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Scientists say they have found a chapter of the Bible hidden under a section of text for more than a thousand years

May 23, 2023

  • A scientist said he found a chapter of the Bible hidden for more than 1,500 years.
  • Researchers used ultraviolet photography to spot the text, which was hidden beneath multiple edits.
  • Researchers said the manuscript was a “gateway” to understanding phases of the Bible’s evolution.

Scientists say they have found an old version of a Bible chapter that was hidden underneath a section of text for more than 1,500 years.

Grigory Kessel, a historian at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, announced the discovery earlier this year in an article in  New Testament Studies, a peer-reviewed academic journal published by Cambridge University Press.

Kessel said he used ultraviolet photography to see the earlier text under three layers of words written on a palimpsest, an ancient manuscript that people used to write over other words but often left traces of the original writing behind.

Palimpsests were used in ancient times due to the scarcity of parchment. Words would be written on the material repeatedly until several layers covered the hidden words underneath.

Kessel said in a news release that the text was an extended, unseen version of Chapter 12 in the Book of Matthew that was originally a part of the Old Syriac translations of the Bible some 1,500 years ago. He said he made the discovery in the manuscript held at the Vatican Library.

The manuscript offers a “unique gateway” for researchers to understand the earliest phases of the Bible’s textual evolution, according to the news release, and shows some differences from modern translations of the text.

For instance, according to the release, the original Greek version of Matthew 12:1 — which is the one most commonly used today — said, “At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and his disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat.”

The newly discovered Syriac translation, however, is slightly different. It said, “began to pick the heads of grain, rub them in their hands, and eat them.” (Business Insider)

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