P.Berol. 11633: Epiphany and Theophany

This is one of a short series of posts about Epiphany themes in early Christian papyri.

This one is long, so we’re just going to jump right in.


P.Berol. 11633

Description

P. 11633: Theophanie-Hymne

Hymne über die Taufe Christi im Jordan durch Johannes, die innerhalb des liturgischen Jahres zum Theophaneia-Fest (Epiphanias) am 6. Januar gehört. 5. – 6. Jh. n.Chr.

P.Berol. 11633 (TM 64689), dated to ad 400–599, is called a “Theophany Hymn” by the editor of its editio princeps.[1] The papyrus focuses on events traditionally associated with the epiphany of Jesus.[2] It is a single sheet, 12cm wide and over 32cm long, with writing only on the recto. Nomina sacra and other abbreviations are used in the papyrus. Three primary sections are marked in the text by use of ekthesis at the start of a section. In some cases colons and tildes (lines 28 and 44) are used to fill remaining line space at the end of a section. Slashes (“/”) are used throughout to mark units.

Contents

Epiphany is a feast of the church (January 6) that was originally associated with the baptism of Jesus. While the feast originated in the eastern church and also included themes of the nativity, the western church began celebrating it in association with the miracle at the wedding in Cana.[3] The word “epiphany” has ties to the Greek word that means “to reveal,” so epiphany is about the revelation of Christ to the world. This revealing could be understood as his nativity, or as his baptism by John marking the beginning of his ministry, or as the miracle at the wedding in Cana indicating his first recorded miracle.

This liturgical papyrus mentions all these events as well as others from the life of Jesus as recorded in the gospels. At least one line from the first part is missing, but the available text begins with rejoicing “in the holy pool,” a reference to a baptismal font.[4] References to the glory and power of the Lord function as allusions to Luke 1:35 and 2:9 to end the first part.

The second part begins by echoing the Psalms (100:1 [lxx 99:1]; 66:1 [lxx 65:1]; 98:4 [lxx 97:4]) with a call to the whole earth to shout aloud to the Lord. This call to worship is followed by a call to rejoice (perhaps echoing Ps 96:4b [lxx 97:4b]) and a call to “meet the bridegroom” in Bethlehem (referencing Jesus’ birth) who also performed the miracle at Cana changing water into wine (Jn 2:1–11), who also healed the blind man at Siloam (Jn 9:1–12), who cleansed the leper by simply speaking (possibly Mt 8:1–4 || Mk 1:40–45; Lk 5:12–16), and who used five loaves to feed five thousand (Mt 14:13–31 || Mk 6:32–34; Lk 9:10–17; Jn 6:1–15). The balance of the second part sets the scene of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan. Jesus’ title of “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29) is echoed, John the Baptist is referred to as “the forerunner,” and the response of God the Father to Jesus’ baptism, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Mt 3:17) ends the section.

Part three returns to the baptism of Jesus, providing what amounts to an intimate overhearing of what seems framed as a whispered conversation between Jesus and John immediately before the baptism. After the baptism, the mountains and hills rejoice, and the words of the Father are extended with an additional command: “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well-pleased. Fear him.”

Translation[5]

Part I

(1) And he rejoiced upon the (2) holy pool
For in the midst of the (3) earth and heaven (4) confessing the Christ
and (5) treating the enemies arrogantly …
For the glory (6) of the Lord encircled him
(7) and his power will overshadow you.

Part II

(8) Shout aloud to the Lord all the earth
(9) because he appeared upon the earth, who was God before the (10) ages, the Word.
(11) Come, let us rejoice exceedingly and let (12) us celebrate!
Come, let us (13) meet the bridegroom, the one in (14) Bethlehem,
the one who with the Father (15) and the Holy Spirit
who was invited (16) to the wedding as a man and the (17) water was changed into wine;
who (18) gave sight to the blind one in Siloam;
(19) who cleansed the leper by his word.
(20) From five loaves (21) into five thousands were satisfied
(22) He went into the water of the Jordan,
(23) the lamb of God who takes away the (24) sin of the world,
to be baptized (25) by the forerunner.
(26) And the voice from the Father saying,
(27) “This one is my beloved (28) Son in whom I am well pleased.”~

Part III

(29) We were filled with great joy (30) upon seeing the Jordan
(31) when the one born upon earth as a man (32–34) appeared in it
and the forerunner himself listened to your voice saying,
“Let us (35) complete the plans of the Father.”
(36) “Like the Lord wanted,” (37) said John
You, Christ, came down (38) into the water,
The mountains leaped (39) like rams
and the hills like a lamb (40) of the sheep.
As you arose (41) from the Jordan
a voice has (42) come from the sky to you
(43) “This one is my beloved (44) Son in whom I am well pleased.
(45) Fear him.”~

Discussion

Visual indicators (ekthesis and sometimes extended tildes) mark the start or end of three sections on this 32-centimeter-long papyrus. The first part (lines 1–7) is missing at least a portion from its beginning, but the available material alludes to passages in the Psalms and in Luke.

