Archaeologists Discover a Sixth-Century Old Syriac Version of Matthew’s Gospel

Archaeologists Discover a Sixth-Century Old Syriac Version of Matthew’s Gospel

Brent Pollard

Archaeologists discovered a new copy of Matthew’s Gospel written on ancient parchment beneath two other copies of the same Scriptures, in Greek and Georgian. (Georgian was the last language in which Matthew was written.) Researchers found the text using ultraviolet light. The newly discovered Gospel, written in the Old Syriac language, is thought to date from the sixth century and provides essential information about the early development of Christianity in the Middle East. This version of Matthew’s Gospel has a few minor differences, suggesting that a scribe translated it from an original language different from others. On the other hand, skepticism is likely to use this idea to undermine trust in modern translations of the Scriptures.

What are the differences in Matthew 12.1’s text? On the Sabbath, Jesus and his disciples walk through grainfields when hungry and begin picking heads of grain to eat. On the other hand, the Old Syriac version found on parchment adds that the disciples rubbed the grain in their hands before eating it. While there is a Latin copy that reads similarly, the overwhelming majority of extant manuscripts of Matthew do not. Yet, it is essential to note that this does not indicate that the Scriptures have changed. Before making assumptions, the article fails to consider comparing this version to other Gospel texts.

Luke 6.1 reads as the Old Syriac version of Matthew 12.1: “Now it happened that He was passing through some grainfields on a Sabbath; and His disciples were picking the heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands, and eating the grain. (NASB1995) Could you tell me what is a more probable interpretation of the discrepancy? Could a copyist have mistakenly recorded Luke’s Gospel here, perhaps from memory? Or was this how Matthew’s account was translated into Old Syriac? 

I used machine translation to provide versions of the text in Old Syriac, Koine Greek, and Georgian. However, there may be some errors present.

Old Syriac: ܒ݁ܗܰܡܟܽܘܬܝܳܐ ܕ݁ܐܝܟܬܐ ܐܰܦ݂ ܡܶܢ ܒ݁ܰܝܬܳܐ ܐܳܦ݂ܐ ܐܰܢ݈ܬ݁ܘܼܟ݂ܝܼܣ ܕ݁ܝܶܫܽܘܥ ܕ݁ܕ݂ܶܒ݂ܪܳܢܳܐ ܕ݁ܐܰܢܬ݂ܽܘܢ ܘܐܶܠܳܐ ܟ݁ܰܢܝܳܢ ܕ݁ܡܶܠܬܼܐ ܒ݁ܡܰܥܬ݁ܝܳܐ ܘܐܶܠܳܐ ܫܰܠܡܳܢܳܐ ܠܫܰܥܬ݁ܳܐ ܘܐܰܢ݈ܬ݁ܘܼܢ ܐܰܥܡܳܢܳܐ ܘܚܶܡܪܽܘܬ݂ܳܐ ܘܐܶܠܳܐ ܘܪܰܒ݂ܶܗ ܕ݁ܝܶܫܽܘܥ܀ (Matthew 12.1)

Koine Greek: εν εκείνω τω καιρώ επορεύθη ο Ιησούς τοις σάββασι διά των σπορίμων οι δε μαθηταί αυτού επείνασαν και ήρξαντο τίλλειν στάχυας και εσθίειν. (Matthew 12.1)

Georgian: ამ დროს იესო მიდიოდა შაბათზე თერთმეტის რითმით მართლად ლოცვაში, ხოლო მისი მოწმენდები მშვიდად შებრალეს და მიწუხეს ანაზღაურებისა და ჭაშნიკად ჭრიდების ჩამრთვისა და ჭამასა და სვეტისა საშუალოდ. (Matthew 12.1)

Old Syriac: ܗܘܐ ܕܝܢ ܫܒܘܬܐ ܕܬܪܥܐ ܕܥܪܕܐ ܫܡܝܐ ܐܬܘܪܝܐ ܕܐܬܝܕܘܗܝ ܒܢܝܐ ܘܓܝܪ ܕܫܡܝܐ ܡܫܝܚܐ ܘܐܪܗܡܝܢ ܗܘܘ ܡܪܢܐ ܫܘܪܝܐ ܘܐܫܬܘܬܐ ܫܘܪܝܐ ܕܐܢܐ ܡܛܠ ܠܐܝܠܝܐ ܘܐܚܘܢܝܢ ܗܘܘ ܪܒܘܬܐ ܕܥܪܕܐ ܘܐܫܬܘܬܐ ܕܟܠܗܘܢ ܘܐܛܪܝܐ ܗܘܝܢ ܐܢܐ ܘܒܫܡܝܐ ܐܢܐ ܐܢܐ ܚܢܢܘܢ ܗܘ ܡܠܟܐ ܕܠܐ ܡܕܡ ܒܢܝܐ ܘܐܣܦܝܐ ܀ (Luke 6.1)

Koine Greek: εγένετο δε εν σαββάτω δευτεροπρώτω διαπορεύεσθαι αυτόν διά των σπορίμων και έτιλλον οι μαθηταί αυτού τους στάχυας και ήσθιον ψώχοντες ταις χερσί. (Luke 6.1)

Georgian: იყო კვირაში მეორე პროტოსაბატო, და შესულიყო მათა იესომ სამეფოს ძის გარეშე, სადაც პირობდნენ სასწაულს და თავიანთ ხელებში კი კარვებდნენ პურს. (Luke 6.1)

It is unnecessary to be fluent in any of the above languages to notice that these verses differ. There are apparent differences. There are, however, enough similarities between the two passages to cause confusion or a copyist’s error. Both passages describe Jesus and his disciples walking through fields and picking grains on the Sabbath. Both passages use phrases like “picking the heads of grain.” The context of both passages mentions the Pharisees objecting to the disciples’ actions and claiming that what they had done was not lawful on the Sabbath.

