A New Article on the Contents of P46

The latest issue of Novum Testamentum is out (64.3), and among the new articles is one by me: “The Construction and Contents of the Beatty-Michigan Pauline Epistles Codex (𝔓⁴⁶).”

A bifolium of the Beatty-Michigan codex of Paul’s letters; image source: Chester Beatty Digital Collections

Here is the abstract:


The surviving portion of the papyrus codex of the letters of Paul split between the Chester Beatty Library and the University of Michigan (𝔓⁴⁶) consists of a well preserved but damaged single quire containing parts of nine of Paul’s letters. Because the pages of the codex are numbered, scholars have believed that it is possible to reconstruct the original size of the quire, which turns out to be too small for the traditional Pauline corpus of fourteen letters. Many scholars have taken this to mean that the codex did not contain the Pastoral letters (1–2 Timothy and Titus). Jeremy Duff has argued that the copyist increased the number of letters per page in the second half of the codex and intended to add extra leaves in order to produce a codex with all of the fourteen letters found in the majority of undamaged Greek manuscripts of Paul’s letters. While Duff’s hypothesis has been critically engaged on other grounds, this article assesses Duff’s proposed ancient comparanda for the addition of extra folia to the end of a single-quire codex and revisits the problem of the contents of this codex in light of the construction techniques of better preserved single-quire codices.


This was a fun article to research and compose. I had noticed that some of what Duff had written about the Nag Hammadi codices was not quite accurate, and I set out to make corrections on these points. In the process, I revisited the corpus of single-quire papyrus codices and made several realizations that I had missed before. For one thing, we (or I, at any rate) have assumed that we can use ancient page numbers to reconstruct precisely the original size of single-quire codices that are damaged or fragmentary. This is what we usually do with P46 with the result that–so I thought–there would have been insufficient space for 2 Thessalonians, 1-2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon in the remaining leaves of P46. But in fact, some of our better preserved single-quire codices are asymmetrical when it comes to numbers of inscribed pages in the two halves of the codex. Nag Hammadi Codex II, for instance, has 70 inscribed pages in the first half of the codex and 75 inscribed pages in the second half of the codex. Blank front flyleaves and the presence of stubbed singletons account for the differences in this case, but other factors can contribute to asymmetry in the two halves of a single-quire codex. The upshot of this is the possibility that there were more missing pages at the end of P46 than we have generally thought, which opens up the possibility that the quire did originally contain all of the fourteen letters of Paul that we find in later Greek manuscripts of Paul’s letters. I did not at all expect to reach this conclusion, but I suppose that is why we do the research!

I should also note that in this article I especially benefitted from the rich collection of data on P46 in the PhD thesis of Edgar Battad Ebojo, “A Scribe and His Manuscript: An Investigation into the Scribal Habits of Papyrus 46 (P. Chester Beatty ii—P.Mich.inv. 6238)” (Ph.D. diss., University of Birmingham, 2014).

For those who have institutional access, the article can be found at the Novum Testamentum site.

This entry was posted in Book binding, Chester Beatty Papyri, Chester Beatty Pauline Epistles, Codices, Codicology, Michigan Papyri. Bookmark the permalink.

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