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The discovery of a fragment of a 1,750-year-old Bible in the Vatican |  world

The discovery of a fragment of a 1,750-year-old Bible in the Vatican | world

Palimpsest: Text hidden under two other layers of parchment revealed by UV image – Image: Vatican Library

A researcher from the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW, for short in German) has discovered a unique fragment of a 1,750-year-old translation of the New Testament in the Vatican Library.

A small fragment of the manuscript – a Syriac translation from Greek, written in the third century and copied in the sixth century – was found hidden under other manuscripts with the help of ultraviolet photography.

The Syriac language is an Aramaic dialect that emerged during the first century AD from a local Aramaic dialect, and played an important role in religious literature and Christian texts.

About 1,300 years ago, a scribe in Palestine took a book of Bibles written in Syriac and erased it,” said the ÖAW statement. Scrolls were scarce in the Middle Ages, so parchments were often reused. These written documents are called palimpsests.

double palimpsest

“The Syriac Christian tradition knows several translations of the Old and New Testaments,” said specialist in the history of the Middle Ages, Gregory Kessel, responsible for the discovery, whose work on the discovery was published in the specialized journal. New Testament Studies.

Thanks to modern technology, Kessel identified the text as the third layer of writing, that is, a double palimpsest.

According to the historian, the manuscript offers “a unique approach to the first stage in the history of the transmission of the texts of the Gospels.” According to the ÖAW, the more translations are known, the more science can learn about the original text of the Gospels.

Kessel notes that “until recently, only two manuscripts were known to contain the Old Syriac translation of the Gospels”.

Discover ancient writings

The Sinai Palimpsests Project aims to make the valuable manuscripts of centuries-old palimpsests from the famous St. Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai, Egypt, available again in digital format. To date, 74 manuscripts have been deciphered.

Claudia Raab, director of the OAW’s Institute for Medieval Research and member of the Sinai Palimpsests Project, noted that the third-century Syriac translation was written at least a century earlier than the earliest surviving Greek manuscripts, such as the important Codex Sinaiticus.

“Kessel’s discovery proves how productive and important the latest digital technology can be in search when finding medieval manuscripts,” Raab said.