Nazarani Church Canon of Scripture

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The Nazarani presently use the oldest version of the Bible in existence, the twenty-two book Peshitta canon. The number twenty-two has the significance of also being the same number of letters in the Aramaic alphabet. The word Peshitta means “straight path” or "simple way", and it's name, which was first applied to this work sometime in the 10th Century is intended to imply that it represents the straightest and most direct path to the truth. The book itself is written in the original Biblical-Aramaic dialect which is very closely akin to the language of Jesus, and the present manuscript of the Peshitta is dated to the early third century. For Nazarani the Peshitta represents the most direct path to understanding Jesus and His apostles and the culture in which they lived.

The original Neo-Aramaic peshitta does not include any of the books of the Antilegomena (Greek = "αντιλεγόμενα"), including Apocalypse of John, which in the west is often referred to as "Revelations". Not being part of the official canon however does not prevent the book of Revelations or other books from the antilegomena being read as a private devotion, and neither does their lack of being part of the official canon, prevent other prevent them from being read as part of the Qurina or annual cycle of church readings (i.e. the lectionary), which includes a number of short letters, and smaller epsitles related and often attributed to the early saints of the church.

For instance the book of Revelations is read in the monasteries as part of the standard devotions of the monastics during the Tuesday nigths of Holy Week. Other books which are read at various times during the church year, but are not included in the canon include the Didache, 1st Enoch, and a number of others.

Gospel of the Hebrews

The Nazarani, like all Aramaic speakers, used the “Gospel of the Hebrews” (a.k.a. the Diatessaron (Syriac: ܐܘܢܓܠܝܘܢ ܕܡܚܠܛܐ‎ Ewangeliyôn Damhalltê), and continued to do so until around 420 A.D., when Bishop Rabbula of Oserone (now Şanlıurfa, Turkey) collected together and burned all of the copies he could find, substituting them with what is now referred to as the Old Syriac Version which he himself had translated from the Greek into Syriac. The Gospel of the Hebrews continued to be used however in a number of forms until the late 13th Century. It is noteworthy that not even one of the surviving copies of this “Gospel” matches the others in exact wording or content…

The early fathers of the Byzantine church all reported that the Nazarani used only a single "gospel" text, which was often called the "Gospel of the Hebrews". Eusebius reports in his ecclesiastical history that Hegesippus used a Syriac (Aramaic) gospel as a source for his Hypomneumata. Eusebius cites an unnamed Aramaic gospel written in Hebrew letters as a source for his Theophaneia, and he quotes a saying of Jesus ('I choose for myself the good ones, the good ones whom my Father in heaven has given me') to expound on the reasons for divisions within the Church (Theophaneia 4.12), and he comments on a variant version of the Parable of the Talents in Mt. 25.14–30 (Theophaneia 4.22). Jerome is our major source of knowledge about the content of an Aramaic gospel. He quoted from an unnamed gospel in Hebrew script as a source for several commentaries.[1]

Sadly, the original Gospel of the Hebrews is now lost in Aramaic, although Latin and Arabic translations survive, as do a number of quotes preserved in various writings, including the Book of Feasts, and other documents in use by the Nazarani Church for special occasions.

A discussion of the Nazarani Churches use of the Diatessaron is preserved in the late third century book the Doctrine of Addai.[2]


  1. Klijn, Albertus F.J. (1992). Jewish–Christian Gospel Tradition. Brill. ISBN 90-04-09453-9, pages 12–3,16–9,29–32,60–5
  2. Chapman, J. (1909), Doctrine of Addai. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company