I have been discussing documents from early Christianity that I would very much like to have see with my own eyes. In my last post I mentioned the fact that documents that *do* tend to be discovered are either copies of books we already have (the Gospel of John, the book of Revelation, etc.) or of books that we did not previously know existed (the Letter of Diognetus, or most of the writings in the Nag Hammadi library). Here is a related question from a reader of the blog.
QUESTION: Are there researchers who systematically attempt to find these ancient documents or when documents come to light is it pretty much by chance?
ANSWER: Well, not so much, not these days. For a simple reason: how does one go about trying to discover a manuscript? Do you fly to Egypt, hire a taxi to take you out to the desert, and start digging?
There were basically two ways that past researchers tried to discover manuscripts. Sometimes they were spectacularly successful. But one of these ways is no longer very productive (by comparison with earlier days) and the other, for reasons I don’t know, is not often pursued (at least to my knowledge).
When scholars began to value ancient manuscripts and started wanting to find the oldest ones they could get their paws on, especially back in the nineteenth century, they took a very sensible approach to the business. They realized where such manuscripts would be. They would be in
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