An Austrian scientist claims to have discovered a previously undiscovered chapter of the Bible dating back 1,750 years. The passage in dispute is from Matthew, specifically chapters 11 and 12.
Grigory Kessel, an Austrian Academy of Sciences medievalist, made the finding using ultraviolet photography to examine a manuscript holding the Syriac translation of the biblical text. Kessel determined that the reader, hidden beneath three layers of other writing, was critical to Syriac Christianity.
Syriac Christianity has a long heritage of translating the Old and New Testaments, and until today, only two manuscripts containing the Old Syriac translation of the gospels were known. Kessel’s discovery reveals an altogether new source of ancient text, which could alter our view of the Bible’s early years.
The scientific examination of ancient manuscripts has grown in popularity in recent years as experts employ a range of methodologies to uncover the secrets contained inside these volumes.
The use of ultraviolet photography is just one of many such approaches that scholars are employing in their continued efforts to unravel the riddles of the past.
Grigory Kessel, an Austrian Academy of Sciences-affiliated medievalist, has unearthed a hidden chapter in a text stored at the Vatican Library. Kessel used UV light to reveal this previously hidden section of the manuscript.
Due to this fantastic finding, the academic community has acquired new insight into this specific manuscript’s historical circumstances. Kessel’s use of cutting-edge technology proves the power of modern scientific approaches to uncover hidden secrets from the past.
Producing parchment was a time-consuming and costly operation during the Middle Ages, making it a valuable commodity. As a result, when manuscripts were no longer required, scribes would frequently delete the original writing and reuse the parchment.
One such manuscript, a Syriac document that originated in the third century and was copied in the sixth, was most likely erased owing to the shortage. The manuscript was discovered again in 2010 and scanned in 2020.
According to accounts, experts were aware of the recently discovered document as early as 1953. However, it wasn’t until 2010 that it was found again in Palestine. In 2020, the manuscript was digitized, and natural light and UV images were added to the Digital Vatican Library.
This is an essential discovery for biblical scholars because the Old Syriac translation of the gospels is only found in two manuscripts. One is at the British Library in London, while the other is at St. Catherine’s Monastery, the world’s oldest continuously active monastery.
The Sinai Palimpsests Project, which seeks to unearth deleted texts from manuscripts in St. Catherine’s library, has discovered a third manuscript.
This effort used imaging techniques such as multispectral imaging and reflectance transformation imaging to reveal previously erased text and pieces.
The discovery of this third manuscript adds another critical piece to the puzzle of Syriac Christian literature, which has been vital in offering a window into Christianity’s early origins.
The “fourth textual witness” has been identified as a recent breakthrough by Grigory Kessel. Kessel uncovered a Syriac translation of Matthew 12, verse 1, that departs from the Greek original.
The Syriac translation, in particular, portrays the disciples rubbing grain heads in their hands before eating them, whereas the Greek version claims that the disciples ate the seed heads.
Claudia Rapp, director of the Austrian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Medieval Study, lauded Kessel’s discovery as proof of the potent combination of current digital tools and essential study for researching and evaluating medieval manuscripts.