An ancient Syriac bible has been found in northern Cyprus in the dialect that is thought to be the native language of Jesus. The tome is believed to be about 2,000 years old according to Turkish Cypriot police.
The Bible was found while police were performing a raid on antiquity smugglers.
The manuscript has excerpts of the Bible and a drawing of a tree. The lettering is gold on vellum.
At this time it’s not clear if the manuscript is an original or a very good fake. Because of the gold lettering it is also thought that the manuscript is not as old as the Turkish Cypriot police say it is.
The language of the manuscript is Syriac. That is a dialect of Aramaic that was once used throughout the Middle East and Central Asia. It still survives in the Syrian Orthodox Church in India.
“One very likely source (of the manuscript) could be the Tur-Abdin area of Turkey, where there is still a Syriac speaking community,” Charlotte Roueche, Professor of Late Antique and Byzantine Studies at King’s College London told Reuters.
“The Syriac writing seems to be in the East Syriac script with vowel points, and you do not find such manuscripts before about the 15th century.
“On the basis of the one photo…if I’m not mistaken some words at least seem to be in modern Syriac, a language that was not written down until the mid-19th century,” he told Reuters.
There were other religious antiquities found in the raid. A prayer statue and a stone carving of Jesus was located. The raid also found dynamite.
The smugglers have been charged with smuggling antiquities, illegal excavations and the possession of explosives.