A Manuscript of the Psalms in Greek from Karanis

One of the things I try to do in my book on early Christian manuscripts is survey some of the contexts in which ancient Christian books have been discovered. A set of examples that I wasn’t able to treat in detail in the book is the small group of Christian manuscripts found at the Egyptian town of Karanis. One of these pieces is a fragmentary leaf of a codex that contained the Psalms 32-33 in Greek (P.Mich. inv. 5475b, LDAB 128586) that was found in the courtyard of a house. Continue reading

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God’s Library

So, it has been about a year since I started this blog. At that time, I was in the midst of finishing my last revisions to the manuscript of my book, and in my first posting, I described the blog as an outgrowth of this book project:

“I’ve just completed a book on that topic (God’s Library: The Archaeology of the Earliest Christian Manuscripts), which is due out next year. This was a really fun book to write. While researching it over the last few years, I encountered so many fascinating stories about Christian manuscripts (and the people who study them!). So, I’m planning on using this site primarily to share some of these interesting, entertaining, and just plain strange stories.”

I’ve still got lots of stories to tell, so the blog will go on. But in the meantime, but I’m happy to report that I received my author copies of the book today:

Nongbri Books

Continue reading

Posted in Codices, Nag Hammadi | 7 Comments

E. C. Colwell on P52

E C Colwell

Ernest Cadman Colwell (1901-1974) 

Back in 2005, I wrote an article on P.Ryl. 3.457, or “P52,” the small papyrus fragment of chapter 18 of the Gospel According to John kept at the Rylands Library in Manchester. I argued that the date generally assigned to the fragment on the basis of its handwriting (“first half of the second century,” or “circa 125 CE”) was overly narrow and that reasonably good palaeographic comparanda could be found among documents securely dated to the later second century and into the third century. As a result of this, I argued that P.Ryl. 3.457 should not be a factor in historical arguments about the date of the composition of John’s gospel.

At a conference in Manchester in 2014 I gave a paper that collected some new archival evidence on both the acquisition of this papyrus and the establishing of its date. The paper remains in a publication queue, but I was reminded today of an item of bibliography that had somehow escaped my notice when I was preparing that original 2005 article but that I luckily stumbled upon before the 2014 talk: E. C. Colwell’s review of the original edition of P.Ryl. 3.457 by C. H. Roberts in The Journal of Religion 16 (1936), 368-369. I thought I would highlight some of its salient lines: Continue reading

Posted in Antiquities Market, Codices, Palaeography, Rylands Papyri | 8 Comments

“Ink & Blood” Back? (but with less ink?)

I’ve recently been doing some research on a few early Christian books that were on the antiquities market about a decade ago. There are a lot of interesting stories here. We’re all pretty familiar with the collection now known as the Museum of the Bible, which really got going in 2009. Part of its public debut was the traveling “Passages” exhibition, which I have discussed earlier on this blog. The “Passages” exhibition itself seems in some ways to have been built in the mold of an earlier road show of biblical antiquities, “Ink & Blood: Dead Sea Scrolls to the English Bible.” Continue reading

Posted in Antiquities Dealers and Collectors, Antiquities Market, Fakes and Forgeries, Oxyrhynchus Papyri | 4 Comments

The Moschos Ioudaios Inscription

One of the most interesting early Greek inscriptions involving a Jew/Judaean is the so-called “Moschos inscription” (or “Moschus inscription”), a record of a manumission found in 1952 during excavations at Oropos north of Athens. The inscription was recovered from the Amphiareion, a shrine to the hero Amphiaraos.  The inscription itself bears no date but is generally assigned to the first half of the third century BCE, which would make it among the earliest Greek inscriptions to mention an ΙΟΥΔΑΙΟΣ in the singular. I was having a hard time locating an image of the inscription online, but I recalled having scanned the publication some time ago. I was able to find the scan and have posted it here: Continue reading

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A Model of Nag Hammadi Codex III (and Some Thoughts on Large Single-quire Codices)

After I started out by making a model of Nag Hammadi Codex VI, the second Nag Hammadi book that I tried to make was Codex III. Like Codex VI, Codex III is made up of a single papyrus quire, but the construction of the cover of Codex III is slightly more complicated than that of Codex VI. The quire of Codex III was composed of 40 bifolia (two of which were in reality a single folio with a stub). So, this is a considerably thicker codex than Codex VI, which contained 20 bifolia. The construction of the quire thus required more materials and more time spent cutting the bifolia to size. Continue reading

Posted in Book binding, Book covers, Codices, Nag Hammadi | 6 Comments

The Odyssey at Olympia?

An interesting news report is circulating about the discovery at Olympia of an incised clay tablet containing lines from Homer’s Odyssey. The ultimate source of the story seems to be a press release from the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports, which presents the least garbled version of the report. The picture accompanying the story shows a bit of text text from Book 14, lines 8-13 of the Odyssey:

Olympia Odyssey

Incised clay tablet containing lines from the Odyssey; image source: Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports

The tablet is tentatively assigned to the third century CE. So, the headlines describing it as “the oldest written record of Homer’s Odyssey” are of course a bit of an exaggeration. I am curious to learn more about the precise context of the find and the extent of the inscription.


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