Papyrus 137

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Papyrus 𝔓137
New Testament manuscript
NameP. Oxy. 5345
TextMark 1:7-9; 1:16-18
Date(later) 2nd / (earlier) 3rd century
Now atSackler Library
CiteD. Obbink and D. Colomo, OP LXXXIII (2018), pp. 4-7.
Size4.4 cm * 4.0 cm

Papyrus 137 (designated as 𝔓137 in the Gregory-Aland numbering system), is an early fragment of the New Testament in Greek. The fragment is from a codex, written on both sides with text from the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark; verses 7–9 on the recto side and 16–18 on the verso side. The manuscript has been dated paleographically to the later 2nd or earlier 3rd century, and has been published in the Oxyrhynchus papyrus series as P.Oxy. LXXXIII 5345.[1]


The fragment preserves parts of the bottom five lines (recto and verso) of a leaf; which could represent the first page of a single quire codex; and which may be reconstructed as having 25 lines per page with a written area of 9.4cm x 12 cm. On the recto side, the papyrus strips are laid vertically, while on the verso side they are laid horizontally. It is the earliest surviving witness to the text that it covers; otherwise the only early papyrus witness to Mark is in six surviving leaves of Papyrus 45, dated to the 3rd Century,[2] which nowhere overlaps with the text in 𝔓137. Letters on the verso survive clearly, but those on the recto are seriously abraded. The handwriting is in a formal bookhand which the editors propose as having the characteristics of the "‘Formal Mixed" hand (juxtaposing narrower and wider letter forms) elsewhere found in dateable documents of the later second and third centuries. The editors propose the fragments Papyrus 103 and Papyrus 77 of the Gospel of Matthew, also from Oxyrhynchus and conserved at the Sackler Library, as being the closest New Testament papyri to 𝔓137 in handwriting and date.

Particular readings[edit]

The term 'Holy Spirit' at verse 8 on the recto is shortened from πνευματι to π̣̅ν̣̅ι as a nomen sacrum. Also in verse 8 on the recto, the dative preposition εν('in') is not found in 𝔓137 either before 'water' or before 'Holy Spirit'; whereas the standard text of Mark in Novum Testamentum Graece (NA28) has the dative preposition in the second instance only; "..he will baptize you in the Holy Spirit", following in this the Codex Sinaiticus. In omitting a dative preposition in both instances at verse 8, 𝔓137 supports the alternative reading of this verse in Mark of the Codex Vaticanus and all editions of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece up to NA25. All four canonical Gospels introduce their accounts of the ministry of Jesus with these words from John the Baptist. In the Gospel of Luke (3:16) the dative preposition is found before 'Holy Spirit' but not before 'water'; whereas in the Gospel of Matthew (3:11) and the Gospel of John (1:33) both 'water' and 'Holy Spirit' are preceded by the dative preposition. The fragment otherwise supports no established variant readings from the standard texts for Mark; although the name of 'Jesus' is omitted from verse 17 at the third line of the verso, possibly through parablepsis as a scribal error. [3] The editors note that the space presumed on the recto above the preserved lines of the fragment would imply an opening text of Mark of very similar length to that witnessed in the Codex Sinaiticus; contrary to the proposals of Karl Lachmann and others that some of these verses (especially 2 and 3) might be later intrusions.

Present location

It is currently housed at the Sackler Library (P. Oxy. LXXXIII 5345) in Oxford.

"First Century Mark"[edit]

𝔓137 was first published in 2018, but rumours of the content and provenance of a yet unpublished Gospel papyrus had been widely disseminated on social media since 2012, following a claim by Daniel B. Wallace that a recently identified fragmentary papyrus of Mark had been dated to the late first century by a leading papyrologist, and might therefore be the earliest surviving Christian text.[4]

Following its publication in 2018, the Egypt Exploration Society (EES), owners of the papyrus fragment, released a statement asserting that:[5]

  • the provenance of the fragment was undisputed, having been excavated by Grenfell and Hunt in Oxyrhynchus, most probably in 1903;
  • at no time since had the fragment left Oxford;
  • at no time had the EES offered the fragment for sale;
  • at no time had the EES imposed a non-disclosure agreement on any scholar accessing the fragment.

