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20 July, 2024
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Unveiling the earliest account of Jesus Christ's childhood

Scholars in Hamburg decipher an ancient manuscript from the 4th century, revealing early insights into gospel narratives


A recently unearthed manuscript, dating back to the 4th or 5th century, tucked away in the Hamburg Carl von Ossietzky State and University Library, has been identified by researchers as the earliest surviving account of Jesus Christ's childhood.

Papyrologist Gabriel Nocchi Macedo from the University of Liège in Belgium, who led the study, confirmed that the manuscript contains the "Infancy Gospel of Thomas" originally written in Greek. Macedo, along with Dr. Lajos Berkes from the Institute for Christianity and Antiquity at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, made the discovery after decades of the fragment going unnoticed.

Measuring just over 4 inches by 2 inches, the delicate papyrus fragment comprises thirteen lines of Greek text from late antique Egypt. Initially mistaken for an ordinary document due to its clumsy handwriting, the manuscript revealed its true nature under meticulous examination and comparison with other digitized papyri.

"This finding is of extraordinary interest for research," said Berkes. "Not only does it date back to the 4th to 5th century, making it the earliest known copy of the 'Infancy Gospel of Thomas,' but it also sheds new light on how the text was transmitted over centuries."

The manuscript describes a childhood miracle attributed to Jesus, detailing how, as a 5-year-old, he fashioned sparrows from soft clay by a riverbank and brought them to life.

Further analysis suggests that the manuscript was likely used as a writing exercise in a school or monastery, evident from its irregular lines and novice handwriting.

The discovery underscores the manuscript's significance in early Christian literature, offering insights into beliefs about Jesus' childhood that predate previously known copies by centuries.

"This find opens new avenues for understanding the development of early Christian texts," Macedo concluded, highlighting the manuscript's contribution to scholarly understanding of ancient religious narratives.

[Source: UPI]


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