1 February 2006

You too can read the Syriac Bible

One of the first translations of the Bible was the Syriac, which makes it very important
for textual criticism and early Church history.
Don’t be put off by the Syriac script – it is the Hebrew alphabet written in a different way.
Here is Matt.1.1 in Syriac, converted into Hebrew characters:

The "de-" prefix means "of", and a final aleph is the definite article, as in Aramaic.
diliduth is equivalent to toledoth, "generations", which divides up Genesis at 2.4, 5.1, 10.1 etc.
Now you can read it:
Kathava [‘the writing’, as in ketiv & qire] diLidutheh [‘of generations’] deYeshu‘a meshicha [‘of Yeshua the Messiah’] bareh deDavid bareh deAbraham.[‘son of David, son of Abraham’].
You can read Syriac! – well, at least you can find your way around.

To help you further, I have added a Hebrew index to a scholarly Syriac lexicon
and put the whole lexicon on the web at http://www.tyndale.cam.ac.uk/PayneSmith/

1) Syraic Peshitta & English Translations
2) Learn Syriac and learn about the Peshitta
3) Lexicons and lookup dictionaries for Syriac

1) Syraic Peshitta & English Translations

English translations
Lamsa’s translation of OT & NT Peshitta:
Murdock’s translation of NT Peshitta:
Etheridge translation of NT Peshitta:
A new translation of OT & NT by the Nazaraean Church of Jerusalem
http://www.catholicospatriarch.org/eastern_collexion/ (not yet complete)
(see http://www.nasrani-patriarchate.org/eng/ to find out about this church)
Syriac Text
Syriac NT in beautiful unicode font, to read on the web
Syriac New Testament to download, with fonts,
in 2 different Syriac font types (Serto, Estrangelo) and in Unicode.
Interlinear Syriac - English Gospels & Acts
Syriac text with lexical and parsing help
Syriac OT - the BTR text (ie Milan MS) as published by Brill.
OT at http://cal1.cn.huc.edu/Peshitta.notice.html - sign the agreement with your email address
NT at http://cal1.cn.huc.edu/cgi-bin/show.browsedialects.cgi?R1=6 - with various extra-biblical Syriac texts.
Most browsers can view these in Unicode, or use the fonts at http://cal1.cn.huc.edu/fonts/fontinfo.html
Syriac in a Hebrew fontNT Peshitta in pointed Hebrew square script
or download for your Palm at http://www.wjsp.net/pb_prim.html
Interlinear English & Syriac Peshitta NT with Hebrew square script
http://peshitta.info/gospel/matthew_1.htm - used to be at http://www.ultimasurf.net/bible/aramaic/
Only the start of the translation is available. It will be complete in a few months - worth waiting for.

2) Learn Syriac and learn about the Peshitta
Teach yourself Assyrian ( ancient and 'modern' Syriac) http://www.assyrianlanguage.com/
- 160 lessons, from the alphabet to complex verbal conjugations.
History of the Syriac OT & NT – according to the Syriac Orthodox Church.
Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies - with useful academic articles
eBeth Arké: The Syriac Digital Library - http://www.bethmardutho.org/ebetharke/
- not much available, except news of paper publications

What is the Syriac useful for?a) Read someone who thinks the Syriac is more important than the Greek NT - http://www.aramaicpeshitta.com/
b) The Syriac Orthodox Church still uses the Peshitta. They argue that this is closest to the Aramaic spoken by Jesus. See http://sor.cua.edu/Bible/index.html
c) Syriac is important for textual criticism, being a very early translation
see P.J.Williams’ useful book: Early Syriac Translation Technique and the Textual Criticism of the Greek Gospels (Gorgias Press, Piscataway NJ, 2004)
– review at http://syrcom.cua.edu/Hugoye/Vol8No2/HV8N2PRJoosten.html
Discussions of Syriac readings occur frequently in the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog at

3) Lexicons and lookup dictionaries for Syriac
Downloadable Syriac lookup dictionaries:
Syriac Digital Library Project Dictionary
based on SEDRA text files (see http://syrcom.cua.edu/Projects/Complete.html)
Download it from http://www.bethmardutho.org/support/syriacdict/download/
Syriac Lexicon and Parser for the New Testament
Download from http://www.universalist.worldonline.co.uk/syriac/
Dolabanis Syriac translation toolbar
A toolbar you can add to Internet Explorer – right-click on a word to translate it.
Download from http://dolabani.noturo.com/default.aspx?page=tools&lang=eng
Requires .NET 1.1 (.NET 2 via Automatic Update won’t do get .NET 1.1 from
http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=262D25E3-F589-4842-8157-034D1E7CF3A3&displaylang=en )
It has a small dictionary, and doesn’t work as easily as described – unless I’ve missed something.

Web lookup dictionaries & lexicons
Lookup English or Syriac at http://www.peshitta.org/lexicon/
Payne Smith Syriac full lexicon with Hebrew font equivalents to make it easy to use
(many thanks to Dan Gurtner who typed in the Hebrew)


Anonymous said...

I checked several of your links trying to find a syraic OT online and all the links that I tried were broken.

Anonymous said...




Anonymous said...

Thanks for the resource. But links to accurate OT Peshitta/English are not working.

David IB said...

Lamsa Bible Online - English Peshitta Translation (OT)
isn't at its original site, but the link now points to Archive.org which has it.