After the announcement in 1932 of the discovery by Chester Beatty and Frederick Kenyon, P46 earned the distinction of being the earliest known manuscript of the Apostle Paul’s writings. Originally across 104 leaves, the books of Romans, Hebrews, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, and 1 & 2 Thessalonians appeared. Currently, eighty-six leaves measuring 11 × 6 ½ inches remain of the manuscript. Since scholars believe the manuscript was written as a single-quire codex, one can accurately compute the number of leaves now missing. This conjectural computing explains the absence of Romans 1.1–5.16 at the front of the manuscript, and the entirety of 2 Thessalonians as well as the verses proceeding after 1 Thessalonians 5.28 at the rear. Interestingly, P46 places the doxology found in Romans, which normally occurs at the end of chapter 16, at the end of chapter 15. Therefore, the discovery of P46 plays a significant role in the field of Textual Criticism in numerous ways.The distinction of being the earliest known manuscript of Paul might soon belong to another [manuscript].
While the notable features of P46 will perpetuate the significance of this papyrus, the distinction of being the earliest known manuscript of Paul might soon belong to another. In late January 2012, CNN broadcast an interview with Hobby Lobby owner Steve Green. During the interview, a fragment of Romans 9 and 10 was purportedly discovered within the last 48 hours. Dr. Scott Carroll, an ancient and medieval manuscript scholar, confirmed the finding and dated the fragment to the middle of the 2nd century. Consequently, this new discovery will push the earliest known manuscript of Paul back by about fifty years. One wonders about the journey this new fragment experienced before its discovery!