Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Earliest manuscript of Gospel of Mark reportedly found
Christianity Today India ^ | 02/20/2012 | Stoyan Zaimov

Posted on 02/21/2012 5:21:41 PM PST by SeekAndFind

Dallas Theological Seminary professor Daniel B. Wallace has said that newly discovered fragments from the Gospel of Mark could be the oldest New Testament artifacts ever found and date from the first century A.D., or during the time of eyewitnesses of Jesus' resurrection.

Wallace announced his findings at UNC Chapel Hill on Feb. 1, 2012, during a debate in front of 1,000 people, where he unveiled that seven New Testament papyri had recently been discovered – six of them he said were probably from the second century, and one of them, the Gospel of Mark, probably from the first. The records will only be published next year, however.

The professor of New Testament Studies identified a fragment from the Gospel of Mark, the second book of the New Testament that chronicles the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, as perhaps the most interesting find among the new discoveries.

Wallace explained that the fragment was dated by one of the world's leading paleographers. The oldest manuscript that had Mark in it was Papyrus 45 (P45), from the early third century (c. AD 200–250). This new fragment would predate P45 by 100 to 150 years, almost certainly placing it in the first century and making it the oldest of its kind, according to the professor. The other oldest known manuscript of the New Testament has been P52 (discovered in 1934), a small fragment from John's Gospel, dated to the first half of the second century.

The professor explained that research is still being done to find out if or what new perspectives on the Bible the new fragment might add, and whether it offers original wording or the possibility of an alternate reading to the Gospel of Mark. Details of how, where and when this new fragment was discovered are not yet known – as the official report on the fragments comes out next year.

The most remarkable aspect about this find, if it is indeed confirmed to be from the first century, is that it will be the first ever manuscript discovered dated within the lifetime of some of the eyewitnesses to Jesus' resurrection, according to Wallace.

Craig A. Evans, Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Acadia Divinity College, shared with The Christian Post that this find may indeed be of very great importance.

"If authenticity and early date are confirmed, this fragment of the Gospel of Mark could be very significant and show how well preserved the text of the New Testament really is. We all await its publication," Evans stated.

TOPICS: History; Religion & Culture
KEYWORDS: archeology; bible; biblicalarchaeology; christianarchaeology; dallasseminary; danielbwallace; danielwallace; dts; epigraphyandlanguage; faithandphilosophy; godsgravesglyphs; gospel; gospelfragments; gospelofmark; historicity; historicityofchrist; historicityofjesus; jesus; letshavejerusalem; mark; scientism

1 posted on 02/21/2012 5:21:51 PM PST by SeekAndFind
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: SeekAndFind

Have Scholars Discovered the Oldest Manuscript of the New Testament?

Yes, according to Dr. Daniel Wallace. He has recently revealed what he believes to be a manuscript of the Gospel of Mark that comes from the first century A.D.

Wallace is a professor of New Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary and the founder of The Center for the Study of the New Testament Manuscripts, an institute that seeks to study and preserve the manuscripts of the New Testament. Wallace is an expert in biblical Greek and in textual criticism, the academic study of ancient manuscripts.

A couple of weeks ago, Wallace was debating Bart Ehrman, another biblical scholar known widely for his negative writings about historical Christianity. Their topic was whether or not we have the wording of the original New Testament today. In this debate, Wallace referred to the discovery of seven New Testament papyri (a primitive form of paper). Six of these are from the second century. One is probably from the first century. The alleged first-century manuscript is a fragment of the Gospel of Mark, though we don’t know what part of the text it contains.

p52, a portion of the Gospel of John that is dated to around 125 A.D.

According to Wallace, this manuscript “was dated by one of the world’s leading paleographers,” who said he was “certain” that it was from the first century. If that paleographer is right, then this fragment would be the oldest existing manuscript of the New Testament. Until now, the oldest manuscript we have is p52 (Papyrus 52), a small portion of the Gospel of John that is dated to the first half of the second century.

