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Elisha Typology in Jesus’ Miracle on the Jordan River (Papyrus Egerton 2, 2v.6–14)*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 November 2015

Lorne R. Zelyck*
St. Joseph's College, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, CanadaT6G 2J5. Email:


Previous reconstructions of the ‘Miracle on the Jordan River’ (Papyrus Egerton 2, 2v.6–14) are unconvincing because they lack clear parallels with known texts. This short article proposes a new transcription, based on the apparent parallels with Elisha's miracles in 2 Kings and Josephus, Jewish War 4.460–4. It concludes that the author of the Egerton Gospel used Elisha typology in the depiction of Jesus’ miracle on the Jordan.

Short Studies
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2015 

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I would like to thank Cillian O'Hogan and Julian Harrison at the British Library for allowing me to view P.Egerton 2 (= P.Lond.Christ. 1) on 20 May 2015, and the St. Joseph's College STIR Grant that provided funding for this research.


1 L. R. Zelyck, John among the Other Gospels: The Reception of the Fourth Gospel in the Extra-Canonical Gospels (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2013) 25–47.

2 H. I. Bell and T. C. Skeat, Fragments of an Unknown Gospel and Other Early Christian Papyri (London: Trustees of the British Museum, 1935) (= Bell–Skeat) 23. H. I. Bell and T. C. Skeat, The New Gospel Fragments (London: Trustees of the British Museum, 1935) (= Bell–Skeat2) provides further possible readings for this episode.

3 Lagrange, M.-J., ‘Deux nouveaux textes relatifs a l’Évangile’, RB 44 (1935) 321–43, at 338Google Scholar; Lietzmann, H., ‘Neue Evangelienpapyri’, ZNW 34 (1935) 285–93, at 289–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Cerfaux, L., ‘Parallèles canoniques et extra-canoniques de “l’évangile inconnu” (Pap. Egerton 2)’, Mus 49 (1936) 5577, at 71–2Google Scholar; Dodd, C. H., ‘A New Gospel’, BJRL 20 (1936) 5692Google Scholar, reprinted in New Testament Studies (Manchester: University of Manchester Press, 1953) 12–52, at 41–2; Dibelius, M., ‘Review of Bell – Skeat, Fragments’, Deutsche Literaturzeitung 57 (1936) 311, at 6–7Google Scholar; Schmidt, K. F. W., ‘Ein bisher unbekanntes Evangelienfragment’, Theologische Blätter 15 (1936) 34–8, at 36Google Scholar; G. Mayeda, Das Leben-Jesu-Fragment Papyrus Egerton 2 und seine Stellung in der urchristlichen Literaturgeschichte (Bern: Paul Haupt, 1946) 9–10; M. Gronewald, ‘255. Unbekanntes Evangelium oder Evangelienharmonie (Fragment aus dem “Evangelium Egerton”)’, Kölner Papyri (P. Köln) 6 (ARWAW. PapyCol VII; Opladen: Westdeutcher Verlag, 1987) 136–45, at 144; J. B. Daniels, ‘The Egerton Gospel: Its Place in Early Christianity’ (Diss. Claremont Graduate School, 1989) 215; D. Lührmann, Fragmente Apokryph Gewordener Evangelien in Griechischer und Lateinischer Sprache (Marburg: N. G. Elwert, 2000) 142–54, at 153; Bauer, J. B., ‘Die Saats aufs Wasser geht auf. PEgerton 2 fr. 2 verso (Bell/Skeat)’, ZNW 97 (2006) 280–2CrossRefGoogle Scholar; T. Nicklas, ‘The “Unknown Gospel” on P.Egerton 2’, Gospel Fragments (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009) 9–120, at 66–7.

4 Nicklas, ‘Unknown Gospel’, 70.

5 Daniels, ‘Egerton’, 221–2 is the exception. Mayeda, Egerton, 55 and Nicklas, ‘Unknown Gospel’, 69, 72 both note that the Jordan is the location of miracles in Josh 3.13–17; 2 Kings 2.13–14; 5.14.

