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Fragment 5 from Cave 7 of the Qumran Community in its entirety

Among the Dead Sea scrolls, 7Q5 is the designation for a small papyrus fragment discovered in Qumran Cave 7. The significance of this fragment is derived from an argument made by Jose O´Callaghan in his work ¿Papiros neotestamentarios en la cueva 7 de Qumrân? (New Testament Papyri in Cave 7 at Qumran?) in 1972, later reasserted and expanded by German scholar Carsten Peter Thiede in his work The Earliest Gospel Manuscript? in 1982. The assertion is that the previously unidentified 7Q5 is actually a fragment of the Gospel of Mark, chapter 6 verse 52-53. The majority of scholars have not been convinced by O'Callaghan's and Thiede's identification[1][2] and it is "now virtually universally rejected".[3][4]


O'Callaghan's proposed identification

This shows the Greek text of Mark 6:52-53. Bold characters represent proposed identifications with characters from 7Q5:[5]

ου γαρ
συνηκαν επι τοις αρτοις,
αλλ ην αυτων η καρδια πεπωρω-
μενη. και διαπερασαντες [επι την γην]
ηλθον εις γεννησαρετ και
προσωρμισθησαν. και εξελ-
θοντων αυτων εκ του πλοιου ευθυς
επιγνοντες αυτον.

for they did not
understand concerning the loaves
but was their heart harden-
ed. And crossing over [unto the land]
they came unto Gennesaret and
drew to the shore. And com-
ing forth out of the boat immediately
they recognized him.


The 7th Cave at Qumran, where 7Q5 was found.

The argument is weighted on two points.

  • First, the spacing before the word και <kai> ("and") signifies a paragraph break, which is consistent with the normative layout of Mark in early copies. Secondly, the combination of letters ννησ <nnes> found in line 4 is highly characteristic and may point at the word Γεννησαρετ <Gennesaret>, found three times in the New Testament.
  • Furthermore, a computer search "using the most elaborate Greek texts ... has failed to yield any text other than Mark 6:52-53 for the combination of letters identified by O’Callaghan et al. in 7Q5".[6]

Several counterarguments exist.

  • The spacing before the word και <kai> ("and") might be a paragraph break. But spacings of this width can be found in papyri sometimes even within words (Pap. Bodmer XXIV, plate 26; in Qumran in fragment 4Q122). Other examples in the Qumran texts show that the word και <kai> ("and") in many cases was separated with spacings - and this has in many cases nothing to do with the text's structure.
  • Although the sequence ννησ is unusual in Greek, the word εγεννησεν <egennesen> ("begot") also contains those four letters. In fact, this conjecture was proposed by the authors of the first edition (editio princeps) published in 1962. In such case the fragment might be part of some genealogy.
  • In order to identify the fragment with Mark 6:52-53, one must account for the replacement of original δ <d> with τ <t> in line 3, and, although such difference is not without parallel in ancient Greek where two similar meaning words might be confused, the suggested reading requires the misspelling of a prepositional prefix to create an unknown word.[7]
  • As the lines of a column are always more or less of the same length, it must be assumed that the words επι την γην <epi ten gen> ("to the land") were omitted, a variant which is not attested elsewhere.[7].
  • The identification of the last letter in line 2 with nu has been strongly disputed because it does not fit into the pattern of this Greek letter as it is clearly written in line 4.[8]
  • The computer search performed by Thiede assumed that all the disputed letter identifications made by O'Callaghan were correct. However, a similar search performed by scholar Daniel Wallace, but allowing other possible identifications for the disputed letters, found sixteen matches [7]. If a computer search is performed with the undisputed letters of the fragment 7Q5 it will not find the text Mk 6,52-53, because the undisputed letter τ in line 3 does not fit to this text.[9]


If 7Q5 were identified as Mark 6:52-53 and was deposited in the cave at Qumran by 68 AD, it would become the earliest known fragment of the New Testament, predating P52 by at least some if not many decades.

Since the amount of text in the manuscript is so small, even a confirmation of 7Q5 as Markan "might mean nothing more than that the contents of these few verses were already formalized, not necessarily that there was a manuscript of Mark's Gospel on hand".[10] Since the entirety of the find in Cave 7 consists of fragments in Greek, it is possible that the contents of this cave are of a separate "Hellenized" library than the Hebrew texts found in the other caves. Additionally, as Robert Eisenman points out: "Most scholars agree that the scrolls were deposited in the cave in or around 68 AD, but often mistake this date...for the terminus ad quem for the deposit of the scrolls in the caves/cessation of Jewish habitation at the site, when it cannot be considered anything but the terminus a quo for both of these, i.e., not the latest but the earliest possible date for such a deposit and/or Jewish abandonment of the site. The actual terminus ad quem for both of these events, however difficult it may be to accept at first, is 136 AD."(italics his)[11] This is long after the currently accepted date range for the composition of Mark.

See also


  1. ^ Millard, A. R. (2000). Reading and Writing in the Time of Jesus. NYU Press. pp. 56. ISBN 0814756379. "C.P. Thiede drew on papyrology, statistics and forensic microscopy to try to prove O'Callaghan's case, yet without convincing the majority of leading specialists."  
  2. ^ McCready, Wayne O. (1997), "The Historical Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls", in Arnal, William E.; Desjardins, Michael, Whose Historical Jesus?, Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, pp. 193, ISBN 0889202958,  . "On the whole, O'Callaghan's thesis has met with scholarly skepticism since the fragments are extremely small, almost illegible, and his strongest case does not agree with known versions of Mark."
  3. ^ "... Qumran ms. 7Q5 ... is captioned as if it contains a fragment of Mark: it was of course O’Callaghan who made that controversial — and now virtually universally rejected - identication of this Dead Sea text as a piece of the New Testament ..." Elliot (2004), JK, Book Notes, Novum Testamentum, Volume 45, Number 2, 2003 , pp. 203.
  4. ^ Gundry(1999), p.698
  5. ^ VanderKam, James; Peter Flint (2004). The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls : Their Significance for Understanding the Bible, Judaism, Jesus, and Christianity (First HarperCollins paperback ed.). New York: HarperCollins. pp. 315. ISBN 0060684658.  
  6. ^ Thiede n. 31, pp. 40-41
  7. ^ a b c
  8. ^ Gundry (1999)
  9. ^ See Wallace, footnote 18.
  10. ^ Picirilli, Robert E. (2003). The Gospel of Mark (first ed.). Nashville, TN: Randall House Publications. pp. 11. ISBN 0892655003.  
  11. ^ Eisenman, Robert (1996). The Dead Sea Scrolls and the First Christians. Rockport, MA: Element Books, Inc.. pp. 129–30. ISBN 1852307854.  


Further reading

  • Enste(2000), Stefan: Kein Markustext in Qumran. Eine Untersuchung der These: Qumran-Fragment 7Q5 = Mk 6,52-53, Freiburg/Göttingen 2000 (NTOA 45).
  • Estrada, David and White, Jr., William: The First New Testament, Nashville/Thomas Nelson Inc. 1978, ISBN 0-8407-5121-4.

External links



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