New Early Fragment of Romans

At the Society of Biblical Literature’s annual conference in Chicago last week (17–20 Nov 2012), Grant Edwards and Nick Zola presented papers on a new papyrus fragment from Romans. They have dated it to the (early) third century, which makes this perhaps only the fifth manuscript of Romans prior to the fourth (though a couple of others are usually thought to also be from the third century). This manuscript is part of the Green Collection (inventory #425). It will be published in the first volume of a new series by the Dutch academic publishing house, E. J. Brill. The series, edited by Dirk Obbink and Jerry Pattengale, is called the Green Scholars Initiative: Papyrus Series. Volume one is edited by Jeff Fish of Baylor University.

The text of the fragment is from Rom 9.18–21 and small portions of Rom 10. Edwards presented information about the paleography and provenance of the fragment, while Zola presented his findings on the textual affinities of the papyrus.

The papyrus was written on a codex rather than a roll, as is customary for even the oldest Christian documents. What these two scholars could determine is that the original size of each leaf of this papyrus would have been a little larger than that of P66—18 cm x 16 cm for this fragment compared to 16.2 cm x 14.2 cm for P66.

The dating of the manuscript was done rather prudently by comparing it to fixed-date manuscripts. Paleographically, the fragment was found to be close to POxy 1016 (a mid-third century papyrus), POxy 2703 (late second/early third), and POxy 2341 (208 CE).

Regarding the specific text, among early papyri of the corpus Paulinum, only P46 covers the same passage. But because of the lacunose state of P46, sixteen letters of text that are missing from the Beatty papyrus are found in the Green papyrus. Zola selected four textual problems for our consideration (are these all or does the fragment read for others?). In all four, it agrees with other manuscripts, chiefly Alexandrian. The certain readings all agree with the text of NA28. In the gaps, reconstructions were necessary and there Green 425 agrees with the main Alexandrian witnesses where they are united, with a portion of them when they split.

In 9.19, it has μοι ουν, in agreement with the Alexandrians, instead of ουν μοι found in the Western and Byzantine witnesses. The second ουν of v. 19 is apparently omitted in this fragment, in agreement with א A 1739 Byz, against P46 B D F G. In 9.20 Green 425 apparently omitted μενουνγε, agreeing with P46 D F G. In 10.1 the fragment agrees with the Alexandrian and Western witnesses in reading αυτων instead of the Byzantine reading, του Ισραηλ.

Edwards and Zola are to be thanked for making a fine presentation on the data of this new find. In keeping with other early papyri, its readings are no surprise: largely Alexandrian, with some Western strains also seen.

As an addendum, you can see images of this fragment (upside down!) on CNN in an interview that Steve Green did regarding its discovery which was made earlier this year: http://edition.cnn.com/video/?/video/bestoftv/2012/01/18/nr-hobby-lobby-religious-artifacts.cnn