Themes of Epiphany in Early Fragmentary Christian Papyri

P. 11633: Theophanie-Hymne

P.Berol. 11633, recto. online.

Epiphany, a feast of the church originally associated with Jesus’ baptism, is traditionally celebrated January 6. The feast celebrates the manifestation of Jesus in his public ministry, the revelation of Christ to the world — through his nativity, his baptism by John, and his first miracle at the wedding in Cana.

As with many early Christian celebrations, the beginnings of this feast are cloudy and mixed depending on if you trace its history through the Eastern or Western church. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (ODCC, p. 557) tie the origins of the feast with celebration of the nativity and baptism of Jesus, while the western church celebrations centered more on the miracle at Cana. Epiphany was a big deal, celebrated as one of the three principal feasts of the Christian year, along with Easter and Pentecost.

Themes of Epiphany appear in papyri. One of the better articles on papyrus interactions with epiphany themes is:

Martinez, David G. “Epiphany Themes in Christian Liturgies on Papyrus.” Pages 187–215 in Light from the East. Papyrologische Kommentare Zum Neuen Testament. Edited by Peter Artz-Grabner and Christina Kreinecker. Vol. 39 of Philippika. Harrassowitz Verlag, 2010.

Particularly in liturgical or hymnic contexts, mentions in the papyri of one or more of the three primary Epiphany events — Jesus’ nativity,  baptism by John, and miracle at Cana — brings the larger themes of Epiphany into the immediate context.

Of the papyri I’ve researched and translated for the Stuff Early Christians Read project, there are three that mention themes of Epiphany:

Over the next few days I plan on sharing some drafts I’ve written with brief examinations of these papyri. These drafts are not focused on examination of papyrological features, but instead focused on content and interaction with the Greek New Testament, Septuagint, and other literature.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s