1,600-year-old fragment identified as oldest written account of Jesus Christ’s childhood

A manuscript dating back to the 4th or 5th century has been discovered in a university library in Hamburg, Germany. Researchers have identified it as the earliest surviving account of Jesus Christ’s childhood. The manuscript, known as the “Infancy Gospel of Thomas,” was written in Greek and had been overlooked for decades until papyrologist Gabriel Nocchi Macedo and Dr. Lajos Berkes identified its true origin. The papyrus fragment is over 1,600 years old.
Measuring just over 4 inches by 2 inches, the small fragment contains thirteen lines of Greek letters from late antique Egypt. Initially, it was believed to be part of a mundane document, like a letter or shopping list, due to its clumsy handwriting. However, after comparing it with other digitized papyri, researchers deciphered it letter by letter and realized it was not an everyday document.

The researchers speculate that the copy of the Gospel was actually created as a writing exercise, possibly in a school or monastery. The irregular lines and clumsy handwriting suggest this. If true, this would make it an earlier surviving copy of the gospel compared to the ‘Infancy Gospel of Thomas’ manuscript from the 11th century.
Berkes expressed great enthusiasm for the fragment, stating, “This discovery is of immense significance for research. Firstly, we have determined that it dates back to the 4th to 5th century, making it the earliest known copy. Secondly, it provides valuable insights into the transmission of the text.”

Although the words within the document do not originate from the Bible, they recount a “miracle” described in the Gospel of Thomas. This account depicts Jesus, at the age of five, shaping sparrows out of soft clay from a river and subsequently bringing them to life.