The first available line mentions “rejoicing” using the same terminology found in Luke 1:47 and Ps. 35:9 [lxx 34:9] that speaks of rejoicing in the Lord. Here, however, the focus is on rejoicing for the baptismal font (“holy pool”) due to the epiphany emphasis on the baptism of Christ. The next lines (2–4) testify that Christ is being confessed from the midst of earth and heaven; this is followed by further allusion to Lucan nativity passages (lines 5–6 to Luke 2:9; line 7 to Luke 1:35).

The second part (lines 8–28) begins with phrasing common to the Psalms: “Shout aloud to the Lord all the earth!” (cf. Ps 100:1 [lxx 99:1]; 66:1 [lxx 65:1]; 98:4 [lxx 97:4]), providing the reason for shouting (perhaps in praise): “because he (Jesus) appeared upon the earth.” The next line provides information to reconcile the “he” with Jesus. It describes him as the one “who was God before the ages” and then further appositionally associates him with the term used to represent Jesus in John 1:1, the word. Again, there is rejoicing and celebration at this arrival. The nativity is directly referenced with mention of “Bethlehem” (13–14), even though the one in Bethlehem is equated with “the bridegroom.”

The frame of reference moves from the nativity (the earthly arrival and manifestation of the Messiah) to the wedding in Cana (the first recorded miracle of Christ in the gospels, a public manifestation of the Messiah). The entire Trinity is posited to be where “the water was changed into wine” (14–17). From here more miracles from the early ministry of Jesus are mentioned. Regarding Epiphany and early miracles of Jesus, Martinez notes:

Miracle narratives, especially those that Jesus performed early in his career, are always appropriate in an epiphanal context, since they, like his birth and baptism, manifest his true nature. We should however note, that the roster of miracles in this section is not randomly selected. In fact, three that are here listed have distinct ties to the celebration of Epiphany in various traditions.[6]

The miracles referenced include the healing of the blind man at Siloam (17–19, John 9), the healing of a leper (19–20, Mt 8:1–4 || Mk 1:40–45; Lk 5:12–16), and the feeding of the 5,000 (20–21, Mt 14:13–31 || Mk 6:32–34; Lk 9:10–17; Jn 6:1–15). Each of these miracles, as Martinez notes, has been tied to Epiphany in one way or another, and each of them contribute to the increasing expectation of the mention of the baptism of Jesus, the other central event tied to Epiphany. It has been foreshadowed with “bridegroom” language (13) and was explicitly alluded to by listing the changing of water into wine as the first miracle (15–16) in the miracle list.

The transition into the account of Jesus’ baptism is introduced by simply placing Jesus in the water of the Jordan river (22–23), directly referencing to the account of Jesus’ baptism (Mk 1:9–11 || Mt 3:13–17; Lk 3:21–22) and then borrowing phrasing from Jn 1:29, “The lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (lines 23–24). The effect is to identify the “lamb of God” as the subject who went into the water, skilfully placing Jesus as identified in John’s gospel – which does not directly mention John baptizing Jesus (Jn 1:19–34) – as the subject of synoptic gospels’ account of Jesus’ baptism.

The purpose of Jesus’ entering the Jordan river was “to be baptized by the forerunner” (lines 24–25). The “forerunner,” also mentioned in line 34, is a reference to John the Baptist. This language styles John as one who goes before Jesus, calling out attention to him to announce his arrival (cf. Is 40:3–11; Mal 3:1).[7] Jesus here is referred to as “the one born upon earth as a man” (30–31), testifying to the human nature of Jesus and implying at the same time that he is more than human.

After this is perhaps the most normal, human portion of the entire liturgy. Before the baptism of Jesus happens, John and Jesus have a brief conversation. The words “Let us complete the plans of the Father” are put in the mouth of Jesus, with an immediate response from John of “Like the Lord wanted” (34–37). The moment reads almost as a whispered conversation between the two primary participants immediately prior to the actual act of baptism. In the context of the liturgy, the conversation also confirms that John the Baptist and Jesus knew exactly what they were doing and knew the impact of the baptism. Unlike the canonical accounts of Jesus’ baptism which record John’s protestations about not being worthy (Mt 3:14–15), this account paints John as in tune with the will of God and willing to perform the baptism without hesitation.

