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.


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

Do you know what λευλευ means?

In looking at P.Berol. 21251 (transcription, images) one runs across the term λευλευ. However, it isn’t in any lexicon that I can locate, and doesn’t seem to really be a word anyway. In the text describing P.Berol. 21251, Treu (“Varia Christiana II.” Archiv für Papyrusforschung 32 (1986): 27–29) notes it is likely a formula of some sort. He offers a few suggestions, but there is nothing firm about them.

One suggestion points to λουλου in PGM VII 494 (Greek Magical Papyri), but that instance seems to be a name: “Your name is LOU LOULOU BATHARTHAR &c.” and doesn’t fit this context at all. Treu also mentions the simliarity between λευ and the ending of βασιλευ and suggests maybe an abbreviation or code for βασιλευ βασιλευ, but (as he mentions) this doesn’t make sense of the context (best I can come up with there is some sort of shorthand for “King of Kings”, but that’s total guessing). Another suggestion simply mentions that αλλ is used as an abbreviation for ἁλληλουϊά in P.Berol. 11763 (BKT VIII 16), implicitly wondering if λευλευ may be performing the same function. This makes more sense than the others to me (not saying much) and I can force λευλευ to represent the middle syllables of  ἁλ-λη-λου-ϊά.

Update: Ken Penner replied on a Facebook thread pointing to further use in the PGM as well as use in P.Berol. 21332. You can see it in the first whole line of the recto if you peek at the pictures. There also may be some discussion in Berliner Griechische Papyri, ed. Panagiota Sarischouli, published in 1995. Google Books indicates that both P.Berol. 21251 and 21332 are discussed on p. 21. If anyone has access to this, could you send a copy of the discussion?

Has anyone else run into anything like this? Any suggestions? For P.Berol. 21251, the term λευλευ occurs on the verso and recto of the papyrus and thus implies they related. The recto is simply:

  1. εις θεο[ς ελε]ησον ει[ς] θεος ελεη̣[σον]..*
  2. λευλευ ελεησον*
  3. λευλευ κυριε*
  4. λευλευ δεομεθα*
  5. λευλευ επακουσαν*
  6. λευλευ αορατε*
  7. λευ[λ]ευ αμιαντε*
  8. λευ[λευ δ]ικαιε*
  9. λευ[λευ κυρ]ιε*
  10. […]υ̣ε
  11. […]..


Adventures in Papyri: P.Berol. 21124


P.Berol. 21224 Recto, properly oriented

There I was, working through Kurt Treu’s 1986 Archiv für Papyrusforschung article “Varia Christiana II.” In it he presents six different ostensibly Christian papryi. The first one I’m interested in is his first listed, P.Berol. 21124, “1. Hymnus auf die Höllenfahrt Christi (?),” (“Hymn to Christ’s Descent to Hades (?)” if my hacktastic German is anywhere near correct), a fourth century papyrus reportedly from the Fayum area. It’s early, it’s short, it might have something to do with the Acts of Pilate and Descent of Christ to Hades … it hits a lot of buttons for me.

So I look at Treu’s transcription and bang it out, and begin checking it against an image of the papyrus (available here; click on thumbnails). I work through the recto, all is well. then comes the verso. The ink is fairly faded on the verso (or, it appears to be faded in the image of the verso). I can see several nu and eta glyphs, but something seems wrong. I’m confused about the words ]οδον ηλιον την γην in verso line 4 (last line Treu transcribes). And I can’t make any sense out of the bottom of Treu’s transcription or his note that there are “traces of a line” at the bottom. Nothing lines up. Then I note that for some reason letters like φ extend above the baseline but not below. And then I notice the α look … different. And it dawns on me: The image is upside down. Copy the image, load it into MSPaint, and flip it. All of a sudden things make sense, apart from the faded ink.

The image is oriented correctly on the web site (they simply flipped it across the papyrus’ vertical axis) but the author flipped the papyrus across the horizontal axis.

So now I’ve really started to go down the rabbit hole. Back to thinking about ]οδον ηλιον την γην, and I do some searches for where ηλιον and γην are in proximity with each other, and I find some lists of heavenly elements/phenomenon in Philo (cf. Spec. Leg. I 399; II. 5; Deus 107) and Josephus (Against Apion 2.192), so now I’m wondering if ]οδον should maybe oughta be something like ουρ]ανον. The ink is so faded that I can’t really see any of the characters Treu must’ve seen in 1986.

And then I start looking at the letters even more. Why is the ink so dark on the recto and so light on the verso? Why are the letters on the recto oriented more vertically and the letters on the verso seemingly slanted right? Why don’t certain letter combinations look more alike (e.g. ΩΝ) when verso is compared to recto?

