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He had no apologetic motive for assigning the early date.
The manuscript, Wallace claimed, was to be published later that year in a book from Brill, an academic publisher that has since begun publishing items in the Museum of the Bible collection.
In late 2011, manuscript scholar Scott Carroll—then working for what would become the Museum of the Bible in Washington D.
C.—tweeted the tantalizing announcement that the earliest-known manuscript of the New Testament was no longer the second-century John Rylands papyrus (P52). Wallace, senior research professor of New Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary, seemed to confirm Carroll’s statement. Ehrman, Wallace reported that a fragment of Mark’s gospel, dated to the first century, had been discovered.
A first-century fragment of Mark’s gospel would be significant for several reasons. 200 is a rare and remarkable find, much less one written before the early 100s.
First, the earliest substantial manuscripts of the New Testament come from the third century. Second, early fragments of Mark’s gospel are scarce.
Not all books of the New Testament are equally well-represented in our manuscripts, especially early on.
There are several early papyri of Matthew and John, but before this new fragment was published, there was only one existing copy of Mark’s gospel produced before the 300s.
Needless to say, a first-century fragment of Mark was a bombshell.
Moreover, P137 is not the only new papyrus of the New Testament to be published in the latest Oxyrhynchus volume.
Also published are P138, a third-century papyrus of Luke –17 and –30, and P139, a fourth-century papyrus of Philemon 6–8 and 18–20.
As unlikely as a first-century Gospel manuscript is, the fragment was allegedly dated by a world-class specialist.
This preeminent authority was not an evangelical Christian, either.
It should be stated, however, that we have no shortage of New Testament manuscripts.