Evangelical Textual Criticism

Thursday, April 06, 2006

P113: the Smallest NT Fragment in the Known Universe















As already noted in a previous post (which I think I may have set free into cyberspace [he means: 'I lost it' (ETC ed.)], while strangely connecting the comments from that post to this one - so you can follow the development of this if you are keen); P113 is the smallest portion of the NT ever identified and published (this is 2.7 x 2.4 cm; P52, which is pretty small, is comparatively huge at 8.9 x 5.8 cm). But it is still worth careful study, and because it is so small we can take a look at what goes into identifying and studying texts on papyrus.

Firstly we shall try to read this text. Beginning with just this one side.

LINE 1:

OK. Let's start with the first line of the photo: only three immediately clear letters are the last three: K R I.
Qn. KRI is not a word, but does begin plenty of words. Certainly doesn't end any words, but no continuation visible to the right of the iota. So suspicion that perhaps we have the right hand margin - needs to be checked against other lines and the other side but the papyrus to the right of the iota looks clean and has plenty of space for another letter so the lack looks significant.

Backtracking to the beginning then: First letter only partially visible as curved cross stroke joining to top of strong horizontal. Not too many options for this - looks like a MU; but could conceivably be an iota with the trailing edge of a previous letter.
Second letter could be either a very large punctuation point or a very small omicron.
Third letter has a bit missing in the middle but top two small strokes and end of lower sloping tail is visible. Could conceivably be a strange psi with the upright missing in the damaged bit above the visible lines, but most likely an upsilon. In either case then the second letter cannot be a punctuation point since no words begin UKRI....
Conclusion for line 1: ]MOUKRI (r.h. margin)
Most likely construal as: ]MOU KRI

Three more things to note:
  1. there are no trailing 'legs' visible above this line. Not quite enough space there to suppose that this is the top margin (that would be a bonus!).
  2. the writing is along the fibres; what used to be called the recto: the right side for writing on papyrus (these days generally known, rather unromantically as an arrow ->). Now, who wants to have a go at line 2?
  3. five of these six letter-shapes are very relevant to describing the hand (and ultimately to dating this piece):
  • 1. mu with curved cross stroke
  • 2. tiny omicron
  • 3. upsilon with long sloping tail
  • 4. kappa with joined diagonals (upper diagonal straight, lower diagonal curved)
  • 5. upright rho with small enclosure.
  • I suppose, technically speaking, that the shape of the iota is also relevant to a description of the hand, but I'll pass that by here.
LINE 2:
Line 2 is a bit more complicated than line 1. There are only two clear letters: 2nd letter: alpha and 4th letter: omicron. There are various types of damage and dots about too.
The first letter has a vertical upright and a horizontal upper stroke. Only three options: gamma, tau, or (less likely) a pi with an overrun. Unfortunately we don't seem to have clear examples of any of these letters to compare with. First instinct was a gamma, so we'll say G/T. The dots could just about be directly over each of the first two letters and if I thought they were ink I'd think they were textual markers, indicating problematic letters. But that is probably just an over-exotic imagination looking for such things among the dotty splotchiness of a damaged papyrus. If I had a microscope I'd have a look to see if they were ink; failing that I'll opt to ignore them.
It looks like there is a third letter to the right of the alpha but it is tricky to figure out. We have to ignore the trailing leg of the upsilon from the line above; other than that there seem to be faint traces of a horizontal line to the left of the hole and something underneath the hole. There is also a high mark to the right of the hole, but that is altogether of a stronger character than the other traces. So what is going on here?? Good question. If the first letter is a gamma we might anticipate a rho, making gar; but there is no way the high mark can reflect a rho (perhaps a rho could have stood in the hole?). More likely that mark might reflect punctuation (introduced either by the scribe or, if the colour is different, perhaps subsequently by a reader). If it is punctuation that will at least suggest that this ends a word, which will limit our options for these three letters, although of course we don't know (at this stage, without cheating!) how much space we've got before these three letters. So as for the third letter I have no idea what it could be. (Could there have been an erasure?)
Put it down as a [?]!So far: G/T A [?]. (not so good!)

