Researchers have discovered a long-lost “hidden chapter,” nearly 1,500 years after the Bible’s original composition. As per a new study that was published in the journal, New Testament Studies, the lost portion constitutes one of the oldest translations of the Gospels.
Researchers, including Grigory Kessel from the Austrian Academy of Sciences, employed ultraviolet photography to discover the chapter buried beneath three layers of text.
“Until recently, only two manuscripts were known to contain the Old Syriac translation of the gospels,” Dr Kessel said.
One of these is in the British Library in London and the other was discovered in St Catherine’s Monastery at Mount Sinai, as reported by the Independent.
The newly discovered text, according to researchers, is an interpretation of Matthew chapter 12, which was initially translated as part of the Old Syriac translations some 1,500 years ago.
The discoveries, they claimed, provides a “unique gateway” to the earliest phase in the history of the textual transmission of the Gospels as it is the only known piece of the fourth manuscript that attests to the Old Syriac version.
Additionally, the text provides new perspectives on how translations of the same text may differ.
For instance, while the original Greek of Matthew chapter 12 verse 1 says, “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 Syriac translation says, “…began to pick the heads of grain, rub them in their hands, and eat them.”
“As far as the dating of the Gospel book is concerned, there can be no doubt that it was produced no later than the sixth century,” scientists wrote in the study.
“Despite a limited number of dated manuscripts from this period, comparison with dated Syriac manuscripts allows us to narrow down a possible time frame to the first half of the sixth century,” they added.
Pages were frequently reused due to a lack of paper in the area 1,300 years ago, primarily by removing the earlier Biblical text.
“This discovery proves how productive and important the interplay between modern digital technologies and basic research can be when dealing with medieval manuscripts,” said Claudia Rapp, director of the Institute for Medieval Research at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, who spoke to the Independent.