NT Papyri in Historical Context
I’ve been offline for a couple of weeks attending a small working-conference in Wittenberg (Germany) and then an unexpected trip back to Kansas City for the funeral of my aged father. So, to take up things again, a few comments arising from the Wittenberg sessions of the Corpus Judaeo-Hellenisticum zum Neuen Testament group.
This year’s work focused on ancient papyri. I gave a presentation on the significance of NT papyri (I’ve uploaded the draft of this presentation on the “Essays, etc.” page of this site). I’ve tried to sketch the basics of how NT papyri contribute to various questions, not only text-critical ones but also other historical questions about early Christianity.
Another contribution focused on the vocabulary in ancient legal papyri. E.g., the Greek words homologeo, homologia, usually translated in the NT as “confess/confession”, typically have the sense of “assent to/agree” and “agreement”, which raises the interesting question of how much this legal sense of the terms might have informed the way they were used/understood in earliest Christian usage.
Yet another interesting session dealt with magical papyri. One of the things that struck me was that a number of the magical texts were written on the side of the papyrus sheet with the vertical fibres, and the side with the horizontal fibres (where one more typically wrote) was left blank. This appears to have been deliberate, but neither I nor the expert leading the session was able to say with any confidence why. (Anybody with an informed view, do comment!)