It’s possible that the scribe added a passage from another Gospel to connect it to the parable that follows in Matthew’s account, as they did for Matthew 18.11. Copyists, for example, used Luke 19.10 to introduce the parable of the lost sheep. In a more recent English translation, Matthew 18.11 is bracketed to indicate that it was missing from some old manuscripts used to translate the Bible. Studying religious texts requires careful consideration of the historical context and source material to translate and interpret them accurately. This is particularly important when dealing with ancient texts like the Bible, where variations in different versions pose challenges.

This discovery might make skeptics doubt the Scriptures’ reliability by suggesting that human error or opinion may have influenced them. The most crucial point, however, is that the systematic theology of the New Testament remains consistent, even in a copy of Matthew’s passage that is around 200 years older than the copies above it. While some manuscripts have different wording or additional verses, the message remains consistent, and the steps to salvation stay the same. Whether or not Matthew mentioned the disciples rubbing grain in their hands, the fact that Jesus died to save the world from sin is undeniable. Our demonstration of faith in Jesus Christ is also unchanged. Indeed, we should be amazed at God’s Providence in ensuring His message is faithfully transmitted to people now and in the future.


2 Peter (Part 4)

2 Peter (Part 4)

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard III

I’ll be repeating the book of II Peter in present-day terminology. It’s not a true translation of the book, as I am not qualified to do so. It will be based on an exegetical study of the book and will lean heavily on the SBL and UBS Greek New Testaments, as well as comparisons with other translations (ESV, NASB, NIV, ERV, NLT). My goal is to reflect the text accurately, and to highlight the intent of the author using concepts and vocabulary in common use today. 

This is not an essentially literal translation, and should be read as something of a commentary. 

The End Is Coming

Family, this is the second time I’ve had to remind you about this. You have the right motives, but you need to remember what the prophets said in the past. Your master and rescuer gave this same message through us, too. The message is this: at the end of everything, arrogant skeptics will make their way into the church. They’ll give in to every impulse they have. They’ll say stuff like, “Didn’t he say he was coming back?” and, “Nothing’s really changed since our ancestors died, we’re all still here.” They forget that God built the sky and planet with some words. He built everything out of water and used water to destroy the earth during the flood. Right now, he’s preserving the planet with a special fate in mind. At the end, the planet we’re on right now will be burned with fire. That’s when morally corrupt people will be judged and destroyed. You cannot forget that God doesn’t experience time the same way we do. He isn’t dragging his feet, like some are claiming. He’s holding off because he really doesn’t want anyone to die lost. He wants every person to be saved! 

What Makes A Fool Tick?

What Makes A Fool Tick?

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail


Dale Pollard

A qualified fool is someone who lacks wisdom and also tends to have an embarrassing lack of common sense. In the ancient past, being called a fool held a lot of weight and it wasn’t something that was taken lightly. There’s a healthy emphasis placed on the fool throughout the Psalms and Proverbs, and his time in the spotlight is far from flattering. He’s often in sharp contrast to the wise and intelligent person. What may cause some of these passages to sting in a personal kind of way is when they reflect our own actions or inclinations.

Psalm 14 begins stating, “The fool has said in his heart ‘there is no God.’” Today the atheistic minds that fill the rolls of teachers, scientists, and authors are held in high regard. To some they are seen as the “brains of society” and the pioneers of the future. Evolutionary doctrine may dominate the classrooms and laboratories, but God calls them foolish. They are not “progressive” or “admirable” because they’ve missed or rejected something crucial. The one that denies the existence of a God that they are surrounded by, alive because of, and will be judged by— is the fool. David goes on to state in the same Psalm how God had looked down on the earth to see if anyone had been seeking after Him. When God looks down on our lives what does He see? 

Maybe you would never audibly state, “I don’t believe in God!” But we can’t forget that our repetitive actions are those true statements that tell the world what we believe. 



Neal Pollard
At the corner of Oak and Griffey
Lived an old man, Cyrus Diffy. (*)
A lifelong skeptic, centered on self
With Dawkins and Darwin on his shelf
He scoffed at those he thought “too much,”
Who leaned on religion as their crutch.
Whose faith was rested on their Bible
Were subject to his scorn and libel.
His own morality and ethics were iffy
He was his own rule, Cyrus Diffy
No one could tell him how to live
For others he had nothing to give
Scorn metastasized, and he grew bitter
Spewed his venom on Facebook, on Twitter
With chip on shoulder, he sought debate
Relished each moment “the faith” to hate
One morning in his chair in one quick jiffy
The last breath was breathed by Cyrus Diffy
He lifted up his eyes in a place most unpleasant
With him each skeptic and agnostic were present
Yet like him they no longer could fuel their doubt
Now in this painful place with no door to get out.
He’d tied his whole life to his naturalistic bent
But rejected the Savior the Father had sent.
Let’s sum up concisely, I’ll try to be pithy
Here’s what we can learn from old Cyrus Diffy
We all hitch our wagons to some conviction
Determine what’s truth and what is fiction
Design exists, it points to a designer.
We feel moral ought, know what’s coarse, what’s finer
We’re built to worship, we possess intellect.
When charting life’s course, every angle inspect.
View your worldview, consider its implications
Choose based on logic not potential complications
Christian, you might pass by a place like Oak and Griffey
Live Christ well before all folks like the late Cyrus Diffy.

(*) “Cyrus Diffy” is a random name I made up and is
not meant to refer to anyone real having that name.