The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Biblical Interpretation 0191028207, 9780191028205

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The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Biblical Interpretation
 0191028207, 9780191028205

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Great Clarendon Street, Oxford, ox2 6DP, United Kingdom Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford.

It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. Oxford is a registered trade mark of Oxford University Press in the UK and in certain other countries © Oxford University Press 2019

The moral rights of the authors have been asserted First Edition published in 2019 Impression: 1 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of Oxford University Press, or as expressly permitted by law, by licence or under terms agreed with the appropriate reprographics rights organization. Enquiries concerning reproduction outside the scope of the above should be sent to the Rights Department, Oxford University Press, at the address above You must not circulate this work in any other form and you must impose this same condition on any acquirer Published in the United States of America by Oxford University Press 198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, United States of America British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data Data available Library of Congress Control Number: 2018963934 ISBN 978-0-19-871839-o Printed and bound by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon, CRO 4YY Links to third party websites are provided by Oxford in good faith and for information only. Oxford disclaims any responsibility for the materials contained in any third party website referenced in this work.


We wish to express our profound appreciation to Tracy Russell at Saint Louis University for her extraordinarily good work as editorial assistant for this Handbook. Her copy editing and stylistic conformation of the essays, as well as her organizational work, were indispensable to the production of this volume. We also wish to thank Karen Raith of the Oxford University Press for her outstanding work with the editors in the whole process of preparing this book for publication, and Tom Perridge, also of the Press, for the invitation to include this work in the excellent series of Oxford Handbooks. Thanks as well to our copy editor, Edwin Pritchard, for his careful work on all the chapters herein and his assistance in conforming this volume to the series standards. Paul M. Blowers Emmanuel Christian Seminary at Milligan College Peter W Martens Saint Louis University


List ofFigures Abbreviations List of Contributors

xiii xv xxi






Scripture as Artefact LINCOLN





The Septuagint and Other Translations



3. Canons and Rules of Faith



4. Divine Discourse: Scripture in the Economy of Revelation






6. Early Christian Handbooks on Interpretation



7. From Letter to Spirit: The Multiple Senses of Scripture JOHN C. CAVADINI




8. Ideal Interpreters







Questions and Responses LORENZO PERRONE


Paraphrase and Metaphrase







14. Sentences



II. Liturgical Interpretation 15. Catecheses and Homilies



16. Poetry and Hymnody




Liturgy as Performative Interpretation



III. Narrative and Visual Interpretation 18. Christian Apocrypha STEPHENJ.SHOEMAKER






ix 303



Early Christian Visual Art as Biblical Interpretation




Christianity and Judaism




Christians and Pagans



24. Marcion and his Critics



25. Gnostics and their Critics DAVID BRAKKE

26. Manichaean Biblical Interpretation






28. Scripture in the Trinitarian Controversies



29. Scripture in the Christological Controversies




Scripture and a Christian Empire




Scripture and Asceticism ELIZABETH A. CLARK







33. Adam and Eve



34. Covenants



35. Exodus




37. Psalms



38. Sermon on the Mount



39. The Gospel ofJohn



40. Paul the Apostle JUDITH



41. The Cross JOHN BEHR

42. Heaven and Hell JEFFREY



44. Byzantine Reception MARY




45. Reception in the Renaissance and Reformation




46. Modern Biblical Criticism and the Legacy of Pre-Modern




47. Retrievals in Contemporary Christian Theology



Author Index General Subject Index

741 748


Map 1.1 Roman Egypt. Cartographer: Darin Jenson. 1.1

Page from ~46, end of Romans and start of Hebrews

12 15

Image digitally reproduced with the permission of the Papyrology Collection, University of Michigan Library.


P.Oxy. III 209 (Ms GR SM 2218), beginning of Rom. 1, high concentration of nomina sacra


Courtesy of Houghton Library, Harvard University.


Colophon by Pamphilus as preserved by Codex Sinaiticus (2 Esdras: Quire 36 fol. 5r col. 3)


Courtesy of Universitatsbibliothek Leipzig, Cod. gr. 1.


P.Oxy. LXIII 4365


Courtesy of the Egypt Exploration Society and the University of Oxford Imaging Papyri Project.


The sacrifice of Isaac and Jesus healing, early Christian sarcophagus, Rome, c.325-50. Now in the Museo Pio Cristiano (Vatican)


Photo credit: Vanni Archive/ Art Resource, NY.


The sacrifice oflsaac, Via Latina Catacomb, Rome, mid-fourth century


Photo credit: Scala/Art Resource NY.


Sacrifice of Isaac, ivory pyxis, late fourth or early fifth century. Now in the Skulpturensammlung und Museum filr Byzantinische Kunst, Berlin


Photo credit: Art Resource, NY.


Sacrifice oflsaac, terracotta tile relief, from Hajeb el Aiou Region (Tunisia), fifth century. Now in the Bardo Museum, Tunis


Photo credit: Gianni Dagli Orti/The Art Archive at Art Resource, NY.


Early Christian sarcophagus with biblical scenes, Rome, c.320-5. Now in the Museo Pio Cristiano (Vatican) Photo credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons: (accessed 4 June 2015).


xiv 21.6


Two Brothers Sarcophagus, Rome, 320-5. Now in the Museo Pio Cristiano (Vatican)


Photo credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons: (accessed 4 June 2015).


Hospitality of Abraham and Abraham offering Isaac, lunette mosaic, Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna, c.540-50 Photo credit: Author.



NOTE: Abbreviations of Greek patristic writings in this volume are drawn from G. W. H. Lampe, A Patristic Greek Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon, 1961-8). Abbreviations of Latin patristic writings are drawn from Albert Blaise, Dictionnaire latin-franrais des auteurs chretiens (Turnhout: Brepols, 1954). Additional abbreviations are listed below. 2Esd

2 Esdras

m. Sanh.

Mishnah Sanhedrin

Series/Reference Works ACW ANF apaw BA cca CCG CCL CCSG CCsl CPG

csco CSEL




Ancient Christian Writers Ante Nicene Fathers Abhandlungen der kaiserlichen preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften Bibliotheque Augustinienne Corpus Christianorum Series Apocryphorum Corpus Christianorum Series Graeca Corpus Christianorum Series Latina Corpus Christianorum Series Graeca Corpus Christianorum Series Latina Clavis Patrum Graecorum Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum Classics of Western Spirituality Fathers of the Church Die Griechischen Christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten Jahrhunderte Gregorii Nysseni Opera

Journal of Theological Studies G. W. H. Lampe, A Patristic Greek Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon, 1961-8) Loeb Classical Library Leuven Database of Ancient Books A Greek-English Lexicon, ed. H. G. Liddell, R. Scott, and H. Stuart Jones (Oxford: Clarendon, 1968) Septuagint New English Translation of the Septuagint Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers New Revised Standard Version of the Bible New Testament Oxford Early Christian Texts




Old Testament Patrologia Graeca Patrologia Latina Patristische Texte und Studien Society of Biblical Literature Sources Chretiennes Studi et Testi Texts and Studies Works of Saint Augustine

Gnostic Texts

Ap. John Apoc.Adam Gas. Judas Gas. Thomas Gas. Truth hyp. Arch.

Apocryphon ofJohn (Secret Book according to John) Revelation of Adam Gospel ofJudas Gospel of Thomas Gospel of Truth Reality of the Rulers (Hypostasis of the Archons)

Manichaean Texts

Ps Ke 2Ke 2


Psalm-book Kephalaion 1 Kephalaion 2

Anonymous Texts

act. Archel. Acta cone. oec. Ascens. Is. cast. didas. hypomn. met. Ps. narr. Odes op. imp.

Archelai episcopi liber disputationis aduersus Manichaeum Acta Conciliorum Oecumenicorum Ascensio Isaiae De castitate Didascalia Hypomnesticon Metaphrasis Psalmorum Narrationes de exilio sancti papae Martini Odes of Solomon Opus Imperfectum

Albert the Great

comm. in I sent.

Commentarium in I Sententiarum (dist. XXVI-XLVIII)





comm. in 1 Car. comm. in Gal. comm. in Rom.

