The Magdalen P64 Papyrus
Fragments of the Gospel of Matthew
(Year ~ 50 A.D.)
The so-called Magdalen P64 consists of three small fragments which
belong to a papyrus codex written on both sides. The fragments contain some
words of the 26th chapter of Matthew's gospel and were acquired in the year 1901, in Luxor (Egypt), by the Egyptologist Charles Bousfield
Huleatt, who after their identification presented them to the Magdalen College, Oxford.
After their first
dating, the German papyrologist Carsten Peter Thiede dated the fragments P64 in
1995, as belonging to the period between the years 35 and 70 AD. (1) This dating harmonizes with the patristic
evidence, proving that the Gospel of Matthew is very old and was written
immediately after Jesus' death.
In order to date these
fragments, Thiede followed a standard paleographic criterion; he confronted the
style of the writing with other papyri of explicit date, as the papyrus found in
Oxyrhynchus (district of Upper Egypt), which is dated and resembles like a drop
of water to those of the P64, or the papyri found in Herculaneum, whose
archaeological “stop” was caused by the eruption of Vesuvius in the year 79 AD
and those of Qumran, who had their archaeological “stop” between the years 68
and 70 AD, as confirmed by an examination of the carbon-14 on the material found
in the caves, when the size of the pieces made it
The small size of the
P64 fragments did not allow the application of this test or the use of the mass
spectrometry with accelerator, since these tests require at least 25 mg of
material and some residue of papyrus may be destroyed. Thiede made use of other
current technology tools, such as electron microscopy, and through these tests
he reached the conclusion that the P64 fragments are from the first century;
from around the year 50 AD. They were therefore written before the war of 70 AD,
some few years after the death of Jesus.
The fragments are
written in Greek and since history tells us that the Gospel of Matthew was
originally written in Aramaic, Thiede's dating confirms that the Greek
translation was made shortly after the first one.
(1) See: C.P. Thiede's, Papyrus
Magdalen Greek 17 (Gregory-Aland P64). “A Reappraisal”, ZPE 105. 1995, 13-20,
[Carsten Peter Thiede (Berlin, August 8, 1952 -
Paderborn, December 14, 2004). Internationally renowned German historian as well
as papyrologist and literary scholar.
He imparted instruction at the Universities of Oxford, London and Geneva, and later at the Staatsunabhangigen Theologischen
Hochschule (Independent Institute of Theology) in Basel. He was member of the Center for German
Studies of the Faculty of History at the Ben Gurion
University of Negev in Beer-Sheva (Israel)].
of the fragments
Identification in Matthew 26:7..8
“7 προσῆλθεν αὐτῷ γυνὴ ἔχουσα ἀλάßαστρον µύρου ßαρυτίµου καὶ κατέχεεν ἐπὶ τῆς κεφαλῆς αὐτοῦ ἀνακειµένου.
8 ἰδόντες δὲ οἱ µαθηταὶ ἠγανάκτησαν λέγοντες, Εἰς τί ἡ ἀπώλεια αὕτη”.
“7 To him came a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head;
he was reclining at table,
8 seeing this, they became indignant, and said: To what purpose is this waste? ”.
Identification in Matthew 26:14..15
“14 Τότε πορευθεὶς εἷς τῶν δώδεκα, ὁ λεγόµενος Ἰούδας Ἰσκαριώτης, πρὸς τοὺς ἀρχιερεῖς
15 εἶπεν, Τί θέλετέ µοι δοῦναι κἀγὼ ὑµῖν παραδώσω αὐτόν; οἱ δὲ ἔστησαν αὐτῷ τριάκοντα ἀργύρια”.
Then one of the twelve, that was called Judas
having gone to the chief priests,
said to them: What are you willing to give
to me, and I will deliver him to you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver”.
Identification in Matthew 26:10
Greek text: “γνοὺς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς,
Τί κόπους παρέχετε τῇ γυναικί ἔργον γὰρ καλὸν ἠργάσατο εἰς ἐµέ·”.
When Jesus understood it, he said to them, Why do you
woman? She has comply a good work with
Without any variant of the text of Eberhard Nestle and Kurt
The cited manuscripts