The John Rylands Gospel of John Papyrus

The Oldest New Testament Text circa 120 AD

In 1920, Bernard Greenfell acquired some papyri in Egypt. Among them were some small fragments. Many libraries around the world that concern thelselves with ancient writings have large collections of these small shards of papyrus. This 2.5 by 3.5 inch papyrus shard rested in the collection of the Johm Rylands Library at Manchester, England until 1934 when a Fellow of St. John's College at Oxford, C. H. Roberts, began sorting through them. Roberts picked up the fragment and immediately recognized the few Greek lines on the recto (front) and verso (back) as being parts of the Gospel of John 18:31-33 and 37-38 respectively. I visited the Rylands Library with Allan Ashurst of Manchester to observe this fragment and purchase a facsimile while I lived in the UK from 1976 to 1988.

The Paleography (study of ancient writing styles) dated the fragment to the time of Hadrian (117 - 138) within 20 years of the composition of the Greek "First Edition" of the Gospel by its author.


It is not lawful for us to put to death
No one; that the w ord of Jesus might be fulfilled;
Which he spoke signifying by what death
He was about to die. Entered therefore into the
Praetorium again Pilate and called
Jesus and said to him, "Are you the King of
The Jews?"

For this I have been born, and for this I have been born into
The world that I may bear witness to the truth.
Everyone that is of the truth hears my voice.
Says to him Pilate, "what is truth?"
And this having said again, he went out
To the J ews and says to them;
I not any fault find in him.

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