Papyrus 1 (p1) -- The first papyrus NT manuscript ever discovered

In ancient Egypt there was a city called Per-Medjed, which was the capital of the 19th Upper Egyptian Nome.  After the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great in 332 BC, the city was reestablished as a Greek town, called Oxyrhynchou Polis (“town of the sharp-snouted fish”).  In Hellenistic times, Oxyrhynchus was 3rd largest city in Egypt.  Outside the city was a series of garbage dump sites, at which the inhabitants of Oxyrhynchus would dump their garbage.  They dumped their garbage there for more than 1,000 years.

Beginning in 1896 archaeologists discovered 500,000 papyri buried in these dump sites.  Ten percent of the texts were literary documents.  The rest consisted of public and private documents: codes, edicts, registers, official correspondence, census-returns, tax-assessments, petitions, court-records, sales, leases, wills, bills, accounts, inventories, horoscopes, and private letters.  Some of literary texts were Christian documents:

  1. Gospel of Thomas (3 fragments = POxy 1, 654, and 655)
  2. Oxyrhynchus 840 (non-canonical gospel, 3rd century AD)
  3. Oxyrhynchus 1224 (non-canonical gospel, 4th century AD)
  4. Apocalypse of Baruch (chapters 12–14; 4th or 5th century: P403)
  5. Gospel according to the Hebrews (3rd century AD: P655)
  6. Gospel of Peter (POxy 2949 and 4009)
  7. Gospel of Mary (POxy 3525)
  8. The Sophia of Jesus Christ (POxy 1081).
  9. Matthew 1 (P2, P401 = 3rd century), 11–12 (P2384 = 3rd to 4th century) and 19 (P2384, 2385 = 3rd to 4th century)
  10. Mark 10–11 (P3, 5th to 6th century
  11. John 1,20 (P208 = 3rd century)
  12. Romans 1 (P209 = 4th century)
  13. 1 John (P402 = 4th-5th century;
  14. The Shepherd of Hermas (P404 = 3rd or 4th century)
  15. Irenaeus (P405 = 3rd century).
  16. There are many parts of other canonical books as well as many early Christian hymns, prayers, and letters also found.

Of the 124 registered NT papyri, 47 (38%) were discovered at Oxyrhynchus:

  1. p1
  2. p5
  3. p9
  4. p10
  5. p13
  6. p15
  7. p16
  8. p17
  9. p18
  10. p19
  11. p20
  12. p21
  13. p22
  14. p23
  15. p24
  16. p26
  17. p27
  18. p28
  19. p29
  20. p30
  21. p35
  22. p36
  23. p39
  24. p48
  25. p51
  26. p69
  27. p70
  28. p71
  29. p77
  30. p78
  31. p90
  32. p100
  33. p101
  34. p102
  35. p103
  36. p104
  37. p105
  38. p106
  39. p107
  40. p108
  41. p109
  42. p110
  43. p111
  44. p112
  45. p113
  46. p114
  47. p115

Grenfell and Hunt discovered the first NT papyrus (P1) on the second day of excavation in the winter of 1896–7.

The focus of the project is now mainly on the publication of this vast archive of material.  As of 2007, 4,700 items had been translated, edited, and published in 72 volumes.  Publication continues at the rate of about one new volume each year.  Approximately 40 more volumes are expected.

Significance:

  1. The Oxyrhynchus papyrus fragments have greatly increased our knowledge of the state of the NT text within centuries of its composition.
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