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That Curious Fragment of the Gospel of Mark–Now Published

May 24, 2018

It appears that the much-touted “first-century” fragment of the Gospel of Mark has, at last, been published, inThe Oxyrhynchus Papyri, Volume LXXXIII (Graeco-Roman Memoirs) (Egypt Exploration Society, 2018).  I haven’t had access to the volume yet, nor have many others.  But already there are blog reports on it, e.g., here and here.

The brief notice issued by the Egypt Exploration Society today here follows:

“In the latest volume of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, volume LXXXIII text 5345, Professor Obbink and Dr Colomo publish a fragment from a papyrus codex (book). The two sides of the papyrus each preserve brief traces of a passage, both of which come from the gospel of Mark. After rigorous comparison with other objectively dated texts, the hand of this papyrus is now assigned to the late second to early third century AD. This is the same text that Professor Obbink showed to some visitors to Oxford in 2011/12, which some of them reported in talks and on social media as possibly dating to the late first century AD on the basis of a provisional dating when the text was catalogued many years ago. Papyrus 5345 was excavated by Grenfell and Hunt and has never been for sale. No other unpublished fragments of New Testament texts in the EES collection have been identified as earlier than the third century AD.”  (Emphasis mine)

The official Oxyrhynchus number of the item is LXXXIII.5345.  A photo of the item should be included in the volume, as well as a transcription and palaeographical commentary.  The Mark fragment includes parts of 1:7-9, 16-18.  (In addition, the volume is said to include newly edited fragments of Luke and Philemon, as well as a variety of non-biblical texts.)

Though not now judged to be “first-century,” this fragment of Mark is still important, doubling the number of manuscript witnesses to GMark from before 300 CE (the only other one being the Chester Beatty Gospels codex, P45).


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