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.
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.