Documents for the Study of the Gospels

By David R. Cartlidge; David L. Dungan | Go to book overview

Fragment of an
Uncanonical Gospel
Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 840

Introduction: This single vellum leaf is remarkably small (8.8 × 7.4 cm.); the book from which it came may have been worn as an amulet. The leaf itself is from late in the fourth century, but its contents are likely much earlier. We see in this document (as in The Gospel of Peter) the beginnings of a strong anti-Semitism. In this case, it takes the form of an attack upon Jewish ritual traditions (as opposed to Christian ritual traditions). In addition, the story undoubtedly was intended to emphasize the authority of Jesus in the rivalry between the early Christians and Pharisaic Judaism.1

Verso:2 First3 before he does something illegal, he indulges in careful sophistry. But you watch out lest somehow the same thing happen to you that does to them. For evil-doers from among the living alone are not the only men who receive their due, but they endure punishment and much anguish.

He took them and entered into the place of purification itself and walked around in the temple. And a certain Pharisee, a chief priest, named Levi [?], approached them and said to the savior,4 “Who gave you permission to walk about in this place of purification and to see [these] holy instruments without your having washed yourself or your disciples not having washed their feet? Rather, impure you walked around the temple place, a [place] of cleanliness, which no one [except] one who has washed and [changed his clo]thes may walk nor [may dare to see these] holy instruments. And … the sa[vior] [with hi]s disciples … he answered him,

Recto: “How is it then that you are in the temple? Are you clean?” He [Levi] said to him, “I am clean. I washed in the pool of David and have descended

1. This is the title which Grenfell and Hunt gave to Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 840. Our translation
is based on the Greek text of Bernard P. Grenfell and Arthur S. Hunt, The Oxyrhynchus Papyri.
Part V (London, 1908). Grenfell and Hunt give an excellent description of the papyrus. See also
Ron Cameron, The Other Gospels (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1982) 53; W. Schneemelcher,
New Testament Apocrypha, rev. ed. (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1989), 1:94–95.

2. Verso refers to the back side of page (or leaf); recto refers to the front side. In a bound
book, therefore, the recto is the right-hand page; verso is the left-hand page.

3. This paragraph clearly concludes a saying of Jesus.

4. This use of “savior” (soter) is unique in early gospel traditions which speak about the
words and acts of Jesus.

-80-

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