Stuff Early Christians Read: P. Oxy. 925, Christian Prayer about a Journey

P. Oxy. 925 (TM 35312) is a short Christian prayer dating somewhere between 400–599 AD. It is a simple prayer asking for discernment on whether or not one should go on a journey.

This prayer is doubly interesting because there are several pagan counter-examples to it. The pagan (read: non-Christian) version would be to petition a god as to whether or not something was in the will of said divine being. These written-out prayers would then typically be left in the pagan god’s temple for fulfillment (cf. P. Oxy. 923). P. Oxy. 925 is a Christian example of something similar. It reflects Christians adapting their lives and practice from pagan to Christian. Here’s the simple prayer, the transcription is from P. Oxy. volume 6 (p. 291), but even the thumbnail in this post above is fairly readable (try it, compare transcription to the image, you might be surprised):

  1. + Ὁ θ(εὸ)ς ὁ παντοκράτωρ ὁ ἅγιος
  2. ὁ ἀληθινὸς φιλάνθρωπος καὶ
  3. δημιουργὸς ὁ π(ατ)ὴρ τοῦ κ(υρίο)υ (καὶ) σω(τῆ)ρ(ο)ς
  4. ἡμῶν Ἰ(ησο)ῦ Χ(ριστο)ῦ φανέρωσόν μοι τὴν
  5. παρὰ σοὶ ἀλήθισν εἰ βούλῃ με ἀπελθεῖν
  6. εἰς Χιοὺτ ἢ εὑρίσκω σε σὺν ἐμοὶ
  7. πράττοντα (καὶ) εὐμενῆν. γένοιτο, στθ.*

And here’s a translation:

O God, almighty, holy, true, friend of people and creator, the Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, reveal to me your truth, if you wish me to go to Chiout or if I will find you aiding me and gracious. May it be so, amen.

As with others of these papyri, this is a simple act, and it shows the humanity of the one writing the prayer. “Should I go to [place], and will you help me?” The short introduction to the papyrus in the P.Oxy. volume notes:

The writer asks whether it was the divine will that he should make a certain journey and whether success would attend him. Presumably this prayer was to be deposited in some church, just as the similar pagan documents were left in the temples ….

Bernard P. Grenfell and Arthur S. Hunt, eds., The Oxyrhynchus Papyri (vol. VI; Egypt Exploration Fund: Graeco-Roman Branch; London; Boston, MA; New York; Berlin: The Offices of the Egypt Exploration Fund; Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co.; Bernard Quaritch; Asher & Co.; Henry Frowde, 1908), 291.

We ask questions like this of God all the time. Now, we might not write them down and leave them in churches, but we think these thoughts. The author of this prayer approached it the same way others in his day approached it: Write a prayer to your god, leave it in his temple, and hope something happens to make the answer to the question clear.

We ask these things of God: Should I take that job? Should we move? How should we handle that situation with that friend or relative? So did Christians of earlier eras. There are no foolproof ways for quick answers. but we do need to bring these things to God (more than just once!) as one step in arriving at an answer. Early Christians did that too. They were much like us in many ways, and we do well to remember that.

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