Monday, August 06, 2007

John Rylands Papyrus 470

Reproduced by courtesy of the University Librarian and Director, The John Rylands University Library, The University of Manchester

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This papyrus fragment is a prayer to the Theotokos written about 250 A.D., per papyrologists who have examined the handwriting style. (Theotokos means "God-bearer," a term for Mary that was formally affirmed at the Third Ecumenical Council held at Ephesus in 431.) Some initially placed the papyrus in the fourth or fifth century (the John Rylands Library description below lists it as 3rd - 4th century), perhaps because they didn't think that Christians would have been praying to the Theotokos that early. If the early dating is correct, this prayer must have already been part of the Church's services or prayers, showing that petitions and prayers to the Theotokos and the Saints go back to the early days of the Church, perhaps to the second century.

Reference number: Greek Papyrus 470
Side: recto
Image Number: JRL021620tr
Image Title: Christian Prayer
Alternative Image Title: Prayer to the Virgin Mary
Subject: Christianity
Subject: Religion
Description: This fragment was probably a private copy of a prayer addressed to the Virgin Mary. It is written in brown ink. The verso is blank. Lines 4-9: "Mother of God (hear) my supplications: suffer us not (to be) in adversity, but deliver us from danger. Thou alone....". Aquired in 1917.
Date created: 3rd - 4th century
Time period covered: 1 BCE - 500 CE
Place covered: Egypt
Language: grc
Item height: 180 mm
Item width: 94 mm
Technique used: Scripts (writing)
Medium: Ink
Support material: Papyrus
Discovery site: Egypt
Bibliography: Catalogue of the Greek & Latin Papyri in The John Rylands Library at Manchester
Current repository: John Rylands University Library, The University of Manchester, U.K.
Type: Text
Category: Archives & Manuscripts
Sub-category: Fragments
Image rights: JRUL
Work rights: JRUL
Image sequence number: grc0470r
Image technique: Scanned from colour transparency by Gten, August 2003
Metadata language: eng-GB

Image ID: 100285
Resolution Size: 6
Format: JP2
Media Type: Image
File Name: jrl021620tr.jp2
Width: 3683
Height: 4743

- - -

The present form of the prayer in the Greek services and prayer books is:

Υπο την σην ευσπλαγχνιαν
καταφευγομεν Θεοτοκε.
τας ημων ικεσιας μη παριδης εν περιστασει,
αλλ' εκ κινδυνων λυτρωσαι ημας,
μονη αγνη, μονη ευλογημενη

This roughly translates as (adapted from the Wikipedia entry for "Sub tuum praesidium," the Latin version):

Beneath your compassion
we take refuge, Theotokos.
Our petitions do not despise in time of trouble,
but from dangers ransom us,
Only Holy, Only Blessed

In uncial (capital) letters this would be:

ΥΠΟ ΤΗΝ ΣΗΝ ΕΥΣΠΛΑΓΧΝΙΑΝ
ΚΑΤΑΦΕΥΓΟΜΕΝ ΘΕΟΤΟΚΕ.
ΤΑΣ ΗΜΩΝ ΙΚΕΣΙΑΣ ΜΗ ΠΑΡΙΔΗΣ ΕΝ ΠΕΡΙΣΤΑΣΕΙ,
ΑΛΛ' ΕΚ ΚΙΝΔΥΝΩΝ ΛΥΤΡΩΣΑΙ ΗΜΑΣ,
ΜΟΝΗ ΑΓΝΗ, ΜΟΝΗ ΕΥΛΟΓΗΜΕΝΗ.

The papyrus reads:

Note:

  • The writer uses a lunate Sigma (i.e., "C") for Σ
  • Gray letters are those missing or partly missing from the papyrus; I wasn't always consistent with whether to put a partial letter in gray or not
  • Some words are split at the end of a line and continue on the next line
  • The papyrus does not have spaces between words, but I used spaces in my transcription of the text
1 ΥΠΟ ΤΗΝ CΗΝ
2 ΕΥCΠΛΑΓΧΝΙΑΝ
3 ΚΑΤΑΦΕΥΓΟΜΕΝ
4 ΘΕΟΤΟΚΕ ΤΑC ΗΜΩΝ
5 ΙΚΕCΙΑC ΜΗ ΠΑ
6 ΡΙΔΗC ΕM ΠΕΡΙCΤΑCΕΙ
7 ΑΛΛ' ΕΚ ΚΙΝΔΥΝΟΥ
8 ΡΥCΑΙ ΗΜΑC
9 ΜΟΝΗ ΑΓΝΗ, ΜΟΝ
10 Η ΕΥΛΟΓΗΜΕΝΗ

1 Beneath your
2 compassion
3 we take refuge
4 Theotokos Our
5 petitions do not de-
6 spise in time of trouble
7 but from danger
8 rescue us
9 Only Holy On-
10 ly Blessed

Note the following differences from the traditional reading:

6 "ΕΝ" is (mis)spelled as "ΕΜ," probably because the "Ν" sound would have assimilated with the "Π" in the next word and been pronounced like "ΜΠ," with the "Ν/Μ Π" perhaps even becoming a "mb" sound
7 ΚΙΝΔΥΝΟΥ (singular) is used instead of ΚΙΝΔΥΝΩΝ (plural)
8 ΡΥCΑΙ (ΡΥΣΑΙ) is used instead of ΛΥΤΡΩCΑΙ (ΛΥΤΡΩΣΑΙ)

- - -

Thanks go to Frederica Mathewes-Green for bringing this papyrus to my attention in her book THE LOST GOSPEL OF MARY: THE THEOTOKOS IN THREE ANCIENT TEXTS.

2 comments:

  1. We sing the same hymn as 'Pod tvoyu milost''.

    It has long been known among us that this is the oldest known prayer to the Theotokos.

    Thank you for this learned presentation of information.

    ReplyDelete
  2. And here's a little something for You:

    mystificator.blogspot.com/2007/08/elijah-revisited-transfiguration-of-our.html

    Enjoy! ;-)

    ReplyDelete