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A New Gospel

A New Gospel
C.H. Dodd

Bulletin of the John Rylands Library (BJRL) 20 (1936) 58-92
reprinted in "New Testament Studies", Scribners, New York, 1956, p. 12-52

  1. Introduction
  2. Language
  3. Textanalysis
  4. Conclusions Textanalysis
  5. Comparison with other apocryphal fragments
  6. General Conclusions


The Trustees of the British Museum have recently published the text of four small fragments of papyrus in their possession, which represent three leaves of a codex (i.e. a bound volume as distinct from a roll). They are now numbered Egerton Papyrus 2 in the British Museum collection. The text is admirably edited with introduction and commentary by Mr. H. Idris Bell and Mr. T.C. Skeat, in a volume entitled Fragments of an Unknown Gospel and Other Early Christian Papyri (1935). The editors have since issued a revised text under the title The New Gospel Fragments.

The editors discuss at length the date of the papyrus, and come to the conclusion that it belongs to the middle of the second century. They are able to cite the concurrence of other experts with their conclusion. As I am no paleographer, I shall not join in the discussion, but assume that the papyrus was written at a date not far removed in either direction from A.D. 150. If so, then it is probably the earliest piece of Christian writing known, with the single exception of the still more recently published Rylands papyrus of the Fourth Gospel (P. Ryl. Gk. 457), of which I shall have something to say presently.

The text of the papyrus is reprinted here (by permission) after the revised form given in Bell and Skeat, The New Gospel Fragments.

The text of the papyrus deals throughout, like our canonical Gospels, with stories and sayings of Jesus. Its contents are as follows:

Fragment I, verso, contains part of a controversy between Jesus and 'lawyers' and 'rulers of the people'.

Fragment I, recto, contains (a) the conclusion of a story in which Jesus escapes from an attack on His life; this may have been the sequel to the controversy reported above; and (b) a story of the healing of a leper, practically complete.

Fragment 2, recto, gives an account of a question asked by Jesus, and of His reply. So much is clear, but the actual text of the question has to be restored conjecturally, and the reply, though clear so far as it goes, is incomplete.

Fragment 2, verso, gives the remains of a question asked by Jesus, and goes on to relate something that He did but here the papyrus is so badly broken that it is difficult to restore either the question or the story with any certainty.

Fragment 3, which is very exiguous, seems to be a remnant of another story about an attempt on the life of Jesus.

Fragment 4 is a mere scrap, on which the editors can read only a single letter.

It is clear that we have here the same kind of material that we have in the canonical Gospels. The document, whatever it was, seems to have been made up of comparatively short Sections, each of which contained a narrative about Jesus or a dialogue between Him and other persons, or a mixture of narrative and dialogue. It is fortunate that we have in Fragment I recto the close of one section and the beginning of another, because the way in which the sections are placed in relation to one another shows the way in which the document was constructed. The former section closes with the words, 'The Lord Himself, going out from their hands, departed from them.' The episode is thus dismissed, and the next section begins, without any connecting or introductory matter, 'And behold a leper approaching Him said . . . '. We conclude that the author took over, from some source or other, sections which were complete in themselves, and placed them in succession, without any attempt, so far as the MS. shows, to weave them into a continuous narrative. That is not to say that the document was a mere cento or anthology. The compilation of the Synoptic Gospels seems to have proceeded on a similar method. In all of them, indeed, there is at times an attempt to supply continuity between the sections-least in Mark, most in Luke - but in no case has the attempt been carried through. It is one of the points made by recent criticism that the characteristic method of Gospel compilation was just this artless collocation of originally independent units, and that the more effort after continuity there is, the more advanced is the stage of development from the original tradition. But even the Fourth Gospel, though it departs more widely than the Synoptics from the traditional forms of Gospel composition, retains clear traces of the earlier method. We may say therefore that the present document has the distinctive marks of that type of literature known to us as 'Gospels', so far as the treatment of the material goes. Whether in its complete state it had the unity imposed upon the material by the special aims which actuated our canonical evangelists, the fragments do not allow us to judge. But, provisionally, the editors seem justified in calling it 'an unknown Gospel'.


We may proceed to compare it with our extant Gospels, and first in respect of language.

The language of the papyrus is good Hellenistic Greek, with no trace, so far as I can see, of Semitism. There do not appear to be any peculiarities which would suggest an Aramaic original, such as appear to a greater or less degree in all the canonical Gospels. Nor, apart from actual citations of the Old Testament, does the language appear to betray the influence of the 'biblical Greek' of the LXX, as the Lucan writings notably do in some places.

The vocabulary may be analysed as follows (I have included in the list such restorations as seem reasonably certain.):

A considerable number of words and locutions are naturally common to the papyrus and to all four Gospels, including such keywords as didaskalov, kuriov, grafai, ('Scriptures' in the technical sense), peirazein, ceirav, epiballein etc.

Of 37 significant words or locutions which are not thus common, (i) 10 are not found in the Gospels at all, or are found only in senses different from those of the papyrus. These are

paraprassein not in N.T.

paradosiv 'betrayal', or 'arrest', not in N.T.

aponeuein not in N.T., but ekneuein in the same sense (= 'depart') in John.

leprein (or leproun) not in N.T.

exetastikwv not in N.T. ; the verb exetazein in Matthew and John. Also in the Oxyrhynchus Sayings of Jesus, Ox. Pap. 654.

anhkein in Paul.

astatov not in N.T.

eperwthma in 1.Peter; the verb eperwtan very common in the Synoptics, once (+ 1 led. dub.) in John.

ceilov = 'edge' only in Hebrews.

kataspeirein not in N.T.

exagein karpon not in N.T.

(ii) 10 are found in the Lucan writings but not in the other Gospels. These are:

arcontev tou laou: the simple arcontev, of the Jewish authorities, occurs 4 times in Luke, 3 times in John, not in Matthew or Mark.




afistanai = 'depart'.

paragenomenoi used as here very frequently in the Lucan writings, and not elsewhere in N.T.; the verb paragenesqai 28 times in Luke and Acts, 3 times in Matthew, once in Mark, once in the genuine text of John.

arch in political sense.




and 4 are characteristically Lucan, though found rarely in other Gospels, viz.

nomikov once in Matthew, 6 times in Luke (+ 1 lect. dub.), not in Mark or John.

strafeiv twice in Matthew, not in Mark, twice in John, 7 times in Luke (+ 1 lect. dub.).

aporein once (lect. dub.) in Mark, twice in Luke-Acts, once in John, not in Matthew.

(iii) 2 are found in John and in the Lucan writings, but not in Matthew or Mark, viz.

liqazein 4 times in genuine text of John, twice in Acts.

piazein 8 times in John, twice in Acts,

and 2 are relatively common in John and in the Lucan writings, but rare in Matthew and Mark, viz.

outov o logov once in Mark, twice (both dub. lect.) in Matthew, twice in Luke, 3 times in Acts, 3 times in John. The plural outoi oi logoi is more common, but the emphatic use of the singular is characteristic.

marturein not in Mark, once in Matthew, 33 times in John, 14 times in Lucan writings.

(iv) 4 are found in all the Synoptics, but not in John, viz.




ekteinav thn ceira

and 2 in Matthew and the Lucan writings, but not in John, viz.



(v) Of words or locutions which enter into the vocabulary of the Gospels 4 only are not found in the Lucan writings, viz.

eraunan twice in John, not in Synoptics.

apistia once in Matthew, twice in the genuine text of Mark, not in Luke or John.

elhluqei h wra, or the like, once in Matthew (hggiken h wra), once in Mark (hlqen h wra), 14 times in John.

embrimasqai once in Matthew, twice in Mark, twice in John.