Commentarius in xiii epistulas Paulinas: ad Corinthios Commentarius in xiii epistulas Paulinas: ad Galatos Commentarius in xiii epistulas Paulinas: ad Romanos





Apollinaris of Laodicea

frag. Ps.

Fragrnenta in Psalrnos


ep. ad virg.

Epistulae 1-2 ad virgines

Bonaventure of Bagnoregio

comm. in I sent.

Cornrnentaria in I Sententiarurn Magistri Petri Lombardi


opt. gen.

De optima genere oratorurn

Clement of Alexandria




Azyrn. c.Jul. comm. in Ex. comm. in Gen. eccl. fid. haer. Nis. nat. par. ref virg.

Hymns on the Unleavened Bread Contra Julianurn Cornrnentarius in Exodurn Cornrnentarius in Genesirn Hyrnni de ecclesia Hyrnni de fide Hymns Against Heresies Carmina Nisibena Hyrnni de nativitate Hyrnni de paradiso Refutationes Hyrnni de virginitate

Eusebius of Caesarea



Evagrius Ponticus

antirrh. cap. pract. Gnost. keph. Gnost.

Antirrheticus Capita practica ad Anatoliurn (Praktikos) Fragrnenturn ex libro 'Gnosticus' inscripto Kephalaia Gnostica

Gregory of Nyssa M. Seb. lb

First Homily on the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste (Ja and lb)

Gregory Palamas




quaest. Horn.

Quaestiones Hornericae







Hugh of St. Victor

de script. Did.

De scripturis et scriptoribus sacris Didascalicon de studio legendi




Jacob ofSarug

horn. in hex.

Homilies on the Six Days of Creation: The First Day Homilia contra Iudaeos

Iud. Jerome

praef Orig. Ez. horn.

Praefatio ad Homilias in Ezechielem

John Duns Scotus

rep. I-A

Reportatio I-A

Julian of Aeclanum

tr. proph.

Commentarius in prophetas minores

Lucian of Samosata

De mart. Peregr. Philops.

De morte Peregrini Philopseudes


horn. in creat.

Homiliae in creationem


c. Donat.

Contra Parmenianum Donatistam


fr. horn. 39 in Jer. fr. in Jo.

Fragmenta ex homiliis in Jeremiam Fragmenta in Johannem

Peter Lombard


Sententiae in IV libris distinctae


Her. leg. all. Mig. Mos. opif. mundi

Quis Rerum Divinarum Heres Sit Legum allegoriarum De Migratione Abrahami De vita Moisis De opificio mundi


De aud.po.

De audiendis poetis





Procopius of Gaza


Catena in Genesim


Acta disputationis cum Manete

Acta disp. cum Manete Ps-Clement

Clem. contest. Clem. Ep. Petr. ep. 1 virg. Hom. Clem. Ree.

Lampe as contestatio pro iis qui librum accipiunt Lampe as epistula Petri ad Jacobum Epistulae de virginitate homilae Clementinae Recognitio Clementis





exh. cast.

De exhortatione castitatis

Theodore of Mopsuestia



Theodoret of Cyrus

qu. Oct.

Quaestiones in Octateuchum

Thomas Aquinas

script. I sent.

Scriptum super I Sententiarum Magistri Petri Lombardi episcopi Parisiensis


Apoc. reg.

Commentarius in Apocalypsin Liber regularum



Commentarii in Apocalypsim Ioannem

Vincent of Lerins



Zeno of Verona





Lewis Ayres is Professor of Catholic and Historical Theology at the University of

Durham in the UK. He is also Visiting Professorial Fellow at the Australian Catholic University, in Melbourne. He is the author of a number of books, including Nicaea and its Legacy (OUP, 2006) and Augustine and the Trinity (Cambridge University Press, 2010 ). He is currently working on a monograph on the development of scriptural exegesis in the second century CE. Jason BeDuhn (Ph.D., Indiana University) is Professor of the Comparative Study of Religions at Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, and author of The Manichaean Body: In Discipline and Ritual (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000) and the multivolume Augustine's Manichaean Dilemma (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010-13). John Behr is former Dean of St Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary in New York. He has published an edition and translation of the fragments of Diodore of Tarsus and Theodore of Mopsuestia and a monograph on Irenaeus (both from OUP), and a more poetic and meditative work entitled Becoming Human: Theological Anthropology in Word and Image (SVS Press, 2013). Most recently he has completed a new critical edition and translation of Origen's On First Principles (OUP), and a monograph John the Theologian and His Paschal Gospel: A Prologue to Theology (OUP). B. Lee Blackburn Jr is Director of Humanities and Associate Professor of History and

Humanities at Milligan College. He completed his master's and doctoral work at the University of Notre Dame, where he wrote a dissertation examining the anti- Jewish elements of Cyril of Alexandria's interpretation of the Mosaic law. He has published articles in Studia Patristica and the Stone-Campbell Journal, and has ongoing research interests in the intersection between patristic biblical exegesis and anti-Jewish polemics. Paul M. Blowers (Ph.D., University of Notre Dame) is the Dean E. Walker Professor of

Church History at Emmanuel Christian Seminary at Milligan College (Tennessee). A 2017-18 Henry Luce III Fellow and former President of the North American Patristics Society, he has extensive publications in the history of early Christian biblical interpretation, authoring Exegesis and Spiritual Pedagogy in Maximus the Confessor (University of Notre Dame Press, 1991) and editing The Bible in Greek Christian Antiquity (University of Notre Dame Press, 1997). His more recent monographs are

Drama of the Divine Economy: Creator and Creation in Early Christian Theology and Piety (OUP, 2012) and Maximus the Confessor: Jesus Christ and the Trans.figuration of the World (OUP, 2016).



Lincoln H. Blumell is an Associate Professor in the Department of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University. He holds graduate degrees from the University of Calgary, University of Oxford, and University of Toronto. He specializes in Early Christianity and Greek and Coptic papyrology and epigraphy. In addition to publishing a number of articles in his field, he has published two books, Lettered Christians: Christians, Letters, and Late Antique Oxyrhynchus (Brill, 2012), Christian Oxyrhynchus: Texts, Documents, and Sources (Baylor University Press, 2015; with Thomas A. Wayment), and has a third book in press, Didymus the Blind's Commentary on the Psalms 26:10-29:2 and 36:1-3 (Brepols). Peter C. Bouteneff is Professor of Systematic Theology at St Vladimir's Orthodox

Theological Seminary, where he has taught since 2000. His writing and research span patristic and modern theology, ecumenical relations, and the sacred arts, his most recent monograph being Arva Part: Out of Silence (St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2015). He also authored Beginnings: Ancient Christian Readings of the Biblical Creation Narratives (Baker Academic, 2008). David Brakke is Joe R. Engle Chair in the History of Christianity and Professor of History at the Ohio State University. His research interests include 'Gnosticism: early monasticism, and the formation of the New Testament and other scriptural practices. Among his books are The Gnostics: Myth, Ritual, and Diversity in Early Christianity (Harvard University Press, 2010) and, with Andrew Crislip, Selected Discourses of

Shenoute the Great: Community, Theology, and Social Conflict in Late Antique Egypt (Cambridge University Press, 2016). From 2005 to 2015 he edited the Journal of Early Christian Studies. Michael Cameron is Professor of Historical Theology at the University of Portland in

Oregon. He is author of Christ Meets Me Everywhere: Augustine's Early Figurative Exegesis (OUP, 2012), and The Essential Expositions of the Psalms of Saint Augustine (New City Press, 2015). He serves on the editorial boards of the Augustinus-Lexikon, the Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception, and Augustinian Studies, and was the inaugural Thomas F. Martin Saint Augustine Fellow at Villanova University in 2010. James Carleton Paget is Reader in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity at the

University of Cambridge. He has published on a range of issues to do with ancient biblical interpretation, ancient Jewish-Christian relations, and the history of biblical interpretation. He has authored Jews, Christians and Jewish Christians in Antiquity (Mohr Siebeck, 2010) and, with Joachim Schapter, edited The New Cambridge History of the Bible, vol. 1: From the Beginnings to 600 (Cambridge University Press, 2014). John C. Cavadini is Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame, where

he also serves as McGrath-Cavadini Director of the McGrath Institute for Church Life. He teaches, studies, and publishes in the area of patristic theology and in its early medieval reception. He has served a five-year term on the International Theological Commission (appointed by Pope Benedict XVI) and recently received the



Monika K. Hellwig Award from the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities for Outstanding Contributions to Catholic Intellectual Life.

