April 15-30, 2004 Edition

Vatican Permits

BYU to Publish

Ancient Texts

PROVO, UTAH/04/03/04—Brigham Young University will release 14,000 pages of scanned Syriac Christian writings on DVD in May 2004, with the blessings of the Vatican. The treasured writings of Ephrem the poet were copied by Assyrian monks in A.D. 522 and 523. In the early 18th Century, the priceless manuscripts were discovered in an Egyptian monetary and were transported by monks to the Vatican library, where they were stored for some 300 years, beyond the reach of Eastern Christian churches.

The Vatican recently gave BYU, owned by the Latter Day Saints Church, permission to digitally capture the texts and distribute them on DVD. The collection includes 33 manuscripts—some dating back to the fifth and sixth centuries. Some of the documents have never before been published. Others have been available only in raw form for scholarly research.

The texts may provide new insights into the study of Mesopotamian Christianity, which began when missionaries from Jerusalem or Antioch visited what is now Iraq and converted large numbers of people who spoke Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic. The writings may show Jesus Christ’s attitudes toward cultural and religious issues in the region and present important Eastern Christian traditions that have not been preserved in the Greek manuscripts.

The project is the first collaboration on ancient manuscripts between the Vatican and BYU, and the Assyrian Church of the East.

The documents were almost lost on the trip to the Vatican when the boat in which the monks traveled capsized. The holy men feverishly retrieved the precious manuscripts from the Nile River and laid them to dry ashore.

Those involved with the project say the DVD tells a lost story.