The result of this analysis is to show that the new text has in respect of vocabulary a much closer affinity with the Lucan writings than with the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, and John. Out of the 27 significant terms which belong to the vocabulary both of the canonical Gospels and of the papyrus, all but 4 are Lucan, and no fewer than 17 are characteristic of 'Luke' as compared with the other Synoptics.

It does not necessarily follow that the writer of the new document was influenced by the Lucan writings, especially as the connections in which the words are used have seldom any close relation to their contexts in the Third Gospel. The latter is, among the Gospels, the most 'literary' in style, and the farthest removed from the relatively 'vulgar' Greek with an Aramaic colouring in which the evangelical record was originally written down. The document we are examining had, like the Lucan writings, a relatively literary or secular character. This is borne out by the occurrence of no fewer than 10 terms, in so small a fragment, which are strange to the vocabulary of the canonical Gospels, and by the absence of Semitism. We are here at an even further remove from the primitive Gospel-style, founded upon a reverence for the forms of the oral tradition.

A similar conclusion follows from a consideration of the manner of referring to Jesus. In narrative He is called either by name (o Ihsouv) or, 'the Lord' (o kuriov). The former of these is usual in the primitive strata of the Synoptic Gospels; the latter is confined (in narrative) to Luke and John. In the second-century Gospel according to Peter, we may observe, Jesus is always called 'the Lord'. Peculiar to the new document is the address didaskale Ihsou; which would represent 'Rabbi Jesus'. 'Rabbi', or its Greek equivalent didaskale is the usual form of address all through the Synoptic Gospels, and is found also in John. The vocative Ihsou is not common. It is absent from Matthew and John. It occurs 8 times in Mark, and on each occasion Luke has reproduced it; and Luke adds one more example, in the mouth of the 'Penitent Thief' Lk 23:42; this is actually the only case in the canonical Gospels where the vocative 'Jesus' occurs by itself, without any further title accompanying it. It occurs also in the Gospel according to the Hebrews. The combination, 'Rabbi Jesus', is unparalleled. It has been stated, since the publication of this papyrus, that this follows ancient Jewish usage, and may be regarded as possibly even more primitive than the forms of address used in the Synoptic Gospels. But this does not appear to be so. Teachers of the Law were addressed respectfully as 'Rabbi' in the time of Jesus (Hillel seems to be the first of whom we have definite record), but the name was not added. Later, the respectful form of address was turned into a title, and eminent teachers were referred to as 'Rabbi Jochanan', 'Rabbi Eliezer', and so forth. This usage appears to have begun with the disciples of Jochanan ben Zakkai, after the fall of the Temple. But it does not appear to have been the custom to address a teacher in this way. The form of address was the simple 'Rabbi', which is the didaskale of the Synoptic Gospels. The address 'Rabbi Jesus' therefore does not correspond with contemporary Jewish usage, and in default of further evidence we must regard it as an imitative form arising in a circle not intimately acquainted with Jewish usages, but aware that Jewish teachers were referred to as 'Rabbi N. or M.'. In that case, the composition would probably belong to a period in which that usage was already established.

Our general conclusion so far is that the document before us was a composition similar to the canonical Gospels, resembling in its literary character the Third Gospel, and representing a stage of development away from the primitive Gospel-type at least as late as that. The date is in any case earlier than the middle of the second century, and it is probably later than the Lucan writings, and not earlier than the period (between the fall of the Temple and the Hadrianic War) in which the title (as distinct from the honorific form of address) 'Rabbi' came into common use among the Jews.


We must now turn to an examination of the text in detail.

FRAGMENT 1, verso, LINES 1-21

The opening sentences are fragmentary. All that is certain is that they were addressed by Jesus to 'lawyers'. I will leave them for the moment. From line 6 the restoration seems fairly certain. The text may be rendered as follows:

Turning to the rulers of the people He spoke this saying: 'Search the Scriptures: those [Scriptures] in which you suppose that you have life are the ones which bear witness concerning me. Do not think I have come to accuse you to my Father: your accuser is Moses, on whom you have set your hope.' And when they said, 'We know well that God spoke to Moses, but we do not know whence you come,' Jesus said in reply, 'Now your unbelief is accused. . .'

The following points are to be noted:

(i) The transitional formula strafeiv is characteristically Lucan, and it is a Lucan tendency also to distinguish between various groups addressed by Jesus. Thus the 'anti-Pharisaic discourse' is in Matthew addressed all through to 'scribes and Pharisees', whereas in Luke the first four sayings are addressed to Pharisees, and then Jesus turns to the 'lawyers'. Similarly here He first addresses the lawyers' and then turns to the 'rulers of the people'.

(ii) The term 'rulers' for the Jewish authorities is peculiar to John and the Lucan writings, and the full phrase 'rulers of the people' occurs only in Acts iv. 8, where the Sanhedrin, consisting of 'rulers, elders and scribes', is addressed as 'rulers of the people and elders'. In the papyrus the 'rulers of the people' are distinguished from the 'lawyers' (= scribes), and presumably represent the other categories of Sanhedrists, the 'rulers and elders' of Acts.

(iii) The saying addressed to the 'rulers' reads like John 5:39. According to the Greek MSS. this verse reads, 'You search (or Search) the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness concerning me.' But the 'Western Text', as represented by the Old Latin MSS. a and b, and by the Curetonian Syriac, had the reading, 'those [scriptures] in which you think you have life are those which bear witness concerning me'. Turned into Greek, this would be identical with the text of the papyrus.

(iv) The second saying corresponds closely to John 5:45 : 'Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom you have set your hope.' There are only two variations (a) the form hlqon kathgorhsai for the future kathgorhsw. The construction is found only once in the Fourth Gospel, 4:7. John prefers the construction with ina, e.g. 12:47, ou gar hlqon ina krinw ton kosmon. hlqon, with the infinitive, however, is not uncommon in other Gospels; e.g. Matthew 5:17, hlqon katalusai ton nomon Mark 10:45, ouk hlqon diakonhsai, Gospel according to the Egyptians, hlqon katalusai ta erga thv qhleiav Ebionite Gospel, hlqon katalusai tav qusiav. We may perhaps take it that the form elqon cum inf. was more or less stereotyped in early Christian usage for the formulation of sayings of Jesus expressing the purpose of His incarnation. (b) The addition of mou after patera, which is insignificant.

(v) The reply of the 'rulers' is in terms of John 9:29, with a pronoun transposed into the second person : 'We know that God spoke to Moses, but we do not know whence this man comes.' The only changes are (a) eu oidamen (a locution strange to the N.T.) for the simple oidamen and (b) the aorist elalhsen for the perfect lelalhken an improvement in literary style, for John's predilection for the perfect is excessive.

The passage before us therefore consists entirely of three 'Johannine' sayings, two attributed to Jesus and one to the 'rulers'. The verbal resemblance is so close that we have only three possible explanations: (i) the papyrus quotes the Fourth Gospel; (ii) John quotes from the 'Unknown Gospel', or (iii) both go back to a common source. To decide between these possibilities is a delicate matter. The editors are disposed to reject (i), and to leave open the choice between (ii) and (iii).

The only tests we can apply are the following (i) Is the language of this passage more characteristic of the papyrus as a whole, or of the Fourth Gospel as a whole?

(ii) Do the sayings form a more logical sequence in the papyrus or in their contexts in the Fourth Gospel?

