Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Rahlfs 967 of the Kölner Papyri of the Institute of Ancient History at the University of Cologne

Ra 967, p. 197
I am researching the reception history of Esther in early Jewish and Christian sources and have come to Rahlfs 967 (2nd/3rd), a papyrus MS containing (with lacunae) Ezekiel (pp. 10–61), Daniel (pp. 62–93r), Bel et Draco (pp. 93v–95), Susanna (pp. 96–98), and Esther (pp. 99–109).

What I didn’t know previously is that the pages of this MS are divided between five different collections. The Verzeichnis (2004; pp. 98–103) lists the following (hyperlinks are to the images online of which I’m aware):
1. Chester Beatty IX + X: pp. 10–17 (upper half); 71–83 (upper half); 102–109 (upper half) (images of the pages from Dublin can be viewed at the CSNTM).
2. Princeton, Univ. Libr., P. Scheide 3: pp. 20 + 22, 23–28, 30–32, 34–37, 40–45 (upper half).
3. Kӧln, IfA, P. Colon. theol. 3–40: pp. 10–17, 20, 22, 71–77, 79–83 (lower half); 90, 92–101 (upper half); pp. 18–19, 21, 29, 53–70, 84–89 (whole) (see images at Kölner Papyri of the Institute of Ancient History at the University of Cologne).
4. Madrid, CSIC (Fonds Photiaded), P. Matr. bibl. 1: pp. 10, 33, 38–39, 46–52.
5. Montserrat, SBO, P.Monts./II Inv. 42. 43: p. 78 (lower half), p. 91 (upper half)
For my purpose, I wanted to see how Esther began and ended in this MS; that is, I was interested to learn about its paratextual features. Unfortunately, there are no visible paratextual features (e.g. title or inscription) except the page number (p. 197) at the beginning, and the end of Esther is not extant in the MS.
Ra 967, p. 196

Of some interest is the placement of Esther after Susanna (p. 196), which contains a subscription: Daniel: [pe]ace to the one who wro[te] and to those who re[ad] amen. In other MSS, the order is Sus–Dan–Bel et Draco, but in this MS, Sus is placed at the end of the book and may have been intended to be joined to Esther, another virtuous woman. Who knows? No other Greek MS has this order. The order Sus–Esth is attested in Syriac MSS.

Both of these images are from the Kölner Papyri collection, and I’m grateful to curator Prof. Dr. Charikleia Armoni for answering my query and directing me to the digitized images and also being willing to send me higher resolution images upon request.


  1. I would include the reading marks you can see on the first page as an aspect of the reception history of Esther in this manuscript (and as paratextual features of the manuscript, albeit not at the production level). Somewhat similar marks are used frequently in the Chester Beatty Papyri (e.g. in P45 they often mark linguistically unusual phenomena; in P46 they seem to highlight certain passages as read); but these ones are neater than ones visible in the NT.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Pete. May I ask a follow up question? Given the presence of reading marks in the text, what would you deduce about the reception of Esther or any other book? I've read what some scholars conclude about these marks, and sometimes I'm left scratching my head as to how they deduced so much from these marks. What are your thoughts? Thanks.

    1. I would deduce from reading marks that someone once read the text. I suppose I would study them all carefully and see if there what I could figure about how they were dividing up the text or what they were being used for. I would be wondering whether I could use them to generate a hypothesis about public reading, but I wouldn't be too quick to presume what sort of public reading. I would be interested as well to see if I could connect the marks in Esther with marks in other books in the same codex and other codices in the collection (although I wouldn't be too quick to leap to "canonical" as a result).

    2. Thanks, Pete. Your method is reasonable to me. I'm not sure how we could "leap" to "canonical," quickly or otherwise, on this kind of evidence. Christians were reading all kinds of texts, and we would have to show major differences between books within the same MS, it seems to me. Ra 967 doesn't really afford a good example, since probably Ezekiel and Daniel were considered canonical (according to the other types of evidence we have) and Esther probably was too, although there was obviously some dispute. Perhaps, we can say Ra 967 affords evidence of reading Esther but without similar disputed books in the MS we can't know whether it was copied and used more like Ezekiel and Daniel or like Judith, for example.

      I skimmed (too) quickly and a found a few other reading marks in Daniel (e.g. fol. 13r) and Bel (fol. 33v). I could not find any in what we call Susanna, but of course the whole book is called "Daniel" according to the subscription. Moving forward in the Esther part of the MS, there seem to be reading marks on every page. As I understand it, there was a scribe for Ezekiel and another one for Daniel-Esther. But there are more of these marks for Esther than for the several pages I checked in Daniel.

      Thanks again, Pete. I'm glad you made this comment and I'll give some thought to it.

  3. The question I've been researching is whether the Kölner Papyri is representative of the Old Greek or Theodotion?

    I can compare myself, but I was looking for a quick answer.