Originally delivered as one of the St. Margaret’s Lectures for 1904, the contents of this booklet are focused on aspects of the Syriac-speaking Church. Extracted from Burkitt’s book Early Eastern Christianity, the second lecture proposes a theory of how the Syriac Bible was compiled. Burkitt considers the role of the Peshitta, the Diatessaron, and the four Gospels and how their history at Edessa suggests that the Syriac Bible appeared.
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Originally delivered as one of the St. Margaret’s Lectures for 1904, the contents of this booklet are focused on aspects of the Syriac-speaking Church. Extracted from Burkitt’s book Early Eastern Christianity, the second lecture addresses the role of the Bible in Syriac. Describing the Peshitta and presenting its remarkable textual history, Burkitt is careful to distinguish Syriac from the Aramaic spoken and written in Palestine during the first centuries of the common era. He seeks to find whether the Curetonian Syriac has priority over the Peshitta, noting the role the Diatessaron played in the debate. After an excursus on Rabbula, his version of the New Testament is compared with that of Ephraim, leading Burkitt to conclude that Rabbula translated the Peshitta New Testament in favor over the Diatessaron. The discussion turns to the dating of the Old Testament Peshitta, the Diatessaron, and the Separated Gospels. The Peshitta Old Testament was a vernacular translation of the Edessa Jewish community, Burkitt asserts, the Diatessaron originated in Rome where Tatian utilized the western texts of the Gospels. Some time later the four Separated Gospels arrived in Edessa and the Syriac Bible neared its completion.
Francis Crawford Burkitt (1864-1935) began his academic career as a student of mathematics. While at Cambridge University he moved to Divinity, becoming the Norrisian Professor. His interest in the text of the New Testament led him to study Syriac manuscripts and to publish widely in the field. He was a fellow of the British Academy.