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P4/64/67 (Papyrus 4/64/67 – Suppl. Gr. 1120/Gr. 17/P. Barcelona 1)
Textual Character: P4 is of the Alexandrian text-type and agrees with P75 and B 93 percent of the time. The copyist of P4 was likely a professional scribe. “P4 and P75 are identical in forty complete verses, with only five significant exceptions (Luke 3:22, 36; 5:39; 6:11, 14).” Comfort and Barret in their book Text of the Earliest NT Greek Manuscripts inform us that P4 came from the same codex as P64/67. Comfort writes,
Notable Readings P4
In Luke 6:2 — οὐκ ἔξεστιν (not lawful) for οὐκ ἔξεστιν ποιεῖν (not lawful to do); the reading is supported only by Codex Vaticanus Graecus 1209, (Codex Bezae), Codex Nitriensis, 700, lat, copsa, copbo, arm, geo;
Some early accounts stated that P4 was used as stuffing for the binding of a codex of Philo, written in the late third century and found walled up in a house at Coptos. Apparently, this account was incorrect, however, as the fragments were actually found stashed between pages of the codex of Philo, not in the binding.
Philip Comfort and David Barret in their book Text of the Earliest NT Greek Manuscripts argue that P4 came from the same codex as P64+67, the Magdalen papyrus, and date the texts to 150-175. Willker tentatively agrees stating ‘The [3rd century] dating given is that of NA. Some date it into the 2nd CE (e.g. Roberts and Comfort). This is quite probable considering the use as binding material for a 3rd CE codex’. Comfort and Barret also show that P4 and P64+67 have affinities with a number of late 2nd-century papyri. Roberts (1979), Skeat (1997), Willker and Stanton also date the text to the late 2nd century, leading Gregory to conclude that ‘[t]here is good reason to believe that P4 … may have been written late in the 2nd century…’. Frederic Kenyon dated P4 to the fourth century. In 2018, Brent Nongbri argued that it was not possible with current knowledge to date P4 to a specific century and that any dates from the 2nd to 4th centuries were equally reasonable. Charlesworth has concluded ‘that P64+67 and P4, though written by the same scribe, are not from the same … codex.’
Contents: Matthew 3; 5; 26
Date: 150–175 C.E.
Discovered: Coptos, Egypt
Housing Location: Barcelona, Fundación Sant Lluc Evangelista, Inv. Nr. 1; Oxford, Magdalen College, Gr. 18
Physical Features: The fragments have writing on both sides, which indicates that they came from a codex as opposed to a scroll.
Textual Character: P64 is of the Alexandrian text-type, evidencing a strong affinity with Alexandrian features, “agreeing slightly more with א than with B.”
The “Magdalen” papyrus was purchased in Luxor, Egypt in 1901 by Reverend Charles Bousfield Huleatt (1863–1908), who identified the Greek fragments as portions of the Gospel of Matthew (Chapter 26:23 and 31) and presented them to Magdalen College, Oxford, where they are cataloged as P. Magdalen Greek 17 (Gregory-Aland P64) and whence they have their name. When the fragments were finally published by Colin H. Roberts in 1953, illustrated with a photograph, the hand was characterized as “an early predecessor of the so-called ‘Biblical Uncial'” which began to emerge towards the end of the 2nd century. The uncial style is epitomized by the later biblical Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus. Comparative paleographical analysis has remained the methodological key for dating the manuscript, but there is no consensus on the dating of the papyrus. Estimates have ranged from the first century to the fourth century AD.
The fragments are written on both sides, indicating they came from a codex rather than a scroll. More fragments, published in 1956 by Ramon Roca-Puig, cataloged as P. Barc. Inv. 1 (Gregory-Aland P67), were determined by Roca-Puig and Roberts to come from the same codex as the Magdalen fragments, a view which has remained the scholarly consensus.
