Archived from The Magdalene Review on Sunday 15 January 2006

According to Allen Dwight Callahan, in his book A Love Supreme: A History Of The Johannine Tradition, and to Raymond Brown, in his commentary The Gospel According to John XIII-XXI (Anchor Bible Series, Vol. 29), the Old Syriac Codex Sinaiticus is missing the name “Magdalene” in two places: John 20:1 and 20:18. Elsewhere, such as in the work of Stephen Shoemaker, the only noted absence of the epithet in the Sinatic MS is in John 20:18.

I was able to acquire a copy of George Anton Kiraz’ Comparitive Edition of the Syriac Gospels: Aligning the Sinaiticus, Curetonianus, Peshitta and Harklean Versions (Volume 4: John) from the library, but this has only produced more questions.

John 20:18 clearly does not include an epithet of any kind for the woman normally called “Magdalene.”

John 20:1, on the other hand, appears to include something else. Not being educated in Syriac, I’m having a hard time deciphering this as a misspelling, or perhaps as another version of the name. Where her name in Syriac usually appears (transliterated) as MGDLYTA, in 20:1 it appears as DMGDLYA. I assume (possibly wrongly) that MGDLYTA is a translation of the Greek magdalhnh, perhaps directly to mean “woman from Magdala.” I have no inkling of what DMGDLYA would be. The order of consonants seems to make it some form of a word or name related to “Magdala,” but I’m really not sure. Kiraz has it noted with a sic.

If anyone who happens to read this is familiar enough with Syriac to offer any suggestions, I would be most appreciative.

Update: 01/16/06 – My husband pointed out that the latest post at Evangelical Textual Criticism is about Old Syriac texts online. In this post, P.J. Williams directs the reader to the Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon, which contains transcripts of both the Sinaiticus and Curetonianus Old Syriac MSS. Lucky me!

On inspecting the Sinaitic version of John 20:1, it appears that my word DMGDLYA is completely unrelated, and appears in addition to, the epithet “Magdalene.” The lexicon lists a few potential definitions, making it clear that this is the word for “rolled away,” as in, “the stone had been rolled away.” Kiraz’s sic note was not related to the epithet at all. Mystery solved. Another term to add to my “potential epithet etymology” list.

I am left with one question about all of this, however. Why would Callahan and Brown have written that John 20:1 doesn’t contain her epithet in the Sinaitic MS if it does? I’ve checked Kiraz as well as the 1894 transcript by Bensly, Harris and Burkitt; both include the epithet.

It’s a head-scratcher.

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