My birthday is on October 8.
Having a “milestone” birthday during these days of COVID-19, with social distancing, masking, and the like is pretty sucktastic. I mean, I wouldn’t have a big to-do anyway (not my speed) but I feel like doing something. So last week (Oct. 1) on the Twitter (@RickBrannan is my account), I offered the following:
It’s October 1, so you know what that means, folks. My birthday is ONE WEEK from today. Moving from “seven sevens” to the Jubilee. No huge celebration planned. #ThanksCovid So throw your own party in my honor, read some Greek (or a translation), and drink some good local [beer emoji]@RickBrannan
I’d like to make it official. Help me celebrate my birthday on Friday, October 8 by:
- Reading some non-New Testament Greek (or translation thereof)
- Enjoying the beverage of your choice
- Tweet what you’re reading (picture optional) with the #RicksGreek50th hashtag
New to this stuff? Don’t have a favorite Green Loeb to pull from the shelf? Need some suggestions for non-NT Greek? Here are a few:
- Apocrypha/Deuterocanon. I recommend:
- Additions to Daniel (Susanna particularly)
- Apostolic Fathers. I recommend:
- Second Clement
- Epistle to Diognetus
- Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians
- Martyrdom of Polycarp
- Christian Apocrypha. I recommend:
- Protevangelium of James
- Gospel of Peter
- Acts of Pilate (with Descent of Christ to Hades)
- First Apocryphal Apocalypse of John
Or read whatever the heck you want to. It doesn’t even have to be Christian.
If you want to read something I’ve suggested, but can’t find a text (Greek or English), let me know (before Friday would be best) and I’ll see what I can do.
Bottom line: Just get into some Greek literature of some sort and enjoy it. Let me know what you read, it’ll make me smile.
And if there’s one thing we all need these days, it is more smiling.
In July, my book Fragments of Christianity: Fragmentary Witnesses to Early Christian Liturgies, Hymns, Homilies, and Prayers was released in print and is available at Amazon for $24.95.
At that time, several folks asked me if the book would be available for Logos Bible Software. Well, Fragments of Christianity is now available for pre-publication purchase in Logos format for $12.99.
With Logos Bible Software, “pre-publication” (aka “pre-order”) is a process where interest in a book is guaged by the amount of pre-orders a book gets. Faithlife/Logos know (approximately) how much producing the book will cost. When they have enough orders to meet their cost, then the book gets produced. Here’s the great part: Pre-orders are usually the best price you’ll find on the book, and you are not charged until the book is produced and delivered. That means you get a great deal and you don’t pay until the resource is ready. Logos notifies you before the fact on the off chance that you just might want to cancel your order.
Interested in the material? This series on Epiphany can give you an idea of the content. Seem useful?: Get in on the pre-publication price of $12.99!
This past month has been a bit of a roller coaster. I released my new book, Fragments of Christianity: Fragmentary Witnesses to Early Christian Liturgies, Hymns, Homilies, and Prayers. Thrilled for it to finally be available! You can purchase (or even just “Look Inside”) at Amazon ($24.95).
Shortly after that, it was family vacation to the beach. (And we all know how much “vacation” happens with family vacation and three kids aged 4-14.) It was also our 15th wedding anniversary. Then I broke a bone in my right hand, so life slowed down a bit while I figured out how to function in a world where I’m typing at a computer for most of the day (and researching/writing in the evenings). In the middle of all of that got some great news on an editing/writing project that has been simmering for awhile but looks like it will proceed. (More news on that whenever a contract happens.)
But back to Fragments of Christianity. It includes transcriptions, translations, and brief discussion of 36 early (dated in the 5th century or before in a published source) fragmentary papyri. I sifted through many more papyri (all of the draft transcription and translations are on my “Stuff Early Christians Read” github repo) so maybe there’s a follow-up volume sometime down the road. The 36 papyri included in the book, however, are really cool (of course) but also useful.
This particlar project “clicked” when I realized that these aren’t simply texts randomly saved from the ravages of time. They are witnesses to the people who used them. They are a tangible link to the Christianity practiced (good, bad, and ugly) 1600-1800 years ago and the people who practiced it.
They are incredible, and they are worth our reading and study. You should check them out.
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 (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.
My translation follows:
- […] who loosed tḥẹ body aṇḍ tḥẹ[…]
- […].[.]… to puniṣḥ light from heave[n…]*
- […]..[.]…. unbroken wall was .[…]*
- […]the F(ath)er . of us : Adam . having called [up…]
- […]and[.] . .[.]. the sons of [A]dam : that the f(ath)e[r…]
- […] ẉay out : … . […]..[…]
- […].̣… of the book : And I have found the .[…]
- […]..[..] summary with ….[…]*
- […]…. 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 (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 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 (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.
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.
- ḥearing̣ .[…]
- of judgment in the …. … […]*
- now For in thẹṃ have become a murderer tḥị[s one …]*
- [who] worked so that t[h]ey ḍịṣplay because the same […]*
- against But th(e) S(av)i(o)r shouting “Away! Away! Crucify ḥ[im!” …]*
- and since the cross going glory(?)[… king-]*
- ḍom to change the tribes in insolence …[…]
- [hav]ing confessed while suffering but king .[…]*
- ḥẹ was doing [abo]ve steadying himself, he for ..[…]*
- […]…. ** wanderi[ng] about he coverṣ[…]*
- […]… 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 (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.
Sarischouli’s transcription and my draft translation are available via my “Stuff Early Christians Read” project, but I reproduce the recto translation here:
- […rem]ẹmbering denial of Pet[er…]*
- […con]c̣ẹṛning the faith he found[…]*
- […]. the burning heat of the .[…]
- […it ]ẉịṭhered. // For the …[…]*
- […] making payment of the fo[r]mer proceeḍṣ*
- […so that ourse]lves we must cry out, “patience!”*
- […]..[….] ọf̣ a master trụṭ[h]
- […].[…..]. in the one to deny
- […]…. in rememb[rance…]
- […]. in misfortune. Alle[leuia]
- […]..[..]..he will wash the .[…]
- […]. Master G[od…]
- […]., 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:
- […]. fleec(e) .. be(comes) .[…]*
- [was bor]n of a virgin a(nd) became li[ght? ]*
- [the pain of death] having ended a(nd) having ris[en the third day from the dead]*
- Giṿẹṛ ọf̣ Ḷịg̣ḥṭ, Ch(ris)t, the unapproach[able light]
- the e[y]ẹs in the mị[nd having opened]
- …. praise.[……..]. .[…]
- …. F(ath)er of the wor[ld…]*
- […]. .[.].. we glorify dai[ly…]
- […in the] temple of hoḷy glor[y … Jesus Christ who]
- [from the dead r]ọse up. We sin[g into all the ages…]
- […so that we] may worship the one who ṛọ[se up…]
- […] J(esu)s, tḥe stone rọḷḷẹḍ [away…]*
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).
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
- 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.
- 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.