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, from the ONB

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


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 †


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:


  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…]


  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; 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, 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).

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.

The Apostolic Fathers: A New Translation is now available in print!

It’s real! Purchase at Amazon.

My translation of the collection of writings known as the Apostolic Fathers is now available in print! I’m super excited about this.

It’s been long enough ago that I don’t really remember when I had the idea. But looking back at internal records here at Logos, my Apostolic Fathers Greek-English Interlinear was listed on pre-pub in late February 2010. That jives with my vague memories because I think I actually started work on the Didache and Polycarp’s letter to the Philippians in 2009. Anyway, that was the project that started it all.

I woke up early pretty much every weekday morning after that to work on the interlinear. Through 2010 and into 2011, until the product was released in October 2011.

Sometime between October 2011 and October 2012, I must’ve had the idea to write a program to convert the translation embedded within the interlinear into an actual, bona-fide, English translation. So I did. Some text-wrangling ensued, and I generated translations that needed to be further edited and revised into a smooth, readable English text. The Logos version was released in December 2012, with a reverse interlinear alignment. I thought it was pretty much the coolest suite of stuff I’d ever be able to do (Interlinear, Translation, Reverse Interlinear), but it just got cooler. Because in December 2016, Lexham Press talked to me about getting the translation available in print. There were some bumps along the way, but we persevered, and the English translation is now available in print. Woo hoo!

You can purchase a copy of The Apostolic Fathers: A New Translation, from either Lexham Press (be sure to specify print) or from Amazon.

Side note: Because I was able to do it with the Apostolic Fathers meant I next wanted to try it with Logos/Faithlife’s Septuagint Interlinear. We rounded up some more contributors/editors (thanks, guys!) and the output of that process became the Lexham English Septuagint, available with a reverse interlinear.


On Creating an Annotated Edition of the Greek Acts of Pilate

As I shared in a previous post, one of my projects for 2018 (and 2019, likely) is an introduction, translation, and brief commentary on the Acts of Pilate, which is also known as the Gospel of Nicodemus in its Latin tradition.

Most of you know that my day job for the past two decades (wow, now I feel old) involves processing and analysis of texts in the Biblical languages (Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Latin) and also English. So I’m a little peculiar in how I approach a project like this.

If I’m translating something, I want a transcription of the Greek text I can use. And by “use” I mean analyze, correct, and append. I want a basic edition of the Greek text annotated with dictionary/lemma forms, with morphology data, and with English glosses. I’ll use this data as I work through the translation.

Unfortunately, creating and annotating the electronic edition is usually the most labor intensive portion of the whole task. But it is also, to me, the most valuable. If I didn’t care about the annotation data (and possible derivatives, like a Greek Readers Edition), I’d just work the text and translate away. But creating the annotation gives me an anchor to look back on. I’ll remember when I looked up that weird word that is likely a Latin loanword (this happens more than I’d realized in the Acts of Pilate), and I find this important.

So I find or make a transcription. Sometimes this even involves typing the Greek or some portion thereof, which can be slow-going, but is also good for familiarizing oneself with the text.

Next step: A few passes looking for typos and correcting them. I’m definitely old-school here; I just see typos much easier on paper than on the screen. So I usually print out the transcription at a larger-than-normal font size (typos scream when they’re bigger, trust me), and mark it up. Then I incorporate those changes back in the transcription.

When that feels good, then it’s write some code to compare words against existing morphological databases. James Tauber’s MorphGNT.org is one source, Perseus is another. If you have half an idea what you’re doing (and understand a bit about Greek and Unicode), you can grab these sources and create a fairly decent dictionary to do brute-force lookups to initially populate a new Greek text with lemma and morphology data. Since I’d like to think I have at least half an idea on these things, this is the way I roll.

Note I say initially because, particularly for participles, nouns, and adjectives, there is need to review and revise based on context (particularly when drawing from Perseus data). And it won’t populate for every word, which means you’ll need to devise a system to track missed items and re-integrate them back into your data. I’ve been doing this long enough that it isn’t usually a big deal (cross your fingers, Brannan!).

Once all of this is done, I have an initial edition of the text to start a translation from. I’ll write some code to output the transcription with morphology and glosses as an HTML document, and that’s what I’ll consult as I translate (and review the morphology data and glosses). It looks sort of like this:


By the time I get to the translation, I’ve already spent a fair amount of time in the Greek text, which I think is beneficial.

My approach with the Acts of Pilate will be slightly different, however.

