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.


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.

Stuff Early Christians Read: PSI III 208, another Transfer of Church Membership

PSI III 208 (TM 33228), another letter regarding transfer of individuals from church to church, is dated somewhere between 250–330. I came across it (again) in Goodspeed & Colwell’s  Greek Papyrus Reader (item #10), but (again) Luijendijk has a more recent and fuller treatment in her  Greetings in the Lord: Early Christians and the Oxyrhynchus Papyri (if you dig the stuff I’m writing in these posts, you’ll enjoy Luijenkijk’s work as well).

I earlier wrote about PSI IX 1041, a letter regarding transfer of church membership. It was sent from Sotas to Paul. Well, that wasn’t a one-off situation. The (very probably) same person, Sotas, sent a very similar letter to a guy named Peter, and today we know it as PSI III 208. The handwriting is different (Luijendijk 84) but the letter is fairly similar. First the Greek, then the translation.

  1. Χ̣αῖρε ἐν κ(υρί)ῳ, ἀγαπητὲ
  2. [ἄδ]ελφε Πέτρε, Σώτ̣[ας]*
  3. σε προσαγορεύω.
  4. τὸν ἀδελφὸν ἡμῶν
  5. Ἡρακλῆν παράδεξαι
  6. [κ]ατὰ τὸ ἔθος, διʼ οὗ σὲ
  7. καὶ τοὺς σὺν σοὶ πάν-
  8. τας ἀδελφοὺς ἐγὼ*
  9. καὶ οἱ σὺν ἐμοι
  10. προσαγορεύομε(ν)
  11. ἐρρῶσαί σε
  12. ἐν θ(ε)ῷ εὔχομαι.

And the translation.

Greetings in the Lord, beloved brother Peter.
I, Sotas, greet you.

Accept our brother Heracles according to custom, through whom I and all the brothers and sisters with me greet you and those with you.

Farewell, I pray you in God.

The basic form of the letter is the same. Note that Heracles is described as a “brother” instead of as a “catechumen.” So these letters serve both as introduction and also transfer status within the church. Heracles doesn’t have to go through the “New Believers” class at the church Peter oversees, but the catechumens mentioned in PSI IX 1041 do have to continue in the “New Believers” class at the church Paul oversees.

This is all so very ordinary. All of these guys — Sotas, Paul, and Peter — probably wrote and received several letters like this. People moved around, and needed some method to transfer their status in the church with them as they moved. We do similar things. We may not require letters, but I have been to churches that, as part of their membership course, wanted information on previous churches attended. If a particular body requires completion of a course or class before becoming a member, it isn’t a stretch to think we might want to get out of taking that class if we’ve done something similar before.

While the formality and the use of particular vocabulary like “brother” and “catechumen” leads us to think more was going on in the instances with Sotas (and it probably was) the underlying motives and thoughts are familiar to us.

Early Christians weren’t that different from us.

Stuff Early Christians Read: PSI IX 1041, Transfer of Church Membership


PSI IX 1041 (TM 30662) is a letter that dates from the early third century. It was written by a guy named Sotas to a guy named Paul. I came across it in Goodspeed & Colwell’s Greek Papyrus Reader (item #5), but it is treated in more recently and in much more detail in AnneMarie Luijendijk’s fantastic book, Greetings in the Lord: Early Christians and the Oxyrhynchus Papyri. Even though it is now held at the Vatican (supposedly, 14 is the shelfmark) I have not been able to find images.

Anyway, this little papyrus once again reminds us how normal these earlier Christians were. While we don’t know the reasons, we do know Sotas was writing to Paul to recommend certain catechumens. A catechumen is one who is in the midst of recieving teaching about Christianity in preparation for baptism. Goodspeed and Colwell give the title “Transfer of Church Membership” and provide the following description: “Sotas, a Christian official who is mentioned elsewhere in the papyri, sends to Paul the church letters of two groups of Christians.” First the text, then a translation.

  1. Χαῖρε ἐν κ(υρί)ῳ, ἀγαπητὲ
  2. αδελφε Παῦλε
  3. Σώτας σε προσαγορ(εύω)
  4. τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς ἡμῶν
  5. Ἥρωνα καὶ Ὡρίωνα
  6. καὶ Φιλάδελφον καὶ Πε-
  7. κῦσιν καὶ Νααρωοῦν
  8. καθηχουμένους τῶν*
  9. συναγομένων καὶ
  10. Λέωνα καθηχούμενον*
  11. ἐν ἀρχη τοῦ εὐαγγελίου*
  12. πρόσδεξαι ὡς καθήκε̣[ι]·
  13. διʼ ὧν σὲ καὶ τοὺς σὺν σοὶ
  14. ἐγὼ καὶ οἱ σὺν ἐμοι προσα-
  15. γορεύω. ἐρρωσθαί σε εὔ-
  16. χομαι ἐν κ(υρί)ῳ,
  17. ἀγαπητὲ ἄδελ(φε)

Translation. I’ve basically transliterated the names; note I’m not up to speed on translation/rendering of names from Egyptian sources.