(i) The application of the first test must be somewhat precarious where the material to which it is to be applied is so scanty, and comparison is the more difficult because apart from the present passage the papyrus has preserved so few words of Jesus, from which the style of the sayings in the 'Unknown Gospel' might be determined. But the following observations may be made (a) The verb eraunan is found in no Gospel but the Fourth. (b) The expression zwhn ecein is peculiarly Johannine, occurring 14 times in the Fourth Gospel, 4 times in 1.John, and nowhere else in the N.T. (c) The verb marturein is, as we have seen, highly characteristic of the Fourth Gospel, occurring 33 times ; and marturein peri tinov occurs 19 times there, and in no other Gospel. (d) ekeinov used as a pronoun is extremely common in the Fourth Gospel, occurring 50 times, as against 4 times in Matthew, twice in the genuine text of Mark, and 3 times in Luke. In particular, the form ekeinov estin (hn, or the like) is frequent in the Fourth Gospel (1:8, 5:35, 9:37, 10:1, 13:26, 14:21), and absent from the others except Mark 4:20. The expression en aiv dokeite zwhn ecein, ekeinai eisin ai marturousai may be compared with John 14:21, o ecwn tav entolav mou ... ekeinov estin o agapwn me. (e) The expression estin o kathgorwn is of a type common in the Fourth Gospel, cf. 5:32, allov estin o marturwn, 8:18, egw eimi o marturwn 8:54, estin o pathr mou o doxazwn me, 9:37, 6:33, 6:64. The articular participle is itself a construction for which the Fourth evangelist displays a certain predilection. As it is twice used in this short passage of the papyrus, so it occurs 18 times in 2 pages (in Nestle's text) of John 6. But the Fourth Gospel itself is not uniform in this respect. There are only 12 articular participles in 6 pages of the Farewell Discourses, and only 6 in 2 pages of John 7. (f) The words poqen ei refer to a question much to the fore in the Fourth Gospel, and not elsewhere ; cf. John 7:27, touton oidamen poqen estin 8:14, oida poqen hlqon kai pou upagw, umeiv de ouk oidate poqen ercomai h pou upagw, 19:9, poqen ei su.

The impression, therefore, which the whole passage produces, of being characteristically Johannine in language, is borne out by an examination of the actual expressions used. None of these expressions recurs in the papyrus. They may, of course, have occurred in other parts of the 'Unknown Gospel', but of this we have no evidence. On the evidence before us we must say that while the papyrus as a whole is linguistically most closely akin to the Lucan writings, in this passage its language is Johannine through and through. The natural conclusion is that the passage was taken by the author from a 'Johannine' source. If we suppose that this source was one used also by the Fourth Evangelist, we should have to say that the language of the Fourth Gospel was coloured all through by this hypothetical source, since the expressions we have examined have parallels in all parts of the Gospel. The easier hypothesis would be that the author of the 'Unknown Gospel' borrowed from the Gospel according to John.

(ii) The second test is necessarily more subjective, for different readers will judge differently the logical coherence of a given passage. Here the editors judge that in the papyrus 'there is a logical progression in the thought', and that 'the development is perfectly smooth and self-consistent'. But it may be questioned whether the progression would seem as logical as it does if the reader had not unconsciously in mind the context supplied in the Fourth Gospel. The first two sayings occur in the discourse of John 5, a large part of which is concerned with the theme of 'testimony'. Jesus appeals first to the testimony of John the Baptist (5:32-35). But this is not the chief or final testimony. God Himself bears testimony to His Son (5:36-38). This testimony the Jews do not accept because 'you have not His word abiding in you'. This reference to the 'word of God' introduces the saying 'You search the Scriptures . . .,' for the Scriptures are one form in which the testimony of God is given. The Jews, not having the word of God in their heart, cannot believe the word of God in the Scriptures. 'If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. If you do not believe his writings, how can you believe my words?' Here we have the real ground for the assertion that Moses is the 'accuser' of the unbelieving Jews. It is not given explicitly in the papyrus.

The third saying occurs in the 'trial scene' of John 9. Here the blind man whom Jesus had healed is being examined by the Pharisees. He suggests (perhaps ironically) that the reason why they are so anxious to get at the facts is that they wish to become disciples of Jesus (9:27). The Pharisees indignantly repudiate the suggestion: they are 'disciples of Moses' (an expression used in the Talmud of scribes of the Pharisaic school in distinction from the Sadducees and therefore appropriate to the 'Pharisees' of John rather than to the 'rulers' of the papyrus, who are distinguished from the 'scribes'). They continue, 'We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know whence he comes.' This is obviously a logical development of thought. If the Fourth Evangelist took the saying in question from the 'Unknown Gospel' he certainly showed great skill in fitting it into an entirely different context. If, on the other hand, we suppose that the borrowing was on the other side, we cannot perhaps admire so greatly the skill of our unknown author. Jesus has said, 'Moses, on whom you have set your hope, is your accuser.' The 'rulers' reply, 'We know that God spoke to Moses, but we do not know whence you come.' In other words, 'You appeal to the authority of Moses we accept his authority, but we do not accept yours.' It is no doubt an effective retort in its way, but it is no argument, and no real answer to what Jesus has said.

It would be rash to deny the possibility that the Fourth Evangelist found these sayings in a source represented by our papyrus, and made more effective use of them. But at least it seems clear that they are thoroughly 'at home' in the contexts where they occur in his work, and in view of the presumption created by our study of the language, it seems best to suppose that the author of the papyrus has excerpted the three sayings from the Fourth Gospel. In this case Egerton Pap. 2 becomes an early authority for the Western Text of John 5:39, and the only known Greek authority for it. It would, however, be well to postpone a final decision until we have discussed the next episode in the papyrus.

Meanwhile it remains to consider the opening and the close of this section, which are incomplete. At the beginning all that is certain is that Jesus said something to the lawyers', and that what He said contained the words panta ton paraprassonta ... ] mon kai mh eme. The rather rare verb paraprassein has, according to L. and S., the senses, 'to do a thing beyond or beside the main purpose', 'to help in doing', 'to act unjustly', especially 'to exact money wrongfully'. Of these meanings, only the third seems to give any good sense here. The editors restore panta ton paraprassonta kai anomon, 'every wrongdoer and transgressor'. In view of the uncertainty whether paraprassein was used absolutely except in the sense of 'to exact wrongfully', I should be inclined to suggest, panta ton paraprassonta para nomon, 'everyone who transgresses against the law' ; cf. parabainein para thn suggrafhn cited by L. and S. from an inscription. The whole phrase is in the accusative. The missing word before panta was probably a verb. The editors suggest kolazete, 'punish'. Another possibility would be the Johannine word elegcete, giving the sense 'convict every transgressor against the law, and not me'. Cf. John 8:46, tiv umwn elegcei me peri amartiav, which in any case illustrates the sense.

The sentence which follows was restored by Dr. Kenyon: o gar anomov ouk oiden o poiei pwv poiei; 'The lawless man does not know how he does that which he does' : cf. John 12:35, o peripatwn en th skotia ouk oiden pou upagei. The words ou gar egnwken o poiei pwv poiei, 'for he [scil. the transgressor] does not know how he does what he does', would better fill the space as shown in the transcript. The editors, however, now read the letter before o poiei as m and the restoration remains uncertain.

The close of the section is missing. The editors restore the last words of Fragment I, verso, nun kathgoreitei umwn h apisteia. The saying seems to have no canonical parallel, but it may have corresponded in sense to the conclusion of the discourse from which two of the Johannine sayings in this section were taken, John 5:46-47.


