It has been discovered that the Bible has a new chapter that was concealed inside a translation of the Gospel of Matthew that is 1,750 years old.
Grigory Kessel, a medievalist, utilized ultraviolet photography on the manuscripts that were housed in the Vatican Library in order to uncover the missing chapter.
As part of the Sinai Palimpsests Project, in which researchers try to recover manuscripts that were erased and written over by scribes between the 4th-12th centuries CE, the concealed text was discovered. Due to the lack of writing materials at the time, palimpsest manuscripts were rather frequent.
These types of manuscripts include repurposed prior text that has been washed or scraped off. However, it is possible to retrieve text that was written hundreds of years later by fluorescing the manuscripts or exposing them with various wavelengths of light.
Researchers have previously decoded 74 manuscripts using similar techniques, but the most recent discovery was especially significant since it included a translation that was a century older than the earliest Greek translations, including the Codex Sinaiticus.
“The tradition of Syriac Christianity knows several translations of the Old and New Testaments,” Kessel said in a statement. “Until recently, only two manuscripts were known to contain the Old Syriac translation of the gospels.”
According to IFLS, the translation, which was first composed in the 3rd century CE and duplicated in the 6th century CE, has not yet been revealed in its entirety; nonetheless, it provides a little bit more information than the Greek translation of Matthew chapter 12.
In verse 1 of the Greek translation, a sentence reads “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,” while the Syriac translation discovered by Kessel ends “began to pick the heads of grain, rub them in their hands, and eat them”.
“Grigory Kessel has made a great discovery thanks to his profound knowledge of old Syriac texts and script characteristics,” said Claudia Rapp, Director of the Institute for Medieval Research at the Austrian Academy of Sciences.
“This discovery proves how productive and important the interplay between modern digital technologies and basic research can be when dealing with medieval manuscripts,” she adds.
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