Thursday, May 18, 2006

Codex, Roll, and Libraries in Oxyrhynchus

This is the title of another article in the current edition of the Tyndale Bulletin by Don C. Barker (Macquarie University, Sydney). Barker reconstructs the contents of This is basically a comparison between the remnants of the first of two secular library collections found at Oxyrhynchus in 1906 (a basket full of nine classical works from the second and third centuries). Barker runs a multi-level comparison between these texts and early Christian texts from the same period and location, focusing especially (but not exclusively) on format issues.

Here is the abstract:

  • The fragmented discards of a library from the ancient city of Oxyrhynchus in middle Egypt provide us with an excellent ‘sample’ to conduct a comparative analysis with the contemporary Christian books from the same city. Both the secular and the Christian books in general share common features except for their construction: the library books are rolls whereas the Christian books are in the codex format. What led the Christians to choose this ‘new technology’? Could it be that the driving reason was the protection of the contents against tampering?


Anonymous said...

I should think the driving reason would be obvious:

Sword drills

Peter M. Head said...

"sword drills"? If you mean the facility for random over against sequential access then I think you are right - that must be a factor in the popularity of the codex.