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The Oxyrhynchus 840 Gospel

Alternate title: Fragment of an Uncanonical Gospel

c. 100-150 C.E.

The Oxyrhynchus 840 papyrus is a single leaf from a fourth-century miniature codex, likely to have been worn around the neck as an amulet. The fragment contains a total of 45 lines on front and back, encompassing two stories unparalleled in known gospel tradition.

Of the first chapter, only the end is preserved. Jesus is teaching that despite the importance of planning ahead (see Luke 12 and 14), evil plans will still result in damnation. The longer and more interesting story involves ritual cleanliness, thematically similar to Mark 7 and parallels. Jesus and his disciples are admonished by a Pharisaic high-priest (a decidedly antagonistic combination) for entering the inner sanctuary of the Temple without ritually bathing. Jesus counters that even sinners and animals bathe, while He and his disciples have bathed in "living water" from Heaven.

It is of course difficult to date the original time of composition, but a few keys help to make an educated estimation. Jesus's title as "Savior" is found nowhere in the canonical gospels except John 4:42, though it is frequently used in later, particularly Gnostic, literature; yet the nature of the teachings suggest that Judaism was still a threat. Also, the author's vagueness concerning the details of the Temple suggest a provenance far removed from Jerusalem - possibly Syria, early in the second century.