‘Hidden’ Bible Chapter Rediscovered By Researchers With a UV Light

By: Alyssa Miller | Published: Jul 07, 2024

Nearly 1,500 years after it was first written, scientists found a lost portion of Biblical text. Using ultraviolet photography equipment and tools available, the researchers were able to discover layers of text.

The study claims that the missing section is part of the oldest translations of the Gospels, which means the Bible you know has been missing a chapter this entire time.

The Discovery of the New Chapter

Grigory Kessel of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (OeAW or Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften) found the hidden chapter underneath three layers of text.

Two people work together while reading their Bibles and highlighting important passages

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Ultraviolet photography uncovered the “new” chapter, offering a glimpse into the original writing of a well-known section of the Bible.

A Part of the Old Syriac Translation of the Bible

The study published in the journal New Testament Studies claims that the missing section interprets Matthew Chapter 12 of the Bible, initially transcribed as part of the Old Syriac translation.

The Holy Bible on a stand

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Hope for new insight from the missing chapter may disappoint some, but the discovery does offer a unique look at the early translation of the Bible.

Finding the Hidden Text

The scarcity of parchment in the region hundreds of years ago likely led people to write over the text, mostly erasing the original translations of the Biblical New Testament.

A young person stares down at the page of their Bible

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“This was a common practice because the paper made from animal skin was scarce and needed to be reused,” Daily Mail said.

The Subtle Changes Through Translation

In the many translations of the Bible, subtle changes to the text can make a big difference. For instance, the original Greek of Matthew Chapter 12 verse 1 says: “At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and his disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat.”

Glasses sitting on an open bible

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The Syriac translation offers a different perspective, saying: “…began to pick the heads of grain, rub them in their hands, and eat them.”

The Importance of This Discovery

While the differences between the translations are minor, the discovery of the text demonstrates how new technology can help improve our understanding of ancient writing.

The Gutenberg Bible open with a red bookmarking in dim lighting.

Source: Joshua Keller/Wikimedia Commons

“This discovery proves how productive and important the interplay between modern digital technologies and basic research can be when dealing with medieval manuscripts,” Professor Claudia Rapp, director of the Institute for Medieval Research at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, told The Week.


Only Two Other Old Syriac Translated Manuscripts 

In a news release, Kessel says, “Until recently, only two manuscripts were known to contain the Old Syriac translation of the Gospels.”

Group of people reading the Bible

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One of these manuscripts resides in London’s British Library, while researchers discovered the other, a palimpsest, at St. Catherine’s Monastery at Mount Sinai.


A Great Discovery

“Grigory Kessel has made a great discovery thanks to his profound knowledge of old Syriac texts and script characteristics,” Rapp says in a news release.

Faceless man reading the Bible

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“This discovery proves,” Rapp says, “how productive and important the interplay between modern digital technologies and basic research can be when dealing with medieval manuscripts.”


Dating the Gospel 

The discovery of a fragment from the new chapter reveals only the fourth known manuscript attesting to the Old Syriac version, suggesting the existence of an entire lost version of the Bible with minor and possibly major changes in the translation.


Source: Wikipedia

“As far as the dating of the Gospel book is concerned, there can be no doubt that it was produced no later than the sixth century,” scientists wrote in the study.


Rediscovering the Ancient Text

In 1953, researchers knew about this manuscript, but it remained lost until its rediscovery in 2010. In 2020, they digitized the text and added natural light and UV images to the Digital Vatican Library.

The open pages of a medieval bible

Source: Wikimedia Commons

“Despite a limited number of dated manuscripts from this period, comparison with dated Syriac manuscripts allows us to narrow down a possible time frame to the first half of the sixth century,” they added.


The Age of the Text

According to the Phys.org new service,, the Syriac text seems to have been written about 1,300 years ago, originating in the 3rd century before being copied in the 6th century.

Researcher pictured working from his desk

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It remains unclear if any other known Syriac texts of the Bible exist from this area, but these subtleties could offer insight into how people practiced religion in medieval times.


Other Notable Translations of the Bible

At London’s British Library, the two columns of Codex Sinaiticus stand as the library’s “greatest treasures.” The Codex Sinaiticus is the earliest known manuscript of the complete New Testament and provides the best evidence for some parts of the Old Testament.

An open Bible with some of its pages blowing in the wind.

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A series of early correctors heavily annotated both volumes, making them fundamental in the history of the Bible and book-making.