A hundred years ago, the list of evidence for textual variants in the standard critical edition of the Greek New Testament was more diverse than the lists in the current editions of the United Bible Societies and Nestle-Aland texts. Instead of just listing significant uncials, minuscules, patristic references, and lectionaries, the textual apparatus developed by Ernst von Dobschütz also included evidence from ostraca (often spelled “ostraka” – this refers to pieces of pottery) and talismans (small Scriptural extracts that could be worn). In 1933, however, this entire class of witnesses was eliminated from Kurt Aland’s list of textual witnesses. Consequently they have been mostly ignored. Léon Vaganay expressed the conventional wisdom of textual critics in the late 1900’s: “The writings on these objects are more of a curiosity than directly useful for textual criticism.”
This view of the ostraca and talismans is incorrect.
Peter Head recently emphasized the treatment (or, non-treatment) of these witnesses in an insightful essay, Additional Greek Witnesses to the New Testament (Ostraca, Amulets, Inscriptions, and Other Sources), which forms chapter 16 of The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research: Essays on the Status Quaestionis (Brill, 2012), on pages 429-460. Head mentioned that the items which Dobschütz categorized as Ostraca 1-20 were re-categorized by C. R. Gregory as 0153. 0153 includes passages from all four Gospels, including an extensive presentation of Luke 22:40-71. If this witness, to which various production-dates have been assigned (400’s? 500’s? 600’s?), had been written on papyrus, it would be relatively well-known, instead of being consigned to obscurity as a curiosity. Head mentions other ostraca as well, citing a list published by C. E. Römer in 2008. The texts written on these ostraca include small portions of Acts, Romans, Galatians, James, First John, and Jude.
Amulets (sometimes called talismans, but this seems to judge the intent of the wearer) were mentioned by Chrysostom in his Homily 72 on Matthew and by Augustine in On Christian Doctrine 2:20. Some of these amulets were symbolic representations of the four Gospels, containing their incipits (that is, their opening verse or opening verses). Others, produced to be worn to remind sick people of Scripture’s demonstrations of divine healing power (and perhaps to be used as healing-charms), include appropriate passages such as Matthew 4:23. More than one amulet has Psalm 91 (i.e., Psalm 90 in the Septuagint’s enumeration) accompanied by the Lord’s Prayer.
A convenient list of amulets was provided by Theodore de Bruyn and Jitse Dijkstra in 2011 in Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists (Vol. 48), on pages 163-216. The list includes 24 items that contain material that is clearly derived from books of the New Testament. Typically these items are assigned production-dates in the 400’s-600’s, but a few of them are significantly earlier; for example, P. Ant. (Papyrus Antinoopolis) 2.4, which contains text from Matthew 6:10-12, is from the late 200’s or early 300’s.
|P. Oxy. 5073 -|
an invocation to the reader, plus text from Mark 1:1-2.
As an example of the contribution that this class of evidence is capable of making, I draw your attention to P. Duk. Inv. 778, an amulet housed at Duke University’s collection of papyrus manuscripts in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library. This amulet, probably produced in the 500’s, was given special attention by Csaba A. La’da and Amphilochios Papathomas in the Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists in 2004 (Vol. 41) on pages 93-113.
One side of the amulet contains the Greek text of Psalm 90, and the other side contains Matthew 6:9-13, with several textual variants. As shown here in an artificially reinforced image, the passage from Matthew is clearly identifiable despite several clumsy errors by the copyist. Its text includes the doxology (Matthew 6:13b), although it might be better to say that it includes a doxology in light of the deviations from the usual text:
|Part of P. Duk. inv. 778 - with the text artificially reinforced|
and with the words individually underlined.
Πατηρ ημων ο εν της ουρανοις αγιασθητω
το ονομα σου ελθατω η βασιλια ος εν
[οu]ρανου και επι τ[ης γ]η[ς τω]ν αρτων ημ[ων]
των εποιουσιων δος ημιν σημερον
[κ]αι αφες ημειν τα οφηματα ημων μη ε
νινκε ημας [ε]ις πιρασμον κε
[α]λλα ρησε ημας [απο του πονη]ρου δια
το μονογενη [?υιον?] οτι σου εστιν
η δοξα και τω [?κρατως?] και του παν
αγιου συ πνευματ[ος ν]ιν και αγιν
[κ]αι ει[ς τους εωνας των] εωνων Ϙ[Θ]
Notable variants include the following:
· The phrase “Your will be done” is missing.
