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Christian Works : Buchanan Bible

Christian Works

<p style='text-align: justify;'>The "<i>Buchanan Bible</i>" is made up of the <i><a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(8);return false;'>Old Testament</a></i>, <i>Apocrypha books</i>, the <i><a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(511);return false;'>New Testament</a></i>, and <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(668);return false;'>six books of Clement</a>. The canonical divisions and placement of scriptural books within the two Testaments is somewhat unique. In the Old Testament, <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(285);return false;'>The Wisdom of Solomon</a> is placed after <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(284);return false;'>the Song of Songs</a>, and <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(353);return false;'>1-2 Baruch</a> after <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(351);return false;'>Lamentations</a>; a subdivision titled <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(407);return false;'>The Book of Women</a> was placed after the apocryphal <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(406);return false;'>Bel and the Dragon</a> that includes <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(407);return false;'>Ruth</a>, <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(408);return false;'>Susanna</a>, <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(410);return false;'>Esther</a>, and <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(413);return false;'>Judith</a>. The Old Testament ends with the book of <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(695);return false;'>Tobit</a>. The New Testament places the book of <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(633);return false;'>Acts</a> with the Apostolic Epistles and ends with <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(667);return false;'>Jude</a>; it does not include the Apocalypse. The Bible is handwritten in Estrangelo Syriac, “engrossed on strong vellum, in large folio, having three columns” and includes a significant number of illustrations in colour. It is currently unbound for conservation. Due to the fragile state of the vellum and the peeled off ink, the folios are now kept securely in two acid free boxes.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>From the printed note on the <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(1);return false;'>inside cover</a> and from other sources (see bibliography) it appears that this manuscript was presented to Rev Dr. Claudius Buchanan (1766-1815) at Kandanad in 1806 by Mar Dionysius VI (The Great), Mar Thoma VI the Metropolitan of the church of the Syrian Christians in Kerala, India.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'> Traditional belief is that Christianity was brought to India in 52 AD, by St Thomas, one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ, who founded a community of believers in Kerala. This community, the St Thomas Christians, later established ecclesiastical connections with the churches in Syria, Persia, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. These churches were the source of the Syriac bibles and liturgy that the St Thomas Christians used, and the St Thomas Christians consequently became known as the ‘Syrian Christians’. This Syriac Bible was most probably brought as a gift by a visiting Bishop.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>After the Portuguese arrived in India in 1498, they made a concerted effort to bring the St Thomas Christians under the control of the Pope, and to enforce the adoption of Latin rites and liturgy. As a result, many of the Syriac liturgical texts were destroyed or conformed at the Synod of Diamper in 1599. The community believes this Syriac Bible was, by divine providence, saved from that fate. </p><p style='text-align: justify;'>In late 1806, during his visit to the St Thomas Christians in Kerala, Rev. Dr Buchanan suggested to the Metropolitan that the Syriac Bible be translated into Malayalam, the language of the people. The Metropolitan resolved to undertake the project and personally supervised the translation, which was done by Kayamkulam Philipose Ramban, a learned priest. The four Gospels were the first to be translated and the translations were taken to Bombay by Rev. Dr Buchanan where they were printed in 1811. Over the next thirty years, the rest of the Bible was translated and printed. Having the Bible in a language understood by the people paved the way for the Reformation of the church in 1836.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The Metropolitan was aware of the ongoing threat to this Syriac Bible from external invasions and doctrinal purges. In order to ensure this Bible’s safety, the Metropolitan presented this ancient treasure of the church to Rev. Dr Buchanan out of a conviction that it would be safer in England.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>In its fragile state, this Syriac Bible was preserved for more than 200 years in a protected environment in the Library of the University of Cambridge. With its digitisation, it is now accessible to the whole world and the hope is that detailed study will yield greater insights into its origins and its message.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>With thanks to Associate Professor Roy Joseph and Mrs Rachel Roy, part of the Syrian Christian community, for their contribution to this summary and for supporting the digitisation of the Buchanan Bible.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>For more information see the <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>Special Collections Blog</a></p>

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