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Biblical Archaeology – The Magdalen Papyrus & Eyewitness of Jesus

Article segments from: Bible-Science Guy

“On Christmas Eve, 1994, The Times of London reported on its front page an astonishing claim made by the German Biblical scholar Carsten Peter Thiede.
‘A papyrus believed to be the oldest extant fragment of the New Testament has been found in an Oxford library,’ the newspaper said. ‘It provides the first material evidence that the Gospel according to St.Matthew is an eyewitness account written by contemporaries of Christ.”

“The story concerned three tiny scraps of paper belonging to Magdalen College, Oxford … On both sides of the fragments appeared Greek script, phrases from the twenty-sixth chapter of St. Matthew, which describes Jesus’ anointment in the house of Simon the leper at Bethany and his betrayal to the chief priests by Judas Iscariot … Thiede argued that they were of astonishingly early origin, dating from the mid-first century A.D. The argument was complex, based upon expert analysis of the Greek writing on the fragments and upon extensive comparisons with calligraphy on other manuscript fragments.”

Dr. Carsten Peter Thiede

The book is Eyewitness to Jesus: Amazing New Manuscript Evidence About the Origin of the Gospelsby Thiede and D’Ancona (Doubleday, 1996).

It describes the worldwide sensation created by the most momentous discovery for Biblical research since the Dead Sea Scrolls were unearthed in 1947.



The key to re-dating the Magdalen Papyrus fragments was Dr. Thiede’s identification of them as contemporary with three other datable collections:
– Greek papyrus fragments from among the Qumran Dead Sea Scrolls,
– Greek papyrus fragments from Herculaneum, and
– Greek ostraca (potsherds with Greek inscriptions) from Masada.


Dr. Thiede based this identification on painstaking analysis of numerous Greek handwriting characteristics and on extensive comparisons of calligraphy on many manuscripts. His conclusions dynamited the foundations of liberal NT criticism.


Thiede’s investigation was the first time Greek fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls had been used for comparative purposes to date other Greek literature

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