FRAGMENT I, recto, LINES 22-31

The restaurations here are only tentative in the opening sentence, but fairly certain for the most part in the succeeding sentences. The text as restored may be rendered as follows

... that they should drag him . . . and, taking up stones together, should stone him. And the rulers laid hands upon him to seize him and hand him over to the crowd; and they could not seize him, because the hour of his arrest had not yet come. But Jesus himself going out from their hands departed from them.

The vocabulary here again is Johannine in character. Of the key-phrases, liqazein occurs in no Gospel but the Fourth, in the genuine text of which it occurs 4 times, always with reference to attempts to stone Jesus ; piazein occurs in no Gospel but the Fourth, where it occurs 8 times ; two of these are in the Appendix (ch. 21:3,10), with reference to 'catching' fish, and the other 6 refer to attempts to arrest Jesus; the expression elhluqei h wra is of a form which occurs 14 times in the Fourth Gospel, once in Matthew and once in Mark; the verb aponeuein, in the sense of 'depart', has its nearest parallel in the N.T. in the Johannine use of ekneuein in the same sense (John 5:13).

In substance also the story recalls the Fourth Gospel. The Synoptics know of no attempt to stone Jesus. They all indeed record that after the Cleansing of the Temple the authorities sought to arrest Jesus, and Luke records this in terms which partly resemble those of the papyrus: ezhthsan oi grammateiv kai oi arciereiv epibalein ep auton tav ceirav en auth th wra. Luke again alone records an attempt made on the life of Jesus at Nazareth (4:28-30), and here the issue is described in terms not unlike those of the papyrus autov de dielqwn dia mesou autwn eporeuetw.

But for really close parallels to the account given in the papyrus we must turn to the Fourth Gospel. In 7:30 we read, 'They [indefinite plural] sought to seize (piasai) him, and no one laid a hand upon him, because his hour had not yet come.' This attempt having failed, 'the chief priests and Pharisees sent officers to seize him (ina piaswsin auton)' (32). The crowd is divided in sympathy; some are disposed to give consideration to the Messianic claims of Jesus; but 'some wished to seize him; but no one laid hands upon him' (44). Consequently the officers return to their principals without having effected an arrest. At a later point (8:20) the statement is repeated, 'No one seized him, because his hour had not yet come.' At the close of the same long section of the Gospel we have the statement, 'they took up stones to throw at him, but Jesus concealed himself and went out of the Temple' (8:59). The intention of the evangelist appears to have been to 'stage' the great controversial scene at the Feast of Tabernacles on a background of official and popular hostility which at any moment might result in the 'seizure' of Jesus, but which is held at bay by his personal prestige (7:31, 41, 46), until the destined 'hour' should arrive.

Again, in John 10:31 we read 'The Jews took up stones to stone him.' Jesus protests. They reply, 'It is not for a good deed that we are for stoning you, but for blasphemy' (33). Jesus again replies, and then, 'they sought to seize him; and he departed out of their hand' (39).

The similarity between these passages and the story in the papyrus is obvious. In the fragmentary state of the MS. it is difficult to be quite sure what the exact procedure was ; but so much is clear, that 'rulers' and the 'crowd' were concerned in an attempt (a) to stone Jesus, and (b) to seize him. The attempt is unsuccessful 'because the hour of his arrest had not yet come'. The language all through is Johannine, except that the Johannine phrase oupw elhluqei autou h wra is supplemented by the words thv paradosewv. With this we may compare Mark 14.41: hlqen h wra, idou paradidotai o uiov tou anqrwpou. (The verb paradidonai is used of the procedure which results in the arrest and committal of an offender cf. Mark 1:14, 13:9,11, Acts 3:13, 8:13, etc. It does not in itself mean 'to betray', though the procedure by which the arrest of Jesus was effected was actually a 'betrayal'.)

The question must again be raised whether the Fourth Gospel or the papyrus represents the prior form of the story. Once again we must try to apply the tests of language and of content.

(i) Every stage of the narrative is described in 'Johannine' phraseology, though the conclusion slightly resembles a passage in Luke.


autov de o kuriov exelqwn ek twn ceirwn apeneusen ap autwn


autov de dielqwn dia mesou autwn eporeueto (Lk 4:30)


o gar Ihsouv exeneusen oclou ontov en tw topw (Jo 5:13)

Ihsouv de ekrubh kai exhlqen ek tou ierou (Jo 8:59)

apelqwn ekrubh ap autwn (Jo 12:36)

[Johannine words green, Lucan words red.]

The coincidence, however, between the language of the papyrus and that of the Fourth Gospel is not so decisive in this case as in the case of Section I, because here the common vocabulary is not so widely distributed through the Gospel. epiballeintas ceirav does not occur in John outside the passage cited. liqazein occurs only in the passage cited, and in a reference to it in 11:8. piazein occurs only once outside the passages cited, except for two occurrences in the Appendix. Only the phrase elhluqei h wra is a constant feature of the Johannine vocabulary. Apart from it, the examination of the language would leave it possible that John was using a source represented by the papyrus. But are we to believe that it was that source that provided him with the conception of the divinely-ordained 'Hour', which controls the scheme of the Fourth Gospel from its first introduction in 2:4 to the solemn proclamation in 17:1, pater, elhluqen h wra? It is no doubt conceivable that the evangelical tradition evolved the phrase h wra thv paradosewv autou; on the analogy of the Marcan phrase cited, and that the Fourth Evangelist adapted it to his purpose. But to me it seems more likely that our unknown author took over the phrase from the Fourth Gospel without fully appreciating its import. In John 'the Hour' is an expression laden with deep theological meaning. It is the appointed 'zero-hour' of the universe, the hour of the Last Judgement, when the prince of this world is cast out, the moment when the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together (cf. 12:23-32). To our author the phrase 'his hour' seemed too vague; he gave it a more precise but more prosaic meaning as the predestined moment for the arrest of Jesus.

(ii) If we regard the substance of the story, two hypotheses seem possible. (a) The papyrus represents the more primitive tradition of an occasion when Jesus was in danger of being 'lynched', when 'the rulers' and 'the crowd' conspired to seize and stone Him; and John has for his own purposes made out of this two scenes, in one of which the authorities attempt an arrest, and in the other the populace attempt to stone Him; the latter being duplicated in 8:59 and 10:31. (b) The author of the 'Unknown Gospel' has conflated two incidents in the Fourth Gospel. It is unfortunate that the details of the papyrus narrative are obscure through the fragmentary state of the MS.; but so far as we can gather it appears that the authorities attempted to seize Jesus in order to hand Him over to the crowd for stoning. If, however, the crowd was ready to stone Jesus, surely they did not need to wait for a formal arrest. In the Fourth Gospel the contemplated arrest is evidently intended to lead to regular legal proceedings, as in fact actually happened in the end (cf. 11:57, 18:2-3,12). The Johannine account is more perspicuous and more credible than that of the papyrus, at least so far as we can restore it. There is indeed a certain amount of repetition or duplication in the Fourth Gospel, which is due to that evangelist's method of composition, but it remains true that his various statements seem to be based upon a tradition of two separate and distinct events rather than upon the account of a single event as we have it in the papyrus.

