Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Where did you put those manuscripts?

I just finished reading the following article:
AnneMarie Luijendijk, 'Papyri from the Great Persecution: Roman and Christian Perspectives' in The Journal of Early Christian Studies 16:3 (Fall, 2008): 341–369.
The article contrasts two pieces of documentary evidence with the patristic accounts of Diocletian's persecution. The first papyrus (P.Oxy. XXXIII 2673) speaks of the confiscation of church property and the second (P.Oxy XXXI 2601) preserves evidence of Christians circumventing demands for imperial worship.

Dr Luijendijk
(LOY[as in boy]-EN-DIKE[as in bike]) mentions another text which is of particular interest. The Gesta apud Zenophilum contains an excerpt from a text titled the Acta of Munatius Felix which documents the confiscation of the goods of a Numidian (modern Algeria) church in the first decade of the 4th century. Numerous gold, silver and bronze items were turned over in addition to clothing and other goods. When the authorities searched the premises, they found further valuables including a codex. When the homes of church readers were searched, 37 manuscripts turned up.
These naughty Christians had neglected to submit their biblical manuscripts to the authorities.

In the first P.Oxy text, only a few bronze items are relinquished to the authorities. Are the Christians in this Fayumic town also hiding their manuscripts and other goods? Are the authorities looking the other way? This article poses a number of provocative questions concerning how the persecution played out and the ways in which Christians learned to avoid legal punishment. The second P.Oxy text demonstrates how an early Christian escaped offering tribute in a forensic setting. The ancient author's Christian faith is
marked by the isopsephy of a final Ϟθ' which apparently is code for "Amen".


  1. That is an interesting find. I wonder if there will be any new Oxyrhynchus New Testament fragments released in 2009. It's easy to get spoiled when there were four in 2007 and two in 2008.

  2. I think there may well be a fragment of Philemon, as well as a new apocryphal Gospel fragment (and perhaps other NT frags) in the works for the Oxy series, but not sure if they will appear in 2009 or 2010.

  3. I also think there will be one fragment of James. As we have reported on this blog, Michael Theophilus presented an interesting fragment at the SBL in Boston in one of the papyrology sections.

  4. Dave said...

    I think there may well be a fragment of Philemon...

    By chance does anyone know the date of this frag?


  5. Anon,

    As I understand it, the fragment is provisionally dated late 4th-early 5th century; this makes it later than P87 but earlier than P61 (and of course roughly contemporaneous with some well-known uncials), but the preserved text (Phm 6-9, 18-20) doesn't overlap with P87. Should be interesting.

  6. Thanks for the info! I will look forward to examining the new fragments when they are published.

  7. I wonder if we ever find at least one papyrus containing the letters to Timothy :)

    Anyways, sounds great. New findings open up possibilities for new research.