Journal of Sacred Literature, New Series [Series 4] vol. 2 (1863) pp. 75-87


THE SYRIAC LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE.

THE object of the present article is not to tell the students of the Syriac language and literature, anything which they do not already know. Its aim will be to speak, intelligibly to such as are interested in the subject, but have not studied it. To these it may afford a little information in a department still, alas! familiar to but a few; and it is hoped that something may be said which will persuade or induce some who read to examine more minutely a field which invites new labourers, and promises them a meet reward. There are three or four, classes especially who will not fail to be recompensed by the study of Syriac literature; and we will say who they are, and why it is so. The Syriac language has many affinities with, Hebrew, and a competent knowledge of it will greatly aid in the understanding of many words and idioms in the Hebrew Bible. This is an advantage which flows directly from a mere acquaintance with grammar and lexicon. If, however, the use of Syriac is valuable to the Hebrew student, it is, perhaps, even more, so to the New Testament critic. The Greek of the New; Testament is largely influenced by Aramaic or Syriac idioms, and its text contains a number of untranslated Syriac words, and expressions. Besides this, the versions of the Scriptures in Syriac; are of great importance to the explanation of many obscure passages, and, the settling of many doubtful readings. It is, not, too much, to say, perhaps, that an acquaintance with the Syriac language and versions is essential to the critic and the expositon of the Greek and Hebrew texts.

Those who wish to devote themselves to patristic literature, and to become acquainted with rare and precious theological treatises left by the early Church, should study Syriac,. which contains, a rich treasure of large extent. Those also who turn their attention to ancient liturgies, may find in, this language, perhaps in their oldest forms, a considerable number of liturgical works. The same is true of hymnology. There are many Syriac hymns which will exceed in antiquity almost anything in Greek and Latin, and which go back at least to, the times, of Ephraem Syrus. With regard to the canons and decrees of councils, too, we may say that there are no manuscripts; so ancient as some of those in Syriac, containing notices and decisions of some of the earliest councils. These canons and the creeds, which sometimes accompany them, are of peculiar interest, and often present readings of much importance. Nor will the student of ecclesiastical history be disappointed, for he will meet with some |76 authors in Syriac who are otherwise unknown or not extant; and of extant historians he will find noticeable variations. The literature of the language is chiefly Christian; but there are some remains of classic lore, and translations of treatises of more or less interest to the philosopher and others. Such being the case, it is surely a thing to be desired that those who have the time and the talent should draw more or less freely from this venerable fountain, and impart to others what they obtain. Having said so much, we shall proceed to fulfil the promise which we have made.

The Syriac language was not merely spoken in Syria. We shall find that it was known in provinces far asunder, and that many of the chief monuments of its literature were not written in Syriac. At the present day it exists in a modernized form on the borders of lake Oroomiah, in north-western Persia. There is reason to think that, at one time, it spread from the shores of the Mediterranean to the mountains of Kurdistan, and it was not unknown in Arabia and Egypt.

This language is one of those commonly called Shemitic, although not wholly confined to the descendants of Shem, as appears by the examples of the Phoenicians and the Abyssinians, whose lineage is connected with Ham. Most of the Shemitic dialects have a strong family resemblance, although they may be classed under several heads or divisions. Among them are the Hebrew, the Phoenician and the Chaldee, the Samaritan, Sabian and Nabatean, the Arabic, Himyarite, Ethiopie, Syriac, etc.

The Syriac is regarded as one of two great branches into which the Aramaic divides itself, viz., the eastern and the western, and hence it is sometimes called the Western Aramaic. This distinction is convenient, if not accurate, and might be used in default of a better. We shall call the two branches the Syriac and the Chaldaic. We cannot indicate the geographical limits of these languages. We have already noticed the wide spread of the Syriac, and we may remark that, under the Nestorians, it was carried by their missionaries across Mount Taurus, and penetrated as far as southern India, and to the heart of China.

