New Discovery: Earliest Manuscript of Gospel about Jesus’s Childhood Uncovered

A recent groundbreaking discovery has been made in the field of papyrology at the Hamburg Carl von Ossietzky State and University Library. A papyrus fragment with the inventory number P.Hamb.Graec. 1011, previously overlooked, has been identified as the earliest surviving copy of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas by papyrologists Dr. Lajos Berkes from Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and Prof. Gabriel Nocchi Macedo from the University of Liège.

This manuscript, dating back to the 4th to 5th century, predates the previously known oldest Greek version from the 11th century, shedding new light on the transmission of the text and confirming that the Infancy Gospel of Thomas was originally written in Greek. The Gospel recounts various childhood episodes of Jesus and is considered part of the biblical apocrypha.

The fragment, measuring approximately 11 x 5 centimeters, contains thirteen lines of Greek text and is believed to have originated from late antique Egypt. Despite its initial dismissal as a mundane document due to its handwriting, further examination revealed its significance in Christian texts. The researchers deciphered key terms and recognized the text as a copy of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, showcasing a unique insight into early Christian literature.

It is speculated that the papyrus was created for educational purposes in a school or monastery, as suggested by its unrefined handwriting. The fragment depicts a narrative from the Gospel where Jesus brings clay figures to life, showcasing his miraculous abilities as a child.

This discovery opens up new avenues for research in early Christian literature and offers a glimpse into the cultural and religious practices of the time. More information on this groundbreaking finding will be available in the upcoming publication by Berkes and Nocchi Macedo in the Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik.

For more details and the digital image of the papyrus fragment, please visit the Papyrus Portal. For inquiries, please contact Dr. Lajos Berkes at lajos.berkes@hu-berlin.de.