An Egyptian papyrus reveals the world's oldest Christian letter

An Egyptian papyrus reveals the world's oldest Christian letter


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An investigator has announced that has found the first known Christian letter, which was written in Roman Egypt in the 3rd century AD. The contents of this letter are challenging assumptions about the early followers of Jesus Christ and their world.

The rare autographed letter which is written on papyrus is part of the famous collection of the University of Basel. This institution has one of the oldest and most extensive papyrus collections in the German-speaking world. According to Phys.org «Most of the Basel papyri have not been published and have been ignored by research so far«. Professor Sabine Huebner of the University of Basel began studying part of the papyrus collection and made a remarkable discovery.

The letter refers to a family business and Arrianus informs his brother that his parents are fine. Also ask for some fish liver sauce. There is nothing remarkable in this document other than the last line, where the writer states that he expected his brother to "prosper in the Lord" according to the Curiosmos website.

This phrase was one of the most used in the Christian community and it was called "nomen sacrum". It was an abbreviation of the phrase 'I pray you do well in the Lord«, Informs Phys.org, phrase appears in many early manuscripts of the gospels. This was a significant discovery for Huebner because it indicated that the writer was a Christian.

New insights into the early Christians

The document sheds much light on the early Christians. It appears from the letter that Arriano and Paulus were civil servants, educated, and came from a wealthy family that owned land. It is generally believed that Christians in the early years of the religion were eccentrics and fanatics who turned their backs on Greco-Roman society.

The papyrus shows that this was not the case and that they were part of society in general. It also shows that Christians could adapt to the environment (largely pagan) at 3rd century. Furthermore, these early Christians were not only urban dwellers, as is commonly assumed, but also lived in rural districts.

Via: Basel University

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