O’Callaghan’s Bombshell -- By: Bryant G. Wood

Journal: Bible and Spade (First Run)
Volume: BSP 01:2 (Spring 1972)
Article: O’Callaghan’s Bombshell
Author: Bryant G. Wood


O’Callaghan’s Bombshell

Bryant G. Wood

Quiet, pious, peace-loving Father Jose’ O’Callaghan has rocked the scholarly world. He says he has identified Dead Sea Scroll fragments as portions of the New Testament dating to A.D. 50-75 years earlier than the oldest known manuscript and only 15 years after the death of Christ. If accepted, this would radically change current widely-held beliefs about the New Testament. A debate now rages as to whether or not he is correct.

The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Fragments From Cave 7

The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947, and after, in caves near the Dead Sea. They were copied by scribes living in a monastic community at Qumran and date to the period 200 B.C.-A.D. 68. Portions of every book of the Old Testament were found, with the exception of Esther, as well as commentaries and non-Biblical material. The find was of great significance to Old Testament textual studies since the scrolls were 1000 years older than the previous oldest Hebrew manuscripts.

The Scriptorium in the monastery at Qumran. It was in this room that scribes carefully copied their precious scrolls in Jesus’ day and before.

In 1955 a new cave, labeled by archaeologists as Cave 7, was explored. The finds were sparse: 19 papyrus fragments, two jars (one with the Hebrew inscription ROMA on it) and several miscellaneous pieces of pottery. But the fragments were different than the other Dead Sea Scroll material - they were written in Greek rather than Hebrew or Aramaic. Although they have been called “Dead Sea Scroll fragments” there was no evidence to link the finds in Cave 7 with the Qumran community who produced the treasure of scrolls found in other nearby caves. Scholars were able to identify only two of the scraps: Exodus 28:4–7 and verses 43 and 44 of the apocryphal Letter of Jeremiah. The rest were termed “unidentified”.

Cliffs at Qumran where Cave 7 is located.

O’Callaghan’s Hypothesis

Now after carefully studying the unidentified scraps, Jesuit scholar O’Callaghan claims that a number of them are portions of the New Testament and date to A.D. 50. In a recent article in BIBLICA, published by the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, he identified three fragments as Mark 6:52, 53; Mark 4:28; and James 1:23,

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