Thursday, January 14, 2016

Brice Jones' Thesis on NT Texts on Greek Amulets

In this post I want to draw the attention to Dr. Brice Jones’ fine PhD thesis submitted to Concordia University in July last year, “New Testament Texts on Greek Amulets from Late Antiquity.”

A revised version of the thesis will be published in 2016 (publication date 24 March) by T&T Clark/Bloomsbury in the LNTS series. Significantly, the published version will include high-resolution colour images of all the 24 amulets (except one).

The first chapter contains an introduction and survey of scholarship. In the second chapter, Jones discusses terminology and criteria. In both of these chapters I note that he has made good use of co-blogger Peter Head’s essay on “Additional Greek Witnesses to the New Testament (Ostraca, Amulets, Inscriptions, and Other Sources).” In chapter 3, he describes his method of textual analysis, and I note with gratitude that he has found my work in this area useful (as well as my publications on amulets no. 16 and 24 below). The fourth chapter is the core of the dissertation, where he analyzes 24 amulets on papyri or parchment from Egypt (dating from 3d-8th centuries). He excluded amulets on ostraca or wooden tablets, and those consisting only of Gospel titles or incipits, since this latter category has been treated extensively by Joseph E. Sanzo, Scriptural Incipits on Amulets from Late Antique Egypt: Text, Typology, and Theory (STAC 84; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2014).

I have compiled a list of the 24 amulets treated in detail in the fourth chapter, 21 of which are not registered in the official list of Greek New Testament MSS:

1. MATT. 4:23-24
P.Oxy. 8.1077

2. MATT. 4:23 || INCIPITS || JOHN 1:1 || PS. 17:3, 90:1, 117:6-7 || TRINITARIAN FORMULA ||
BKT 6.7.1

P.Turner 49

4. MATT. 6:9 || JOHN 1:23 || INCIPITS || PS. 90:1 || DOXOLOGY
PSI 6.7195

5. MATT. 6:9, 11 || PS. 90:1-2 || HEALING INCANTATION || SANCTUS
P.Princ. 2.107

6. MATT. 6:9-13 || LUKE 9:37?; 11:1b-2 || DOXOLOGY || PS. 90:13 || EXORCISM OF SOLOMON ||
P.Iand. 1.6

7. MATT. 6:9-13 || DOXOLOGY || PS. 90 || PS. 91 HEADING
P.Duke inv. 778

8. MATT. 6:4-6, 8-12
P.Col. 11.293

9. MATT. 6:9-13
P.CtYBR inv. 4600

BGU 3.954

11. MATT. 6:9-13 || DOXOLOGY || 2 COR. 13:13? || PS. 90:1-13
P.Schøyen 1.16

12. MATT. 6:10-12
P.Ant. 2.54

13. MATT. 6:11-13
P.Köln 8.336

14. MATT. 6:12-13 || DOXOLOGY || SANCTUS
P.Köln 4.171

15. MATT 27:62-64; 28:2-5
P.Oxy. 64.4406 (GA P105)

P.Oxy. 76.50731

P.Oxy. 8.1151

P.Köln 8.340

P.Vindob. G 29831

P.Berl. inv. 11710

21. JOHN 2:1a-2 || ROM. 12:1-2 || PS. 90:1-2
P.Vindob. G 2312

22. 2 COR. 10:4 || 1 THESS. 5:8/EPH. 6:16
P.Vindob. G 26034 + 30453

23. 1 TIM. 1:15-16
P.Berl. inv. 13977 (GA 0262)

24. JUDE 4-5, 7-8
P.Oxy. 34.2684328 (GA P78)

In the fifth and final chapter Jones draws conclusions and sums up the results. In relation to the textual character of the 24 amulets, described according to Alands’ categories, he concludes that 37% exhibit a “strict text;”  8% “at least normal;” 12% “normal;” 29% “free;” and, finally, 16% “uncertain.” This result suggests that, although three of them are areadly included in the official list of New Testament manuscripts (P78, P105, and 0262) and cited in the apparatus, many more are significant for New Testament textual criticism.

New Testament Texts on Greek Amulets from Late Antiquity and Their Relevance for Textual Criticism

This dissertation examines New Testament citations on all Greek papyrus and parchment amulets from late antique Egypt. Since New Testament textual criticism does not allow for the inclusion of non-continuous manuscripts (of which amulets are a part) in the official catalogue of manuscripts, a large body of textual evidence has fallen outside the purview of scholars. This dissertation, which constitutes the first systematic treatment of non-continuous manuscripts, seeks to remedy the situation in part by determining the ways in which New Testament texts on amulets may be useful for textual criticism.

This dissertation has three main objectives. The first objective is to define more closely the categories of continuous and non-continuous by formulating criteria for the identification of the latter. The second objective is to propose a method for analyzing the texts of non-continuous artifacts in terms of their text-critical value. The third objective is to establish a comprehensive database of one category of non-continuous artifacts (amulets) and provide a detailed analysis of both their texts and containers (i.e., physical manuscripts).

By analyzing a largely untapped source of New Testament textual data, this project contributes to a methodological question in textual criticism concerning its categories and provides a wealth of source material for the study of the reception of the Bible in early Christianity. Thus, while the study is targeted at textual critics, it contributes to a conversation about early Christianity that is much larger than the project, as these texts demonstrate the various ways in which early Christians used scripture.
Open access to the dissertation from Concordia University Spectrum Research Repository here.

