UV Illumination Sheds New Light on Bible Revealing Mysterious ‘Hidden Chapter’

SharePinEmailThe Bible has influenced people and cultures around the world for centuries, its chapters scrutinized and worshiped over to provide Christians with guidance about how they can live their lives. But a recent discovery has brought a new dimension to the Biblical text and shed new light on the ancient Christian stories. A Lost Biblical…

The Bible has influenced people and cultures around the world for centuries, its chapters scrutinized and worshiped over to provide Christians with guidance about how they can live their lives. But a recent discovery has brought a new dimension to the Biblical text and shed new light on the ancient Christian stories.

A Lost Biblical Chapter

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Using ultraviolet (UV) photography equipment, scientists have discovered a lost chapter of the Bible that they say has been hidden underneath a different section of text for over 1,500 years. Historian Grigory Kessel of the Austrian Academy of Sciences announced the discovery in a paper in the New Testament Studies academic journal.

UV Light Recovers Palimpsest

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The discovery was made using UV photography. UV light helps reveal erased text. When the ink soaks into the parchment, it leaves an imprint that is invisible to the naked eye but glows blue under UV light.

The UV rays enabled Kessel and his team to view earlier text under three layers of words. These words had been written on a manuscript known as a palimpsest. This type of manuscript carries erased or partially erased text located underneath an apparent additional text.

Older Text Recoverable

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The older text is recoverable using ultraviolet imaging. For example, in 2011, the Archimedes Palimpsest, a 13th-Century manuscript overwritten with a prayer book, was deciphered after years of painstaking work by scientists using the UV technique.

Interpretation of Matthew Chapter 12

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The researchers say that the recently discovered text is an interpretation of Matthew Chapter 12, which is focused on Jesus’s authority over the seen and the unseen world. The Chapter was originally translated around 1,800 years ago as part of the Old Syriac translations. The text provides new insight into the information contained in the translations.

Fourth Manuscript

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According to the scientists, the new fragment is the only known trace of the fourth manuscript that corresponds to the Old Syriac version. As such, it offers what the researchers refer to as a “unique gateway” to the early stage of the textual transmission of the Gospels.

“As far as the dating of the Gospel book is concerned, there can be no doubt that it was produced no later than the sixth century,” they wrote in the study.

The Dialect of Aramaic

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Syriac is the dialect of Aramaic. It emerged during the 1st Century. The newly discovered text is believed to be a translation of text from the 3rd Century, which was copied during the 6th Century. But around 1,300 years ago, a Palestinian scribe erased the text.

Different Translations

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The scientists gave an example of the difference between the original Matthew Chapter 12 and the Syriac translation. In the original text, verse 1 reads: “At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath; and his disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of gain and eat.” The Syriac translation reads: “[…] began to pick the heads of grain, rub them in their hands, and eat them.”

A Scarcity of Parchment

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A parchment refers to the writing of material typically made on the skins of animals. A general shortage of parchment in the Middle Ages meant that pages were commonly reused.

Several Layered Versions

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Words would be written repeatedly until several layered versions of text concealed the words hidden underneath. This often resulted in the erasing of earlier text in the Bible.

Interplay Between Modern and Ancient Techniques

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Claudia Rapp, a German scholar of the Byzantine Empire and Director of the Institute for Medieval Research at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, explained the value of the finding in the contemporary study of ancient writing.

“This discovery proves how productive and important the interplay between modern digital technologies and basic research can be when dealing with medieval manuscripts,” said Rapp.

Acclaim for Kessel’s Finding

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The discovery earned praise from Claudia Rapp. The reputable and much-admired historian spoke highly of the researchers involved in the research. Citing Kessel specifically, she said: “Grigory Kessel has made a great discovery thanks to his profound knowledge of old Syriac texts and script characteristics.”

A ‘Fourth Textual Witness’

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The New York Post describes Kessel’s breakthrough as the “fourth textual witness,” in reference to the small manuscript fragment being considered as another observer giving evidence to events that happened during Biblical times.

St. Catherine’s Library

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While certainly groundbreaking, Kessel and his team’s discovery is not entirely new. Similar hidden texts were discovered from manuscripts in St. Catherine’s Library. The library is located in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt. Founded between 548 and 565, St. Catherine’s Library is the oldest continuously operating library in the world.

Manuscript Collections

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The library preserves the world’s second largest collection of manuscripts and early codices, outnumbered by the Vatican Library only. Manuscripts in the ancient library were found to contain similar hidden texts.

Palimpsests Project

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Hidden texts were recovered using a similar UV imaging technique in what is known as the Palimpsests Project. The project involves state-of-the-art spectral imaging to salvage deleted texts from palimpsest manuscripts in the library of St. Catherine’s.

Locations of the Manuscripts

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In a statement on the finding, Kessel explained how, until recently, only two manuscripts were known to contain the Old Syriac translation of the Gospels.

“While one of these is now kept in the British Library in London, another was discovered as a palimpsest in St. Catherine’s Monastery at Mount Sinai. The fragments from the third manuscript were recently identified in the course of the “Sinai Palimpsests Project,” he said.

Full Translation Yet to Be Revealed

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The researchers have yet to reveal a full translation of the recently uncovered text. In the New Testament Studies, Kessel said he hoped that “further leaves of this Syriac Gospel book will be detected.”

“Given that the text of the Vatican folio represents roughly 0.6 percent of the complete text of the Four Gospels, the original Gospel manuscript must have occupied some 160 folios,” the scientist explained.

Value of UV Light in the Study of Ancient Text

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This incredible discovery not only presents new messages from the Bible, thereby providing fresh insight into the ancient stories and communities of Christians, but it confirms the importance of UV light in revealing erased ancient text. In exposing the long-lost Biblical translation, ultraviolet is helping to bridge the past and the future, with intriguing results.

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