An interesting new manuscript of the Gospel of John has just been identified. I’ll give some information on it in the next post, but to make sense of it I need to provide some background. This is pretty esoteric stuff (i.e., hardly anyone but hard-core experts knows about it), but it’s pretty interesting.
In 1988 my mentor, Bruce Metzger, published an article called “Greek Manuscripts of John’s Gospel With ‘Hermeneia.’ ” In this article he identified five Greek manuscripts of the Gospel of John with an unusual feature. These papyrus manuscripts date from the third (or possibly fourth) to the seventh centuries. The unusual feature in them is that on the bottom of one or more pages (fourteen instances altogether among the five manuscripts) after the portion of the text of John’s Gospel , they have written the Greek word “hermeneia,” which is then followed by some kind of phrase or other. These phrases are such things as “If you believe it will be a joy to you” or “it is a good deliverance” or “It will be a great glory.”
The word “hermeneia” means “interpretation.” But the problem is that the phrases following the word hermeneia don’t seem to have anything to do with the text of John on the page. That is, the phrases don’t seem to *be* “interpretations” of the text. So what’s going on?
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