The Date Of The Magdalen Papyrus Of Matthew (“P. Magd. Gr.” 17 = P64): A Response To C. P. Thiede -- By: Peter M. Head

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 46:2 (NA 1995)
Article: The Date Of The Magdalen Papyrus Of Matthew (“P. Magd. Gr.” 17 = P64): A Response To C. P. Thiede
Author: Peter M. Head

The Date Of The Magdalen Papyrus Of Matthew (“P. Magd. Gr.” 17 = P64):
A Response To C. P. Thiede1

Peter M. Head


This article considers Carsten P. Thiede’s arguments concerning the date of P64 and suggests that he has both over-estimated the amount of stylistic similarity between P64 and several Palestinian Greek manuscripts and under-estimated the strength of the scholarly consensus of a date around AD 200. Comparable manuscripts are adduced and examined which lead to the conclusion that the later date is to be preferred.

I. Introduction

This article is a response to the arguments of Carsten Peter Thiede which were re-published in the previous issue of Tyndale Bulletin.2 The most significant and controversial of Thiede’s findings was that the Magdalen Papyrus of Matthew was written sometime before the end of the first century. This conclusion, and the palaeographical basis of Thiede’s arguments, will be the focus of our response. In particular we shall examine the manuscripts appealed to by Thiede as

palaeographically similar to P64. After a discussion of the history of the study of this manuscript (section II, an area not covered by Thiede), we shall begin our analysis with the manuscript itself (including a plate) and a transcription which varies at a number of points from that of Thiede (section III). In Section IV, with the aid of further plates, we shall investigate several of the manuscripts appealed to by Thiede as early comparative material in order to assess his claim that significant manuscript discoveries require a radical re-assessment of the date of P64. This will be followed by a similar investigation of the arguments which lead previous generations of scholars to accept a date of around AD 200 (Section V); and a brief discussion of various other features of the manuscript which relate to its dating (section VI). Our conclusion (section VII) will follow from these comparisons.

A further comment by way of introduction and orientation may be appropriate. The steadily increasing numbers of New Testament manuscripts on papyrus and the confident allocation of dates by the various handbooks can obscure the fact that we have no absolutely secure dates for any NT manuscript on papyrus.3 Indeed we have no dated manuscript of the NT until the Uspenski gospels of AD 835.4 This is not particularly unusual, as literary documents were not customarily dated in antiquity (the first literary manusc...

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