Then we have omicron, pretty clear; slightly different from line one but still small.
Then letter four is a little strange. Basically it looks like an upsilon: vertical upright with two upper diagonals. But the r.h. upper diagonal is hardly visible and the l.h. upper diagonal is faint and curvy. Against it being an upsilon are two marked differences from the upsilon in line 1: the faint and curvy l.h. upper diagonal, and the lack of a long trailing leg. In favour of it being an upsilon is that nothing else is even close. The only other possibility I could come up with would be that it could be an iota with some sort of breathing. Against the iota theory is that it would still be a strange breathing mark and that the upper r.h. diagonal definitely exists. For the moment I'll opt for upsilon and explain the oddities simply on the basis that odd things happen when you are writing with a reed pen on a sheet of papyrus.
The final letter is pretty unclear and it is not helped by the tear (possibly this has slightly drifted apart, which could affect the angles). It would be possible to attempt to decide which letters this trace is compatible with, but it is getting late, so I'll shelve that until we have a proposed identification and then check with this letter. There is a bit of a mark in the 'Florida' section (see previous goofy comment), not clear at this stage whether that is ink (perhaps a trailing leg) or just a line in the papyrus; so can't completely confirm theory that the r.h. margin is here (although it looks possible, as one would expect some evidence of a letter in the available space.
So the summarise line 2: G/T A [?]. O U ?

LINE 3:
Line 3: three clear letters: rho, omicron (very small again), alpha.
First letter has only the tip of what was presumably a horizontal line and the end of a r.h. upper diagonal. Not much to go on, but only two realistic alternatives: kappa and psi. We have a kappa in line 1 which would match onto these surviving pieces easily, so that has to be the likely candidate (also psi is generally fairly rare).
Not too clear what is happening after the alpha - some sort of a dot at a central height, but doesn't really look like ink (need that microscope); also some sort of mark/trace/dot at the lower edge. Probably nothing!
line 3: K R O A

LINE 4:
Line 4 only has one clear letter: alpha.
Letter preceding alpha looks like it might have two horizontal strokes, or are they just lines in the papyrus?
After the alpha we have a kind of dot which doesn't look dotty, rather more like the lower bit of a horizontal stroke, but presumably damaged.

line 4: ? A ?

SUMMARY:

line 1: ]M O U K R I

line 2: ]G/T A [?]. O U ?

line 3: ]K R O A [

line 4: ]? A ? [

OK. Now I'm going to compare with Cockle (the editor of OxyPap 4497). Fortunately it checks out. He's got the text as well so (from Rom 2.12):
NO]MOU KRI
QHSON]TAI.OU>
GAR OI A]KROAT[AI
NOMOU DI]KAI[OI

He also agrees that in line 2 the final letter of KRIQHSONTAI is smudged and may have been altered (but from what?). He also thinks that the trace at the end of line 2 is a 'line filler of diple form'. It doesn't look like a gamma, so that is probably reasonable. At the end of line 3 he reads a tau (with dot) - is this a bit optimistic?
At the start of line 4 he reads (and the text basically demands) a kappa, which would partly explain the two horizontals, although they aren't exactly in the right position for a kappa, but if the papyrus itself is damaged in the final line that may explain it.
Line 2 has 11 characters, line 3 has 13 characters, line 4 has 12 characters. Pretty short lines - there is only about as much missing to the left as is extant on the right.

20 comments:

  1. OK, I guess this is partly intended as a quiz to see who recognized these scraps? I'll be the first to be lazy and ask for the answer! P# and text? Please!! :)

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  2. In response to Rod Decker... This fragment is part of the Oxyrhnchus collection (P.Oxy 4497) which has been allocated as P113 and consists of the Epistle to the Romans ii 12-13, 29. The ed. pr. was edited by W. E. H. Cockle.

    In terms of what it tells us of interest... I'll leave that to Pete to tell us ;-)

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  3. Why do I get the feeling that this is a teaser for an upcoming article?

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  4. The column length is about 9 characters. How common are multi-column papyri?

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  5. Every manuscript tells us something of interest.

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  6. The first thing this tells me is that nomina sacra are crucial in identifying Christian (and NT) texts among the Oxyrhynchus material. Crucial in both selecting this tiny scrap from the masses of unpublished material (what else would have made this text stand out as worth another look?); and in the placing this within the NT text (easily searchable via concordance or computer).

    The nomen sacrum here is on the second photo, can you see it? Line 2: the bar goes above the damaged space, then the nu and iota. There is only one thing it could be: PNI = PNEUMATI. It is the only complete word that can be recognised on the whole piece. It is practically the only way this piece could have been recognised. Once you've got that you can search the NT for PNEUMATI followed by OU and preceded (at an unknown distance) by MHKA.

    This (to me anyway) confirms the story I heard from Chris Tuckett (in a recent seminar), that the Oxy folk were primarily using nomina sacra to identify NT pieces.