If now we take together the two 'Johannine' sections of the papyrus, it seems probable that the author of the 'Unknown Gospel' composed one part of his work by abridging and conflating portions of the Fourth Gospel. In that Gospel he read that before the final crisis the hostility of the Jewish authorities to Jesus had led to an attempt or attempts on His life. The record of this is in the Fourth Gospel embedded in lengthy theological disquisitions, which our author did not wish to reproduce for his readers. He has selected salient points in the controversy between Jesus and the 'rulers', as recorded in the Fourth Gospel, and made them lead up to a scene in which two unsuccessful attempts on the life of Jesus, as recorded in the same Gospel, are combined in one episode, For the most part he has used the very language of the Fourth Gospel, though in the word nomikov, and possibly in the phrase h wra thv paradosewv he betrays knowledge of non-Johannine forms of the evangelical tradition.

FRAGMENT 1, recto, LINES 32-41

The story of the healing of a leper is apparently all but complete, and the restorations are for the most part fairly certain. It reads as follows:

And behold a leper approached him and said, 'Rabbi Jesus, when I was travelling with lepers and eating with them at the inn, I became leprous myself also. If therefore you will, I shall be cleansed.' Then the Lord said, 'I will : be clean.' And at once the leprosy departed from him. And the Lord said to him, 'Go and show yourself to the priests.'

This is clearly the same story as that which is given in Mark 1:40-44, and the Synoptic parallels. A leper approached Jesus saying, 'If you will, I am cleansed' ('you can cleanse me,' Synn.). Jesus said, 'I will ; be clean . . . show yourself to the priest(s).' Such is the nucleus of the story in all our sources alike. But apart from the words of Jesus and of the leper, there is little directly in common between the Synoptics and the 'Unknown Gospel'. Nor does the language of the papyrus show decisive affinity with one Synoptic Gospel more than another.

If we are to take the view that the author of the 'Unknown Gospel' derived the story from a canonical source, we should have to suppose that he knew all three Synoptic Gospels, and produced his account by combining expressions used by different evangelists. Possible, no doubt but is it likely?

But further, there are certain characteristic traits which are present in all three Synoptics, and are lacking in the papyrus: (a) the leper did obeisance to Jesus (gonupetwn, Mark, prosekunei, Matthew, peswn epi proswpon, Luke) (b) Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him; (c) Jesus charged him to tell no one. Mark also adds that Jesus was either sorry for the man (splagcnisqeiv most MSS.), or angry with him (orgisqeiv, Codex Bezae and some Old Latin and Syriac MSS.) ; and that when He sent him away He was indignant (embrimhsamenov). It is an odd thing that two of the expressions here missing in the papyrus appear in later sections, embrimhsamenov in Section IV, ekteinav thn ceira in Section V. Is this a mere accident, or does it suggest that the author's mind unconsciously retained a memory of what he had just read in Mark, and although he did not use it immediately, introduced it into different contexts? It may be so. But if we suppose that the author had thus before him the Synoptic account, we are put to it to understand why he should have left out these highly characteristic traits of the story, unless he was sorely pressed for space. This, however, he was not, for he has expanded the story by a quite unparalleled addition.

The leper said, 'As I was travelling in the company of lepers, and eating with them in the inn, I contracted leprosy myself'. The intention is apparently to enlist the sympathy of Jesus with a person who had had such bad luck as to contract a loathsome disease while travelling on his lawful occasions. The spirit of this ad misericordiam appeal reminds one of the version of the story of the man with a withered hand in the Gospel according to the Hebrews, where the man says, 'I was a bricklayer, earning my living with my hands. I beg you, Jesus, restore to me my health, that I may not be disgraced by begging for food.' Is this mere embroidery of a narrative taken by the author of the apocryphal Gospel from one of the Synoptic Gospels, or was he following a different oral tradition? We cannot answer the question, because only this part of the apocryphal version is preserved. It is usually said, chiefly on the basis of certain not too clear statements in the Fathers, that the Gospel according to the Hebrews had some special relation to the Gospel according to Matthew. But among the fragments preserved there are at least 10 which have no obvious parallel in Matthew or the other Synoptic Gospels. It is perfectly possible that the source, written or (more probably) oral, from which these passages were drawn, contained also alternative versions of such stories as those of the Withered Hand, the Talents, and the Rich Ruler, all of which show striking differences from the canonical forms.

There is the same doubt about the story of the leper in the 'Unknown Gospel'. At a former stage of Gospel criticism emphasis was laid so exclusively upon literary source-criticism that all variations tended to be explained as editorial rehandling of written sources. The emergence of 'form-criticism' has drawn attention afresh to the fact that, whatever the literary history of the tradition may have been, it had a previous history in an oral form, and that variations must have arisen at this stage, before written sources existed. It would therefore be unwise to assume that the resemblances between the leper-story in the papyrus and in the canonical Gospels are due to the use of the latter by the author of the former. The resemblances are after all confined to that minimum which could not be absent if the story was to be told at all. The differences, both by way of omission and of addition, are more striking. It may well be that the story had taken different forms in the oral tradition, and that it reached the author of the 'Unknown Gospel' in a form different from that which it took in the tradition underlying Mark, which is itself the basis of all the canonical reports.

FRAGMENT 2, recto, LINES 43-59

The second fragment is more incomplete than the first, and a good deal of restoration is necessary; but the restorations proposed by the editors in the recto text seem in the main inevitable. The text as restored may be translated as follows:

... came to him and tested him by examination, saying, Rabbi Jesus, we know that you have come from God; for the things you are doing bear witness beyond all the prophets. Tell us then, is it lawful to pay to kings (or, to the Emperors) those things which pertain to the Government? Shall we pay or shall we not? And Jesus, knowing their mind (?), indignantly said to them, Why do you call me Rabbi, when you do not listen to what I say? Finely did Isaiah prophesy concerning you, saying, This people honour me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. In vain do they worship me ... commandments. .

It seems clear that we have a narrative parallel to the Synoptic story of the Tribute Money (Mark 12:13-17 and parallels). The main structure of the story can be recognized.

1. Jesus is put to the test (peirazein) with a question.

2.The question is introduced by a flattering remark.

3.The question is put in a double form : 'Is it lawful . . .?' - 'Shall we pay or not?'

4.Jesus recognizes the intention of the questioners.

5.He replies with a reproachful question: 'Why do you call me Rabbi' (papyrus), or 'Why do you test me?' (Synn.).

But while the general form of the passage is closely similar to the Synoptic narrative, nothing but the barest minimum of words is common to the canonical Gospels and the papyrus. There is here certainly no amount of resemblance in language sufficient to justify the hypothesis that the 'Unknown Gospel' is directly dependent on any of the Synoptic Gospels. That hypothesis becomes still more unlikely in view of the striking divergences from the Synoptic account.

(i) The flattering remark which introduces the question has the form, oidamen oti apo qeou elhluqav, a gar poieiv marturei para touv profhtav pantav. This is thoroughly 'Johannine' in character. The idea that the works of Jesus 'bear witness' to Him is familiar in the Fourth Gospel; and cf. John 3:2, where Nicodemus says, Rabbei, oidamen oti apo qeou elhluqav didaskalov oudeiv gar dunatai tauta ta shmeia poiein a su poieiv ean mh h o qeov met autou. In view of the relation we have seen to exist between the 'Unknown Gospel' and the Gospel according to John, we need not hesitate to assume a reminiscence of this passage.

(ii) Instead of the definite 'tribute to Caesar' we have the vaguer 'things-pertaining-to-the-Government to kings' - toiv basileusin, which might indeed mean 'to the emperors,' basileuv being the ordinary title of the Emperor in the East. But cf. Matt. 17:25, oi basileiv thv ghv apo tinwn lambanousi telh. This is another question relating to the payment of taxes, and the vaguer form of phrase is used, as in the papyrus.

