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The Themes of 1 Peter: Insights from the Earliest Manuscripts (the Crosby-Schøyen Codex ms 193 and the Bodmer Miscellaneous Codex containing P72)*

  • David G. Horrell (a1)


Recent developments in textual criticism have encouraged NT scholars to regard the various NT manuscripts not merely as sources of variant readings to enable a reconstruction of the original text but as interpretative renderings with their own intrinsic interest and as important material evidence for early Christianity. Taking up this cue, this paper examines what the two (probably) earliest manuscripts of 1 Peter indicate about the status of this writing, and what early readers took to be its key themes, given the other texts with which it is bound. In both cases, and with some striking overlaps, 1 Peter is regarded as a text focused on the Easter themes of the suffering, martyrdom and vindication of Christ, and the related suffering and hope of his faithful people in a hostile world. These two manuscripts also call for some reconsideration of older scholarship, now widely rejected, which saw 1 Peter as a baptismal homily or paschal liturgy. While these remain unconvincing views of 1 Peter's origins, they do rightly identify themes and connections which the earliest editors and readers evidently also perceived.



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1 See, e.g., Parker, D. C., The Living Text of the Gospels (Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1997); Ehrman, B. D., The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament (New York and Oxford: Oxford University, 1993); Hurtado, L. W., The Earliest Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts and Christian Origins (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2006).

2 For this title for the codex, cf. Wasserman, T., ‘Papyrus 72 and the Bodmer Miscellaneous Codex’, NTS 51 (2005) 137–54.

3 For the publication of the MS, see Goehring, J. E., ed., The Crosby-Schøyen Codex Ms 193 in the Schøyen Collection (CSCO 521; Leuven: Peeters, 1990). Some of the most significant readings of the text of 1 Peter have been presented by a member of the team which edited the codex: Bethge, H.-G., ‘Der Text des ersten Petrusbriefes im Crosby-Schøyen-Codex (Ms. 193 Schøyen Collection)’, ZNW 84 (1993) 255–67.

4 See, e.g., Massaux, É., ‘Le Texte de la Ia Petri du Papyrus Bodmer VIII (P72)’, ETL 39 (1963) 616–71.

5 There have been some studies with this latter focus, most recently Wasserman, ‘Papyrus 72’ and Nicklas, T. and Wasserman, T., ‘Theologische Linien im Codex Bodmer Miscellani?’, New Testament Manuscripts: Their Texts and Their World (ed. Kraus, T. J. and Nicklas, T.; Leiden: Brill, 2006) 161–88. These have, however, come mostly from those whose primary interest and expertise is in the text-historical/text-critical areas.

6 W. H. Willis, ‘The Letter of Peter (1 Peter)’, Crosby-Schøyen Codex, 135–215 (137).

7 J. M. Robinson, ‘The Manuscript's History and Codicology’, Crosby-Schøyen Codex (ed. Goehring) xvii–xlvii (xxvii, cf. also xxxv).

8 Robinson, J. M., ‘The Pachomian Monastic Library at the Chester Beatty Library and the Bibliothèque Bodmer’, Manuscripts of the Middle East 5 (1990–1) 2640 (27).

9 Willis, ‘Letter of Peter’, 137.

10 ‘The Crosby-Schøyen text agrees with only one of the 29 unique significant readings of P72’ (Willis, ‘Letter of Peter’, 137).

11 See Robinson, ‘The Manuscript's History’, xvii–xlvii, xliii–lxiv.

12 See Robinson, ‘The Manuscript's History’, xxxiii. Aland, K. and Aland, B., Der Text des Neuen Testaments (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2nd ed. 1989) 210, suggest ‘wahrscheinlich wohl um 400’, though with there giving arguments for this date.

13 Willis, ‘Letter of Peter’, 137, citing support from C. H. Roberts for an early dating in n. 4; Bethge, ‘Crosby-Schøyen-Codex’, 258–9.

