In the year 1898, Bernard P. Grenfell and Arthur S. Hunt discovered thousands of papyri fragments just outside the ruins of the ancient city of Oxyrhynchus. These fragments turned out to be one of the most important papyri discoveries of all time. The Oxyrhynchus Papyri (Vols. 1–15) provide access to the editors’ transcriptions of over 1,800 fragments of papyrus with detailed notes, translations, and commentary.
When Grenfell and Hunt began their excavations at Oxyrhynchus in 1896, they never could have anticipated the magnitude of the discoveries in this ancient city. Over one hundred years later, scholars continue to sift through the thousands of fragments, publishing volume after volume of transcriptions. For the first time, volumes one through fifteen will be available digitally with completely searchable text, exponentially increasing the value of these volumes with their copious notes, translation, and commentary.
Many of the more important literary papyri receive a dual treatment with the standard literal transcription and also a reconstructed text in modern style. All these texts become even more valuable with Logos Bible Software. Across a wide variety of important tools for studying the New Testament, they are discussed in hundreds of grammars, lexicons, critical apparatuses, commentaries, journal articles, and monographs.
Those who own Comfort and Barrett’s The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts already know the great value of having access to the earliest New Testament papyri and being able to compare them with critical editions and textual apparatuses. The Oxyrhynchus papyri make it possible to compare and confirm the transcriptions of 17 of those early New Testament manuscripts, while also adding access to an additional 12 New Testament manuscript transcriptions not available in Comfort and Barrett’s work.
Even more exciting is the fact that the Oxyrhynchus papyri take textual criticism beyond the New Testament. In these 15 volumes, there are 20 papyri representing the Septuagint, which will provide an incredibly helpful resource beside the Göttingen Septuagint (65 Vols.). On top of that there are also 5 manuscripts from the Apostolic Fathers, 11 from the New Testament Apocrypha, 2 from Philo, and many more from a variety of Classical authors and documentary papyri.
Finally, unlike critical apparatuses that merely report readings without any sort of text critical discussion or Comfort and Barrett’s The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts, which provides an introduction to the manuscript without any notes on specific portions of the papyri texts, the Oxyrhynchus Papyri (Vols. 1–15) provide both an introduction to the manuscripts themselves and on top of that, extended notes and commentary on variant readings and their relationship to other manuscripts.
One hundred and fifty years ago, one would commonly hear it said that the Greek New Testament was unique, or that is was written in “Holy Ghost Greek.” It was believed to be written in a form of Greek never in common use, fit only for a sacred and holy book. Scholars like Alfred Deissmann and James Hope Mouton changed all of that. And they could not have done it without the papyri discoveries at Oxyrhynchus. Moulton, in the preface to his Prolegomena, writes:
The immense stores of illustration, which have been opened to us by the discoveries of Egyptian papyri, accessible to all on their lexical side in the brilliant Bible Studies of Deissmann, have not hitherto been systematically treated in their bearing on the grammar of New Testament Greek. The main purpose of these Prolegomena has accordingly been to provide a sketch of the language of the New Testament as it appears to those who have followed Deissmann into a new field of research.
—Grammar of New Testament Greek, Prolegomena
Most volumes includes an index of grammatical terminology mentioned in the discussions of individual papyri and Logos Bible Software’s search capabilities make it possible to find these same grammatical discussions in those volumes that do not.
The discoveries at the city of Oxyrhynchus did no less than to revolutionize the creation of New Testament dictionaries and lexicons. It was the papyri discoveries that lead Frederick Danker to write these words about Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament:
[The corrected edition of his Greek-English Lexicon] made Thayer a standard name in the English-speaking theological world until 1957. Nevertheless, discontent found repeated expression during this long period of valued service. And justly so, for even while the first lines of type were being set the seeds of Thayer’s obsolescence had already been sown.
—Frederick W. Danker, Multipurpose Tools for Bible Study, 111
And the transformative nature of the papyri for Greek lexicography is clearly seen in the dictionaries and lexicons published in the 20th Century. Moulton and Milligan’s Vocabulary of the Greek Testament alone contains nearly 6,800 reference to the Oxyrhynchus Papyri. Similar numbers are found in other Greek lexicon: LSJ contains nearly 10,000 references, BDAG has over 4,000, Ceslas Spicq’s Theological Lexicon of the New Testament has just under 2,600, and the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament contains more than a thousand references to the Oxyrhynchus Papyri.
Adding The Oxyrhynchus Papyri (Vols. 1–15) to your library will only increase the value of these lexicons, giving you the ability to test the claims of a lexicon’s entry directly against the texts it cites.
The value of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri (Vols. 1–15) for studying New Testament backgrounds cannot be overestimated. Adolf Deissmann’s Light from the Ancient East is a preeminent example of how non-literary and documentary papyri can shed light on the social, cultural, and religious setting in which the New Testament was written. His hundreds of references to these papyri texts are a tribute to their value for understanding the social milieu of the New Testament. Likewise, the Dictionary of New Testament Backgrounds regularly relies on these papyri for illuminating the historical and cultural background of the New Testament.
And while only a few of the volumes have a specific subject index, in Logos Bible Software, the ability to search across all fifteen volumes for important cultural subjects such as “marriage,” “slavery,” or any number of other topics makes it possible to use every volume for the study of social and cultural issues. For example, P.Oxy. 722 in volume 4 sheds light on slavery and the freeing of slaves, dated to just a few decades after Paul’s letters were written. In this text, the slave’s ransom is paid by a private individual rather than by the slave herself. Moreover, the fact that the payment for a slave’s freedom was called a ransom, provides an important insight into Paul’s conceptualizing of sinner being free from their slavery to sin through Christ’s death and resurrection.
[If] we could only recover letters that ordinary people wrote to each other without any thought of being literary, we should have the greatest possible help for the understanding of the language of the NT generally.
Grenfell and Hunt, the Dioscuri of research, have carried out epoch-making excavations at Oxyrhynchus and other places and have published their treasures with astonishing promptitude and masterly accuracy.
[The] literary texts [in volume four] are not . . . merely tantalizing scraps, but are real additions to our knowledge of classical literature.
—The Journal of Hellenic Studies
After discarding as worthless thousands upon thousands [of fragments], [Grenfell and Hunt] still had twenty-three hundred pieces of which some three hundred were classical or theological literature and the rest documents of the first seven centuries of our era.
—The Yale Review
Bernard P. Grenfell (1869–1926) was a Fellow of Queen’s College, Oxford, and of the British Academy. Known primarily as a classical scholar and Egyptologist, he was appointed Professor of Papyrology at Oxford in 1908.
Arthur S. Hunt (1871–1934) was a papyrologist and Fellow of Queen’s College, Oxford. With Bernard P. Grenfell, Hunt excavated and published thousands of papyri fragments from the ancient city of Oxyrhynchus and other archeological sites in Egypt.