Friday, November 17, 2006

Rylands Library Papyrus P52

John Rylands Library Papyrus P52, rectoThe Rylands Library Papyrus P52, also known as the St John's fragment, is a papyrus conserved at the John Rylands Library, Manchester, UK. The front (recto) contains lines from the Gospel of John 18:31-33, in Greek, and the back (verso) contains lines from verses 37-38.

Although Rylands P52 is generally accepted as the earliest extant New Testament canonical record, the dating of the papyrus is by no means the subject of consensus among critical scholars. The style of the script is strongly Hadrian, which would suggest a date somewhere between 125 and 160 CE. But the difficulty of fixing the date of a fragment based solely on paleographic evidence allows for a range of dates that extends from before 100 CE to well into the second half of the 2nd century.

The original translation of the work was not done until 1934 by C.H. Roberts, who published the essay “An Unpublished Fragment of the Fourth Gospel in the John Rylands Library” in the Bulletin of the John Rylands Library XX, 1936, pp 45-55. Roberts found comparator hands in papyri then dated between 50 CE and 150 CE, with the closest match of Hadrianic date.


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