“Fragments of Christianity” now on Pre-pub for @Logos Bible Software!

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.

Order the Fragments of Christianity pre-pub!

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!

My New Book, “Fragments of Christianity”

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.

Two “Christmas” Papyri

It’s getting close to Christmas, so why not mention some “Christmas” papyri? While there are surely more, in my traversing through different papyrus collections these two are mentioned with some frequency. I’ve filed both of these papyri under the “Liturgical” heading at my repository of transcriptions, though one (with tune information) may better be considered a “hymn.”

For sources and bibliography, see links to each papyrus (either TM or my repository of transcriptions).

P.Vindob. G 2326

P.Vindob. G. 2326 (TM 64614), also known as P. Erzherzog Rainer 542 or MPER 542, is dated in the fifth to sixth centuries (AD 400‑550).

Transcription

Recto

  1. † ο γεννηθεις εν Βηθλεεμ και ανατραφεις εν Ναζαρετ, κατοικησας εν τη Γαλιλαια
  2. ειδομεν σημειον εξ ουρανου· τω αστερος φανεντος, ποιμενες αγραυλουντες
  3. εθαυμασαν· ου γονυπεσοντες ελεγον· δοξα τω Πατρι αλληλουια·
  4. δοξα τω Υιω και τω αγιω Πνευματι, αλληλουια, αλληλουια, αλληλουια.

Verso

  1. τυβι ε
  2. †† εκλεκτος ο αγιος Ιωαννης ο βαπτιστης ο κηρυξας μετανοιαν
  3. εν ολω τω κοσμω εις αφεσιν των αμαρτιων ημων.

Translation

recto

(1) † He who was born in Bethlehem and raised in Nazareth, living in Galilee, (2) we have seen a sign from heaven, the shining star. Shepherds who lived outdoors (3) were astonished, who were kneeling down and said: (4) “Glory to the Father, alleluia! Glory to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!”

verso

(5)    December 31
(6)    †† Chosen/Elect Holy John the Baptist who preached repentance (7) in the whole world to forgiveness of our sins.

Discussion

This papyrus reflects many of the basics of the Christian story in compressed form: Born in Bethlehem, raised in Nazareth, and living in Galilee, the star of Bethlehem, shepherds who saw and responded and sang glory to God. It uses curious language of the star of Bethlehem as a “sign from heaven,” language that is not used of the nativity in the canonical gospels.

I will have more detail on this papyrus in my (hopefully) forthcoming book about early fragmentary Christian papryi.

P.Berol. 13269 (source)

P.Berol. 13269

P.Berol. 13269 (TM 65395, aka BKT VI 6 2) was originally dated to the seventh century but Mihálykó has recently re-dated the papyrus to the ninth or tenth century.

Transcription

  1. εις αʼ δʼ
  2. Ἐν Βηθλεὲμ ποιμένης ἀγ-
  3. ραυλοῦντες ἄγγελος τοῦ θ(εο)ῦ
  4. αὐτὴν εὐεγγελίσατο τὸν τόκον
  5. τοῦ Ἐμμανουὴλʼ κ(αὶ) ποιμένης
  6. περιλάμψας τὴν δόξαν κ(υρίο)υ
  7. κ(αὶ) ἶπεν· μὴ φοβῖσθε ἀσώματος
  8. ἐκύρισεν αὐτ̣ῖς μεγάλης χαρᾶς
  9. ἥτις ἐστὶν παντὶ τῷ λαῷ, ὅτι
  10. ἐτέχθη τὸν βασιλέαν Χ(ριστὸ)ν
  11. κ(αὶ) σ(ωτῆ)ρα θ(εὸ)ν σήμερον ἐν πόλει
  12. Δ(αβὶ)δ εἱμῖς σὺν ἀγγέλος τε.
  13. Δόξα ἐν ἡψίστις θ(εο)ῦ κ(αὶ) ἐπὶ κῆς
  14. [εἰρήνη ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκίας]

Translation

(the tune of alpha and delta)

In Bethlehem shepherds were living out of doors. An angel of God proclaimed the good news, the birth of Emmanuel, and the glory of the Lord shone around the shepherds. And the bodiless one said: “Do not be afraid.” He announced great joy to them, which is to all the people, that the King and Savior God, Christ, was born today in the city of David. We and the angel (sing), “Glory to God in the highest, and upon the earth, peace with people with whom he is pleased.”

