A Review of The Earliest Gospel Manuscript? by Carsten Peter Thiede -- By: Daniel B. Wallace

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 151:603 (Jul 1994)
Article: A Review of The Earliest Gospel Manuscript? by Carsten Peter Thiede
Author: Daniel B. Wallace


A Review of The Earliest Gospel Manuscript? by Carsten Peter Thiede

Daniel B. Wallace

[Daniel B. Wallace is Assistant Professor of New Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas.]

1 In 1972 the Spanish papyrologist José O’Callaghan published a controversial article, “¿Papiros neotestamentarios en la cueva 7 de Qumrân?”2 in which he argued that the fifth manuscript from the seventh cave of Qumran was a fragment from the Gospel of Mark (6:52–53). This produced a spate of scholarly reviews and interactions—most of which rejected O’Callaghan’s identification outright.

O’Callaghan defended his views against virtually every assailant. But until 1982 he found few, if any, followers. In that year Carsten Peter Thiede, a German scholar, began to publish a defense of the O’Callaghan hypothesis. In the last 10 years, in fact, he has surpassed his mentor in periodical proliferation. The 80-page book under review is, in many respects, the culmination of his efforts. Today more scholars have interest in and sympathy toward the O’Callaghan hypothesis—especially now that it has a fresh advocate in Thiede.3

Why all the furor? What is at stake? A number of factors are involved. First, if this identification is correct, it would be the earliest New Testament manuscript by 50-100 years.4 Second, on paleographical grounds, since the upper limit of its date is A.D. 50, this would put the writing of the Gospel of Mark in the 40s at the latest. Third, one consequence of such an early date for Mark would be virtually to settle the issue of Gospel priorities. Fourth, it would perhaps suggest that at least some of the New Testament documents were regarded highly enough to be copied soon after publication—a view that lends itself to an early recognition of the New Testament as canon.5

Not only are O’Callaghan and Thiede arguing that 7Q5 is a fragment from Mark’s Gospel. They are also imploring Kurt Aland to list this document officially as a New Testament papyrus: “Future editions of the Greek New Testament will have to include 7Q5. It should, at long last, receive a ‘p’ number, it must be recognized in the apparatus, with its variants” (p. 41). Here is no detached plea; rather, it is an indictment. And this not-so-subtle indictment takes on parabolic overtones in the concluding statement of the book, where Thiede comments about the a...

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