Insights into the Early Versions of the Bible

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This introduction section is an introductory overview of the Syriac, Latin, Coptic, Gothic, Armenian, Georgian, Ethiopic, Arabic, Sogdian, Old Church Slavonic, and Nubian Version. If you have more reading time, scroll down to the Digging Deeper Section. Or, you can read them both.

The early versions of the Bible are a fascinating subject that reflects the spread of Christianity and the religious, linguistic, and cultural interchanges among diverse civilizations. Let’s explore these early versions and how they were created.

The Syriac Versions: Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic, was commonly spoken in the Near East during the early centuries of Christianity. The Old Syriac, the earliest version, only contained the New Testament and was created around the 2nd century. Two manuscripts, the Curetonian Syriac and the Sinaitic Palimpsest, offer insight into this early translation. Later came the Peshitta version around the 5th century, considered the standard version of the Bible in Syriac, including both Old and New Testaments.

The Latin Versions: Before the Latin Vulgate, various Old Latin versions were created, differing significantly from each other due to various translators’ methods. It was in the late 4th century when Pope Damasus I commissioned St. Jerome to standardize these translations, leading to the creation of the Vulgate, which incorporated Hebrew, Greek, and previous Latin versions.


The Coptic Versions: Coptic, the last phase of the Egyptian language, had its Bible versions around the 3rd to 5th century. Different dialects resulted in multiple translations, with Sahidic and Bohairic dialects being the most significant. Coptic versions are valuable in textual criticism as they represent an independent tradition from the Greek texts.

The Gothic Version: Created by Ulfilas, an Arian bishop, in the 4th century, this is the earliest Bible in a Germanic language. It is significant because it provides linguistic insight into early Germanic languages.

The Armenian Version: Often called the “Queen of the versions,” the Armenian Bible is praised for its fidelity to the original texts. Translated in the 5th century, likely from Syriac and Greek versions, it became instrumental in establishing the Armenian alphabet and literary tradition.

The Georgian Version: Originating around the 5th century, this translation is closely connected to the Armenian version. Initially, translations were made from Armenian until the Georgian church acquired Greek texts.

The Ethiopic Version: Also known as the Ge’ez version, it is the biblical canon of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Developed between the 5th and 7th centuries, it included books considered apocryphal in other traditions, revealing unique theological perspectives.

The Arabic Versions: As Islam arose, Arabic versions of the Bible were necessary for Christian-Muslim dialogues. Early translations, often from Syriac, Greek, or Coptic, varied greatly. Later, the 10th-century “Polyglot” version represented a more standardized translation.

The Sogdian Version: Created in Central Asia, likely during the 8th to 9th centuries, it is attested by few fragments and mainly covers the New Testament and Psalms. It reveals the transmission of Christian thought along the Silk Road.


The Old Church Slavonic Version: In the 9th century, two Byzantine brothers, Cyril and Methodius, created this version to evangelize the Slavs. They crafted the Glagolitic alphabet to facilitate this, which later evolved into Cyrillic.

The Nubian Version: This is the Bible version used by the Christian community in medieval Nubia (modern-day Sudan). Translated from Greek in the 8th century, it represented one of the southernmost reaches of early Christianity.



Discover the rich history of the Bible’s early translations in this comprehensive article. Explore versions from Syriac to Nubian, uncovering the remarkable linguistic and cultural journey of Christianity’s sacred text.

The Syriac Versions

In the city of Antioch of Syria, which was the third largest city in the Roman Empire, the followers of Jesus were first referred to as Christians (Acts 11:26). Although most of the diverse population in Antioch were familiar with Greek, as the new faith began to spread to other parts of Syria in the second half of the second century, there arose a need to translate the Scriptures into the native language of the people. This language was Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic similar to Hebrew but with a different writing system known as Estrangela (later replaced by other forms).

From an early period, the epicenter of Syriac-speaking Christianity was Edessa, which is now known as Urfa and is located in southeastern Turkey. The church in Edessa, which was destroyed in 201 CE due to a flood, is believed to be the oldest known Christian building. Soon, the town became the most significant bishopric in Syria, and prosperous villages sprouted up near the border of the desert. The gospel gained a large number of devoted followers throughout the entire region.

Towards the end of the second century or the beginning of the third century, portions of the New Testament began to circulate in Syria in what is referred to as the Old Syriac version. Only two surviving manuscripts of this version, both containing text from the Gospels, are known today: the Curetonian and the Sinaitic Syriac manuscripts, which were written in the fourth and fifth centuries respectively.

At the same time, there was also a version of the four Gospels in a continuous narrative form, which was in circulation around the end of the second century. This compilation was created by Tatian, a native of Assyria who converted to Christianity in Rome between 150 and 165 CE, where he studied under Justin Martyr. Whether Tatian’s work was initially published in Greek in Rome around 170 CE or in Syriac in his homeland is still uncertain. Nevertheless, for several centuries thereafter, Christian congregations across the Middle East utilized his harmonized account, known as the Diatessaron (Greek for “through the Four”). Unfortunately, all the existing copies of the Diatessaron today, except for one incomplete leaf written in Greek, are secondary or tertiary sources.

The prevailing form of the Syriac Bible in the Eastern churches, since the ninth century, has been known as the Peshitta, meaning “simple” or “common.” It is unclear whether this term refers to the straightforward and non-archaic language of the translation or to its unifying nature, bringing together different existing translations.

The origins of the Peshitta Old Testament remain uncertain, but it appears to be, at least in part, the work of Jewish translators. In the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament), there are indications of a possible connection with the Targums, which were Aramaic paraphrases and explanations of the Hebrew Scriptures. Those who propose a Christian or Jewish Christian origin usually associate the translation with Edessa. However, considering a Jewish origin, one could also consider either Edessa or Adiabene, a Jewish kingdom located east of the Tigris River.

The question of whether the translators of the Old Testament were Jewish or Christian has been the subject of intense debate, both in ancient times and today. Recently, however, it has been suggested that this should not be viewed as an either/or question. It is quite possible that some books were translated into Syriac by Jews, while others were translated by Christians.

It is important to note that the Christian translators were not necessarily of non-Jewish origin, but rather individuals who had converted to Christianity from Judaism. It is widely acknowledged that it would be highly unlikely for Christians of non-Jewish background to possess sufficient knowledge of Hebrew. Furthermore, if the motivation to translate a book or books of the Old Testament had come from non-Jewish Christians, the translation would have been based on the Septuagint rather than the Hebrew text. This is because the Septuagint had quickly become the authoritative version of the Old Testament for Christians.