14 Willis, ‘Letter of Peter’, 138, notes that since C-S is evidently a ‘copy of a copy’, not itself a direct translation from the Greek, ‘the original translation on which it is based must be pushed back to A.D. 200, perhaps even earlier’.

15 Willis, ‘Letter of Peter’, 146; Bethge, ‘Crosby-Schøyen-Codex’, 260. Eusebius clearly knows of both letters attributed to Peter, but refers to ‘the letter of Peter’, which should be accepted (τὴν Πέτρου κυρωτέον ἐπιστολήν), contrasted with the second letter of Peter (Πέτρου δɛυτέρα ἐπιστολή) which is among the disputed books (HE 3.25.2–3). I am grateful to Peter Head for alerting me to this point.

16 There may possibly have been a brief opening tractate, but since the opening pages of the codex are missing, it is impossible to know what, if anything, might have filled these opening pages. The extant pagination for Melito (which begins only at p. 17, the previous pages being mostly lost), suggests a separately paginated six-page section at the beginning of the codex. See Robinson, ‘The Manuscript's History’, xlvi; J. E. Goehring and W. H. Willis, ‘On the Passover by Melito of Sardis’, Crosby-Schøyen Codex (ed. Goehring) 1–79 (4).

17 However, the text of Jonah begins, prior to p. 1, on the same page (p. 33) as the ending of 1 Peter (see plate 8 in Goehring, ed., Crosby-Schøyen Codex).

18 See J. E. Goehring, ‘The Manuscript's Language and Orthography’, Crosby-Schøyen Codex (ed. Goehring) xlix–lxii.

19 J. E. Goehring, ‘Unidentified Text’, Crosby-Schøyen Codex (ed. Goehring) 261–75 (263).

20 ET from Goehring and Willis, ‘On the Passover’, 43.

21 These words are missing from the text of Melito in the Bodmer Papyrus, on which see below, and fall within a lacuna in the Latin text. See Perler, O., Méliton de Sardes: sur la Pâque, et Fragments (SC 123; Paris: Cerf, 1966) 98, 173. There is therefore some uncertainty about their originality, but they are, significantly, present within the C-S text.

22 Along with Melito 68//1 Pet 2.9, Melito 12//1 Pet 1.19 is also an especially precise parallel, where the shared terminology might well reflect the influence of 1 Peter on Melito. See Elliott, J. H., 1 Peter (AB 37B; New York: Doubleday, 2000) 145–6.

23 Elliott, 1 Peter, 145, who details further parallels.

24 See E. S. Meltzer and H.-G. Bethge, ‘The Jewish Martyrs (2 Maccabees 5:27–7:41)’, Crosby-Schøyen Codex (ed. Goehring) 81–133 (83), who note that the other known Coptic ms of 2 Maccabees includes virtually the identical section (5.27–7.21, possibly running to 7.41 in its original complete form).

25 Meltzer and Bethge, ‘The Jewish Martyrs’, 83.

26 Meltzer and Bethge, ‘The Jewish Martyrs’, 84.

27 Goldstein, J. A., II Maccabees: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (AB 41A; New York: Doubleday, 1983) 282.

28 C. W. Hedrick, ‘Jonah the Prophet (Jonah)’, Crosby-Schøyen Codex (ed. Goehring) 217–59 (220).

29 Hedrick, ‘Jonah the Prophet’, 219.

30 Jensen, R. M., Understanding Early Christian Art (London and New York: Routledge, 2000) 69, 172.

31 For a colour picture, see Rutgers, L. V., Subterranean Rome: In Search of the Roots of Christianity in the Catacombs of the Eternal City (Leuven: Peeters, 2000) 93.

32 See Jensen, Early Christian Art, 171–4. Cf. Justin Dial. 107; Origen Comm in Matt 12.3; Basil De Spiritu Sanc. 14.32.

33 An older view discussed and rejected by Jeremias, ‘’Ιωνᾶς’, TDNT 3.409. Green, J. B., The Gospel of Luke (NICNT; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997) 464, nonetheless sees this still as one of two possibilities that make good sense in the narrative.