6 According to TLG, the only occurrence of χείλους τοῦ ᾿Ιορδάνου is 2 Kings 2.13, and a later quotation of this passage by Nicetas Seidus in the twelfth century ce.

7 The antecedent of ‘he’ is probably one of the ‘sons of the prophets’, but early Christian authors often emphasise Elisha's role in retrieving the axe-head (Justin, Dial. 86; Irenaeus, Haer. 5.17.4; Tertullian, Adv. Jud. 13). Jesus also heals the leper by reaching out his hand, ἐκτείνας τὴν χεῖρα αὐτοῦ (Matt 8.3 // Mark 1.41 // Luke 5.13), but a closer textual parallel to this event is Gen 48.14, ‘Israel reached out his right hand’ (ἐκτείνας δὲ Ισραηλ τὴν χεῖρα τὴν δεξιάν). See also Judges 5.26 and 1 Macc 7.47 for similar terminology.

8 There are three obvious examples of Elisha typology in the canonical gospels: the healing of leprosy (2 Kings 5; Matt 8.2–4 // Mark 1.40–5 // Luke 5.12–14; Luke 17.11–19); the multiplication of barley loaves (2 Kings 4.42–4; John 6.1–15); and the resuscitation of a son (2 Kings 4.18–37; Luke 7.11–17). For other thematic parallels, see Brown, R. E., ‘Jesus and Elisha’, Perspective 12 (1971) 85104Google Scholar.

9 ‘Then the men of the city said to Elisha, “Behold now, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees; but the water is bad and the land is unfruitful.” He said, “Bring me a new jar, and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him. He went out to the spring of water and threw salt in it and said, “Thus says the LORD, ‘I have purified these waters; there shall not be from there death or unfruitfulness any longer.’” So the waters have been purified to this day, according to the word of Elisha which he spoke.’

10 The parting of the Jordan in 2 Kings 2.13 and the purification of the spring at Jericho in 2 Kings 2.19–22 are already geographically aligned, since ‘the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho opposite him saw him’ (2 Kings 2.15). Josephus also correlates the Jordan valley with the Jericho spring, so it is possible that the Egerton author has conflated the location of Elisha's first miracle on the Jordan with his second miracle at the Jericho spring.

11 Digital photographs are available at

12 Bell and Skeat, New Fragment, 33.

13 The lacunae also make it difficult to determine if 2v.15–16 is a continuation of this episode, or the start of the next episode.

14 Bell and Skeat, Fragments, 24.

15 Daniels rejects Schmidt's reading because ‘the cross stroke of an ε is plainly visisble [sic] where he proposes an α’ (Daniels, ‘Egerton’, 216). A stroke is clearly visible, but it is not entirely horizontal. Rather, it swoops down from the left to right, which is closer to the formation of α in this manuscript (e.g. καί in l.11)

16 Schmidt indicates that the lacuna contains [αὐτοῦ], which is probably a misprint of [αὐτὸς].

17 Bell and Skeat, Fragments, 24, 12.

18 See Daniels, ‘Egerton’, 215.

19 Lietzmann decides on ἔν[ιψ]εν although he also suggests ἔλυσεν, ἔλουσεν, ἔχρισεν.

20 Bell and Skeat, Fragments, 24 indicate that this proposed reading, ‘though at first adopted, is considerably less probable than that printed in the text’, without further explanation.

21 For examples of πληρόω used to indicate the fulfilment of a prayer or prophecy, see LSJ s.v. iii.6; BDAG, 828–9.

22 Dodd, ‘New Gospel’, 42.

23 It cannot be persuasively argued that the Egerton author was directly influenced by Josephus since Josephus appears to be handing on a tradition, ‘it is said (λόγος)’, in Jewish War 4.460. However, it would not be entirely strange for an early Christian author to be influenced by Josephus (see M. E. Hardwick, Josephus as an Historical Source in Patristic Literature through Eusebius (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1989).

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