Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Christian Amulets with Biblical Inscriptions

In a previous post (with programme links) I mentioned that the XXV International Congress of Papyrology is on from July 29 - August 4 2007 at the University of Michigan. I am not sure whether any of our regular readers or contributors are attending, but Gregg Schwendner is virtually blogging this conference (he is not actually there, but is providing all the paper titles and abstracts in chronological order) over at What's New in Papyrology? Some of these are of interest to NT textual criticism so I shall take the opportunity of posting them here.
The first one of interest is Theodore S. de Bruyn, "Christian Amulets with Biblical Inscriptions: a Catalogue in Progress"
  • This paper will report on an aspect of a project to prepare a catalogue of edited Greek formularies and amulets (papyri, ostraca, lamellae, tabulae) containing Christian motifs and dating from the second to the eighth centuries CE. The catalogue is preliminary to a study of the incorporation of Christian liturgical sequences into Greek formularies and amulets. Scholars have differed in their criteria for identifying Greek formularies and amulets containing Christian motifs. Van Haelst’s catalogue of Jewish and Christian papyri included amulets consisting of prayers, acclamations, or citations from the Bible or the Christian liturgy (Catalogue des papyrus littéraires juifs et chrétiens, 1976, 414), whereas these were excluded from the more recent compilations of Brashear (ANRW II.18.5, 1995, 3492-3; cf. 3480 n.486) and Daniel and Maltomini (Supplementum Magicum I, 1991, ix). Both approaches have their merits. While the latter focuses on unique or specific features of magical texts, the former is more inclusive of the entire range of materials with Christian motifs that were used as amulets. This paper will (1) review criteria used to identify papyri inscribed with one or more biblical passages as amulets (e.g., evidence that the papyrus was folded or tied, evidence that the papyrus did not form part of a larger roll or codex, etc.); (2) present an up-to-date list of edited papyri inscribed with biblical passages and deemed to be amulets by their editors or commentators; and (3) discuss doubtful or problematic cases.


  1. Hmm. I'd gladly mail a bright, shiny ruble to whoever could provide detailed information on the amulet that depicts immunity from snake-bite -- provenance, date of production, material used, that sort of thing. Kelhoffer mentioned it in "Miracle and Mission" but the description was a bit vague, and I haven't been able to track down Bell's (was it Bell?) description.

    These seem to be the go-to guys on such subjects. Can they help?

  2. James,

    Could you tell us a bit more about Kelhoffer's reference?

  3. James,

    I don't know particularly about "immunity from snake-bite", but there are many amulets offering protection against snakes. There are at least two in Vienna that were on display in the Papyrusmuseum which I visited last week. There were no inventory numbers but they lay in "Vitrine 13", nos. 6 (snake) and 7 (dog, snake and satan!). If you want to know more about these you can contact the papyrusmuseum.

  4. Peter,

    I'm afraid I don't have "Miracle and Mission" handy at the moment. As I very vaguely recall, the amulet contained some text from Mk. 16:18, and didn't seem to have a definite date assigned to it.