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New “Unknown Gospel” Fragment Identified

New “Unknown Gospel” Fragment Identified

(Larry Hurtado)  Within the last week or so notice appeared of the identification of a portion of an “unknown gospel” text on a papyrus fragment, Oxyrhunchus 5072, palaeographically dated to the third century CE.  Here is a link to a photo of the fragment:

News reports claim that the fragment appears to relate Jesus performing an exorcism, but I can find no full transcription yet published.  Nor is it clear from news reports whether this is a fragment of a codex or a roll.   The “hand” of the fragment seems to me very informal.  More when we know it.

  • CSCO Team,
  • 30th July 2011


  • Brian Davidson, 30th July 2011 at 6:19 pm | Reply

    If the fragment “appears to relate Jesus performing an exorcism,” then we should be able to see his name somewhere on the fragment, right? I don’t see it. Do you?

    • larryhurtado, 31st July 2011 at 9:18 am | Reply

      No. I don’t see anything suggesting an exorcism on the lines in the fragment. If, however, it’s a fragment of a codex leaf, there would be lines on the other side. That’s why it’s so frustrating that so little information has been given. I guess they’re making us await the next volume in the Oxyrhynchus Papyri series, when all will be made clear.

  • Tim Henderson, 2nd August 2011 at 11:28 pm | Reply

    Thanks for sharing this news. I’m not a paleographer, so I can’t make out much of the text.

    I received personal correspondence from someone earlier this summer who told me that he had discovered an early third-century “unknown gospel” manuscript at Oxford. However, he told me that it was related to resurrection and afterlife studies. So I’m not sure if this is that manuscript or if this is a different one. Something is being published soon on that one.

  • Jeremy Johnston, 3rd August 2011 at 6:06 pm | Reply

    Larry, Dirk first showed me this fragment in December 2009. I have sent twelve photos of it to Paul Foster. I am back in oxford next week looking at it again. I do have a preliminary translation of it. I also showed it to Craig Evans on one occasion in the Sackler. I would be delighted to get your input on the fragment if you have the time. I trust you have had a nice sabbatical. I have been home in your old stomping grounds of Kansas City…108F yesterday. Best, Jeremiah

    • larryhurtado, 9th August 2011 at 2:07 pm | Reply

      All I have seen are photos of varying quality. Moreover, the hand is very informal and a number of charcters are faded and hard to read. I can make out a few words, e.g., on one side (I can’t tell from the photos which is “recto” and “verso”) μαθητην clearly (l. 3), ιεροσαλημα (l. 7, probably), and [δι]δασκαλον (l. 2, probably). But it would require direct autopsy of the fragment to say anything more.

  • Alin Suciu, 10th September 2011 at 11:10 am | Reply

    Thank you for sharing this information.
    The label “uncanonical gospel” looks like another symptom of the contemporary apocryphal bulimia. I am wondering how can be guessed the genre of a document on the sole basis of an isolated scrap.

  • Dave Rapp, 3rd October 2011 at 12:14 pm | Reply

    The Bible states that if all the things Jesus did were written the world could not hold all the books. Too many people limit Jesus only to what the Bible says. People need to loosen up on all this political correctness syndrome. The Bible only mentions some of the things Jesus did. Critics have a tendency to breed doubters.

    • larryhurtado, 3rd October 2011 at 12:22 pm | Reply

      Uh, well, it’s not a matter of what the Bible does or doesn’t say, but standard historical criteria, such as date, authorship, textual properties, etc. All of us involved in historical research on Christian Origins are grateful for any scrap of evidence. In this case, however, it’s really very hard to say what the text is.

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