Greek Epistle to the Romans
This papyrus sheet forms part of a papyrus codex that contains the epistles of St. Paul. It is written in a beautiful hand that can be dated to the late second or early third century C.E., making this codex the oldest known copy of the Epistles of St. Paul. The regular handwriting demonstrates the work of a skilled professional scribe, giving each letter the same amount of attention. At a later moment, another person went through the text and added reading marks above the lines in a slightly darker ink than the main text. Although the precise purpose of these reading marks is not clear and they are placed fairly irregularly throughout the text, they must have aided the reading of these verses in church: as is usual for such early manuscripts, there are no word or sentence divisions in the text and the reading marks are placed where there are clear sense divisions. The groups of letters with a horizontal line above them (for example in line 6 from above) are so-called nomina sacra. In Christian manuscripts, the names of Jesus, the Lord, Holy Spirit, and so on, were not written out in full, but only with the first and last letter. The binding was on the right hand side of this sheet, and readers would leaf through the manuscript on the other side, which explains the damage to the papyrus on that side. The complete codex (in New Testament scholarship commonly referred to as P46) must have contained 104 leaves. Of these, 86 leaves are currently extant: 30 are at the University of Michigan (purchased in 1930/1931), and 56 are housed in the Chester Beatty Collection of Dublin, Ireland.