The diversity of translators who worked on the Peshitta version is evident in the strikingly different styles and qualities of the translation. The Pentateuch and the Song of Songs are rendered very literally, while Psalms and the Minor Prophets are more freely translated. The translations of Ezekiel and Proverbs closely resemble the Targums (Aramaic paraphrases of the Hebrew Scriptures). The translation of Job is often servile and at times difficult to understand, while Ruth is merely paraphrased. Additionally, the influence of the Greek Septuagint can be seen in the inclusion of Syriac translations of non-Hebraic books from the Apocrypha in Peshitta manuscripts. M. P. Weitzman argued that the Old Testament Peshitta “was compiled around 200 C.E. by a small Jewish community that was separated from the majority of Rabbinic Judaism, eventually embracing Christianity and bringing the Old Testament Peshitta with them.”

The surviving manuscripts of the Peshitta present considerable variation in the number of books included and their arrangement. Some manuscripts include a section after the Pentateuch that comprises the books of Joshua, Judges, Job, Samuel and Kings, Proverbs, Ecclesiasticus, Ecclesiastes, Ruth, and the Song of Songs. In other manuscripts, Ruth, Esther, Judith, and Susanna are grouped together as the “Book of Women.” The Psalms are commonly divided into twenty sections. Several manuscripts also contain various pseudepigraphic works.

Regarding the New Testament, the process of creating the Peshitta version from the Old Syriac likely began before the end of the fourth century and was likely completed by the time of Rabbula, who served as the bishop of Edessa from 411 to 435 CE. Since the Syrian church did not consider the four lesser General Epistles (2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, and Jude) and the Book of Revelation as canonical, the Peshitta New Testament includes only twenty-two books. The Peshitta remains the authoritative biblical text for Syriac-speaking churches, including the Syrian Orthodox, Church of the East (also known as Chaldean Christians), Syrian Catholics, Malabar (or St. Thomas) Christians, and the Syro-Malankarese Church.

After the completion of the Peshitta in the fourth or fifth century, two other Syriac versions of the New Testament were produced. At the beginning of the sixth century, Philoxenus, the Jacobite bishop of Mabbug (Hierapolis) in eastern Syria, commissioned Polycarp, a chorepiscopus (rural assistant to a bishop), to revise the Peshitta based on Greek manuscripts. For the first time in Syriac, the other five books were added to the twenty-two books already included in the Peshitta New Testament. This revision was completed in 508 CE. Since the Philoxenian version was supported by Jacobite church officials, it was used exclusively by the Monophysite branch of Syriac-speaking Christianity.

In 616 CE, the Philoxenian version of the New Testament underwent significant revisions by Thomas of Harkel. He incorporated readings from Greek manuscripts found in the Enaton library near Alexandria. The distinguishing feature of the Harclean version is its strict adherence to the Greek text, sometimes at the expense of clarity. In certain instances, the Harclean version uses Greek loanwords transliterated into Syriac instead of native Syriac terms.

Around the same time, Paul, the Jacobite bishop of Tella in Mesopotamia, translated the Greek text of the Septuagint found in the fifth column of Origen’s Hexapla into Syriac. This translation, created with great care and precision, is a valuable resource for studying the Old Testament text because it preserves Origen’s critical symbols, which have largely disappeared from most Greek manuscripts derived from the original Hexapla.

To complete this overview of Syriac versions, it is important to mention another Syriac translation known as the Christian Palestinian Aramaic version. This version is primarily written in the Aramaic dialect used in Palestine during the early Christian centuries. Although its language is Aramaic, it is considered Syriac due to its resemblance to the Syriac script called Estrangela. The Christian Palestinian Aramaic version gained popularity among Melchite Christians in Palestine and Egypt during the sixth, seventh, and subsequent centuries.

From the overview of these ancient Syriac translations, it becomes evident that Syrian church leaders in antiquity possessed great vitality and scholarship. The significance of these Syriac versions is further emphasized by the fact that they served as the foundation, at least in part, for translations into other languages. The early Armenian translation of the Gospels, completed in the fifth century, demonstrates the influence of the Old Syriac text. In the Old Testament, the Armenian translation generally aligns with the Hexaplaric recension of the Septuagint, as expected. The Georgian Bible believed to be finished by the end of the sixth century, was based on an Armenian-Syriac foundation. The Peshitta Syriac version also served as the basis for the Sogdian and some Arabic versions.

The Latin Versions

The Latin versions of the Bible, particularly Jerome’s Latin Vulgate, hold immense significance and have had a profound influence throughout history. Whether considering its secular impact on the development of Latin into Romance languages or its religious influence, the Vulgate’s reach into Western culture is immeasurable. The Roman Catholic Church owes much of its theology and devotional language to the Vulgate, and both Protestants and Catholics inherit terminology coined or given fresh meaning by Jerome, such as salvation, regeneration, justification, sanctification, propitiation, reconciliation, inspiration, Scripture, sacrament, and many others.

The study of Latin versions of the Bible presents complex and debated questions, including the timing, location, and authorship of the earliest Latin translations. Since Greek was the language used by the Church in Rome until the mid-third century, the Old Latin versions likely originated in early Christian communities that used Latin. By the end of the second century CE, Old Latin versions of the Scriptures were circulating in North Africa. Tertullian (ca. 150–ca. 220) and Cyprian (ca. 200–258) in Carthage quoted extensive sections from both the Old and New Testaments in Latin. However, due to significant differences in quotations of the same passages, it is clear that there was no standardized translation. It seems that certain books were translated multiple times, and various translators worked on different books. The Old Testament was not translated directly from Hebrew but was likely based on an earlier form of the Greek Septuagint. As a result, Western churches became acquainted with the deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament.

Noteworthy readings in the Old Latin often align with the Greek text of Codex Bezae and the Old Syriac. Generally, the African form of the Old Latin exhibits greater divergences from the commonly accepted text, while the European form shows fewer differences. The diversity among the Old Latin manuscripts likely stems from scribes who, rather than mechanically copying manuscripts, allowed themselves considerable freedom in incorporating their own and others’ traditions. In other words, the Old Latin was a living creation that continued to evolve.

The roots of the Old Latin versions can likely be traced back to the practice of reading Holy Scripture in both Greek and the vernacular language during worship services. In written form, the translation would sometimes be interlinear, and later manuscripts were prepared with two columns of text, often arranged in shorter or longer lines (known as cola and commata) to aid in the phrasing during public readings of the lessons.