Although the Shemitic tongues are so closely allied, they were represented by several alphabets. These alphabets in all likelihood had a common origin for the most part, and are therefore connected with those of Greece and Rome, which may have been carried by Phoenician traders to the west, and there modified in the lapse of time. The rise, growth, and offshoots of these alphabets is a subject of curiosity, but cannot now be investigated here. Neither can we point out the characteristic |77 differences of the Shemitic alphabet, either as regards the number, the forms, or the powers of the letters.

It has been frequently said that the Syriac and Chaldee only differ from one another in the characters employed. This is true of many individual words, but it is decidedly incorrect as it regards the languages. A single reference to the Chaldee portions of the Old Testament will prove what we say. The reader will perceive at a glance that these portions are not merely transcribed, but as truly translated in the Syriac, as any other parts of the Bible.

We sometimes hear the question asked, When and where did the Syriac language first make its appearance? This is not an unnatural enquiry, but it is one more easily suggested than resolved. Adhering as we do to the historical, character of the Book of Genesis, we have no hesitation in saying that some seventeen centuries before Christ, Laban the Syrian spoke a dialect which differed from that of Jacob; for in Genesis xxxi. 47 we are informed that Laban called the "heap of witness," Jegar Sahadutha. These words may certainly be either Syriac or Chaldee, according to the vowels employed. Jacob called it Gal-eed (which is Hebrew). Now, the "Jegar Sahadutha" of Laban shews that, at that very remote period, the difference of the Aramean from the Hebrew was marked and distinct; but whether a later dialectic divergence gave rise to what we call Syriac, it is probably hopeless to enquire.The earliest unquestioned monuments of this language now extant are nearly or quite all posterior to the Christian era; and all those which are written appear to have proceeded from the pens of Christian writers. True, it is a common and long established tradition among the Syrians themselves, that some portions of the Old Testament were translated as early as the time of Solomon. This cannot, however, apply with any truth to the present well-known Syriac version called the Peschito, which bears many traces of a later and, indeed, of a Christian age. It should, perhaps, be remarked, while speaking of ancient traces of the language, that the inscriptions of Taiba and of Palmyra, although in a peculiar character, have been shewn to be in an almost pure Syriac. The oldest of these inscriptions is referred to about A.D. 49, and the most recent to about A.D. 258. The Syriac language seems to have early exhibited several variations. Thus Bayer, in his Historia Osrohena et Edessena, says:----"There were three dialects of the Syriac tongue, as Gregorius Bar Hebraeus Malatiensis tells us: 1. The more elegant Aramean, which prevailed at Edessa, at Carrhse, and in Mesopotamia. 2. That of Palestine, and of the inhabitants of |78 Damascus and Lebanon. And 3. The more corrupt and impure, spoken among the Chaldean Nabateans, the mountaineers of Assyria, and the pagans of Arech." In the opinion of Ernest Renan, "we ought to look for the origin of Syriac literature in Chaldea, and that this literature is nothing but the continuation of the Nabatean," which was pagan in its source and general character, as this was Christian. Moses of Khorene professes to quote the work of a certain Mar Abbas Catina, who wrote the annals of Armenia in Greek and Syriac 150 years before Christ: but it is palpable that no reliance can be placed upon this statement, because Mar Abbas Catina is a Christian title. By general consent of scholars, the oldest monument of the language in a literary form is the venerable translation of the Scriptures, known as the Peshito,[a] containing the Old Testament from the Hebrew, and the New Testament from the Greek. For a number of reasons, we regard both the Old and New Testaments as translated by Christians. We cannot pretend to say exactly when it was executed. It was regarded as ancient in the time of Ephraem Syrus, who flourished in the middle of the fourth century. We have read the greater part of this translation, both in the Old Testament and in the New, and should be disposed to say that internal evidence would suggest it to have been the work of different times; although the variai tions it exhibits could be accounted for by supposing that the version was made by different persons or in different places. In all probability this venerable version was, for the most part, made not much later than the end of the first or the middle of the second century after Christ, which is long before the appearance of any other version of the entire Bible now extant.[b] Two or three curious references bearing upon this subject, and professedly of the second century, exist. One is a fragment ascribed to Melito of Sardis, printed in Routh's Reliquiae, in which allusion is made to a Syriac version of Genesis. Another, in one of the writings bearing the name of Justin Martyr, speaks of a Syriac version of the Psalms. Eusebius also speaks of Hegesippus (before A.D. 170) as quoting the Syriac gospel. These, however, need not detain us: the antiquity and great value of |79 the Peshito translation are now acknowledged by all; and it is to be hoped that with the aid of the very ancient Biblical MSS. now in our national Museum, we may by and bye be put in possession of a more reliable and critical edition than has yet been published.[c]