So then I actually start to decode Treu’s article — I say “decode” on purpose because I can’t read German, and horrible though I’m sure it is, I’m indebted to Google Translate. Anyway, Treu notes all this stuff, and I’m reminded that it was my starting assumption that both sides were written by the same person. Treu doesn’t seem so convinced, from what I can tell. The content may be related, but it probably does not originate with the same scribe.

Then I decode the very first paragraph and run into this sentence:

Beidseitig beschriftet von verschiedenen Händen, Texte zueinander kopfstehend.

Which appears to render in English as something like:

Both sides written by different hands, texts oriented oppositely.

At this point, I’m feeling better that at least I independently recognized some of the same stuff Treu did (after getting the verso image correctly oriented), but a little foolish because I couldn’t just read it in the German.

What I’m not sure about is how to read and understand the papyrus given the different hands. Is the material related? (Treu thinks so) And again, how faded was the recto in 1986, and how secure is Treu’s reading of verso line 4?

Stuff Early Christians Read: Transcriptions (and some Translations)

As mentioned earlier, I’ve been working on locating transcriptions for my Stuff Early Christians Read project. Since this summer, I’ve keyed a number of these transcriptions and have them up for review via Github (background, transcriptions).

At present, there are 33 transcriptions of “Christian” documents dated to the fifth century or before. There are a few different classes of documents:

  • Homilies and Theological Fragments
  • Hymnic Fragments
  • Letters
  • Liturgical Fragments
  • Prayers and Amulets

I’m really excited about this stuff (just read P.Berol. 2791, for example) and focused. However, I will need to take a break from this research sometime in January to focus on a paper on “Ethics and Language in Titus” that I’m to deliver in Mainz (yes, Germany) in September. More information on that in January, likely.

Stuff Early Christians Read: P.Amh. Gr. I 2

Grenfell and Hunt didn’t just publish papyri in the Oxyrhynchus Papyri series, they published all sorts of stuff. One item from them is The Amherst Papyri, and the second papyrus of the first volume is a doozy.

Grenfell, Bernard P., and Arthur S. Hunt. “II. Christian Hymn.” Pages 23–28 in The Amherst Papyri Part I. London: Henry Frowde, 1900.

P.Amh. Gr. I 2, from The Morgan Library & Museum

II. Christian Hymn (LDAB 5701, ) isn’t just a hymn, it is an alphabetic acrostic. Each line is composed of three clauses or phrases that each start with the acrostic letter for the line. It is fascinating, and there are Biblical allusions throughout the hymn. It is dated to the fourth century (300–399), and sometimes it almost reads like a creed.

Interestingly, there are a few items that could be classified as agrapha — sayings of Jesus outside of the canoncial New Testament. The line for iota has: Jesus who suffered for this, saying, “I give my back, that you may not experience death.” There are possible connections to Isaiah 50:6. In this case, “give my back” is, I think, a way of saying Jesus gives himself for the punishment deserved by us. His back is whipped in place of ours.  And the line for pi has: He preached the gospel to his servants, saying, “The poor (shall possess) a kingdom, theirs is the inheritance.” This is similar to Mt 5:3, possibly, but not close enough to be anything but a paraphrase, and even that is a stretch.

Like the words of Isaiah are put into the mouth of Jesus, words perhaps based on the parable of the sheep and the goats (Mt 25:31–46) are put into the mouth of God in the xi line: God said, “Feed the stranger, the stranger and the helpless, that you may escape the fire.”

The below translation is from Grenfell and Hunt, but I have modernized it and made a few changes. The asterisk notes are largely from me, as are the inserted Greek alphabet characters to track which letter a line is related to.

