Monday, April 01, 2019

A New Second-Century Matthew?!

I just browsed the new database of objectively dateable Greek bookhands, “The Collaborative Database of Dateable Greek Bookhands” (see previous blogpost), and came across P.Simon. M111690 (top right corner on the image below). It is listed as 2d century and contains text from the Gospel of Matthew (ch. 19), but I cannot find it in the official registry of New Testament manuscripts – is this a new unregistered manuscript?

Here is the description of the hand:
The hand on the fragments is upright, with letters that are mostly separate with some abutting, with an irregular baseline, and biliniarity aspirational rather than always maintained, written without ligatures.
The papyrus has a very notable reading in 19:24, ευκοπωτερον εστι καλων δια τρυπηματος ραφιδος  διελθειν η πλουσιον  εισελθειν εις την βασιλειαν του θεου, “It is easier for a cable to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (my italics).

The word καλων (image below) is unique, though καμιλον (which can mean “cable”) is attested in 579. 1424 arm. The translation “rope” is also attested in the Georgian version (the Adysh Gospels reads, ზომთსაბლისაჲ, cable”). The Babylonian Talmud (Berakhot 55b) talks about an elephant going through the eye of a needle. The confusion of cable and camel may go back to a very early period, since the meanings “camel” and “thick rope” are derived from the same stem in Semitic languages. On camels in the Gospels, including this passage, see further our blogmember Martin Heide’s, The Camel in the Biblical World (Penn State University Press, forthcoming).

This will be a very welcome addition to the few manuscripts we have from the second century. Papyrus 64+67 containing Matthew (dated to 175-225 by Orsini and Claryssee) are of course among them.

Link to the entry in the Collaborative Database of Dateable Greek Bookhands (CDDGB).


  1. Soon maybe all of our top five posts can be similarly enlightening.

  2. If the "Cable Guy" was active in the second century———then maybe Sinaiticus is even older than Tischendorf thought! :-)

  3. Just gonna throw this out there.....

    You guys posted on April 1st...

  4. Seriously, is this an April fools day prank?

    1. It is indeed a real physical object—a copy of Matthew in Greek written on papyrus that is likely ancient. The act of writing, however, occurred around 1860 or so. The level of detail in Tommy's April Fool's Day post is impressive, partly because the camel/rope thing was something Simonides (the forger) specifically pointed out when he published the 'newly-discovered' manuscript. See some of Simonides' papyrus forgeries here:

    2. This should be a link to the page where Simonides makes the big deal about καλων (it is p. 46 in his "Fac-similes of certain portions..." book).

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.