(iii) ti me kaleite tw stomati umwn didaskalon mh akouontev o legw ; Cf Luke 6:46, ti me kaleite Kurie, kurie, kai ou poieite a legw ... ; The most probable account of the matter is that this saying circulated in oral tradition in isolation. The compiler of 'Q' supplied it with the context in which it stands in Luke; the author of the 'Unknown Gospel,' or his immediate authority, gave it a different context.

(iv) kalwv Hsaiav peri umwn eprofhteusen eipwn ... ; Cf Matt 15:7, kalwv eprofhteusen peri umwn Hsaiav legwn ... ; introducing the same quotation from Isa. 29:13. The context is entirely different, but it looks as if the author had taken the quotation, with its proper introduction, from Matthew (who follows Mark, but with modifications which bring the passage nearer to the form in the papyrus), and supplied it with a different context. But this inference is not certain, for (a) this method of introduction is not peculiar to that passage ; cf. Acts 28:25, kalwv to pneuma to agion elalhsen dia Hsaiou. It may therefore have been a customary way of citing prophecy. (b) The quotation does not exactly follow the form given in Matthew and Mark, but is generally near to the LXX form.

Moreover the words tw stomati umwn in the preceding clause are clearly a reminiscence of the words of the preceding clause in the LXX, eggizei moi o laov outov en tw stomati autwn. It is clear, therefore, that if the author did get the quotation from Matthew, he has verified it for himself from the LXX text. It is perhaps simpler to suppose that he took the quotation either directly from the LXX, or from some collection of testimonia, independently of the canonical Gospels.

The case therefore for regarding this passage as based upon the canonical Gospels is far from strong. We have indeed probably an instructive instance of the way in which the tradition shaped itself in the course of transmission. We may suppose that in the early oral tradition there was a story of a question about payment of taxes, which took two forms, one a more vague and general one which spoke of 'kings' and of 'things pertaining to the Government' the other a more definite one which spoke of 'Caesar' and 'tribute'. In both forms the question was regarded as an attempt to put Jesus to the test (peirazein). In both cases the question was prefaced by a flattering remark, which Jesus deprecates. The form of the remark and of Jesus' reply may well have differed in different forms of the story. The tradition knew of other cases in which Jesus was addressed in flattering terms, which He brushed aside, e.g. Mark 10:17-18 : 'Good Master ...' - 'Why call me good?' ; John 3:2. In the form of tradition known to our author the reply of Jesus was probably already given in the form of the floating saying utilized otherwise in Luke 6:46, and he may himself have given to the introductory remark a form due to his knowledge of John 3:2.

He (or his immediate authority) has further supplemented the saying of Jesus with a quotation from the O.T., as the canonical evangelists have done in several places. The actual reply of Jesus to the question asked is unfortunately not preserved in the papyrus.

We conclude therefore that in this part of the' Unknown Gospel' the author is probably dependent, directly or indirectly, on an oral tradition different from that which underlies the parallel passage in the Synoptic Gospels. The mould in which the story is cast is manifestly the same, but the actual wording is almost entirely different. This is exactly the state of affairs we should expect to find if the variations took place in the pre-literary stage. The relation of this passage to the Synoptic parallel is probably similar to that which exists between the story of the Centurion's Servant in Matthew and Luke, and the story of the Nobleman's Son in John. We can hardly doubt that it is the same story, yet the wide difference in the actual wording makes any literary dependence unlikely.

Comment on FRAGMENT 2, recto, LINES 43-59 from Dodd in: "Historical Tradition in the Fourth Gospel" (1965)

For the relation of the three passages to one another [Egerton, John and Mk 12:14] see the discussion in my book "NT Studies". I am however less sure than I then was that the passage in Pap. Eg. 2 is a direct borrowing from the Fourth Gospel, in view of the striking departure from the Johannine form, and the reference to the superiority of Jesus to the prophets, which recalls rather the Gospel according to the Hebrews.

Although I believe that in the first fragment of Pap. Eg. 2 there is a direct quotation from the Fourth Gospel, I now think it more probable that fragment 2 is a divergent rendering of a common tradition all through (as it pretty clearly is in its main substance).

FRAGMENT 2, verso, LINES 60-75

The text here is woefully fragmentary, and restoration is problematical. We shall do well to start from those phrases which are clear beyond reasonable doubt.

The first 3 lines are very obscure. Then we have the clear statement that certain persons 'were at a loss about the strange question' which Jesus had asked. Presumably we are to look for this strange question in the fragmentary words in lines 60-62. Thereupon, 'Jesus, as he walked, stood upon the verge of the River Jordan and stretching out his right hand . . .' did something which is no longer clear. The next words which can be read are: kai katespeiren epi ton ..., kataspeirein means 'to sow', 'scatter', 'sprinkle'. Two lines further down we read udwr, 'water', and again two lines further, 'brought forth fruit'. Those are the last intelligible words.

What are we to make of this? There is no passage in the canonical Gospels which seems to give any help. Since early in the passage we have a reference to 'sowing' (Or 'scattering'), and later the expression 'brought forth fruit', it would seem natural to suppose that we have a story in which Jesus sowed seed which forthwith sprang up and bore fruit. On this supposition we might restore lines 68-69: ekteinav thn ceira autou thn dexian egemisen sporw kai katespeiren epi ton ...-on.

'He stretched out his right hand and filled it with seed, and sowed it upon the . . .' upon what? The editors suggest the river, restoring potamon at the beginning of line 70. But in lines 70-71 we have fragments of words which can hardly be restored otherwise than katesparmenon udwr. If the suggested interpretation we are following is to be accepted, then these words must mean 'the water which had been sowed with seed', and this, as the editors say, though perhaps just possible, is all but incredible as a rendering of the Greek. katesparmenon udwr could in fact hardly mean anything but 'sprinkled water'. It appears therefore that what Jesus 'sowed', or 'sprinkled' was not seed but water. In that case He must have sprinkled it not 'upon the river', but 'upon the shore'. I suggest therefore aigialon instead of potamon at the beginning of line 70. aigialon indeed is properly the sea-shore; but in Egyptian papyri it is used of the shores of the marshy lakes which are found in Lower Egypt (see Moulton and Milligan, Vocabulary, s.v.). Our papyrus is also Egyptian, and it seems not impossible that the word should here be used for the shore of a river.

With this clue I propose, tentatively, to restore the passage as follows:

Jesus, as he walked, stood still upon the verge of the River Jordan; and stretching out his right hand, he filled it with water and sprinkled it upon the shore; and thereupon the sprinkled water made the ground moist, and it was watered before them and brought forth fruit.

(epotisqh is somewhat long for the presumed lacuna. The editors suggest eplhsqh, 'was impregnated', but without any confidence. A possible restoration would eplhsqh enwristeron, 'it was very soon fecundated '. The word enwristeron is cited from Phylarchus (III. B.C.). See L. and S.)

