Khaboris Codex

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Khaburis Codex (alternate spelling Khaboris, Khabouris) refers to two manuscripts in the Aramaic language. The earlier of the two is an early Aramaic manuscript of the New Testament dating to between 300-310 CE and the later copy is a 10th Century duplicate thereof.[1] The Khaburis Codices contain the complete Peshitta New Testament containing 22 books, in comparison to the Western New Testament canon which contains 27 books. The missing books are known as the "Western Five," namely, 2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John, Jude and Revelation.


There have been claims that the earlier document's colophon identifies it as being a 'copy' rendered from a manuscript dating 164 CE, internally documented as 100 years after the great persecution of the Christians by Nero, in 64 CE – however the colophon is unreadable. To this day, there is no published transcription.


The early Khabouris Codexa has been carbon-dated to the first decade of the 4th century,[2] which is confirmed by palaeography. Some leaves of the codex came to be damaged and were replaced with newer leaves at a later time, rightly resulting in radiometric reading suggesting a later date for those particular leaves, but the majority render a dating of 300-310 CE.[3]

The text in Estrangelā is highly consistent with the standard Peshitta version of the Syriac Bible. Six pages in Matthew's Gospel, namely 13, 14, 39, 40, 53 and 54, are written in the East Adiabene text type. The last part of the Book of Hebrews, which according to the Eastern book order is at the end of the manuscript, has suffered damage and wear so some sections are illegible.

The later (medieval) copy (Khabourisb) is found in a 2007 London Sotheby's auction record, the "Notes" section of which states, "Correspondence from 1986 shows that the British Library experts had dated it paleographically to about the twelfth century, and this has now been confirmed by a research team assembled in America in 1995, as well as by carbon dating by the University of Arizona in 1999 (giving the date range 1000–1190 AD)."[4]

The American side of the story is confirmed on a personal website by Greek-primacist James Trimm, who was part of the "research team" in the Sotheby's account. According to him,[5] he was commissioned in 1995 by Dan MacDougald, the then-owner of Khabourisb, to date the manuscript and translate its colophon. Trimm, who is neither a paleographer nor a manuscript scholar, and his team gave it a date of AD 1200. He states that in 1999 the University of Arizona used carbon dating to date the codex between AD 1000 and 1190.[citation needed]


When the Khabouris Codexa was found, the news article "US Library gets an Ancient Bible" appeared in the New York Times on March 26, 1955 reporting on the oldest known New Testament Bible written in "the language used by Christ." The article noted that it was taken to the White House where President Eisenhower viewed it. The Codex was said to be insured for "an hour and a half" in the amount of $1,500,000 US dollars. [6] This is the earliest extant Peshitta text. This copy remained in the Library of Congress until 24 June 1986, when guardianship transferred to Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan, where it remains to this day.[7]

A later (medieval) copy of the Khaboris Codex (i.e. Khabourisb) was obtained by Norman Malek-Yonan and attorney Dan MacDougald in 1966 for $25,000. It "was purchased from the library of an ancient Kurdish monastery atop one of the mountains of Kurdistan, near the River Habbor, or in Aramaic, Khabur, hence the name 'Khaburis'."[8] It seems both men went overseas looking for a more intact Aramaic version of the New Testament following Malek-Yonan's experiences surrounding the Yonan Codex in the 1950s.[9] Malek-Yonan's prior codex had been repaired with newer materials at some point in its history. He claimed the Yonan Codexb had been in his family since the 4th century. In his account of the controversial history surrounding the Yonan codexb, Christian Greek-primacist Bruce Metzger tells of dating it to the 7th century at its earliest.[10]

The stories of the Yonan Codexa and the Khaboris Codexb are linked by the involvement of Dan MacDougald. On page 115 of the Society of Biblical Literature's reprint of The Saga of the Yonan Codex, Metzger tells of getting news of the Yonan Codex in the late 1970s. He writes,

"Curiously enough, several year [sic] later while I was attending sessions of the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, Dr. Paul L. Garber, professor of Bible at Agnes Scott College, Decatur, Georgia, casually inquired of me whether I had ever heard of the Yonan Codexa. This led to a most astonishing disclosure. A medieval copy (Khabourisb) of the manuscript, Garber told me, was in the possession of the Emotional Maturity Instruction Center, Decatur, Georgia. The center had transliterated the Syriac text of the Beatitudes in Christ's Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3–12) and was making a copy of this available for four dollars with the assurance that, by concentrating each day on these sentences in Aramaic, one's personality would become adjusted and more mature. In fact, according to Garber the center had even persuaded magistrates in Atlanta to buy copies of the transliteration for use in attempting to quell obstreperous prisoners!"[10]

A Western Queens Gazette article from August 8, 2004 states that Dan MacDougald was the one who started the Emotional Maturity Instruction course referred to by Metzger. According to Timms, Norman Malek-Yonan died in the 1970s. Apparently MacDougald had purchased the Khaboris codex from Yonan, and started a few organizations dealing with psychology in the 1970s. After the 1999 dating by the University of Arizona, the Khaboris Codexb transitioned into the hands of Dr. Michael Ryce at the Heartland institute. Ryce co-authored an updated version of the Emotional Maturity Instruction course with MacDougald called Laws of Living. This course continues to be taught, annually, by Ryce at Heartland, his teaching center in the Ozark Mountains of Southern Missouri.

