Wednesday, October 31, 2018

An Unidentified Fragment

The text of the fragment below is unidentified; that is, unidentified by me; that is, I know something about it, but not where this text comes from.

This is what I know. It is one of four parchment fragments found in a 6/7 century papyrus codex of Origen (Cairo, P. Inv 88748). These strips of parchment, taken from a codex that was by then about 200 years old, were used to provide more grip for the binding of the papyrus quire.

On the only website with images of the codex that I could find (here), there are only images of three different sides of the parchment strips. Two of them show text of Genesis 31:8, and the third one is unidentified. The editio princeps mentions that on the verso of the Genesis fragment there is text from Hebrews 12 (which did not make it into the Gregory-Aland list). But I have not been able to verify this. Incidentally, Scherer, the original editor, only mentions the text on the first of these fragments in a footnote:

However, Fraenkel in the Verzeichnis of manuscripts of the Greek Old Testament (p. 165-66) has more information. He gives the content of the two Genesis fragments, and identifies the third as Psalm 26:4a init. - εκζητη<σω>. I believe that he is talking about our fragment, as I can see from the second line onwards most of the first line of 26:4a μιαν ητησα[μεν παρα κυριου] ταυτην εκζητη[σω. However, this means that we have simply an ‘in-line’ citation of Psalm 26.

These are the two Genesis 31 fragments, the script looks very much like our unidentified bit.

I would be tempted to assume that, as there is Hebrews 12 text on the verso of the first, so also on the second. Both fragments belong together with only a single line missing in between.

The original manuscript that provided these parchment strips cannot have been a continuous text manuscript, but what it was I don’t know.

Any wisdom out there? Do we know of a work that combines Gen 31 and Heb 12 close together (within one folio), and perhaps also with a citation of Psalm 26 thrown in (near or far to the previous)?


  1. I haven't exhausted every resource but so far I can't find anything like that. Thanks for giving this little fragment more publicity, meanwhile; I can't think of a good reason why it shouldn't get an I.D. number.

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  3. Procopius of Gaza quotes both Genesis 31:8 and Hebrews 12:22 in his commentary on the Octateuch, according to Biblia Patristica, but it looks like the quotations are not close together in the work. He also quotes some verses from Psalm 26 at other points. Since this work is a catena as I understand it (I haven't seen it yet), it's a promising possibility for the kind of work that such fragments could come from, and Biblia Patristica could neglect to mention some quotations. It might be worth checking.

  4. I can think of one reason why fewer GA numbers would be better than more. People who think that manuscripts should be weighed, not counted, still can't resist mentioning the Mountain of Manuscripts, seldom if ever mentioning that only a few dozen of the thousands of Greek manuscripts contains the entire New Testament. I think it would be good if all papyri that don't contain parts of at least two NT books all share just two numbers: an even number for the papyri with at least one page of text, and an odd number with less than even one full page, with the letters A-Z and, if needed, a-z to distinguish the fragments. Then the same could be done with the fragmentary uncials, numbering them A and B with digits following. That would bring us down to fewer than a dozen "early manuscripts" and perhaps as many as a thousand "late manuscripts."