Written by Ashton Snyder on
 June 12, 2024

Scholars Unearth Ancient Manuscript of Jesus’ Childhood Miracle

An ancient Egyptian manuscript, over 2,000 years old, has unveiled the earliest written record of a childhood miracle attributed to Jesus.

According to Daily Mail, this groundbreaking manuscript in an Egyptian papyrus dates back to the 4th or 5th century and recounts a young Jesus transforming clay pigeons into live birds.

The discovery astounded researchers who identified the manuscript while analyzing overlooked documents in the Hamburg State and University Library in Germany.

The fragment, which contains 13 lines of text, dates back to the 4th or 5th century. Due to its clumsy handwriting, scholars believe it to be a class exercise.

Identifying the Manuscript

Dr. Lajos Berkes, an expert involved in the study, initially mistook the text for a mundane document. "We first noticed the word 'Jesus' in the text. Then, by comparing it with numerous other digitized papyri, we deciphered it letter by letter and quickly realized that it could not be an everyday document," he explained.

Written in a manner possibly indicating a student’s practice, the manuscript contains the earliest iteration of a tale from the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, a non-canonical gospel dating back to the 2nd century. This predates the oldest known example of the text from several centuries.

"It was thought to be part of an everyday document, such as a private letter or a shopping list because the handwriting seems so clumsy," Dr. Berkes added. The team painstakingly recognized the importance of the text through careful examination and comparison with other documents.

The Miracle Story

Professor Dr. Gabriel Nocchi Macedo elaborated on the content, explaining, "[Jesus] orders the clay figures to 'take flight as living birds,' which they do." This story, part of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, provides insights into episodes of Jesus’ early life not found in canonical texts.

The Infancy Gospel of Thomas details various childhood events of Jesus' life, emphasizing miraculous acts performed between ages five and twelve. These stories, excluded from the Bible, have always fascinated scholars and theologians alike.

Despite the document's age, its rediscovery offers new perspectives on the transmission of these ancient texts. "The fragment is of extraordinary interest for research," noted Dr. Berkes.

Historical Context and Discovery

As the research team delved further into the manuscript’s history, they discovered two potential pathways for its arrival at the Hamburg library. It might have joined the collection through the German Papyruskartell in the early 1900s or arrived from Berlin in the 1990s.

However, there remains no concrete evidence detailing the exact discovery and acquisition timeline of the papyrus. "Apart from what can be deduced from the general history of the collection, there is no evidence of how or when the papyrus was discovered," the researchers stated.

The story substantially enhances our understanding of early Christian writings. Dr. Macedo observed, "These episodes are not told in the Bible or other well-known liturgical or theological works."

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