The Heartland's website states on a page about the Khaboris Codexb, "Before Dan MacDougald passed away, he left the Khabourisb in the stewardship of the Western-Rite Syrian Orthodox Church, in order that the validation, documentation, conservation, translation, publication and exhibition could be completed. Work continues on these processes, as well as development of several related books."[9] The manuscripts appears to have remained physically at the Heartland institute. A page titled "The Khabouris Manuscript Ceremony at Heartland" has several small images of a woman posing with the "b" codex. At some point during this time, someone there seems to have taken low-resolution digital photos of all 500 plus pages of the codex.[11]

At some point around 2004 the codex was sent to New York have high-resolution photos taken by Eric Rivera working at the Better Light Company, a digital imaging company. Their website has a description of Rivera's work and a few high-quality image samples. During this time the Khabouris Manuscriptb was on display for public view as an exhibit in the Queensborough Community College Art Gallery in Bayside, New York. This likely generated the Western Queens Gazette article referenced above. Rivera mentions working on the manuscript in 2005, after which it appears to have been stolen. The Heartland website states, "The Khabouris Manuscript(b) was removed from QCC (without our prior knowledge) and was taken to London for auction by Sotheby's back in June 2007. The sale was not completed at that time; however, we have lost track of where the actual Manuscript is now located."[12] It appears to have been purchased by Arizona collector James Melikian.

On December 11, 2007 the Phoenix Art Museum hosted a display of old manuscripts, including the Khaboris Codexb. The article announcing the display described it as being part of the James Melikian collection.[13] Melikian, a resident of Phoenix, is Armenian and has cultural interests in collecting ancient Oriental Christian artifacts. He talks about this in the January 12, 2008 edition of the Armenian Reporter. In the article, which covered the Phoenix Art show, the author describes Melikian showing the Khaboris Codexb to visitors in a private viewing.[14] Presumably the Khaboris Codexb is still in the Melikian private gallery. Melikian states in his inventory listing that his copy is a different manuscript than the one owned by the Library of Congress.[15]

A page from the codex[edit]

Page 360 of the Khaburis Codex is the end of the I Epistle of John and the beginning of the Letter to the Romans. The rubric connects the two books.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Selections from the James Melikian Collection": "One of the foremost private collections of ancient illuminated texts, the James Melikian Collection features several rare objects of note. "The Khabouris Codex" is one of only two Assyrian New Testament manuscripts predating the 11th/12th centuries, written in Aramaic, and still in existence in the Western Hemisphere (the other is housed in the Library of Congress)."
  2. ^ United Bible Society, Aramaic New Testament
  3. ^ Andrew Gabriel Roth, "Khabouris Codex," Aramaic English New Testament (online:
  4. ^ "Khabouris Codex". Archived from the original on 21 August 2014. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  5. ^ "Concerning Codex Khaboris". Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  6. ^ Bess Furman, "US Library gets and Ancient Bible," New York Times (26 Mar 1955).
  7. ^ Correspondence with Western Theological Seminary archives, Holland, Mich., 25 Aug 2010.
  8. ^ "Khaburis Codex Gives – – Queens Gazette". Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  9. ^ a b "Why Is This Happening To Me... AGAIN?! - History". Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  10. ^ a b Bruce Metzger. "The Saga of the Yonan Codex" (PDF). Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  11. ^ Susan G. "Why Is This Happening To Me... AGAIN?! - Khabouris Pictures". Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  12. ^ Susan G. "Why Is This Happening To Me... AGAIN?! - An Introduction to the Khabouris". Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  13. ^ Jim Davila. "". Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  14. ^ "The Melikian family helps to preserve and show Armenian manuscripts" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 January 2012. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  15. ^ "Selections from the James Melikian Collection": One of the foremost private collections of ancient illuminated texts, the James Melikian Collection features several rare objects of note. "The Khabouris Codex" is one of only two Assyrian New Testament manuscripts predating the 11th/12th centuries, written in Aramaic, and still in existence in the Western Hemisphere (the other is housed in the Library of Congress)."

External links[edit]