P64 was originally given a 3rd-century date by Charles Huleatt, who donated the Manuscript to Magdalen College. Papyrologist A. S. Hunt then studied the manuscript and dated it to the early 4th century. After initially preferring a third or possibly fourth century dating for the papyrus, Colin Roberts published the manuscript and gave it a dating of ca. 200, which was confirmed by three other leading papyrologists: Harold Bell, T. C. Skeat, and E. G. Turner. In late 1994, Carsten Peter Thiede proposed redating the Magdalen papyrus to the middle of the 1st century (AD 37 to 70). This attracted considerable publicity, as journalists interpreted the claim optimistically. Thiede’s official article appeared in Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik in 1995. A version edited for the layman was co-written with Matthew d’Ancona and presented as The Jesus Papyrus, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1996. (also published as: Eyewitness to Jesus, 1996, New York: Doubleday). Thiede’s hypothesis has been viewed with skepticism by nearly all established Biblical scholars. (For example, Peter M. Head in Tyndale Bulletin 46, 1995.)
Philip Comfort and David Barret in their book Text of the Earliest NT Greek Manuscripts argue for a more general date of 150–175 for the manuscript, and also for P4 and P67, which they argue came from the same codex. P4 was used as stuffing for the binding of “a codex of Philo, written in the later third century and found in a jar which had been walled up in a house at Coptos [in 250].” If P4 was part of this codex, then the codex may have been written roughly 100 years prior or earlier. Comfort and Barret also show that this P4/64/67 has affinities with a number of the late 2nd century papyri.
Comfort and Barret “tend to claim an earlier date for many manuscripts included in their volume than might be allowed by other palaeographers.” The Novum Testamentum Graece, a standard reference for the Greek witnesses, lists P4 and P64/67 separately, giving the former a date of the 3rd century, while the latter is assigned ca. 200. Charlesworth has concluded ‘that P64+67 and P4, though written by the same scribe, are not from the same … codex.’ The most recent and thorough palaeographic assessment of the papyrus concluded that “until further evidence is forthcoming perhaps a date from mid-II to mid-IV should be assigned to the codex.”
Contents: Matt. 3:9, 15; 5:20–22, 25–28
Date: 150–175 C.E.
Discovered: Coptos, Egypt
Housing Location: Barcelona, Fundación Sant Lluc Evangelista, Inv. Nr. 1; Oxford, Magdalen College, Gr. 18
Physical Features: The fragments have writing on both sides, codex style.
Textual Character: P67 is of the Alexandrian text-type, evidencing a strong affinity with Alexandrian features, determined by Roca-Puig to have a close affinity to א. Comfort and Barret show that this P4/64/67 has affinities with a number of the late 2nd century papyri. Comfort says, “T. C. Skeat makes a convincing case for the claim that P4/P64/P67 once belonged to a four-Gospel codex. This would make P4/P64/P67 the earliest extant four-Gospel codex.” In reference to their common identity, Roberts wrote of P4, P64, and P67:
There can, in my opinion, be no doubt that all these fragments come from the same codex which was reused as packing for the binding of the late third-century codex of Philo (= H. 695). An apparent discrepancy was that ʼΙησοῦς appeared as IC,] in the Paris fragments and as ι̅η̣̅ in the Oxford fragments; the correct reading in the latter, however, is, as can be checked in the photograph.
Roberts made the above statement at a lecture to the British Academy in 1977. In 1987, he reaffirmed that this was still his position in his publication, The Birth of the Codex. There is nothing on record that suggests Roberts ever changed his position that P4, P64, and P67 are parts of the same Gospel codex.
Textual and Paleographer Philip W. Comfort
The Common Identity of P4, P64, and P67
Textual scholars acknowledge that P64 and P67 come from the same manuscript. But few have recognized that renowned papyrologist Colin Roberts identified the Lucan manuscript P4 as also belonging to the same codex. Roberts, who is best known for his dating of the Johannine manuscript P52 to the early second century, was both the editor of P64 and the scholar who first identified P67 as belonging to the same manuscript. This same papyrologist was convinced that P4 also came from the same codex. Speaking of P4, P64, and P67, he wrote:
There can in my opinion be no doubt that all these fragments come from the same codex which was reused as packing for the binding of the late third century codex of Philo (= H. 695). An apparent discrepancy was that ʼΙησοῦς appeared as ΙΣ in the Paris fragments and as ι̅η̣̅ in the Oxford fragments; the correct reading in the latter, however, is ΙΣ, as can be checked in the photograph.