Until now, the oldest existing manuscript of Mark’s Gospel is p45, which was copied around 200 A.D. Though scholars believe that this manuscript faithfully reproduces most of what was in the autograph (original copy) of Mark, the new fragment would offer fresh and powerful evidence for or against this thesis. According to Wallace, the newly discovered fragment confirms what text critical scholars believe to be the authentic text of Mark. In other words, the fragment supports scholarly confidence that we have access to almost everything originally written by the author of Mark.

Unfortunately, however, the new fragment has not been published. Apparently, it will be published by Brill in a year or so. Wallace is not free to discuss the details of the text. So we have no way to evaluate his claims, apart from our sense of Wallace’s own trustworthiness.

New Testament scholar Larry Hurtado adds a little more information about the source of the new manuscript in his blog:

The fragment in question seems to be part of a collection of papyri that are part of the Green Collection ( The key figure listed as the guiding expert for the Greek Collection is Scott Carroll. One of the recent postings lists putative early fragments of several NT writings (including copies of some Pauline letters allegedly dated to the second century CE). According to Wallace, a formal scholarly publication of these items is in the works, scheduled to appear next year sometime.

How should we respond to the claims made by Daniel Wallace?

First of all, Daniel Wallace is a trustworthy NT scholar and an expert in text criticism. I trust what he says. So I believe there is a fragment of Mark that a highly-regarded paleographer has dated to the first-century A.D.

The dating of the fragment, however, will be controversial. Paleographical dating is imprecise. I guarantee that some scholars will date it to the second century or maybe later.

The discovery of this fragment of Mark could undermine significantly our confidence that we know what was in the original edition of Mark if it differs considerably from the texts we have now. According to Wallace, this is not the case. If he is correct, then this discovery will strengthen our confidence in the text of the New Testament. The manuscripts we have allow us to know, with a very high degree of probability, what the text of the New Testament originally contained.

Yet, even the most skeptical of scholars acknowledge the basic reliability of the text of the New Testament. Bart Ehrman, for example, who tries to argue that we should not have confidence in the text, has nevertheless written things like:

To be sure, of all the hundreds of thousands of textual changes found among our manuscripts, most of them are completely insignificant, immaterial, and of no real importance for anything other than showing that scribes could not spell or keep focused any better than the rest of us.

Ehrman also points out that no significant doctrine of Christianity depends on insecure manuscript evidence.

So, if we do have a first-century fragment of Mark, we will have a slightly stronger argument for the authenticity of the text of the New Testament. This will be helpful, but will not significantly impact our faith. It will make it harder for extreme skeptics, like Bart Ehrman, to defend their point of view.

2 posted on 02/21/2012 5:25:09 PM PST by SeekAndFind
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: SeekAndFind; nickcarraway; wagglebee

 GGG managers are SunkenCiv, StayAt HomeMother & Ernest_at_the_Beach
Thanks SeekAndFind.

I think this is an old story, and has been posted before, but I'm too lazy to look. Also, FR is acting sluggish for me.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.

3 posted on 02/21/2012 5:52:41 PM PST by SunkenCiv (FReep this FReepathon!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: SeekAndFind

At this point, we’ll wait for the report on the fragment, to come next year.

At this point, the announcment presents more questions, not more answers.

4 posted on 02/21/2012 6:08:50 PM PST by Wuli
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: SeekAndFind
Without having a translation of the fragment all is speculation, oft times reasonable but speculation nonetheless. I look forward to the details.
5 posted on 02/21/2012 6:22:17 PM PST by count-your-change (You don't have to be brilliant, not being stupid is enough.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv

Although hope is not a method (h/t Gen Gordon Sullivan), I do hope this initial finding holds true.

6 posted on 02/21/2012 6:28:45 PM PST by 2nd Bn, 11th Mar (The "p" in Democrat stands for patriotism.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: SeekAndFind

I’d laugh out loud if the fragment contained a portion of Mark 16:9-20.

