The treasure trove that produced a first-century fragment of the Gospel of Mark, also contained an early sermon on Hebrews and the earliest-known manuscripts of one of the letters of Paul the Apostle, New Testament scholar Daniel Wallace has claimed.
In a 24 February 2012 interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt, Professor Wallace of the Dallas Theological Seminary said the newly discovered papyrus fragments were of scholarly magnitude of the Dead Sea Scrolls. They also serve to confirm the veracity of the received version of the New Testament as they contain no significant differences from the modern texts.
The fragment from Mark was "a very small fragment, not too many verses, but it's definitely from Mark," Prof. Wallace said, adding that "to have a fragment from one of the Gospels that's written during the lifetime of some of the eyewitnesses to the resurrection is just astounding."
The Markan fragment will be published next year by EJ Brill and will include six other new finds, including a second-century sermon on Hebrews 11, a second century fragment from Luke, and second century fragments from Paul's epistles.
"What makes [the Hebrews find] so interesting is the ancient church understood by about A.D. 180 in what's called ... the Muratorian Canon, that the only books that could be read in churches must be those that are authoritative," the professor said.
"To have a homily or a sermon on Hebrews means that whoever wrote that sermon considered Hebrews to be authoritative, and therefore, it could be read in the churches."
While Dr. Wallace did not identify which of Paul's letters were found he stated that "up until now, our oldest manuscript for Paul's letters dates about AD 200."
"Now we have as many as four more manuscripts that predate that."
The scholarly community has been skeptical of Prof. Wallace's claims, and have urged him to state who the "world-famous" paleographer who has authenticated the discoveries might be. However, most scholars have said they will take a wait and see attitude until the papyri are produced for scholarly review.
The full text of the interview with Hugh Hewitt and Daniel Wallace can be found here.