Friday, March 18, 2011

The Egerton Fragment and the PA

Surprising evidence of the PA comes from one of the earliest unknown 'gospel' fragments so far found:  The  Egerton Papyrus 2 (high resolution photo):

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This remarkable fragment appears to be a Christian student's composition, drawing from several gospels, notably the Gospel of John.  At first it was thought to be a page from an unknown "lost Gospel", but its plagarized and composite nature has been thoroughly scrutinized and reasonably well understood for some time now.   Whoever composed this work used well-known gospel accounts and lifted both motifs, phraseaology and ideas liberally and crudely in putting together what appears to be elaborated fictional stories of Jesus.

What is less known about the Egerton Fragments, is that they rather plainly reference the PA and its surrounding context in John also, making it the earliest non-canonical witness to both the existence of the PA, and its placement in John's Gospel!

This information was actually nearly lost, as one fragment of the page was not at first recognized as belonging to the same page of this document.
The second part remained as the "Koln 255" fragment, until textual critics put them back together again.  Here is the reverse side of the Egerton Fragment (recto) together with the additional Koln 255 fragment, with the two key-words of interest highlighted:

"Teacher!",  ...."and sin no more!"

 Here is a translation of the first part of the recto side shown:

Fragment 2: Recto (→)

". . . coming unto him began to tempt him with a question, saying, Teacher, Jesus, we know that thou art come from God, for the things which thou doest testify above all the prophets. Tell us therefore: Is it lawful [? to render] unto kings that which pertaineth unto their rule? [Shall we render unto them], or not? But Jesus, knowing their thought, being moved with indignation, said unto them, Why call ye me with your mouth Master, when ye hear not what I say? Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, This people honour me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. In vain do they worship me, [teaching as their doctrines the] precepts [of men] . . ."

However, the use of John being reasonably settled, little thought has apparently been spent upon its possible importance as a witness to the early existence (and location in John) of the Pericope de Adultera.   Admittedly, the evidence is rather slender and tentative. But it is a remarkable coincidence, that several phrases are placed in close proximity, in the correct order (the same as in the Pericope), namely,

"rulers...the crowd..." (verso)
"Teacher! (διδασκαλε = 'rabbi', John 8:4, see also Jn 3:2)" ...
"Go...and sin no more!"(μηκετι αμαρτανε) 8:11
In particular, the combination of "Teacher"...(cf. Jn 8:4) and "Sin no more" (Jn 8:11) are eerily reminiscent of the Pericope de Adultera."


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