Every so often there is a bit of excitement in New Testament studies.
The past couple of weeks have seen excitement over a papyrus called P.Oxy.5575 (or, on social media, #POxy5575).
A good initial article to read is Candida Moss's "Scholars Publish Early Papyrus with Early Sayings of Jesus" in The Daily Beast.
Moss sums up the matter in this paragraph:
"The significance of the fragment lies in its date and contents. In conjunction with distinguished papyrologist and paleographer Ben Henry, the editors—Jeffrey Fish, Daniel Wallace, and Michael Holmes—date the fragment to the second century CE. This is important because, as Dr. Fish told me,
“Only a few gospel papyri can be securely dated to the second or beginning of the third century.”
This is the earliest period from which we have Christian manuscripts.
“What is so significant about this papyrus,” continued Fish, “is that it contains sayings of Jesus which correspond partly to canonical gospels (Matthew and Luke) and partly to sayings we know only from the Gospel of Thomas. It is as early or earlier than any of our papyri of the Gospel of Thomas [our earliest non-canonical Gospel],” including other fragments of the Gospel of Thomas found at Oxyrhynchus."
Why get excited?
Generally NT scholars get excited over any early find of any pieces of scriptural writing but there is a bit more going on here.
A papyrus focused on sayings of Jesus raises the question whether this papyrus has any links to the hypothetical Q (the document many suppose undergirds the passages common to Luke and Matthew but not found in Mark). Q is mostly sayings of Jesus, so is the Gospel of Thomas. Clearly people were interested in the sayings of Jesus (e.g. Matthew and Luke add many more sayings to Mark's Gospel, whatever the written or oral sources of those sayings).
Q and Thomas imply a fairly exclusive interest in recording sayings of Jesus. This papyrus is focused on sayings - though it is a fragment and perhaps in its original form it had other material such a miracle stories. Is this papyrus simply a continuing interest in sayings, using well established and circulating gospels?
Is it in a direct tradition with a written Q and demonstrates development by adding a Thomas saying into its Q source?
Lots to think about!