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Oldest Christian Manuscript with 1 Peter and Jonah Sold at Auction for $3.9M

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The earliest known Christian manuscript that dates back to the third century was recently auctioned for more than $3 million in London.

The Crosby-Schøyen Codex, which is considered the earliest Christian liturgical book and contains the earliest complete texts of 1 Peter and Jonah, was sold at Christie's for a total of £3,065,000 or $3.9 million on June 11th. 

According to the auction house's website, the Crosby-Schøyen Codex is part of the Bodmer Papyri, a set of texts discovered in 1947 that included Biblical texts, Christian writings, and some non-Christian literary texts. It is also known as "the Dishna Papers" because of their discovery in Dishna, Egypt. 

"Their discovery revolutionized understanding of the history of early Christian writings, for they surpass 'in the quality of their preparation, in the length of their texts and in their textual significance' all previous findings of Biblical papyri," reads a statement from Christie's.

The texts were later acquired by Dr. Martin Schøyen Bodmer in the 1980s.

The manuscript is written in Sahidic Coptic, a dialect of an ancient Egyptian language, and contains five texts including the complete first version of the First Epistle of Peter and the Book of Jonah ever found. Experts believe the books were written down on the ancient papyri between 250 and 350 AD.

Scholars Albert Pietersma and Susan Comstock told PBS the Codex was probably used as an Easter lectionary, or a collection of readings during a Christian worship service.  

"The earliest monks in Upper Egypt in the earliest Christian monastery were using this very book to celebrate the earliest Easter celebrations, only a few hundred years after Christ and only a hundred or so years after the last Gospel was written," Eugenio Donadoni, Christie's senior specialist in books and manuscripts, told the BBC.

Donadoni added that the books hold "monumental importance as a witness to the earliest spread of Christianity around the Mediterranean."

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Talia Wise has served as a multi-media producer for, CBN Newswatch, The Prayer Link, and CBN News social media outlets. Prior to joining CBN News she worked for Fox Sports Florida producing and reporting. Talia earned a master’s degree in journalism from Regent University and a bachelor's degree from the University of Virginia.