This account of Jesus’ baptism is framed in a liturgy as a group recollection of the baptism event. The response of the group to the baptism is testimony of the earth and the animals upon it rejoicing as Jesus descends into the water. The rejoicing is affirmed as Jesus rises out of the water again with a repetition and expansion of lines 27–28 as audible testimony from the Father: “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased. Fear him” (cf. Mk 1:11 || Mt 3:17; Lk 3:22).

Bibliography

Cross, F. L., and E. A. Livingstone, eds. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. 3rd Revised. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Friedman, David Noel, ed. The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary. 6 vols. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc., 1992.

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.

Treu, Kurt. “Neue Berliner Liturgische Papyri.” AfP 21 (1971): 57–82.


[1] Kurt Treu, “Neue Berliner Liturgische Papyri,” AfP 21 (1971): 62–67.

[2] David G. Martinez, “Epiphany Themes in Christian Liturgies on Papyrus,” in Light from the East. Papyrologische Kommentare Zum Neuen Testament, ed. Peter Artz-Grabner and Christina Kreinecker, vol. 39 of Philippika (Harrassowitz Verlag, 2010), 198–199.

[3] F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 3rd Revised. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 557.

[4] Martinez, “Epiphany Themes in Christian Liturgies on Papyrus,” 198.

[5] Treu, “Neue Berliner Liturgische Papyri,” 64–65.

[6] Martinez, “Epiphany Themes in Christian Liturgies on Papyrus,” 198–99.

[7] David Noel Friedman, ed., The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, 6 vols. (New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc., 1992), 2:830.

P.Berol. 16595: Epiphany, Miriam, and her Tambourine

This is one of a short series of posts about Epiphany themes in early Christian papyri.

P.Berol. 16595 (Transcription) is a small fragment with writing extant on recto and verso. The recto portion mentions the baptism of Jesus and is the portion directly involved with Epiphany. The verso, however, mentions the Song of Miram from Exodus. Is it related to the recto?

P. 16595: Theophanie-Hymnus mit musikalischen Vokalverdoppelungen

P.Berol. 16595 recto (source)


P.Berol 16595

Description

P.Berol. 16595 (tm 64842) is a small papyrus fragment (5.8 x 9.5 cm) hailing from Egypt, dated to the 5th–6th centuries (ad 400–599). Writing is visible on the recto and verso sides of the papyrus. It is described by Treu as a “Theophany hymn with musical vocal doublings.”[1] The content of the papyrus, like that of P.Berol. 11633, is related to the celebration of Epiphany.[2]

The vocal doublings present in the papyrus are unnecessarily repeated vowels within words. They indicate an intended rhythmic or musical quality to the text. Martinez provides more information regarding the doubling in this papyrus:

We can, however, be sure that these passages were sung or chanted, because both sides [recto and verso] display doubling or quasi-doubling of vowels, a usage we know from other papyri and manuscripts that preserve musical scores. The doubled vowels indicate for the singer (possibly in this case the cantor, or psaltes) places where two notes are to be sung in a syllable (melism). This feature lends to the document considerable musicological importance.[3]

Martinez further notes that “Some Christian scribes, however, adopted this practice in writing hymns and liturgies.”[4] This papyrus reflects a text that was not simply read, but was chanted or sung.

Contents

The recto reflects material from John’s gospel regarding John the Baptist’s testimony of Jesus’ baptism, one of the events strongly associated with the feast of Epiphany. It records the words of John the Baptist from John 1:15 (repeated in John 1:30) in testimony of Jesus, that Jesus comes after John but is more important than John. It is a reminder of John’s function as forerunner,[5] pointing toward Jesus.

The verso, however, is different. It does not reflect material from the New Testament but instead refers to the “Song of Miriam” from Ex 15:20–21. It reproduces at least part of the song (Ex 15:21, also Ex 15:1) and extends it mentioning “singing … of the heavenly powers.”

Translation

Recto

(1) … of the Jordan has come near (2) John testified and cried (3) out, “This one was he, about whom I said to you, ‘The one (4) who comes after me he is ahead of me (5) because before me if’” (6) … (7) … baptism (8) …

Verso

(9) O, Miriam[6] … they (10) received the tambourine … (11) she said, “Let us sing to the Lord, (12) for he is supremely glorified until even … (13) of being deluged (14) … singing (15) … of the heavenly powers (16) …”

Discussion

The recto begins mid-sentence with reference to the Jordan river, John the Baptist, and at least an allusion to Jesus’ baptism. This firmly sets the context of the papyrus as Epiphany, a feast originally associated with this event. The words ascribed to John the Baptist reproduce the text of John 1:15 and 1:30, albeit not exactly. They do, however, confirm the relationship of the papyrus with the gospel of John. While there is no way to know how large this song was or if the papyrus represents a large or small portion of it, the context of Epiphany and the use of material from John’s gospel is certain.