7 posted on 02/21/2012 7:03:38 PM PST by Yashcheritsiy
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: SeekAndFind

This would be exciting if true. However, I am reminded that there has been a claim of a first century fragment of the Gospel of Mark being found at Qumran (of the Dead Sea Scrolls fame). This claim has generally been disavowed, since it rests on so small a fragment that only a few letters are present. Is this that same fragment? If so, this would not be anything new.

On another note, the John Rylands Fragment (p52) mentioned above is an amazing find itself. Dated to around 125 A.D., it needs to be remembered that the Gospel of John—which it is a part of—is traditionally dated in the A.D. 90’s. In addition, the traditional place of composition of the Gospel of John is Ephesus. The John Rylands Fragment was found in Egypt. Therefore, you have a fragment of the Bible from within 30 years of its composition found on the far side of the Mediterranean Sea. That is almost unheard of when documenting almost any piece of ancient literature.

8 posted on 02/21/2012 7:06:17 PM PST by Engraved-on-His-hands
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: SeekAndFind

During the Enlightenment, critics sought to discredit the New Testament by claiming that it was written during the 2nd Century, thus making it an unreliable testimony to the life and teachings of Jesus. That became the consensus among liberal scholars, as they tried to pick apart the Scriptures and reduce it to myth and legend. But as the liberal Anglish Bishop John Robinson point out a generation ago, then when he decried to look at the evidience with “new eyes” he concluded that a dating before the Destruction of the Temple was as likely as a later dating, even perhaps for John’s Revelation. Skeptics are seldom impartial, and may be true-believers. When we flee one room, we usually not pass into another, and then bar the door behind us, never again to open it and look at what impelled us to flee.

9 posted on 02/21/2012 8:49:51 PM PST by RobbyS (Christus rex.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: RobbyS
For what it's worth, I agree. To me, the strongest argument for an early dating of the Gospels is precisely that they do not mention the destruction of the Second Temple. I mean, this was an event prophesied by Jesus. How could any believer witness the fulfillment of that prophecy and not write about it?

(I also believe the Fourth Gospel was written by an eyewitness to Jesus' ministry, but that is another story)

10 posted on 02/21/2012 11:03:43 PM PST by John Locke
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: John Locke
For what it's worth, I agree. To me, the strongest argument for an early dating of the Gospels is precisely that they do not mention the destruction of the Second Temple. I mean, this was an event prophesied by Jesus. How could any believer witness the fulfillment of that prophecy and not write about it?

So true! Such a CATASTROPHIC event had to have been the center news of all Jews everywhere in those times, for centuries!

11 posted on 02/22/2012 5:36:58 AM PST by cloudmountain
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: RobbyS

The fact that the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD wasn’t even hinted at in the books of the New Testament is the most powerful evidence that they were written before that time. This was a pivotal event in Jewish history, and it would have been hard for Jewish writers writing about time to ignore it.

As an analogy, think of someone writing about and events in 20th century Germany, and making no reference to WWII. Even if you are writing about 1910 or 1990 Germany, at some point a reference to WWII would probably work its way in.

12 posted on 02/22/2012 9:16:58 AM PST by Brookhaven (Mitt Romney will right-size the economy--just like he did your job when he bought your company)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: Brookhaven

As I suggested earlier, the reason this common sense conclusion is not generally accepted is that the liberals who wanted to deconstruct the Bible was able, by the lack of historical evidence, to postulate a second Century writing of the Gospels. Somewhat mischievously, Bishop Robinson even says that a case can be made that John’s was the earliest Gospel, although not in its final state. Other scholars have noticed that it does seem to present something closer to an actual chronology of Our Lord’s career and to include details that demand an Eye-witness. Such as “John’s” knowing how to finagle his and Peter’s way into the house of the high priest after Jesus was seized.

13 posted on 02/22/2012 12:11:20 PM PST by RobbyS (Christus rex.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 12 | View Replies]

14 posted on 02/29/2012 8:36:13 PM PST by SunkenCiv (FReep this FReepathon!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

15 posted on 01/20/2015 5:48:46 AM PST by SunkenCiv (Imagine an imaginary menagerie manager imagining managing an imaginary menagerie.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson