These manuscripts of the ancient Peshitta text of the Church of the  East are written on sheepskin in ancient Estrangela characters without vowels.  This is the oldest known alphabet in Semitic languages.

The Old Testament of the Peshitta was thought at one time to have been based  on the Septuagint as it shares many features in common.  The current  thinking today seems to be that it was based on the same  or similar Hebrew text tradition as the Septuagint.  If this is true it provides incite into  that other, not completely lost, tradition.  A consensus seems to be that the Old  Testament of the Peshitta was translated by Jews or Jewish Christians within the  first 2 centuries A.D. such a translation could have been made from either the  Greek or the Hebrew.  For more on this see  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peshitta.

The Peshitta also contains a New Testament. There are  also those who claim that the Peshitta contains the New Testament in its  original form.  This notion is based on the fact that Aramaic was likely  the primary language of Jesus and his disciples.  For more on this see  http://www.peshitta.org/initial/peshitta.html

Other Peshitta references:

http://www.aramaicbiblecenter.com/index.htm

http://www.aramaicpeshitta.com/