John Rylands Library Papyrus P52, recto and verso
Generally accepted as the earliest extant record of a canonical New Testament text, the front (recto) contains lines from the Gospel of John 18:31–33, in Greek, and the back (verso) contains lines from verses 37–38.
For us to discuss the last century of the past era and the first century of the present, we need to dispose immediately with the mythology of the traditional accounts of Christian origins.
For myself, the history of Judea in the first half of the first century does not allow a Jesus Christ.
My study of this period has led me to conclude that the canonical gospels are Roman-inspired 'black propaganda' against the enemies of Rome, who were the messianic Jewish rebels of the three Jewish-Roman Wars
If the Jesus myth can be draped across the shoulders of any historical figure, as the cloak of Paul of Tarsus is draped across the Saul of Josephus ("Costobarus, therefore, and Saul, who were brethren..."), then my choice is Yehoshua ben Damneus.
whose (probable) uncle, Nakdimon ben Guryon
, appears in the Gospel of John
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.
- John 3:1-2 (New International Version)
For us to study the christology of Philo in its proper context and learn how it was developed over the following centuries, Christian Tradition must be replaced with history, based on reliable archaeology.
Some people believe that Pythagoras was a 'divine man'
. Others placed their faith in Apollonius of Tyana
. We are free to choose our own poison.
For those who chose Jesus as their divine man, there are some good counter-arguments to address that theology and here is one, from an eminent scientist:
A second story from Acts that is paralleled by another source is Simon Peter’s famous “tablecloth vision” from Chapter 10 [It will be recalled that “Peter” (i.e., “Rocky”) is a nickname that Simon has acquired, presumably because his support of Jesus was “solid as a rock”.] Peter is going to be invited to dinner by a centurion, Cornelius from the Italica regiment in Caesarea, who is improbably described as “fearing God”, “giving many gifts to the poor”, and “supplicating God continuously” (Acts 10:1-2). Peter has a vision in which a heavenly tablecloth descends, covered with various animals, which he is instructed by a voice to “kill and eat. ‘Surely not, Lord!’ Peter replied. ‘I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.’ The voice spoke to him a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ ” (Acts 10:13-15). Later, Peter summarizes his visit: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean.” (Acts 10:28).
Even without knowing the historical parallel of this story, it is one of the most revealing and explosive in the entire New Testament. First, it demonstrates unequivocally that the whole “inclusivist message”, which is directly attributed to Jesus via innumerable Gospel stories, was in fact completely foreign to Jesus. Otherwise, it would not have been necessary for Peter, one of his closest and “rockiest” supporters, to receive a vision about it well after Jesus’s death. Thus, this story, by itself, tells us that vast portions of the Gospels, in which Jesus is pictured as associating and engaging in table fellowship with all kinds of forbidden persons (tax collectors, prostitutes, etc) and dismissing Jewish dietary law in favor of a universalist, humanitarian message (“What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him unclean but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him unclean.” Matt 15:10), are just constructed from whole cloth. In fact, it is astonishing that anyone can remain a believing Christian after pondering this clumsy addendum to the Jesus Gospel stories.
- Robert Eisenman’s “New Testament Code” Essay by Dr. Andrew P. Gould, Ohio State U. Distinguished Professor of Mathematical and Physical Sciences
From an archaeological perspective, the age of distribution of the earliest gospel texts, then placed in context with Josephus, is compelling.
Distribution of New Testament papyri
Distribution of Papyri Witness for each New Testament book
|NT Book ||Total ||Early ||NT Book ||Total ||Early |
|Matthew ||23 ||11 ||1 Timothy ||0 ||0 |
|Mark ||3 ||1 ||2 Timothy ||0 ||0 |
|Luke ||10 ||6 ||Titus ||2 ||1 |
|John ||30 ||19 ||Philemon ||2 ||1 |
|Acts ||14 ||7 ||Hebrews ||8 ||4 |
|Romans ||10 ||5 ||James ||6 ||4 |
|1 Corinthians ||8 ||3 ||1 Peter ||3 ||1 |
|2 Corinthians ||4 ||2 ||2 Peter ||2 ||1 |
|Galatians ||2 ||1 ||1 John ||2 ||1 |
|Ephesians ||3 ||3 ||2 John ||1 ||0 |
|Philippians ||3 ||2 ||3 John ||1 ||0 |
|Colossians ||2 ||1 ||Jude ||3 ||2 |
|1 Thessalonians ||4 ||3 ||Revelation ||7 ||4 |
|2 Thessalonians ||2 ||2 || |
based on content:
A New Testament papyrus is a copy of a portion of the New Testament made on papyrus. To date, over one hundred and twenty such papyri are known.
"Early" manuscripts are manuscripts from the fourth century or earlier. Roughly half of the papyri are "early". Some manuscripts contain content from more than one New Testament book, so the numbers above do not directly correspond to the total number of manuscripts.(NOT Aland 1996, p. 85)
Aland, Kurt; Barbara Aland (1995). The Text of The New Testament: An Introduction to the Critical Editions and to the Theory and Practice of Modern Textual Criticism. Translated by Erroll F. Rhodes (2nd ed. ed.). Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. ISBN 0-8028-4098-1.
"Continuation of the Manuscript List" INTF, University of Münster.
Nestle-Aland. Novum Testamentum Graece. 27th ed. Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Druck: 1996, p. 57-63, 684-689
Seid, Timothy. "A Table of Greek Manuscripts". Interpreting Ancient Manuscripts.
Waltz, Robert. "New Testament Manuscripts: Papyri". A Site Inspired By: The Encyclopedia of New Testament Textual Criticism.
Willker, Wieland. "Complete List of Greek NT Papyri" Last Update: 17 April 2008.
Of all the early canonical Roman Gospel fragments found, a clear majority appear to belong to the Gospel of John.
The earliest appear to be Alexandrian:
Though the amount of the text in P52 is hardly enough to make a positive judgment about its textual character, the text seems to be Alexandrian…
- David P. Barret. The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts (2001). Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers. p. 365
P52 is from a codex and therefore possibly a Roman publisher. Right: Papyrus 66 is a near complete codex of the Gospel of John, and part of the collection known as the Bodmer Papyri.
These fragments are too small, worn and contain too little to mean much:
The fragment of John in P52 is so small that is immaterial as a textual witness.
- Helmut Koester. The Text of the Synoptic Gospels in the Second Century, Gospel Traditions in the Second Century (1989). Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press. p. 19
The ratio of John fragments and the early date assigned to P52 and P66 suggest a reasonably solid archaeological basis for an improved Atwill history.
Most date P52 to around 125 (C.H. Roberts, An unpublished Fragment of the Fourth Gospel in the John Rylands Library, Manchester, 1935 = P.Ryl. 03 457; C.H. Roberts, in Bull. John Ryl. Libr. 20, p. 45-46); so we gave a possible Alexandrian author, Roman publisher, producing the earliest canonical gospel - John - in the time of the emperor Hadrian (24 January 76 – 10 July 138), ruling from 117.
One must ask: from where did the gospel accounts originate?
Though Jesus Christ is a fabrication, he is not formed out of nothingness, for he is, as I mentioned (above) black propaganda and must have a point to make.
The answer as to his origins has been staring the world in the face for a very long time: the accounts by Josephus.