Bible History, discovery of a Bible fragment

From the Christian Science Sentinel, January 11, 1908,

What is believed to be a new saying of Christ, lost to the world for thirteen centuries and found recently in Egypt, has just been made public for the first time by Prof. Henry A. Sanders of the University of Michigan, in an address to the members of the Archeological Institute at the University of Chicago. The fragment is part of an old Bible, dating back to before the Moslem conquest of Egypt in the seventh century. The fragment belongs in the sixteenth chapter of the Gospel of St. Mark, and follows the fourteenth verse. It relates to the story of Christ’s appearance, following his death, to eleven of his apostles, who were gathered together in a room in Jerusalem. Its harmony with the context is regarded as perfect, coming in to soften an abrupt transition from criticism to fervent exhortation.

In the present text the Bible reads thus (Mark, 16:14): “Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.” The new verse, which is designated as 14A, reads: “And they answered, saying that this age of unrighteousness and unbelief is under the power of Satan, who does not permit the things which are made impure by the [evil] spirits to comprehend the truth of God [and] his power. For this reason, Reveal thou righteousness now, they said to Christ, and Christ said unto them: The limit of the years of the power of Satan has been fulfilled, but other terrible things are at hand and I was delivered unto death on behalf of those who sinned in order that they may return to the truth and sin no more, to the end that they may inherit the spiritual, indestructible glory of righteousness [which] is in heaven.” Mark, 16:15, goes on: “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”

In discussing the new verse Professor Sanders said: “This newly discovered paragraph was known to St. Jerome, and the first few lines of it are cited in Latin translation. It has long been claimed that Mark, 16 : 8—20, was a later addition to the Gospel, thought to have been borrowed from some other unknown Gospel near the end of the second century. This new manuscript probably presents the original form of that part of the lost Gospel Which, mutilated, was added to Mark. The reason for the omission is quite apparent, as the new verse contained the statement that the destruction of sin in the world is near at hand. This idea is found in the Epistles of Peter and Paul, but the four Gospels do not have it and it is avoided by the later church writers.

The newly found Bible also contains what is known as the liturgical ending of the Lord’s Prayer, reading. “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory.” The section of the manuscript containing the saying of Christ was reproduced in the original Greek, on a stereopticon slide, and read to the audience first in Greek and then in English by the professor, who related a part of the history of its discovery. The text was found, he said, by Charles L. Freer, a Detroit man. who was traveling in Egypt in search of additions to his art collections. At the time Mr. Freer secured the manuscript the British Museum was after it, and offers also were in from other persons. Both before and after purchase the text was examined by Greek scholars of note, who pronounced it undoubtedly authentic. The text as a whole consists of four parts, to be known to the world henceforth as Manuscripts I., III., and IV.

“Manuscript I. contains Deuteronomy and Joshua,” said Professor Sanders. “Genesis to Numbers, which it once contained, are missing. It is next to the oldest of the four manuscripts and presents an exceptionally accurate text of this portion of the Septuagint. Manuscript II. contains the Psalms. It is the oldest manuscript of the four and is badly decayed. Manuscript III. contains the four Gospels entire. It was probably written in the fifth or sixth century and contains many interesting variant readings. Manuscript IV. is only a decayed fragment. It once contained Acts and the Epistles, but not Revelation. It is an older and better manuscript than the four Gospels and its readings will be of great value to the text wherever they can be deciphered. In conjunction with Mr. Freer’s art collection the manuscripts have been examined by Government experts, who pronounce them genuine.”

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