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The Egerton Gospel

Alternate title: Papyrus Egerton 2, The Unknown Gospel

c. 70-100 C.E.

Named after the Englishman who funded their purchase, the codex fragments known as Papyrus Egerton 2 have been dated back to the first half of the second century, placing them among the earliest surviving Christian documents; they are quite probably the earliest known manuscripts from a non-canonical gospel. The legible portions are few, making it impossible to determine authorship or provenance, but they nonetheless give us fascinating insight into the development of early gospel traditions.

Approximately four chapters of the gospel have been restored well enough to comprehend the details of the narrative. In the first, Jesus is instructing the "rulers of the people" to study the Jewish scriptures and to understand that Moses would not be pleased by their distrust. The chapter ends with a failed attempt to stone Jesus. Parallels can be found in John 5:39-47, 7:30-32 and 9:29, though the primitive nature of the Egerton accounts makes direct dependence upon John unlikely.

The second and third stories have parallels in the synoptics—the healing of the leper (Mk 1:40-45 & parallels) and the payment of taxes (Mk 12:13-17 & parallels). The fourth story has no known parallels, canonical or apocryphal, and tells of Jesus miraculously growing fruit on the shores of the Jordan.

Egerton's relationship to the synoptic gospels is inconclusive, but the Gospel of John, if not directly dependent upon Egerton, at least utilized some of the same traditions. Egerton seems to represent a period in the development of Johannine tradition prior to its conclusive split with the Judaistic community.