Thanks to our good friend (to whom all NT and Early Christianity folks are in immense debt), Constantine Tischendorf, there are two (yes, two!) editions of the Acts of Pilate, commonly referred to as Acts of Pilate (A) and Acts of Pilate (B). Most translations/editions focus on Acts of Pilate (A) for the first 16 chapters, but snag the 11-chapter piece known as The Descent of Christ to Hades from Acts of Pilate (B) because it isn’t in the Acts of Pilate (A).

I’m not planning on doing that. I’m planning on giving the full treatment to both Acts of Pilate (A) and Acts of Pilate (B). This means I’ll have to get text for B. My current plan is to complete the draft translation of Acts of Pilate (A) and then start the transcription of Acts of Pilate (B).

My ultimate plan/hope (if the typesetter is adventurous enough) is to table the “A” and “B” portions in the translation, so the differences can be more easily seen in the shared portions of the text. Arranging the translation(s) as such should also help me more easily isolate the areas of difference that require comment.

(For the record, apart from noting differences between A and B, and perhaps some text-critical interaction, my hope for the commentary portion is to focus on the use of OT and NT material in the progression of the narrative. But we’ll see if that happens.)

After all of this is done, then I’ll have to write the introduction, without getting too carried away. After all, the Acts of Pilate, whether you know it or not, was a very popular text in antiquity (and straight through to modern times). There are scads of different versions of it in scads of different languages.

Apparently people were really curious about what happened during the trial, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Who’d’ve thunk it?

New Book: Greek Readers Edition of 1 Apocr. Apoc. John

1AAJn-Cover-Amazon-001Over the past two years, off and on, I’ve been working on a new introduction and translation of the First Apocryphal Apocalypse of John (1AAJn) for the second volume of Tony Burke and Brent Landau’s New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures series.

A few months back, I realized I had most of the parts required to make a reader’s edition of 1AAJn. I had keyed in the text and assigned dictionary forms (lemmas), morphology, and English glosses. I could write code to generate the rest needed, and then do some editing on the result to produce something that could be published.

But why would anyone want a reader’s edition of this little-known text?

1AAJn-sample-002There are all sorts of reasons, but the basic reason is: The more Greek you read, the better your Greek will get. Even if the New Testament is your swimming pool, you need to read stuff outside of the Greek NT. Apostolic Fathers are good, so is the LXX. But I thought that 1AAJn was unique because its vocabulary (and forms) are largely those found in the Greek New Testament, its content is similar to content in the canonical book of Revelation, and it “baby bear” sized: Not too short, not too long, but just right.

When you make it through this little book, you’ll have worked through a text that will make your Greek better. There’s an English translation provided too (Walker’s translation from Schaff’s Ante-Nicene Fathers, volume 9). The Greek text provides a footnote for every instance of every word that occurs 30x or less in the Greek New Testament. The footnote includes dictionary form, part of speech, number of NT occurrences, and a short English gloss. There is even an appendix in the back that provides a glossary of all the footnoted words.

About 1 Apocr. Apoc. John

The First Apocryphal Apocalypse of John, originally composed sometime between the 5th and 8th centuries, is an apocalypse structured as questions and answers with “John the Theologian” questioning the Lord Jesus. Several themes from the canonical book of Revelation are echoed. There are also several interactions with Psalms and New Testament material, and the vocabulary is largely that of the Greek New Testament.

SBL 2017 Paper: Sounding Biblical: The Use of Stock Phrases in Christian Apocrypha

Update (2017-09-11): Due to a family situation, I will not be attending SBL in Boston this November. This paper will likely be presented at a future SBL.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, my proposal for the open Christian Apocrypha session was accepted. I described it to a friend like this: “Hey, I snuck a corpus linguistics paper into the Christian Apocrypha section!”

Here’s the abstract for those interested:

There are certain phrases that, due to familiarity and usage, seem biblical upon hearing or reading them. That is, they sound like language used in the Bible. Phrases like “in the beginning,” “all the creeping things that creep,” and “truly, I say to you.” This paper uses a variation on what are known as n-grams to isolate stock phrases and explore their use and effect in apocryphal works. The First Apocryphal Apocalypse of John (1AAJn), which the author is presently researching for volume 2 of the “More New Testament Apocrypha” project, is used as a test case. The entirety of the Septuagint and Greek New Testament are used to identify five-word clusters of shared vocabulary that repeat with some frequency in biblical literature (“stock phrases”). 1AAJn is then compared to the biblical literature to locate possible stock phrase usage within 1AAJn. If time and space permit, Greek editions of other writings (Apocryphal Gospels, Apostolic Fathers, possibly some non-Christian writings) will also be evaluated at a high level to determine use or non-use of stock phrases in composition.