Greetings in the Lord, beloved brother Paul.
I, Sotas, greet you.

Our brothers, Heron, Horion, Philadelphon, Pekusin, and Naarooun, catechumen of the assembly; and Leon, a catechumen in the beginning of the gospel. Receive them as is proper, through whom I and those with me greet you and those with you.

Farewell, I pray you in the Lord, beloved brother.

For whatever reason, these brothers were moving from one area to another. So the receiving assembly could know more about them and their state of instruction, a letter was sent along. If you step back and look at it, it is all so human and so understandable.

Early Christians (catechumens, bishops, presbyters, etc.) were all people in the midst of real life. We often forget that when we read the Bible because we’re so bent on approaching it to get something from it, or to solve some sort of question. We do similar things when we read and think about the early church. Now, reading the Bible to understand what it teaches is a good thing; but we shouldn’t forget the humanity that this literature has as some of its central characters, and that the subsequent literature has as writer, character, actor, and reader. These fully human people had pressures of life weighing on them as much as we do today. Who knows what other responsibilities Sotas had to put on hold to scratch out (or dictate) this short letter. Who knows how or why this guy Leon (or perhaps Leo?) came to Christianity, but it sounds like a fairly recent conversion as he was “in the beginning of the gospel.” Why was he moving? Did he have a family? And who was this Paul guy? Were these brothers apprehensive about moving under his authority?

Think about the last time you changed churches, either from a body where you thrived or from a body that was … er … less thriving. Were you apprehensive? Early Christians felt the same things and did the same things. They weren’t super heroes (or super villians). They were just people, doing the best they could in the situations they were in. Just like us.

Stuff Early Christians Read: P. Fouad 203, Prayer for Protection


P. Fouad 203, transcription by Benoit.

P. Fouad 203 (TM 63231), published in 1951 by Pierre Benoit, is a “prayer for protection against unclean spirits.” I came across it because it is mentioned in Hurtado’s catalogue of “Christian Literary Texts in Manuscripts,” found in appendix one of his book The Earliest Christian Artifacts.

The very interesting thing about P. Fouad 203 is its early date. The record in Trismegistos gives a wide date (1–199) but articles consistently place it “to the end of the first or the beginning of the second century C.E.” (van der Horst 126) So that’s more like 50–150 or even 75–125, depending on how tightly you want to bound the date (I’m more comfy with a 100 year range, so 50–150).

Another very interesting thing about P. Fouad 203 is that most consider it to be Jewish, but can’t rule out Christian use or origin, especially if it is toward the later end of the date scale. van der Horst notes “Although it cannot be entirely ruled out that the text is of Christian origin, both the contents and the date of the papyrus make it much more probable that it has a Jewish provenance.”

The issue (well, from my view, I can’t say as I’ve seen this expressed in the literature) is that we’re smack dab in the middle of that weird time when Christians weren’t really a formal group. That is, there wasn’t really an institutional church. Many were still in the synagogue, and for these Christianity was an offshoot, or “splinter group” of Judaism. We see part of this even with the apostle Paul, who would go to synagogue but also meet outside of the synagogue with other Christians. At this point in time particularly, the difference between Christianity and Judaism (and how Christians and Jews practiced their faith) was much more of a spectrum than it was two poles that were easily defined. So I’m not so sure it is easy to define something as “Jewish” as opposed to “Christian” (or vice-versa) without explicit Christian material (allusion to NT, mention of Jesus, use of nomina sacra). And P.Fouad 203 has no NT allusion, no mention of Jesus, and no nomina sacra. But it does reference events from the OT, it does appeal to the power of God.

P. Fouad 203 is from a roll. This is another strike against viewing the text as explicitly Christian as most early Christian literary material is in a codex or it is written on the back of a used scroll. One mostly full column is extant, there are traces of letters from the surrounding columns, but not enough to reconstruct the text. Because it is from a roll, the (likely correct) supposition is that there were several other prayers and, perhaps, magical incantations (because, hey, we know there are all sorts of Jewish and Christian “magical” texts like this) collected in the same scroll.

Anyway, to the text of the papyrus itself. I was unable to locate an image of the papyrus, but I was able to “read” the ed. princeps (thanks, JSTOR for six free articles per month) by P. Benoit in Revue Biblique from 1951. (I say “read” because, of course, it is in French. I get the highlights, but any technical discussion is lost on me.) Benoit does include a transcription, which I reproduce below. Note I only reproduce the column, I do not include the traces of the bordering columns.

And here is a translation I banged out. It is overly literal, and (for the most part) respects word order of the Greek. I have not been able to give this much attention, so if you see something wacky, please let me know.