  1. [Α] … that you may receive immortal life.*
  2. [Β] You have escaped the heavy ordinance of a lawless … to love.
  3. [Γ] You have come to the marriage of the king, the marriage … that you may not disfigure your face.*
  4. [Δ] Speak no more in double words, without …
  5. [Ε] Some come in sheep’s clothing who are inwardly wolves … from afar.*
  6. [Ζ] Seek to live with the saints, seek to receive life, seek to escape the fire.
  7. [Η] Hold fast to the hope which you have learned, which the Master determined for you …
  8. [Θ] God came bringing many blessings, he wrought a triple victory over death …
  9. [Ι] Jesus who suffered for this, saying, “I give my back, that you may not experience death.”*
  10. [Κ] Glorious are the ordinances of God; in all things he suffers as an example, that you may have glorious life.*
  11. [Λ] He washed in the Jordan, He washed as an example, His is the stream that cleanses.*
  12. [Μ] Remaining on the mount he was tempted, and greatly … *
  13. [Ν] Now work out your inheritance, now is the time for you to give, even now, to them that hunger greatly.
  14. [Ξ] God said, “Feed the stranger, the stranger and the helpless, that you may escape the fire.”*
  15. [Ο] The Father sent him to suffer, Who has received eternal life, Who has received power over immortality.
  16. [Π] He preached the gospel to his servants, saying, “The poor (shall possess) a kingdom, theirs is the inheritance.”*
  17. [Ρ] He was scourged as an example, in order to give an impulse to all … in order to destroy death.*
  18. [Σ] In order that after death you may see resurrection, that you may see the light to eternity, that you may receive the God of lights.*
  19. [Τ] O the rest of the sorrowful, O the dancing of the … O the fire, fearful for the wicked.
  20. [Υ] Freely you have come under grace, listen to the prayer of the poor, speak arrogantly no more.*
  21. [Φ] Fearful … is the fire, fearful for evermore, yea, fearful is the fire for the wicked.
  22. [Χ] … Christ (shall give …) and the crowns of the saints, but for the wicked … the fire.
  23. [Ψ] … singing psalms with the saints … feed the soul evermore.
  24. [Ω] Forget never what you have learned, that you may receive what he told you.
  25. … death no longer possible.


Stuff Early Christians Read: An Update

P.CtYBR inv. 1360(A)

P.CtYBR inv. 1360(A) (aka P.Yale inv. 1360)

I finally finished my Lexical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles: Second Timothy, and it is available for purchase. This means two things: First, it means I still have to write the Titus volume in order to complete the project. Second, it means I can take some time to dig back into the project that really has my attention, the Stuff Early Christians Read project.

The really good news is that while I was at SBL talking with friends and colleagues, I mentioned this project a few times and was able to talk through it. There was generally a good amount of interest, but more importantly, while I was talking about it I had that flash of insight one always wants before starting a project. It’s that insight that one comes back to at all points in a project, from conception, to research, to writing, to excising (yep, it happens), to editing, to everything. After chatting one afternoon with someone, I realized the spark. That night I went back to my hotel room, ordered a pizza, and wrote the introduction to the book, right then and there. Now, that’s not likely the version of the introduction that will get published, but being able to write an introduction to something that is only an idea is a very important step. It means the idea has solidified, and it can be described. Anyway, it’s big, at least for me, because it provides some focus for what I need to do from here on out to pull off this project.

So, what do I need to do?

I need to sift through a lot more papyri to make this work. I mean, a lot more. I had ~60 papyri on a list, but I need to review scads more than that in order to find the right items to include in this volume. So I took the plunge. One volume (in French, from 1976) that aggregates a collection of Jewish and Christian papyri is known as “Van Haelst,” after the editor/compiler. The title is Catalogue des papyrus littéraires juifs et chrétiens. The really good news is that Trismegistos (a site with tons of information on papyri) does note papyri it catalogues that are mentioned in Van Haelst. The bad news is that it’s really tough to get a list of them all in a format that one can do something with.

So, I wrote code. Of course. I was able to retrieve the TM and LDAB numbers for all the entries that cited Van Haelst, and I was able to scrape all the LDAB pages for more information. Then I was able to query that data and build a subset of books that looked interesting. It went from 1688 papyri that cited Van Haelst to around 140 entries. First, some simple keyword/field exclusions (or inclusions):

  • Were not Bible manuscripts
  • Were not codex volumes
  • Were not authored by Hermas or Irenaeus
  • Were not ostracon (sorry, had to draw the line somewhere)
  • Were papyrus or parchment manuscripts

Then, a multilevel query that reported (of the material that remained):

  • Language recorded as Greek
  • Religion recorded as “christian”
  • Were dated in the 2nd–5th centuries AD

I’ve worked through a portion of the remaining list, digging for as much information as I can find sitting at my kitchen table at home, and that’s a whole lot more than you’d expect. Papyrologists have been busy with putting databases, museum archives, journal archives, and tons of images online, and you can get more than you’d think from 6 free JSTOR articles a month (OK, I have two different email addresses registered, so it’s 12). All of that, plus the generosity of folks on Twitter and Facebook who respond to pleas of help for difficult-to-locate articles, and this thing could actually happen.

One of the papyri I located that may be included is shown above, P.CtYBR inv. 1360(A). Images and metadata are available at Yale, but the article in the Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists is really interesting (note, though, you’ll have to spend a JSTOR free article to get the first page, which is inexplicably missing on the BASP site). This could be a eulogy for Christian martrys, which would be fascinating. We learn a lot from understanding how a community thinks of and honors their dead, so it could be interesting to look into.

All that said, I have a lot of research and writing before me on this project. I’m unsure of the timeline, but doubt 2019 at this point. But, I have the spark. I have scads of material to sift. I have a well-worked-over book proposal that is just missing a few pieces. And I even have a new title for the project, but I’m hesitant to share it at this point.