34 Goehring, ‘Unidentified Text’, 263.

35 Goehring, ‘Unidentified Text’, 264.

36 The text is cited according to the codex page number then line number(s), following the convention in Goehring, ‘Unidentified Text’.

37 See Goehring, ‘Unidentified Text’, 263 with n. 2, 264 with n. 5; Stewart-Sykes, A., The Lamb's High Feast: Melito, Peri Pascha and the Quartodeciman Paschal Liturgy at Sardis (VTSup 42; Leiden: Brill, 1998) 180.

38 Goehring, ‘Unidentified Text’, 264.

39 Willis, ‘Letter of Peter’, 137.

40 Bethge, ‘Crosby-Schøyen-Codex’, 257.

41 A good deal of recent scholarship has concluded that 1 Peter reflects mostly informal opprobrium and public hostility, not trials and possible executions, but I think that both scenarios, connected through the accusatorial process, are likely in view. See Horrell, D. G., ‘The Label Χριστιανός: 1 Pet 4.16 and the Formation of Christian Identity’, JBL 126 (2007) 361–81.

42 Papyrus Bodmer V, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII, XIII, XX (Cologne-Geneva: Bibliotheca Bodmeriana, 1958–64). A new edition of the Apology of Phileas has since been published: Pietersma, A., The Acts of Phileas Bishop of Thmuis (Including Fragments of the Greek Psalter): P. Chester Beatty XV (with a New Edition of P. Bodmer XX, and Halkin's Latin Acta) (Cahiers d'orientalisme 7; Geneva: Victor Chevalier, 1984).

43 See Testuz, M., Papyrus Bodmer VII–IX (Cologne-Geneva: Bibliotheca Bodmeriana, 1959) 9, who suggests that the texts must have existed ‘en plusiers brochures séparées, qu'on a réunies en un seul livre’.

44 Cf. Testuz, Papyrus Bodmer VII–IX, 9; Martin, V., Papyrus Bodmer XX (Cologne-Geneva: Bibliotheca Bodmeriana, 1964) 9; Turner, E. G., The Typology of the Early Codex (Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania, 1977) 80; Wasserman, ‘Papyrus 72’, 140–5; Nicklas and Wasserman, ‘Theologische Linien’, 161–7.

45 For the estimate of ca. 190 pages, see Grunewald, W. and Junack, K., Das Neue Testament auf Papyrus. I: Die katholischen Briefe (ANTF 6; Berlin and New York: de Gruyter, 1986) 17. Testuz, Papyrus Bodmer VII–IX, 8–9, estimated ca. 180 pages, prior to the reconstruction of the Apology of Phileas. My own count from the various Bodmer Papyrus volumes brings a total of around 190 pages, of which 183 are extant.

46 Martin, Papyrus Bodmer XX, 7; Testuz, Papyrus Bodmer VII–IX, 9.

47 Wasserman, ‘Papyrus 72’, 148–54.

48 See Testuz, Papyrus Bodmer VII–IX, 9.

49 See Testuz, Papyrus Bodmer VII–IX, 8–9; Grunewald and Junack, Die katholischen Briefe, 19; Wasserman, ‘Papyrus 72’, 142–6; Nicklas and Wasserman, ‘Theologische Linien’, 162, 165–6, though Nicklas and Wasserman suggest that the order of texts in the codex may have been different from that proposed by Testuz, with the Apology of Phileas (and Pss 33–34) at the beginning or the end of the collection.