If you want to hear Brice’s own words about this academic journey you can listen to two interview episodes by Inquisitive minds podcast here and here.

At present, Brice is Assistant Director of Media Relations, at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. We can all hope that he will continue to do research in the future. His track record is indeed excellent, as reflected in the fact that he got fifteen articles, including many editions of papyri, published already as a PhD student.


  1. Congratulations Dr. Jones on a work well done!

  2. Speaking of amulets: James Kelhoffer (in "Miracle & Mission") mentioned an interesting amulet described, with a picture, by Alphons A. Barb in the extraordinarily obscure article "Der Heilige und die Schlangen" in the journal Mitteilungen der Anthropologischen Gesselschaft in Wein, Vol. 80 (1950), pages 1-21. The amulet, “of uncertain date and origin,” depicts Paul with a book and sword on one side, framed by an inscription to the effect that the amulet will protect its wearer against poison and migraine headaches (“contra tos[s]icum et micaneum”). On the other side, written in Latin, is Mark 16:17b to 18 (without the Latin equivalent of the phrase “and in their hands”).

    I don't see this covered in Brice's list. Is the list limited to amulets of *known* Egyptian provenance? If so, how much longer might the list be if amulets of unknown, but possibly Egyptian, provenance were included?

  3. As the title says, he examines "Greek" amulets.

    1. Yes, I see the parameters of the study; my question, rephrased, is not just why that particular Latin amulet with Mark 16:17b-18 not mentioned, but, why such strict parameters? Exclusively Greek, with known Egyptian provenance, not incipits-only, and not on wood or pottery -- huh? Data-collection is great, but the parameters seem . . . strange; like a study of single-page manuscripts written with brown ink, in Greek, from collections in Prague. It doesn't seem to make sense unless this is part of a series which will, collectively, provide a fuller picture. Are other similar studies planned?

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. The incipits were covered by Sanzo. In this kind of work, each item covered is a valuable contribution in itself. You cannot really complain about what is not in the thesis. Someine else can come along and do other items on wood, pottery; or with other time frames and locations.

  4. Considering that, as you have noted, the PhD is available free online, how much added value is in the book over against the PhD?

  5. In Jone’s PhD thesis he states: “In this chapter, I catalogue and analyze all extant Greek amulets written on papyrus and parchment that contain a citation of the Greek New Testament.” But I can assure you that is not correct, for in my collation of extant Greek manuscript containing portions of the New Testament up to 400 AD (, I include several other amulets that he never mentioned:

    TM-33368 Matt. 6:9
    TM-61617 Matt. 1:1, 6:9, Mark 1:1, Luke 1:1, John 1:1,23
    TM-61695* Jude 1:4-5, 7-8
    TM-61709 Acts 8:26-32, 10:26-31
    TM-61840* Matt. 6:9-13, 2Cor. 13:13
    TM-62312 Heb. 1:1
    TM-62325 John 2:1-2, Rom. 12:1-2
    TM-63017 Matt. 14:30-31, 33
    TM-64206* Matt. 6:10-12
    TM-64372 Matt. 6:11-13
    TM-64404 1Cor. 15:27, 2Cor. 6:2
    TM-64491 Matt. 6:9-13
    TM-64605 Matt. 6:9-11
    TM-64853 Matt. 1:1, 4:23, Mark 1:1, Luke 1:1, John 1:1-2
    TM-140277* Mark 1:1-2

    The asterisk denotes the ones he did mention. All these can be looked up at or you can simply click on the link in the header of each manuscript.

    Alan Bunning

    1. Alan Bunning: You need to go back and read my work more closely. When you do that, you will notice that you will need to asterisk most of the items in your list. Others were excluded on reasonable grounds or because of my own established criteria (some from your list are discussed explicitly). Thanks for the shoutout, Tommy.

    2. Okay, I see. That would leave only TM-33368 and TM-64404 from the list, and perhaps these are not really amulets either. Thanks for the clarification.

  6. Alan Bunning,
    Eh? TM-62325 is mentioned, isn't? -- #21.

    But, yeah, Brice decided that some amulets shouldn't be included, or that they're not *really* amulets; or that they're not old enough or not clearly Egyptian (which is why the D'Hendecourt Scroll is not in the list). See the footnote on page 191 for details. Istm extremely hard to justify the exclusion of all five of those items while retaining P78.

  7. Why should he have included the D'Hendecourt scroll from the 14th century in a dissertation on amulets from Antiquity? I find that extremely hard to understand.

  8. Tommy,

    (Brice Jones says that the D'Hendecourt Scroll is from the 13th, rather than 14th, century.)

    I didn't say he should have included it, just that he didn't do so because it's too young. Istm that if one is going to make a systematic study of Christian amulets, the D'Hendecourt Scroll should be included because it shows the utilization of the Story of Abgar -- something to watch for in all eras; if one is going to make a systematic study of Christian amulets from Egypt from Late Antiquity, the other items listed in the footnote on p. 191 should be included, instead of eliminating them due to guesswork about how they were used. I don't see the point of limiting the list the way it was limited; we don't limit papyri or uncials or minuscules to particular periods within particular chronological brackets. But it's terrific that BJ has provided as much information as he has.