Several readers have contacted me to tell me they appreciated the Stuff Early Christians Read project, and wanted me to continue with it. I hope to do that now, even though I do have to spend some time in the Epistle to Titus in 2019 (another post on that on another day).

Stuff Early Christians Read: P. Iand. 5 69 (inv. 272), Part 2: Translation

I wrote yesterday about P. Iand. 5 69 (inv. 272), aka P. Giss. Lit. 5.2. I provided the transcription from Sprey, but noted that Kuhlmann had provided a transcription with an alternate reconstruction.

I think Kuhlmann makes more sense. Below is his transcription and reconstruction, followed by a short apparatus (essentially inverting the one in the previous post) as well as a translation. As with yesterday, these are not fully proofed or considered, but should be good enough to post here.

  1. […ἀλληγορικῶς γὰρ τὸ ἀδελφιδός μου λευκὸς ]
  2. [κ(αὶ)] π̣υρρὸς ἀντι τοῦ θ(εὸ)ς λέ̣[γεται τὸ λευκὸς μὲν]
  3. γὰρ φῶς ἐστιν, τὸ δὲ̣ πυρρὸς̣ [σημαίνει το χρῶμα]
  4. τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ σ(ταυ)ροῦ· αὐτὸς̣ δ̣έ̣ [ἐστι πρὸ πάντων,]
  5. ῶς φησιν ὁ ἀπόστολ(ος), ὃν ὁ π(ατ)ὴρ ὑ̣π̣ε̣ρ̣ [ὐψωσεν ἑν δυνά-]
  6. μει αὑτοῦ, ἵνα γένηται ἐν π̣ᾶσι α̣ὐτὸς πρωτεύων,
  7. ὅθεν προτ̣ότ̣οκος γ̣έγ̣ο̣ν̣εν. διʼ ἀμ[αρτιῶν ἡμῶν ὁ πρω-]
  8. τότοκος τ̣ῶν νεκ̣ρῶν, ὡς ὁ ἀπόσ[τολός φησιν, ἀνέ-]
  9. βη εἴς οὐ(ρα)νούς, ἐγὼ ἀρέ<ι̣>σ̣κω θ<(ε)ῷ τ>ῷ δ̣[οξαστῷ, ὃς ἐστιν]
  10. κ(ύριο)ς τῶν δυνάμ̣εων· [οὗτ]ό̣ς ἐστιν ὁ [κ(ύριο)ς στρατιῶν. κ(αὶ) κ(ύριο)ς]
  11. σαβαὼθ ἑρμηνεύεται κ(ύριο)ς τῶν δυν̣[άμεων· ὑφʼ οὗ ὐψώ-]
  12. θη κ(αὶ) ὁ υ(ἱό)ς. ἀλλʼ αὐτός φησιν· πάντας ἐ̣[λκύσω πρὸς ἐμαυτὸν]
  13. κ(αὶ) πάντα τὰ ἐμὰ σά εἰ(σι) κ(αὶ) τὰ σὰ ἐμά· αὐτὸς γ[ὰρ εἰκών ἐστι(ν)]
  14. τοῦ π(ατ)ρ(ὸ)ς ἐν παντὶ κ(αὶ) ἐν̣ πάσῇ ἀρετῇ[. διὸ ἐπέβη ἐπὶ]
  15. τὸν οὐ(ρα)νὸν τοῦ οὐ(ρα)νοῦ, ἀντὶ τοῦ ἐγένε[το ὐπέρτερος]
  16. [τ]ῶ̣ν ὅλων οὐ(ρα)νῶν κ(αὶ) πάλ̣ιν πρὸς τὸν [π(ατέ)ρα ἐπορεύθη.]
  17. [ὀπω]σοῦν δὲ ἐρω̣τᾶ̣ς παντὶ̣ κε̣ι̣.[…]