The translations of the Bible in Latin before Jerome’s time were generally lacking in refinement and often overly literal. In the Old Latin manuscripts, the Gospels are arranged as Matthew, John, Luke, and Mark. These translations contain notable additions to the text. For instance, in Matthew 3:16, Old Latin manuscript a describes Jesus’ baptism with the addition of “a tremendous light flashed forth from the water, so that all who were present feared.” Different names are given to the two robbers crucified with Jesus in various Old Latin manuscripts, and Mark’s account of Jesus’ resurrection is expanded in manuscript k at 16:4 with the description of darkness over the whole earth and the descent of angels.

By the end of the fourth century CE, there was a bewildering array of Latin manuscripts of the New Testament, leading Augustine to express his concern, saying, “Those who translated the Scriptures from Hebrew into Greek can be counted, but the Latin translators are out of all number. For in the early days of the faith, everyone who happened to gain possession of a Greek manuscript [of the New Testament] and thought he had any facility in both languages, however slight that might have been, attempted to make a translation.”

Consequently, a multitude of diverse Latin translations emerged. Over time, three distinct types or families of texts developed. The African text was represented by Cyprian (d. 258), the European by Irenaeus (ca. 130–ca. 200) of southern Gaul, and the Italian by Augustine (d. 430). Each family had its characteristic renderings. For example, when translating the Greek word “phōs” (light), the African family preferred “lumen,” while the European family favored “lux.” Similarly, for the Greek word “dokimazō,” the African family opted for “clarificare,” while the European family chose “glorificare.”

These circumstances set the stage for a pivotal series of events in the history of the Latin Bible. In 383 CE, Pope Damasus urged Jerome (ca. 342–420), the most knowledgeable Christian scholar of his time, to produce a consistent and reliable Latin version of the Scriptures. Jerome’s task was not to create an entirely new translation but to revise an existing text of the Bible used in Rome. Initially, Jerome was hesitant and expressed his reservations to the pope:

“You urge me to revise the Old Latin version, and, in a way, to pass judgment on the copies of the Scriptures that are now scattered throughout the world. You want me to decide which of them agrees with the original. This labor is one of love, but it is also perilous and presumptuous, for in judging others, I must be prepared to be judged by all. Is there anyone, learned or unlearned, who, when he takes the volume in his hands and finds that what he reads does not suit his established preferences, will not immediately express vehement disapproval and call me a forger and a profane person for daring to add anything to the ancient books or make any changes or corrections to them?”

Nevertheless, Jerome decided to undertake the daunting task, despite the potential criticism he might face. He was driven by two factors that motivated him to take the risk. Firstly, he recounted in a letter to Damasus, the supreme pontiff, that he felt compelled to obey the command given to him by the pope himself. Secondly, the astonishing variety among the Old Latin manuscripts served as a strong impetus for him. He observed that there were “almost as many forms of text as there are manuscripts.”

Jerome was born in Strido, a town in Dalmatia near the Adriatic coast. His parents were moderately affluent Christians, and he received an excellent education in grammar and rhetoric at Rome under the renowned teacher Aelius Donatus, whom Jerome greatly admired. He diligently studied rhetoric and even attended court sessions to witness the most skilled advocates of his time. He became well-versed in Latin classics, immersing himself in the works of Plautus, Terence, Sallust, Lucretius, Horace, Virgil, Persius, and Lucan, often consulting commentaries by Donatus and other scholars. These studies honed his literary taste, and he became an adherent of the Ciceronian tradition in writing.

However, Jerome’s familiarity with Greek literature was less comprehensive. In fact, it seems that he did not learn Greek until his late twenties when he traveled to Antioch in 373-74 CE. He demonstrated some acquaintance with works by Hesiod, Sophocles, Herodotus, Demosthenes, Aristotle, Theophrastus, and Gregory of Nazianzus.

Jerome also acquired proficiency in the Hebrew language. He dedicated great effort to learning Hebrew in his later years. During his five-year period of ascetic seclusion in the Syrian desert of Chalcis from 374 to 379 CE, he received instruction from an anonymous converted Jew. He furthered his Hebrew studies in Bethlehem around 385 CE, learning from Rabbi bar-Anina, a Palestinian scholar who would secretly visit Jerome at night due to fear of persecution from Jewish authorities. Although Jerome’s knowledge of Hebrew was not flawless, it surpassed that of other church fathers such as Origen, Ephraem Syrus, and Epiphanius, who had limited familiarity with the language. It is remarkable that a man with such philological training would be entrusted with the task of establishing the literary form of the Bible for the entire Western Church.

Jerome was known for his remarkable speed in completing his translations. In just a year, he finished his version of the Gospels, although it remains uncertain whether he worked alone or had assistance. In a letter to the pope, Jerome described his approach. He made alterations to the Old Latin text only when absolutely necessary, preserving familiar phrases in other cases. This principle, although not consistently applied, explains inconsistencies in his translation practice. For instance, “high priest” is usually rendered as “princeps sacerdotum” in Matthew and Luke, “summus sacerdos” in Mark, and “pontifex” in John. Jerome’s involvement in the rest of the New Testament may not have been as extensive, as some scholars speculate that this work was carried out by another individual, potentially his follower Rufinus the Syrian.

When it came to the Old Testament, Jerome prioritized the Psalms. He produced two versions of the Old Latin Psalms by comparing them with the Greek Septuagint. These became known as the Roman Psalter (384 CE) and the Gallican Psalter (387-390 CE) because they were introduced in Rome and Gaul, respectively. Jerome later revised the Psalms once again, this time from the Hebrew text. However, his final revision based on the Hebrew did not gain widespread use or popularity.

Around the same time as the Gallican Psalter, Jerome also revised the Latin text of other Old Testament books, drawing from Origen’s Hexapla, which contained the Septuagint text. However, Jerome was dissatisfied with this work, considering it fell short of his scholarly standards. Thus, he embarked on a more comprehensive revision directly from the Hebrew original. This significant endeavor occupied him from around 390 to 404 CE, and individual books or groups of books were published as they were completed. It is unclear whether Jerome completed the entire Old Testament, but the resulting Vulgate translation is far from being a uniform and consistent work.