    Implications: potentially this introduces a bias into the Oxy sample. If there were NT pieces which didn't use NS they wouldn't grab the attention of the scholars sifting the mass of material. If there are bits of the NT which just happen not to have NS they are less likely to be identified (I think the de Hamel collection is a good illustration of this).

    Of course there are loads of other things we can learn from this little piece too.

    More thoughts?

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  7. I've just checked through Aland's Kurzgefasste Liste and can confirm that this (P113 at 2.7 x 2.4 cm) is the smallest accepted fragment of the NT in the entire known world.

    P52, which is pretty small, is comparatively huge at 8.9 x 5.8 cm.

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  8. Have you noticed how the manuscript is shaped like America?

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  9. OK. Let's start with the first line of the upper photo:
    only three immediately clear letters are the last three: K R I.

    Qn. KRI is not a word, but does begin plenty of words. Certainly doesn't end any words, but no continuation visible to the right of the iota. So suspicion that perhaps we have the right hand margin - needs to be checked against other lines and the other side but the papyrus to the right of the iota looks clean and has plenty of space for another letter so the lack looks significant.
    Backtracking to the beginning then: First letter only partially visible as curved cross strok joining to top of strong horizontal. Not too many options for this - looks like a MU; but could conceivably be an iota with the trailing edge of a previous letter. Second letter could be either a very large punctuation point or a very small omicron. Third letter has a bit missing in the middle but top two small strokes and end of lower sloping tail is visible. Could conceivably be a strange psi with the upright missing in the damaged bit above the visible lines, but most likely an upsilon. In either case then the second letter cannot be a punctuation point since no words begin UKRI....
    Conclusion for line 1:
    ]MOUKRI (r.h. margin)

    Most likely construal as:
    ]MOU KRI

    No idea from this as to whether MOU is a complete word, anticipating e.g. 'my judgement'; or the ending of a longer word; but almost certainly going to be simple masc. gen. sing. ending.

    Two more things to note: a) there are no trailing 'legs' visible above this line. Not quite enough space there to suppose that this is the top margin (that would be a bonus!).
    b) the writing is along the fibres; what used to be called the recto: the right side for writing on papyrus (these days generally known, rather unromantically as an arrow ->).

    Now, who wants to have a go at line 2?

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  10. Sorry, before we leave line 1 we ought to note that five of these six letter-shapes are very relevant to describing the hand (and ultimately to dating this piece):
    1. mu with curved cross stroke
    2. tiny omicron
    3. upsilon with long sloping tail
    4. kappa with joined diagonals (upper diagonal straight, lower diagonal curved)
    5. upright rho with small enclosure.

    I suppose, technically speaking, that the shape of the iota is also relevant to a description of the hand, but I'll pass that by here.

    Qn. Try to figure out the stroke-technique in the formation of the kappa: in which order and direction were the three strokes made?

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  11. This brings up a question I've raised before, with no answer so far.

    How do we even know how NS words should look like spelled out? Are there actual ms samples for each word or are we just guessing?

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  12. Pete,
    The ETC schedule for 2013 is now pretty tight. However, we may be able to squeeze a small celebration in. Burgon was always kind about Tregelles. I don't know whether Tregelles returned the compliment.

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  13. Line 2 is a bit more complicated than line 1. There are only two clear letters: 2nd letter: alpha and 4th letter: omicron. There are various types of damage and dots about too.
    The first letter has a vertical upright and a horizontal upper stroke. Only three options: gamma, tau, or (less likely) a pi with an overrun. Unfortunately we don't seem to have clear examples of any of these letters to compare with. First instinct was a gamma, so we'll say G/T.
    The dots could just about be directly over each of the first two letters and if I thought they were ink I'd think they were textual markers, indicating problematic letters. But that is probably just an over-exotic imagination looking for such things among the dotty splotchiness of a damaged papyrus. If I had a microscope I'd have a look to see if they were ink; failing that I'll opt to ignore them.
    It looks like there is a third letter to the right of the alpha but it is tricky to figure out. We have to ignore the trailing leg of the upsilon from the line above; other than that there seem to be faint traces of a horizontal line to the left of the hole and something underneath the hole. There is also a high mark to the right of the hole, but that is altogether of a stronger character than the other traces. So what is going on here?? Good question. If the first letter is a gamma we might anticipate a rho, making gar; but there is no way the high mark can reflect a rho (perhaps a rho could have stood in the hole?). More likely that mark might reflect punctuation (introduced either by the scribe or, if the colour is different, perhaps subsequently by a reader). If it is punctuation that will at least suggest that this ends a word, which will limit our options for these three letters, although of course we don't know (at this stage, without cheating!) how much space we've got before these three letters. So as for the third letter I have no idea what it could be. (Could there have been an erasure?) Put it down as a [?]!

