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One of the most important of the ancient versions of Scripture is the Syriac; some of the Syriac Bible MSS appear to be the oldest in any language. One in the British Museum is dated in the year 464.

The Aramæan or Syriac (preserved to this day as their sacred tongue by several Eastern Churches) is an important branch of the great Semitic family of languages, and as early as Jacobs age existed distinct from the Hebrew (Gen. 31:47). As we now find it in books, it was spoken in the north of Syria and in Upper Mesopotamia about Edessa, and survives to this day in the vernacular of the plateau to the north of Mardin and Nisibis. It is a more copious, flexible, and elegant language than the old Hebrew (which ceased to be vernacular at the Babylonian captivity) had ever the means of becoming, and is so intimately akin to the Chaldee as spoken at Babylon, and throughout Syria, that the latter was popularly known by its name (2 Kings 18:26; Isa. 36:11; Dan. 2:4). As the Gospel took firm root at Antioch within a few years after the Lords Ascension (Acts 11:19–27; 13:1, &c.), we might deem it probable that its tidings soon spread from the Greek capital into the native interior, even though we utterly reject the venerable tradition of Thaddaeus mission to Abgarus, toparch of Edessa, as well as the fable of that monarchs intercourse with Christ while yet on earth (Eusebius, Eccl. Hist., i. 13; ii. 1). At all events we are sure that Christianity flourished in these regions at a very early period; it is even possible that the Syriac Scriptures were seen by Hegesippus in the second century (Euseb., Eccl. Hist., iv. 22); they were familiarly used and claimed as his national version by the eminent Ephrem of Edessa in the fourth. Thus the universal belief of later ages, and the very nature of the case, seem to render it unquestionable that the Syrian Church was possessed of a translation, both of the Old and New Testament, which it used habitually, and for public worship exclusively, from the second century of our era downwards.

The great heresies of Eutyches and Nestorius in the middle of the fifth century rent the Syrian Church, and drew great numbers into one or the other of these sects, but they seem not to have induced any difference of opinion among them regarding the Holy Scriptures.








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