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New Oxyrhynchus Manuscripts

July 2, 2013

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.

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  1. Howard permalink

    Prof. Hurtado,

    Obviously, the newly discovered manuscript, P.Oxy. 77.5101 does not necessarily have to follow the MT or the usually accepted text of the LXX, however I have isolated the possible locations where the divine name might have appeared in the new manuscript with reference to the definite article.

    Psalm 26:11 has “. . . nomotheteson me kurie te odo . . .” (No definite article)

    Psalm 26:13 has “. . . agathe kuriou en ge . . .” (No definite article)

    Psalm 26:10 has “. . . me ho de kurios proselabeto . . .” (Hebrew has HWHYW)

    Psalm 26:14 has “. . . ton kurion andrizou . . .” (Hebrew has HWHY-L)

    Psalm 63:11 has “. . . epi to kurio kai elpiei . . .” (Hebrew has HWHYB)

    We can see there are only five places that the new manuscript should have inserted the Tetragrammaton, based on the MT. The first two instances of kurios do not use the article, and the last three, use a sort of compound form of the name with an addition letter attached to the name. Is it possible that the additional letters attached to the divine name in these last three instances would require the use of the definite article in Greek, even for a proper name?

    The following verses use “theos” and “elohim” as the only identification of God, the divine name (MT) or kurios (LXX) does not appear in any of these verses . Therefore, if the new manuscript used any of these places to insert the Tetragrammaton, it would not be a legitimate insertion based on the MT.

    Psalm 44:7, Psalm 44:8, Psalm 47:15, Psalm 48:8, Psalm 48:16, Psalm 49:2, Psalm 49:3, Psalm 49:6, Psalm 49:7, Psalm 49:14, Psalm 49:16, Psalm 63:8, Psalm 63:10, Psalm 64:2.

    • Howard, You may not understand all the relevant matters, so I’ll try briefly to explain. First, as to the Hebrew that you cite, the “additional letters” are simply Hebrew conjuntion or prepositions: e.g., in Psa 26:10 (Heb 27:10), ויהוה is simply the divine name “YHWH” preceded by a “vav”, which = “and/but”. Likewise in Psa 26:14 (Heb 27:14), you have two uses of “YHWH” preceded by the Heb preposition “el” (אל, = “on/upon”). Such things have nothing to do with the issue. My point is that in the Greek (Septuagint) of these psalms, at certain points the translators chose to use the Greek definite article with “Kyrios” (e.g., LXX Psa 26:14, twice), and at other places (as often done in the LXX) YHWH is rendered into Greek as “kyrios” without any article (treating “kyrios” as a name and not really a title). In P.Oxy 5101, at extant places where the definite article appears in the LXX before “kyrios” the definite article appears before YHWH written in archaic Heb characters. My inference is that this suggest that in the parent Greek tradition, “kyrios” stood there with the definite article.
      As to what is or is not “legitimate” for ancient translators, you can’t hold them to the Massoretic text. We know that in the second-temple period the Heb text of OT writings was much more varied than survives in the MT.

  2. Robert F. Hull, Jr. permalink

    On your newly-revised list, last item, for P.Oxy. 76.5073, for the nomina sacra where you intended to write iota-omicron-upsilon, you have tau-omicron-upsilon.

    • Robert, That’s not an error. in Oxy 5073, the definite article precedes the nomina sacra form of “christ”.

  3. P. Vasileiadis permalink

    Prof. Hurtado, isn’t it true that all the extant oldest manuscripts of the Greek Bible (2nd BCE-2nd CE) are using a form of the Tetragrammaton (as a proper name) and never the translated term “Kyrios”? If so, I think that the >hard evidence< is for the original use of a proper name (Tetragrammaton, Iao, etc) and against a Hebraizing departure from "Kyrios" (a procedure that would not even had the time needed to be deployed).

    • Yes, quite true: The oldest Greek OT manuscripts from pre-Christian provenance have the tetragrammaton written in Hebrew characters. But I’ve mentioned briefly the manuscript data that suggests that something else was going on too. From Jewish writers of the time, we have evidence that “kyrios” was the oral-substitute often for YHWH in reading aloud the OT texts. You’ll have to read Pietersma’s article. A blog site isn’t the place to engage the data at sufficient length.

      • P. Vasileiadis permalink

        I do have read it and found it very interesting, though not completely satisfactory. Esp. after reading the G.D. Kilpatrick’s “Book Review of A. Pietersma’s ‘Kyrios or Tetragram'” (Novum Testamentum, Vol. 27, Nο 1-4, 1985, Brill, pp. 380-382) and M. Epstein’s, “On the ‘original’ Septuagint” (The Bible translator, United Bible Societies, July 1994, Vol. 45, No 3, pp. 327-329).

        I think that an important factor is how widespread was the practise of replacing the divine name with substitutes like “kyrios”. If such was the case for the priestly stratum of Jerusalem, was the case the same as well for the majority of the common people or of other streams inside Judaism?

        Additionally, if the Greek Bible (esp. LXX) was finished at the end of the 3rd cent. BCE, was a time of a century enough for the procedure proposed by the “Hebraizing” approximation?

        If you have some more current reference on this subject I’d really appreciate it to mention it.

        Thank you.

      • See , e.g., also the following:
        –James R. Royse, “Philo, Kyrios, and the Tetragrammaton,” The Studia Philonica Annual 3 (1991): 167-83
        –Martin Rösel, “Die Übersetzung der Gottesbezeichnungen in der Genesis-Septuaginta,” in Ernten, was man sät: Festschrift für Klaus Koch zu seinem 65. Geburtstag, ed. Dwight R. Daniels, Uwe Glessmer and Martin Rösel (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1991), 357-77
        –Martin Rösel, “The Reading and Translation of the Divine Name in the Massoretic Tradition and the Greek Pentateuch,” JSOT 31 (2007): 411-28.

  4. Vasileios Tsialas permalink

    As to the suggestion of Kyrios being replaced by יהוה , shouldn’t it be backed up with physical evidence? Can such a replacement take place without any physical remain? Should we also exclude the possibility of a Greek treatment of the proper name with the insertion of an article (since Greek proper names can be constructed with articles)? I would be grateful for your insightful comments.

    • Vasileios: There is physical data that seems evidence that the earlier Jewish practice was to write “kyrios” for YHWH in Greek OT manuscripts, and that subsequently a “Hebraizing” practice came in, with YHWH written in Hebrew characters. For example, the space left for inserting YHWH seems larger than needed, as if estimated from the six-letter “kyrios”. See, e.g., Albert Pietersma, “Kyrios or Tetragram: A Renewed Quest for the Original Septuagint,” in Studies in Honour of John W. Wevers on His Sixty-Fifth Birthday, ed. Albert Pietersma and Claude Cox (Mississauga: Benben Publishers, 1984), 85-101.

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