Syriac Bible


Written in Syriac and signed and dated in 463–464, this an important early copy of the first five books of the Bible.

Why was Syriac so important?

Syriac was a major language in the early Christian period and was used by the church in Syria, Iraq and Iran from the 1st century until the Middle Ages. It was a dialect of Eastern Aramaic and was written in the same alphabet as Hebrew, but also with characters of its own. Aramaic was the language spoken by Jesus and comes from the principality of Edessa, which corresponds to present day northern parts of Syria and Iraq and southern Turkey.

Who made this book and why is it significant?

This is believed to be the oldest dated manuscript of any portion of the Christian Bible. It was transcribed by a deacon named John, at Amida, modern Diyarbakir in Eastern Turkey.

The very earliest Syriac books were biblical translations, and it has been debated whether one or more of the Four Gospels were in fact originally composed in Syriac. This manuscript here was translated from Hebrew, not Greek, probably in the late 1st or 2nd century. The Syriac translation of the Scriptures was called ‘Peshitta’ (simple), since it did not contain any interpretative expansions, and became the official translation used by the Syriac Church in the 5th century.

View images of the entire manuscripts via our Digitised Manuscripts website.

Full title:
THE BOOKS of Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, of the Peshito version; imperfect. The two former books were written in the year of the Greeks 775. (A.D. 464.) ... On vellum
463–464 CE
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library
Add MS 14425

Full catalogue details

Related articles

Christianity introduction

Article by:
The British Library

An overview of articles and British Library resources relating to Christianity.

Translations of the Bible in Eastern Christianity

Article by:
Erica C D Hunter
Christianity, Living Texts

Dr Erica Hunter explores the multiple translations of the Bible made in Eastern Christianity, including those in languages such as Syriac, Coptic, Armenian and Ge’ez.

Related collection items