Roberts made the above statement in his 1977 lecture to the British Academy. Ten years later, in his publication The Birth of the Codex, he still affirmed that P4, P64, and P67 are parts of the same Gospel codex. To my knowledge, he never changed his opinion. The only scholar I know of who changed his mind on this matter is Kurt Aland. In 1963, he listed P4 as separate from P64/P67. In 1965, he suggested that P4 belonged to the same codex as P64 and P67, but thereafter, he never refers to them as belonging to the same codex. P4 is always listed separately from P64/P67 in Aland’s publications. But I cannot find a reason for the change.
In the 1965 article about new papyrus manuscripts of the New Testament, Kurt Aland presented the position that P4 probably belonged to the same codex as P64 and P67. The only hesitancy Aland had in affirming a complete identification is that the color of P64 was much lighter than that of P4. Otherwise, with respect to all other paleographic features, Aland noted that P64/P67 bears a remarkable similarity to P4. Following Aland’s lead, the papyrologist Joseph van Haelst also identified P4 as probably belonging to the same manuscript as P64 and P67.
Thus, the common identity of the three papyri needs to be reexamined and reaffirmed, which can be done by showing common provenance for the manuscripts and shared paleographic features. This discussion will then lead naturally to the dating of these manuscripts.
Provenance of P4
A codex manuscript containing two treatises by Philo, with portions of Matthew and Luke used for the binding, was discovered in Coptos (modern name, Qift), Egypt, on the east bank of the Nile, by Vincent Scheil during his expedition to Upper Egypt in 1889. Jean Merell described the circumstances of this find:
Scheil told me last June that, in 1891, having purchased in Luxor a codex including two treatises of Philo of Alexandria, he was fortunate to find the fragments of our biblical papyrus.
The papyrus was found at Coptos (Upper Egypt) in 1889. Since it was obviously considered at the time [prior to the Diocletian persecution] to be something very valuable, it was enclosed and concealed in a niche. (The hollow sound of the thick high wall at this point was noteworthy.) In opening this area, one found in this secret place the two treatises of Philo of Alexandria. The entire document, in a well-known format, almost square, in octavo Arabic books, was bound together in a leather cover, with a small tongue and cord, also in leather, wrapped around the cover. In the hiding place, the book must have been compressed in the space, the mortar was encrusted on the outside; the pages were tightly pressed together in a mass and, in addition, they were also fastened to each other by a quantity of small grains of salt, produced by an ancient condensation occurring in the vegetal tissue.
After the forty-fourth sheet, in the form of a wad, I believe, and in order to fill the space provided by the cover, there were several fragments of sheets stuck together, one of them containing the κατα μαθθαιον and the others having the fragments of St. Luke.
According to Roberts, P4 was used as stuffing for the binding of “a codex of Philo, written in the later third century and found in a jar which had been walled up in a house at Coptos.” Very likely, the owner of this manuscript “concealed it with the intention of removing it from its hiding-place when danger had passed, either when Coptos was besieged and sacked by Diocletian in a.d. 292 or later  in his reign during the last and severest of the persecutions.”
Provenance of P64
Significantly, the manuscript P64 was purchased in the same city in which P4 was purchased—Luxor, Egypt. Roberts says, “the fragments were purchased by the Reverend Charles B. Huleatt in Luxor in 1901 and presented by him to his old College through the then Librarian, the Reverend H. A. Wilson.” Evidently, the Matthew fragments had been taken to a dealer in Luxor some time after the Luke fragments.
Provenance of P67
Though the editor of P67, Ramón Roca-Puig, did not indicate its provenance, the key to determining it is probably found in Roberts’s words about other Matthean fragments owned by Charles Huleatt, ones that were never given to the Magdalen Library. In his article on P64, Roberts said, “It is probable that there were further fragments of the same leaf since a letter by Mr. Huleatt to the Librarian refers to purchases of fragments from the same manuscript in successive years, but nothing beyond what is published [here] is now extant in the Library.” Thus, it is possible that some of these fragments found their way to the Fundación San Lucas Evangelista in Barcelona, Spain.