What else is certain is that the orthography (doubling of vowels) reflects material that was chanted or sung. Unfortunately portions of the papyrus are reconstructed (based on relationship with John 1:15 and Ex 15:20–21) and there is no information available of how the vowel doubling would be represented in the reconstructed portions. This means no complete information on the rhythm or musicality of this hymn is available.

What is available, however, is the unique focus of the verso on the “Song of Miriam.” Miriam, Moses’ sister, is a lesser-known character in the modern western church so the appearance of this material in the context of Epiphany and Jesus’ baptism may at first be confusing. But it need not be. Here is the “Song of Miriam,” from Ex 15:20–21 (lxx):

Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took up her tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out behind her with tambourines and dancing. Then Miriam led them, saying, “Let us sing to the Lord, for he is gloriously glorified; horse and rider he has cast into the sea.”

The “Song of Miriam,” (Ex 15:20–22) follows the “Song of Moses” in Ex 15:1–19, which follows the people of Israel’s passing through the Red Sea. Notably, Miriam’s song repeats the beginning of Moses’ song (Ex 15:1) signaling that Ex 15:1–21 form an inclusio. The Song of Moses is also found in the Odes as Ode 1. The Odes are a collection of material transmitted with the Greek Old Testament that includes messianic-themed material from the lxx and nativity material from the Greek New Testament. Even today, the Odes are typically used in liturgical contexts in Eastern Orthodox churches.[7] They are transmitted as a group with the Psalms in several Psalter manuscripts. They are also found in whole-Bible manuscripts such as codex Alexandrinus. At least one Psalter manuscript, codex Vernonensis, includes Ex 15:1–21 as the first Ode.[8] Why does this matter? It matters because it confirms that at least some Christian communities used the inclusio formed by Ex 15:1–21, the Song of Moses and the Song of Miriam, in the context of worship.

But why this reference to the Israelites’ passing through the Red Sea here in the context of baptism? Paul, in 1Co 10:1–4, makes the association.

For I do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all went through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. (1Co 10:1–4)

Martinez summarizes the association between this event and baptism:

Theologically and liturgically, the miraculous defeat of Pharoah and the Israelites’ passage through the Red Sea is a type of Christian baptism … This passage [1Co 10:1–2] is used in the liturgy for the blessing of the baptismal waters in the Greek Orthodox rite on Epiphany eve.[9]

The parting and passing through of the Red Sea (Ex 14) prefigure Christian baptism (1Co 10:1–2). The celebration of the event referred to in this scant scrap of papyrus recalls one sign of the commencement of the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ (Jn 1:15, 30), his baptism. The picture of Miriam, leading the women with tambourine and dancing, singing about how the Lord “cast horse and rider into the sea” are a picture of the waters of baptism, sanctified by Christ, used to overtake those who pursue God’s people.[10]

Bibliography

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.

Swete, Henry Barclay. An Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1914.

Treu, Kurt. “Varia Christiana.” AfP 24–25 (1976): 113–126.


[1] Kurt Treu, “Varia Christiana,” AfP 24–25 (1976): 121–23.

[2] See discussion on P.Berol. 11633 elsewhere in this volume.

[3] David G. Martinez, “Epiphany Themes in Christian Liturgies on Papyrus,” in Light from the East. Papyrologische Kommentare Zum Neuen Testament, ed. Peter Artz-Grabner and Christina Kreinecker, vol. 39 of Philippika (Harrassowitz Verlag, 2010), 194–95.

[4] Martinez, “Epiphany Themes in Christian Liturgies on Papyrus,” 195.

[5] See discussion regarding “forerunner” on P.Berol. 11633.

[6] Possibly “Mary”

[7] Martinez, “Epiphany Themes in Christian Liturgies on Papyrus,” 195.

[8] Henry Barclay Swete, An Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1914), 253; Treu, “Varia Christiana,” 122.

[9] Martinez, “Epiphany Themes in Christian Liturgies on Papyrus,” 195.

[10] Martinez, “Epiphany Themes in Christian Liturgies on Papyrus,” 196.

P.Vindob. G. 19931: Epiphany and the Humanity of Jesus

This is one of a short series of posts about Epiphany themes in early Christian papyri.