Reinhart Ceulemans is assistant professor of Greek literature at KU Leuven. Earlier, he worked at the Septuaginta-Unternehmen of the Gottingen' Academy of Sciences and Humanities (2011-2014). His main research interests include the transmission of the Greek Bible and biblical exegesis in Byzantium. Esther Chung-Kim is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California. Her research focuses on problems of authority, ancient tradition in early modern biblical interpretation, and poor relief reform. She has published Inventing Authority: Use of the Church Fathers in Reformation Debates over the Eucharist (Baylor University Press, 2011), Reformation Commentary on Scripture: Acts (IVP Academic, 2014), and several articles related to poverty, wealth, and social change, including most recently, '.Aid for Refugees: Religion, Migration and Poor Relief in Sixteenth-Century Geneva' (2018) in Reformation and Renaissance Review. She is a 2018-19 recipient of the Sabbatical Grant for Researchers at The Louisville Institute. Elizabeth A. Clark is the John Carlisle Kilgo Professor of Religion, Emerita, at Duke University. She specializes in the history of late ancient Christianity, with particular attention to issues of women and gender, the development of early Christian asceticism, biblical interpretation in early Christianity, heresy and orthodoxy, and historiographical issues. She has authored or edited thirteen books, the latest of which is The Fathers Refounded: Protestant Liberalism, Roman Catholic Modernism, and the Teaching of Ancient Christianity in Early Twentieth-Century America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019 ). She is the founding editor of the Journal of Early Christian Studies and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts a~d Sciences. She has served as the President of the American Academy of Religion, the American Society of Church History, and the North American Patristics Society. John Granger Cook graduated from Davidson College (philosophy), Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, and Emory University. After six years in a Presbyterian parish in the Asheville, NC area, he did a three-year post-doctoral project in earliest Christianity at Emory University, and since 1994 has taught at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia. He has published monographs on the Gospel of Mark, the interpretation of the Old Testament and the New Testament in Graeco-Roman paganism, the Roman response to the Christians from the reigns of Claudius to Hadrian, and one on crucifixion in Mediterranean antiquity. His latest book is entitled Empty Tomb, Resurrection, and Apotheosis.

Mary B. Cunningham is Honorary Associate Professor in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Nottingham. Having retired from her teaching post there, she took up a Fellowship at Dumbarton Oaks Research Library in Washington, DC, during the academic year 2015-16. Cunningham has since moved to



Oxfordshire where she continues to carry out research and writing. Publications that relate to her contribution in this volume include (with Pauline Allen), Preacher and Audience: Studies in Early Christian and Byzantine Homiletics (Brill, 1998), Wider Than Heaven: Eighth-Century Homilies on the Mother of God (St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2008 ), and 'The Interpretation of the New Testament in Byzantine Preaching: Mediating an Encounter with the Word', in D. Krueger and R. Nelson (eds), The New Testament in Byzantium (Dumbarton Oaks, 2016). Anthony Dupont is Research Professor in Christian Antiquity and member of the Research Unit History of Church and Theology at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, the Catholic University of Leuven. He has published two monographs, including Gratia in Augustine's Sermones ad Populum during the Pelagian Controversy (Brill, 2012), as well as several articles about the interrelated topics of divine grace and human freedom in the writings of Augustine of Hippo. He also co-edited Preaching in the Patristic Era (Brill, 2018). Luke Dysinger, OSB is a Benedictine monk and priest of St Andrew's Abbey, Valyermo, California. He received his MD from the University of Southern California Medical School in 1978 and his D.Phil. in patristics from Oxford University in 2000. He serves as professor of church history and moral theology at St John's Seminary in Camarillo, California. His publications include The Rule of St. Benedict, Latin and English (Source Books, 1997); Psalmody and Prayer in the Writings of Evagrius Ponticus (OUP, 2005). Mark Elliott is Professor of Divinity at the University of Glasgow Scotland, and Professorial Fellow at Wycliffe College, Toronto, having done his Ph.D. at Cambridge University in Patristics. Recent publications include Engaging Leviticus (Cascade, 2012) and Providence Perceived (De Gruyter, 2015). He is currently engaged in writing a constructive biblical theology of Providence and in co-editing the History of Scottish Theology (with David Fergusson) for OUP.

Andrew Faulkner (D.Phil. Oxford) is Professor of Classics at the University of Waterloo in Canada. He has worked on the tradition of Greek hymnography, especially the Homeric Hymns and their reception, Hellenistic poetry, and early Christian poetry. His publications include The Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite: Introduction, Text, and Commentary (OUP, 2008), three edited volumes, and numerous journal articles. Everett Ferguson (Ph.D., Harvard University) taught Bible, Greek, and Church History at Abilene Christian University from 1962 to 1998, and is a past president of the North American Patristics Society (1990-2). Ferguson has served as editor of the journal The Second Century (1981-92), co-editor of Journal of Early Christian Studies (1993-9), and general editor of the Encyclopedia of Early Christianity (2nd edition, 1997). His publications include Backgrounds of Early Christianity (Eerdmans, 3rd edn, 2003),

Baptism in the Early Church: History, Theology, and Liturgy in the First Five Centuries (Eerdmans, 2009), and The Rule of Faith: A Guide (Wipf & Stock, 2015).



Michael Graves (Ph.D., Hebrew Union College) is Armerding Professor of Biblical Studies at Wheaton College, Wheaton, Ill. He is the author of The Inspiration and Interpretation of Scripture (Eerdmans, 2014), Jerome's Hebrew Philology (Brill, 2007), and an annotated translation of Jerome's Commentary on Jeremiah (IVP, 2012). His essays on early Christian and Jewish biblical interpretation have appeared in journals such as Vigiliae Christianae, Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses, Tyndale Bulletin, and the Journal of Ecumenical Studies. Franklin T. Harkins is Associate Professor of the History of Christianity at Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, where he specializes in scholastic theology and exegesis. He is the author of Reading and the Work of Restoration: History and Scripture in the Theology of Hugh of St Victor (PIMS, 2009 ), and editor of four books, including A Companion to Job in the Middle Ages (Brill, 2017). He has also published numerous articles and essays on Augustine, the Victorines, Peter Lombard and the Sentences commentary tradition, Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas, and John Duns Scotus. C. E. Hill is John R. Richardson Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando and is a Henry Luce III Fellow in Theology. He is the author of Regnum Caelorum: Patterns of Millennial Thought in Early Christianity (2nd edn, Eerdmans, 2001), The Johannine Corpus in the Early Church (Oxford University Press, 2004), and Who Chose the Gospels? Probing the Great 'Gospel Conspiracy' (OUP, 2010 ). He is also co-editor with M. J. Kruger of The Early Text of the New Testament (OUP, 2012).

