Peshito, or Rather Peshitto

Peshito, Or Rather Peshitto (Syr., as generally supposed, simple," "faithful," sc. Version, or the "explained," i.e. translated, Bible), is the name given to the authorized Syriac Version of the Old and the greater part of the New Testament. This version holds among the Syrian Christians the same place as the Vulgate in the Roman and the "Authorized Version" in the English Church. Many are the traditions about its origin. Thus the translation of the Old Testament is supposed to date from the time of Solomon and Hiram; or to have been done by Asa the priest; or, again, that it belongs to the time of the apostle Thaddseus (Adaeus), and Abgar, the king of Osrhoene, in the 1st century after Christ. To the same period is also supposed to belong the translation of the New Testament, which is ascribed to Achaeus, a disciple of Thaddseus, the first Edessian bishop and martyr. Recent investigation has not as yet come to any nearer result than to place the latter vaguely in the 2d, and the former in the 3d century, and to make Judaic-Christians the authors of both. Ephraem Syrus (q.v.), who wrote in the 4th century, certainly speaks of the Peshito as Our Version, and thus early finds it necessary to explain some of its terms, which had become obsolete. Five books of the New Testament (the Apocalypse and four of the Epistles) are wanting in all the MSS., having probably not yet formed part of the canon when the translation was made. The version of the Old Testament was made direct from the Hebrew, and by men imbued with the Palestinian mode of explanation. It is extremely faithful, and astonishingly free from any of those paraphrastic tendencies which pervade more or less all the Targums or Aramaic versions. Its renderings are mostly very happy, and coincide in many places with those of the Septuagint — a circumstance which has given rise to the supposition that the latter itself had been drawn upon. Its use for the Old Testament is more of an exegetical, for the New Testament more of a critical, nature. Anything like an edition of the Peshito worthy of its name is still as much a desideratum as is a critical edition of the Septuagint or the Targums, and consequently investigators have as vet been unable to come to anything but very hazy conclusions respecting some very important questions connected with it. The editio princeps of the New Testament part dates Vienna, 1555; that of the Old Testament is contained in the Paris Polygglot of 1645. SEE SYRIAC VERSIONS.

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