P.Vindob. G. 19931 (transcription) is a short papyrus that focuses on the blood (thus the humanity) of Jesus. I’ve written about it before in the context of Easter. The portion relevant to Epiphany is line 4, which speaks of the baptism of Jesus by John “the forerunner.” Jesus’ baptism is one of the events that marks the beginning of his public ministry, his “revealing,” and is one of the events that Epiphany (celebrated on January 6) marks.

P-Vindob-G-19931

P.Vindob. G 19931; image from the ONB.


P.Vindob. G 19931

Description

P.Vindob. 19931 (tm 64787), dated to the 5th century (ad 400–499), is an adoration of the blood of Christ.[1] The papyrus (15 cm wide and 6 cm tall) exhibits fold marks that imply it may have been an amulet. The papyrus itself contains a few different metacharacters, including a dagger-like symbol indicating a new line in the hymn as well as a symbol that likely indicates a correction. This short papyrus uses nomina sacra to represent the name of Jesus Christ in every instance (lines 3, 4, 6, 8, 10) but has no other examples.

The first line of the papyrus, a phrase written supralinearly, is noted with a symbol preceding. The symbol represented in the below translation by an asterisk-like mark (※). The same symbol occurs in the first actual line of the hymn, probably marking a correction to the first line. The text of the supralinear line, “because of us,” should be inserted in the first line of the hymn where the symbol occurs.

Contents

As is evident, this papyrus focuses on the blood of Jesus Christ. There are five lines to the hymn, each associating some quality of Jesus with the salvific power of his blood to create an image of the divine human, Jesus Christ. The first two lines[2] focus on Jesus Christ’s physical nature, testifying that he was made into flesh “from the holy virgin” (Lk 1:34–35) The second line reinforces this point by explicitly tying Jesus Christ to Mary, the mother of God (Lk 1:41–43). The third line is the most incomplete due to holes in the papyrus, likely the result of it being folded, and is impossible to fully reconstruct. The fourth line recalls the event of Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist (Mk 1:9–11 || Mt 3:13–17; Lk 3:21–22). The fifth line calls to mind the death of this fully-human Jesus and the benefit it brings for humanity (Heb 10:11–14).

Translation

                                                             ※ because of us

† Blood of the one made into flesh ※ from the holy virgin, Jesus Christ.

† Blood of the one who was born from the holy mother of God, Jesus Christ.

† Blood of the … being made to appear … Jesus Christ.

† Blood of the one who was baptized in the Jordan by John the forerunner, Jesus Christ, amen.

† Blood of the one who brought himself as a sacrifice for our sins, Jesus Christ, amen.

Discussion

Docetism is the ancient heretical teaching that Jesus Christ had a single divine nature and only appeared to be human. That is, he was fully God but projected human qualities and appearances while not being fully human. This hymn focused on the blood of Jesus Christ may be a response to Docetism, intended to reinforce the human nature of Jesus.

The first line links the blood and flesh of Jesus Christ to the “holy virgin,” a reference to Mary. This reference implicitly supports not only Jesus Christ’s birth from a virgin (Lk 1:26–28, 34), but also ties the humanity of Jesus to the sexually pure humanity of his mother, Mary. This human tie to Mary is explicitly made in line two with reference to “the holy mother of God” using the technical term theotokos, the “God-bearer” (cf. Ode 11 title).[3] To the writer of this hymn, and to those who sing it and who preserve it, Mary is an important component in understanding the human and divine natures of Jesus Christ.

Not much can be said about line three, there is just enough text missing to make reconstruction difficult.

The fourth line, however, clearly has to do with the baptism of Jesus Christ. It provides all the necessary details to reference Jesus’ baptism (Mk 1:9–11 || Mt 3:13–17; Lk 3:21–22) and even refers to John as “the forerunner.” [4] There are a few recognized milestones in Jesus’ life, and his baptism, which some traditions identify as the start of his public ministry, is one of them.

The fifth line transforms the context of speaking of Jesus’ blood as a marker of his humanity to a marker of his deity. This blood from this, according to the hymn, demonstrably human man, has the power to serve as a sacrifice for the sins of humanity. Jesus Christ is testified to as the sacrifice. His blood was spilled as a result of the sacrifice. And the sacrifice is what provides hope of salvation to all humanity.

Bibliography

Cross, F. L., and E. A. Livingstone, eds. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. 3rd Revised. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Wessely, C. “5. Adoracion du sang de Jésus-Christ.” Page 435 in Les plus anciens monuments du Cristianisme écrits sur papyrus: Textes édites, traduits et annotés. Patrologia Orientalis 18.3. Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1924.

 

[1] C. Wessely, “5. Adoracion du sang de Jésus-Christ,” in Les plus anciens monuments du Cristianisme écrits sur papyrus: Textes édites, traduits et annotés, Patrologia Orientalis 18.3 (Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1924), 435.