· After “Lead us not into temptation,” the text has the contracted word “Lord.”
· After “deliver us from evil” (or, “deliver us from the evil one”), the amulet’s text continues with something to the effect of, “and through Your only begotten Son [?? – at this point the text is dubiously reconstructed due to damage to the manuscript], Yours is the glory and power [?? – at this point the text is dubiously reconstructed due to damage to the manuscript], and Your all-holy Spirit, now and forever [?? – at this point the text is dubiously reconstructed due to damage to the manuscript] and ever,” followed by a gematria-based symbol representing the word “Amen.” Even with the (liturgically-based?) flourishes, this seems to constitute support for the inclusion of Matthew 6:13.
The expansion in may suggest that the person who produced this manuscript was familiar the liturgical formulas which are found in the Divine Liturgy of John Chrysostom. The opening “Great Litany” of this liturgy closes with, “For to You belong all glory, honor, and worship, to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and forever.”
The text of Matthew 6:13b is often treated by commentators as if the non-inclusion of the doxology is a certainty. It was definitely not in the Alexandrian Text represented by Vaticanus and Sinaiticus. Nor does it appear in the commentaries on the Lord’s Prayer by Tertullian, Cyprian, and Origen. Theodore of Mopsuestia, however, who worked in Syria in the late 300’s and early 400’s, included the doxology in his quotation of the Lord’s Prayer, although he did not offer much commentary on the phrase. It is also included in the text of Matthew 6:13 in Codex W, the Gothic Version, and the Peshitta, besides hundreds of later Greek manuscripts. Is it possible that the early commentators neglected the doxology because it is not in the Lord’s Prayer as presented in Luke 11:2-4? Or, due to early liturgical separation of the doxology from the rest of the prayer – in which the congregation recited the main portion, but the priest delivered the doxology – could the doxology have been considered separate from the preceding verses, and accordingly did not receive the same attention from the early commentators? Hmm.
Didache 8:2, which was composed no later than 120 and possibly was written in the 90’s, states:
“And do not pray as the hypocrites, but as the Lord commanded in his Gospel, pray thus: ‘Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done, as in heaven so also upon earth. Give us today our daily bread, and forgive us our debt as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into trial, but deliver us from evil [or, the evil one]. For Thine is the power and the glory forever.”
|Reconstruction of the text on an ostracon|
in the National Museum of Greece (No. 12227).
The portion in yellow is extant.
Clearly the Lord’s Prayer presented in the Didache includes the doxology; it lacks a reference to the kingdom, but this is attributable to a simple scribal error. (The Curetonian Syriac similarly includes the doxology, but lacks a reference to “the power.”) One could assume that the relatively late witness to the text of this part of the Didache contains an interpolation; on the other hand one could argue that an interpolator would probably not omit part of the passage he intended to insert. There is no compelling reason to believe that the text of the Didache has been corrupted at this point.
Another witness which is not listed in theRudolf Knopf’s article (in German) about this ostracon is on pages 228-233 of the 1901 issue of Zeitschrift für die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft und die Kunde des Urchristentums, which is combined online as a single file with the 1900 issue; in the digital file, Knopf's article is on digital page-numbers 606-611.
Nestle-Aland apparatuses may be brought to bear on the question of the text of
Matthew 6:13. As Wieland Willker has noted, an ostracon at the National Museum of Greece in Athens – No. 12227 – displays text from Matthew 6:11-13. In verse 12 it supports αφιομεν, agreeing
with D, W and Θ instead of the Alexandrian αφηκαμεν and the Byzantine αφιεμεν. After πονηρου, the ostracon does not have οτι
σου εστιν, etc., but instead has –υριε (i.e., κυριε, “Lord,” when written) followed
by a staurogram. Thus, while it does not support the doxology, it
does not quite support a complete stop at πονηρου
|A modern-day token.|
I submit that von Dobschütz’s talisman-category should be reintroduced into the apparatus of the Greek New Testament, slightly adjusted so as to include miscellaneous non-continuous-text witnesses including amulets and inscriptions. Instead of “talisman,” which seems to imply a superstitious usage of the items involved, I recommend that the symbol T should be understood to represent “Token.” A token should be defined as a non-continuous text produced as a souvenir, a healing-charm, an inscription, or in other miscellaneous formats.