In a paper recently posted to academia.edu, Ryan Kaufman engages with some of my hypotheses about the ending of the Gospel According to John in P.Bodmer 2. His suggestions are excellent and in fact offer a simpler explanation for some of the strange features of page 149 that I pointed out in my article (discussed on the blog here).
Kaufman’s key insight is that the text of page 149 as reconstructed by the original editors, Victor Martin and J.W.B. Barns, is unlikely to be correct. After showing the problems of spacing that the text of Martin and Barns causes, Kaufman proposes a superior reconstruction by incorporating a well attested variant reading in John 20:31, the inclusion of αιωνιον between ζωην and εχητε. I noted the existence of this variant in my paper, but I too quickly dismissed the possibility that it might be part of the text of P.Bodmer 2. Kaufman is able to show that a good text can be reconstructed by adding the word αιωνιον and repositioning the lowest fragment of page 149 (the fibers on the back of the fragment are stripped, so the “verso” of the fragment does not offer help in the proper placement). Furthermore, his reconstruction also better accounts for the ink traces at the top of this fragment than does the reconstruction of Martin and Barns. With Kaufman’s permission, I repost here a couple graphics from his paper. First, his reconstruction of the missing text near the bottom of the page:
And then a detail of the lowest fragment (bottom) with samples of the letters Kaufman suggests restoring based on the ink traces at the top of the fragment:
This looks right to me. Kaufman’s proposal significantly alleviates the anomalies I identified based on the reconstruction of Martin and Barns for page 149. That is to say, Kaufman’s suggestion adds to the number of letters on the page, and it adds a line of text to the page, thus decreasing the size of the lower margin. The last line of text in his reconstruction has fewer letters than we might like, but it is a plausible reconstruction, and the copyist could have used even wider spacing than Kaufman does to create a more uniform appearance in the last two lines. This is a much simpler and more satisfying explanation than the one I proposed in my article.
Those interested in this question should check out the full paper here. It’s encouraging to see the Bodmer Lab’s excellent images so quickly being put to good use (even if that use happens to be proving some of my own hypotheses to be wrong!).