EYEWITNESS races across the cover in big black letters! Is this thriller a murder mystery? The very first page plunges the reader into a fascinating investigation throbbing with suspense and intrigue:
“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.”
The book is Eyewitness to Jesus: Amazing New Manuscript Evidence About the Origin of the Gospels by 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.
Thiede’s manuscript discovery, research, and conclusion that Matthew is an eyewitness account of early origin provoked vehement criticism and visceral anger from many academics. Some scholars were eventually convinced by Thiede’s rigorous arguments, but others were not.
Dr. Carsten Peter Thiede (1952-2004) is the late German scholar and leading manuscript authority who did the scholarly research on the Magdalen Papyrus. He was Director of the Institute for Basic Epistemological Research in Paderborn, Germany.
Matthew d’Ancona is the British journalist who broke the story in 1994 in The Times of London.
Soli Deo Gloria.
This is the first blog post of the Eyewitness to Jesus series explaining Thiede’s argument that the Madgalen Papyrus shows the Gospel of Matthew is an eyewitness account.
Why do 2000-year-old papyrus fragments rank among the most important documents in the world? This is what I’ll look at in the next post of this series.
Read the sequels:
2. Early Date for Matthew
3. Forensic Evidence
4. Significance of the Magdalen Papyrus (with video)
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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:4)
Sunday March 2, 2008 A.D.
For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.
(2 Peter 1:16)