The Old Syriac Versions of the Gospels. A Status Quaestionis (From 1842 to the Present Day)

  • Jean-Claude Haelewyck


After having presented the manuscripts of the Old Syriac version of the Gospels and the editions of the witnesses (Sinaiticus, Curetonian, and the newly discovered Sinaitic palimpsests), this article demonstrates in what respect all these witnesses are reflections of a single translation. It then goes on to deal with the thorny question of its date and its milieu of origin, going through the various arguments that have been made: the historical arguments, the analysis of quotations of the Old Syriac, the study of the relationship with the other versions (Old Testament Peshitta and the Diatessaron) and the analysis of its language and its “linguistic anomalies.” The last part of the article is devoted to the relationship between the Old Syriac and the Greek text of the Gospels. Although today most scholars agree that it is hazardous to try and provide a retroversion into Greek, it is however possible, under certain conditions, to identify the Greek text type which served as a model. Despite its proper readings and its contacts with the Alexandrian and Caesarean texts, the Old Syriac is in part a witness to the Western text type.