Science & Tech

Overlooked museum scrap turns out to be earliest account of Jesus’s childhood

Overlooked museum scrap turns out to be earliest account of Jesus’s childhood
Bible Prophecies That Eventually Came True
Messed Up History / VideoElephant

A small scrap of text that was long considered insignificant has now revealed itself to be the earliest-known account of Jesus Christ’s childhood.

For decades, the papyrus fragment scrawled with near-illegible text lay forgotten in a library in Hamburg, Germany. But then, two experts named Dr Lajos Berkes and Prof Gabriel Nocchi Macedo took a closer look.

“It was thought to be part of an everyday document, such as a private letter or a shopping list, because the handwriting seems so clumsy,” Berkes, of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (HU), explained in a statement.

However, he and Nocchi then noticed the word “Jesus” in the text and began comparing it with other digitised papyri.

“We deciphered it letter by letter and quickly realised that it could not be an everyday document,” he said.

The pair soon discovered that the piece of manuscript dates back to the 4th or 5th century and is, in fact, the earliest surviving copy of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas.

According to Oxford Bibliographies, this ancient text narrates episodes from Jesus’ youth from the age of five to 12.

“The fragment is of extraordinary interest for research,” Berkes said.

“On the one hand, because we were able to date it to the 4th to 5th century, making it the earliest known copy. On the other hand, because we were able to gain new insights into the transmission of the text.”

The fragment, dating to the 4th or 5th century, is the oldest known copy of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas

The strip of papyrus, measuring just 11 x 5cm in size, contains a total of 13 lines in Greek letters and originates from late antique Egypt, which was a Christian society at that time.

The text describes the beginning of the “vivification of the sparrows”, an episode from Jesus' childhood that is considered the “second miracle” in the Gospel of Thomas.

The story sees Jesus playing beside a rushing stream where he moulds twelve sparrows from the soft clay he finds in the mud.

When his father Joseph rebukes him for playing around on the holy Sabbath, the five-year-old Jesus claps his hands and brings the clay figures to life.

The Infancy Gospel of Thomas is believed to have first been written down in the 2nd century.

And yet, until Berkes and Nocchi Macedo’s breakthrough, the oldest known version of the text was an 11th-century ancient book, known as a codex.

Interestingly, the researchers noted that their work on the Hamburg papyrus scrap revealed a surprising truth about the religious scripture.

Nocchi Macedo said their findings confirmed that the Infancy Gospel of Thomas was “originally written in Greek.”

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