By the beard of Zeus: 1,700-year-old manuscript discovered on eBay for $99

A 1,700-year-old section from the Gospel of John was put up for grabs on eBay starting at a mere $99 before it was rescued by an astute religious studies professor from the US.

The sale of the priceless artifact was only stopped after Dr. Geoffrey Smith from the University of Texas noticed the advertisement and pleaded with the seller to let him study the papyrus instead.

Dating back to around 250-300 AD, the tiny piece of Greek papyrus has six lines of holy scripture written on it.

“I thought, this can’t be allowed to sell on eBay,” Dr Geoffrey Smith told the New York Times. “It will just disappear into a private collection.”

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The rare find is believed to originate from a scroll rather than a codex, making it one of the only known Greek New Testament pieces of its kind.

It appears that the antiquity was being sold by a relative of a 20th century biblical scholar, Harold R Willoughby, who claims to have found it hidden in a bundle of his old letters.

“Very rare ancient papyrus fragment in Greek, John 1 50-51 in its original display and sleeve,” the seller described it in the eBay ad.