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Earliest Christian Manuscripts

January 7, 2011

In my book, The Earliest Christian Artifacts:  Manuscripts and Christian Origins (Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 2006), I included a complete list of copies of literary texts in manuscripts of Christian provenance (Appendix 1, pp. 209-29).  The pace of continuing publication of manuscripts continues, however, and so that list is already slightly out of date and incomplete. 

I’ve just finished an updating of the list, and on the “Essays, etc” page of this site, I’ve put this updated list.  I welcome notices about corrections and omissions.  My aim is to provide a complete list of each copy of each literary text (including biblical and extra-biblical texts) in Christian manuscripts of the pre-Constantinian period.  So, accepting the dating given in standard lists and/or by the editors of the published manuscripts, I include everything relevant dated to the second or third centuries CE.

P.S.:  As a couple of readers noted, I initially neglected to update the cross-references in the manuscript list.  As of 10 January, these should be correct.

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  1. Scott Caulley permalink

    Thanks for posting this, Larry. I have found your “Artifacts” book immensely helpful, and welcome this update. In case it is significant for your work, you might revisit your reference to the Bodmer hymn fragment, P.Bodm.12. It is listed as your item 197, “Melito (Paschal Hymn?).” I have argued (successfully, I think) that despite certain assumptions about that fragment, there is no compelling reason to take it as from Melito, and some good reasons not to– see my recent article, “A Fragment of an Early Christian Hymn (Papyrus Bodmer 12): Some Obervations,” Zeitschrift fuer Antikes Christentum 13:3 (2009) 403-414.

    • Thanks! I’ve obviously missed something to note. Just the sort of help I’m happy to have in keeping updated.

  2. Thanks for posting this, I have been searching for something from a scholarly source and I’m glad I found your blog (really was referred by a friend of mine).

    If I could make a suggestion, given that we take such a pride in “old manuscripts”, it would be to sort the manuscripts from the earliest to the oldest — and to perhaps have the two list OT and NT — especially for NT Manuscripts.

    Great stuff. thanks.


  3. Dr. Hurtado,

    What is your take on hymns? The first time I sang a Psalm to the tune of “Amazing Grace”, it rubbed me the wrong way.

    Some Reeformed folk want to sing only from the Psalms. Did early Christians only sing from the Psalms?

    I personally love the Psalms and love hymns and some praise choruses.

    Carol Noren Johnson

    • I’ve discussed various features of earliest Christian worship in a little book: At the Origins of Christian Worship: The Context and Character of Earliest Christian Devotion (Eerdmans, 2000). From such texts as Colossians 3:16, with its references to “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs”, we get the impression that early worship included chanting biblical Psalms, and also odes composed under the religious inspiration of Christian experience. Many scholars believe that in Philippians 2:6-11 we may have a Pauline adaptation of such an early Christian ode. If so, it’s perhaps the earliest that we have. I do suggest that you consult my book if you’re seriously interested in these matters.

  4. 1. An addendum I would suggest: some notation concerning the material context, where this is relevant to dating, as well as findspot / provenance.
    2. Bibliography (at least the, where this is not self-evident.
    3. In no. 51, there is ink where a stroke for a nomen sacrum is expected. The published photo is not very good. I can send a better one if you wish.

    • Well, yes, but there’s only so much that one can crowd into a simple check-list such as mine. There is fuller information in the printed and online catalogues that I give at the head of the list.

  5. Thank you very much for posting this updated list. It is very much appreciated.

    (P.S. I noticed that the cross-references for P46 are still referring to the former numbers, e.g. item 136 instead of 139.)

    • Thanks. Yes, I stupidly forgot to update the cross-references. When I added new items, of course, it threw off the numbering. I’ll try to get to make the corrections and upload a corrected list soon.

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