Bible Review 12:6, December 1996

Bible Hype

The saga of the Yonan Codex

By Bruce M. Metzger

A friend recently sent me an ad that had been prominently displayed in the April 7th issue of the New York Times Book Review. It proclaimed that the book Eyewitness to Jesus: Amazing New Manuscript Evidence About the Origin of the Gospels (New York: Doubleday, 1996) held “material proof…of a discovery that rivals that of the Dead Sea Scrolls”—that three small papyrus fragments had been redated, proving that “the Gospel of Matthew may have been written as early as A.D. 40.” “Proof of Jesus’ life was there all along but no one noticed…until now,” it declared in large type.

These extravagant claims had already been thoroughly undermined in a BR article by the distinguished British scholar Graham Stanton.a In my review of the book, which appeared in the August 1996 issue of BR (see Bible Books, BR 12:04), I concluded that the book’s authors were guilty of “slack scholarship” and “journalistic special pleading.”

I doubt that our scholarly condemnation, however, will have the slightest effect on the book’s appeal to the general public or that Doubleday’s reputation will be tarnished for publishing it.

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