It may be proper here, perhaps, just to allude to the very curious remains of a peculiar Syriac recension of the four Gospels some time since published by the discoverer, Canon Cureton. These interesting relics have been supposed by their learned editor to be part of a version more ancient than the Peshito. In this judgment others have apparently concurred. But a careful examination of the book has convinced some that ft is of later date, and represents the efforts of some one who undertook to revise the simple ancient version.[d] That it should be any more is opposed to the whole united testimony of Syrian writers in favour of the Peshito, as the most ancient version. This opinion is moreover justified by the internal structure of the text; and it receives very peculiar support from the learned work of Adler on the Syriac versions of the New Testament, who found in the Vatican an ancient MS. of the Syriac gospels belonging to the sixth century, which exhibits many of the identical readings of Dr. Cureton's recension. We may, therefore, safely leave the Peshito in undisputed possession of its claim to priority; none the less grateful to the reverend canon for his discovery and publication. .

A very ancient tradition ascribes to apostolic times and the reign of Abgar Uchomo, or the Black, the introduction of Christianity at Edessa, where the Syriac seems to have been the vernacular, though probably not the only language in use there at that period. This important event tended powerfully to promote both the cultivation of the language and the creation of its literature. The school of Edessa produced several eminent men; and documents yet exist which in all probability emanated from it: and of some this is certain. There, and at Nisibis, and at a few other points, flourished. the men whose names were first famous in connexion with this literature. It is extremely likely that the Peshito version was produced at Edessa or one other of the places now mentioned, for the use of the Christian churches (which at Edessa were under the patronage of Christian kings long before Constantine the Great). |80 

There is one name which is very celebrated in connexion with this history, viz., Bar Daisan, or Bardesanes, whose philosophizing tendencies brought him into collision with the more orthodox party, and led them to rank him with heretics, and to brand him as a Gnostic." Eusebius, of Caesarea, in his Praeparatio Evangelica, quotes largely from a writing ascribed to Bardesanes, On Fate. The entire document from which this was taken has been discovered in the British Museum. It has also been published, with an English translation by Mr. Cureton, in the Spicilegium Syriacum. There is, however, good reason for believing that it is not the production of Bardesanes himself, but as it almost says, of one of his disciples named Philip, who reports the conversation with his master. Be this as it may, we must assign the composition to a Syriac origin, to Persia, and to an early period, in all likelihood not later than the close of the second century.

We should be disposed to place next in order the acts of Addi, otherwise called Thaddeus, also in the British Museum.[f] The document is incomplete, but it seems to contain those portions of the narrative which Eusebius only abridged or referred to in his account of the conversion of Edessa, and which he says he obtained from a Syriac MS. in the archives of that city. He is doubtless correct in his statement; but he was wrong in supposing the MS. so ancient as he did, for if he had read on, he would have found that it could have been written but a very few years at most, as it mentions Zephyrinus of Rome.[g] One or two others must be named. Isaiah of Arzun, about A.D. 320, wrote an account of the martyrdoms of several saints, and this is still extant. About the same period, or not much later, Jacob, the wise Persian, or Persian philosopher, who may have been the same as Jacob of Nisibis, wrote two series of essays on various subjects. These essays, twenty-four in number, are now in the British Museum; and if we may judge from an examination made several years ago, they are of peculiar interest and importance. [h] |81 

To mention Ephraem the Syrian will be sufficient to recall to mind one of the greatest ornaments of the Church and of the age in which he lived. Many of his writings are still extant in Greek, but perhaps as many or more in Syriac. He has been the admiration of all succeeding ages, and was in all respects a wonderful man, of whom we may safely say, "Nihil tetigit quod non ornavit." It may be noticed, that he was one of the early teachers of the school at Edessa, and that some think he was its founder, but this is doubtful. The names and notices of many other Syriac authors of this and the following century may be found in that vast depository of Syrian erudition, the Bibliotheca Orientalis of Assemani, who has collected abundant materials for what relates to our subject, and whose work must be consulted by all who would become properly acquainted with that subject. The works of Dr. Etheridge also contain useful information on this matter, and will be found serviceable to those especially who have not time or opportunity to consult larger publications.