It is important to note that the Old Latin translation, derived from the Septuagint, included additional books that had been incorporated into Greek manuscripts over time. However, Jerome’s preference for the “Hebraica veritas” (Hebrew truth) led him to regard books that were part of the Hebrew canon as more authoritative than those that were not. Thus, he anticipated the distinction made by the Reformers between “canonical” and “apocryphal” books. Jerome’s treatment of the deuterocanonical books (books not found in the Hebrew canon) was not as extensive as his work on the other books. For instance, he translated Tobit in one day and Judith in one night, dictating them in Latin to a scribe. Other deuterocanonical books remained “untranslated” and were not revised from the Old Latin text.

Jerome’s concerns about facing criticism for his revisions to the Latin Bible were not unfounded. His work stirred controversy and provoked strong reactions, often marked by vehement criticism. Even Augustine, who had some reservations about Jerome’s preference for the Hebrew original of the Old Testament over the Greek Septuagint (which Augustine considered inspired), recounted a tumultuous incident in a North African church in Oea (modern Tripoli). During the reading of the Book of Jonah in Jerome’s unfamiliar translation, confusion arose when the congregation heard that Jonah took shelter from the sun under some ivy. In Jerome’s rendering, the word used was “hedera” (ivy), but the people insisted on the traditional term “cucurbita” (gourd). The disturbance continued until the reader restored the old word, fearing a mass departure of the congregation.

In response to his critics, Jerome vigorously defended his work, using strong language to describe them as “two-legged asses” or “yelping dogs.” He argued that they equated ignorance with holiness. Over time, however, opposition to his revisions subsided as the accuracy and scholarly quality of Jerome’s version became recognized. It was a classic example of the survival of the fittest.

For nearly a thousand years, the Vulgate, Jerome’s revised Latin Bible, served as the authoritative text of Scripture across Western Europe. It also formed the basis for pre-Reformation vernacular translations, such as Wycliffe’s English translation in the fourteenth century. Additionally, it influenced the first printed Bibles in various languages, including German (1466), Italian (1471), Catalán (1478), Czech (1488), and French (1530).

Sahidic Coptic Translation of John 1:1

The Coptic Versions

The Coptic versions of the Bible are significant as they represent the latest phase of the ancient Egyptian language. Prior to Christian times, Egyptian was written in hieroglyphs, hieratic, and demotic script. However, due to the difficulty of these scripts, Egyptian Christians adopted a different approach. They began writing their native language using Greek letters, with the addition of seven signs borrowed from a more cursive form of Egyptian demotic. This modified form of Egyptian, known as Coptic, eventually incorporated numerous Greek words related to Christian doctrine, life, and worship.

Coptic literature is predominantly religious in nature, consisting primarily of translations from Greek. It includes versions of the Bible, both canonical and apocryphal texts from the Old and New Testaments, as well as legends of the apostles, accounts of the lives and martyrdoms of saints, and more.

The geographical conditions of the Nile valley, stretching for a thousand miles, led to the development of distinct but similar dialects in different regions. These dialects varied mainly in terms of phonetics, but also to some extent in vocabulary and syntax. The significant Coptic dialects in which portions of the Scriptures are preserved are: Sahidic (spoken in Thebes, the chief city of Upper Egypt), Bohairic (the dialect of Alexandria and the Western Delta of the Nile, as well as Lower Egypt), Achmimic (used in the region around Panopolis), sub-Achmimic (an intermediate dialect between Achmimic and Middle Egyptian), Middle Egyptian (also known as the Oxyrhynchite dialect), and Fayyumic (in the district of the Fayyum in Middle Egypt).

Translations into various Coptic dialects were first produced in the 3rd or 4th century C.E. and underwent subsequent revisions. Several fragmented Gospel manuscripts dating from the 4th century have been preserved. Among the Coptic versions, Sahidic is the oldest and holds particular significance. Extant portions of manuscripts allow for the reconstruction of a substantial part of the Old Testament, including a fairly complete Pentateuch. Multiple manuscripts contain versions of the Psalms, with one complete sixth-century CE manuscript being of particular importance as it includes Psalm 151.

Considering that there is no evidence of significant Judaistic proselytization in Coptic-speaking regions that would have necessitated a translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Coptic, scholars generally agree that the rendering of the Old Testament was based on copies of the Greek Septuagint.

In the early twentieth century, archaeologists discovered a significant collection of manuscripts near the southern border of the Fayyum province. These manuscripts, written mostly in Sahidic, date from the ninth to the tenth century. The collection, which includes biblical, patristic, and hagiographical works, is now housed in the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York and has been published in a facsimile edition. Other renowned collections containing Sahidic manuscripts include the Chester Beatty collection in Dublin and the Martin Bodmer collection in Cologny-Geneva.

Bohairic is the most recent among the various Coptic versions and, like the others, shows the influence of Sahidic. However, Bohairic is the only version that is completely preserved and attested throughout by multiple manuscripts, making it essential for the study of Coptic texts. This version eventually became the accepted Bible in Egypt, and the dialect persisted as the ecclesiastical and liturgical language of the Coptic Church, even after Arabic became the language of everyday life.

A well-preserved early copy of the Gospel according to Matthew in the Middle Egyptian dialect was obtained by the William H. Scheide Library of Princeton in the 1950s. Paleographers have dated this manuscript to the fourth or fifth century, making it one of the four oldest complete copies of the entire text of Matthew in any language. The other three earliest copies, Codex Vaticanus, Codex Sinaiticus, and Codex Washingtonianus, all belong to the fourth or fifth centuries. The Scheide Matthew manuscript is also significant as one of the oldest parchment manuscripts to retain its original binding, consisting of wooden boards with beveled edges and holes along the binding edge. While portions of leather thongs remain in most of the holes, the back strip, presumably made of leather, is missing. Thus, the Scheide manuscript holds exceptional importance in multiple aspects.

An almost complete manuscript of the Gospel according to John, written in the sub-Achmimic dialect, is one of the earliest manuscripts in this dialect. It is currently housed in the library of the British and Foreign Bible Society at Cambridge University. Originally consisting of one hundred numbered pages, the codex now has only forty-three leaves or fragments. The text begins at 2:2 on the seventh numbered page and ends at 20:20 on the ninety-sixth page. Six numbered pages, equivalent to three leaves of text, are missing at the beginning and end of the codex. The handwriting of this manuscript bears a resemblance to that of Codex Vaticanus, a mid-fourth-century copy of the Greek Bible, although differences should be accounted for due to one being on papyrus and the other on parchment.