It is a bizarre story, implying a nature-miracle unknown to the other Gospels, canonical and apocryphal alike. The motive underlying it seems to be the popular belief in the fecundating power of water, which is widespread, and was particularly strong in Egypt, where the phenomenon of fertilization by Nile-water seemed a yearly miracle. The story, in fact, has something of the character of a folk-tale. We must, however, recognize that folk-tale motives have at times entered even into the canonical Gospels, to say nothing of the apocryphal. The stories of the Coin in the Fish's Mouth, the Blasted Fig-tree, and the Turning of Water into Wine can all be paralleled out of folk-lore. In the Gospels the last certainly, the second probably, and the first possibly, have a certain symbolic intention, and we may assume that some such intention was present in the 'Unknown Gospel', since the act is performed by Jesus to illustrate a 'strange question' which He had propounded. In view of the Johannine affinities of this document, we should probably look to the Fourth Gospel for a clue to the symbolism. The symbol of 'living water' is among its most characteristic ideas. Water stands for the life-giving energies of God. This symbolism is deeply rooted in the Old Testament. Cf. Isa. 55:10-11:

For as the rain cometh down and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, and giveth seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goeth out of my mouth.

The word of the Lord is like water that fertilizes the ground. The symbolic act described in the papyrus may have been conceived as an illustration of this truth. It seems possible to restore the first three lines of the fragment so as to give a question to which the symbolic act might provide the answer. Following some suggestions of the editors I propose (exempli gratia) some such restoration as the following:

When a husbandman has enclosed a small seed in a secret place, so that it is invisibly buried, how does its abundance become immeasurable?

If something like this was the purport of the question, we may understand the episode on these lines. Jesus makes use of the figure of seed and harvest (which we know to have been a favourite illustration with Him). The seed, He says, is a small thing (cf Mark 4:31), and it is buried out of sight (cf. John 12:24). What causes it to produce an abundant crop? The answer is, The rain cometh down from heaven and watereth the earth and maketh it bring forth. But instead of giving the answer in words, Jesus takes water and sprinkles it on the earth - and the miracle of fertilization takes place. Even so, it is implied, the word, or the Spirit, of God, like living water, quickens the heart of man.

Whether or not this was the general drift of the passage, one thing is clear. It rests on no source known to us from other Gospel literature. This fact shows that the author, whether or not he was acquainted with our Gospels, had other sources at his command, and makes it the more credible that the unfamiliar forms of the stories of the Leper and the Tribute-money were also drawn from sources peculiar to him.

FRAGMENT 3, recto

The verso of Fragment 3, which, according to the editors, came first, defies restoration. Single words can be read, but it would be hazardous to attempt to make sense of them.

There is not much here to guide us; but cf. John 10:30-31: egw kai o pathr mou en esmen. ebastasan palin liqouv oi Ioudaioi ina liqaswsin auton. apekriqh autoiv o Ihsouv ... I and my Father are one. ... The Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them ...'.

We seem driven to suspect that the papyrus contained something similar to the Johannine passage: '[Jesus said, I and my Father] are one ... [They took up] stones ... to kill him . . . he said ...

Results from the textanalysis:

The results may be summarized as follows:

Sections I and II, which probably formed a single pericope, are directly based on the Fourth Gospel, containing (a) a discourse which is a cento of Johannine passages, and (b) a story which seems to be a conflation of two separate incidents in John. But it also contained a saying addressed to 'lawyers' with no canonical parallel, and the concluding saying, of which only 5 words survive in part, seems also to be different from anything in the canonical Gospels.

Section III contains a story closely parallel to one in the Synoptics, which may have been derived directly from them, but was more probably taken from a parallel tradition.

Section IV contains a story parallel to one in the Synoptics, but told so differently that we seem driven to postulate an independent tradition. Johannine influence, however, again seems probable.

Section V contains material without any parallel in the canonical Gospels, and clearly points to a different strain of tradition.

Section VI, so far as it can be restored, suggests a Johannine source or parallel.

If the above analysis is right, the only canonical Gospel with which the papyrus text shows any clear and direct relation is the Fourth Gospel. The author may have known the Synoptics, and his language may have been to some extent influenced by them, but there is no clear evidence of this. The 'Unknown Gospel' therefore would seem to have emanated from a circle which held the Fourth Gospel to be authoritative, but which, if it knew the Synoptic Gospels, preferred, at least in some cases, other authorities.

On the relation between the papyrus text and non-canonical texts having more or less the character of Gospels, I have little to add to what the editors have said, but a brief summary may be useful.



The Gospel according to the Hebrews has, as we have seen, an addition to the story of the Withered Hand which is similar in spirit to the addition to the story of the Leper in the papyrus. We may add that the comparison of Jesus with the prophets (in Section IV) is also in the spirit of the Gospel according to the Hebrews. Note the following passages:

In the story of the Baptism of Jesus, the divine voice says, 'My Son, in all the prophets I awaited thee, that thou mightest come, and that I might find my rest in thee.'

'Even in the prophets, after they were anointed with Holy Spirit, there was found matter of sin' (sermo peccati)

To the rich man who asks, 'By doing what good thing shall I live?' Jesus replies, 'Man, do the law and the prophets.'

As regards language, the Gospel according to the Hebrews, like the papyrus, refers to Jesus as 'the Lord,' and addresses Him either as 'Jesu' or as 'magister' (= didaskale) but not 'magister Jesu'; and the formula strafeiv occurs both in the papyrus and in the Gospel according to the Hebrews ('conversus').

There is nothing here to suggest that the 'Unknown Gospel' depended on the Gospel according to the Hebrews as a source, but it may well be that the type of tradition followed by the author of the new document had some contact with the tradition underlying that Gospel.

The Ebionite Gospel and the Gospel according to the Egyptians have no resemblance to our document in matter or in style, if we except the single idiom, hlqon with the infinitive to express the purpose of the Incarnation: Egerton Papyrus 2, hlqon kathgorhsai, cf. Eb. hlqon katalusai tav qusiav, Eg. hlqon katalusai ta erga thv qhleiav. This, however, is, as I have suggested, of the nature of a formula common to various types of early Christian tradition.

The Gospel according to Peter, so far as it is preserved, contains a Passion-narrative which depends on all four canonical Gospels, and probably not on any independent tradition. In style and language it has nothing in common with our document, unless we include the reference to Jesus as 'the Lord'. This is invariable throughout the extant fragment of the Gospel. In our document, as in Luke and John, it alternates with the more primitive form of reference to Jesus by name.

None of the other apocryphal Gospels known to us by name show any kind of affinity with our document, so far as can be judged from the exiguous fragments preserved.


Two sets of Sayings of Jesus found at Oxyrhynchus (Ox. Pap. 1, 654) may belong to a single document. It was different in character from the 'Unknown Gospel', consisting entirely of a collection of aphorisms. Consequently there is no sufficient basis for comparison, for our papyrus is lacking in sayings of this aphoristic character. Like our papyrus, however, the Oxyrhynchus Sayings present material parallel to passages in the Synoptic Gospels, but sometimes with variations which suggest a different line of tradition, and also material with no canonical parallel. They also show a certain 'Johannine' colouring, but nothing like the pronounced Johannine character of Sections I and II of our papyrus. In view of the slight possible contact between our document and the Gospel according to the Hebrews, it is interesting to observe that one of the Oxyrhynchus Sayings is also cited from that Gospel.

Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 655 seems not to be part of the same collection of Sayings, since it lacks the formula legei Ihsouv, though otherwise it is similar in character. It contains part of a conversation of Jesus with His disciples, introducing three sayings parallel, though with variations, to Synoptic sayings, and one which has no close parallel anywhere, but is partly similar to a fragment of the Gospel according to the Egyptians, and partly similar to a saying cited in 2.Clement.

Ox.Pap. 655 has no point of contact with our document.

A papyrus-fragment from the Fayyum in the Rainer collection reads as follows:

Before parting from them (he said) in like manner, All you will be scandalised to-night according to that which is written: 'I will smite the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered.' When Peter said, Even if all, yet not I, (he said) to him again, The cock will crow twice and you will first deny me thrice.

