Thursday, July 11, 2013


They say that learning obscure old languages like Syriac is fairly impractical for day-to-day life.  In most cases they're probably right.  However, when I was working as a heating/cooling salesman, I did once have an opportunity to use Syriac in my job.  I was giving an estimate on some ductwork in the home of an Assyrian Christian, who happened to have a Syriac prayer on his wall (which he could not read).  My Syriac had gotten very rusty (much like his ductwork), but I was still able to read some bits of it to him.  I'd like to think my shaky knowledge of Syriac is what got me the sale!  So yes, there is money to be made in these obscure languages.

For those of you who aren't heating/cooling salespeople, however, Syriac has other advantages.  A dialect of Aramaic, Syriac is the language of much of the ancient/medieval eastern Christian church and continues to be used as the liturgical language of some eastern Christians today.  The way the history of Christianity is often told, you would think that Christians only spoke Greek and Latin and existed mostly in Europe/the "West".  Christianity spread much further than that, however, and we have rich literary traditions from Christians in places like Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Ethiopia.  In the Syriac Christian tradition we have beautiful, fascinating, and historically important scriptural commentaries and hymns.  Compared to the texts of the western church, these writings have barely been touched by scholars, making it a wide open frontier for students.

: )ML$ kM( dB() oYdYh )Q8Q kY) )SQr8Q nwrwXN n)w

According to the LCTL database the following North-American institutions offer Syriac instruction: Hebrew Union College; Asbury Theological Seminary; University of California, Berekeley; Catholic University of America; University of Chicago; Yale; UCLA; U of Toronto; U of Wisconsin Madison; U of California, Santa Barbara; Princeton; NYU; Baylor; Columbia; Jewish Theological Seminary of America; Brigham Young; Oral Roberts; Dallas Theological Seminary; Biola; U of Pennsylvania.  And while it was not on the LCTL list, Syriac is offered at Trinity Western University (which is definitely the best school on the list -- although I may be a bit biased).

By the way, if you really want to get serious about Syriac, Oxford offers an M.St. in Syriac Studies.  If I had that degree I probably would have doubled my sales to the gentleman I mentioned above. An Annotated Bibliography of Syriac Resources Online

Classical Syriac for Hebraists by Muraoka
A Syriac grammar.

Beth Mardutho
A site dedicated to the study and preservation of Syriac.  Be sure to check out their resource page and their information on fonts for Mac and Windows.  For a history/overview of the language, see their "About Syriac" section.
An online Syriac reference project.  Be sure to read the 'About Syriac' page and check out some of the links at the bottom of the entry.

Dukhrana Biblical Research
There are some fantastic resources here, including online Syriac lexicons and the ability to do a multiple lexicon search.  I don't even use my print edition of J. Payne Smith anymore.

Penn State Syriac Font Resource Page

SBL Fonts

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