In addition to the influence of the Greek Septuagint, the Coptic versions of the Old Testament often display connections with the Old Latin versions. For instance, the Achmimic version occasionally aligns with the Old Latin against other versions, while the Bohairic version rarely coincides with the peculiarities of the Old Latin. This correlation is not surprising as the Old Latin version held significant importance for the African Church.

The Gothic Version

The Goths, an Eastern Germanic people, emerged in the third century C.E. and were initially settled north of the Black Sea. They later divided into two groups named after their respective regions. The Visigoths, or West Goths, migrated westward in the fourth century to escape the Huns, while the Ostrogoths settled in Pannonia (modern Hungary) as allies of the Eastern Roman Empire. Prompted by Constantinople, the Ostrogoths entered Italy in 458 and established the Ostrogothic kingdom after defeating the Italian king Odoacer in 493. However, their kingdom was overthrown in the sixth century, leading to the gradual loss of the Ostrogothic identity.

During the fourth century, the Visigoths, who had preceded the Ostrogoths in Eastern Europe, peacefully entered Moesia and Dacia (modern Bulgaria and Romania). It was here that they encountered Christianity, partly due to the missionary work of Ulfilas, who translated the Bible into the Gothic language. Later, in the same century, the Visigoths embarked on a migration across southern Europe and eventually conquered Italy, sacking Rome under the leadership of Alaric in 410. After Alaric’s death, the Visigoths, led by Ataulf, left Italy in 412 and settled in South Gaul and Spain. They established their capital in Spain and gradually assimilated into the evolving Spanish culture and language.

Ulfilas, born around 311, was the son of a Cappadocian captive and a Gothic father who gave him a Gothic name derived from “wulfs,” meaning “little wolf.” As a young man, Ulfilas spent much of his life in Constantinople, where he converted to Christianity. In approximately 341, he was consecrated as a bishop by the Arian bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia. Shortly after, he returned to the Visigoths and dedicated his life to being an enthusiastic missionary bishop and temporal leader.

Wulfila (Ulfilas) explaining the Gospels to the Goths

Ulfilas’s most significant achievements were twofold: the development of an alphabet that combined Greek and Latin characters with elements of Gothic runes, and the translation of the Scriptures into his native tongue, known as (Visi)Gothic. His translation included the entire Bible, excluding the books of Samuel and Kings, which he omitted to avoid inflaming the military nature of the Gothic people with accounts of war and conquest.

Remarkably, despite the Goths ruling over nearly one-third of Europe during that time, very little remains of the Gothic language, which is now extinct. Only fragments from Genesis 5:3–30, Psalm 52:2–3, and portions of Nehemiah 5–7 have survived from the Old Testament. In the New Testament, less than half of the Gospel texts and some portions of the Pauline Epistles (with only 2 Corinthians complete) have been preserved. No portions of Acts, the Epistle to the Hebrews, the General Epistles, or the Apocalypse have survived. Apart from the renowned Codex Argenteus, which will be discussed shortly, all other Gothic texts are palimpsests. This means that after the Gothic language became extinct, individuals reused the parchment by erasing or scraping off the original writing, often leaving remnants of earlier, imperfectly erased text still visible.

The Codex Argenteus, also known as the Silver Codex, is a luxurious copy of the four Gospels from the early sixth century. It is written with silver ink on purple parchment, with golden letters adorning the first three lines of each Gospel. Originally consisting of 336 leaves measuring 7 5/8 by 9 7/8 inches, 188 leaves have survived, with one leaf being discovered as recently as 1970. The Gospels in the codex are arranged in the Western order, with Matthew, John, Luke, and Mark, similar to a few fifth-century Greek manuscripts, some of the older Peshitta manuscripts, and many Old Latin manuscripts. This order likely emerged from a desire to give the two apostles, Matthew and John, a prominent position, with Luke’s longer Gospel preceding Mark’s.

The history of the Silver Codex during its first thousand years is shrouded in mystery. In the mid-sixteenth century, it came to the attention of the scholarly world when two Belgian scholars discovered it in the library of the Werden monastery in Westphalia. It was later taken by Emperor Rudolph II to the Hradčany castle in Prague, where he kept his collection of art and manuscripts. In 1648, during the Thirty Years War, the codex was taken as war spoils to Stockholm and presented to the young Queen Christina of Sweden. After her conversion to Roman Catholicism in 1654 and subsequent abdication, the manuscript was given to her learned librarian, Isaac Vossius, a Dutchman who took it back to his homeland. In 1662, the manuscript was purchased by Count Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie, a Swedish nobleman and art patron.

In a stroke of luck, the precious codex nearly met its demise when the ship transporting it to Sweden ran aground during a severe storm. However, due to careful packaging, the manuscript was protected from saltwater damage, and it was successfully transported on another ship. Recognizing the historical significance of the codex, De la Gardie donated it to the library of Uppsala University in 1669.

In 1927, during Uppsala University’s 450th anniversary celebration, a monumental facsimile edition of the manuscript was produced. Using advanced reproduction techniques, a team of photographers created legible plates of the entire manuscript that surpassed the fading quality of the original parchment leaves.

The remarkable story of the Codex Argenteus continued with another significant chapter. In 1970, during the renovation of St. Afra’s chapel in Speyer Cathedral, Dr. Franz Haffner, the diocesan archivist, discovered a manuscript page belonging to the Codex Argenteus in a wooden chest of relics. Upon examination, it was identified as the concluding section of the Gospel according to Mark (16:12–20).

The Armenian Version

Armenia holds the distinction of being the first kingdom to officially embrace Christianity as its state religion. Gregory the Illuminator, an Armenian from a royal lineage, played a significant role in the conversion of Armenia. After receiving Christian training in Caesarea, Gregory returned to his homeland in the late third century to engage in missionary work. Among his converts was Tiridates I, the king of Armenia, who issued a decree commanding all subjects to adopt Christianity. Thus, Christianity became the established religion of Armenia, and mass baptisms led to its widespread acceptance among the populace.

Gregory’s efforts in evangelism were supported by collaborators from different backgrounds, including Armenians influenced by Hellenistic culture and those under Syrian influence. During this period, before the invention of the Armenian alphabet, books and documents were only available in Greek and Syriac, requiring oral interpretation for translation. Consequently, Armenian Christianity and literature were influenced by both Greek and Syriac traditions.

