ST. MATTHEW'S GOSPEL WRITTEN IN A.D. 66
STUDIES INDICATE ST. MATTHEW'S GOSPEL WRITTEN IN A.D. 66
The Wanderer, June 21, 2001
Recent studies on the famous "Oxford papyri" containing fragments of the oldest copy of the Gospel of St. Matthew strongly support traditional teaching that the Gospel was written before the Fall of Jerusalem, probably in A. D. 66.
In a June 6 report that appeared on the Cincinnati-based christian newstoday.com Internet web site, Benjamin Hartman revealed that top scholars working in Israel who have studied the handwriting on the ancient manuscript can pinpoint almost to the day when the text was composed.Jerusalem historian Dr. Ory Mazar says that the new research on the fragment of the New Testament "may well shatter the conventional wisdom."
The "Oxford papyri" consist of three tiny scraps of text discovered in the library of Magdalen College, Oxford, by Dr. Carsten Peter Thiede, containing verses from Matthew, chapter 26, describing Jesus' anointment in the house of Simon, the leper at Bethany, and His betrayal to the chief priests by Judas Iscariot.
"Intrigued," wrote Hartman, "[Thiede"] instituted an extensive study of the papyri and consulted with other scholars. 'It soon became clear," says Dr. Mazar, 'that here was a revolutionary discovery which may be considered equal to the finding of the original Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947'." The passages found on the fragments of text are:
Matt: 26:7-8: ". . . poured it on His head as He was at the table. When they saw this the disciples said indignantly . . ."
Matt. 26:10: ". . . Jesus noticed this and said, 'Why are you upsetting the woman? What she has done for me' . . . "
Matt. 26:14-15: ". . . Then one of the Twelve, the man called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, 'What are you prepared to give' . . . ."
Matt. 26:31: ". . . Jesus said to them, 'You will all fall away from me tonight, for the Scripture says'. . . ."
Matt. 26:32-3: ". . . 'I shall go ahead of you to Galilee.' At this, Peter said to Him. . . ."
Matt. 26:22-3: ". . . They were greatly distressed and started asking Him in turn, 'Not me, Lord, surely?' He answered, 'Someone who has dipped his hand into the dish with me' . . . ."
Among the scholars analyzing the texts was Jerusalem archaeologist A. Cohen, who told Hartman:
"Certain writing techniques were used during certain time periods. By studying the writing styles, the exact date can be ascertained, sometimes with striking precision, in which these papyri were written. . . .
"Additionally, scholars were assisted with the dating of these fragments by the discovery of other small fragments written in the very same style. These are now kept at the Bibliotheque National in Paris, France.
Texts bearing identical writing held by both the Oxford and Paris libraries were found in Egypt, he continued. "This is significant because among the Paris fragments was one dated document dealing with a business transaction. A farmer named Harmiysis appeals to the Roman authorities in his town in Upper Egypt for a permit to add seven more lambs to his herd."
The farmer proclaims: "I declare, in this the twelfth year of Nero Klaudius, Caesar Sebastos Germoanikos, the Autokrator, at the above-mentioned [town of] Phthochis, that I have [now] twelve lambs in my herd of animals. . . ."
"Translated into modern chronology." Harman continue, "this twelfth year of Nero's reign is A.D. 65/66. The three officials, who attest to this declaration, are more bureaucratically precise. They confirm the addition of seven new lambs with their dated endorsement in, 'the year 12 of Nero the Lord, Epeieph 30.' In the Gregorian calendar, which is commonly used today, this corresponds to July 24, A.D. 65/66, said Cohen. 'This provides us not only a year but an exact day.'
"Since both these fragments were found in the same location and their writing styles and materials match, they can both be dated to a period prior or concurrent to the year A.D. 66.
" 'It is hard to be indifferent to such a finding.' Says Dr. Mazar. The fragments clearly show that Matthew's Gospel was written and in use only a generation or less after Jesus' crucification. These papyri could have been read and handled by at least a substantial number of the five hundred brethern' (1 Cor. 15:6) whom Paul asserts saw the resurrected Jesus with their own eyes.
" 'This discovery has fascinating implications on our appreciation for the accuracy of Matthew's Gospel account.' Says Dr. Mazar. 'It's intriguing to consider the possibility that these very fragments may well have been used and read by men and women who themselves knew Jesus and saw the fruits of His ministry on earth.'
" 'In light of these findings.' concludes the historian, 'the testimony of Matthew as recorded in his Gospel takes on a much greater resonance'."
Hartman's article may be found here: