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Papyrus Fouad 266 Is a Greek Septuagint Copy of the Pentateuch

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Papyrus Fouad 266 (signed as Rahlfs 847, 848 and 942; TM nr: 62290; LDAB id: 3451: VH: 0056) is a copy of the Pentateuch[1] in the Greek[2] version of the Hebrew Bible[3] known as the Septuagint.[4] It is a papyrus[5] manuscript[6] in scroll form.[7] The manuscript has been assigned palaeographically[8] to the the second or the first century B.C.E. The manuscript has survived in a fragmentary condition. Discussion about this manuscript questions whether it is or is not a later recension[9] of the standard Septuagint text.


Description of Papyrus Fouad 266

The Greek text was written on papyrus in uncial[10] letters. The text is written in 33 lines per column. The uncial letters are upright and rounded. Iota adscript[11] occurs.[12] It is designated by number 847, 848, and 942, on the list of Septuagint manuscripts according to the modern numbering of Alfred Rahlfs.[13] It contains section divisions with numbered paragraphs (5, 26, 27).[14] 117 papyrus fragments of the codex have survived.[15] This is “clearly a Jewish manuscript.”[16]

The prefix Fouad commemorates Fouad I of Egypt.[17]

This papyrus, found in Egypt, is dated to the first century B.C.E. and is the second oldest known manuscript of the Septuagint (Greek version of the Hebrew Bible). It is the oldest manuscript that, in the midst of the Greek text, uses the Hebrew Tetragrammaton[18] in Aramaic “square” or Ashuri script.[19] Some have argued that originally the Greek text rendered the divine name YHWH not by κύριος but by the Tetragrammaton, others that the text in this manuscript is the result of a Hebraizing revision of the original Greek text, which had κύριος.[20]

The text of the manuscript runs close to the Old Greek text of Septuagint, but according Albert Pietersma it is an early recension towards the Masoretic Text[21] (i.e., Deuteronomy 22:9).[22] Unlike, “Kilpatrick and Tov… see no recension at work.”[23] Albert Pietersma was the first to claim that Fouad contains some pre-hexaplaric[24] corrections towards a Hebrew text (which would have had the Tetragrammaton). Pietersma also states that there is room for the reading ΚΥΡΙΟΣ (The Lord) but the second scribe inserted the Tetragrammaton instead.[25] The space left by the first scribe is in fact exactly that required for six letters (as in the word ΚΥΡΙΟΣ), which Michael Thomas interprets as indicating that the older manuscript that the scribe was copying did have ΚΥΡΙΟΣ.[26] Koenen has argued in his notes to the new edition of P. Fouad 266 “that the scribe of 848 was unable to write the Hebrew tetragram and hence left space for a second scribe to insert it”, probably because “requiring greater sanctity.”[27] Emanuel Tov notes: “the original Greek scribe left open large spaces for Tetragrammaton indicated by a raised dot on each side of the space”. Würthwein also judges that “the tetragrammaton appears to have been an archaizing and hebraizing revision of the earlier translation κύριος.”[4]

History of the Roll

Palaeographically the manuscript has been assigned to the 1st or even 2nd century BC. It is the second oldest manuscript of the Septuagint.[4] It was discovered in 1939 in Fayyum,[28] where there were two Jewish synagogues. The first published text from the manuscript was edited by William Gillan Waddell[29] in 1944.[30] 18 further fragments of the manuscript were published in 1950 in the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures.[31] It was examined by Françoise Dunand[32] and P. E. Kahle. In 1971 were published all 117 fragments of the manuscript.[33] The manuscript currently is housed at the Societé Royale de Papyrologie,[34] Cairo.

Again, the Fouad 266 papyri were published in the second or the first century B.C.E. Take a moment to look at the images of Fouad 266 throughout this article. Take special note that although the main text is in Greek, the Tetragrammaton is in square Hebrew letters. So we can see that copyist of this papyrus scroll did not replace the Greek words for “Lord” (Kyrios) or “God.” To be precise, he put the Divine Name, the Tetragrammaton over 30 times in the midst of the Greek text in Hebrew letters!

Dr. Paul E. Kahle of Oxford University informs us that these fragments contain “perhaps the most perfect Septuagint text of Deuteronomy that has come down to us.” In Studia Patristica, he added, “We have here in a papyrus scroll a Greek text which represents the text of the Septuagint in a more reliable form than Codex Vaticanus and was written more than 400 years before.” And Papyrus Fouad 266 contains God’s personal Divine Name, as is also the case of the Greek fragments of the Twelve Prophets, which were found in the Judean desert.

In the Journal of Biblical Literature (Vol. 79, pp. 111-118), Dr. Kahle inspected the evidence that was growing regarding the use of the personal Divine Name among the Jews. His conclusions were:

“All Greek translations of the Bible made by Jews for Jews in pre-Christian times must have used, as the name of God, the Tetragrammaton in Hebrew characters and not [Kyrios], or abbreviations of it, such as we find in the Christian” copies of the Septuagint.