[2] For simplicity, numbered lines refer to the lines of the translation that commence with a dagger (†), not the actual line numbers of the papyrus.

[3] F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 3rd Revised. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 1619.

[4] For some traditions the baptism of Jesus is the key event associated with Epiphany, the public revealing of Jesus and his ministry. See discussion on P.Berol. 11633, a papyrus celebrating Epiphany, which also refers to John as “forerunner.” See also discussion on P.Berol. 16595.

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.

P.Vindob. G 27290b — Easter Songs

P.Vindob. G 27290b (TM, Images) is a papyrus dated to AD 400–599 (5th–6th century). Treu and Diethart titled the papyrus “Osterlieder” (“Easter Songs”).

Treu, Kurt, and Johannes Diethart, eds. “39. Osterlieder.” Pages 74–75 in Griechische literarische Papyri christlichen Inhaltes II. Vol. 1 of MPER N.S. 17. Vienna: Hollinek, 1993.
P-Vindob-G-27290b-verso

P.Vindob. G 27290b verso, from the ONB

Treu and Diethart published the papyrus in the order verso then recto. This order is followed in the transcription below.

Verso

Suffering because of us, O Lord glory (be) to you.

He has risen from the dead, Savior, in three days … and all the unceasing forces of angels brought praise, saying, “You are blessed, O Lord, and praiseworthy!” and (were) singing forever †

Recto

The one who was raised from the dead and three days all the works …

(Sing the?) Trishagion together … the church … But you, the one who in holiness gives rest, guard all of us in faith. †

Several points can be deduced from the text.

  • Jesus’ suffering was because “of us” and the author of the hymn ascribed glory to the Lord (κυριε, in the vocative) because of it.
  • The hymn author testifies that the Savior rose from the dead “in three days.”
  • One of my favorite lines: “… all the unceasing forces of angels brought praise … and [they] were singing forever!”
  • The recto repeats the claim of being raised from the dead in three days.
  • The use of τρισαγιος (“Trishagion” or “thrice-holy”) is a bit of a mystery.
  • The rest-giver is asked to guard “all of us” in faith. Why “rest-giver”? Through his death and resurrection, Christ has provided eternal rest for us. He is the rest-giver, the rest was provided “in holiness,” and the prayer is to guard us all until we are able to enter the rest that was secured for us on that first Easter morning.

Christians in the first 500 years of Christianity were not all that different from us. Yes, they had access to some of the writings that later became NT canon. But they were also creative. They wrote and preached their own sermons based on their own understanding of the message of the gospel and the story of the Old Testament (the LXX for many). They composed their own hymns and own liturgical documents. They had an understanding of who God is and who Jesus and the Holy Spirit are in relation to God. They used the creative arts of writing, illustrating, composing, and singing to express their faith, much like we do today.

We are not all that different from them.

P.Berol. 21124 and the Descent of Christ to Hades

P.Berol. 21124 (aka BKT 9.24, TM, Images) is a papyrus that dates to AD 300–399. It is fairly fragmentary and small (not a lot of text, either) so it is difficult to translate in any sort of coherent manner. I’m using Kurt Treu’s transcription as basis for my translation.

Treu, Kurt. “Varia Christiana II.” AfP 32 (1986): 23–24.

P. 21124: Hymnus auf die Höllenfahrt Christi

P.Berol. 21124 recto, aka BKT 9.24. (from Berliner Papyrusdatenbank)

My translation follows:

Recto

  1. […].[…]
  2. […] who loosed tḥẹ body aṇḍ tḥẹ[…]
  3. […].[.]… to puniṣḥ light from heave[n…]*
  4. […]..[.]…. unbroken wall was .[…]*
  5. […]the F(ath)er . of us : Adam . having called [up…]
  6. […]and[.] . .[.]. the sons of [A]dam : that the f(ath)e[r…]

Verso

  1. […] ẉay out : … . […]..[…]
  2. […].̣… of the book : And I have found the .[…]
  3. […]..[..] summary with ….[…]*
  4. […]…. sun (and) the earth: ..[…]

Why is this seen as a hymn of Christ’s descent? The phrase “unbroken wall” in recto line 4 may have some relation with “gates of Hades” in Mt 16:18. That, set with light from heaven being punished, and other discussion of “Adam . having called up” and “the sons of Adam” may point to influence from the Acts of Pilate and Descent of Christ to Hades, a work classified as Christian Apocrypha (or New Testament Apocrypha) that puts forth a traditional view of what may have happened after Christ’s crucifixion that includes scenes in Hades of Old Testament luminaries telling stories about their lives and prophecies/looking forward to Christ’s triumph over death. Des. Hades 3 has Seth (Adam’s son) telling a story, at Adam’s behest, about when Adam died. In this section, there are occurrences of “Father” in close proximity to “Adam” and mention of “sons” and “Adam.”

