7Q5: The Earliest NT Papyrus? -- By: Daniel B. Wallace

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 56:1 (Spring 1994)
Article: 7Q5: The Earliest NT Papyrus?
Author: Daniel B. Wallace


7Q5: The Earliest NT Papyrus?*

Daniel B. Wallace

* A review article of Carsten Peter Thiede, The Earliest Gospel Manuscript? The Qumran Fragment 7Q5 and its Significance for New Testament Studies (London: Paternoster, 1992. 80. $10.00). (There is some confusion over the title. The title listed above is what appears on the book’s cover. However, on the title page “Papyrus” has replaced “Fragment.”

In 1962 M. Baillet, J. T. Milik, and R. de Vaux published the text and plates of manuscripts from six Qumran caves (caves 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 10).1 The seventh cave, in particular, had some interesting materials in that this was the only cave with exclusively Greek fragments. For most of these manuscripts, including 7Q5, the editors did not have a clue as to their textual identity. (7Q5 is a papyrus scrap with writing only on the recto side, having only five lines of text with parts of no more than twenty letters visible.2 The only complete word that can be detected is και—hardly a confidence-builder when it comes to a positive identification.)

Ten years later, the Spanish papyrologist José O’Callaghan published a controversial article, “[?]Papiros neotestamentarios en la cueva 7 de Qumrân?”3 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 reviews4 and interactions—most of which rejected O’Callaghan’s identification. This rejection rested on three grounds: (1) principally, the papyrus itself was so fragmentary that any identification would be tenuous at best (not to mention the fact that there were several textually intrinsic problems with O’Callaghan’s proposal); (2) since the Qumran community almost certainly disbanded in 68 CE —and hence the MS must be dated before that time (in fact, most likely, no later than 50 CE)—the majority of NT scholars felt that even the original draft of Mark’s Gospel was not this early, obviously precluding the possibility that a copy of Mark could have existed before the fall of Jerusalem; and (3) the differences between the

Qumran community (usually considered to be identical with the Essenes) and the nascent Christian community are so pronounced that contact between the two seemed improbable (and a literary contact seemed to imply that not only was there communication between the two groups, but open ...

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