Andrew Hofer, OP (Ph.D., University of Notre Dame) serves as Director of the Doctoral Program and Associate Professor of Patristics and Ancient Languages at the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception, Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC. He is the author of Christ in the Life and Teaching of Gregory of Nazianzus (OUP, 2013) and of articles in journals such as Augustinian um, Vigiliae Christianae, The Thomist, Pro Ecclesia, Nova et Vetera, and the International Journal of Systematic Theology. Most recently he co-edited, and contributed to, Thomas Aquinas and the Greek Fathers (Sapientia Press, 2019). Michael Hollerich is Professor of Theology at the University of St Thomas in St Paul, Minnesota, where he teaches the history of Christianity. He has research interests in early Christian biblical interpretation, modern German church history, political theology, and the writings of Eusebius of Caesarea. He published Eusebius of Caesarea's Commentary on Isaiah: Christian Exegesis in the Age of Constantine (OUP, 1999 ), and is currently working on a book on the reception of Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History and its shaping of Christian historiography, and is co-editor of the forthcoming new edition of the textbook The Christian Theological Tradition. Robin M. Jensen is the Patrick O'Brien Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame, and a former President of the North American Patristics Society. Jensen's books include Understanding Early Christian Art (Routledge, 2000 ); Face to Face: Portraits of



the Divine in Early Christianity (Fortress, 2005); The Substance of Things Seen: Art, Faith and the Christian Community (Eerdmans, 2004); Living Water: Images, Symbols, and Settings of Early Christian Baptism (Brill, 2011); and Baptismal Imagery in Early Christianity (Baker Academic, 2012). Most recently she co-authored Christianity in Roman Africa with her husband, J. Patout Burns, Jr (Eerdmans, 2014). F. Stanley Jones is Emeritus Professor of Religious Studies and former Director of the Institute for the Study of Judaeo-Christian Origins at California State University, Long Beach. He holds academic degrees from Yale, Oxford, and Gottingen and specializes in New Testament and ancient Christianity. Among his recent publications are Pseudoclementina Elchasaiticaque inter Judaeochristiana: Collected Studies (Peeters, 2012) and an English translation of The Syriac 'Pseudo-Clementines': An Early Version of the First Christian Novel (Brepols, 2014). Judith L. Kovacs, Associate Professor Emerita of the University of Virginia, works in both patristics and biblical studies. Her publications include The Church's Bible: 1 Corinthians, a book on the reception history of the Revelation to John (co-authored with Christopher Rowland), and articles on patristic exegesis, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, the Gospel of John, 1 Corinthians, and Revelation. She is an editor of the Blackwell Bible Commentaries and the SBL Writings of the Greco-Roman World sub-series on John Chrysostom's works on the New Testament. Richard A. Layton (Ph.D., University of Virginia) is an Associate Professor in the

Department of Religion at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and is the author of Didymus the Blind and his Circle in Late Antique Alexandria (University of Illinois Press, 2004) and co-author with Walter Feinberg of For the Civic Good: The Liberal Case for Teaching Religion in the Public Schools (University of Michigan Press, 2014). Layton has also published a number of essays in patristic studies and patristic biblical exegesis. Johan Leemans is Professor in Late Antique Christianity and a member of the Research

Unit History of Church and Theology at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of Leuven. His research mainly focuses on the Greek East of the fourth and fifth centuries CE, with special attention to the phenomenon of martyrdom, patristic exegesis, and sermons. He has co-edited a number of studies, including More Than a Memory: The Discourse of Martyrdom and the Construction of Christian Identity (Peeters, 2006) and Christian Martyrdom in Late Antiquity (300-450 ad) (De Gruyter, 2017). Michael C. Legaspi is Associate Professor of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean

Studies and Jewish Studies at the Pennsylvania State University (University Park). Trained in biblical studies (Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible, Harvard University), Legaspi's research interests include various topics within the historical and philosophical backgrounds of modern biblical criticism. He is the author of The Death of Scripture and the Rise of Biblical Studies (OUP, 2010) and Wisdom in Classical and Biblical Tradition (OUP, 2018).



Matthew Levering holds the James N. and Mary D. Perry Jr. Chair of Theology at Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois. He has authored twenty-five books, including Participatory Biblical Exegesis: A Theology ofBiblical Interpretation (University of Notre Dame Press, 2008) and Engaging the Doctrine of Revelation: The Mediation of the Gospel through Church and Scripture (Baker Academic, 2014). He co-edited the Oxford Handbook of the Trinity (OUP, 2011) and most recently the Oxford Handbook of Sacramental Theology (OUP, 2015). Joseph T. Lienhard, SJ (Dr theol. habil., University ofFreiburg), is Professor of Theology at Fordham University, editor of the journal Traditio, and a former President of the North American Patristics Society. He is the author of monographs on Paulinus of Nola and on Marcellus of Ancyra, as well as a book on the biblical canon and another on St Joseph in Early Christianity. He translated Origen's Homilies on Luke for the Fathers of the Church series (Catholic University of America Press, 1996). He is also the editor of a volume Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy in the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture series (IVP). His translation St Augustine, Writings on the Old Testament, was published in 2016 (New City Press). Josef Lossl is Professor of Historical Theology and Intellectual History at the Cardiff University School of History, Archaeology and Religion. He is Director of the Centre for Late Antique Religion and Culture and author of The Early Church: History and Memory (T & T Clark, 2010 ). Together with John W. Watt he co-edited Interpreting the Bible and Aristotle in Late Antiquity: The Alexandrian Commentary Tradition from Rome to Baghdad (Ashgate, 2011). He is executive editor of Vigiliae Christianae: A Review of Early Christian Life and Language and is currently working on a commentary on Tatian's Oratio ad Graecos. Peter W. Martens (Ph.D., University of Notre Dame) is Associate Professor of Early Christianity at Saint Louis University. He specializes in the exegetical cultures that emerged around the Christian Bible in Late Antiquity. In addition to numerous essays, he has published two monographs, Origen and Scripture: The Contours of the Exegetical Life (Oxford University Press, 2012) and Adrian's Introduction to the Divine Scriptures: An Antiochene Handbook for Scriptural Interpretation (OUP, 2017). Wendy Mayer is Professor and Associate Dean for Research at Australian Lutheran College, University of Divinity, and Research Fellow, Department of Biblical and Ancient Studies, University of South Africa. In addition to extensive publications on the patristic author and preacher John Chrysostom, she is recognized for her work on the setting and audience of early Christian preaching. Her publications include (with Pauline Allen) The Churches of Syrian Antioch (300-638 CB) (Peeters, 2012) and The Homilies of St John Chrysostom-Provenance. Reshaping the Foundations (Pontificio Istituto Orientale, 2005). Bronwen Neil is Professor of Ancient History at Macquarie University, Sydney, and an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of South Africa. She is also an elected Fellow and Council member of the Australian Academy of Humanities. Her current



research project is Dreams, Prophecy and Violence from Early Christianity to Early Islam (ARC Future Fellowship). Neil has published widely on Maximus the Confessor, Pope Martin I, Anastasius Bibliothecarius, and Pope Leo I, as well as on poverty and welfare in Late Antiquity. She is co-editor of the Brill Companion to Pope Gregory the Great (Leiden, 2013) and the Oxford Handbook on Maximus the Confessor (OUP, 2017).

Lorenzo Perrone, until 2015 Professor of Early Christian Literature in the Department of Classics and Italian Studies at the University of Bologna, founded in Pisa the Italian Research Group on Origen and the Alexandrian Tradition (1994) and created the journal Adamantius (1995). His research interests are the study of Origen, the history of the Holy Land in Late Antiquity, the history of ancient monasticism, and eastern Christianity. Recently he has directed the critical edition of the newly discovered Homilies on the Psalms by Origen in the series Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten Jahrhunderte (De Gruyter, 2015). L. Edward Phillips is Associate Professor of Worship and Liturgical Theology at Candler School of Theology and a faculty member of the Graduate Division of Religion, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. His publications include The Ritual Kiss in Early Christian Worship (Gorgias, 1996); The Apostolic Tradition: A Commentary (Fortress Press, 2002), Studia Liturgica Diversa: Studies in Honor of Paul Bradshaw (Pastoral Press, 2004), and Courage to Bear Witness: Essays in Honor of Gene Davenport (Wipf & Stock, 2009). He is the former editor-in-chief of Liturgy, the journal of the Liturgical Conference (2008-16).

Eric Scherbenske is an independent scholar currently writing a monograph on the late-ancient archetype of the tenth-century New Testament manuscript 1739. His first monograph, Canonizing Paul: Ancient Editorial Practice and the Corpus Paulinum (OUP, 2013), received the North American Patristics Society Best First Book Award for 2014.

