New Oxyrhynchus Manuscripts
I spent some time today catching up on recent volumes in the Oxyrhynchus Papyri series, specifically vols. 76 & 77, which publish some interesting further manuscripts.
P.Oxy. 76.5072 is an unidentifiable text relating an exorcism (probably by Jesus) and miscellaneous Jesus-sayings, the text palaeographically dated by the editors to the end of the 2nd century or early 3rd century CE. The editors label it “Uncanonical Gospel?”, the question mark intended to signal genuine uncertainty about what the larger text was from which this fragment (7×7 cm), probably from a codex, comes. Noting similarities to P. Egerton 2 & P. Oxy 1224, they also observe, “The similarities of language with the first three canonical gospels point to dependence upon the Synoptic story” (the exorcism). Identifable nomina sacra forms are υε (vocative form of υιος = “son”), and βαλεια (βασιλεια). The many ligatures and the “semi-cursive” nature of the hand suggest a text likely intended for private/personal usage.
P.Oxy. 76.5073 is a Christian amulet (palaeographically dated to late 3rd or early 4th century CE), containing Mark 1:1-2. It was used as a rolled up strip (25.2 x 4.5 cm) likely worn around the neck. Given the scarcity of extant manuscript evidence for Mark in the first three centuries, even this curious fragment is worth attention for text-critical purposes. The text witnesses to the opening line of Mark as “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ” (i.e., without “Son of God”). Both “Jesus” and “Christ” are written as nomina sacra (ιηυ and χρυ respectively), and, interestingly, the Greek definite article precedes “Christ”. The editors judge this as reflecting a tendency in the period from which the manuscript comes to emphasize the messianic claim. The text also witnesses to the reading “Isaiah the prophet” (in v.2).
P.Oxy. 77.5101 (Rahlfs 2227) comprises remains of a Psalms scroll (Psa. 26:9-14; 44:4-8; 47:13-15; 48:6-21; 49:2-16; 63:6–64:5), dated late lst or early 2nd century CE. As the editors note, “This is probably the earliest extant copy of the Septuagint Psalms.” An noteworthy feature of this Greek text of the Psalms is that the divine name (“tetragrammaton”, יהוה ) is written in archaic Hebrew characters (as also found in a few other manuscripts of the Greek OT, e.g., P. Oxy. 3522). It is the more interesting that these Hebrew forms of the divine name are preceded by the Greek definite article. This suggests that in the parent textual tradition “kyrios” was used, and it was replaced at some point. The use of the roll book-form, the unabbreviated θεος (line 2) and the use of the tetragrammaton all strongly indicate a roll prepared by/for Jewish usage. The informal nature of the hand suggests a copy for personal usage.
I’ve updated my list of early manuscripts relating to early Christianity, including these items now. You can access the list here.