Fri Feb 6, 2009 7:57am EST
NICOSIA (Reuters Life!) – Authorities in northern Cyprus believe they have found an ancient version of the Bible written in Syriac, a dialect of the native language of Jesus.
The manuscript was found in a police raid on suspected antiquity smugglers. Turkish Cypriot police testified in a court hearing they believe the manuscript could be about 2,000 years old.
When I saw images of this relic, they reminded me of something that happened a back in July of last year where I was approached by an individual, who claimed to come from Turkey, trying to sell me a forgery (click the link for pictures). Naturally, such an experience has made me skeptical when I heard about a “manuscript [carrying] excerpts of the Bible written in gold lettering on vellum and loosely strung together” and written in “eastern script.”
Given what I have seen of the manuscript thusfar, I’m going to have to tentatively concur with JF Coakley on his analysis. Unless other hard evidence surfaces to the contrary (carbon dating or thorough textual analysis), this is probably either a work no earlier than the 15th century, or a modern forgery.
UPDATE & NOTE (Feb 11th): It seems that I was a bit ambiguous above as to the identity of the manuscript in question. I do not believe the manuscript the police found to be -the- document I was offered, but more that it fits a consistent pattern of forgeries that are showing up in Turkey. All of the defining characteristics look like they match (which both manuscripts seem to share):
- “Golden letters”
- Written on leather rather than actual vellum
- Bound together haphazardly.
- “Synopses” of New Testament stories rather than full text.
- Written in Pseudosyriac or modern Syriac.
- Written in Eastern script.
- Very characteristic illustrations.