Dr. Don Barker, Papyrologist and secretary of the Society for the Study of Early Christianity at Macquarie University recently took the time to show me a third century copy of God’s word known as P91 which is held there at the Sydney Museum of Ancient Cultures. He has graciously given permission to publish photos of our visit. If you are interested in a similar opportunity, please take a moment to look at Dr. Barker’s Face to Face with the New Testament.

It was a once in a lifetime experience for me. The only ancient copy of the New Testament that is held in Australia[1] is held in Sydney and I just happened to be headed that direction for the weekend. I contacted Dr. Don Barker, of Macquarie University, who kindly agreed to show me the document.

On the agreed day, we set out for Macquarie University—me with my Greek New Testament, my close friend Farid Wardan with his Google Maps-armed iPhone, and his father Tony with his camera. Don Barker took us through a museum area full of hundreds of ancient pieces, most of which I could have spent considerable time taking in.

He led us to a back room which contained a wall of cabinets which house the over 700 ancient documents held by the Museum of Ancient Cultures. After putting on gloves, Dr. Barker opened one of the cabinets and carefully removed a glass plate containing the early papyrus fragment (pictured right, both sides).[2]

This ancient document is referred to as a papyrus fragment because it was copied onto a thin “paper” which was made by weaving together the Egyptian papyrus plant.

This particular fragment is among the oldest in existence, dating back to the third century.[3]

Farid Wardan, Dr. Don Barker, Jason Harris (Photograph: Tony Wardan)

I wish I could put into words what went on in my heart as I looked at this tiny fragment of God’s word. The God of Adam, of Abraham, and of David; the God of Peter, of Paul, and of John; this God has spoken to us! And he has graciously protected and preserved his word over four millennia!

It staggers the mind to think that this tiny Egyptian fragment from the AD 200’s is part of a book that was in 2009 the best-selling book in the world.

As I knelt solemnly gazing at this fragment, I was reminded that this book is the book I have committed my life to study, to understand, and to preach.

I hope to post a few more thoughts about this soon, but for now I’ll close. May you and I grow in our passion and love for the word of God. May we rejoice that he has kept it for us through all these centuries.

If you would like to learn more about this fragment and other ancient findings that relate to Christianity, I would encourage you to consider organising a group from your church to attend Face to Face with the New Testament.


[1] At least in papyrus form. It is my understanding that there are no New Testament manuscripts held in Australia, but I cannot be certain of this.
[2] P91 contains portions from Acts 2:30-37, 2:46, and 3:2.
[3] The oldest portion of Scripture discovered to this point in history dates to the second century and is also a papyri fragment.

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About Jason Harris

Dr Jason Harris is a writer, pastor, and academic. He has authored multiple books, articles, and papers including his book Theological Meditations on the Gospel. Jason has a PhD from James Cook University as well as degrees in theology, music, accounting, and research. Jason has lived in Cairns, Australia since 2007 and serves as pastor at CrossPoint Church. You can contact Jason at jason@jasonharris.com.au.


  1. Steven Mock 9 February, 2010 at 6:44 am

    That is really cool, Jason! I didn’t know you were going to do that when you went down to Sydney. Can you give us an idea of the size of this fragment? I can’t wait to hear more about it.

  2. Ben Kwok 9 February, 2010 at 7:28 am

    I remember when portions from the Dead Sea Scrolls were presented here, back in 2000. It’s an awesome feeling to see the Word preserved in history. Thanks for the info!

  3. RoSeZ 9 February, 2010 at 9:28 am

    wow!! That’s amazing!! Was it difficult to arrange getting in to see it?

  4. Jason Harris 9 February, 2010 at 9:54 am

    @Steven Mock
    The photo above is almost to scale. The real thing was a little smaller. Friday’s post has a picture that might give a better idea.

  5. Robert Apps 9 February, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    good on you Jason, can you do a segment on it tomorrow night?

  6. Jason Harris 9 February, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    @Robert Apps, Sure. Perhaps you can email me what you had in mind.

  7. Mel 9 February, 2010 at 10:32 pm

    That is incredible! What a great opportunity. It’s amazing to think how many people over the years have read that exact piece of papyrus. Wow!

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