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he Egypt Exploration Society has recently published a Greek papyrus that is likely the earliest fragment of the Gospel of Mark, dating it from between A. The reason stems from the unusual way that this manuscript became famous before it became available.

One might expect happiness at such a publication, but this important fragment actually disappointed many observers.

As a general rule, earlier manuscripts get us closer to the original text than later manuscripts because there are assumed to be fewer copies between them and the autographs (the original copies of the NT writings, most likely lost to history).

Obbink is a renowned papyrologist at the University of Oxford, and he is almost certainly the non-evangelical specialist to whom Wallace attributed the first-century date.

New Testament scholars Craig Evans and Gary Habermas were among others who spoke about the fragment, generating even more excitement. The Oxyrhynchus papyri constitute a collection of hundreds of thousands of manuscript fragments excavated from an ancient Egyptian garbage dump near Oxyrhynchus between 18.

In late 2011, manuscript scholar Scott Carroll—then working for what would become the Museum of the Bible in Washington D.

C.—tweeted the tantalizing announcement that the earliest-known manuscript of the New Testament was no longer the second-century John Rylands papyrus (P52). Wallace, senior research professor of New Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary, seemed to confirm Carroll’s statement. Ehrman, Wallace reported that a fragment of Mark’s gospel, dated to the first century, had been discovered.

Moreover, P137 is not the only new papyrus of the New Testament to be published in the latest Oxyrhynchus volume.

Also published are P138, a third-century papyrus of Luke –17 and –30, and P139, a fourth-century papyrus of Philemon 6–8 and 18–20.

It should be stated, however, that we have no shortage of New Testament manuscripts.

There are about 5,300 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament of various sizes and dates.

A first-century fragment of Mark’s gospel would be significant for several reasons. 200 is a rare and remarkable find, much less one written before the early 100s.

First, the earliest substantial manuscripts of the New Testament come from the third century. Second, early fragments of Mark’s gospel are scarce.

He had no apologetic motive for assigning the early date.


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