Stephen J. Shoemaker is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Oregon. His main interests lie in the ancient and early medieval Christian traditions, and more specifically in early Byzantine and Near Eastern Christianity. He is a specialist on early devotion to the Virgin Mary, Christian apocryphal literature, and Islamic origins. Among his many publications are The Ancient Traditions of the Virgin Mary's Dormition and Assumption (OUP, 2002) and The Death of a Prophet: The End of Muhammad's Life and the Beginnings of Islam (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011). Peter Struck is Professor and chair of Classical Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He has written Birth of the Symbol: Ancient Readers at the Limits of their Texts (Princeton University Press, 2004) and Divination and Human Nature: A Cognitive History of Divination in Antiquity (Princeton University Press, 2016). He is editor of Mantike (Brill, 2005), the Cambridge Companion to Allegory (Cambridge University Press, 2010 ), and general editor of a multi-volume series on the Cultural History ofIdeas (forthcoming from Bloomsbury). Tarmo Toom is originally from Estonia, but he studied theology in Switzerland and the USA. He has taught patristics at the Catholic University of America and is



currently a Professorial Lecturer at Georgetown University. His research foci are patristic hermeneutics, Augustine, early Christian Trinitarian controversies, and the history of creeds. He is the author of Thought Clothed with Sound: Augustine's Christological Hermeneutics in De doctrina christiana (Peter Lang, 2002), and the editor of Patristic Theories of Biblical Interpretation: The Latin Fathers (Cambridge University Press, 2016). Jeffrey A. Trumbower is Professor of Religious Studies and Dean of the College at St Michael's College, Colchester, Vermont. He is the author of Rescue for the Dead: The Posthumous Salvation of Non-Christians in Early Christianity (OUP, 2001) and Born from Above: The Anthropology of the Gospel of John (Mohr Siebeck, 1992). He has also published articles and book chapters on various aspects of the afterlife in early Christianity. H. Clifton Ward (Ph.D., University of Durham) is Instructor of Religion at Tusculum University in Greeneville, Tennessee. His most recent publications have examined the scriptural interpretation of Clement of Alexandria, including '"Symbolic Interpretation is Most Useful": Clement of Alexandria's Scriptural Imagination: Journal of Early Christian Studies (2017). His research focuses on the intersection of ancient literary criticism, the formation of Christian Scripture, and the reading practices of Christian exegetes in the first three centuries CE. Jeffrey Wickes (Ph.D., University of Notre Dame) is Assistant Professor of Early

Christianity at Saint Louis University. He works on the literature and theology of the Late Ancient Christian East, especially as manifest in the works of Ephrem the Syrian. He has published articles on Ephrem's exegesis, his theology of divine names, as well as a translation of his Hymns on Faith (Fathers of the Church series, Catholic University of America Press, 2015). Frances Young taught Theology at the University of Birmingham from 1971. From 1986

to 2005 she held the Edward Cadbury Chair, serving as Head of Department, Head of School, Dean of the Faculty, and Pro-Vice-Chancellor. She was made OBE for services to Theology in 1998, and was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2004. Now Emeritus Professor of Theology, she is still engaged in research and writing. New Testament and early Christian studies are her main fields of interest. Her academic publications include From Nicaea to Chalcedon: A Guide to the Literature and its Background (SCM press, 1983, 2nd edn 2010) and Biblical Exegesis and the Formation of Christian Culture (Cambridge University Press, 1997); she co-edited The Cambridge History of Early Christian Literature and The Cambridge History of Christianity: Origins to Constantine. Her principal published papers are collected in Exegesis and Theology in Early Christianity (Ashgate, 2012).


study of early Christian biblical interpretation is crucial to the general study of ancient Christianity as a whole. Sacred writings left an indelible mark upon early Christian communities. These writings were energetically copied by scribes, translated into several languages, and widely disseminated throughout Christian networks. They were read and expounded upon in the setting of the liturgy, studied privately, and increasingly examined with a keen scholarly eye. Despite their fluid boundaries, these Scriptures were woven into the oral and written discourses of early Christianity. Early Christians committed parts of these writings to memory, and the surviving literature from this period abounds in allusions, paraphrases, quotations, retellings, and explicit interpretations of Scripture, such as we find in commentaries and homilies. This vigorous interest in the Scriptures flowed from an overarching conviction: that these writings were thought to express the Christian message of salvation and guide those who read and heard them well along the journey of salvation. The earnestness with which these writings permeated the Church's mission of catechesis, moral exhortation, and advanced instruction, the zeal with which they were marshalled into the area of competing interpretations and religious debate, and the precision with which they were targeted by imperial persecution, all point to the divine or holy status Christians ascribed to these writings. Indeed, early Christians broadly assumed that God was continuously speaking anew through these sacred texts. In short, they were the lifeblood of virtually every aspect of Christian communities. There is at present a thriving scholarship on Scripture and its interpretation in early Christianity. Critical editions of patristic exegetical writings in various ancient languages have become abundant. Major series of translated early Christian writings have turned more and more attention to publishing patristic exegetical works (especially but not exclusively commentaries and homilies). Numerous monographs on the overall character of patristic exegesis have appeared in English and other languages, as well as monographs on individual early Christian exegetes and specific themes in early Christian biblical commentary. The overall history of biblical interpretation has itself now become the subject of a growing scholarship, with new dictionaries and encyclopedias THE



of historic interpreters and trajectories of interpretation. Academic societies regularly host units on the history of interpretation. Journals soliciting articles on Christian antiquity are thriving and producing numerous studies in early Christian exegesis. Far more than before, biblical scholars are taking new interest in the history ofinterpretation, and especially interpretation in the early Church. We believe, then, that this is an opportune time for our handbook on early Christian biblical interpretation. It will serve as a guide to the many dimensions of this subject and aid students and scholars from a wide spectrum of academic fields, including classics, biblical studies, the general history of interpretation, the social and cultural history of late ancient and early medieval Christianity, historical theology, and systematic and contextual theology. Readers will find in this volume the principal issues ofhermeneutical theory, exegetical method, and the like, but they will also be oriented to features beyond early Christian exegetical practice itself, including the cultural and ecclesial locations of interpreters, the communal dynamics of interpretation, the different contexts and trajectories of interpretation in and beyond the Church, and the non-literary media of interpretation, such as liturgical performance and visual art. As with other Oxford handbooks, this volume does more than survey the historical developments themselves. It also serves the reader as a guide to the scholarship and perspectives that shape the current study of early Christian interpretation of the Bible. The dominant scholarly modes of reading Scripture today do not, in fact, conform much to the contours of patristic exegesis. Nevertheless, there has been a profound renaissance of interest in the topic in recent years, and it is this renaissance that we will narrate in the last section of this volume. In so doing, we do not suggest that all, or even most, biblical scholars are sympathetic to this recovery. Nevertheless, such a recovery is under way in many different circles. In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, for instance, the respect for patristic biblical exegesis never really wavered. In the Roman Catholic tradition, theologians of the nouvelle theologie movement like Henri de Lubac and Hans Urs von Balthasar responded in the mid-twentieth century to the sustained negative impacts of rationalism, scientism, and secularism, encouraging a more deliberate ressourcement, a return to the historic sources of the Catholic faith, including the rich traditions of patristic biblical interpretation. In most Protestant theology and biblical scholarship, so deeply impacted by the growth of biblical higher criticism, there was an enduring tendency throughout the twentieth century to ignore or even dismiss most patristic interpretation as a relic of a 'pre-modern' and thus 'pre-critical' past (notwithstanding a certain abiding interest in the philological and text-critical significance of ancient exegesis). In more recent decades, however, the 'postmodern turn' in philosophical and theological hermeneutics has stimulated a rethinking of the character of early Christian biblical interpretation. Hans-Georg Gadamer's emphasis on the inevitable role of tradition in the understanding of texts and on the importance of fusing interpretative 'horizons' provided a philosophical impetus for historical theologians to consider the legacies of patristic exegesis in their own right, and to view the early Christian exegetes as 'conversation partners' in the ongoing task of scriptural interpretation. New developments in



cultural, literary, and textual theories have also renewed interest in the cultural location of early Christian biblical interpretation. They have turned attention to ancient assumptions about the nature of biblical language, textuality, and the strategies and politics of interpreting sacred texts within and among ancient religious communities. More specifically in ecclesial contexts, the strong renewal of concern for the theological interpretation of Scripture, shared by many biblical scholars and theologians alike, has inaugurated a new wave of interest in the appropriation of insights from patristic exegesis, which was inherently theological in scope. The sense of early Christian authors that theology is the interpretation of Scripture, a sustained engagement with 'living' texts, is a model that was attractive to medieval theologians and Protestant Reformers alike, and it is now increasingly seen as a corrective to the propensity of modern higher criticism to segregate biblical interpretation from the Church.






