Papyrus 137

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Papyrus 137
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 (in the Gregory-Aland numbering), designated by 137, 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. [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 * 12 cm. 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 137. 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 137 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 137 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, 137 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]

137 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, fuelled by an ill-advised claim [4] by Daniel B. Wallace in 2012 that a recently identified fragmentary papyrus of Mark had been authoritatively dated to the late first century by one of the world's leading paleographers, and might consequently be the earliest surviving Christian text.

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

  • 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.

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 (PDF). 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 12 July 2018.
  5. ^ "Statement in response to questions raised about the new fragment of Mark P.Oxy. LXXXIII 5345". Egypt Exploration Society. 4 June 2018. Retrieved 12 July 2018.