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Papyrus 52 A Fragment of John’s Gospel

Approximate Reading Time, 3 minutes.

Return to: Ancient Biblical Manuscripts


This small fragment of John’s Gospel, less than nine centimetres high and containing on the one side part of verses 31-33, on the other of verses 37-38 of chapter xviii is one of the collection of Greek papyri in the John Rylands Library, Manchester. It was originally discovered in Egypt, and may come from the famous site of Oxyrhynchus (Behnesa), the ruined city in Upper Egypt where Grenfell and Hunt carried out some of the most startling and successful excavations in the history of archaeology; it may be remembered that among their finds of new fragments of Classical and Christian literature were the now familiar “Sayings of Jesus”.

The importance of this fragment is quite out of proportion to its size, since it may with some confidence be dated in the first half of the second century A.D., and thus ranks as the earliest known fragment of the New Testament in any language. It provides us with invaluable evidence of the spread of Christianity in areas distant from the land of its origin; it is particularly interesting to know that among the books read by the early Christians in Upper Egypt was John’s Gospel, commonly regarded as one of the latest of the books of the New Testament. Like other early Christian works which have been found in Egypt, this Gospel was written in the form of a codex, i.e. book, not of a roll, the common vehicle for literature of that time.


James White is the director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, a Christian apologetics organization based in Phoenix, Arizona.


Audio sermon on The Significance of P52 by James White
Recto: John 18:31-33. P. Ryl. Gk. 457. Fragment of a leaf of a papyrus codex, 8.9 x 5.8 cm.; text 6.4 x 6 cm.; upper margin and part of inner margin preserved. Written in dark ink on papyrus light in colour and of good quality. On verso a κολλημα * or perhaps part of a strengthening strip to cover the fold of the sheet. First half of the second century.
Verso: John 18:37-38. P. Ryl. Gk. 457. Fragment of a leaf of a papyrus codex, 8.9 x 5.8 cm.; text 6.4 x 6 cm.; upper margin and part of inner margin preserved. Written in dark ink on papyrus light in colour and of good quality. On verso a κολλημα * or perhaps part of a strengthening strip to cover the fold of the sheet. First half of the second century.

* κολλημα: a place in a papyrus manuscript in which an additional strip of papyrus has been added so as to join together another page or sheet.



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James White is the director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, a Christian apologetics organization based in Phoenix, Arizona. He is the author of more than twenty books and is an accomplished debater. He is a professor with Grace Bible Theological Seminary, and a pastor at Apologia Church

Josh Buice is Founder and President of G3 Ministries.
Josh serves as the pastor of Pray’s Mill Baptist Church, a 180-year-old church that hosts the G3 Conference. He studied at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he earned his MDiv and DMin in expository preaching.


Return to: Ancient Biblical Manuscripts


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