50 On the possible date range for the martyrdom, see Martin, Papyrus Bodmer XX, 10; Pietersma, Acts of Phileas, 14.

51 Grunewald and Junack, Die katholischen Briefe, 23–4.

52 For the third-century dating, see, e.g., Testuz, Papyrus Bodmer VII–IX, 9, and Papyrus Bodmer V, 10.

53 Cf. Wiefel, W., ‘Kanongeschichtliche Erwägungen Zu Papyrus Bodmer VII/VIII (P72)’, Archiv für Papyrusforschung 22 (1973) 289303.

54 Cf. esp. Wiefel, ‘Kanongeschichtliche Erwägungen’.

55 Wall, R. W., ‘The Canonical Function of 2 Peter’, BibInt 9 (2001) 6481.

56 These are presented in their marginal location in the text of P72 edited by Testuz, and are listed and discussed by Wiefel, ‘Kanongeschichtliche Erwägungen’, 301; Grunewald and Junack, Die katholischen Briefe, 21; Nicklas and Wasserman, ‘Theologische Linien’, 183–4.

57 Wiefel, ‘Kanongeschichtliche Erwägungen’, 301.

58 Wiefel, ‘Kanongeschichtliche Erwägungen’, 301.

59 Beare, F. W., The First Epistle of Peter (Oxford: Blackwell, 3rd ed. 1970 [1947]) 4, suggests that this ‘is probably an error for κατακɛκλησμɛνοις which is read by C and a few minuscules, and is widely represented in the Old Latin’ (and also the Syriac Peshitta and Ethiopic versions). Indeed, P72's marginal note may thus be a very early witness to the presence of this word in the textual tradition. Given the (Coptic) scribe's relatively poor Greek, it is unlikely he introduced this word without some influence or precedent.

60 Wiefel, ‘Kanongeschichtliche Erwägungen’, 302.

61 Cf. Wiefel, ‘Kanongeschichtliche Erwägungen’, 293–6.

62 Cf. Wiefel, ‘Kanongeschichtliche Erwägungen’, 297–8.

63 On Jude's significance in the leadership of early Jewish Christianity, see Bauckham, R. J., Jude and the Relatives of Jesus (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1990). This significance may have been particularly important in the context of a Catholic Epistle collection, the purpose of which was, at least in part, to counterbalance the influence of the Pauline Epistle collection: see Nienhuis, D. R., Not by Paul Alone: The Formation of the Catholic Epistle Collection and the Christian Canon (Waco, TX: Baylor University, 2007).

64 See Wasserman, ‘Papyrus 72’, 152–3. More generally, on this issue, see Ehrman, Orthodox Corruption of Scripture.

65 A point made emphatically by Nicklas and Wasserman, ‘Theologische Linien’, 175.

66 J. H. Charlesworth, ‘Bodmer Papyrus and Ode of Solomon 11: What Function or Functions Did the Collection Serve?’, Paper presented at the SBL Annual Meeting, Boston MA, November 2008.

67 So Testuz, Papyrus Bodmer X–XII, 73.

68 Perler, Méliton, 129.

69 See Perler, O., Ein Hymnus zur Ostervigil von Meliton? (Papyrus Bodmer XII) (Freiburg: Universitätsverlag Freiburg Schweiz, 1960). Cf. Perler, Méliton, 128–9.

70 Martin, Papyrus Bodmer XX, 9–10.

71 Haines-Eitzen, K., Guardians of Letters: Literacy, Power, and the Transmitters of Early Christian Literature (Oxford: Oxford University, 2000) 103.

72 Haines-Eitzen, Guardians of Letters, 103; Wasserman, ‘Papyrus 72’, 147.

73 Haines-Eitzen, Guardians of Letters, 103–4.

74 Wasserman, ‘Papyrus 72’, 154; cf. 146.

75 Wasserman, ‘Papyrus 72’, 147; cf. 154.

76 Wasserman, ‘Papyrus 72’, 154; Nicklas and Wasserman, ‘Theologische Linien’, 185–8.

77 Nicklas and Wasserman, ‘Theologische Linien’, 185, 188.

78 Wiefel, ‘Kanongeschichtliche Erwägungen’, 290–3. Cf. Nicklas and Wasserman, ‘Theologische Linien’, 166, who describe Wiefel's proposal as ‘[e]inen sehr komplexen Vorschlag’.

