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Documents from the Castelion Monastery


The Castelion Monastery (Khirbet Mird) in the Judean Desert was established in the late fifth century by St. Sabas on the ruins of the Hyrcania fortress of the first century BCE. In the course of excavations at the site, documents from the monastery's archive were found in a cistern. Most are written in Arabic, but some are in Aramaic (Syriac) in the Christo-Palestinian dialect that was used by the Christian population, along with Greek, during the Byzantine period. The documents from the Castelion Monastery are the first Christo-Palestinian Aramaic texts to be discovered in excavations in Israel, and they represent an important contribution to the documents in this dialect that have been preserved outside the country. The Christian literature that was translated from the Greek into Syriac was particularly important to the development of the Holy Scriptures in eastern churches later on.

On exhibit are two documents: One (see picture) is made of parchment and contains part of Chapter 10 of Acts of the Apostles, which tells of Peter's visit to the Roman centurion Cornelius in Caesarea. The second is a letter, written on papyrus, from a priest named Gabriel to the head of the laura (the type of monastery in which each of the monks lives alone). In his letter, Gabriel requests that the monks pray for him, for he fears "the tribe" - referring to the nomadic Saracens that threatened those living in the monasteries of the border areas.

Parchment folio from Acts of the Apostles in Christo-Palestinian Aramaic (Syriac)
Monastery of Casteilion, Hyrcania Valley in Judean Desert, 6th century
Israel Antiquities Authority, 472121
Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority


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