A papyrus witness to the Greek New Testament has been discovered in the Cadbury Research Library of the University of Birmingham.
Following an initial visit last year, a team from Brigham Young University, headed by Professor Thomas Wayment and Professor Lincoln Blumell, is visiting Birmingham this week to make an inventory of the uncatalogued papyrus fragments held by the University.
We are delighted to welcome them back to Birmingham, and on Tuesday morning they presented their findings at that point to staff and students at the ITSEE research seminar (pictured right). A number of the papyri originate from Oxyrhynchus, featuring references to towns and bishops in that area of Egypt.
On Tuesday afternoon, following the seminar, Lincoln contacted ITSEE to say that he had just identified a papyrus featuring text from the New Testament in the Birmingham collection. The small fragment appears to have been an amulet; it was a common practice in early Christianity to use biblical verses written on folded pieces of papyrus as charms. This example features a single verse from the Acts of the Apostles, with a text corresponding to all other known witnesses. An initial assessment of the handwriting suggests that it was copied around the fourth century. Lincoln intends to present his findings at a conference later in the year and is preparing an edition; the conservation department of the Cadbury Research Library will mount the fragment for display.
The University of Birmingham already holds five complete Greek New Testament manuscripts, dating from the 11th to the 13th centuries, and fragments from seven others, dating from the 6th to the 13th centuries. This new discovery is now the oldest known witness to the Greek New Testament held in Birmingham, which has a worldwide reputation as one of the leading centres for the study of the New Testament text and is home to teams working on new editions of the Gospel according to John and Pauline Epistles in Latin and Greek.
At present, there are 128 papyri listed in the official register of Greek New Testament manuscripts maintained by ITSEE's long-term collaborators at the Institute for New Testament Textual Research in Münster, Germany. This figure does not include amulets, as they are not classified as continuous-text witnesses. Nevertheless, we offer our warm congratulations to Lincoln on this exciting discovery!