I didn’t know much about the earliest sources for the New Testament, and so I went to find out. Here are a quick ten:

1. Rylands Library Papyrus I: P52 (117-138AD)

This is the earliest fragment from the New Testament. It is named P52, and dates back to 117-138 AD. It contains parts of John 18:31-33 and John 18:37-38 on the back, which talk about Jesus trial.

2. A few verses of Philemon: P87 (125 AD)

P87 is dated by at around 125AD. It contains Philemon 13-15 (of Paul saying that he is sending back the former slave Onesimus as a brother) as well as the epilogue (v24-25).

Papyrus 87, recto

3. Oxyrhynchus papyrus 2683: P77 (150 AD)

This papyrus is named P77 and contains Matthew 23:30-39.

4. Chester Beatty Papyrus I: P45 (150 AD)

This manuscript, known as P45, contains sections of all four gospels and also Acts. including Matthew 20-21 and 25-26; Mark 4-9 and 11-12; Luke 6-7 and 9-14; John 4-5 and 10-11; and Acts 4-17.

You might be wondering why a papyrus is named ‘Chester Beatty’. Apparently these were purchased from a dealer in Egypt by Chester Beatty in the 1930’s. There’s three of these papyri: P45, P46 (below) and P47 (containing Revelations 9-17) .

5. Chester Beatty Papyrus II: P46 (150 AD)

This manuscript, P46, contains most Paul’s letters: the majority of Romans; Hebrews; 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians; and two chapters of 1 Thessalonians. Although usually dated around 150-200 AD, it is written in a handwriting which has only ever been found in first century manuscripts, and so some people (eg. Young Kyu Kim) suggest it could be much earlier.

A folio from P46 containing 2 Corinthians 11:33-12:9

6. The Magdalen papyrus: P4/P64/P67 (175 AD)

These papyri apparently go together, and contain portions of Matthew and Luke. Their name, ‘Magdalen’ is from an Oxford college that they originally lived, even though they were discovered in Luxor, Egypt. Apparently P4 was found stuffed in the binding of a codex of Philo.

7. Bodmer Papyrus II: P66 (175 AD)

P66 contains a nearly complete gospel of John. It is the oldest of the Bodmer papyri, a set of 22 papyri which were discovered in Egypt in 1952. Buying New Testament papyri seems a good way to become famous, because they are named after Martin Bodmer who originally purchased them.

8. Bodmer XIV and XV: P75 (200 AD)

This early third century manuscript contains almost all of Luke, and also of John. You can find almost 100 images of it online.

9. Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 2: P1 (200 AD)

P1, fittingly contains Matthew 1. This is one of many parchments which have been found in the rubbish dumps of Oxyrhychus, Egypt. Their discovery began in 1898, uncovering not only early Christian text, but all sorts of ancient literature. Now there are over 50 New Testament manuscripts from this site.

10. Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 4446: P104 (125-150 AD)

And last but not least, P104, was another Oxyrhynchus piece of rubbish, which is now one of the more valuable pieces of rubbish in the world, because contains part of Jesus parable in Matthew 21.

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Jesus is God, man.

December 17, 2009

How can a Christian understand Jesus? How can Jesus be both man and God at the same time? As the church spread East into Asia, this question became one of great importance. The church was split into two main camps: The Nestorians, and the Monophysites. It all sounds like Syriac to me, so I had to look up what these terms meant.

This is the belief that Jesus existed as two separate persons. One of them is divine – the Son of God. The other is human.

It is somewhat ironic that Nestorius (a preacher at Antioch, and the bishop of Constantinople in 428) probably never taught this.

On this view, Jesus had only one nature. It wasn’t a fully divine nature, and it wasn’t a fully human nature. Instead it is a combination of the two: like a mixture of ink and water, so that the elements of both natures are modified to create a new one.

Standard Christian View
Just in case you’re wondering, the standard Christian view, for protestants, Catholics and Orthodox is to affirm that Jesus one person, who is truly God and truly man. This was spelled out by the leaders of the church who met together in 451 near Constantinople, in Chalcedon. Unlike the Nestorians, the church leaders said that Jesus was only one person,

Indivisibly, inseparably… concurring in one person and one subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons.

And unlike the Monophysites, they said that Jesus had two natures:

to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably… the distinction of the natures being preserved.

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Lavra Dome by Stuck in CustomsBart Ehrman’s book “Misquoting Jesus” has started to be quoted on message boards across the internet. What he says is not all that new, and in fact, I’m reading a lot of the same things – although without the cries of doom and seemingly fitting just nicely with a mature view of Christianity – in a standard textbook. On the last week’s edition of Stand to Reason, Ben Witherington III respectfully takes down Bart Ehrman a peg or two and restores some balance.

The podcast is here.

If this interests you and you want to know more: check out his Ben Witherington’s blog posts part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, and coda.

Thank you to Stuck in Customs for the image.

Apologetics wiki

May 18, 2009

There is a wiki (like wikipedia only from a Christian point of view) for apologetics! Check out the apologetics wiki at http://www.apologetics-wiki.com.