The University of Texas has a priceless piece of early Christian history on display thanks to an online auction and a lot of luck. On Tuesday, November 15, the Harry Ransom Center announced that it had added to its collection a credit-card-size fragment of a manuscript scroll of the Gospel of John, written in Greek and dated circa A.D. 250-350. The Willoughby Papyrus, as it is known, is on display this fall.
Professor Geoffrey S. Smith, also director of UT’s Institute for the Study of Antiquity and Christian Origins, found the fragment while perusing eBay in 2015. According to a contemporary story in the New York Times, the item was listed with an opening bid of $99. The seller halted the auction at Smith’s request, after which the professor presented his findings at a conference in Atlanta.