An Old Christian Papyrus

Jeanna Bryner, the Managing Editor of LiveScience is reporting that the ‘Last Supper’ Papyrus May Be One of Oldest Christian Charms:

 Inline image. Click to enlarge

A 1,500-year-old fragment of Greek papyrus with writing that refers to the biblical Last Supper and "manna from heaven" may be one of the oldest Christian amulets, say researchers.

The fragment was likely folded up and worn inside a locket or pendant as a sort of protective charm, according to Roberta Mazza, who spotted the papyrus while looking through thousands of papyri kept in the library vault at the John Rylands Research Institute at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom.

"This is an important and unexpected discovery as it’s one of the first recorded documents to use magic in the Christian context and the first charm ever found to refer to the Eucharist — the Last Supper — as the manna of the Old Testament," Mazza said in a statement. The fragment likely originated in a town in Egypt. [Proof of Jesus Christ?

The translated text from the article reads:

Fear you all who rule over the earth.

Know you nations and peoples that Christ is our God.

For he spoke and they came to being, he commanded and they were created; he put everything under our feet and delivered us from the wish of our enemies.

Our God prepared a sacred table in the desert for the people and gave manna of the new covenant to eat, the Lord’s immortal body and the blood of Christ poured for us in remission of sins.

Unrelatedly, the editor threw in a link to past LiveScience stories: Proof of Jesus Christ? 7 Pieces of Evidence Debated. The first one is Biblical Blankets. Guess what?

17 thoughts on “An Old Christian Papyrus”

  1. Dan, you may have not noticed that I posted a link to the papyrus on the blog around a week ago. Anyway, we can deduce two things from the discovery: The Egyptian Christians were influenced by ancient Egypt and therefore adopted the concept of “charms”. We also have examples in the Old Testament, where ideas from surrounding cultures, particularly Mesopotamian, crept into some texts.
    The text shows strong influence of Old Testament ( strictly Jewish) imagery.

  2. No problem, you are bound to forget something or the other in the searching you have to do to keep the blog going.

  3. I saw no evidence on the site that supported the idea of a magical use, or of it being in an amulet, only speculation that it may have been. Granted the rectangular arrangement of thin worn areas may suggest it had been kept folded. Are we to assert that modern wall hangings of scriptural texts are to be interpreted as magical invocations? Anoxie’s comments that such articles are generated over and over again in a vacuum are pertinent.

      1. Thanks anoxie, picked it up and followed through. Clearly the site has its own particular bias. It maybe OK on news about dinosaurs, but I suspect overall it’s fairly superficial.

        1. It is OK on established facts about dinosaurs, not on controversies about the Shroud, but this is “truthiness”:

          “The less effort it takes to process a factual claim, the more accurate it seems. When we fluidly and frictionlessly absorb a piece of information, one that perhaps snaps neatly onto our existing belief structures, we are filled with a sense of comfort, familiarity, and trust.”

  4. Read the Old Testament in comparison with the literature of the surrounding cultures and the early history of Egyptian Christians in comparison with the milieu to find the evidence.

    1. Jewish religious practice requires males over 13 years of age to wear phylacteries (Tefillin, Deut. 6:8 etc) containing texts of the Torah in a certain prescribed manner. They serve as reminders. No-one would suggest they represent magic incantations or charms. Jeanna Bryner made such an assertion concerning the ‘Last Supper papyrus’ but did not support the allegation with any evidence in her LiveScience article. Ergo – Speculation!

  5. There are hundreds of findings when it comes to Jewish magical incantations, ostraca and magical bowls. It was common practice to have these objects, although they were prohibited in the Old Testament. Dozens of magical documents were found in the Cairo Genizah and have even been published, James Davila wrote about the excavation in Nippur: ” nearly every house excavated in Nippur had one or more incantation bowls buried in it.”
    Many, but not all, of them were protections against Lilith, some were curses and so on.
    Shlomo Moussaieff has the biggest collection of such objects.
    Last, but not the least, the priests at the Temple were known to practice witchcraft, the competition to reach the office of High Priest was strong.
    Monotheism, as we know it today, was defied by the Council of Nicaea in AD 325.

  6. It cannot be denied that magic was practised within ancient Judaism. The Kabbala first appeared in the 12th century, but in fact had ancient roots. I think it was Samuel who consulted a witch or soothsayer.

    A sample Encyc Brit extract:
    “The earliest roots of Kabbala are traced to Merkava mysticism. It began to flourish in Palestine in the 1st century AD and had as its main concern ecstatic and mystical contemplation of the divine throne, or “chariot” (merkava), seen in a vision by Ezekiel, the prophet (Ezekiel 1). The earliest known Jewish text on magic and cosmology, Sefer Yetzira (“Book of Creation”), appeared sometime between the 3rd and the 6th century. It explained creation as a process involving the 10 divine numbers (sefirot; see sefira) of God the Creator and the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Taken together, they were said to constitute the “32 paths of secret wisdom.”

    However the actual text of the “Last Supper Papyrus” as quoted above, seems to provide no evidence for its use as any kind of magic talisman, but is NT orthodox. It might just as well be imitative of the orthodox Jewish practice of wearing phylacteries containing texts from the Torah.

  7. Kabbala has its roots in gnosticism, it is speculation, nothing to do with the OT. It certainly began as a reaction to attacks on the deity, as described in the OT, and curiously the defence absorbed elements coming from the opposite camp.The “Last Supper Papyrus” is indeed NT orthodox, using Jewish imagery, and the folds may really indicate that it could have been kept in a frame, as a prayer, to stimulate faith, and not used as a “charm”. Jeanna Bryner has demonstrated bias.

        1. Thanks, Colin.

          So “World News Daily” is similar to “The Onion”?

          I’m surprised, since the article was also carried on the “JewsNews.” site. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to be able to differentiate between articles that contain truth and those that contain satire.


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