The Khabouris Codex: cool name, but proof of God?

Question from Abishek:
Does anyone know the truth about this “Khabouris Codex”?
Some Christians on the internet use it as proof that the New Testament is divine. I am confused, please help me in this.
Thank you.

Answer by SmartLX:
This was a new one on me. The Khabouris or Khaboris Codex is a manuscript of the New Testament (except for five books) dating back to the 12th century. It contains a note to say it’s a copy of a second-century manuscript, which if true gives it serious bragging rights as one of the most authoritative sources of the NT text in Jesus’ own language of Aramaic.

That doesn’t seem to be what’s important about it for the purposes of proving the divinity of the text. Since it was acquired from Kurdistan in 1966, the manuscript has been physically used to assist in religious healing and spiritual instruction. Reading from it has been claimed to cause minor psychological miracles; the main example is that regularly concentrating on the text in Aramaic – without understanding Aramaic – is said to make one more mature. It was even used in an attempt to calm violent prisoners. It’s a proper Christian relic, with minor powers such as you’d see on items in the ‘relic’ or ‘trinket’ category in a role-playing game. It’s most likely in a private collection at the moment.

The Christians you’re referring to may be arguing for the divinity of the New Testament from any of a few different angles. It might be the idea that the text has barely changed over thousands of years, which is dependent on the unverified claim of the Codex’s own source. It could be the discovery of the Codex, as a new revelation from God. It could be any of the abilities the Codex supposedly displayed after it arrived in the West, which are highly subjective in nature. It could be some passage which differs from the modern Bible and can be interpreted as making a unique prediction about subsequent events. None of these seem to be anything to worry too much about, honestly, but if you have more details of their claims (or a link to their website) please fill us in using a comment.

6 thoughts on “The Khabouris Codex: cool name, but proof of God?”

  1. This is reminiscent of the nonsense surrounding the shroud of Turin.

    A few authors claim that the Khabouris Codex is a copy of the oldest NT in existence which means that the NT was originally written in Aramaic and not Greek. I’m not sure how this proves its ‘divinity’. Note that these claims are only ever made in popular media. I cannot find any peer reviewed paper in a legitimate historical journal that argues the case. That alone makes the claim suspect from the start.

    They base their claim on a notation in the Khabouris manuscript stating it was written a hundred years after the ‘great persecution’ i.e., in about 164 CE. However that part of the manuscript is blemished and partly unreadable (and could, of course, simply be a later added forgery). The Khabouris Codex has actually been carbon dated to the 12thC. It’s an almost exact copy of the standard text of the Syriac Peshitta, which is a 4th-5thC text written in old Syriac, which also exists today. The Greek origin of this text is accepted by nearly all scholars as it is replete with Greek loan words and idiomatic phrases. So claims of an Aramaic language origin in the 2ndC are pure supposition; no such original Aramaic manuscript exists with which to compare it with.

    This is not surprising. If you were writing and compiling the NT in the 2ndC and you seriously wanted the world to know about the ministry of Jesus and eternal salvation and the new church why would you write in a backwater language spoken by relatively few people and able to be read by only a small fraction of those? Greek and Latin were the spoken and written languages of scholarship in that part of the world at that time. The notion is analogous to Einstein publishing the Theory of Special Relativity in Yiddish.

    1. Hardly needs discrediting. The ‘Q source’ is a hypothetical document that was written before the four primary Gospels, and supposedly contained material which was then repeated in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. It would explain the textual overlap between those two that doesn’t come from Mark, but it neither lends nor costs the big Gospels a significant amount of credibility, so for everyone but Biblical scholars it fits the classical definition of a moot point.

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