The UK Bible Students Website
Christian Biblical Studies
SYRIAC NEW TESTAMENT FOUND (1893)
Zion’s Watch Tower, May 15, 1893 (from a report in The Sun
(New York), now defunct)
‘Very little authentic information is obtainable thus far concerning the discovery by some ladies of a palimpsest manuscript of the gospels in the library of the Convent of St. Catherine at Mount Sinai, except that the find is looked upon by Biblical scholars all over the world as a most important one. Dr. Isaac H. Hall, curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is a well-known student of Syriac, and knew of the discovery long before the news was made public in the newspapers. He said yesterday that he expected to receive definite information from Syria in a few weeks.
‘As much as he knows now is that these ladies were visiting the convent last year, and while looking over some manuscripts saw one to be a palimpsest. This is the name given to a parchment roll from which the original writing has been erased in order that the parchment may be written on again and which has been written on again. No matter how well the original ink is removed, in the course of time the chemicals in the fluid assert themselves, and a faint marking of the original tracings can be seen.
‘In the case of the present find the ladies did not know whether the parchment was of any value or not, but being equipped with cameras, they photographed several pages and carried them back to London. There the copies were studied by Messrs. Burkitt, R. L. Bensley, and J. Rendel Harris, who found that this was a very old Syriac version of the New Testament. These gentlemen were shortly afterward sent to Mount Sinai by the Pitt Press at Cambridge to make a complete copy and recovery of the valuable Syriac text.
‘They have thus far learned that the new manuscript contains the gospels complete, but whether it contains more of the New Testament than the gospels has not yet been told. This palimpsest omits the last twelve verses of the Gospel of St. Mark, which Biblical scholars have for a long time considered spurious, and which the two oldest Greek manuscripts omit.
‘The library of the Convent of Mount Sinai has been a very fruitful field of discovery. In 1844 Tischendorf found there the famous Sinaitic manuscript of the whole New Testament and parts of an old Greek Biblical manuscript of the fourth century.’