Nearly 1,500 years after it was first written, a “hidden chapter” of Biblical text has been found by researchers.
The study, which was published in the journal New Testament Studies, claims that the missing section constitutes one of the oldest translations of the Gospels.
Scientists used ultraviolet photography to find the chapter beneath three layers of text on a manuscript that had been housed in the Vatican Library for centuries, The Independent reported.
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According to researchers, the hidden text is an interpretation of the Bible’s Matthew chapter 12, which was first transcribed as a part of the Old Syriac translations around 1,500 years ago.
Due to the shortage of parchment in ancient Palestine a few centuries later, the original translation of the Biblical New Testament was mostly erased when the parchment was reused. “This was a common practice because the paper made from animal skin was scarce and needed to be reused,” the Daily Mail said.
Those hoping for fresh spiritual insight from the hidden text may be disappointed, but the discovery does offer a “unique gateway” into the early translations of the Bible, said Grigory Kessel from the Austrian Academy of Sciences, who made the discovery.
The text also offers a glimpse into how translations can subtly change a text. For instance, the original Greek of Matthew chapter 12 verse 1 says: “At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath; and his disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat.” The Syriac translation, meanwhile, says, “...began to pick the heads of grain, rub them in their hands, and eat them.”
The other critical aspect of the discovery is that it demonstrates how new technology can improve our understanding of ancient writing, said Professor Claudia Rapp, director of the Institute for Medieval Research at the Austrian Academy of Sciences.
“This discovery proves how productive and important the interplay between modern digital technologies and basic research can be when dealing with mediaeval manuscripts,” Rapp said.
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