Posted by: BibleScienceGuy | March 9, 2008

3. Forensic Evidence

Magdalen Papyrus Fragments

Magdalen Papyrus Fragments
Front and back views.
From Magdalen College, Oxford

What was the key to re-dating the Magdalen Papyrus fragments of Matthew to around 60 A.D.?

This continues the story of the Magdalen Papyrus and its significance for the authenticity of the Gospel of Matthew that was begun in
1. Eyewitness to Jesus and continued in
2. Early Date for Matthew.

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.

Qumran Cave

Qumran Cave

It is well-known that the latest possible archaeological date for the Dead Sea Scrolls is 68 AD, the year the Qumran settlement was abandoned immediately prior to the arrival of the Roman legions. Similarly, the latest date for the Masada Greek ostraca is 73/74 AD when Masada was overrun by the Romans. In 79 AD Herculaneum was destroyed by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, so 79 AD must be the latest possible date for the Herculaneum Greek papyri.

Since the Magdalen Papyrus is contemporary with these three collections, it must have been written before these terminal dates. Using these mid-first century papyri and ostraca, Thiede demonstrated that the book of Matthew must have been written within the lifetimes of the very people who witnessed the events it contains.

The Magdalen Papyrus, which Thiede dates about 60 AD, is the first hard evidence of an early date for Matthew. Obviously Matthew’s own original must have been penned even earlier, probably at least by 50 A.D.

The Magdalen Papyrus stands firmly against the speculative literary theories of liberal critics which are based primarily on false philosophical assumptions. Solid physical evidence, of course, should always trump philosophical conjecture.

Doesn’t this make your spine tingle? Forensic evidence that Matthew was an eye-witness!

Soli Deo Gloria.

This is the third 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.
Read the prequels:
1. Eyewitness to Jesus
2. Early Date for Matthew

Why is the Magdalen Papyrus so significant? Why has it earned so much scholarly attention? This is what I’ll look at in the concluding post of this series.
Read the sequel:
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 9, 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)

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