Experts Uncover Earliest Records of Jesus Christ’s Childhood in Egypt

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Researchers have uncovered what they say is the oldest written account of Jesus performing a miracle as a child. The document, written on papyrus, which predates paper, tells the story of the Vivification of the Sparrows, where five-year-old Jesus transforms clay pigeons into live birds. The story is also known as the second miracle.

Experts say the handwriting suggests it was written in approximately the 4th or 5th century in what was then Christian Egypt. The original story dates back to the 2nd century and was recorded by the Apostle Thomas in his records of Jesus’ youth that never made it into the Bible. The papyrus had sat unnoticed at Hamburg University until its recent discovery by researchers studying manuscripts.

Dr. Lajos Berkes from the Faculty of Theology at Humboldt-Universität said he and his colleagues first noted the word “Jesus” in the text and “quickly realized that it could not be an everyday document.” Dr. Berkes said the discovery provided new insight into the Infancy Gospel according to Thomas, including confirmation that it was written in Greek.

The torn fragment, measuring around 11 by 5 centimeters, contained Greek letters dating to late antique Egypt. The researchers estimate that the papyrus, which was unstudied because it was thought to be a “private letter or a shopping list,” was written in a religious school as part of a class exercise.

The Vivification of the Sparrows tells the story of five-year-old Jesus molding 12 sparrows from clay on the Sabbath day. When his earthly father Joseph scolded him for doing so, Jesus clapped his hands, and the sparrows came to life and flew away. It is documented as the young Messiah’s second miracle, and before this most recent version was uncovered in Germany, the oldest recorded account dated back to the 11th century.

The Infancy Gospel of Thomas was scribed during the early Christian period and narrates Jesus’ life from age five to twelve.