The initial attempt to develop an Armenian alphabet was made by Bishop Daniel, likely using the Aramaic alphabet as a model. However, according to historian Koriun, the alphabet proved inadequate for accurately representing the sounds of the Armenian language. The foundation of Armenian literature, including the translation of the Bible, dates back to the early fifth century. The driving forces behind this cultural development were Sahak, the catholicos (primate) of the Armenian Church, who was a descendant of Gregory the Illuminator, and Sahak’s companion and collaborator, Mesrop. Mesrop, who had transitioned from a military career to the life of a monk, missionary, and teacher, played a vital role in shaping Armenian culture.

Illustrated Armenian Bible from 1256

With the assistance of Rufanos of Samosata, a Greek hermit and calligrapher, Mesrop successfully created an Armenian alphabet consisting of thirty-six letters. Twenty letters were directly derived from the Greek alphabet, twelve were modeled after Greek letters, and four were borrowed from Syriac. Following the development of the alphabet, Mesrop assembled a group of enthusiastic scholars. Some of them were sent to Edessa, Constantinople, and even Rome to search for manuscripts of the Scriptures and writings of both ecclesiastical and secular authors. This marked the beginning of a translation program that greatly enriched and solidified Armenian culture. The Book of Proverbs was the first biblical text translated by Mesrop, followed by the New Testament. With the assistance of Sahak and potentially other translators, the remaining books of the Old Testament were completed around 410-414 C.E.

The Armenian version of the Bible is notable for having a greater number of extant manuscripts than any other ancient version, except for the Latin Vulgate. The earliest dated manuscript of the Armenian version is from the ninth century, specifically 887 CE, and contains a copy of the four Gospels.

One distinctive aspect of the Armenian version is the inclusion of certain books that came to be considered apocryphal elsewhere. In the Old Testament, these include the History of Joseph and Asenath and the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. The New Testament of the Armenian version includes the Epistle of the Corinthians to Paul and a Third Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians.

Armenian manuscripts also preserve many other non-canonical writings from the Old Testament. Examples of these include The Book of Adam, The History of Moses, The Deaths of the Prophets, Concerning King Solomon, A Short History of the Prophet Elias, Concerning the Prophet Jeremiah, The Vision of Enoch the Just, and The Third Book of Esdras (which corresponds to chapters 3–14 of Second Esdras in the Apocrypha of the King James Version, including the lost section of verses 36 to 105 in chapter 7).

How to Interpret the Bible-1

Considering the influence of Greek and Syrian Christianity on the early Armenian Church, it is not surprising that there are differing opinions regarding the primary source of the Armenian version. Most scholars recognize evidence indicating a close relationship between the Armenian and Greek texts. However, Syrian influence is evident in the inclusion of the apocryphal Third Epistle to the Corinthians in the early Armenian New Testament, similar to the early Syriac canon.

Armenian manuscripts are also known for containing lengthy colophons or notes that provide information on various topics. These notes often offer firsthand or contemporary accounts of historical events that occurred during the production of the manuscript. For instance, in an Armenian copy of the Gospels from  989 CE, a colophon attributes the last twelve verses of the Gospel according to Mark to “the presbyter Ariston.” Some scholars speculate that this indicates that the long ending of Mark (16:9–20) was the work of Aristion, one of the disciples of the Lord mentioned by Papias in the early second century. It is worth noting that over one hundred Armenian manuscripts of Mark lack these last twelve verses, ending at 16:8.

The Georgian Version

The Georgian Version of the Bible is associated with the country of Georgia, located between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. The Georgian language belongs to the Caucasian group of languages and is agglutinative, meaning words are formed by combining smaller segments of meaning. Unlike the surrounding Semitic, Indo-European, or Ural-Altaic language families, there is no discernible relationship between Georgian and these language families.

In antiquity, Georgia was known as Iberia, which is the origin of the name of the renowned Iveron Monastery on Mount Athos. The earliest tradition regarding the introduction of Christianity to the Iberians recounts the missionary work of a Christian slave woman named Nino. During the reign of Emperor Constantine, Nino was captured by Bakur, the pagan king of Georgia. Despite legendary accounts of miracles associated with Nino, historians generally accept that Christianity was introduced among the Georgians around the middle of the fourth century.

The exact timing of when the Scriptures were translated into the native Georgian language following the evangelization is uncertain. However, before a written translation could be made, the Georgians needed their own alphabet. According to Armenian traditions, Saint Mesrop, who had already created an alphabet for his fellow Armenians, recognized the absence of an alphabet among the neighboring Georgian people. He devised an alphabet that represented the sounds of the Georgian language, and King Bakur of Georgia ensured that it was taught to boys from lower social classes in various districts and provinces.

Apart from these traditions, it is widely accepted that by the middle of the fifth century, at least the Gospels and some other parts of the New Testament were available in written form for Georgian Christians. Over the following centuries, this version underwent revisions, possibly multiple times, and evidence of these revisions can be seen through philology and textual criticism.

There is ongoing debate regarding whether the translation was made from Greek, Armenian, or Syriac. The oldest manuscripts with dated colophons are from the ninth and tenth centuries, although earlier fragments exist. The style of the script used in Georgian manuscripts also provides clues for dating. The Georgians utilized three alphabets: the ecclesiastical majuscule, which was widely used until the tenth century and occasionally thereafter in manuscripts; the ecclesiastical minuscule, regularly employed in theological manuscripts from the eleventh to the nineteenth century; and the “warrior” or “knightly” hand, which serves as the precursor to the modern Georgian script.

Georgian academic Ivané Javakhishvili

At the close of the tenth century, Georgia experienced a significant turning point in its spiritual, literary, and cultural life. This transformative period saw the emergence of notable figures, including St. Euthymius, a scholarly abbot from the Georgian monastery on Mount Athos. St. Euthymius played a crucial role in this development by not only translating various Greek liturgical and homiletical works but also focusing on revising and completing the Georgian New Testament.

Of particular importance was his translation of the Book of Revelation, which, for many centuries, had not been considered canonical by the Georgian Church. St. Euthymius’s efforts in this regard were likely completed before 978 CE, which corresponds to the date of the earliest known Georgian manuscript of the Apocalypse. His contributions played a significant role in shaping the Georgian New Testament and solidifying its place within the religious and cultural landscape of Georgia.

