January 12, 2000
volume 11, no. 8
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Found Unexpectedly in Vienna's National Library

    VIENNA, JAN 11 (ZENIT).- A fragment of the oldest text of the Letter to the Hebrews, dating to the 1st century according to some experts, was unexpectedly found among the papyruses of Vienna's National Library. Other experts date the fragment back to the 5th or 6th centuries.

    For a long time, this text of the New Testament was attributed to St. Paul, but because its Greek style is much more refined than the rest of the Pauline corpus, Biblical experts today see another hand behind this letter.

    The papyrus arrived in Austria at the end of the 19th century, along with many others bought in a Cairo market in 1883 by a Viennese antique collector. Amphilochios Papathomas, a Greek scholarship holder, found the document accidentally in the Vienna Library; it has a total of 16 lines.

    The text includes two passages from the Letter's second chapter. "To date the Letter to the Hebrews was only known by some passages from Medieval Codices, while this goes back to the 5th or 6th centuries after Christ, as confirmed by scientific investigations to which the papyrus was subjected," Papathomas said. It is quite probable that the fragment is part of a manuscript produced in a Coptic-Christian convent in southern Egypt.

    Professor Hermann Harrauer, director of Vienna's National Library, is far more optimistic. According to him, the fragment found by Papathomas dates back to the end of the 1st century after Christ.

    The Letter to the Hebrews, rather than being a letter of St. Paul to Christians, is a homily written, apparently, by a Jewish disciple of the Apostle to a Jewish community that yearned for the ceremonies of Jewish worship. This is why it presents Christ as the High Priest and Mediator who has absolutely opened the door to God, not like the Jewish priests of the Old Testament, who could only open the Temple door once a year. ZE00011101


January 12, 2000
volume 10, no. 8

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