According to Dan Wallace (Dallas Theological Seminary), some of the oldest fragments of the New Testament have recently been discovered. Among the cache of seven manuscripts is what is being dubbed the earliest NT fragment ever found—earlier than even the P52 fragment of John’s Gospel dating to the early second century. The fragment in question happens to be from Mark’s Gospel, and as you’ll see in the video clip below, it’s being slated as a first century fragment. We’ll have to wait for the palaeographic analysis, along with other dating criteria before we can confirm such an early manuscript. I assume that these will form part of the publication of these fragments by Brill in 2013.
One of the other manuscripts is a fragment of Luke touted as early second century. If this date is verified, it could have significant implications for some recent theories on the date of Luke-Acts, which argue that the two volumes were produced after the dissemination of Josephus’ writings in the late first and early second century (eg. Steve Mason).
Fragments of Pauline letters and Hebrews are among the other manuscripts in this small cache.
Even if the date of these fragments proves not to be as early as Dan Wallace is suggesting (and there has been some scepticism expressed by some), they will still nonetheless be significant in helping trace the transmission of the New Testament. We’ll have to wait for 2013 and fork out a princely sum for the publication by Brill to learn more of the details. Until then, we can only suspend judgement and wait with eager anticipation.
You can read a little more about the discovery at the Dallas Theological Seminary website HERE.
Here’s the short interview with Dan Wallace by Mike Licona.