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.

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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.

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

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

Grenfell, Bernard P., and Arthur S. Hunt. “II. Christian Hymn.” Pages 23–28 in The Amherst Papyri Part I. London: Henry Frowde, 1900.
350197v_0003

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Christian Oxyrhynchus: Texts, Documents, and Sources

Christian-Oxyrhynchus

Baylor University Press is to be congratulated and heartily thanked for this new title, to be available on August 15, 2015.

Lincoln H. Blumell and Thomas A. Wayment, Christian Oxyrhynchus: Texts, Documents, and Sources. Baylor University Press, 2015. 778pp. ISBN: 9781602585393.

I’ve not yet seen a table of contents, but the descriptions of the contents are impressive. Here is the description from Baylor Press’ web site:

Blumell and Wayment present a thorough compendium of all published papyri, parchments, and patristic sources that relate to Christianity at Oxyrhynchus before the fifth century CE. Christian Oxyrhynchus provides new and expanded editions of Christian literary and documentary texts that include updated readings, English translations—some of which represent the first English translation of a text—and comprehensive notes.

The volume features New Testament texts carefully collated against other textual witnesses and a succinct introduction for each Oxyrhynchus text that provides information about the date of the papyrus, its unique characteristics, and textual variants. Documentary texts are grouped both by genre and date, giving readers access to the Decian Libelli, references to Christians in third- and fourth-century texts, and letters written by Christians. A compelling resource for researchers, teachers, and students, Christian Oxyrhynchus enables broad access to these crucial primary documents beyond specialists in papyrology, Greek, Latin, and Coptic.

Work like this is sorely needed. So often we grab papyri for their readings and ignore their milieu. We ignore the environment in which they were written, copied, and used. And we ignore how they were actually used. Here’s to hoping Blumell & Wayment help us toward better understanding of these valuable materials and their impact on our understanding of early Christianity.