1: Kuhlmann supplies an introduction based on Song 5:10
2: κ(αὶ) ] Sprey τὸ | τὸ λευκὸς μὲν ] Sprey πνευματικῶς· ὁ θ(εὸ)ς
3: [σημαίνει το χρῶμα] ] Sprey τ[οῦ τε φωτὸς ἴδιον καὶ]
4: cf. Col 1:20 and Col 1:17
5: ὑπερ [ὐψωσεν ἑν δυνά-] ] Sprey ἔστει[λεν ἡμῖν τῇ δυνά-]
6: cf. Col 1:18
7: διʼ ἀμ[αρτιῶν ἡμῶν ὁ πρω-] ] Sprey διαμ[ένων(?). ἐπεὶ δὲ ὁ πρω-]. Cf. Col 1:18.
9: ἐστιν ] Sprey καλεῖται
10: ὁ [κ(ύριο)ς στρατιῶν. κ(αὶ) κ(ύριο)ς] ] Sprey ὁ [παντοκράτωρ· τὸ γὰρ]. cf. 3Kg 3:14 [LXX]; Ps 24(23):10; also 1Kg 15:2; Is 2:12.
11: cf. 3Kg 3:14 [LXX]; Ps 24(23):10.
12: cf. Jn 12:32
13: γ[ὰρ εἰκών ἐστι(ν)] ] Sprey γά[ρ ἐστι οὐ μείων]. cf. Jn 17:10, also Mt 11:27; Lk 10:22; Jn 16:15.
14: διὸ ἐπέβη ἐπὶ ] Sprey διὸ καὶ ἐπέβη ἐπὶ
15: ἐγένε[το ὐπέρτερος] ] Sprey ἐγένε[το πολλῷ ἀνώτερος]. cf. De 10:14; 3Kg 8:27; Sir 16:18; Ps 68(67):34; Ps 115:16(113:24).
16: [π(ατέ)ρα ἐπορεύθη.] ] Sprey [π(ατέ)ρα αὐτοῦ ἐπορεύθη.]


[For allegorically, “my little brother/beloved (is) white and] red” instead of “God.” Now the white is called the light, for red denotes the blood of the cross. But he himself is before all things, as the apostle said, whom the Father has exalted even more in his power, so that in everything he may be first, from which he has become the firstborn. Through our sins he has become the firstborn of the dead, as the apostle said, he has gone up into the heavens. I am pleased with the glorious God, who is Lord of the Powers. This one is the Lord of Armies. And Lord Sabaoth, being translated “Lord of the Powers,” by which even the Son was lifted up. But he himself said he will draw everyone to himself. And all my things are yours and your things are mine. For he himself is the image of the Father in all things and all truth. For this reason he treads upon the heaven of heaven, instead he becomes higher than the whole of the heavens. And again he went to the Father. But in any way whatever are you asking all things …

I still have yet to fully digest all of Kuhlmann’s notes on the transcription (takes awhile with my Hogans-Heroes-influenced German skills), so the above translation will likely change. But the material itself is wonderful, interacting with Colossians 1 and reflecting on what it means to be firstborn of the dead.

Stuff Early Christians Read: P. Iand. 5 69 (inv. 272), a Christological Fragment

I stumbled across P. Iand. 5 69 (aka P. Iand. inv. 272, aka P. Giss. Lit. 5.2) while looking for P. Iand. 5 70. And I was immediately drawn to it. It is a fourth century papyrus, it has significant interchange with the Biblical text so reconstruction is possible, it has several nomina sacra, and it is just plain fascinating.

More fascinating is that after I found the ed. princ.  published by Sprey in 1931, I also found an edition published by Kuhlmann. And Kuhlmann’s reconstructions are very different than Sprey’s. It makes me wonder if there has been work done on comparing reconstructions, because this could be a case study (Ph.D. suggestion for those out there looking for Ph.D. topics in papyrology, epigraphy, or early Christianity).

I’m still working on translations (going to translate both Sprey and Kuhlmann) and will post on that stuff hopefully later this week, but in the interim, here is Sprey’s transcription and reconstruction. I’ve provided an apparatus beneath to compare Kuhlmann’s reconstructions. Note these have been hastily keyed, and not fully proofed.