Ethiopian Bible manuscript from circa 15th century. (Faitlovitch Collection at TAU)

The Ethiopic Version

The Ethiopic Version of the Bible has its roots in the early establishment of Christianity in Ethiopia, although the exact timing and circumstances are uncertain. Acts 8:26–39 recounts the conversion of an Ethiopian chamberlain by Philip, which is often associated with the introduction of Christianity into Ethiopia. However, there are conflicting traditions regarding which apostles were responsible for evangelizing the region. The earliest literary evidence of Christianity in Ethiopia dates back to the end of the fourth century CE. According to Rufinus’s Ecclesiastical History, it was around 330 CE that Frumentius and Ædesius preached the gospel in Aksum, the capital of Ethiopia. After the royal family embraced Christianity, Frumentius traveled to Alexandria and obtained support from Bishop Athanasius. He was then consecrated as bishop and became the leader of the Ethiopian Church.

The account provided by Rufinus is supported by inscriptional and numismatic evidence, which confirms that Christianity arrived in Ethiopia during the fourth century. However, the rate at which the faith spread among the general population remains unknown. There is no indication that the conversion of the king led to a royal decree enforcing the faith on the people. Little specific information about the Ethiopian Church in the following century and a half has been preserved. In the early sixth century, Cosmas Indicopleustes, a Christian traveler, visited Ethiopia and reported that he found the country fully Christianized. This growth was likely facilitated by the support of Christian rulers and the immigration of believers from other regions, particularly Monophysites who sought refuge in Ethiopia after being condemned at the Council of Chalcedon in 451. The isolation of Ethiopia from religious controversies in other parts of the world contributed to its preservation of the Christian faith.

Significant contributions to the spread of Christianity in the northern regions of the Aksumite kingdom were made by monks, nuns, priests, and hermits who immigrated from Egypt and Syria. Nine renowned monks, in particular, earned a reputation for their missionary efforts and piety in Ethiopia, ultimately being revered as saints. These individuals played a crucial role in establishing monasteries, developing the liturgy, and translating sacred texts into the native Ethiopian language.

Determining the exact time of the translation of the Bible, especially the New Testament, into Ethiopic (or Ge’ez, as it is known locally), has yielded a wide range of opinions. Some propose it occurred during the apostolic age, while others suggest it took place as late as the fourteenth century. Taking various factors into account, it is likely that the Ethiopic version was produced in the fifth and/or sixth century, coinciding with the missionary activities of the Nine Saints.

Among the numerous Ethiopic manuscripts found in European and American collections, approximately three hundred contain the text of one or more books of the New Testament. Unfortunately, many of these manuscripts are relatively recent, dating from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. The earliest biblical manuscripts available date back to the fourteenth century. Notably, one exceptional Ethiopic manuscript is the Pierpont Morgan MS. 828, containing the four Gospels and created between 1400 and 1401 CE. It boasts twenty-six full-page miniatures, eight ornate canon tables, and four decorated incipit folios, making it an exceptional work in terms of iconography.

The Arabic Versions

During ancient times, the term “Arabia” referred to the region located west of Mesopotamia, east and south of Syria and Judea, extending to the Isthmus of Suez. This area, which was about one-fourth the size of Europe and one-third the size of the United States, was divided by the geographer Ptolemy into three regions: Arabia Felix (also known as the Happy or Fertile Arabia), Arabia Petraea (the Stony Arabia), and Arabia Deserta (the Desert Arabia). The exact details of when, how, and by whom the gospel was brought to these diverse areas remain unknown, as the available data is scattered and inconclusive.

During the first half of the third century, Origen was invited to Arabia on at least two occasions to participate in doctrinal discussions. These discussions were organized due to certain heretical tendencies exhibited by contemporary leaders such as Beryllus and Heraclides. At a later time, efforts were made to introduce Christianity among the nomadic tribes. Additionally, it seems that Christian missions from Ethiopia also reached the southern part of the Arabian peninsula around the same time.

The identity of the individual who made the first translation of the Scriptures into Arabic is uncertain. Different traditions attribute this honor to different people. The earliest translations likely date back to the eighth century. According to an analysis conducted by Ignazio Guidi, who examined over seventy-five Arabic manuscripts, the Arabic versions of the Gospels can be categorized into six main groups: (1) those translated directly from the Greek; (2) those translated directly from the Syriac Peshitta or corrected using it; (3) those translated directly from the Coptic language, particularly the Bohairic dialect, or corrected using it; (4) those translated from Latin; (5) manuscripts that represent two distinct eclectic recensions produced by the Alexandrian Patriarchate in the thirteenth century; and (6) miscellaneous manuscripts, some of which are characterized by their rhymed prose form, similar to that found in the Quran. Furthermore, certain Arabic versions have been corrected based on others derived from different original texts.

From the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century, additional Arabic translations of the Bible were created for various religious groups, as well as in different forms of the Arabic language. The translations made for groups such as the Melchites, Maronites, Nestorians, Jacobites, and Copts fall into the former category. The latter category includes translations in classical Arabic, as well as in the forms of Arabic used in Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Morocco, Palestine, Sudan, Tunisia, and the vernacular of Malta.

The Sogdian Version

Sogdian, which belonged to the Middle Iranian language family, was an eastern member of the Indo-European languages. During the latter half of the first millennium in the Common Era (C.E.), it served as the common language of a vast region centered around Samarkand and other parts of Central Asia. In the early 20th century, numerous Sogdian documents were discovered in Turfan, located in northwest China. Alongside Manichaean and Buddhist texts, several Christian documents were also found. Among these discoveries were fragmented copies of passages from the Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John, as well as a few verses from 1 Corinthians and Galatians.

These various Sogdian documents are estimated to date back to the ninth to eleventh centuries. The Christian texts are written using a script consisting only of consonants, similar to the Estrangela Syriac script. It is believed that the translation was undertaken during the active Nestorian mission in Central Asia during the seventh century.

The Old Church Slavonic Version

In the ninth century, a mission to Moravia, which is now part of the Czech Republic, had a significant impact on the cultural development of various Slavic nations. Although the mission did not succeed in the country it was originally intended for, it eventually had unexpected effects among the Bulgarians, Serbians, Croats, and Eastern Slavs, becoming the foundation of the oldest Christian Slavic culture.

The most comprehensive information about the Moravian mission can be found in two Slavonic sources called Vita Constantini and Vita Methodii. From these sources, we learn about the “Apostles to the Slavs,” as they came to be known. These apostles were two brothers, Methodius and Constantine, who were native Greeks from Thessalonica. Methodius was born around 815, while his younger brother Constantine was born in 826 or 827. Since a large number of Slavs had settled in the vicinity of Thessalonica, an important city in the empire and second only to Constantinople, the brothers were familiar with the Slavic dialect spoken in the region from an early age. Constantine, after completing his education in Constantinople, became a librarian at Santa Sophia and took holy orders.

