Nazarene Space

Ancient Western Aramaic Version of the NT

An Ancient Western Aramaic Version
of the
“New Testament”
(This Article appears in the Current issue of G'MIRA with Hebrew Fonts)

James Scott Trimm

In 1852 James Murdcok wrote:

Besides the manuscripts of the Peshito and Philoxenian versions, Adler found in the Vatican at Rome, one manuscript of the four Gospels, in a translation different from either. It is more servile and inelegant than the Peshito; but is not so servile as the Philoxenian. Its idiom also differs from both; for it is not pure Syriac, but is a species of Chaldee, or Jewish Aramaean: and the characters in which it is written, approximate to the Hebrew. Adler supposed it was made by some Jewish Christian about the fourth century. And as it is written in Jewish Aramaean, and not Syriac, he called it the HIEROSOLYMITAN VERSION. It has never been published, and is not considered of any great value.

(The Syriac New Testament Translated into English from the Peshitto Version; By James Murdock Appendix II p. 503)

In the centuries since then Adler's fragment as well as many others, have been published. They are still "not considered of any great value" by much of academia and as a result little work has actually been done with this version. A very important field of study has been sitting wide upon for centuries because CPA was “not considered of any great value.”

Here we have an Aramaic version of both the Tanak and “New Testament” many copies of which are written in Hebrew letters, while others are written in characters similar to Syriac, and in a dialect closer to “Jewish Aramaean” than Syriac. A version which Adler believed “Adler supposed it was made by some Jewish Christian about the fourth century.” Obviously this is a very important Ancient Aramaic version.

What is the origin of this version? In 451 C.E. at the Council of Chalcedon Jacobite Syrians were excommunicated due to their Monophysite doctrine. The center of the Syrian Church was Antioch. While Antioch was a Syrian city, it was also a Greek colony. As a result Antioch had a healthy population of Greeks and Helenist Syrians making it a bilingual community. When the largest portion of the Syrian Church was excommunicated, many of these Helenist Syrians remained loyal to the Greek Catholic Church. These followed the Constantinopolitan Tradition of Eastern Catholicism and the Byzantine Rite and became known as Melekites. Those Melekites who lived in the Judean Desert, the vicinity of Jerusalem, Amman, and the Sinai Peninsula between the 3rd century and the 13th century C.E. used a unique Aramaic version of the Scriptures. This Aramaic Version is generally of the Western Text-Type and has been called by several names: Syro-Palastinian; Palestinian Syriac and Christian Palestinian Aramaic (CPA).

Although the version has been called “Syriac” this is totally inaccurate. This version is not Syriac at all, nor is it even an Eastern dialect of Aramaic. CPA is in a Western dialect much more like that of the targums. The term “Syriac” was attached wrongly to this

version because the script in which most copies are written resembles the Estrangelo script with which many Syriac documents are written. Most of this version is lost, only about 20% of it survives.

CPA uses Greek versions of names throughout, for example using swsy (“Iesus”) in place of (w#y (“Yeshua”). However in Acts 13:6 the name (w#yrb ”Bar Yeshua” appears, which may be a clue that an earlier version of CPA may have retained Semitic names.

This Aramaic version seems to have some relationship to the Old Syriac. The first surviving NT verse in CPA is Mattew 1:18.

In fact some relationship does exist. For example in Mattew 1:18 the Old Syriac and CPA are clearly related.

The Old Syriac reads:

Now the birth of the Messiah was thus:

While betrothed was Miriam his mother to Yosef before they came near

one to another (literally one to one) she was found pregnant by the Holy Spirit.

CPA has:

Now the birth of the Lord Iesus the Messiah was thus:

While betrothed was Miriam his mother to Yosef before they came near

one to another (literally one to one) she was found pregnant by the Holy Spirit.

In the Aramaic, with the exception of the alteration of “Messiah” to “the Lord Iesus the Messiah” and the alteration of the dialect these two verses are almost identical including the idiomatic Aramaic phrase literally “one to one” to mean “one to another”.

More research will need to be done to determine what, if any part, CPA can play in researching Aramaic textual origins.

We are now making detailed comparisons of CPA with the Old Syriac, Peshitta and other versions. This effort promises to be very fruitful in improving our understanding of Hebrew and Aramaic NT origins.

I truly want to thank each of you for the support that you give to us in order to present the truth of Torah and the goodnews of Messiah to this lost world. As I have said to you many times, I look on this work as a co-operative one with me, and all of you combining our resources together in order to get the job done of helping to teach this great truth to all in the world who will listen. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart for your continued support, you are the ones who make it all possible by your contributions and your prayers for our work. I truly appreciate your help in every way.

Is this work worthy of your support? What other ministry provides this kind of teaching?

You can donate by going to the chip-in counter at or donations can be sent by paypal to

Donations can also be made out to “Nazarene Judaism” and sent to:

Nazarene Judaism
PO Box 471
Hurst, TX 76053

Views: 68

Comment by carltonh on June 16, 2010 at 7:56am
I assume "onstantinopolitan" should be "Constantinopolitan"?
Comment by James Trimm on June 16, 2010 at 9:15am
Comment by Melvin Creston Williams on June 16, 2010 at 10:24am
As usually, good scholarship. Well done.


You need to be a member of Nazarene Space to add comments!

Join Nazarene Space












© 2019   Created by James Trimm.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service