It might be wearisome to go into the details which still remain on record of the writings of those who followed the celebrities already named, and, therefore, he will only mention Narses of Edessa, in the fifth century; Jacob, also of Edessa; and Jacob of Serug of the same period, as eminent in their day. Time would fail to tell of Nestorius and his opposers. Let us, however, remind you of Xenaias or Philoxenus and Thomas of Charchel, or Heraclea, of the sixth century, in connexion with the production of a new version of the Scriptures of the New Testament, from the Greek. This valuable translation has been published, and will be found of decided value as a witness on behalf of certain readings of the Greek text, which was more literally than elegantly followed by its translators. About the same time, what is called the Hexaplar version of the Old Testament from the Septuagint, was executed in Egypt. Of this a large part is extant, and several important portions have been published. There was another Jacob of Edessa in the seventh century who was an eminent writer, and various works by him remain to this day. In the ninth century we meet with Moses Bar Cepha, and in the tenth, with Bar Bahlul, best known as the compiler of a Syro-Arabic lexicon. In the eleventh century, Abulpharagius was distinguished, and in the twelfth, Dionysius Bar Salibi. In the thirteenth century, Bar Hebraeus, also called Abulpharagius, etc., was a very,distinguished author; and we may say the same of Ebed Jesu in the century which followed.

We must for a moment return, to observe that from a very |82 early date all the principal Greek fathers, and some of the classic authors, were translated into Syriac, and of the extant literature of the language translations form by far the larger portion.

With the revival of letters, the knowledge of Syriac was introduced into Western Europe by Syrians. In connexion with this comes the appearance of a printed edition of the Peshito New Testament at Vienna in 1555, which ought to be regarded as an epoch in the literary history of Europe. The circumstances connected with the one and the other of these events may be just alluded to. When the fifth Lateran Council was called by Julius II. in 1512, there came to Rome to the synod three Syrians----Joseph, Moses, and Elias. These men wished to perform divine service in their own language and after their own rite; but they were prohibited from doing so, until it should be known what form they employed. One of the cardinals therefore required Theseus Ambrosius, a lawyer, to procure a Latin version of the Syriac office. As Ambrosius was ignorant of the language, he had to learn it in the best way he could, with the help of a little Arabic and his Syrian friends. In 1539 he published a grammar, in ten languages, including the Syriac, which had been several years printing, and this was the first work on the subject which appeared in Europe. His labours in collecting manuscripts were most praiseworthy, and he projected various works which he never completed, and his manuscript treasures were mostly lost or destroyed amid the confusion of civil war. He found a worthy successor, however, in Albert Widmanstadt, also a lawyer, to whom he gave an ancient MS. copy of the four Gospels. Widmanstadt obtained other manuscripts, and earnestly desired to print an edition of the New Testament. While he was thus engaged, Moses of Merdin was sent into Europe by the patriarch of Antioch, with a copy of the New Testament, to have it printed in Europe. But no one could be found, either at Rome or at Venice, who would undertake the task. At length he was directed to Widmanstadt. The matter was laid before the emperor, who readily promoted the undertaking, and, by the joint labours of Moses and Widmanstadt, the edition was printed at Vienna, as already said, and soon after published. Six other editions came out in the course of that century, in the following order: viz., a second edition, in Hebrew characters, with a Latin version, published at Heidelberg, by Tremellius, in 1568; a third, in the Antwerp polyglott, in 1571; a fourth and fifth also at Antwerp, in 1575; a sixth at Paris, in 1584; and a seventh at Nuremberg, in 1599 and ,1600. During the next century five other editions appear to have been printed; viz., that of Trostius, in 1621; that in the Paris polyglott, in 1645; |83 that in Walton's polyglott, in 1653; that of Gutbir, in 1664; and one at Sulzbach, in 1684.