P.Vindob. G 19931 and the Blood of Jesus

P.Vindob. G 19931 (TM, Image) is a papyrus fragment dated to the 5th century (AD 400–499). It was originally published in 1924 by Carl Wessely.

Wessely, C. “5. Adoracion du sang de Jésus-Christ.” Page 435 in Les plus anciens monuments du Cristianisme écrits sur papyrus: Textes édites, traduits et annotés. Patrologia Orientalis 18.3. Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1924.
P-Vindob-G-19931

P.Vindob. G 19931; image from the ONB.

P.Vindob G 19931 is a hymn about the blood of Jesus. Sort of an early Christian “Nothing but the blood of Jesus” type thing. And you can begin to understand the Christology of at least the hymn writer as well as those who found the hymn worth copying (this appears to be a copy, at least to me; reasons given further below).

When I run into stuff like this little fragment that has so much to say, I’m always a little amazed it hasn’t had more press. Here’s a translation of Wessely’s transcription.

    ⸓ because of us

† Blood of the one made into flesh ⸓ from the holy virgin, Jesus Christ.

† Blood of the one who was born from the holy mother of God, Jesus Christ.

† Blood of the … being made to appear … Jesus Christ.

† Blood of the one who was baptized in the Jordan by John the forerunner, Jesus Christ, amen.

† Blood of the one who brought himself as a sacrifice for our sins, Jesus Christ, amen.

There are several theological assertions made in this tiny scrap.

  • Jesus Christ was made into flesh and had blood. He was incarnated as a human from some other (deity, though the hymn is not explicit about this) state.
  • The flesh is from the “holy virgin”
  • Jesus Christ was born (so, not made). And born from the “holy mother of God.”
  • It’s a pity this line is so fragmented. Is “being made to appear” in support of docetism, or is there text missing that would make this statement be an explicit refutation of docetism? I’d guess refutation because the blood of Jesus is so important in this material, but that’s just a guess.
  • “John the forerunner” baptized Jesus in the Jordan.
  • Jesus “brought himself” as a sacrifice for our sins. He actively did it, it did not just happen to him.

Now, why do I think this is a copy and not an original?

The very first line with the metobelus-like symbol appears to me to be a correction. The symbol on line 1 matches the symbol on line 2 and (to me, anyway) indicates a correction by addition. The scribe skipped the text inadvertently and made an addition note about it. So the first line is really: “Blood of the one made into flesh +because of us+ from the holy virgin, Jesus Christ.”

1500 years ago this material was used in some sort of Christian context. The blood of Jesus was (and is) important and crucial to the efficacy of his sacrifice.

PSI inv. 535 and the Crucifixion of Christ

PSI inv. 535 (TM, Image) is a papyrus fragment dated to a fairly narrow window, 450–499 AD. It might be better to extend that window to a hundred-year window, something like 425–524 AD, as I didn’t note any external information that would support a 50 year window. The papyrus was originally published by Naldini:

Naldini, Mario. “Nuovi papiri cristiani della raccolta fiorentina.” Aegyptus 38 (1958): 138–146.
PSI_inv.535_r

PSI inv. 535, image from PSIonline

The papyrus is not small; it is around 17.6cm by 12cm. And the letters are fairly legible outside of the places where the papyrus itself is damaged.

My draft translation is below.

  1. ḥearing̣ .[…]
  2. of judgment in the …. … […]*
  3. now For in thẹṃ have become a murderer tḥị[s one …]*
  4. [who] worked so that t[h]ey ḍịṣplay because the same […]*
  5. against But th(e) S(av)i(o)r shouting “Away! Away! Crucify ḥ[im!” …]*
  6. and since the cross going glory(?)[… king-]*
  7. ḍom to change the tribes in insolence …[…]
  8. [hav]ing confessed while suffering but king .[…]*
  9. ḥẹ was doing [abo]ve steadying himself, he for ..[…]*
  10. […]…. ** wanderi[ng] about he coverṣ[…]*
  11. […]… and the indeed he urgẹḍ ẉḥọṃ […]

Lines 5–6 are the primary lines that clue us in to a context regarding Christ’s crucifixion. The translation above largely keeps the word order of the papyrus, but a less restrictive translation could be like: “But shouting against the Savior, ‘Away! Away! Crucify him!'” This has some sort of relation with the first part of John 19:15:

Then those shouted, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your king?” The chief priests replied, “We do not have a king except Caesar!”