79 Wiefel, ‘Kanongeschichtliche Erwägungen’, 297.

80 Wiefel, ‘Kanongeschichtliche Erwägungen’, 299.

81 Wiefel, ‘Kanongeschichtliche Erwägungen’, 299–300.

82 Wiefel, ‘Kanongeschichtliche Erwägungen’, 300.

83 The dominant context for reading/hearing—not least given the low rates of literacy—would have been the congregational meetings. Moreover, the miniatures made specifically for private use were often much smaller than either BMC or C-S: see Gamble, H. Y., Books and Readers in the Early Church: A History of Early Christian Texts (New Haven and London: Yale University, 1995) 332 n. 101.

84 Cf. Nicklas and Wasserman, ‘Theologische Linien’, 167, who note that Wiefel's theory leaves unclear what role the Apology has in the collection.

85 Wiefel, ‘Kanongeschichtliche Erwägungen’, 300. On the total number of pages in the codex, see above n. 45.

86 Cf. Nicklas and Wasserman, ‘Theologische Linien’, 170; I think this underestimates the likelihood that literary and thematic connections were perceived, on which see below.

87 Wiefel, ‘Kanongeschichtliche Erwägungen’, 299. He does not, however, refer to W. Bornemann's much earlier proposal to this effect, on which see below.

88 See Pietersma, Acts of Phileas, 11.

89 See BCM col. 7, lines 7–12 (from Pietersma's new edition). In P. Chester Beatty XV, the oath is explicitly ‘by the genius of the emperors’ (τὴν τύχην τῶν βασιλέ[ω]ν, Pietersma, Acts of Phileas, 42).

90 See Pietersma, Acts of Phileas, 18–20.

91 The possibly legal nuances of this language in 1 Peter have long been noted, though recent commentators have tended to suggest that the context implied here is everyday rather than judicial (e.g. Elliott, 1 Peter, 627–8; Brox, N., Der erste Petrusbrief [EKKNT 21; Zürich/Braunschweig: Benziger; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 3rd ed. 1989], 159–60; Knoch, O., Der erste und zweite Petrusbrief. Der Judasbrief [RNT; Regensburg: Friedrich Pustet, 1990], 97; Jobes, K. H., 1 Peter [BECNT; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005], 230).

92 Horrell, D. G., ‘Between Conformity and Resistance: Beyond the Balch–Elliott Debate Towards a Postcolonial Reading of 1 Peter’, Reading 1 Peter with New Eyes: Methodological Reassessments of the Letter of First Peter (ed. Webb, R. L. and Bauman-Martin, B.; LNTS 364; London and New York: T&T Clark, 2007) 111–43.

93 See Elliott, 1 Peter, 7–12 for a concise but thorough treatment of this history of research.

94 Perdelwitz, R., Die Mysterienreligion und das Problem des 1. Petrusbriefes (Giessen: Alfred Töpelmann, 1911) 19, 22.

95 Bornemann, W., ‘Der erste Petrusbrief—eine Taufrede des Silvanus?ZNW 19 (1920) 143–65 (146).

96 See Elliott, 1 Peter, 8, for a list.

97 Priesker, H., ‘Anhang zum ersten Petrusbrief’, in H. Windisch, Die katholischen Briefe (HNT 15; Tübingen: Mohr, 3rd ed. 1951) 152–62 (157). Cross, F. L., 1 Peter: A Paschal Liturgy (London: Mowbray, 1954).

98 Cross, 1 Peter, 28–35.

99 E.g. Boismard, M.-E., Quatre hymnes baptismales dans la première épître de Pierre (LD 30; Paris: Cerf, 1961).

100 Notably Moule, C. F. D., ‘The Nature and Purpose of 1 Peter’, NTS 3 (1956–7) 111; Thornton, T. C. G., ‘I Peter, a Paschal Liturgy?’, JTS 12 (1961) 1426; Hill, D., ‘On Suffering and Baptism in I Peter’, NovT 18 (1976) 181–9.