Several common features lead us to believe that all three manuscripts were produced by the same scribe, perhaps even deriving from the same codex. P4 and P64 share a known place of purchase: Luxor, Egypt, which is quite near Coptos, the place where P4 was discovered. All three manuscripts have remarkably similar page dimensions: double columns on each page, with about 36 lines per column and 15–17 letters per line. All three have similar punctuation and paragraphing, and all three display the same penmanship. The only marked difference between P4 and P64/P67 is that the former displays finer, thinner pen strokes, whereas the latter exhibits bolder pen strokes. The difference seems to have been in the stylus and ink, not in the scribe.
T. C. Skeat (see bibliography above) makes a convincing case for the claim that P4/P64/P67 once belonged to a four-Gospel codex. This would make P4/P64/P67 the earliest extant four-Gospel codex. His arguments coincide with those presented above about the common identity of handwriting and physical features of all three manuscripts. He also provides specific calculations on how the codex may have been formed.
Paleographic Similarities between P4, P64, and P67
|Page size[a]||13.5 cm x 17 cm||10.5 [+3.0] cm x
|10 [+3] cm x 17 cm|
|12–19; 15–17 average||15–17||13–20; 15–17 average|
|Punctuation||high-point (frequent), midpoint, base point; colon (:) for new section (Luke 3:14; 6:8)||one high-point||several colons (:) as a kind of versification|
|Paragraphs (marked as outdent with horizontal bar)||at Luke 1:76, 80; 2:1; 3:19, 23; 5:36; 6:12 (most correspond with the beginning of a new paragraph)||at the beginning of Matt. 5:27 (corresponds with the beginning of a new paragraph)||at the beginning of Matt. 26:31 (corresponds with the beginning of a new paragraph)|
|Lettering[c]||letters are remarkably similar to those in the other fragments; many are identical||letters are remarkably similar to those in the other fragments; many are identical||letters are remarkably similar to those in the other fragments; many are identical|
[a] The narrower width for P64 and P67 represents only the area of writing. Since these dimensions do not take into account P4’s wide margins (two centimeters toward the gutter; one centimeter toward the outer edge), I have added the extra three centimeters to them. Thus, all three would have about the same page size.
[b] The double column layout is an unusual feature, found only in these three manuscripts among the early New Testament papyri. Two later papyri (P34 and P41) have double columns, but they date from the seventh and eighth centuries respectively.
[c] The following consonants are shaped identically: β, δ, γ, η, θ, κ, λ, ν, ξ, π, ρ, τ, χ. The following vowels are shaped identically: ι, ο, ω. A close examination of these letters reveals that each was stroked in exactly the same way. This is especially noticeable in the letters κ, ν, ξ, π, ρ, ω. The remaining consonant, sigma (ς), is quite similar but not always identical in the three manuscripts. (Not all the letters could be compared in all three manuscripts because the sparseness of text in P64 and P67 excluded a comparison of β, ζ, φ, and ψ.) The lower curve on the sigma in P64 and P67 doesn’t come around as far as does the sigma in P4. However, several sigmas in P4 do match P64 and P67, so we would expect that had more text been extant for P64 and P67, we would also see some fully rounded sigmas. Similarly, the formation of the vowels epsilon and alpha is not uniform. In all three manuscripts, the underside arc of the epsilon (ε) is fully curved in certain letters and not fully curved in others, and the alpha (α) is pointed in some places and somewhat rounded (at the left extension) in others.
Thus, it seems very likely that all three fragments (P4, P64, and P67) came from the same scribe and were from the same codex. My own recent examination of the actual manuscripts of P4 and P64 has convinced me of this. Though the coloring of P4 is generally darker than that of P64, the same lighter brown can be seen in a few portions of P4 and in three unpublished fragments of P4 that I saw. (These fragments are kept separate in a small envelope inside the box containing the leaves of P4 that are mounted in glass.) The first of these fragments clearly belongs to Luke 6:12, the second to Luke 5:33, and the third to Luke 1:79 or to Matthew 26:4 of P64. New reconstructions are reflected in the transcription that follows.