In the meantime, the learned Edward Pococke published in 1630 a small volume containing 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, and Jude; and in 1627 De Dieu published the Apocalypse, all which had been wanting in previous editions. It may be remarked, also, that Walton's polyglott was the first which contained the history of the adulteress in John viii.[i] The edition of Leusden and Schaaf at Leyden in 1709,[k] with a concordance-lexicon, was more complete than any of its predecessors, and is still a very valuable book. Since then, various, but not many, editions have been published, among which that of Dr. Lee is probably the most valuable, and certainly the best known. An edition which shall give the results of recent critical investigations of the many manuscripts now in Europe is still greatly to be desired.

Of grammars not much need be said. That of Ambrosius has been mentioned. It was followed by that of Caninius in 1554, by that of Widmanstadt in 1555, and that of Mercer in 1560. Tremellius published one in 1569, and the zealous Andrew Masius in 1570. That of George Amira, a member of the Maronite College at Rome,[l] was published in 1596, and is still a work of importance. The first Englishman who attempted anything in this way seems to have been Christopher Ravis, who published a general grammar of Hebrew, Samaritan, Chaldee, Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopie in 1648. The second was Brian Walton, in 1653, etc.; and the third, William Beveridge, in 1658. During the present century Syriac grammars have been published by three or four Englishmen:---- by Yeates, in 1818, by (Nolan?), Phillips, and Cowper; but the fullest are probably those of Hoffmann in Latin, and Uhlemann (second edition) in German, translated and published in America.

The first European work in lexicography seems to have been published by Masius in 1571. That of Ferrarius in 1622, although very defective, is still useful. That by Castell, though quite insufficient, is valuable, and especially in Michaelis's |84 reprint. For the New Testament, the lexicon of Schaaf is very useful. That of Gutbir, whether his own edition or the one brought out by Dr. Henderson, is of no value. There is still no complete Lexicon, either for the Old and New Testaments, or for the entire language. Dr. Bernstein was more than twenty years engaged on a great work which should include all known words; the first part has been published, but the author has died, and it cannot be completed.[m] It is with the grammar as it is with the lexicon, new idioms and words are continually coming to light, and will probably do so until the mass of existing manuscripts has been thoroughly read and studied.

It would occupy too much space to give an account of other works on the literature and language, although many of them are both interesting and important. Nor will we enumerate the books in the language itself, which have been printed during the last few years especially, although all of them are curious, and some of them are valuable. Let us rather look for a moment at the large mass of Syriac manuscripts which now invites the zeal and the learning of the student. The principal depositories of these ancient relics are Rome, Paris, and London. A good number are at Oxford, and Cambridge, and most of the large European libraries have at least a few, not to mention those which are in private hands.

A full account of the chief Syriac treasures at the Vatican has been published by Assemanni in his great work, already named the Bibliotheca Orientalis. Those at Paris, amounting as near, as far as appears from a hasty personal examination, to about two hundred and forty-five volumes, are either unexplored, or no good account of them has appeared. The manuscripts at other places, also, still remain for the most part inedited or undescribed. The first great instalment of the collection at the British Museum, consisting of those acquired by the late Mr. Rich, the British consul at Bagdad, has received the honour of an admirable catalogue. The greater portion, however, obtained between 1840 and 1850 from a monastery in the Nitrian desert of Scete in Egypt, still remain without this essential clue to their true character and worth.[n] A few individuals have gone more or less fully into an examination of them, and now a competent librarian is employed upon them. Among those who have explored them, the first place is, doubtless, due to Mr. Cureton, whose zeal in securing, |85 arranging, examining, and otherwise labouring in connexion with these manuscripts, entitles him to the highest praise. Another who has wrought among them is Dr. de Lagarde of Berlin; and a third is Dr. Land of Amsterdam. The writer of this article has gone through and carefully noted the character and contents of all the chief manuscripts in the collection.