101 Kelly, J. N. D., A Commentary on the Epistles of Peter and Jude (BNTC; London: A. & C. Black, 1969) 18, cited in Elliott, 1 Peter, 10.

102 Elliott, 1 Peter, 11. Cf. also Schmidt, K. M., Mahnung und Erinnerung im Maskenspiel. Epistolographie, Rhetorik und Narrativik der pseudepigraphen Petrusbriefe (HBS 38; Freiburg/Basel/Vienna: Herder, 2003) 157; Feldmeier, R., The First Letter of Peter: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Waco, TX: Baylor University, 2008) 2832. Feldmeier sees ‘no reason to doubt the unity of 1 Peter’ (30) but leaves more open the question as to whether it was originally sent as a letter or only clothed in this form (32).

103 C-S, of course, has only been relatively recently published.

104 Willis, ‘Letter of Peter’, 137. Cf. Nicklas and Wasserman, ‘Theologische Linien’, 183, writing on the contents of BMC: ‘Eines der entscheidenden Themen des 1.Petrusbriefes ist die Taufe’. It should be noted, though, that Willis continues the comments cited above as follows: ‘But whatever may be one's view of the text as a baptismal sermon or liturgy, its inclusion in the Crosby-Schøyen codex confirms at least that the scribe or organizer of the codex considered the epistle Paschal in character’ (137).

105 Spicq, C., Les Épîtres de Saint Pierre (SB; Paris: Gabalda, 1966) 15. See further Horrell, D. G., ‘The Product of a Petrine Circle? A Reassessment of the Origin and Character of 1 Peter’, JSNT 86 (2002) 2960.

106 See further Gamble, Books and Readers, 205–8, 211–18; Hurtado, L. W., ‘The New Testament in the Second Century: Text, Collections and Canon’, Transmission and Reception: New Testament Text-Critical and Exegetical Studies (ed. Childers, J. W. and Parker, D. C.; Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias, 2006) 327 (11–14).

107 Gamble, Books and Readers, 218.

108 See Woan, S., ‘The Psalms in 1 Peter’, The Psalms in the New Testament (ed. Moyise, S. and Menken, M. J. J.; London & New York: T&T Clark, 2004) 213–29.

109 Bethge, ‘Crosby-Schøyen-Codex’, 257.

110 Wasserman, ‘Papyrus 72’, 146.

111 E.g., Elliott characterises 1 Peter as follows: ‘First Peter is, in a sense, an Easter letter. The basis for the hope it celebrates, and the impetus for the creation of the distinctive community it describes, are grounded in God's resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and the regeneration of those who confess him as Lord… It is most appropriate, therefore, that it is 1 Peter to which the church listens in its liturgical celebration of the Sundays of the Easter season’ (Elliott, J. H., Conflict, Community, and Honor: 1 Peter in Social-Scientific Perspective [Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2007], 23.

* I would like to dedicate this essay, first presented as a paper in the month of his retirement after thirty-six years at the University of Exeter, to my colleague Dr Alastair Logan, and to thank him publicly for his warm collegiality (and fruitful discussions of the topic of this paper!). I would also like to thank the following for their very helpful comments and suggestions: Peter Williams, Peter Head, Stuart Macwilliam, Morwenna Ludlow and Lutz Doering. Research for this essay has also been supported by a Small Research Grant from the British Academy, and library facilities in Cambridge and Heidelberg, for which I would also like to express my sincere thanks.


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The Themes of 1 Peter: Insights from the Earliest Manuscripts (the Crosby-Schøyen Codex ms 193 and the Bodmer Miscellaneous Codex containing P72)*

  • David G. Horrell (a1)


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