Wednesday, February 07, 2024

Vesuvius Challenge Finds a Winner


You’ve probably already seen the news that the Vesuvius Challenge just announced a winner for their contest to read CT scans of carbonized scrolls from Herculaneum. The contest focused on about 5% of one scroll that turns out to be an Epicurean text. This is a big breakthrough that builds on the work done back in 2015 to digitally unroll the En Gedi scroll (blogged about here) and opens the possibility of reading more of the 800 or so carbonized scrolls recovered from the library of Herculaneum that was destroyed in AD 79. Naturally for ETC readers, the question arises whether there might be some biblical manuscripts among these 800.

You can read more about the prize and the prize winning team at

A section of scroll read for the first time since AD 79


  1. I rate (highly) unlikely we will find Christian text directly in an Epicurean library.
    Possible, though, that we may find secular/philosophical study of Hellenistic Judaism. I think Trogus generally approved Moses (as a lawgiver), and that others like Apion did not.

    1. What about an Epicurean text being found in a Christian library? Or both Epicurean and Christian texts being found in a library that is neither of those?

      There probably were Christians in Pompeii before AD 79, based on some of the graffiti found there. Some of these Christians probably possessed Christian literature of some sort. This doesn't make it likely that any Christian manuscripts would have been among the Herculaneum papyri. But I wouldn't rule it out.

  2. Among hopes and perhaps plausible possibilities: Posidonius or Strabo, and, if they find Latin, Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa.

  3. Um, why is Divine Providence not being considered? Even setting aside God’s will to preserve and testify to the inspiration of His word, that circa 79 AD opulent library appears to have been dedicated to philosophical texts, which I would think improves the odds of NT writings being gathered. Plus, Christianity was taking off even among prominent Romans like Sergius Paulus. From one reference work:

    “Following the chronology of the book of Acts, Paul and Barnabus should have arrived on Cyprus around 45 AD or slightly after. If Sergius Paulus was appointed a Curator in Rome in 47 AD, then he may have moved to Rome upon his return from Cyprus, which was typically considered a province that Romans did not want to live in.”