Christian Palestinian Aramaic

A Late Aramaic dialect (also misleadingly known as Palestinian Syriac) which was employed by Chalcedonian Christian communities in Palestine and Transjordan from ca. 5th–14th cent., after which it disappeared. The oldest texts (ca. 5th–8th centuries) are inscriptions and fragmentary mss. (often in the form of the underwriting in palimpsest mss., many of which are connected with St. Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai). Complete mss. (all liturgical) only date from the 11th cent. or later. All the surviving literary texts are translations from Greek, the only exception being a short magical work. The older mss. contain biblical and patristic texts, the former often being in the form of lectionaries, whose rubrics sometimes conform with the old Jerusalem liturgical rite which is otherwise best attested in Armenian and Georgian sources. The best preserved (though none is complete) among the patristic texts are parts of Cyril of Jerusalem’s Catecheses, and two hagiographical texts, the ‘Forty Martyrs of Sinai’, and the narrative concerning Eulogius the Stonecutter (belonging to the cycle of texts associated with Daniel of Scetis). Other very fragmentary texts include some works attributed to Ephrem (but which are only known in Greek), and the narratives of Alexis the Man of God and of Abraham of Qidun (both of which reached Christian Palestinian Aramaic by way of Greek). There are also fragments of Athanasius’s ‘Life of Antony’, a homily on the Prodigal Son attributed to John Chrysostom, various Apophthegmata, and some apocryphal and hagiographical texts.

Among the later mss. are three dated Gospel Lectionaries, of 1030, 1104, and 1118. The first of these (ms. Vat. Syr. 19) was the first text in this dialect to be published (in 1861–4). Also from the later period are two further important liturgical mss., a Euchologion and a Horologion.

The texts preserved in the older mss. are in the course of re-publication by C. Müller-Kessler and M. Sokoloff.

    Primary Sources

      Older texts

      • S. P.  Brock, ‘Fragments of Ps. John Chrysostom, Homily on the Prodigal Son, in Christian Palestinian Aramaic’, LM 112 (1999), 333–62.
      • A. Desreumaux, ‘Une inscription araméenne melkite sous une peinture copte du Musée du Louvre. Le texte araméen melkite’, OC 80 (1996), 82–97.
      • A. Desreumaux, Codex Sinaiticus Zosimi Rescriptus (1997).
      • J.-B. Humbert and A. Desreumaux, Fouilles de Khirbet es-Samra en Jordanie, vol. I. La voie romaine, le cimetière, les documents épigraphiques (1998).
      • C.  Müller-Kessler and M.  Sokoloff, A Corpus of Christian Palestinian Aramaic, 1 [OT and Apocrypha], IIA–B [NT], III [XL Martyrs of Sinai, Eulogius, Anastasia]; IV (forthcoming); V [Cyril of Jerusalem, Catecheses] (1996– ).
      • E.  Puech, ‘Notes d’épigraphie christo-palestinienne cisjordanienne’, RB 108 (2001), 61–72.

      Later texts

      • A. S.  Lewis and M. D.  Gibson, The Palestinian Syriac Lectionary of the Gospels (1899).
      • M.  Black, Rituale Melchitarum. A Christian Palestinian Euchologion (1938).
      • M.  Black, A Christian Palestinian Syriac Horologion (1954).


      • M.  Baillet, ‘Un livret magique en christo-palestinien à l’Université de Louvain’, LM 76 (1963), 375–401.

    Secondary Sources

    • M.  Bar Asher, ‘Le syro-palestinien — Études grammaticales’, JA 276 (1988), 27–59.
    • Brock and Taylor, Hidden Pearl, vol. 2, 95–8.
    • F. C.  Burkitt, ‘Christian Palestinian literature’, JTS 2 (1901), 174–83. (ST by M. López Pérez, in CCO 2 [2005], 327–340)
    • C.  Müller-Kessler, Grammatik des Christlich-Palästinisch-Aramäischen, I (1991). (with bibliography and list of inscriptions)
    • F. Schulthess, Lexicon Syropalaestinum (1903).
    • F. Schulthess, Grammatik des christlich-palästinischen Aramäisch (1924).
    • M.  Sokoloff and J.  Yahalom, ‘Christian Palimpsests from the Cairo Geniza’, Revue d’Histoire des Textes 8 (1978), 111–32.

How to Cite This Entry

Sebastian P. Brock , “Christian Palestinian Aramaic,” in Christian Palestinian Aramaic, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay,

Footnote Style Citation with Date:

Sebastian P. Brock , “Christian Palestinian Aramaic,” in Christian Palestinian Aramaic, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay (Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018),

Bibliography Entry Citation:

Brock, Sebastian P. “Christian Palestinian Aramaic.” In Christian Palestinian Aramaic. Edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay. Digital edition prepared by David Michelson, Ute Possekel, and Daniel L. Schwartz. Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018.

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