  1. [τὸ] π̣υρρὸς ἀντι τοῦ θ(εὸ)ς λέ̣[γεται πνευματικῶς· ὁ θ(εὸ)ς]
  2. γὰρ φῶς ἐστιν, τὸ δὲ̣ πυρρὸς̣ τ̣[οῦ τε φωτὸς ἴδιον καὶ]
  3. τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ σ(ταυ)ροῦ· αὐτὸς̣ δ̣έ̣ [ἐστι πρὸ πάντων,]
  4. ῶς φησιν ὁ ἀπόστολ(ος), ὃν ὁ π(ατ)ὴρ ἔ̣σ̣τ̣ε̣ι̣[λεν ἡμῖν τῇ δυνά-]
  5. μει αὑτοῦ, ἵνα γένηται ἐν π̣ᾶσι α̣ὐτὸς πρωτεύων·
  6. ὅθεν προτ̣ότ̣οκος γ̣έγ̣ο̣ν̣εν διαμ[ένων(?). ἐπεὶ δὲ ὁ πρω-]
  7. τότοκος τ̣ῶν νεκ̣ρῶν, ὡς ὁ ἀπόσ[τολός φησιν, ἀνέ-]
  8. βη εἴς οὐ(ρα)νούς, ἐγὼ ἀρέ<ι̣>σ̣κω θ<(ε)ῷ τ>ῷ δ̣[οξαστῷ, ὃς καλεῖται]
  9. κ(ύριο)ς τῶν δυνάμ̣εων· [οὗτ]ό̣ς ἐστιν ὁ [παντοκράτωρ· τὸ γὰρ]
  10. σαβαὼθ ἑρμηνεύεται κ(ύριο)ς τῶν δυν̣[άμεων· ὑφʼ οὗ ὐψώ-]
  11. θη κ(αὶ) ὁ υ(ἱό)ς. ἀλλʼ αὐτός φησιν· πάντας ἐ̣[λκύσω πρὸς ἐμαυτὸν]
  12. κ(αὶ) πάντα τὰ ἐμὰ σά εἰ(σι) κ(αὶ) τὰ σὰ ἐμά· αὐτὸς γά̣[ρ ἐστι οὐ μείων]
  13. τοῦ π(ατ)ρ(ὸ)ς ἐν παντὶ κ(αὶ) ἐν̣ πάσῇ ἀρετῇ[. διὸ καὶ ἐπέβη ἐπὶ]
  14. τὸν οὐ(ρα)νὸν τοῦ οὐ(ρα)νοῦ, ἀντὶ τοῦ ἐγένε[το πολλῷ ἀνώτερος]
  15. [τ]ῶ̣ν ὅλων οὐ(ρα)νῶν κ(αὶ) πάλ̣ιν πρὸς τὸν [π(ατέ)ρα αὐτοῦ ἐπορεύθη.]
  16. [ὀπω]σοῦν δὲ ἐρω̣τᾶ̣ς παντὶ̣ κε̣ι̣.[…]


1: τὸ ] Kuhlmann κ(αὶ) | πνευματικῶς· ὁ θ(εὸ)ς ] Kuhlmann τὸ λευκὸς μὲν
2: τ[οῦ τε φωτὸς ἴδιον καὶ] ] Kuhlmann [σημαίνει το χρῶμα]
4: ἔστει[λεν ἡμῖν τῇ δυνά-] ] Kuhlmann ὐπερ [ὐψωσεν ἑν δυνά-]
6: διαμ[ένων(?). ἐπεὶ δὲ ὁ πρω-] ] Kuhlmann διʼ ἀμ[αρτιῶν ἡμῶν ὁ πρω-]
8: καλεῖται ] Kuhlmann ἐστιν
9: ὁ [παντοκράτωρ· τὸ γὰρ] ] Kuhlmann ὁ [κ(ύριο)ς στρατιῶν. κ(αὶ) κ(ύριο)ς]
12: γά[ρ ἐστι οὐ μείων] ] Kuhlmann γ[ὰρ εἰκών ἐστι(ν)]
13: διὸ καὶ ἐπέβη ἐπὶ ] Kuhlmann διὸ ἐπέβη ἐπὶ
14: ἐγένε[το πολλῷ ἀνώτερος] ] Kuhlmann ἐγένε[το ὐπέρτερος]
15: [π(ατέ)ρα αὐτοῦ ἐπορεύθη.] ] Kuhlmann [π(ατέ)ρα ἐπορεύθη.]

In this apparatus, the pipe (‘|’) separates different variant units on the same line. The right bracket (‘]’) separates the text from the transcription (left side) from the variation (right side). The source is always Kuhlmann, but I still note it (I may locate other reconstructions; who knows).

Transcription based on: Literarische Stücke und Verwandtes / bearb. von Josef Sprey. – Leipzig : Teubner 1931, pp. 165–169. (Papyri Iandanae ; 5) and apparatus based on: Peter Alois Kuhlmann, Die Giessner Literarischen Papyri und die Caracalla-Erlasse: Edition, Ubersetzung und Kommentar. Giessen Universitätsbibliothek: 1994, pp. 160–167.

Stuff Early Christians Read: P. Oxy. 406, “Theological Fragment”

Sometimes these fragments of papyrus can be really, really cool. Other times, you think they should be cool, but they end up being frustratingly difficult. What do I mean? I mean that we have scads of witnesses to the text of the Bible (Greek OT and Greek NT, especially). And we have scads of other papyri that we know must be Christian for one reason or another.

But on these Christian papyri, we can only realiably reconstruct those areas that have some correspondance with the Biblical text. That is, we can isolate and reconstruct citations of scripture, but we can’t really fill in the blanks between the scripture citations unless the material is something already so well known that the missing pieces are obvious.


P. Oxy. 406, verso

P. Oxy. 406, a “Theological Fragment,” (TM: 62336) is one of these semi-reconstructable yet frustrating pieces of papyri. I’ve come to think that labels like “Theological Fragment” are the equivalent of “We don’t really know what it is, but there’s a quotation of scripture we can reconstruct, so it must be theological.” There are also nomina sacra, and it probably comes from a codex, so we can be fairly sure it is Christian.

