Mark D. Roberts: Have Scholars Discovered the Oldest Manuscript of the New Testament?
Yes, according to Dr. Daniel Wallace. He has recently revealed what he believes to be a manuscript of the Gospel of Mark that comes from the first century A.D.
Wallace is a professor of New Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary and the founder of The Center for the Study of the New Testament Manuscripts, an institute that seeks to study and preserve the manuscripts of the New Testament. Wallace is an expert in biblical Greek and in textual criticism, the academic study of ancient manuscripts. ...
... Until now, the oldest existing manuscript of Mark’s Gospel is p45, which was copied around 200 A.D. Though scholars believe that this manuscript faithfully reproduces most of what was in the autograph (original copy) of Mark, the new fragment would offer fresh and powerful evidence for or against this thesis. According to Wallace, the newly discovered fragment confirms what text critical scholars believe to be the authentic text of Mark. In other words, the fragment supports scholarly confidence that we have access to almost everything originally written by the author of Mark.
Unfortunately, however, the new fragment has not been published. Apparently, it will be published by Brill in a year or so. Wallace is not free to discuss the details of the text. So we have no way to evaluate his claims, apart from our sense of Wallace’s own trustworthiness.
New Testament scholar Larry Hurtado adds a little more information about the source of the new manuscript in his blog:
The fragment in question seems to be part of a collection of papyri that are part of the Green Collection (http://explorepassages.com/collection). The key figure listed as the guiding expert for the Greek Collection is Scott Carroll. One of the recent postings lists putative early fragments of several NT writings (including copies of some Pauline letters allegedly dated to the second century CE). According to Wallace, a formal scholarly publication of these items is in the works, scheduled to appear next year sometime. ...
... So, if we do have a first-century fragment of Mark, we will have a slightly stronger argument for the authenticity of the text of the New Testament. This will be helpful, but will not significantly impact our faith. It will make it harder for extreme skeptics, like Bart Ehrman, to defend their point of view.