In December 1905—the sixth season at Oxyrhynchus—Grenfell and Hunt registered the discovery of a very small parchment book measuring approximately 3.3 by 2.75 inches (8.5 x 7 cm). Such a relic was likely valued as much as an amulet as for its content, which was written in the tiniest of scripts. The contents, however, turned out to be quite interesting: parts of two episodes from a heretofore-unknown gospel, the identity of which remains a mystery to this day. The manuscript is housed in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. In the first episode, we hear Jesus warning the disciples against imitating certain “evildoers,” who are to be punished in this life and in the next. In the second episode, Jesus and his disciples wander into the Temple precinct and are confronted by a Pharisaic priest.

The Text of POxy 840


And he took them [the disciples] and went into the place of purification itself and walked around in the Temple. And a certain Pharisee, a high priest named […] approached them and fell in with them and said to the savior, “Who allowed you to set foot in this place of purification and look upon these holy vessels when you have not bathed and your disciples have not even washed their feet? In spite of being unclean, you have set foot in this temple which is clean, in which no one may walk unless he has bathed and changed his clothes, nor dare to look at these holy vessels”. And standing with his disciples, the savior answered him,


“Then are you, being in the Temple, clean?” He [the Pharisee] said to him, “I am clean, for I have bathed in the pool of David. I went down into it by one flight of stairs and came up out of it by another. Then I put on clean, white clothes. Only then did I come and view these holy vessels.” The savior answered him, “Woe to the blind who cannot see! You have bathed in these gushing waters, in which dogs and pigs lie night and day! And you have washed and scraped the outer layer of skin, just where prostitutes and flute girls anoint, bathe, cleanse and adorn in order to arouse the desires of men—but they are filled with scorpions and all kinds of evil on the inside. But I and my disciples, whom you say have not washed, have been dipped in waters […]