In the Beginning was the Word

When Catholics study history, there is a tendency to pass through the early Church Fathers with a polite passing nod.  Ancient history is usually seen as inaccessible and only slightly more real than myth; rarely is antiquity made tangible for those who study it.  However, preserved in the Vatican library is something almost as foundational as the beginnings of the Church — a palpable object which confirms the firmness of the Faith — a collection of papyri which bring to life the vibrant fidelity of our forebears.

Tradition says that these papyri — known as P75 by biblical scholars, were hand-delivered by St. Athanasius to St. Pachomius in present-day Egypt.  Less revered than St. Anthony of the desert, and St Benedict — St. Pachomius was nevertheless the founder of Cenobitical monasticism and one of the main fountainheads from which western monasticism sprung.   The noble gift to St. Pachomius would pass into memory and be buried in the sands of Egypt, where it lay preserved before its discovery in the middle of the twentieth century.

Dating between 175 and 225 A.D., the papyri contain the oldest extant collection of the Gospels of Luke and John, indicating clear evidence of the ordering of the gospels as part of an ancient patrimony.  While they pre-date the Codex Vaticanus (from which all modern bibles are derived) by anywhere from 100 to 150 years, their remarkable consistency with that text lends significant authenticity to the historical integrity of the current Bibles which Christians regard as Sacred Scripture.

Also contained within the papyri is the oldest written copy of the Lord’s Prayer, and the Prologue to the Gospel of John, wherein the essence of Christianity is summarized. P75 was obtained by the Vatican Library in 2007 through the efforts of Frank, Sally, and Elizabeth Hanna, along with the Solidarity Association. It has subsequently been renamed the Hanna Papyrus. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the most well documented events of antiquity and the Hanna Papyrus serves as a reminder that the Faith is built upon an edifice of historical fact.

Hanna Papyrus in the News

Ancient papyrus given to the Vatican

Benedict XVI received as a gift to the Holy See one of the most ancient manuscripts of the Gospels, an artifact that demonstrates Scripture's historical actuality. The Pope was given...Read More

Frank Hanna interviewed about Hanna Papyrus

In January 2007, Frank Hanna received media attention when his organization, Solidarity Association, graciously presented the Bodmer Papyrus, the oldest known copy of the Gospel of Luke in existence, to...Read More

Hanna discusses Hanna Papyrus

"When I was a child and I thought of defending the faith, I thought of some cruader on a horse going against the invaders of the Holy Land," author and...Read More

Hanna Papyrus connects us with first Christians

As one might imagine, Benedict XVI receives gifts regularly, and not only on his birthday or on the anniversary of his papal election. While the Holy Father undoubtedly appreciates the...Read More

Pope greets Frank Hanna and family

Catholic businessman Frank Hanna and his family were present in the Pope's library January 22, 2008, when Pope Benedict got his first look at pages from the famous Bodmer XV...Read More

Vatican exhibits ancient Gospels

For the first time in history tourists can now stroll through the halls of the Vatican library and sit quietly to read an ancient manuscript thanks to a new exhibition....Read More