engagement with ancient Christianity is principally a textual one. Early Christians wrote texts (sermons, letters, Gospels, apocalypses, etc.), which were circulated, read, and copied. But while early Christians were in some sense 'a people of the book', the extant textual remains are rather small and fragmentary for the first few centuries. Consequently, many of the documents we read today are based on copies, with the result that the earliest textual witnesses we possess for some Christian writings were produced hundreds, or even over one thousand years, after the original was composed. For example, the Didache, an early Christian handbook that was most likely written in the first century or early second century CE, is preserved principally from an eleventh-century manuscript (Holmes 2007:339-40). As texts were copied (and recopied) over the centuries it is clear that changes occurred in the materials, format, and textual features. The materials upon which texts were transmitted developed and evolved as new media and technologies became available. The format and layout of a text changed, reflecting contemporary trends. Likewise, a number of other features changed and emerged: script, breaks, divisions, versification, capitulation, spellings, marginalia, and sometimes even the text itself (Wilson 1983:65-8). This is not to imply that a completely different text ultimately resulted in this process, but that the mise-en-page of our modern editions can be quite different from the originals they purport to reproduce. This preliminary chapter seeks to cut through this long process of transmission to examine the earliest extant Christian manuscripts-specifically those that came to be a part of the OT and NT. Accordingly, it seeks to consider them primarily as 'artefacts' in their own right, in some ways apart from the textual content they bear. Focusing on the medium of early Christian writings, this chapter will address issues of format, production, reading, and circulation to shed some contextual light on early Christian interpretation of Scripture. While the texts these early artefacts transmit have been abundantly studied, by comparison, there has been relatively little attention given to what the physical artefacts that convey these texts can reveal (Gamble 1995; Hurtado 2006). 1 OUR

For editions of papyri I have followed the abbreviations given in J. F. Oates et al. (eds), Checklist of Editions ofGreek and Latin Papyri, Ostraca and Tablets (5th edn: BASP Suppl. 9; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 2001). 1



EARLY CHRISTIAN BIBLICAL REMAINS As one begins to consider the literary remains of early Christians, it is worthwhile to do so within the broader category of early Christian artefacts in general. At present, the earliest archaeological remains with an undisputed Christian origin date to the third century (White 1997:123-31; Tepper and Di Segni 2006). The earliest Christian inscriptions come from either the latter part of the second century or more probably the first part of the third century (Snyder 2003:210-66; Tabbernee 2008). Likewise, distinctly Christian art can only be identified beginning in the third century (Jensen 2000:9; Spier 2007:4-8, 51; cf. Clement, paed. 3.59-60 ). But with the extant scriptural fragments, we are able to securely penetrate the second-century world of the early Christians. While there have been sensational claims for the discovery of first-century Christian texts (O'Callaghan 1972; Kim 1988; Jaros 2006), such claims have been largely rejected in mainstream scholarship (Nongbri 2005; Bagnall 2009; Orsini and Clarysse 2012). The earliest textual artefacts consist of fragments from early Christian writings, both canonical and non-canonical; though none of these preserves an entire text, and they usually contain no more than a handful of verses, they are important witnesses. Due to the fact that these fragments-and indeed most early Christian textual remains-are dated palaeographically, it is difficult to assign a date any more precise than a century or half-century (Cavallo 2009). It has become common to designate the NT fragments written on papyrus with a 'Gregory number' preceded by a Gothic 11,1 ( Gregory 1908 ); NT fragments written on parchment along with notable uncial manuscripts by numerals with an initial o-although uncials through 045 are also written with a capital letter (Aland and Aland 1995:72-184); and copies of the Septuagint (LXX) with a 'Rahlfs number' (Fraenkel 2004). The earliest extant Christian fragments, whether OT or NT, are all written in Greek (Table 1.1). Of the LXX fragments Psalms and Isaiah are especially well attested, while from the NT Matthew and John are the most common. Determining whether an early LXX fragment is ofJewish or Christian scribal origin is difficult; however, it appears that Jewish copyists had a tendency to substitute the Hebrew tetragrammaton (YHWH) for Kvpws (Blumell and Wayment 2015:13-14; e.g. Rahlfs 0848 and 0857). While the earliest remains are just fragments, as one moves into the third and fourth centuries the extant remains begin to grow, not just in terms of numbers but also in terms of size. The thirdcentury remains include copies of almost entire books from the NT (11,1 66 [John]) as well as manuscripts that included multiple scriptural texts (11,1 45 [Matthew, John, Luke, Mark, Acts], 11,1 46 [Pauline Epistles], 1).1 75 [Luke and John]); the fourth-century remains culminate with the preservation of the famous parchment codices: Codex Vaticanus (B) and Codex Sinaiticus (N:) preserve large sections of both the OT (LXX) and NT. The online version that is updated regularly is available at . For abbreviations of ancient authors I have followed The SBL Handbook of Style (Second Edition): For Biblical Studies and Related Disciplines (Atlanta: SBL Press, 2014). For abbreviations of ancient authors not found in the SBL Handbook I have followed S. Hornblower and A. Spawforth (eds), The Oxford Classical Dictionary (3rd rev. edn; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.



Table 1.1 Earliest extant Christian biblical fragments* Papyrus





Rahlfs 0970/P.Bad. IV 56 (LDAB 3086)



Papyrus Codex

LXX Exod 8.3, 5-9, 12-20, Deut 28.36-30.7

Egypt, Herakleopolite Nome

Rahlfs 2082 (LDAB 3083)



Papyrus Codex

LXX Ps 48.20-49.3, 49.17-21

Egypt, Antinoopolis

Rahlfs 2122/PSI Congr. XX 1 (LDAB 3085)


Papyrus Sheet (or roll)

LXX Ps 1.2-3


Rahlfs 2077/P.Ant. I 7 (LDAB 3087)



Papyrus Codex

LXX Ps 81.1-4, 82.4-9, 16, 17

Egypt, Antinoopolis

~ 104

/P.Oxy. LXIV 4404 (LDAB 2935)



Papyrus Codex

Matt 21.34-7, 43, 45

Egypt, Oxyrhynch us

~ 90

/P.Oxy. L 3523 (LDAB 2775)



Papyrus Codex

John 18.36-19.7

Egypt, Oxyrhynchus

~ 52 /P.Ryl.



Papyrus Codex

John 18.31-3, 37-8


Ill 457 (LDAB 2774)

* In canonical order. LDAB = Leuven Database of Ancient Books: .

For papyrological abbreviations see .

While Greek fragments/manuscripts dominate the earliest remains, other languages are attested. From the middle or end of the third century a Coptic gloss of LXX Isaiah is extant (Chester Beatty Papyrus VII; Bagnall 2009:66-9 ), a~d from the fourth century there are a few NT fragments (Metzger 1977:99-152; Choat 2012). While the earliest dated reference to Latin Scriptures is from the later part of the second century in the Acts of Scillitan Martyrs sect. 12 (17 July 180 CE), the earliest extant Latin fragments and manuscripts of Scriptures date to the fourth century, predating Jerome's Vulgate (Houghton 2016:22-31). Syriac biblical manuscripts (both OT and NT) with dated colophons are extant from the latter half of the fifth century (Brock 2012; cf. Blumell and Wayment 2015:337-40 ), and from the sixth century there is one Ethiopic NT manuscript of the Gospels (McKenzie and Watson 2016). There are also a handful of extant Armenian and Georgian NT manuscripts from the seventh and eighth centuries (Metzger 1977:153-214) (Table 1.2).

GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION For about the first five centuries, the extant manuscript evidence is overwhelmingly biased towards Egypt. Its arid sands have yielded tens of thousands of ancient texts from the Pharaonic to the Arabic period, and have preserved Christian fragments from as early as the second century CE. To give some idea of the importance of Egypt for the



Table 1.2 Significant early Christian biblical witnesses: third to fourth century


Script Text


First Half Papyrus Ill CE Codex

Greek Matt 20-6, John 4-11, Luke 6-14, Mark 4-12, Acts 4-17

Egypt, Aphroditopolis (?)