The EES clarified that the text in the fragment had only been recognised as being from the Gospel of Mark in 2011. In an earlier cataloguing in the 1980s by Revel Coles, the fragment had been described as 'I/II', which appeared to be the origin of the much discussed assertions of a very early date. In 2011/2012 the papyrus was in the keeping of Dirk Obbink, who had showed it to Scott Carroll, then representing the Green Collection, in connection with a proposal that it might be included in the exhibition of biblical papyri Verbum Domini at the Vatican in Lent and Easter 2012. It was not until the spring of 2016 that the EES realised that the much rumoured "First Century Mark" papyrus that had been the subject of so much speculation was one and the same as their own fragment P.Oxy. 5345; whereupon Dirk Obbink and Daniela Colomo were requested to prepare it for publication in the Oxyrhynchus Papyri series.

In June 2019 a further statement[6] was released by the EES, following the publication by the museum of the Bible "Scholars Initiative" director Michael Holmes of a contract between Professor Dirk Obbink and Hobby Lobby dated 17 January 2013, for the sale of a number of fragmentary texts, one of which Holmes identified as P.Oxy. LXXXIII 5345. The EES reaffirmed their previous statement that this fragment had never been offered for sale by the EES while offering the clarification that, in that statement, they had "simply reported Professor Obbink’s responses to our questions at that time, in which he insisted that he had not sold or offered for sale the Mark fragment to the Green Collection, and that he had not required Professor Wallace to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement in relation to such a sale."

In the July/August 2019 issue of Christianity Today, Jerry Pattengale wrote an article in which he published for the first time his own perspective on the 'First Century Mark' Saga. Pattengale states that he had been present with Scott Carroll in Dirk Obbink's rooms in Christ Church, Oxford in late 2011, when the 𝔓137 fragment was offered for sale to the Museum of the Bible, which Pattengale then represented. Also offered for sale were fragments of the Gospels of Matthew, Luke and John, all of which Dirk Obbink had then proposed as likely to be of a 2nd-century date; but the Mark fragment was presented as more likely 1st century. According to Pattengale, he had undertaken due diligence in showing images of the four fragments to selected New Testament textual scholars - subject to their signing non-disclosure agreements in accordance with Dirk Obbink's stipulations; and purchase was eventually finalised, with the fragments agreed to remain in Professor Obbink's possession for research prior to publication. It was not until a gala dinner in November 2017, celebrating the opening of the Museum of the Bible, that Pattengale realised that the "First Century Mark" fragment had been the property of the EES all along, and consequently had never legitimately been offered for sale.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Obbink, Dirk.; Colomo, Daniela. (2018). Parsons, Peter John; Gonis, N. (eds.). The Oxyrhynchus Papyri LXXXIII. Egypt Exploration Society. p. 5.
  2. ^ Head, Peter M. (2012). "The Early Text of Mark". In Hill, Charles E.; Kruger, Michael J. (eds.). The Early Text of the New Testament. OUP. p. 108-120.
  3. ^ Obbink, Dirk.; Colomo, Daniela. (2018). Parsons, Peter John; Gonis, N. (eds.). The Oxyrhynchus Papyri LXXXIII. Egypt Exploration Society. p. 7.
  4. ^ Wallace, Daniel B. (23 May 2018). "First-Century Mark Fragment Update". Retrieved 27 September 2019.
  5. ^ "Statement in response to questions raised about the new fragment of Mark P.Oxy. LXXXIII 5345". Egypt Exploration Society. 4 June 2018. Retrieved 27 September 2019.
  6. ^ "Professor Obbink and sales of papyri to Hobby Lobby". Egypt Exploration Society. 25 June 2019. Retrieved 27 September 2019.
  7. ^ Pattengale, Jerry (28 June 2019). "The First-Century Mark Saga from inside the room". Christianity Today. Retrieved 8 July 2019.