    So far: G/T A [?]. (not so good!)

    Then we have omicron, pretty clear; slightly different from line one but still small. Then letter four is a little strange. Basically it looks like an upsilon: vertical upright with two upper diagonals. But the r.h. upper diagonal is hardly visible and the l.h. upper diagonal is faint and curvy. Against it being an upsilon are two marked differences from the upsilon in line 1: the faint and curvy l.h. upper diagonal, and the lack of a long trailing leg. In favour of it being an upsilon is that nothing else is even close. The only other possibility I could come up with would be that it could be an iota with some sort of breathing. Against the iota theory is that it would still be a strange breathing mark and that the upper r.h. diagonal definitely exists. For the moment I'll opt for upsilon and explain the oddities simply on the basis that odd things happen when you are writing with a reed pen on a sheet of papyrus.
    The final letter is pretty unclear and it is not helped by the tear (possibly this has slightly drifted apart, which could affect the angles). It would be possible to attempt to decide which letters this trace is compatible with, but it is getting late, so I'll shelve that until we have a proposed identification and then check with this letter. There is a bit of a mark in the 'Florida' section (see previous goofy comment), not clear at this stage whether that is ink (perhaps a trailing leg) or just a line in the papyrus; so can't completely confirm theory that the r.h. margin is here (although it looks possible, as one would expect some evidence of a letter in the available space.

    So the summarise line 2:
    G/T A [?]. O U ?

    [Soon I know I shall have to check Cockle, as Michael noted, otherwise this could be very embarrassing.]

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  14. OK. Note sure if anybody is paying any attention here, but I've started so I'll finish.

    Line 3: three clear letters: rho, omicron (very small again), alpha.
    First letter has only the tip of what was presumably a horizontal line and the end of a r.h. upper diagonal. Not much to go on, but only two realistic alternatives: kappa and psi. We have a kappa in line 1 which would match onto these surviving pieces easily, so that has to be the likely candidate (also psi is generally fairly rare).
    Not too clear what is happening after the alpha - some sort of a dot at a central height, but doesn't really look like ink (need that microscope); also some sort of mark/trace/dot at the lower edge. Probably nothing!

    Line 4 only has one clear letter: alpha. Letter preceding alpha looks like it might have two horizontal strokes, or are they just lines in the papyrus? After the alpha we have a kind of dot which doesn't look dotty, rather more like the lower bit of a horizontal stroke, but presumably damaged.

    Conclusion:
    line 3: K R O A
    line 4: ? A ?

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  15. Summary so far:

    line 1: ]M O U K R I
    line 2: ]G/T A [?]. O U ?
    line 3: ]K R O A [
    line 4: ]? A ? [

    I wonder if it would be possible to identify this without the other side.

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  16. OK. Now I'm going to compare with Cockle (OxyPap 4497). Fortunately it checks out. He's got the text as well so (Rom 2.12):

    NO]MOU KRI
    QHSON]TAI.OU>
    GAR OI A]KROAT[AI
    NOMOU DI]KAI[OI

    He also agrees that in line 2 the final letter of KRIQHSONTAI is smudged and may have been altered (but from what?).
    He also thinks that the trace at the end of line 2 is a 'line filler of diple form'. It doesn't look like a gamma, so that is probably reasonable.
    At the end of line 3 he reads a tau (with dot) - is this a bit optimistic?
    At the start of line 4 he reads (and the text basically demands) a kappa, which would partly explain the two horizontals, although they aren't exactly in the right position for a kappa, but if the papyrus itself is damaged in the final line that may explain it.

    So line 2 has 11 characters, line 3 has 13 characters, line 4 has 12 characters. Pretty short lines - there is only about as much missing to the left as is extant on the right.

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  17. I'm paying attention.
    I don't find anything having to do with examining an actual ms boring, and I can actually follow all this.

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  18. I second that, Daniel
    derek

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  19. Sorry about messing about with this blogpost. I thought I was doing something clever with blogger; but it turned out I was doing something stupid.

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  20. No problem. But could you put back up the picture of the reverse side of the fragment with the NS. It seems pretty important for the rest of the discussion, and I honestly never could make out the bar above the letters. It might even be cool to enlarge it so that the bar can be clearly seen.

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