  1. the honored na[m]e.
  2. [A]ṇḍ ỵọụ are unclea[n], may he
  3. send out to us the*
  4. messenger of him, who gu-
  5. ided of the
  6. people this, who lead
  7. out, as he appeaṛẹḍ ṭọ Joshụạ the*
  8. son of Nun, ị[f̣] and who cạs*
  9. t uṣ into the abyss,*
  10. into the pḷạ[c]ẹ of destrucṭịon
  11. and covered up  ̣ ̣ ̣ ̣
  12. c̣ḥaọs, f̣ọṛ this reason no long̣ẹṛ [wi]ll be*
  13. seen, nor will you exist to
  14. do evil to a soụ[l the] ḅut
  15. honor and the glory ṭọ ̣ṭḥẹ ̣Ḷọ[r]ḍ
  16. through eternạḷ, ṭo solemnḷỵ*
  17. commandingͅ the [ ̣ ̣ ̣] and thọṣẹ
  18. from him all and
  19. p̣ṛẹṣent ạḷọṇg̣ṣịḍẹ[ ̣].*

The appeal is to the one who lead the Israelites out of Egypt. No mention of Moses, but a probable mention of Joshua, son of Nun (though this is muddled in the papyrus, it is the only logical possibility). van der Horst notes this God who freed Israel “is here invoked to use this power by throwing the unclean spirits who keep someone in their nefarious grip, into an abysmal place of annihilation” (125).

Would early Christians (and Jews) use prayer as a power formula to try to make God do what they wanted? Well, yes. Remember P. Oxy. 924, a prayer against fevers? Would we do the same thing? Sure. Is it right? Well, for my part, I think it is totally appropriate to glorify God and remember the great things he has done while praying to him. I also think it is totally appropriate to make requests of God in prayer. However, I don’t think it is appropriate to link the two (“God, you’re so awesome and powerful and one time you did this awesome thing, now do this thing for me because you’re awesome and powerful.”) If we treat God as a puppet whose strings we can pull by saying the right thing, or if we believe we can obligate God to act by recalling similar actions of his in the past, we make the same mistake the prayer in this papyrus makes.

Stuff Early Christians Read: P. Oxy. 4010, the Lord’s Prayer

The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9–13) is this sort of common piece of Christianity that, if you went to church for any sustained period of time in your life, you probably know. In the church of my youth, we repeated it every Sunday (and it was not an overly liturgical church). It is a beautiful thing, because as the text in Matthew 6:7 presents it, it is not simply a prayer but it is Jesus teaching his disciples how to pray. It is not a prayer, it is an exemplar prayer. Some might even say it is the prayer.

We twenty-first (and twentieth) century Christians weren’t the first to notice this. The Lord’s prayer was found on a single papyrus sheet in Oxyrhynchus.

P. Oxy 4010 (TM: 64491) is dated to 300–399, and on lines 11 and below contains the Lord’s Prayer. Blumell & Wayment’s Christian Oxyrhynchus, pp. 354–356 is the basis of my discussion below and also the source of the transcription and reconstruction that I translate below.

The right side of the papyrus has not survived, but the enough of the text remains to reliably reconstruct it. Interestingly, another prayer (perhaps reflective of 2 Cor 1:3) is prepended. The purpose of this manuscript is not known. It has no evidence of fold marks so is not likely an amulet text, and based on its end of the prayer at the end of the sheet, appears to be intended as a single sheet production.

As a witness to the text of Matthew 6:9–13, P. Oxy 4010 does not exactly reproduce the critical text (NA28). A phrase from 6:10 (“your will be done”) is absent, likely due to homoiteleuton. The scribe seems to prefer ωσπερ to ως (in 6:12; Blumell & Wayment make the same note in v. 10 but it seems errant). Of most interest is the apparent repeating of the phrase “save/rescue us” at the very end of the prayer: “but [save us f]rom the evil one, save u[s].” I say “apparent” because the first “save/rescue” occurs in a reconstruction and thus makes assumptions about text we cannot absolutely verify, but the reconstruction does seem appropriate.

Here is a translation of P. Oxy. 4010, with reconstructions noted and translation representing the differences in text present and text reconstructed as much as possible (which is why it reads a little strange):

8 Master of all … [Father of mercies]
9 and God of all co[mfort]
10 and have compassion and …
11 consider us … [   Our Father]
12 who is in heaven, let be holy [your name]
13 let your kingdom come, as i[n heaven also upon]
14 earth. Our bread f[or the day give]
15 to us today, and forgive u[s the deb-]
16 ts of us, just as eve[n] w[e forgive]
17 our debtors, a[nd lead not]
18 us into temptation, but [save us fr-]
19 om the evil one, save u[s]

This really is a neat papyrus. Somewhere, someone found it important to write down (or, likely, have written down) these prayers. Whatever their purpose, whatever their function, they were recorded by someone who found them valuable. It was probably read, and re-read. It probably offered encouragement, comfort, and hope to the reader.

Yes, Lord. Save us from the evil one. Save us.