Qumran fragment 7Q5.

An excerpt from the gospel of Mark?

A tiny piece of papyrus discovered in Cave 7 of the Qumran site, 7Q5 is thought by some to be a scrap from the gospel of Mark. Such ideas were sparked by a 1972 article by Spanish papyrologist Jose O'Callaghan (¿Papiros neotestamentarios en la cueva 7 de Qumrân?) and furthered by the work of Carsten Peter Thiede (The Earliest Gospel Manuscript? The Qumran Fragment 7Q5 and its Significance for New Testament Studies).

Mark 6.52-53 reads:

...ου γαρ συνηκαν επι τοις αρτοις, αλλ ην αυτων η καρδια πεπωρωμενη. και διαπερασαντες επι την γην ηλθον εις Γεννησαρετ και προσωρμισθησαν.

...for they did not understand about the breadloaves, but their heart was hardened. And they crossed over and came upon the land to Gennesaret, and they moored.

The fragment itself, however, consists of only five truncated lines which include only a single entire word, the conjuction και (and). The photo is available online, as well as an interesting flashing reconstruction. Daniel B. Wallace responded to Thiede on the issue, and his article is available online.

My own reconstruction is as follows:

  1. [...]
  2. [...] τωι̣[...]
  3. [...] και τ̣ι̣[...]
  4. [...]ν̣νη[...]
  5. [...]ησ̣[....]

These thirteen letters, of which I regard only 8 as certain, are supposed to line up with Mark 6.52-53 as follows, with the letters corresponding to 7Q5 boldfaced and, of those, the problematic or unidentifiable letters underlined:

...ου γαρ συνηκαν επι τοις αρτοις,
αλλ ην αυτων η καρδια πεπωρω-
μενη.         και διαπερασαντες     [επι την γην]
ηλθον εις Γεννησαρετ και

Apart from the general fragmentariness of the papyrus, three problems with its identification emerge quite sharply:

  1. The last extant letter of line two, which is only possibly an iota (ι), is almost certainly not a nu (ν) as the Marcan identification would require.
  2. The fourth extant letter of line three, almost certainly a tau (τ), should be a delta (δ) on the Marcan identification.
  3. There is no room in the reconstructed fragment for the Marcan phrase επι την γην.

In other words, the fragment does not come from any version of Mark of which we are aware. O'Callaghan and Thiede are not without their responses, of course, but I, for one, am not convinced by their claims that this papyrus fragment comes from the gospel of Mark.

Dead Sea scrolls factsheet.