We can see that the personal Divine Name of the Father was not altered but rather was preserved in the Greek Septuagint and even in the Hebrew-language texts from around the third-century B.C.E. to the first century C.E. We have found in some of the Hebrew scrolls discovered in the caves near the Dead Sea, the Tetragrammaton was penned in red ink or an older type of Hebrew that would stand out from the rest of the text. On this, J. P. Siegel, says:

“When the Qumran manuscripts were first discovered more than twenty years ago, one of their more startling features was the appearance, in a limited group of texts, of the Tetragrammaton written in palaeo-Hebrew characters. . . . That this practice signifies a deep reverence for the Divine Name(s) is almost a truism.”—Hebrew Union College Annual, 1971.

We have also been told that there was a Hebrew scroll of the five books of Moses in first-century Jerusalem wherein the Tetragrammaton was in gold letters.—Israel Exploration Journal, Vol. 22, 1972, pp. 39-43.

by Wikipedia and Edward D. Andrews


[1] Torah has a range of meanings. It can most specifically mean the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. This is commonly known as the Written Torah. It can also mean the continued narrative from all the 24 books, from the Book of Genesis to the end of the Tanakh (Chronicles). If in bound book form, it is called Chumash, and is usually printed with the rabbinic commentaries. If meant for liturgic purposes, it takes the form of a Torah scroll, which contains strictly the five books of Moses.

[2] Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus, Albania, other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning at least 3,500 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

[3] The Hebrew Bible, which is also called the Tanakh, or sometimes the Miqra (מִקְרָא), is the canonical collection of Hebrew scriptures, including the Torah. These texts are almost exclusively in Biblical Hebrew, with a few passages in Biblical Aramaic instead. The form of this text that is authoritative for Rabbinic Judaism is known as the Masoretic Text (MT) and it consists of 24 books, while Protestant Bibles divide essentially the same material into 39 books. Catholic Bibles and Eastern / Greek Orthodox Bibles contain additional materials in their Old Testaments, derived from the Septuagint and other sources.

[4] The Greek Old Testament, or Septuagint, is the earliest extant Koine Greek translation of books from the Hebrew Bible, various biblical apocrypha, and deuterocanonical books. The first five books of the Hebrew Bible, known as the Torah or the Pentateuch, were translated in the mid-3rd century BCE; they did not survive as original-translation texts, however, except as rare fragments. The remaining books of the Greek Old Testament are presumably translations of the 2nd century BCE.

[5] Papyrus is a material similar to thick paper that was used in ancient times as a writing surface. It was made from the pith of the papyrus plant, Cyperus papyrus, a wetland sedge. Papyrus can also refer to a document written on sheets of such material, joined together side by side and rolled up into a scroll, an early form of a book.

[6]manuscript was, traditionally, any document that is written by hand – or, once practical typewriters became available, typewritten — as opposed to being mechanically printed or reproduced in some indirect or automated way. More recently, the term has come to be understood to further include any written, typed, or word-processed copy of an author’s work, as distinguished from its rendition as a printed version of the same. Before the arrival of printing, all documents and books were manuscripts. Manuscripts are not defined by their contents, which may combine writing with mathematical calculations, maps, music notation, explanatory figures or illustrations.

[7]scroll, also known as a roll, is a roll of papyrus, parchment, or paper containing writing.

[8] Palaeography (UK) or paleography is the study of ancient and historical handwriting. Included in the discipline is the practice of deciphering, reading, and dating historical manuscripts, and the cultural context of writing, including the methods with which writing, and books were produced, and the history of scriptoria.

[9] Recension is the practice of editing or revising a text based on critical analysis. When referring to manuscripts, this may be a revision by another author. The term is derived from Latin recensio.

[10] Uncial is a majuscule script commonly used from the 4th to 8th centuries AD by Latin and Greek scribes. Uncial letters were used to write Greek, Latin, and Gothic.

[11] The iota subscript is a diacritic mark in the Greek alphabet shaped like a small vertical stroke or miniature iota ⟨ι⟩ placed below the letter. It can occur with the vowel letters eta ⟨η⟩, omega ⟨ω⟩, and alpha ⟨α⟩. It represents the former presence of an offglide after the vowel, forming a so‐called “long diphthong”. Such diphthongs —phonologically distinct from the corresponding normal or “short” diphthongs —were a feature of ancient Greek in the pre-classical and classical eras.

[12] Metzger, Bruce M. (1991). Manuscripts of the Greek Bible: An Introduction to Palaeography. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 60.

[13] Rahlfs, Alfred (2004). Septuaginta – Vetus testamentum Graecum. 1/1: Die Überlieferung bis zum VIII. Jahrhundert. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

Alfred Rahlfs was a German Biblical scholar. He was a member of the history of religions school. He is known for his edition of the Septuagint published in 1935.

[14] Hurtado, Larry (2006). The Earliest Christian ArtifactsWilliam B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, p. 184

[15] Würthwein Ernst (1988). The Text of the Old Testament: An Introduction to the Biblia Hebraica, Eerdmans 1995, p. 190.

[16] Hurtado, Larry (2006). The Earliest Christian ArtifactsWilliam B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. P. 19.

