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Wasn't the Peshitta produced by Rabbula of Edessa?
According to the 14th edition of the Encylopedia Brittanica:

Encylopedia Brittanica Wrote:Rabbula's revision is now used by both the great divisions of the Syriac-speaking Church: to distinguish it from the elaborate later revision of the (Jacobite) Old and New Testament it is usually called Peshitta, i.e. the simple version . . .

First thing I would like to point out is that the Encyclopedia Britannica is very dated in regards to Syriac~Aramaic studies.

In 431 A.D., the coucil of Ephesus was held in the Roman empire to address a theological dispute which arose concerning the title given to Mary, "Mother of God." This council condemned a man by the name of Nestorius, who was a Greek and the Patriarch of Constantinople, for refusing to use that title and referring to Mary as the "Mother of Christ" instead. ( for a detailed treatment, see the minutes from Pro Oriente at <!-- m --><a class="postlink" href=""></a><!-- m --> )

The decisions of this council reached the Church in the Persian Empire (a.k.a, the "Church of the East") shortly thereafter and they categorically rejected the decrees this council made.

This isolated the Church of the Persian empire theologically from it's sister Aramaic-speaking churches in the Roman empire for the first time in history. The Aramaic church within the boundaries of the Romans was later nicknamed "Monophysite", and the Church of the East in Persia was later nicknamed "Nestorian", even though they had nothing to do with Nestorius.

This caused a major break in relations and the churches from that point.
Rabbula, who was bishop in Edessa during 411-435, sided with the Monophysites. In and around Edessa the theological strife raged hotly. He was hated by the "Nestorians" because he persecuted them relentlessly, so much so that he earned the nickname "The Tyrant of Edessa." (c.f., Han J. W. Drijvers in Journal of Early Christian Studies 4.2 (1996) pp 235-248 , Johns Hopkins University Press.)

Needless to say, even till today these two communities (the "Syriac Orthodox Church, Monophysite" and the "Church of the East, Nestorian") are hostile to one another.

At the turn of the 20th century, a textual scholar by the name of F. C. Burkitt , a Professor of Divinity at Cambridge, revised the early date of the Peshitta and theorized that it was the work of Rabbula. (see Journal of Theological Studies 36(1935), 225-254, 337-346.) This soon became the standard position adopted by most textual scholars. It is, in fact, Burkitt's very own hypothesis that the Encyclopedia Britannica is citing above.

Since then, the hypothesis of Burkitt has been thoroughly answered and disproved by Arthur Voobus of the Lutheran School of Theology and the University of Chicago.

In a series of special studies (1947‑54), Voobus argued not only that Rabbula was not the author of the Peshitta but that he did not even use it. (c.f., lnvestigations into the Text of the New Testament used by Rabbula of Edessa, Pinneberg, 1947. Researches on the Circulation of the Peshitto in the Middle of the Fifth Century, Pinneberg, 1948. Neue Angeben Ueber, die Textgeschicht-Zustande in Edessa in den Jahren ca. 326-340, Stockholm, 1951. Early Versions of the New Testament. Stockholm, 1954.)

Concerning Burkitt's hypothesis, Voobus writes:

Arthur Voobus Wrote:"This kind of reconstruction of textual history is pure fiction without a shred of evidence to support it" (Early Versions of the New Testament, Estonian Theological Society, 1954, see pp. 90-97)

To this reseach by Voobus, Dr. Bruce Metzger adds:

Bruce Metzger Wrote:The question who it was that produced the Peshitta version of the New Testament will perhaps never be answered. That it was not Rubbula has been proved by Voobus's researches. . .In any case, however, in view of the adoption of the same version of the Scriptures by both the Eastern (Nestorian) and Western (Jacobite) branches of Syrian Christendom, we must conclude that it had attained a considerable degree of status before the division of the Syrian Church in AD 431. (Bruce M. Metzger, The Early Versions of the New Testament (New York: Claredon, 1977), p. 36).

Both sides claim the Peshitta as Holy Scripture and their official version, even till today. Such unanimous acceptance is unthinkable if the leader of one side (the Monophysite "Tyrant of Edessa") had created it. Since this division took place in Rabbula's time and since Rabbula was the leader of one of these two sects, how could his opponents (the "Church of the East") have adopted his creation?

Regarding the universal adoption of the Peshitta as the official version of both branches of Aramaic Christendom, Edward Hills writes:

Edward Hills Wrote:It is impossible to suppose that the Peshitta was his (Rabbula's) handiwork, for if it had been produced under his auspices, his opponents would never have adopted it as their received New Testament text. (The King James Version Defended, 1956; Des Moines: The Christian Research Press, 1984), 172-174p.174).

It must have been that the Peshitta was a very ancient version and that because it was so old the common people within the Aramaic Church continued to be loyal to it - regardless of the factions into which they came to be bitterly divided after 431 A.D. - precisely during the episcopate of Rabbula.

No serious scholar or student today still subscribes to Burkitt's hypothesis that the Tyrant of Edessa produced the Peshitta. The Peshitta is extensively quoted patristic writers long before the time of Rabbula - particularly by St. Aphrahat, the Bishop of Nineveh of the Church of the East.

In his "Demonstrations" (~320 A.D.) - more than 100 years before Rabbula of Edessa was born, are found direct word-for-word quotes from the Peshitta against all other versions. It is impossible to suppose that the writings of Mar Aphrahat would quote a version that wouldn't exist yet for another century!

In summary, to believe Burkitt's hypothesis that the Peshitta was the work of Rabbula's hands would be akin to believing that the Roman Catholic Church would accept as their "official version" an N.T. written by Luther!
+Shamasha Paul bar-Shimun de'Beth-Younan
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Wasn't the Peshitta produced by Rabbula of Edessa? - by Paul Younan - 11-06-2003, 03:28 PM
[No subject] - by Paul Younan - 01-23-2004, 03:19 PM

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