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‘Hidden’ Bible translation uncovered in Vatican library

by Heather Preston

Scientists have unearthed scripture from the Gospels written more than 1,500 years ago, using UV light.

The Syriac text was discovered under three layers of manuscript, after ultraviolet light was applied to a document housed at the Vatican Apostolic Library.

Researchers say the page - which contains parts of chapters 11 and 12 from the Gospel of Matthew - is one of the earliest translations to still exist today and most likely written around the third century. It’s thought the “hidden” text was later erased by a scribe reusing the parchment – as was common practise at that time.

Medievalist Grigory Kessel says the parchment was reused more than once as it contains three layers of writing – Syriac, Greek and Georgian.

In the Greek version, Matthew 12:1 reads: “At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath and his disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat.”

The Syriac translation reads, “[...] began to pick the heads of grain, rub them in their hands, and eat them.”

A complete translation of the Syriac text has not yet been disclosed by researchers but it’s thought the discovery could give further insight into translations of scripture.

“This Old Syriac translation quite often attests the Gospel text that is different from the standard Gospel text as we know it today,” he told

This early translation, known as 'Peshitta' was used by the Syriac Church in the fifth century.

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