[17] Fuad I was the sultan and later king of Egypt and Sudan, sovereign of Nubia, Kordofan, and Darfur. The ninth ruler of Egypt and Sudan from the Muhammad Ali dynasty, he became sultan in 1917, succeeding his elder brother Hussein Kamel. He substituted the title of king for sultan when the

[18] The Tetragrammaton or Tetragram is the four-letter Hebrew word יהוה‎, the name of the biblical God of Israel. The four letters, read from right to left, are yodh, he, waw and he. While there is no consensus about the structure and etymology of the name, the form Yahweh is now accepted almost universally by Old Testament Bible scholars. However, like anything, the majority does not mean that it is correct. Jehovah is actually the correct pronunciation of the Divine Name of God.

[19] Ktav Ashuri is the modern-day Hebrew language name given for the Hebrew alphabet now in use by Israel, used by them to write both the Hebrew language and Jewish Babylonian Aramaic.

[20] Würthwein Ernst (1988). The Text of the Old Testament: An Introduction to the Biblia Hebraica, Eerdmans 1995, p. 190.

[21] The Masoretic Text is the authoritative Hebrew Aramaic text of the 24 books of the Tanakh in Rabbinic Judaism. The Masoretic Text defines the Jewish canon and its precise letter-text, with its vocalization and accentuation known as the masorah. It was primarily copied, edited and distributed by a group of Jews known as the Masoretes between the 7th and 10th centuries of the Common Era (CE).

[22] Armin Lange, Matthias Weigold, József Zsengellér, Emanuel Tov, From Qumran to Aleppo: a discussion with Emanuel Tov about the textual history of Jewish scriptures in honor of his 65th birthday (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2009), p. 60.

[23] Didier Fontaine, “English Review of F. Shaw, The Earliest Non-Mystical Jewish Use of Ιαω (2014)”; also in French: “Review de F. Shaw, The Earliest Non-Mystical Jewish Use of Ιαω (2014)

[24] Hexapla is the term for a critical edition of the Hebrew Bible in six versions, four of them translated into Greek, preserved only in fragments. It was an immense and complex word-for-word comparison of the original Hebrew Scriptures with the Greek Septuagint translation and with other Greek translations. The term especially and generally applies to the edition of the Old Testament compiled by the theologian and scholar Origen, sometime before 240.

[25] Sabine Bieberstein, Kornélia Buday, Ursula Rapp, Building bridges in a multifaceted Europe: religious origins, traditions (Peeters Publishers, 2006), p. 60.

[26] Michael Thomas, “The Name of God Film, An Introduction and Commentary” (Reachout Trust, 2018), p. 28, with image of the passage

[27] Robert J. Wilkinson (2015). Tetragrammaton: Western Christians and the Hebrew Name of God: From the Beginnings to the Seventeenth Century. BRILL.

[28] Faiyum is a city in Middle Egypt. Located 100 kilometres southwest of Cairo, in the Faiyum Oasis, it is the capital of the modern Faiyum Governorate. Originally called Shedet in Egyptian, the Greeks called it Koinē Greek: Κροκοδειλόπολις, romanized: Krokodilópolis, and later Byzantine Greek: Ἀρσινόη, romanized: Arsinoë. It is one of Egypt’s oldest cities due to its strategic location.

[29] William Gillan Waddell (1884–1945) was Professor of Classics at now Cairo University.

[30] W. G. Waddell, “The Tetragrammaton in the LXX”, JTS 45 (1944): 158-61.

[31] Joseph A. Fitzmyer (1979). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing (ed.). A Wandering Armenian: Collected Aramaic Essays. Grand Rapids. p. 137.

New World Bible Translation Committee (1969). New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures. Pennsylvania: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania.

The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (NWT) is a translation of the Bible published by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. The New Testament portion was released in 1950, as The New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures, with the complete Bible released in 1961; it is used and distributed by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Though it is not the first Bible to be published by the group, it is their first original translation of ancient Classical Hebrew, Koine Greek, and Old Aramaic biblical texts. As of September 2020, the Watch Tower Society has published more than 220 million copies of the New World Translation in whole or in part in 193 languages. Though commentators have said a scholarly effort went into the translation, critics have described it as biased. However, most translators will honestly and openly admit that ever translation has some theological bias.

[32] Françoise Dunand: Papyrus Grecs Bibliques (Papyrus F. Inv. 266). Volumina de la Genèse et du Deutéronome. 1966.

Françoise Dunand is a French historian, professor emeritus of the University of Strasbourg. She is a specialist on Greek and Roman Egypt.

[33] Études de Papyrologie 9, Cairo 1971, pp. 81-150, 227, 228.

[34] The Societé Royale de Papyrologie, founded in 1930 in Cairo and placed under the protection of King Fouad 7 May 1930, is a library of Egyptian papyrus scrolls and fragments and papyrological studies. Under its former names, Société royale égyptienne de papyrologie (1932–36) and Société Fouad premier de papyrologie (1939–46) it has published its papyrological papers, Études de Papyrologie, which first appeared in 1932 under the editorship of Pierre Jouguet at Cairo’s Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale, with a break during World War II, that recommenced in 1950.

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