Notes on the Papyrus Fragments from Cave 7 at Qumran -- By: William White, Jr.

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 35:2 (Winter 1973)
Article: Notes on the Papyrus Fragments from Cave 7 at Qumran
Author: William White, Jr.

Notes on the Papyrus Fragments from Cave 7 at Qumran

William White, Jr.

The initial expectation that the proposed identification of some of the papyrus fragments from the Seventh Cave at Qumran would be of great interest to New Testament scholars has been borne out in full measure. The mechanics of Father O’Callaghan’s identification of nine fragments as coming from the New Testament is now a hotly debated topic in the scholarly literature. In a previous article published in the Westminster Theological Journal,1 four courses which scholars might take were outlined. Of these, two appear to be gaining in popularity: they are “A”, simply ignoring the whole argument with a few derogatory comments; and “B”, to attempt to refute either the identification or the dating of the fragments. Interestingly enough little has come of attempts to dispute the chronological assignment of the various fragments. The reason for this appears to be the intense difficulty of dating ancient documents and the sheer fact that most modern New Testament scholarship is oriented toward pursuing psychosocial insights into higher critical matters. The few arbiters of chronological matters are given wide ranging authority and are rarely disputed. The burden of effort has thus shifted to undermining the identifications.

After a few dozen hours with the fragments engaged in the process of examining each word and comparing it to the standard classical, Koiné, and Septuagintal lexica and concordances, one begins to realize that he is tracing steps already trod in vain by other scholars with equally negative results. The fact of the matter soon becomes plain that aside from careful emendations of the LXX few other passages can be easily located which offer the same elegance of identification.

There are three basic elements to the success of O’Callaghan’s identifications. These may be placed in order of priority from most to least as follows:

1. If O’Callaghan is correct, then these fragments are older by more than a century or two than any other fragments of the same texts found elsewhere. It may be very safely assumed that the earliest texts would have some short readings, dialectal forms, and less literary polish than later texts. In light of this consideration, it would be truly amazing if a very early manuscript of any one book would follow the exact readings of the Textus Receptus, or even of the “neutral” type of text of Westcott and Hort. The most specific example of this is the keystone passage in O’Callaghan’s identification, VII Q 5 = Mark 6:52, 53...

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