Ancient Fragment of Work By Justin Martyr is 1,000 Years Older Than Any Other Version

I’ve written about the Oxyrhynchus dump before, and this cache of ancient manuscripts and fragments just keeps giving up the goods.

The latest treasure to be identified is a manuscript of a work by Justin Martyr:

 In the latest issue of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri series (LXXVIII, Egyptian Exploration Society, 2012), W. B. Henry offers an edition of P.Oxy. 5129 (Justin Martyr’s First Apology), which is the earliest Greek manuscript of any text of Justin Martyr. According to Henry, “[t]his is the first published ancient copy of a work of Justin Martyr. The text is otherwise known only from the unreliable manuscript A (Parisinus graecus 450, of 1364).” Henry dates the hand to the 4th century CE, citing P.Oxy. 2699 and P.Herm. 5 as comparanda. This is, therefore, an incredible discovery, since P.Oxy. 5129 predates the earliest manuscript of Justin by a millennium! There are a few variants in the fragment (e.g., omission of εντυχειν in 50.12, υμων instead of ημων in 51.4) that make the text important for text-critical study of Justin’s First Apology.

Click here to see the text and a translation.

It’s not just nice to have a manuscript 1000 years older than the next available version, but it’s important in what it tells us about textual transmission across centuries and millennia.