Scientists from the Austrian Academy of Sciences gave details of the historical discovery of a biblical text. It is an interpretation of chapter 12 of the Gospel of Matthew which had been reused 1300 years ago and from which technology can be identified.
The medievalist Grigory Kessel was the one who discovered the text written in Old Syriac and achieved it using ultraviolet photography equipment.
This chapter, which is one of the earliest translations of the Gospels, was found under three layers of text called palimpsests.
In a statement, the Academy indicated that a scribe from Palestine brought a book of the Gospels and erased it because parchment was scarce in the desert at the time, so reuse was common.
The translations would be from the 3rd century and the pages would have been copied in the 6th century.
Kesel indicated that only two manuscripts were known to contain an Old Syriac translation of the Gospels. One is in the British Library in London, while the other was discovered as a palimpsest in St. Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai.
There is also a fragment of a third manuscript that is part of the Sinai Palimpsest project, so its discovery would be the fourth testimony found in the Vatican library.
This type of discovery enables us to know the original text of the Gospels, since the translation from the Greek of that chapter began as “In those days Jesus passed through the seed on Saturday; and his disciples, being hungry, began to pluck ears of corn and eat,” while the Syriac translation describes that “[…] they began to pluck the ears of corn, rubbed their hands together and ate.”
The director of the Academy’s Institute for Medieval Research highlighted the discovery.
“This discovery shows how productive and how important the interaction of the latest digital technologies can be in basic research in finding medieval manuscripts,” he said.
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