German Researchers Decode Earliest Known Written Record Of Jesus’ Childhood

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Researchers in Germany have decoded what they say is the oldest-ever manuscript detailing Jesus Christ’s life as a child.

The papyrus manuscript dates back more than 1,600 years old to the 4th or 5th century. The document had been stored at a library in Hamburg, Germany, as no one believed the document was of any significance.

“The fragment is of extraordinary interest for research,” Lajos Berkes, a professor and one of the researchers who decoded the document said in a press release.

“On the one hand, because we were able to date it to the 4th to 5th century, making it the earliest known copy. On the other hand, because we were able to gain new insights into the transmission of the text.”

“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,” he continued.

“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.”

Jesus text

Researchers in Germany have decoded what they say is the oldest-ever manuscript detailing Jesus Christ’s life as a child. (Universitätsbibliothek Hamburg/Public Domain Mark 1.0)

Berkes said the document is a fragment of the Gospel of Thomas, an apocryphal book that was not included in the Bible. The gospel offers details about Jesus’ life as a child before his ministry.

The poor handwriting in the document led Berkes to believe the manuscript was made as part of a writing exercise in a monastery or a school.

While there are only a handful of words in the manuscript, the researchers were able to determine that it is retelling the apocryphal story of the “vivication of the sparrows.”

“Jesus plays at the ford of a rushing stream and molds twelve sparrows from the soft clay he finds in the mud.


When his father Joseph rebukes him and asks why he is doing such things on the holy Sabbath, the five-year-old Jesus claps his hands and brings the clay figures to life,” the press release stated.


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