Dating the Manuscripts
In light of the shared physical characteristics of these manuscripts, we can now take up the question of their date. P64 was originally given a third-century date by Charles Huleatt, the one who donated the manuscript to Magdalen College. The papyrologist A. S. Hunt studied the fragments and dated them to the early fourth century. In reaction to this late dating, Colin Roberts published the manuscript, dating it to ca. 200. Carsten Thiede has dated it to the second half of the first century.15 Thus, the manuscript has been dated progressively earlier.
Hunt was too conservative in his dating, as was typical for much of his dating of New Testament papyri. His fourth-century date needed adjustment, and this was done quite thoroughly by Colin Roberts, who noted that the handwriting of P64 is a precursor to the “Biblical Uncial” of the third and fourth centuries. According to Roberts, the lettering in P64 corresponds most closely with that found in P. Oxy. 843, the handwriting of which is clearly a precursor to the Biblical Uncial lettering of the third and fourth centuries. However, P. Oxy. 843 differs from P64 in that the writing is slightly slanted and the omega (ω) is flat, as is common in third-century hands. Nonetheless, P. Oxy. 843 was dated by Grenfell and Hunt to ca. 200. Similar hands are exhibited in P. Oxy. 405 (ca. 200), P. Oxy. 1620 (second to third century), and P. Oxy. 1819 (second century). Thus, Roberts dated the manuscript to ca. 200, and this date was confirmed by three eminent papyrologists: Harold Bell, T. C. Skeat, and E. G. Turner. However, it would seem justifiable to date it earlier than ca. 200 because its style predates P. Oxy. 843. The question is, how much earlier?
Thiede posits a first-century date for P64 based primarily on his observation that some of the lettering is distinctly similar to that found in the Greek Minor Prophets Scroll 8HevXIIgr from Nahal Hever, which has been dated by various scholars between 50 b.c. and a.d. 50. He observed that several of the letters (α, ε, ι, ο, ρ) are identical or nearly identical, whereas others are distinctly dissimilar (η). However, the overall appearance of the lettering in 8HevXIIgr is earlier than that in P64/P67. By comparison, the lettering in P64/P67 is much more nearly identical to that of P. Oxy. 661 (as noted above) than to 8HevXIIgr.
Thiede also notes similarities with the papyri in the script of Herculaneum (dated no later than a.d. 79) and the Greek Qumran fragment of Leviticus pap4QLXXLeva. The Herculaneum manuscripts display an earlier form of calligraphy, and pap4QLXXLeva, though exhibiting similarities in many individual letters, is much earlier in its overall appearance (Roberts dated it to the late second century b.c.). Nevertheless, seeing similarities with earlier manuscripts, Thiede suggests an earlier date for P64/P67:
The prevailing tendency to date material of a nature comparable to Magdalen Gr. 17 to a period even preceding the earliest possible date of Matthew’s gospel suggests, with all due caution, the possibility of redating the fragments from Oxford and Barcelona—which are, after all, definitely Matthean—to a period somewhat earlier than the late second century previously assigned to them. Certainty will remain elusive, of course.
In another publication, Thiede posits that the “earlier” date could be as early as the middle of the first century, even a pre-a.d. 66 date. But he offers no new or compelling paleographic evidence for this date. (See the discussion below for other paleographic comparisons.)
The corresponding fragment, P67, was dated by Roca-Puig to the latter part of the second century. He noted great similarities between P67 and P. Oxy. 661, which is dated to the last part of the second century. A comparison of the two manuscripts confirms the remarkable similarity in handwriting. Roca-Puig also thinks P67 is like P. Oxy. 224/P. Ryl. 547 (late second century). The number of examples in the third century of the further development of this type of hand convinces him that P67 could not be later than a.d. 200. Roca-Puig also recognizes that scholars have been too conservative in their dating, and he urges that such manuscripts be dated more accurately. Thus he is firm in his dating of P67 to the late second century.
