Why is it important?
There are thousands of manuscripts in existence, which are links with the Bible as we read it today, and the Bible as it was first recorded. Of them, P52 is the oldest. It reminds us that the Bible was originally handwritten, and that every character had to be carefully copied.
P52 is also useful as an historical link with the early Christians. Princeton Theological Seminary’s Bruce Metzger, one of the twentieth century’s most prominent scholars of New Testament Textual Criticism, offers the following reflection on its importance in our understanding of the Bible: “Just as Robinson Crusoe, seeing but a single footprint in the sand, concluded that another human being, with two feet, was present on the island with him, so P52 proves the existence and use of the Fourth Gospel during the first half of the second century in a provincial town along the Nile, far removed from its traditional place of composition (Ephesus in Asia Minor).” From this fragment we know that already in the first half of the second century there were Christians along the Nile and these Christians were reading the very same words that we read today.
The very fact that we have a Greek New Testament on papyri at all also demonstrates its importance. Daniel B. Wallace tells us that 75,000 papyri have been found and only 117 of them are from the New Testament.
It has been argued that P52 is neither the most important of the ancient manuscripts, nor the one most critical to assembling the original text of the Bible. Yet it is a significant link to the past, an object we can look at, and as we look, we see how from the earliest times the text of the Bible had begun to be carefully preserved.
See Website: http://www.challies.com
Textbook: L. Strobel, The Case for the Real Jesus (Zondervan: Grand Rapids, Mi, 2007), 84.