Turkish police testified in a court hearing in Ankara last week that they believe the manuscript of a bible written in Syriac and dating at least 1500 ago, is in their possession, National Turk reported. In fact, it has been in police custody since being seized from gang of smugglers in southern Turkey, back in 2000.
After waiting eight years in Ankara, the ancient bible was transferred to the local Ethnography Museum under police escort.
The criminals have been charged with smuggling antiquities, illegal excavations and the possession of explosives.
Syriac is the dialect of Eastern Aramaic that was spoken in the early Christian period in the northern Syria, Iraq, and southern Turkey. It was a major literary language, written in the same alphabet of 22 consonants as Hebrew, but also with characters of its own.
Aramaic was the lingua franca of the Near East since before the destruction of the first temple in Jerusalem. It is the original language of large sections of the books of Daniel and Ezra, and its Jewish dialect is the main language of the Talmud.
The manuscript, dated 463-4 by its scribe, a bishop named John, includes excerpts from the Bible and the New Testament, written in gold lettering on leather and loosely strung together. Turkish authorities insist it is a cultural asset and should be displayed in a museum.
The manuscript’s value is estimated at $28 million.
The earliest Syriac books were biblical translations, and it has been debated whether one or more of the Four Gospels was originally written in Syriac. The Peshitta or “simple” version became the official translation used by Syriac Churches in the fifth century.
The excerpt from the Torah in the Syriac Bible is the passage concerns the sisters Leah and Rachel, Jacob’s wives, where Leah is having her first three children, to the envy of the childless Rachel.