IJ) 46 (LDAB 3011)

First Half Papyrus 111 CE Codex

Greek Rom, Heb, 1 Et 2 Cor, Gal, Egypt, Aphroditopolis (?) Eph, Phil, Col, 1 Thess

\J) 66 (LDAB 2777)

First Half Papyrus Ill CE Codex

Greek John 1.1-6, 11, 6.35-14.30, 15.3-21.9

Egypt, Panopolis (?)

IJ) 4' (LDAB 2778)

Ill CE

Papyrus Codex

Greek Rev 9.10-17.2

Egypt, Aphroditopolis (?)

\J) 75 (LDAB 2895)

Ill CE

Papyrus Codex

Greek Luke 3.18-22.53, John 1.1-15.10

Egypt, Upper Egypt(?)

IJ) 72 (LDAB 2565)

Ill/Early IV CE

Papyrus Codex

Greek 1-2 Pet, Jude

Egypt, Panopolis (?)

Codex Vaticanus (LDAB 3479)


Parchment Greek LXX Gen 46.28-Dan 12, Matt 1.1-Heb 9.14 Codex

Codex Sinaiticus (LDAB 3478)


Parchment Greek LXX Gen 21.26-Job 42.17, Palestine(?) Matt 1.1-Rev 22.21 (and Codex Shepherd of Hermas)

Codex Bobiensis (LDAB 7820)


Parchment Latin Codex

Long portions of Mark and Matt

North Africa

Codex Vercel Ien sis (LDAB 7822)

Second Parchment Latin Half IV cE Codex

Long portions of Matt, John, Luke, Mark




IJ) 45 (LDAB 2980)



Codex SarravianusIVNcE Colbertinus (LDAB 3202)

Parchment Greek Gen 21.43-Judg 21.12 Codex


Codex Washingtonianus (LDAB 2985)


Parchment Greek Matt, John, Luke, Mark Codex


Codex Bezae (LDAB 2929)

C.400 CE

Parchment Greek/ Long portions of Matt, Codex Latin John, Luke, Mark, 3 John, and Acts

Syria (?)

study of early Christian manuscripts, of the current 139 NT papyri that range in date from the second to the eighth century, there are only three that do not come from Egypt (11,) 59 ' 60 • 61 [Palestine]). Furthermore, prior to the fourth century there is only one extant scriptural text of Christian origin that does not come from Egypt: a parchment fragment from Dura-Europos (Syria) dating to the first half of the third century that attests Tatian's Diatesseron or Harmony ofthe Gospels (P.Dura 10; LDAB 3071). While this gives a skewed view of early Christian manuscripts, and there is a danger of overgeneralizing from one locale, the textual evidence from Egypt is probably indicative-or at the very least instructive-of scribal practices and conventions from other parts of the Mediterranean world (Hurtado 2011:68).



While Alexandria became a centre of Christian scholarship by the latter part of the second century, none of the early biblical fragments come from Alexandria; every piece for which a provenance can be ascertained comes from Middle or Upper Egypt. In general, few texts (Christian or otherwise) have been found in the Nile Delta because it is considerably more moist and humid, which significantly diminishes the afterlife of a text. While it may be possible that some, or even many, of the earliest extant Christian texts originally came from Alexandria, this cannot be proven, and the evidence itself suggests that many of the extant fragments we possess were probably produced in centres outside of Alexandria (Roberts 1979). Far and away the most important Christian centre within Egypt, in terms of the number of texts it has produced, is the provincial metropolis of Oxyrhynchus (modern el-Bahnasa), located some 180 km south of Cairo. Excavated at the turn of the twentieth century by Bernard P. Grenfell and Arthur S. Hunt, two Oxford dons in search of ancient Greek manuscripts, the rubbish heaps of Oxyrhynchus have yielded tens of thousands of papyri (Parsons 2007). Among these are hundreds of fragments of early Christian texts that all date before the seventh century CE. In addition to biblical fragments, other Christian texts like those from the apostolic fathers (e.g. Shepherd of Hermas) or certain patristic writers (e.g. Melito, Irenaeus) as well as miscellaneous texts like homilies, commentaries, dialogues, and hymns have been found (Blumell and Wayment 2015). The importance of Oxyrhynchus for the study of NT manuscripts is illustrated by the fact that 56 (or 40 per cent) of the 139 known NT papyri come from this city (Map 1.1). The earliest Christian artefacts from Oxyrhynchus are a couple of second-century fragments: ll,l 104/P.Oxy. LXIV 4404 (Matt) and ll,l90 /P.Oxy. L 3523 (John). In third-century remains there is a marked jump in the number of Christian texts; at the same time, individual Christians begin to appear in the papyrological record in letters, orders, and official correspondence (Luijendijk 2008; Blumell 2012). Thus far, the most notable third-century Christian to appear in the documentary papyri is a man by the name of Sotas who issues, and receives, a number of ecclesiastical letters of recommendation (P.Alex. 29, PSI III 208, PSI IX 1041, P.Oxy. XXXVI 2785; see also P.Oxy. XII 1492). What is most significant about Sotas for the present purposes is that two of his letters are written on scraps of parchment (PSI III 208, PSI IX 1041), and not papyrus, which is highly unusual. Of the nearly 7,500 published letters from Egypt written in Greek between the third century BCE and seventh century CE, there are only two others written in Greek that are also written on parchment. Given these statistics, it is more than just coincidence that the same person would write two letters on parchment and strongly suggests something more is occurring. It seems, therefore, that the material evidence provided by these two letters suggests that the parchments on which they were written were leftover scraps from the production of texts and that Sotas was involved in the production of Christian manuscripts at Oxyrhynchus. At the same time these letters were written, the manuscript evidence from Oxyrhynchus attests parchment manuscripts of biblical texts: P.Oxy. VI 847 (John 2.11-22); PSI I 5 (Jas 1.25-7); P.Oxy. VIII 1080 (Rev 3-19-4:3); P.Oxy. LXVI 4500 (Rev 11.15-18). Thus, as one perceptive scholar has pointed out, 'Behind a material detail-these two seemingly insignificant parchment scraps-I behold the contours of a Christian scriptorium at Oxyrhynchus' (Luijendijk 2008:150-1; cf. Roberts 1979:24).




MAP 1.1

Roman Egypt



150 200 km



EARLY CHRISTIAN MANUSCRIPTS 1he 'books' (libri; {3if3Ma) of the first centuries CE were primarily scrolls ( rotuli! Kvlu v8poi). Manuscript remains from Egypt, Herculaneum, Palestine, and a few other locations and ancient artistic depictions of readers and writers reveal that Graeco-Roman culture had a strong preference for the roll as the standard format for producing texts (Johnson 2004). At the same time, the most common material used for scrolls was papyrus (charta/ xaprry, ), which was made from the papyrus plant (papyrushra7rvpo,) that was indigenous to Egypt. Though papyrus was effectively the 'paper' of the ancient world (Pliny, HN 13.74-82; Lewis 1974:34-69), parchment (pergamena; µ,qt{3pava, 8ipµ,a, 8icp0ipa), made from animal skin (normally calves, goats, and sheep), was also used as a writing medium (Pliny, HN 13.21f.). To manufacture a roll, several sheets of papyrus were glued together to form a long strip (K6~).11µ,a), or stitched together if it was made of parchment; though size could vary, it appears that rolls were usually anywhere from 22 to 38 cm in height and could be up to 15 m in length (Johnson 2004:143-52). Texts on rolls made from papyrus were typically written along the recto where the orientation of the plant fibre runs horizontally (instead of the verso where the orientation was vertical) because it was easier to write. Only very rarely was a text written on both sides of the roll ( opistograph; Rev 5.1; Lucian, vit. auct. 9; Pliny, ep. 3.5,17; Martial, Spect. 8.62; Juvenal, Sat. 1.6). Text was written in columns (paginae!aEMOE,) which ranged from 5 to 10 cm in width and was broken up by inter-columnar margins which tended to be quite thin. In deluxe editions, scrolls might have been fastened and tightly rolled around a wooden roller (umbilicus! oµ,cpa116,; Horace, epist. 14.8; Martial, Spect. 4.89) and might contain a visible tag (titulus! at>,11v/30,) attached to the exterior that contained the title of the work (Cicero, Att. 4.8.2: P.Ant. I 21: a tag that contains IUv8apo, 0110, '1he complete Pindar'). Despite the overwhelming preference in Graeco-Roman·society for the roll, which was also shared among Jewish scriptural texts as evinced by the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS), early Christian Scriptures were overwhelmingly written in a codex, or book, format (Hurtado 2006:44-53). In fact, it was not until the fourth century in general that the Graeco-Roman world at large began to prefer the codex to the scroll (Roberts and Skeat 1983:35-7). In contrast to the roll, the codex was made ofleaves of papyrus (or parchment) fastened together like a modern book and had a precursor in Roman tabula where two (diptych), or more (triptych, polytych), wooden plates were fastened together for notebooks (Livy 6.1.2; Quintilian, inst. 10.3.31; Martial, Spect. 14.184-92; Pliny, HN 35-7; Bagnall 2009:70-90 ). 1he earliest codices seem to have been single-quire and could hold a maximum of around 250 pages (about 125 leaves) before the spine became strained and a bulge in the centre of the book was created (Skeat 1969:65-7). 'Ihe earliest singlequire codices that preserve scriptural texts are IJ.) 46 (Pauline Epistles), IJ.) 47 (Revelation), and IJ.) 75 (Luke and John); however, there are also a few early codices that were made of multiple quires like IJ.) 66 (John) and IJ.) 45 (Matthew, John, Luke, Mark, Acts). Before the fourth century, pandect bibles-which could have contained both the OT and NT