What date do we assign P4? The first editor to publish a partial editio princeps of this manuscript was Vincent Scheil in 1892. Unfortunately and mistakenly, he assigned a very late date to it—sixth century! This error was due to the inadequate knowledge that scholars in the nineteenth century had of papyrus manuscripts. The second editor to publish a full transcription of the text was J. Merell in 1938, who redated this manuscript to the early fourth century.22 In 1963, Kurt Aland redated P4 to the third century, and in 1979, C. H. Roberts classified P4 as a late-second-century manuscript belonging to the same codex as P64 and P67. If P4 can be shown to have come from the same codex as P64/P67, or at least from the same scribe, then it would naturally have an identical or similar date.
The manuscript P4 figures significantly in assigning a date because we know about its provenance. It had been used for padding in a codex of Philo’s treatises that was hidden in a house in Coptos to avoid being confiscated during the persecution of a.d. 292 or 303, when Coptos was besieged and sacked by Diocletian. The Philo codex is itself a third-century manuscript that could be dated 25–50 years prior to the time it was put in hiding. Thus, the Philo codex can be dated at least to about a.d. 250. The owner of the Gospel codex was probably a Christian and therefore would have valued the Gospels. He would not have used a newly copied Gospel as stuffing for Philo’s treatises,26 so this Gospel codex must have been well used and well worn. In fact, it must have been a discarded copy replaced by another codex. Thus, P4 may have been made as early as a hundred years prior to a.d. 250, if not earlier. So we are fairly certain of at least a late-second-century date, but this does not preclude an earlier date, because the codex may have been in use more than a hundred years before it was discarded. Therefore, all three papyrus pieces—P4, P64, and P67—fit easily into the same chronological window.
We can conclude, then, that P4/P64/P67 is a second-century manuscript, probably dated to the third quarter of the century. The handwriting style lines up with P. Oxy. 2404 (second century), P. Oxy. 661 (ca. a.d. 175), and especially P. Vindob G 29784 (late second century). It shares some similarities with P. Oxy. 224/P. Ryl. 547 (late second century), P. Oxy. 2334 (second century), P. Oxy. 2750 (later second century), and P. Rylands 16 (late second century).
Another feature of P4/P64/P67 suggests an early date: the small number of nomina sacra (used only for “God,” “Lord,” “Jesus,” “Christ,” and “Spirit”) compared to other late-second and early-third-century manuscripts, which add to those listed above nomina sacra for “Son,” “Father,” “man,” “cross,” and “crucify.” In P4/P64/P67 we may be seeing the nomina sacra in a relatively early phase of evolutionary development.
Gospel of Matthew Title
Accompanying P4 is one small fragment that reads ευαγγελιον κατα μαθʼθαιον (Gospel according to Matthew). This leaf could have been the title sheet to the Matthew portion of codex P4/P64/P67. The handwriting, however, is not that of the scribe but of another writer. This title sheet could have been produced before a.d. 200 because that is when it became stylish for scribes to insert a hooked comma (apostrophe) between double consonants—as here, between the thetas. There are indecipherable letters on the other side of the title sheet. Since this sheet was probably blank, the letters are probably offprints resulting from being pressed up against the last page of the Philo codex. Though no words are completely discernible, it is quite clear that this page was pressed against a page with two columns of writing like that of the Philo text. Three other fragments are kept with this manuscript (in two different hands), but none of them preserve any biblical text. They were probably part of the Philo codex, as are four other fragments I saw.
In the extant early papyri where a title to a Gospel is preserved, the earliest ones all read ευαγγελιον κατα followed by the name of the Gospel. This is true for P66 (ca. 150–200) and P75 (ca. 175). Later, fourth-century codices have the wording κατα μαθθαιον, κατα μαρκον, κατα λουκαν, κατα ιωαννην superscribed to each Gospel, thereby presuming a multipartite codex all under a single title, ευαγγελιον (Gospel), as in codex Vaticanus and codex Sinaiticus.
End of Comfort Quote
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