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What Early Christian Manuscripts Can Tell us About Their Readers

May 4, 2018

IN response to a request of a subscriber, I’ve now uploaded the pre-publication form of my essay that was published as  “What Do the Earliest Christian Manuscripts Tell Us About Their Readers?,” in The World of Jesus and the Early Church: Identity and Interpretation in Early Communities of Faith, ed. Craig A. Evans (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2011), 179-92.

The uploaded essay is found under the “Selected Published Essays” tab, here.

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  1. Professor Hurtado,

    I have a few basic questions about the manuscripts:

    Where were the early Christian manuscripts typically discovered? Were they ever found in their customary locations, such as places of worship, private homes or libraries? I was surprised to read in your Artifacts that the majority of Christian manuscripts were found in a refuse site in Oxyrhynchus!

    Are there other physical items found in the vicinity of the manuscripts that could tell us more about their readers? If so, is that information recorded in a database somewhere, so that if one were to search for a manuscript, he could learn about the physical setting / context in which it was found?


    • Nemo: I don’t think that I wrote that the majority of early Christian manuscripts were found in Oxyrhynchus. A good many were, but not only from there. Other early manuscripts were purchased from antiquities dealers (e.g.,the Bodmer and Chester Beatty Papyri), and we can’t be sure where they came from or how they were discovered. A bit later there are the Nag Hammadi Coptic manuscripts, found (so the story goes) in a cave or burial site. The locations are varied, and not always clear.

  2. Are pre-publication and post-publication essays only different in formating?

    • As well as formatting, there can be small, differences down to the copy-editing process.

  3. Mark Hollomon permalink

    Odd thought, but could the use of the codex be a form of camouflage for the precious texts? A low status individual carrying a scroll might have engendered questions?

    • Mark: There’s no indication that early Christian sought to “camouflage” their texts, or were some kind of underground/secretive movement. They were “out there,” and easily rounded up when authorities wanted to do so.

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