Posted by: BibleScienceGuy | March 16, 2008

4. Significance of the Magdalen Papyrus

Magdalen Papyrus Fragments

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

Why is the Magdalen Papyrus so significant? Why has it earned so much scholarly attention?

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 and
3. Forensic Evidence.

The significance of the Magdalen Papyrus is that not only has it led to revising the date for the Gospel of Matthew, but it also has repercussions for other dates.

The paleographical comparative techniques Thiede developed to analyze the Magdalen Papyrus have also influenced the dating of other NT manuscripts.

The John Rylands papyrus fragment of the Gospel of John is usually dated to around 120 AD and has long been cited as the earliest extant NT manuscript. Since the analysis of the Magdalen Papyrus, the Rylands Papyrus no longer holds that “earliest” distinction.

In fact, numerous New Testament manuscripts are now being assigned more accurate earlier dates, including a handful which have been re-dated to the 1st century. In Eyewitness to Jesus: Amazing New Manuscript Evidence About the Origin of the Gospels Thiede says there is now good reason to believe that all the Gospels, even John, were written well before 70 AD.


The compelling significance of the Magdalen Papyrus is that it is the first physical evidence to substantiate church tradition that the Gospel of Matthew was written within a generation of Jesus by an eyewitness. It unambiguously proves that Matthew was NOT written long after the deaths of the Twelve Apostles, as liberal critics once claimed.

It adds to the tremendous weight of evidence that the Gospels are historically reliable, first-generation, eyewitness records of the life of Jesus. Scripture itself makes this claim (2 Peter 1:16; 1 John 1:1-3). Thiede’s analysis of the Magdalen Papyrus further strengthens the intellectual defense of the Christian faith.

Eyewitness to Jesus: Amazing New Manuscript Evidence About the Origin of the Gospels tells the fascinating story of the discovery, study, and significance of the Magdalen Papyrus. Familiarity with the arcana of papyrology is not necessary to appreciate Eyewitness to Jesus. It focuses a riveting spotlight on the rock-solid historical foundation of the Christian faith and will strengthen one’s ability to defend it (1 Peter 3:15).

Updated 30Mar2013: I highly recommend this YouTube video lecture from the Lanier Theological Library by Dr Peter J. WilliamsNew Evidences the Gospels were Based on Eyewitness Accounts. Williams is the Warden of Tyndale House, a residential center for Biblical research in Cambridge, England. Williams delivered this lecture March 5, 2011.

Soli Deo Gloria.

This is the concluding 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
3. Forensic Evidence

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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 16, 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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