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1750-year-old Bible fragment discovered in Vatican library

1750-year-old Bible fragment discovered in Vatican library Illustrative photo: The fragment was discovered using ultraviolet photography (GettyImages)

A new fragment of the Bible has been found in the Vatican. It was "hidden" in the translation of the Gospel of Matthew, which is 1750 years old. The discovery was made using ultraviolet photography of manuscripts in the local library, writes IFLScience.

What is known about the new Bible fragment

The hidden text was found as part of the Sinai Palimpsests Project, where researchers aim to restore texts that were erased and rewritten by scribes in the 4th-11th centuries.

Manuscripts, known as Palimpsests, where the previous text was washed or scratched away and then reused, were quite common due to a shortage of writing materials. However, over the centuries, the text can be restored by illuminating manuscripts with fluorescence or different wavelengths.

Using these methods, researchers have already deciphered 74 manuscripts, but the latest discovery was particularly special as it contained a translation centuries older than the oldest Greek translations, including the Codex Sinaiticus.

1750-year-old Bible fragment discovered in Vatican library

Newly discovered Bible fragment (Photo:

"The tradition of Syriac Christianity knows several translations of the Old and New Testaments. Until recently, only two manuscripts were known to contain the Old Syriac translation of the gospels," claims researcher Grigori Kassel, who discovered the text.

The translation, first written in the 3rd century AD and copied in the 6th century, reads: "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," while the newly found Syriac translation concludes with "began to pick the heads of grain, rub them in their hands, and eat them."

"Grigory Kessel has made a great discovery thanks to his profound knowledge of old Syriac texts and script characteristics. This discovery proves how productive and important the interplay between modern digital technologies and basic research can be when dealing with medieval manuscripts," stated Claudia Rapp, director of the Institute for Medieval Research at the Austrian Academy of Sciences.