Line 3 perhaps points to those in the crowd being considered murderers of the crucified one, Christ.

So there you go. A late 5th century sermon that uses “Savior” immediately previous to describing the one condemed to crucifixion.

P.Berol. 21143, the Denial of Peter, and the Resurrection

P.Berol. 21143 (TM, Images) is a 4th–5th century papyrus fragment with writing on the recto (front) and verso (back). It is approximately 10cm by 10cm, so it is not huge. It contains what may be two different writings (one on the verso, one on the recto). The editio princeps is:

Sarischouli, Panagiota. “1. Zwei christliche Text.” Pages 5–18 in Berliner Griechische Papyri. Wiesbaden: Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag, 1995.
P. 21143 R + V: Christlicher Text

P.Berol. 21143 (recto) from Berliner Papyrusdatenbank

Sarischouli’s transcription and my draft translation are available via my “Stuff Early Christians Read” project, but I reproduce the recto translation here:

  1. […].̣.̣.̣.̣[…].[…]
  2. […rem]ẹmbering denial of Pet[er…]*
  3. […con]c̣ẹṛning the faith he found[…]*
  4. […]. the burning heat of the .[…]
  5. […it ]ẉịṭhered. // For the …[…]*
  6. […] making payment of the fo[r]mer proceeḍṣ*
  7. […so that ourse]lves we must cry out, “patience!”*
  8. […]..[….] ọf̣ a master trụṭ[h]
  9. […].[…..]. in the one to deny
  10. […]…. in rememb[rance…]
  11. […]. in misfortune. Alle[leuia]
  12. […]..[..]..he will wash the .[…]
  13. […]. Master G[od…]
  14. […]., my of̣ [sins/sins/misfortunes]

For our purposes here, the interesting portion is the recto as it has a reference to “remembering the denial of Peter,” an obvious allusion to New Testament material (Mt 26:69–75 and parallels). There is too much missing text to do much more, though some phrases available elsewhere in the NT (“concerning the faith,” cf. 2Ti 3:8; 1Ti 1:19; 6:21; Ac 24:24) with the “he found” very possibly referring to Peter. Was there mention of him being restored? And what was withered by the burning heat?

The verso side of P.Berol. 21143 also has some phraseology reminiscent of Easter:

  1. […]. fleec(e) .. be(comes) .[…]*
  2. [was bor]n of a virgin a(nd) became li[ght? ]*
  3. [the pain of death] having ended a(nd) having ris[en the third day from the dead]*
  4. Giṿẹṛ ọf̣ Ḷịg̣ḥṭ, Ch(ris)t, the unapproach[able light]
  5. the e[y]ẹs in the mị[nd having opened]
  6. …. praise.[……..]. .[…]
  7. …. F(ath)er of the wor[ld…]*
  8. […]. .[.].. we glorify dai[ly…]
  9. […in the] temple of hoḷy glor[y … Jesus Christ who]
  10. [from the dead r]ọse up. We sin[g into all the ages…]
  11. […so that we] may worship the one who ṛọ[se up…]
  12. […] J(esu)s, tḥe stone rọḷḷẹḍ [away…]*
  13. […]…[…]

Here we have further doctrinal testimony: Jesus (likely the subject of the clauses at the start) being born of a virgin and becoming light. How he ended “the pain of death” and rose from the dead on the third day. Christ, equated with “Giver of light” and testimony about the “eyes in the mind” opening “the unapproachable light” (cf. 1Ti 6:16). While the easy place to go is to a gnostic reference of some sort, I’m not so sure because I think NT folks are to easy to paint stuff with a gnostic brush when the situation was likely more complicated.  Following this, there is testimony of Jesus Christ rising from the dead, that the one risen from the dead is worshipped, and reference to “the stone rolled away.”

This is incredible stuff!

We’re listening in on either a sermon or a hymn from the fourth or fifth century. This is 1500 years ago, at least. And people were testifying to the same story of Jesus’ death (complete with Peter’s denial) and his resurrection (with worship of the resurrected one).

Holy Week in Early Christian Papyri

Hi folks. As many of you know, I’ve been researching early Christian papyri (dated from the 5th century AD and before) for awhile. As Easter approaches, I noticed that some of the papyri I’ve translated describe some of the traditionally-held events of Holy Week.

I thought it would be good to write about some of these Easter-related papyri and their contents throughout the week. I think there will be four or five posts, starting on Thursday if all goes well.

last-supper

from The Hague Medieval illuminated manuscripts, The Hague, KB, 78 D 38 II Gospels Fol. 186v