Researchers have discovered a 1,500-year-old hidden Bible passage by scanning a manuscript with an ultraviolet light. Historian Grigory Kessel made the remarkable discovery, believed to be a version of Chapter 12 of the book of Matthew, under a previously recovered section.
The passage has been dated to the first half of the sixth century, and is “so far the only known vestige of the fourth manuscript witness to the Old Syriac version,” reports The Daily Express US.
He announced the remarkable discovery in the New Testament Studies journal earlier this year. Kessel explained the once-hidden passage was written on a palimpsest, which is a manuscript that was recycled for re-writing on in the years after.
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The historian insisted the discovery offered a “unique gateway” and would help researchers looking into ancient Syriac translations.
He said: “The manuscript offers a unique gateway for researchers to understand the earliest phases of the Bible’s textual evolution. It shows some differences from modern translations of the text.”
The new discovery is now one of only four manuscripts containing the Old Syricac translation.
Kessel’s findings have been welcomed by Claudia Rapp, the director of the Institute for Medieval Research at the Austrian Academy of Sciences.
She praised Kessel for his use of modern technology to develop research.
Rapp said: “Grigory Kessel has made a great discovery thanks to his profound knowledge of old Syriac texts and script characteristics.
“This discovery proves how productive and important the interplay between modern digital technologies and basic research can be when dealing with medieval manuscripts.”
Christian author Justin Brierley echoed Rapp’s comments, calling Kessel’s research “fascinating”. He said the work was important because of the variations of translation it helped uncover.
Brierley told MailOnline: “The discovery of this new fragment of a Syriac copy of the Gospels is yet another example of how rich the manuscript tradition of the New Testament has been over many centuries.
“It’s also fascinating to note the variation in some of the wording of Matthew’s gospel compared to our received version of the text.
“I often encounter critics who question whether the Bible has been changed over time, but the science of textual criticism, aided by discoveries like these, help historians to put together an extremely accurate picture of what the original gospels said.”