Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here
Start your day in a beautiful way: Subscribe to Aleteia's daily newsletter here.
Sign me up!

Not Prepared to Donate?

Here are 5 ways you can still help Aleteia:

  1. Pray for our team and the success of our mission
  2. Talk about Aleteia in your parish
  3. Share Aleteia content with friends and family
  4. Turn off your ad blockers when you visit
  5. Subscribe to our free newsletter and read us daily
Thank you!
Team Aleteia

Subscribe

Aleteia

Desiccated ancient biblical manuscript revealed by x-ray scan

COPTIC CROSSES
Share

Biblical scholars hope the scans will shed some light on the creation of this rare codex.

Since it was acquired by the Morgan Library and Museum in New York, in 1962, the ancient codex known as M.910 has tantalized the imaginations of biblical scholars. Unfortunately, the codex was in such frail condition that no one would risk damaging it in the process of examination.

M.910 is believed to have been written by Coptic monks in Egypt as early as the 4th century, and is thought to contain an early version of the Acts of the Apostles. Paul Dilley, an assistant professor of Ancient Mediterranean Religions at the University of Iowa, explained to Newsweek that in decades passed the first few pages were opened, and even after getting a glimpse at the contents, it is still a mystery:

“We can’t be sure [what’s in it], but every bit of evidence is precious, especially from a book this old—there aren’t many witnesses of the Bible from this period,” Dilley told Newsweek. “Every one of these ancient biblical manuscripts is a little bit different, so there are bound to be some interesting textual variants. It’s not out of the question that there’s another writing in the codex that we can’t see.”

In December of 2017 M.910 was put through the process of x-ray imagining. These images will be processed in attempt to identify the words on each page without risking the artifact. Dilley theorizes, based on the number of pages and letters per page, that the book only contains The Acts of the Apostles, but it is possible that there may be more.

The biggest hurdle Dilley’s team faces is that the pages are double sided. Single sided pages tend to reveal better through x-ray imaging, since they will not always be able to determine if the ancient ink belongs to one side or the other. Another hurdle they need to face is the condition of the source. Dilley explains:

“It’s actually desiccated,” Dilley said. “Heat damage has caused it to shrink a little, but also the pages have … kind of warped together. It seems like an ember or something fell on it and burned it.”

The team is working from the back to the front in hope that there may be scribal notes on the later pages, which may give us more insight into the creation of this codex, such as who commissioned it, where it was created, and excerpts from different texts. While the process is long and delicate, Dilley is confident that in time the work will reveal itself:

“Whether we’ll be able to perfectly read the entire codex is doubtful, but a lot of the value will be in establishing this procedure [itself] and determining just how one goes about doing this,” Dilley said. “And reading and publishing some of it hopefully.”

Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.
Aleteia offers you this space to comment on articles. This space should always reflect Aleteia values.
[See Comment Policy]
Readers like you contribute to Aleteia's Mission.

Since our inception in 2012, Aleteia’s readership has grown rapidly worldwide. Our team is committed to a mission of providing articles that enrich, inspire and inform a Catholic life. That's why we want our articles to be freely accessible to everyone, but we need your help to do that. Quality journalism has a cost (more than selling ads on Aleteia can cover). That's why readers like you make a major difference by donating as little as $3 a month.