between two covers-were probably non-existent as the codicological technology required to facilitate such a massive tome had not yet been refined and developed. Many utilitarian reasons have been put forth to explain the early Christian preference for the codex over the roll as the preferred format for scriptural transmission (Hurtado 2006:63-9 ): it had a practical advantage in terms of cost (Roberts and Skeat 1983:45-53); it was easier to carry and was ideal for evangelization (cf. Martial, Spect. 1.2); it more readily facilitated locating scriptural passages (Metzger and Ehrman 2005:12-13); and it was easier to use because it only required one hand and not two. While such reasons may have been contributing factors, none can readily account for the very early, and seemingly widespread, use of the codex by Christians-only a handful of NT papyri were not written in codex format (11,) 12' 13 ' 18 ' 22 ' 134 ). A fairly recent hypothesis has suggested that because a single codex (multi-quire) could contain far more text than one roll-which could typically contain up to about 1,500 lines-it could accommodate multiple treatises between two covers; thus, the formation of the canon may have been a factor in the choice of the codex (Trobisch 2000; Hurtado 2006:59; Kruger 2013:20-2). As a result, an inherent relationship may have existed between the form and the content and the choice by early Christians to prefer this technology (Table 1.3). This does not imply, of course, that all early Christian scriptural codices were uniform, since there was variation in size, layout, format, make, and material. The earliest evidence shows that papyrus was the most common material for early Christian Scriptures, although as one moves into the late third, fourth, and subsequent centuries, there is a growing use of parchment (Turner 1977:37-9). While the use of parchment may have expanded because it was more durable than papyrus and was deemed more valuable, it was also considerably more expensive (Kotsifou 2007:61-3; Bagnall 2009:50-69 ). When Constantine ordered fifty de luxe copies of the 'sacred Scriptures' for the churches of Constantinople he specifically instructed that they be made of 'parchment' (8irp0tpa; Eusebius, v. C. 4.36). As the use of parchment evolved, not only were de luxe editions of the Bible written on parchment, but in a few rare cases the parchment was even dyed purple to give it an added aesthetic appeal (Booker 1997). In fact, because parchment was so

Table 1.3 Extant early Christian literary texts by format Text Roll Septuagint (LXX) New Testament Shepherd of Hermas Patristic Text Apocrypha (OT and NT) Unidentified Homilies, Commentaries, etc.


IICE Codex


3 3








7 4

4 4 2

24 33 4



3 2

5 6

3 6


2 2





5 1 6

2 4



valuable it was periodically reused with the previous underlying text scraped or washed away to prepare for a new text (palimpsest); Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus (C), a fifthcentury biblical manuscript (OT [LXX] and NT), was later erased and reused in the twelfth century for the sermons of St Ephrem. In terms of size, early Christian scriptural codices varied greatly and ranged from 41 cm in height down to less than 10 cm, and also varied in width. To the end of the third century it appears that on average they tended to be above 20 cm in height (Hurtado 2006:162-3). \l) 45 and \l) 75 , which sometimes preserve entire pages (with margins), measure about 20 x 25 cm (W x H) and 13.0 x 26.0 cm (W x H) respectively. Likewise, \l) 46 from the first half of the third century measures about 16 x 27 cm (W x H) (Figure 1.1). However, since many of the earliest fragments of Christian Scriptures are quite small, only occupying a portion of a page, reconstructing the contours and dimensions of the codex from which they came can be difficult. A notable feature of some early Christian codices is their tendency to be quite small and so they have been given the designation of 'miniature' (Turner 1977:51, defined as less than 10 cm in width). Such codices are mostly made of parchment and contain a high number of texts that came to be deemed 'non-canonical' (Kruger 2013:26-7). It has accordingly been suggested that a codex's size reflected how the manuscript was used; smaller copies were primarily intended for


Page from 11,)46, end of Romans and start of Hebrews



personal use while larger copies were probably used in communal and liturgical settings (Gamble 1995:236; Hurtado 2011:75). In terms of page layout, early Christian manuscripts tend to have been written in one column per page with straight margins, giving the text a distinct rectangular or square shape. While there are a few notable exceptions that are written with two columns per page (~ 4 ' 64 ' 67 [late second/ early third century CE], 0171 [late second/early third century CE]; probably ~ 113 [ third century CE ]), it is not generally until the fourth and subsequent centuries that two-, three-, and even four-column formats become more common in Christian manuscripts: Codex Vaticanus has three columns; Codex Sinaiticus has four columns, and Codex Alexandrinus (A) has two columns as do ~ 34 (seventh century CE) and ~ 41 (eighth century CE). The early Coptic and Latin manuscripts likewise employ the single-column format, and in early non-Christian codices of the Roman and Byzantine periods there is also a clear preference for the single-column format (Turner 1977:101-85). Like other ancient prose texts, a feature of early Christian Scriptures, as well as early Christian texts in general, was that they were written with no word division (scriptio continua), at least until the eighth century CE. While some ancient Latin texts initially contained word division, it was not universal, and eventually this habit was given up in order to conform to Greek custom. As a result, the earliest extant Latin biblical texts were written without separation, as were all of the earliest Greek and Coptic manuscripts. Even for a skilled lector, picking up and reading a text smoothly and proficiently at first sight would have been extremely difficult (Cribiore 2001:189-90 ), and persons who could read fluently 'at sight' without any previous preparation were deemed exceptional (Petronius, Sat. 75.4: librum ab oculo legit). Therefore, it is probably best to imagine that lectors of early Christian manuscripts analysed and studied the text before public reading in order to interpret its proper division, prosody, and delivery (Lucian, De mort. Peregr. 11; Justin, 1 apol. 67.1; Tertullian, praescr. 41; Hippolytus, trad. 11; Cyprian, ep. 38.2, 39.1; Const. App. 2.47, 8.22; Jerome, ep. 147.6). For example, even a familiar passage in English might suddenly become somewhat cryptic when written in this way:

godsolovedtheworldthathegavehisonlybegottensonthatwhoeverbelievesinhi mshouldnotperishbuthaveeternallifeindeedgoddidnotsendthesonintothew orldtocondemntheworldbutinorderthattheworldmightbesavedthroughhim While scriptio continua would have made reading more difficult, as word division facilitates comprehension and interpretation, this generally did not pose significant interpretative difficulties, even if there are places where there is some ambiguity over how to divide words (Metzger and Ehrman 2005:22-3; Mark 10.40, cL\,\'ot, ~To{µ,a