Thursday, September 07, 2006

What is it about John 18-19?

What is it about John 18-19 such that it should be the section from which the two earliest Johannine papyri survive (P52 and P90) and also the passage from which the oldest Sahidic ms of John survives? The Coptic ms PBarc. Inv.-Nr. 44 covers John 18:26-19:10.


  1. I suspect that an early developing liturgical interest in those particular chapters may have contributed to their preservation among the fragments.

    In the (later) Greek lectionary system, it is noteworthy that those two chapters (18-19) are studiously avoided during the readings from the "Johannine" section which opens the Synaxarion's liturgical year and which continue for several months thereafter.

    Yet, among the readings selected for the "Gospels of the Passion" (TWN AGIWN PAQWN), reading two contains Jn 18:1-28; reading four has Jn 18:28-19:16 (specifically to which cf. the Coptic MS PBarc. Inv.-Nr. 44); reading nine has Jn 19:25-37; and reading eleven contains Jn 19:38-42.

    I would not be surprised were early scribes and church services indeed found to have been quite interested in the passion narrative, and that such interest would later manifest itself within the lectionary cycle.

  2. Do you not think that P52 and P90 are then remnants of a complete text of John?

  3. Head: "Do you not think that P52 and P90 are then remnants of a complete text of John?"

    I certainly did not say such. In regard to that question, I admit that "I know nothing..." (the Sgt. Schultz defense). Such short fragments could be part of almost anything: a complete GJn, a Passion Narrative Testimonium, an amulet, etc.

    Had there been a page number such as with p39, perhaps one could speak more defnitively. My "gut feeling", however. in view of other more extensive papyrus NT MSS, would be that these fragments most likely did come from what at one time was at least a complete GJn (and this also applies most likely to the Coptic PBarc MS as well).

    My comment primarily responded to Dr Williams' query as to what extraneous factors might have affected the preservation of portions of Jn 18-19 within the MS tradition, suggesting at most only a (very slim) possibility that liturgical interest in the passion narrative might have contributed to the preservation of those particular fragments. Equally (and perhaps more likely), the fragments may simply exist as the result of pure chance. Nothing more definitive than that.

  4. "I know nothing..." (the Sgt. Schultz defense)
    * * *

    For those not familiar with American television programming of the 1960's, this refers to a character in the WWII sitcom "Hogan's Heroes," a dummkopf of a German solier charged with (ineptly) guarding Allied POW's to keep them from committing the sort of subversive shenanigans with which each episode was replete. When questioned by his commandant, he gave the characteristic reply.

    500 years from now, somebody is going to thank me for this.

  5. DB: "500 years from now, somebody is going to thank me for this."

    Perhaps in the same manner as with the text-critical and hermeneutical scrutiny regarding "a pound of pastrami, a can of kraut, six bagels -- bring home for Emma" in Walter Miller's A Canticle for Liebowitz...