The vast majority of the earliest Biblical and related manuscripts
were written in ink on papyrus, which is a writing surface made from
strips of a water plant found in the Nile region of Egypt. Many papyri
from ancient times in Egypt have survived in excellent condition because
of the dry climate. The University of Michigan has the largest collection
of papyrus manuscripts in the Western Hemisphere. All pieces in Cases
1 and 2 are written in Greek, except for Michigan Manuscript 167, which
is written in Sahidic Coptic.
P. Mich. Inv. 263, Libellus, A.D. 250
A certificate in Greek issued during the Decian persecution
to a woman and her daughter from the village of Theadelphia in Egypt.
It testifies that they had obeyed the imperial edict to participate
in pagan sacrifices as proof of their loyalty to the government. Since
faithful Christians would not sacrifice to pagan gods, the edict served
as a means for identifying Christians and making them liable for punishment
or imprisonment. Decius, emperor from A.D. 249 to 251, conducted vigorous
persecutions of Christians in an effort to revive the Roman state
religion. The official who signed this wrote his name boldly: Hermas.
P. Mich. Inv. 6238, Epistles of Paul, circa A.D. 200
A leaf from a papyrus codex in Greek of the Letters of
Saint Paul, dating from about A.D. 200. The codex, generally referred
to as P46. is thought originally to have contained 104 leaves. There
are now 86 leaves extant:L 30 are at the University of Michigan and
56 are in he Chester Beatty Collection in Dublin, Ireland. The discovery
of this codex in 1931 provided a text at least a century older than
the Vatican and Sinaitic codices, the oldest authorities on which
the text had previously rested. Displayed are the opening paragraphs
of the Epistle to the Hebrews, preceded by the last line of the Letter
to the Romans.
Next: Cases 3 & 4