Monday 1 February 2021

Authenticity of A Greek New Testament Papyrus in Question

    Yale University p 50 (Wikipedia)   

Yale University's Papyrus 50 is a Greek New Testament manuscript that was thought to be datable on palaeographic grounds to the 3rd/4th century. It contains bits of the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 8:26-32; 10:26-31). Unfortunately it looks like any scholarship based on it now needs revision: Elijah Hixson Possible Markers of Inauthenticity in a Greek New Testament Papyrus: Genuinely Bad or a Very Good Fake?
In this paper I suggest that a Greek New Testament papyrus might be a modern forgery. While there is no single smoking gun strong enough to prove that the papyrus is a modern production, there are a number of red flags that mark it as suspicious. These include anomalous letterforms, writing that avoids holes in the papyrus (such that the text was certainly written after the papyrus medium had been damaged in some instances), ink bleeding, and a discrepancy between the copyist’s apparent knowledge of literary manuscripts and his or her skill in producing one. Where possible, I give comparisons of these aspects with the same phenomena in known fakes. However, many of these red flags could be explained in such a way that does not de-authenticate the manuscript, and I also give a counter-example of a (genuine) private letter from Alexandria that exhibits some of the same red flags. Still, the number of red flags in the Greek New Testament papyrus is suspicious. I suggest that the papyrus should be subjected to further testing in order to authenticate or de-authenticate it as a genuinely ancient New Testament manuscript.
Note that while the scholar is rather diffident about saying outright that the manuscript is a fake, the evidence he presents seem pretty convincing that it is. P 50 (p. Yale I 3; LDAB 2861) was purchased in Paris by Yale University in 1933 along with other manuscripts of Egyptian provenance. The provenance given was "Egypt". Once again are highlighted the problems of using in research ungrounded and unpapered artefacts that "surfaced" on the antiquities market. Scholars should simply avoid using them.

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