Discussion

This papyrus has much in common with Luke 2:8-14, and like P.Vindob. G 2326 mentions many of the basics of the Christian story: Shepherds living outdoors, an angel of God. Notably the text diverges from Luke by referring to the child as “Emmanuel” (or “Immanuel,” cf. Mt 1:23, quoting Is 7:14). Another unique feature of the text is to refer to the angel as the “bodiless one.”

The first line is tune notation according to the Byzantine system. You can find a nice image of this papyrus online.

As this text is later (ninth-tenth century) it falls outside of my “reliably dated in the fifth century or before” bounds for the early fragmentary Christian papyri project, so I do not plan on discussing it further (but it will be in footnotes!).

Rick’s 2021 Writing Schedule: Fragmentary Early Christian Papyri

I’ve posted writing schedules in the past (2016 through 2019). For some reason, I didn’t do it for 2020. But it’s time again to try and sketch things out and make some plans for how to spend my research and writing time in 2021.

Things are always subject to change, but for 2021, my planned focus is on fragmentary early Christian papyri. I’ve done research and writing in this area since late 2018 (as sporadically evidenced on this blog) and have posted numerous transcriptions and translations as well.

At various times in the crap-hole that will historically be known as “2020” I’ve been able to get some further writing done on these fragmentary wonders. I have drafts together for the liturgical papyri (16K words) and hymn papyri (11K words) and am probably 60% through the prayer and amulet papyri (15K words at present). This means my hopes for 2021 are to:

  • Finish the Prayer and Amulet papyri fragments
  • Write about papyri letters
  • Write about theological and homiletical papyri fragments

My goal is to introduce biblical studies folks to these papyri as they are excellent and typically overlooked material. Each papyri will have a transcription, a translation, a content description, and a discussion (some short, some long) on the papyrus itself. These will typically be focused on examining affinity and interaction with Old Testament, New Testament, and other early Christian literature, with references (and hopefully decent indexes for facilitating lookup).

Not sure on word counts for letters and theological/homiletical fragments, but I’m guessing the total will be 100-120K words, maybe more. Below is a sample of one of the hymn fragments, P.Berol. 16595.

I’m not sure where or how this material will be published. I’ve had one publisher express interest but want to go in a different direction with the material (and I was not interested in their direction). I’ve also had one publisher pass on publishing. If you’re reading this, and you’re an acquisitions editor or otherwise involved with a publisher and want some more information, feel free to contact me via the blog contact form.

Here’s hoping 2021 is a productive year for writing. If I can get through drafts of most of this material, that would be most excellent.

P.Vindob. G 27290b — Easter Songs

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

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

P-Vindob-G-27290b-verso

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

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

Verso

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

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

Recto

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

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

Several points can be deduced from the text.

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

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

We are not all that different from them.

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

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

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

P. 21124: Hymnus auf die Höllenfahrt Christi

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

My translation follows:

Recto

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

Verso

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

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

P.Vindob. G 19931 and the Blood of Jesus

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

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

P-Vindob-G-19931

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

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

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

    ⸓ because of us

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

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

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

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

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

There are several theological assertions made in this tiny scrap.

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

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

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

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

PSI inv. 535 and the Crucifixion of Christ

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

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

PSI_inv.535_r

PSI inv. 535, image from PSIonline

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

My draft translation is below.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

P. 21143 R + V: Christlicher Text

P.Berol. 21143 (recto) from Berliner Papyrusdatenbank

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is incredible stuff!

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

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.