Thursday, June 01, 2006

EUROPE'S 'OLDEST BOOK'

With the recent success in deciphering the so-called Judas Gospel, scholars are hoping for the same sucess with Europe's 'oldest book'. And, of course, no ancient document would be complete unless it held religious secrets:
A collection of charred scraps kept in a Greek museum's storerooms are all that remains of what archaeologists say is Europe's oldest surviving book _ which may hold a key to understanding early monotheistic beliefs.

More than four decades after the Derveni papyrus was found in a 2,400- year-old nobleman's grave in northern Greece, researchers said Thursday they are close to uncovering new text _ through high-tech digital analysis _ from the blackened fragments left after the manuscript was burnt on its owner's funeral pyre.

Large sections of the mid-4th century B.C. book _ a philosophical treatise on ancient religion _ were read years ago, but never officially published.

Now, archaeologist Polyxeni Veleni believes U.S. imaging and scanning techniques used to decipher the Judas Gospel _ which portrays Judas not as a sinister betrayer but as Jesus' confidant _ will considerably expand and clarify that text.

"I believe some 10-20 percent of new text will be added, which however will be of crucial importance," said Veleni, director of the Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum, where the manuscript is kept.

"This will fill in many gaps, we will get a better understanding of the sequence and the existing text will become more complete," Veleni told The Associated Press.

The scroll, originally several yards of papyrus rolled around two wooden runners, was found half burnt in 1962. It dates to around 340 B.C., during the reign of Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great.

"It is the oldest surviving book, if you can use that word for a scroll, in western tradition," Veleni said. "This was a unique find, of exceptional importance."

Although Judaism was already well established as monotheistic, there is the fervent anthropological hope to show a 'precursor of Christianity'. Well, I'm all for deciphering any ancient text like this. I'm not too concerned about the supposed secrets to be revealed.

1 comment:

ELAshley said...

Do you think Judas penned this before he killed himself? Perhaps hired someone to carry it to Alexandria where it was, in all likelihood, actually written?

I guess it would depend of when Judas actually killed himself. How long did it take before the guilt of what he had done sent him headlong to the hanging tree?

Apologies for the sarcasm.