Monday, October 12, 2009

1 Peter 2:3 in P 125 (P Oxy 4934)

The most recent publication of Oxyrhynchus Papyri (P Oxy 73) includes the editio princeps of a fragment of 1 Peter 1 and 2. This is P Oxy 4934, P 125 in the official list of New Testament Papyri. The editor, J. Chapa has dated the fragment to the late third or early fourth century, making it contemporary with P Bodmer VIII, P 72.

At 1 Peter 2:3 P 125 reads Christos (Christ, abbreviated x[c ) rather than chrestos (good). This is the reading of P 72. Chapa lists the following support for the reading: P72 K L 049 33 69 614 1241 1243 1852 2298 2464 al. A full listing is found in the ECM IV Part 1, 126. The variant Christos is supported by our two oldest witnesses to 1 Peter and by a substantial number of manuscripts. It is further to be noted that these two papyri from different places in Egypt give different abbreviations of Christos( P72 reads xpc, P125 appears to read xc,)

Before the discovery of these two papyri it would not have been feasible to argue that Christos was what the author of 1 Peter wrote. But these papyri anchor the reading to a much earlier date, strengthening on external grounds the argument that this was the original reading. This proposal is further strengthened when we consider that the term Christos (on its own without Jesus) is employed by the author of 1 Peter in a rich and diverse manner. We note the following:

1:11 the Spirit of Christ (within the prophets)
1:11 the suffering destined for Christ and the subsequent glory
1:19 the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish
2:21 because Christ also suffered for you
3:15 in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord
3:16 your good conduct in Christ
3:18 for Christ also suffered for sins once for all
4:1 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh
4:13 you are sharing in Christ’s sufferings
4:14 if you are reviled for the name of Christ
5:1 a witness of the sufferings of Christ
5:10 the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ
5:14 Peace to all of you who are in Christ

It is noteworthy that the reading Christos, if original at 2:3, occurs in a clear allusion to Psalm 34 (LXX 33), a psalm that is quoted or echoed several times in the letter. The reading, then, gives a Christological interpretation of Psalm 34. This should not surprise the careful reader of 1 Peter, since elsewhere the author has given a Christological reading of O.T. texts. Notably in 2:21-25 we find a number of phrases from Isa.52:13-53:12, the fourth Servant Song, applied to the death of Christ. Here we find what J.H. Elliott has termed “a theological formulation that is as creative as it is singular in the N.T.” (Elliott, 1 Peter, 2000, 504). Similarly we note in 1 Peter 3:15 the change in the wording of Isa.8:12-13 from Theon to Christon, clearly a Christological alteration. It is not surprising, then, to find a similar thoughtful theological reflection on Psalm 34 in 1 Peter. Christos in 1 Peter 2:3 is not a patristic but a petrine pun.


  1. L is certainly an error, because it is a Gospel manuscript. Perhaps K/018 is meant.
    The external evidence is clearly in favor of CRHSTOS. The ECM lists all 9 first rank manuscripts for it, against P72 only for CRISTOS.
    Internal evidence is divided. On the one hand CRHSTOS is the LXX reading and makes perfect sense in context; on the other hand it could be argued that CRISTOS is the harder reading.
    That it is not a simple transcription error is clear from the fact that CRISTOS is written as nomen sacrum (perhaps subconscious self-dictation). But a change from CRHSTOS to CRISTOS isn't unusual, it happens elsewhere in the NT.

  2. I see now that 020 is also called "L" (L-ap).

    I looked at the online photo and must admit that I cannot see anything of CS. Perhaps the faintest traces of the top left of C are there, but the rest is within a lacuna. Space considerations make a nomen sacrum probable though.
    Interestingly the papyrus seems to read EUGESASQE instead of EGEUSASQE.
    The right fragment must be moved more to the left, to fit. There is the top part of an E that belongs to the bottom part of the left fragment.

  3. PR:
    Similarly we note in 1 Peter 3:15 the change in the wording of Isa.8:12-13 from Theon to Christon.

    In what ms of the LXX does Isa 8:12-13 read QEON? Here is how I read the quote in Vaticanus:


    OK, I guess you meant that QN in the original text of the /quote/ from Isaiah was changed to CN in the Alexandrian mss.

  4. Leipzig Papyrus 39 (IV c.e., containing Pss 30-55) has the nomina sacra xs rather than xrhstos. I consulted Gregor Emmenegger's appendix in his Koptischen Psalters.

  5. Thanks to readers for various clarifications and corrections.
    To Daniel Buck for clarifying the LXX reading. The point I am making still stands. For the note on Leipzig Papyrus 39. I believe the substitution is also found in other Psalms papyri.(but not, interestingly in the version of LXX Psa 33 found with P 72) To Wieland Willker for his note on the "9 first rank manuscripts" for CRHSTOS. However, where internal criteria strongly demand it, modern editors have favored a reading not in the "first rank manuscripts." See my list for UBS 3 in Nov. Test. XXXIV (1992)p.391. Thank you all for the stimulating and helpful comments.

  6. PR: "where internal criteria strongly demand it,"

    That exactly must be shown. I don't see it at the moment.
    The change from CRHSTOS to CRISTOS is quite natural and happened elsewhere.
    On the other hand if CS was the original reading it is difficult to see how CRHSTOS could have arisen. That any scribe was reminded of Ps 33:9 is rather improbable IMO.
    Perhaps it is also meant as a Greek wordplay, so that basically both readings are intended?

  7. PR: "I believe the substitution is also found in other Psalms papyri."

    Yes, the reading is in line with a common wordplay in early Christianity, which at the same time explains its origin, and this, as Wieland implicates, speaks strongly against it as being the initial reading.

    PR: "(but not, interestingly in the version of LXX Psa 33 found with P 72)"

    I have examined the relationship of P72 and the LXX Psalm that was found in the same codex, and I found no text-critical connections. They were copied by different scribes, and were most probably part of distinct collections before they were bound together.

    Finally, P72 has an interesting additional modification in that it inserts επιστεθσατε which specifies the tasting as believing in Christ. The scriptural allusion is turned into a confessional formula, "Christ is Lord" that is to be believed. (And note the use of nomen sacrum in 72).

  8. My one cent to this discussion would be to note that both XRHSTOS and XRISTOS could have risen by "mishearing" the other word, as both words were pronounced the same way due to itacism. So, ECM first rank witnesses might not be a good argument against XRISTOS, if the misspelling took place in very early history of the transmission of the text (though I am not saying this is what happened). Either is possible, I think.