Credit: Getty Images and Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Hamburg / PD

Experts in Germany have uncovered a deciphered manuscript that has been determined to be the oldest record of Jesus Christ’s childhood.

As CBS News reported, the 1,600-year-old document had been stored in a university library in Hamburg, Germany, for decades. It was ignored until Dr. Lajos Berkes, from Germany’s Institute for Christianity and Antiquity at Humboldt University in Berlin, and professor Gabriel Nocchi Macedo from Belgium’s University of Liège looked it over and revealed it as the earliest surviving copy of the “Infancy Gospel of Thomas,” a document detailing Jesus Christ’s childhood.

The two experts said in a news release the papyrus contains anecdotes not found in the Bible but one that would have been available and shared during the Middle Ages. The words on the document reveal a remarkable miracle Jesus performed as a child, where he brought clay figures of birds to life.

In the Gospel of Thomas story, a five-year-old Jesus is playing in a stream while molding 12 sparrows out of soft clay in the riverbed mud. But when his father, Joseph, sees what he is doing, he scolds Jesus and demands to know why he is molding clay on the Sabbath.

Jesus responds by telling the clay figures to take flight as living birds, and they obey his command.

According to Macedo, the papyrus was written in Greek. CBS notes it contains 13 lines in Greek letters and originates from late antique Egypt.

Berkes and Macedo said the papyrus was neglected for so long because past researchers considered it “insignificant.” However, new technology enabled the two men to translate the language on the document and compare it to other early Christian texts.

“It was thought to be part of an everyday document, such as a private letter or a shopping list because the handwriting seems so clumsy,” Berkes explained. “We first noticed the word Jesus in the text. Then, by comparing it with numerous other digitized papyri, we deciphered it letter by letter and quickly realized that it could not be an everyday document.”

The experts speculated that the story of Jesus’s miracle was written as part of a writing exercise in a school or monastery. This is due to the awkward handwriting and inconsistent lines, as the Daily Mail notes.

“Apart from what can be deduced from the general history of the collection, there is no evidence of how or when the papyrus was discovered,” Berkes and Macedo wrote.

Macedo said the date the papyrus was placed in the library is unknown, but it was likely after 2001.

Dr Macedo told the Daily Mail that he and Berkes would produce a critical edition and commentary on the manuscript. They will also re-address the style and language of the Gospel of Thomas text.

The results will be published in the Journal of Papyrology and Epigraphy.



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