Until the wished-for catalogue appears, it is to be hoped that those who have leisure and the necessary qualifications will make such use of these precious relics, that we shall not even seem to lose the honour of their possession by our supineness and neglect. With the exception of a very few texts and translations, nothing of importance has been published from this source; and of what has been done, no small part has been done by foreigners: such as Renan, de Lagarde, and Dr. Land, not that we forget Dr. Cureton, etc.

We must not now attempt to describe the number, age, contents, appearance, and general condition of these manuscripts, because this would involve a longer discourse than is desirable, and prevent us from saying a few words upon a point to which we are anxious for a moment to advert; we mean the general fortunes of the Syriac language after it commenced to be employed extensively for literary purposes.

At a very early period it began to receive importations from the Greek, which, in some later documents, is a very prominent element. The work of John of Ephesus published by Dr. Cureton, and written probably about A.D. 590, abounds in these Greek forms. Besides the Greek, a little was contributed by the Latin, much by the Persian and Arabic, and more or less by the Armenian and other dialects. By these means, as well as by the inconveniences resulting from Moslem domination, and other causes, the Syriac lost much of its original simplicity, purity, and force. As a vernacular, the language was at one time most extensively used, but was, in process of time, supplanted in different directions, chiefly by those which corrupted it, viz., by the Arabic, the Armenian, and the Persian; and, perhaps, later by the Turkish. In some districts it underwent dialectic variations; and in its altered form, as already remarked, it is still used by the Nestorians of Oroomiah, and probably by some others. The old language always was and still is used in the public rituals of the Syrian church, just as the Greek, Armenian, Latin, Hebrew, etc., have maintained their ground for similar purposes.

The Neo-Syriac employed by the Nestorians of Oroomiah, of which a grammar was published by the late excellent and lamented missionary, the Rev. D. T. Stoddard, and in which |86 the American missionaries have published the Bible and other works, is sufficient to disprove the assertion of Renan that there is no such thing as a Neo-Syriac, the existence of which he regards as well nigh impossible.

As with the language, so with its caligraphy, the more recent manuscripts almost invariably betray their degenerate age. The most ancient documents known were written during the fifth century (from 412 A.D.), and for the most part are admirably executed, in a large legible and correctly drawn character. Many of those which were written, in the three following centuries, are very beautifully done. But in general, the more modern a manuscript, the worse it is written.[o] The oldest characters used in existing manuscripts are of the type commonly called Estrangelo; but this was superseded by the simpler and far less elegant form which furnished the pattern for most of our printed Syriac books. The characters employed in the so-called Jerusalem version of the New Testament, of which only some fragments are known, and which can hardly be called Syriac at all, varied from both the others, but in their general aspect most resembled the Estrangelo. Those used by the Nestorians at the present day come nearer to the simpler or later form, although they differ both in appearance and number. It is in vain for us to discuss now the origin of these differing types; but it may be remarked that, on many accounts, it is desirable we should return in our printed books at least to an approximation to the old Estrangelo, the best and most appropriate of all the forms of Syriac letters. Those who have to write the language, however, will find it most convenient to adopt the ordinary character, which may be written with greater ease and rapidity than the rest.

In bringing these very superficial notes to a conclusion, there are one or two points which we wish to have remembered:----1. The importance of the study of Syriac to those who would be well acquainted with the Shemitic dialects generally. 2. The value of Syriac to the right understanding of the Hebrew and Greek originals of the Bible. 3. The possible use of Syriac in facilitating the translation of many cuneiform inscriptions which are confessedly written in a language not very dissimilar.

There are other considerations, some of which have been |87 already urged, and these all together justify us in saying it is strange that the study of Syriac has been so much neglected by private scholars, and so little encouraged in our colleges and universities, where, above all, it ought to be promoted, for Syriac ought to be inseparably connected with the study of Hebrew.

NOTE.

