Khaboris Codex

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The Khaburis Codex (alternate spelling Khaboris, Khabouris) is a medieval era Aramaic manuscript of the New Testament. The Khaburis Codex is 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.

The "Notes" section from a 2007 London Sotheby's auction record state, "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)."[1]

The American side of the story is confirmed on a personal website by James Trimm who was part of the "research team" in the Sotheby's account. According to Trimm [2] he was commissioned in 1995 by Dan MacDougald, the then-owner of the codex, to date the manuscript and translate its colophon. Trimm and his team gave it a date of AD 1200. He goes on to state that in 1999 the University of Arizona used carbon-dated to date the codex between AD 1000–1190.

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 Khaboris Codex was obtained by Mr. 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'."[3] 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.[4] Malek-Yonan's prior codex had been repaired with newer materials at some point in its history. Norman Malek-Yonan claimed the Yonan Codex had been in his family since the 4th century. In his account of the controversial history surrounding the Yonan codex, Bruce Metzger tells of dating it to the 7th century at its earliest.[5]

The stories of the Yonan Codex and the Khaboris Codex 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, (mentioned above) Bruce Metzger tells of mentions getting news of the Yonan Codex in the late 1970s. He writes, "Curiously enough, several year 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 Codex. This led to a most astonishing disclosure. 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!"[5]

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 1970's. 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 Codex transitions into the hands of Dr. Michael Ryce at the Heartland institute. Dr. 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 Codex, "Before Dan MacDougald passed away, he left the Khabouris 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.".[4] 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 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.[6]

At some point around 2004 the Codex was sent to New York have high resolution photos done 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 very high quality image samples. During this time the Khabouris Manuscript 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. Eric Rivera mentions working on the manuscript in 2005 after which it appears to have been stolen. The Heartland website states, "The Khabouris Manuscript 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." [7] 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 Codex. The article announcing the display described it as being part of the James Melikian collection.[8] Malikian, a resident of Phoenix, is Armenian and has cultural interests in collecting ancient Armenian artifacts. He talks about this in a Jan 12, 2008 newspaper called the Armenian Reporter. In the article, which covered the Phoenix Art show the author describes Melikian showing the Khaboris Codex to visitors in a private viewing.[9] Presumably the Kahboris Codex is still in the Melikian private gallery.

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