Around the middle of the ninth century, a Moravian prince named Rostislav sent a request to Emperor Michael III of Constantinople, also known as “The Drunkard,” asking for missionaries to educate his people. Despite the emperor’s reputation for dissipation rather than piety, he granted Rostislav’s request, possibly after consulting with Patriarch Photius. Constantine, accompanied by his brother Methodius, was chosen for the task and arrived in Moravia around 863. They were warmly received and began teaching their assigned students. During this time, Constantine translated several liturgical books into Slavonic and also trained Moravians for the clergy.

However, a controversy arose over the introduction of the Byzantine rite, performed in the Slavic language, into a region where the bishops of Passau and Salzburg claimed spiritual authority. The argument against it was based on the notion that only Greek, Latin, and Hebrew were legitimate liturgical languages. Despite the efforts of German priests against Constantine and Methodius, two popes—Hadrian II and John VIII—eventually granted permission for the use of the Slavonic vernacular in divine services. However, the pontiffs imposed one condition: the Scripture readings were to be presented first in Latin and then in the Slavonic translation.

After engaging in missionary work in Moravia for several years, the two brothers embarked on a journey to Rome. According to both Vita Constantini and Vita Methodii, Constantine fell ill while in Rome and, sensing his impending death, took monastic vows and adopted the name Cyril. Fifty days later, on February 14, 869, he passed away and was buried in the basilica dedicated to St. Clement.

Subsequently, Methodius returned to Pannonia, which is now part of western Hungary, serving as the archbishop of Sirmium. This province, which had been abandoned during the Avar invasion in the sixth century, included Moravia as well. Methodius’s new position brought him into direct conflict with the Bavarian hierarchy, leading to his imprisonment for two and a half years. However, upon becoming pope in 872, John VIII learned of the situation and secured Methodius’s release, reinstating the Slavonic liturgy in Moravia.

After Methodius’s death in 885, the German clergy made renewed efforts to prohibit the use of the Slavonic liturgy in Moravia. The disciples of Methodius were harshly expelled from the country, and some were even sold into slavery. Consequently, Slavonic Christianity, extinguished in its original home, was carried by these refugees to other Slavic lands.

Now, attention must be given to the development of the Slavic alphabets and the earliest translation of the Scriptures into Slavonic. According to the Vita Constantini, before departing for Moravia, Cyril devised an alphabet for writing in Slavonic and began the task of translating the gospel message, starting with the passage, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).

However, modern philologists face difficulties due to the existence of two distinct alphabets in the extant Old Church Slavonic manuscripts: the Glagolitic and the Cyrillic. There have been divergent opinions regarding which alphabet Cyril invented, the relationship between the two alphabets, and their origins. Presently, though, there is widespread agreement that the Glagolitic alphabet is the one invented by Cyril for the Moravian Slavs. The oldest surviving manuscripts in this script date back to the late tenth or early eleventh century.

The Cyrillic alphabet, on the other hand, is believed by most scholars to have emerged later than the Glagolitic and is based on the Greek uncial script of the ninth and tenth centuries. This alphabet, which is less distinctive than the Glagolitic, may have been devised by St. Kliment, a student of Cyril and Methodius who played an active role as a missionary in Bulgaria. After undergoing some local variations, the Cyrillic alphabet was officially codified in 893 during a significant Bulgarian council held in Preslav. The council not only decreed the widespread use of the Slavic language in the church but also established the Cyrillic alphabet as the official script for both religious and secular purposes.

The Nubian Version

During the early centuries of the Common Era (C.E.), Nubia, situated between Egypt in the north and Ethiopia in the south, consisted of three independent kingdoms. The exact time when Christianity first reached the Nubian people remains unknown. It is likely that Christian influences began to infiltrate Nubia when the church became firmly established in Upper Egypt during the third and fourth centuries. In the fourth century, the expansive regions south of Philae would have provided refuge for Christians fleeing Egypt due to the persecutions ordered by Emperor Diocletian.

The first officially designated missionaries arrived in Nubia around the mid-sixth century. These missionaries belonged to rival factions, the Monophysite and the orthodox Melchite. The extent to which each group thrived, the languages used in their liturgies, and the possibility of determining the dominant form of Christianity at a particular location through the surviving church ruins have been extensively debated, but we need not delve into those details here. It is sufficient to mention that over the following centuries, the number of churches in Nubia multiplied, reportedly reaching the hundreds. Christianity flourished and served as a unifying force within Nubian society for approximately five centuries.

However, by the end of the fourteenth century, the weakened Nubian Church was on the verge of extinction. The Arab invaders, advancing southward from Muslim Egypt, had cut off the Nubian Christians from the rest of the Christian world. The growing power of the Arabs confined the Nubians on the north, east, and west, and eventually the entire population apostatized and embraced Islam.


The exact timeframe of when the Scriptures were translated into Nubian remains unknown. However, if the pattern of evangelization in other regions is taken into account, it is likely that soon after Christianity was introduced on a larger scale in the sixth century, there would have been a demand for a vernacular version among the new converts.

Evidence for the Nubian version only emerged in the twentieth century. In 1906, Dr. Carl Schmidt acquired a quire of sixteen damaged pages from a parchment codex in Cairo. These pages contained a portion of a lectionary for the Christmas season, covering the period from December 20 to 26. Each day, sections of Scripture were provided from the Apostolos (Romans, Galatians, Philippians, and Hebrews) and the Gospel (Matthew and John). With the exception of two instances, the sequence and choice of readings do not align with Greek and Coptic lectionaries examined thus far. The exceptions pertain to the passages appointed for December 25 (Gal. 4:4–7 and Matt. 2:1–12), which coincide with those found in Greek menologia (monthly readings on the lives of the saints).

Similar to other Nubian texts, the lectionary is written in an alphabet that is primarily Coptic, supplemented with several additional letters necessary to represent sounds specific to the Nubian language.

Towards the end of the twentieth century, scholars became aware of several other biblical fragments in Nubian. These include verses from the Gospel according to John and the Book of Revelation.

About the Author

EDWARD D. ANDREWS (AS in Criminal Justice, BS in Religion, MA in Biblical Studies, and MDiv in Theology) is CEO and President of Christian Publishing House. He has authored over 220+ books. In addition, Andrews is the Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV).




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