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).
- † ο γεννηθεις εν Βηθλεεμ και ανατραφεις εν Ναζαρετ, κατοικησας εν τη Γαλιλαια
- ειδομεν σημειον εξ ουρανου· τω αστερος φανεντος, ποιμενες αγραυλουντες
- εθαυμασαν· ου γονυπεσοντες ελεγον· δοξα τω Πατρι αλληλουια·
- δοξα τω Υιω και τω αγιω Πνευματι, αλληλουια, αλληλουια, αλληλουια.
- τυβι ε
- †† εκλεκτος ο αγιος Ιωαννης ο βαπτιστης ο κηρυξας μετανοιαν
- εν ολω τω κοσμω εις αφεσιν των αμαρτιων ημων.
(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!”
(5) December 31
(6) †† Chosen/Elect Holy John the Baptist who preached repentance (7) in the whole world to forgiveness of our sins.
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 (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.
- εις αʼ δʼ
- Ἐν Βηθλεὲμ ποιμένης ἀγ-
- ραυλοῦντες ἄγγελος τοῦ θ(εο)ῦ
- αὐτὴν εὐεγγελίσατο τὸν τόκον
- τοῦ Ἐμμανουὴλʼ κ(αὶ) ποιμένης
- περιλάμψας τὴν δόξαν κ(υρίο)υ
- κ(αὶ) ἶπεν· μὴ φοβῖσθε ἀσώματος
- ἐκύρισεν αὐτ̣ῖς μεγάλης χαρᾶς
- ἥτις ἐστὶν παντὶ τῷ λαῷ, ὅτι
- ἐτέχθη τὸν βασιλέαν Χ(ριστὸ)ν
- κ(αὶ) σ(ωτῆ)ρα θ(εὸ)ν σήμερον ἐν πόλει
- Δ(αβὶ)δ εἱμῖς σὺν ἀγγέλος τε.
- Δόξα ἐν ἡψίστις θ(εο)ῦ κ(αὶ) ἐπὶ κῆς
- [εἰρήνη ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκίας]
(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.”
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!).