The rapid dialogue recalls slightly the manner of Section I of our papyrus. Cf. especially eipontov tou Petrou with autwn de legontwn. But the staccato, almost 'telegraphic' style of the Fayyum papyrus goes far beyond the concise brevity of our document. The Fayyum fragment may be simply a Sort of 'precis' of Mark 14:27-30, Matt. 26:31-34 (following partly Mark and partly Matthew).

Ox. Pap. 840 contains a long and circumstantial account of a controversy between Jesus and a Chief Priest, having no parallel in the canonical Gospels. It is probably an extract from an apocryphal Gospel. The style has no resemblance to that of Eg. Pap. 2, nor is there any common character in the vocabulary. Jesus is referred to throughout as o swthr. Grenfell and Hunt held that the document of which Ox. Pap. 840 is a fragment was composed about A.D. 200.

The only relevant inference that we can draw from the examination of these anonymous fragments is that the Church in Egypt had in early times a considerable supply of extra-canonical Gospel tradition which was incorporated in various documents, and that such apocryphal documents found a ready public in that country. The newly-published fragment adds to the number of works of this kind. It cannot with any probability be associated with any as the fragments previously known, as part of the same work. As the number of apocryphal Gospel documents increases, it becomes less and less plausible to suppose that they all originated in expansions of material derived from the canonical Gospels, assumed to be already familiar in Egypt.

General conclusions:

It follows from the above discussion that the importance of the newly-published papyrus lies chiefly in two directions:

(i) More perhaps than any apocryphal Gospel text yet known, with the possible exception of the Gospel according to the Hebrews, it provides material for the study of variant forms of evangelical tradition.

(ii) It affords what is probably the earliest actual quotation from the Fourth Gospel. Assuming that the papyrus was written about A.D. 150, it would be reasonable to place the composition of the 'Unknown Gospel' of which it is a copy substantially earlier. The editors believe that 'it was of comparative early date, most likely before the end of the first century. (A date as early as this is necessary if it be held that the Fourth Evangelist used our document as a source, but not if a common source was used by both authors, still less if it be held (as I have argued) that the papyrus depends upon the Fourth Gospel.)

I should myself not care to put it quite so far back, but a date early in the second century is likely. Now there is no certain citation of the Fourth Gospel in Ignatius (probably A.D. 115), or in Papias (usually dated about 140, but perhaps earlier), or in Polycarp (usually dated about 115, but perhaps later). It is highly probable that the Gospel was used by Valentinus and Basilides (about 130), but it is not certain that the citations we possess are from the works of these teachers themselves rather than from works of their followers. Thus our previously extant literature contains no undoubted quotation from the Fourth Gospel earlier than Justin, Tatian and the Gospel according to Peter, all of which belong to the middle years of the second century. The composition of the 'Unknown Gospel' is almost certainly to be dated earlier than this.

It has indeed been doubted by many critics whether the Gospel according to John was actually published before about A.D. 135. But as it happens, we are now in a position to say with some definiteness that it was known in Egypt about as early as this. A papyrus in the Rylands Library, Manchester, has recently been published, containing parts of John 18:31-33,37-38. See 'An Unpublished Fragment of the Fourth Gospel', by C. H. Roberts, Manchester University Press, 1935. The editor of the Rylands papyrus dates it to the first half of the second century, and is able to claim the support of other experts for this dating. Its style of writing resembles that of Eg. Pap. 2, but it appears to be, if anything, somewhat earlier. We shall not be far wrong therefore if we say that the Rylands MS. of the Fourth Gospel was written not later than A.D. 140. If so, it is the earliest piece of Christian writing known. It was presumably written in Egypt. The Fourth Gospel was almost certainly published at Ephesus, and, allowing time for it to reach Egypt under the conditions of book-circulation in the ancient world, we may fairly conclude that the date of composition was not later than A.D. 120. That being so, we have an additional argument against the view that the 'Unknown Gospel' was used by the Fourth Evangelist as a source, though of course it does not tell against the view that John and the author of the 'Unknown Gospel' used a common source. But if the arguments I have put forth are held to make it probable that the 'Unknown Gospel' borrows from the Fourth Gospel, then we may put together the evidence of Eg. Pap. 2 and Ryl. Pap. Gk. 457, and say that they prove not only that the Fourth Gospel circulated in Egypt during the first half of the second century, but also that it was sufficiently well-known and respected to be used in the composition of another Gospel-writing quite early in that century. In that case we should be compelled to push back our provisional terminus ad quem for the composition of John, some twenty years earlier, to about the beginning of the century.

This leads to some reflections upon the reception of the Gospels in the Egyptian Church. Eg. Pap. 2, as we have seen, affords no convincing evidence of the use of the Synoptic Gospels, for although two of the stories in it have parallels in the Synoptics, the variations are so great that it is easier to suppose that a different tradition is being followed. Now it may be an accident, but it is a fact that there is no actual evidence of the reception of the Synoptic Gospels in Egypt as early as this. On the other hand, there is evidence that the Egyptians were addicted to Gospel-writings of an 'apocryphal' character. Not only was there a 'Gospel according to the Egyptians', but the Oxyrhynchus Papyri have yielded at least one, and probably two, collections of Sayings of Jesus, and a fragment (840) which seems to have belonged to some kind of Gospel, and to these we must add the Fayyum fragment and now Eg. Pap. 2. It is thought by some that the Gospel according to Peter was composed in Egypt. This I think improbable, but at least it was in Egypt that the extant fragment was discovered, attesting the circulation of the work in that country. This evidence is, of course, not all early, and we must always allow for the fact that Egypt is the only country where papyri have been preserved to any extent. But it is noteworthy that Clement of Alexandria, though he accepts the four-Gospel canon, cites the Gospel according to the Egyptians with a respect which has often been thought somewhat surprising.

The evidence suggests, though it is far from proving, that before the middle of the second century the Synoptic Gospels had not yet secured any exclusive authority in Egypt. They may have been known, but traditions independent of them were sometimes preferred, and Gospels circulated which were based on these alternative traditions. The Fourth Gospel, on the other hand, would seem to have leapt into favour almost as soon as it appeared. If it should seem likely on a balance of arguments that Section III was based upon the Synoptic record (for Section IV this seems to me too improbable to be considered seriously), it would still remain true that the author of the Unknown Gospel treated the Fourth Gospel with greater respect than the Synoptics, since he follows its exact wording, while he alters them freely.

The Rylands Papyrus, the Egerton Papyrus, Basilides, Valentinus (Valentinus came to Rome about 135, but he had previous]y preached in Egypt, where his school flourished), Theodotus the Valentinian (Excerpted by Clement, probably an Alexandrian follower of Valentinus), provide a continuous series of testimonies beginning perhaps as early as 120, and going on to the middle years of the second century. During this period we have some evidence that Valentinus, and the Basilidians, used Matthew and Luke, but these Gospels clearly do not possess for them the same importance as John. Towards the close of the century we reach Clement of Alexandria, and although he accepts the Synoptic Gospels as authoritative, it is clear that for him, as for Origen and their successors in the school of Alexandria, the Fourth Gospel is pre-eminent. There was evidently in that Gospel something that specially appealed to the Egyptian mind.

The earliest history of Christianity in Egypt is strangely obscure. It may be that these new discoveries throw some little light upon it.

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Kirby, Peter. "A New Gospel." Early Christian Writings. <>.