The thesis of this paper is simple: we as critical readers of the New Testament often use John Rylands Greek Papyrus 3.457, also known as P52, ininappropriate ways, and we should stop doing so. A recent example will illustrate the problem. In what is on the whole a superb commentary on John's gospel, D. Moody Smith writes the following about the date of John:
For a time, particularly in the early part of the twentieth century, the possibility that John was not written, or at least not published, until [the] mid-second century was a viable one. At that time Justin Martyr espoused a logos Christology, without citing the Fourth Gospel explicitly. Such an omission by Justin would seem strange if the Gospel of John had already been written and was in circulation. Then the discovery and publication in the1930s of two papyrus fragments made such a late dating difficult, if not impossible, to sustain. The first and most important is the fragment of John chapter 18 … [P52], dated by paleographers to the second quarter of the second century (125–150); the other is a fragment of a hithertounknown gospel called Egerton Papyrus 2 from the same period, which obviously reflects knowledge of the Gospel of John…. For the Gospel of Johnto have been written and circulated in Egypt, where these fragments were found, a date nolater than the first decade of the second century must be presumed.