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Ancient Manuscripts Soon to be Available

Ancient Manuscripts Soon to be Available

Posted - Apr. 15, 2004 at 5:53 p.m.



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Carole Mikita ReportingAncient Christian manuscripts will soon be available to scholars worldwide in a first time collaboration between Brigham Young University, the Vatican Library, and the Assyrian Church of the East.

Some of these rare texts, dating back to the fifth and sixth centuries, were once considered lost to those of the Eastern Christian faith.

Congregations around the world can trace their religious origins back to first century Mesopotamia, now Iraq. They are called Syriac Christians with their own traditions and language. Syriac is a dialect of Aramaic, the language that Jesus spoke.

Most of their texts were destroyed starting with the Mongolian invasion and then constant political upheaval and persecution. Others were taken by the Roman Catholic Church and no longer available, until now, when an unusual triumvirate was formed.

A couple of Brigham Young University scholars joined forces with others at the Vatican Library to image more than 14,000 pages of ancient texts, creating a digital library of 33 important Syriac Christian manuscripts.

The project's idea came from Bishop Mar Bawai Soro. He knew about BYU's Dead Sea Scrolls database and approached scholars there.

Bishop Mar Bawai Soro, Assyrian Church of the East: “I think it was God’s hand in bringing us together.”

Other scholars are now voicing their enthusiasm about BYU's project.

Lucas Van Rompay, Duke University: "They have, I think, the confidence of the scholarly world, as well as the confidence and the trust of these middle eastern communities in the middle east itself."

Bishop Soro calls the joint project a glimpse into human goodness and believes it is only the beginning.

Bishop Soro: "Truly hope that this collaboration will not end. And those who have funded this project, I wish to offer a sincere thank you."

Initially the manuscripts will be available to scholars but Bishop Soro is excited many Eastern Christians will be able to read them on websites at their parishes.

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