An Unknown Gospel
Papyrus Egerton 2
Introduction: The manuscript consists of three leaves, fragmented, of a Greek codex; the fragments themselves have no title. The papyrus fragments are from the first half of the second century. Egerton 2 is of great importance for early church studies. It joins Rylands Papyrus Greek 457 (usually designated Papyrus 52) to make the two earliest extant witnesses to the gospel tradition. Only fragments one and two of the Egerton papyrus are legible, and they are so only in part. Papyrus Egerton 2 demonstrates the very early date at which Christians were employing the codex (book) form of writing (as oppposed to the scroll). Fragment I (verso) seems to have primitive stories of the kind that the Gospel According to John expanded (see John 5:39, 45; 9:29), as does fragment one (recto) in its opening lines (see John 7:30; 10:31, 39). The remainder of fragment 1 (recto) and 2 (recto) contain material similar to stories in the Synoptic Gospels, but these stories are more primitive than the Synoptic parallels and represent a tradition independent of the canonical material. (For fragment 1 see Mark 1:40–45 and Luke 17:11–19; for fragment 2 see John 3:2; Mark 12:13–17; Luke 6:46). The last story (fragment 2, verso) is a barely readable account of a miracle-story. The composition of Papyrus Egerton 2 may be as early as the middle of the first century; it can be no later than the early second century.1
… to the lawyers … everything which acts against … and not me … what he does, how he does it. He t[umed] to the leaders of the people and said this saying [logon]: s[earch] through the writings by which you t[hink] you have life; they (actually) witness to me. Do not t[hink] that I have come to accuse you to my Father; Moses is your [acc]user, the one in whom [you]
1. The title given to Papyrus Egerton 2 by Bell and Skeat; see note 2 below. For more on
Papyrus Egerton 2, see Ron Cameron, The Other Gospels (Philadelphia: Westminster 1982),
72–75; E. Hennecker and W. Schneemelcher, New Testament Apocrypha, vol. 1. tr. R. McL.
Wilson (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1963), 94–97. Our translation is based on the text published
by H. Idris Bell and T. C. Skeat, Fragments of an Unknown Gospel and Other Early Christian
Papyri (London, 1935).
2. Verso refers to the back side of a 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.