New Testament Fragments At Qumran? -- By: Colin J. Hemer

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 23:1 (NA 1972)
Article: New Testament Fragments At Qumran?
Author: Colin J. Hemer


New Testament Fragments At Qumran?

C. J. Hemer

The recent publication by J. O’Callaghan of suggested identifications of New Testament texts among the Greek fragments from Cave 7 at Qumran1 . and the early dates assigned to them on palaeographical grounds will doubtless be rigorously sifted in every facet.

The purpose of the present note is limited to raising one question of method. Some of the fragments are very tiny. Would it be possible to offer alternative identifications of any of them?

I acknowledge the meticulous skill as well as the ingenuity of the restorations, and allow that when one larger fragment has been plausibly attributed to Mark the possibility is raised in other cases. The whole argument will indeed be strengthened if several associated items, each securely and exclusively identified, corroborate each other.

It may however be that when one unexpected and attractive identification has been made it becomes easier in more doubtful cases to find what one is now looking for. But what sort of mathematical chances are there against finding suitable letter sequences in other, even chronologically impossible, texts, and of producing hypothetical ‘restorations’ to fit them?

I propose to look at 7Q6, I in isolation, defining first, perhaps arbitrarily, the terms of my experiment. I am not here concerned with viable alternatives, but only with a theoretical estimate of the range of possibilities.

The transcription of 7Q6, I originally offered was:[

O’Callaghan regards IT in line 2 and ΛH in line 3 as completely certain, but uses in his reconstruction conjectural readings of some other letters which appear in the facsimile to be only fractionally preserved.2 Their use in reaching a solution may for our purpose be deemed precarious. I shall therefore work experimentally with the two letter groups which look to be substantially legible: EIT and ΛH. If then only two lines are effectively represented, the number of letters in the lines is only approximately determinable by analogy. The figures for well- filled lines in the more restorable documents are in the approximate range 20 to 23. The Marcan reading of 7Q6, Ι is based on a length of about 19 letters. We shall then allow possibilities within suitably similar limits.

So the essence of the experiment is to evaluate the chances of finding in any text, irrespec...

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