Full Text for CTM Miscellanea 16-9 (Text)

626 Miscellanea Miscellanea A Few Introductory Remarks on the Greek Papyri for New Testament Students The papyrus, as is well known, is a plant formerly found on the delta and the banks of the Nile River in Egypt. Its reedy stems, sliced and pressed together, were utilized until about the fourth century A. D. as writing material. On this predecessor of paper was written the literature current at the time. In the dry climate of Egypt and under the preserving blanket of the sand this highly perishable material was kept from the destruction and decay that eventually befell the more durable steles and gravestones. The first collections of papyri were made in the eighteenth century. In the following century private persons began to buy odd manuscripts from the natives, with the result that writings that belonged together were separated and sold to widely scattered individuals. Before scholars could have access to a common fund, these collections had to be gathered together from their several private owners and classified. By the latter part of the nineteenth century, expeditions were sent out in search of the heretofore under­estimated papyri. Excavations were made at such sites as Philadelphia, Elephantine, and O,,-yrhyncus. The mounds of the latter have been especially rich in papyri finds. The papyri bring to light treasures of ancient lore. They add, in part, to our knowledge of classical Greek literature, yielding fragments of poetry and history not previously known. Among the literary items rediscovered are the "Constitution of Athens" by Aristotle, some plays by Menander, and fragments of Euripides and other tragic poets. Gaps in Greek history have been filled by the recovery of certain his­torical sections at Oxyrhyncus. Fragments of popular poetry were unearthed at Alexandria. For a further account of poetical finds the reader may consult a series of books entitled New Chapters in the History of Greek Literat1tre, written by J. U. Powell and E. Barber. However, the literary papyri are in the minority. Most of the scraps recovered are nonliterary in character. The vast body of non­literary documents, while dealing mostly with ephemeral topics, local events, and the passing affairs of nondescript persons, is of the greatest importance. The manuscripts at hand bridge the gulf between the formal style of writing and the later minuscule, or cursive, writing on the parchments of the Middle Ages. The papyri are interesting as human documents. The status of marriage under a pagan ethos is poignantly revealed in the numerous marriage contracts that have been found. These contracts, as well as other official instruments fixing certain rela­tionships, shed light on the social and legal traditions of the times. The papyri recording receipts, accounts, tax lists, etc., elucidate the history of law. Most interesting are the personal letters, often scrawled by an unttItored hand. An insight into the souls of men long dead is gained through a perusal of such letters rescued from the city dumps. The Miscellanea 627 roster of human woes: poverty, sorrow, sickness, death without comfort, slavery, greed, unfaithfulness in marriage, and other painful problems, is inscribed in the scribbled notes and letters. What makes the latter the more valuable is their frankness and informality. People are not posing, acting, or attitudinizing, but are speaking off their guard. The papyri lore is of special interest to the student of the New Testament. The language of these non-Biblical manuscripts is the koine of the Gospels. God had His Book written in the idiom of the popular tongue. Ordinary people did not converse in classical Greek, as little as a common man today communes with his neighbor in the phrases of Shakespeare. The papyri establish the point that the New Testament was written in the proper Greek. Time was when sniping scholars scoffed at the "crudities" of New Testament syntax, asserting that grammatical constructions not found in the Greek classics were there­fore not idiomatic Greek, but the unhappy result of literal translations. Thanks to the testimony of t.~e papyri, we now know that the alleged peculiarities of New Testament Greek were, as a rule, normal speech. In studying the papyri the New Testament scholar comes upon many familiar words, phrases, and expressions. This brief report attempts to show how a survey of certain recurring words in the papyri helps us to understand our Greek New Testament a little better. This study is largely based on a volume by Dr. George Milligan, Selections from the Greek Papyri. Let us turn our attention to the familiar word ltU'tTH~, father. It occurs, for instance, in the salutation of a letter dated 153 A. D.: 'AltOAAOl'VLO, II'toAE!tuLq> 't

.1]Q .ou x,sOJlou. What has been said above applies in the same measure to the noun CiO>.11QLo.. The latter's meaning is illustrated in a letter written by a son to his father.6) This phrase is used: J'tSQL Tfj<; crO>-::'I)QLo.<; (IOU. "Write to me," the soldier son requests, "concerning your health." ~o>nlQLo. is here used as frequently in the koine in the general sense of health, well-being." In the New Testament, O'O>.'I)Q[o. is sometimes used in the same sense, as in Phil. 1: 19. However, its specific religious meaning is salvation, that spiritual well-being which is man's when through faith in Christ the sinner is at peace with God now and forever. "Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." Acts 4: 12. Every reader of the Greek New Testament knows the word :ltClQOUOLCI.. The word appears also in the papyri. It is a terminus technicus denoting the coming of some official or royal personage of prominence. Its use is exemplified in a letter opening on this keynote: "To King Ptolemy and Queen Cleopatra, on the occasion of your visits in Memphis (XCl.-&' a.<; £J'tOElcr{}' EV MEllCPn J'to.QOUO'(o.<;). 7) As for the Biblical usage of :lto.Qouo(C1., we find that Paul uses it to speak of his projected visit to Philippi: "/lu]. .ii<; £wii,; J'to.QOU;;." Phil. 1: 26. More frequently do the holy writers refer to the coming of Jesus Christ, that exalted King and Judge, as the Parousia. 1 Thess. 3: 13, 2 Thess. 2: 8. The papyri of the later Roman period reflect the growing arrogance of the emperors in applying to the imperial power the recurring epithet of tlLWVLO<;. From the time of Hadrian official manuscripts speak of "the unending world of the lord Caesar" (0 tltWVLO<; x60'",,0<; .0U XUQLOU XULatlQo<;). The Caesars are described as XUQLOL UtwvLOL in a document engaging the services of two dancing girls about the year 237 A. D.S) The Greek adjective C1.tWVLO<; is apparently to be taken in the sense of the Latin perpetuus, thus designating the imperial power as continuing throughout and as having no horizon to demarcate its duration. History shows that the rule of the emperors was by no means eternal. In fact, as the rulers add presumption to pride in pyramiding their prerogatives, the end was already in sight. The cracks were in the walls. Whatever adjectives properly describe the sway of Caesar, UtWVLO<; is very palpably not one of them. The same Apostle who placed the perishable label upon all flesh and the glory of man reserves the contrasting quality of eternity for the work of God. He writes, "For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (i) tltwvLO~ ~UO'LA.E(o. .OU %uQtOU i]JlWV XUL uO>"tijQOC; '1'I)