The Emperor’s New Clothes
Eyewitness to Jesus: Amazing New Manuscript Evidence About the Origin of the GospelsCarsten Peter Thiede and Matthew d’Ancona (New York: Doubleday, 1996) 206 pp., $23.95
Do three fragments of the Gospel of Matthew date to just after the time of Jesus? Does a Dead Sea Scroll fragment contain a text from the Gospel of Mark? To both these controversial questions, Carsten Thiede, the director of the Institute for Basic Epistemological Research, in Paderborn, Germany, and his co-author, Matthew d’Ancona, deputy editor of the Sunday Times of London, answer “yes!” The publisher has not been shy about making the most of Thiede’s claims—witness the “Amazing” in the book’s subtitle. The question, however, is how well has Thiede supported his claims?
Let’s look at the Dead Sea Scroll fragment 7Q5 first. It was found in Cave 7 at Qumran and so must have been written before A.D. 68 (when the Romans destroyed Qumran). Alas, it contains only a dozen complete letters and parts of eight others, and one cannot be certain what this text is.