Rare New Testament fragment found on eBay

A rare Greek New Testament papyrus with lines from St John's Gospel has been rescued from sale on eBay.

Dr Geoffrey Smith, from the University of Texas persuaded the seller to withdraw the papyrus from sale.

The fragment, dated as being written some time between 250 AD to AD 350, has about six lines from John on one side and another unidentified text on the other.  

A papyrus fragment spotted on ebayUniversity of Texas

It was in a private collection of an academic who passed away, and was found by a relative who was sorting through his possessions in his attic.

Dr Smith, who specialises in early Christianity, noticed it on eBay with an opening bid of $99.

Dr Smith told the New York Times: "This can't be allowed to sell on eBay. It will just disappear into a private collection."  He delivered a paper on the papyrus at the conference of the Society of Biblical Literature in Atlanta.

He added: "The fact that this one came to light on the Internet speaks to the reality for all of us who deal with manuscripts and antiquities. We're all trying to come to terms with these things we study, our prized scholarly possessions, are now coming up for sale online."

New Testament papyri are extremely rare. About 130 have been recognised by the German institute that registers New Testament manuscripts. A third-century fragment of Romans on vellum sold last year at Sotheby's for nearly $500,000.