P. Oxy. 406 is from the third century (200–299). A decent chunk can be reconstructed, but that is only because it cites from (I’d guess) Mt 13:15, which itself is a citation of Is 6:10. The same exact text occurs in Ac 28:27.

But the rest of it can’t really be reconstructed, and it’s frustrating because the little we can decipher makes me want to know more about what was on this papyrus and what its context was.

Here’s the transcription (from Grenfell & Hunt, supplemented by Wessely). Verso is first, then recto.

  1. (ἐ)παχύν[θ]η γὰρ [ἡ καρδία τοῦ]*
  2. λαοῦ τούτου κ[αὶ τοῖς ὠσὶν]*
  3. βαρέως ἤκου[σαν καὶ τούς]*
  4. ὀφθαλμοὺς α[ὐτῶν ἐκάμ-]*
  5. μυσαν μήπ[οτε ἴδωσιν τοῖς]*
  6. ὀφθαλμοῖς αὐ[τῶν καὶ τοῖς ὠ-]*
  7. σὶν ἀκούσωσι[ν καὶ τῇ καρδίᾳ]*
  8. συνῶσιν καὶ ἐ[πιστρέψωσιν]*
  9. κα[ὶ] ϊ[ά]σομαι α[ὐτούς …]*
  10. τ̣[…]εχ[.] . [.]οιε̣[…]*
  11. […]ει̣[…]ον[…]*
  12. […]σι[…]*
  1. […]φησῑ(ν)
  2. […]..οσ…κω*
  3. […].α̣*
  4. […]συ.[.]..[.]σανυ*
  5. […].ἄλλοθεν λαλῶ
  6. […] αὐτῶν γάρ
  7. […] .. ρ […]*
  8. […]ω̣που υϊος θ(εο)υ
  9. […]ος εστ(αυ)ρ(ωμε)νος Χ(ριστο)ς*
  10. […]σ̣[…]ρο*

Here’s a translation:

  1. (ha)s become [d]ull for [the heart of the]*
  2. people this a[nd with their ears]*
  3. with difficulty they h[ear and the]*
  4. eyes of t[hem they ha-]*
  5. ve shut tha[t not they would see with the]*
  6. eyes of t[hem and with their e-]*
  7. ars hea[r and with the heart]*
  8. understand and t[urn]*
  9. an[d] I w[i]ll heal t[hem …]*
  10. *
  11. *
  12. *
  1. […]he sai(d)
  2. *
  3. *
  4. *
  5. […].in another place I say
  6. […] of them for
  7. *
  8. […].̣… son of G(o)d
  9. […].. one hav(in)g (been crucif)ied C(hris)t*
  10. *

With the translation you can see there are places that are quotations or elaborations on something, but there isn’t enough text to reconstruct anything. There seems to be something attributed to someone else, (“he said …”) with some sort of possible refutation or other interaction, (“but in another place I say”). What was going on, and how did Mt 13:15/Acts 28:27, from Is 6:10 relate to it? And then that crazy nomina sacra, εστ(αυ)ρ(ωμε)νος Χ(ριστο)ς, which (according to Wayment & Blumell, p. 294) does have some similar 2nd/3rd century witnesses.

While is isn’t certain, what we can probably take from this text is the citation of scripture (from the NT, which cites a similar form from the LXX) and also some interaction possibly between disagreeing parties who use scripture in their argumentation. So even at this date (third century), people are appealing to scripture as authoritative while they dispute what it means.

Stuff Early Christians Read: P. Egerton 3 + PSI inv. 2101, A Commentary or Homily of Origen


P. Egerton 3, Frags. 1&2, recto, from Bell & Skeat (plate III)

This has taken awhile to get together. But I do finally have data for P. Egerton 3 + PSI inv. 2101 (TM: 62337) based on the published transcriptions and interaction among scholars regarding the material. There are a few relevant articles:

  • H.I. Bell and T.C. Skeat, eds., Fragments of an unknown Gospel and Other Early Christian Papyri (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1935) no. 2, pp. 43–51, with plate III. Note that this papyri is the second papyri in the publication, but it’s inventory number is 3. To reduce any confusion with the well-known P. Egerton 2 (item 1 in this publication) which, combined with P. Köln 255, provide textual evidence of an early apocryphal gospel, I will refer to it as P. Egerton 3.
  • R.M. Grant, “More Fragments of Origen?,” VigChr 2 (1948) 243–247.
  • R. Leaney, “The Authorship of Egerton Papyrus no. 3,” VigChr (1955) 212–217.
  • H. Chadwick, “The Authorship of Egerton Papyrus No. 3,” HThR 49 (1956) 145–151.
  • M. Naldini, “Nuovi frammenti origeniani,” Prometheus 4 (1978) 97–108. MS data and images.
  • M. Naldini, “Ancora sui nuovi frammenti origeniani (PSI inv. 2101),” Prometheus 6 (1980) 80–82.
  • R. Yuen-Collingridge, “Hunting for Origen in Unidentified Papyri: The Case of P. Egerton 2 (= inv. 3)” in T.J. Kraus and T. Niklas, Early Christian Manuscripts: Examples of Applied Method and Approach (Leiden: Brill, 2010), pp. 39–57.

