The numerous manuscripts of John among the earliest Christian papyri have given rise to discussion and speculation. It has been suggested, on the grounds of an alleged preference for the Fourth Gospel among gnostics, that the high number of papyri of John compared to other gospels would favour Walter Bauer’s thesis of the ‘heterodox’ character of early Christian Egypt. The obscurity which veils the origins of the early Egyptian Church allows for conjectures of this kind. However, recent studies on the reception of the Fourth Gospel in the early Church and newly published papyri show that the abundance of early manuscripts of John is not necessarily indicative of the gnostic nature of early Christianity in Egypt. This paper attempts to shed additional light on the issue by comparing early papyri of John with other pieces of Christian evidence.
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