At present no Syriac English lexicon has been published. Some years since, the Editor of this Journal offered to the publishers, a Syriac-English lexicon to the New Testament and Psalms; but it was declined because such works did not pay. It was intended to issue eventually an alphabetical lexicon to the whole of the Bible; but such has been the difficulty of discovering any chance of its being taken up by the booksellers, that the manuscript, although very far advanced, has been left incomplete. So it will probably continue----the only result of an immense amount of labour continued for years. The lexicon, so far as it has gone, is executed on the plan of the Hebrew manuals of Gesenius and Fürst, but on a reduced scale. This want of a lexicon is now the great stumbling-block in the way of the study of the Syriac Scriptures among us. The one appended to Walton's Polyglott is of course not only imperfect and hard to procure, but forms a member of a whole body of lexicons. The separate edition, with the improvements of Michaelis, is also defective as applied to the whole language; it is in Latin, is arranged after the old plan of roots and their derivatives, and will soon be a scarce book. Yet this is the best the student can procure for his purpose. Bernstein's lexicon to Kirsch's Chrestomathy is excellent, but it only comprises the words of the Chrestomathy. The old book of Ferrarius is really a vocabulary arranged alphabetically, but in two alphabets. The lexicon of Zanolini is alphabetical, but only contains the words of the New Testament. The lexicons of Schindler, Trostius, Buxtorf, etc., only occupy the same ground. This may suffice to shew our poverty in the matter of lexicons; and it may be added that no lexicon of the Syriac has yet appeared in any modern language. Besides the English grammars mentioned at p. 83, allusion may be made to a few pages on the subject, a second edition of which appeared at Edinburgh in 1821. A meagre outline has also been published by Messrs. Bagster.

[B.Harris Cowper]


[Footnotes placed at the end]

[a] The word Peshito is explained to mean, simple, plain, right, or straightforward as we say, probably because as literal as possible and direct from the originals; not from the Septuagint in the Old Testament, for example.

[b] This opinion is strongly supported by the fact, that the ancient manuscripts of the Peshito are all without the books which last found everywhere à place in the canon, i.e. 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, and Revelation, to which may be added John vii. 53, to viii. 11. The existence of the Peshito long before the fourth century is regarded as a well established fact.

[c] Some of the MSS. of parts of this version, now in the British Museum, date at least from the fifth century.

[d] He seems to have aimed at two objects, supplying what he regarded as deficiencies in the Peshito text, and correcting mistaken or objectionable expressions in its translation. He may have used a very ancient Greek MS. for this work.

[e] Much of the celebrity which Bardesanes attained to, is traceable to the zeal of Ephraem Syrus and others, whose controversial pages bristled with invectives against him. To his supposed heresy must be ascribed the (almost entire) destruction of what he wrote.

[f] An account of this appeared in The Journal of Sacred Literature for July, 1858.

[g] Early in the third century. But Zephyrinus is named in such a way as to shew that the apostolical succession through Peter's Roman successors was regarded as a matter of some consequence.

[h] Partly theological, and partly historical, e.g., on the sabbath, against the restoration of the Jews, on the persecution of Shapor, etc. We understand that Dr. Cureton is preparing these and other valuable remains for publication.

[i] With regard to the books not printed by Widmanstadt, etc., i.e., 2 and 3 John, Jude, 2 Peter, and Revelation, we often hear them called a part of the Philoxenian version, but this seems to be an error. They are translated on a very different principle, and resemble the Peshito in their style and character. Their true origin we are unacquainted with, but we cannot class them with the Peshito. The passage in John viii. may be more modern.

[k] There are nominally three editions of Schaaf, but they only differ in their title pages. This work is curious as the first work, or one of the first Works, stereotyped.

[l] Founded by Pope Gregory XIV.

[m] We have heard of two or three who are preparing Syriac lexicons. One of them is Mr. Payne Smith of Oxford. (See Note, p. 87 below.)  

[n] The MSS. as bound amount to about 600 volumes.

[o] The Nestorians still write most beautifully. Some travellers have alluded to this, and we have seen it exemplified in London this summer. A Nestorian priest Yohanan, and a companion Yusef, have been in England. Yohanan writes with extraordinary accuracy and elegance in the characters, employed by the Nestorians of Oroomiah.

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