Bell and Skeat initially suggest and then rule out Origen as the source of this material due to the dating of the fragment (“early third century”) being almost too early for Origen to be considered the author. They only will say that it could be a homily or a commentary, and settle on commentary for the title of the article without restricting themselves to it in the analysis of the material.

Grant comes along in 1948 and makes a forceful argument that the material is, in fact, an early commentary of Origen, likely on Genesis, despite the seemingly early date ascribed to the fragment. Leaney expresses indebtedness to Grant, makes a few more proposals and contests one of Grant’s readings. Chadwick, among other discussion, quashes Leaney and says Grant is where it’s at.

Naldini, in the ed. princ. of PSI inv. 2101, proposed that it and P. Egerton 3 are both fragments of the same codex, and his proposal has been accepted fairly universally.


This work has significant interchange with biblical material, which makes reconstruction of some portions of the fragments possible. Here’s a breakdown of the cited/quoted/alluded material (references extracted from above cited material). Note that P. Egerton 3 has consecutive line numbering through both fragments, recto and verso (and their columns); PSI inv. 2101 follows a more traditional scheme of numbering each fragment starting with line 1.

  • P. Egerton 3, Fragment 1
    • recto
      • lines 4–8, Mt 4:5
      • lines 9–12, Mt 27:52–53
      • lines 13–15, Mt 25:34
      • lines 16–18, Php 3:20
    •  verso
      • lines 44–46, Mt 5:8
      • lines 54–58, Ps 11:7
  • P. Egerton 3, Fragment 2
    • recto
      • lines 64–65, Jn 1:14
      • lines 68–71, Jn 1:29
      • lines 72–74, Jn 16:27ff
      • lines 75–77, Jn 6:55
      • lines 84–87, Php 2:6
    • verso
      • lines 132–133, 2Ti 2:19
  • PSI inv. 2101, Fragment A
    • recto col. 2
      • line 20, Col 3:9–10; Gen 1:27
      • lines 22–23, John 20:22
      • lines 26–28, 1Co 12:31
      • line 29–33, 1Co 13:9–10
    • verso col. 1
      • lines 10–16, 1Jn 3:2–3
      • lines 25–27, Col 1:15
      • line 30, cf. Didache 11.1
      • lines 31–32, 1Co 13:12
      • line 34, Eph 2:10
    • verso col. 2
      • lines 1–4, Eph 2:10
  • PSI inv. 2101, Fragment 1
    • recto
      • line 6, Gen 1:26
  • PSI inv. 2101, Fragment 2
    • recto
      • lines 3–5, Gen 2:25
      • lines 9–11, Jn 3:20
    • verso
      • lines 3–7, Gen 1:28; 9:1
  • PSI inv. 2101, Fragment 3
    • no discernable intertextual material

There are several points in the extant text where the author (Origen) refers to authors of Scripture (e.g. Paul) and the writing the reference comes from (e.g. Paul’s 2nd letter to Timothy, Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, John’s first letter, the Psalmist).

Grant and Naldini both propose the writing as focused on the book of Genesis. But the citations (above) don’t really focus on Genesis. Once you dig into both P. Egerton 3 and PSI inv. 2101, though, you see that the citations/quotations are (apparently in typical Origen style, according to Grant) grouped and focused. PSI inv. 2101, especially, focuses on the phrase “according to the image” and could be a homily or extended discussion on being created in the image of the divine, as an image-bearer of God.

Whether Origen was the author or not (likely so), this tells us that even in the early third century (so, early 200s) and even earlier, there was discussion going on as to what it meant to be made in the image of God. And Origen mined the scriptures to understand and explain this concept and others; from Johannine material (gospel and first letter) to the creation mandate (Gen 1:26–28; 9:1) to Matthew, to Pauline material (Eph 2:10; 1Co 12, 13;  2Ti 2:19) and other stuff.

This is deep discussion, and it should help us discard the notion that early Christians somehow lacked sophistication and were dull or dim-witted, or unaware of theological nuance, or unable to appreciate the complex issues their developing theology was revealing.