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Gospel Papyrus Donated to Vatican

2/3/2007 - 10:00 AM PST

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"It Has Not Yet Revealed All Its Secrets"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 3, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of an article published last week in the semi-official Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, entitled "18 Centuries of History: The Bodmer Papyrus 14-15 (P75) Arrives in the Vatican Apostolic Library."

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April 30, 1451: With a papal brief Pope Nicholas V establishes a library "pro communi doctorum virorum commodo" (to facilitate the research of scholars). Thus was born the present Vatican Apostolic Library.

November 22, 2006: the Bodmer Papyrus 14-15, donated to His Holiness Benedict XVI by the generosity of the Sally and Frank Hanna Family Foundation and the Solidarity Association (U.S.A.), as well as the Mater Verbi/Hanna Papyrus Trust, was given to the Vatican Apostolic Library.

During the five and a half centuries that separate these two dates, albeit through different vicissitudes, such as the losses caused by the lansquenets on the occasion of the sack of Rome (1527) or the transfer of the manuscripts to Paris in the Napoleonic age, the Vatican Apostolic Library remained faithful to the mandate it received to enrich, guard and preserve with all care the cultural treasures entrusted to it and to put them at the disposition of qualified scholars.

In the meantime, the initial thousand manuscripts by this time numbered 150,000; beside these were placed 300,000 coins and medals, as well as 100,000 stamps and an important collection of antique prints.

Among the famous monuments of culture deposited at present in the Vatican Library, mention can be made, in the classic line, of the palimsest of Cicero's De Republica (Vat. lat. 5757), of the Virgilio Vaticano (Vat. lat. 3225), of the Virgilio Romano (Vat. lat. 3867), of the Terenzio Vaticano (Vat. lat. 3868), of important manuscripts of Plato (Vat. gr. 1), of Pindar (Vat. gr. 1312) and of the Tavole Facili of Ptolemy (Vat. gr. 1291), not to mention Menander's most precious palimsest discovered a few years ago in Vast. sir. 623.

Numbered among the biblical manuscripts is the most ancient testimony known of the two letters of St. Peter (Papyrus Bodmer 8), the so-called "B codex," one of the two surviving Bibles of the 4th century (Vat. gr. 1209) and the "codex Claromontanus" (Vat. lat. 7223) or even one of the most ancient known paleo-Slavic manuscripts (Vat. gr. 2502).

Identified among the inferior writings of Vat. gr. 2061A and of Vat. gr. 2306 are fragments of an ancient manuscript of the Gospels of the fifth century, of a Strabone of the fourth century and of the most ancient Greek juridical collection (sixth - seventh century).

Famous for their miniatures are "Basil's Menologium" (Vat. gr. 1613), the "Urbinate Bible" (Urb. lat. 1-2), "Belbello's Bible" (Barb. lat. 613), two Dantesque manuscripts, the "Dante Urbinate" (Urb. lat. 1-2), portions of the Divine Comedy illustrated by Boticelli (Reg.lat. 1896), and the Homilies of Giacomo Monaco (Vatic. gr. 1162), not forgetting, however, the most ancient Greek liturgical manuscript, the so-called "Barberini Eucologium" (Barb. gr. 336), the only surviving testimony of the Roman "parish" liturgy, the Gelasian Sacramentary (Reg. lat. 316), one of the most ancient paper manuscripts (the Doctrina Patrum of the Vat. gr. 2200), or the mysterious Rotolo di Giosue (Pal. gr. 431), alongside which are placed, for example, the Vat. Lat. 5704, from the Cassiodorus' scriptorium (sixth century) or one of the few surviving fragments of the Skeireins, namely, the Gothic translation of a Greek commentary on John (Vat. lat. 5750).

To this list, which should end with a very long etcetera (1), was added recently a most precious treasure, the Bodmer Papyrus 14-15, containing Luke's and John's Gospels, protagonist of a fascinating event.

Antecedent facts

To appreciate the exceptional nature of the papyrus, it would be useful to refer to the historical context in which it was produced.

Shortly after the middle of the first century, as the first disciples of Christ were leaving this world, the need began to be felt in the Christian community to "compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us, just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses" (Luke 1:1-2). Thus were born, in the last years of the first century, the Gospels (the four canonical Gospels, of course, but also other similar texts, of which only fragments exist).

Ancient tradition and modern criticism are unanimous on one point: the four canonical Gospels were written in different places and circumstances and were brought together in one corpus at some point in the second century.

The first signs of what would later become the New Testament are very ancient: In the years between 95 and 98, the Church of Rome sent a ...

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