Altogether, more than 43% of all New Testament verses are found in these manuscripts.
But the most interesting thing is the first-century fragment.
It was dated by one of the world’s leading paleographers.
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How do these manuscripts change what we believe the original New Testament to say?
We will have to wait until they are published next year, but for now we can most likely say this: As with all the previously published New Testament papyri (127 of them, published in the last 116 years), not a single new has commended itself as authentic.
Instead, the papyri function to confirm what New Testament scholars have already thought was the original wording or, in some cases, to confirm an alternate reading—but one that is already found in the manuscripts.
If this is true, it would be the oldest fragment of the New Testament known to exist.
Up until now, no one has discovered any first-century manuscripts of the New Testament.
The oldest manuscript of the New Testament has been P52, a small fragment from John’s Gospel, dated to the first half of the second century. Not only this, but the first-century fragment is from Mark’s Gospel.
Before the discovery of this fragment, the oldest manuscript that had Mark in it was P45, from the early third century (c. This new fragment would predate that by 100 to 150 years.
Note: Several websites (NT Blog, Gospel Coalition, Andreas Köstenberger, Evangelical Textual Criticism, Hypotyposeis, etc.) have been writing about Dan Wallace's comments to Bart Erhman about the discovery of several New Testament papyri. Wallace has already written a summary of the debate, and below he clarifies what these papyri might mean.
On 1 February 2012, I debated Bart Ehrman at UNC Chapel Hill on whether we have the wording of the original New Testament today.
This was our third such debate, and it was before a crowd of more than 1000 people.
I mentioned that seven New Testament papyri had recently been discovered—six of them probably from the second century and one of them probably from the first. These fragments now increase our holdings as follows: we have as many as eighteen New Testament manuscripts from the second century and one from the first.