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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

The Egyptian Contribution to Christianity 311
Didache. But, though an Egyptian origin for at least the Epistle
of Barnabas seems very probable, in no case is the evidence at
all decisive. Continuous and dependable history begins with
Clement of Alexandria and Bishop Demetrius.
Yet something we do know concerning Christianity in Egypt
in the first half of the second century, and our knowledge has
recently been enlarged in a very interesting fashion. We
actually possess a papyrus fragment of St. John's Gospel re-
covered from Egypt, which is assigned on palaeographical
grounds to some date earlier than A.D. I5O.1 Thus we may feel
certain that there were Christians in Egypt and that they read
St. John's Gospel at a fairly early date in the century. This
conclusion is confirmed by the even more interesting discovery
of fragments, likewise early in date, of a Gospel writing hitherto
quite unknown, which is almost certainly in part dependent on
St. John. It is thought probable that the actual manuscript
was copied about the middle of the second century, and the
text itself has been tentatively ascribed to the first quarter of
the second century.2 These fragments include versions of other
incidents—the healing of a leper, a question concerning pay-
ment of tribute—which though clearly related to narratives in
the Synoptic Gospels are yet sufficiently different to leave it
uncertain whether the unknown author depends upon the
Canonical texts or, as is perhaps more probable, upon some
parallel source. We know from other information that apocryphal
Gospels were current in Egypt at an early period. Such were
the Gospel according to the Egyptians referred to by Origen
and on occasion quoted by Clement, and the Gospel according
to Matthias. But there is no convincing reason for supposing
that these new fragments come from any particular Gospel
which is otherwise known to us.
1  C. H. Roberts, An unpublished Fragment of the Fourth Gospel, Manchester
University Press, 1935.
2  H. I. Bell, Recent Discoveries of Biblical Papyri, Oxford, 1937, p. 20.