World’s Oldest Christian Letter Discovered on Papyrus from Third Century Roman Egypt

Egypt played a very significant role in the history of early Christianity . A researcher has announced that she has found the earliest known Christian letter, that was written in Roman Egypt in the 3rd century AD. The contents of this letter are challenging assumptions about the early followers of Jesus Christ and their world.

The rare autographed letter which is written on papyrus is part of the famous University of Basel collection. This institution has one of the oldest and most extensive papyrus collections in the German-speaking world. According to Phys.org “Most of the Basel papyri have not been published and remained largely ignored by research until now”. Professor Sabine Huebner of the University of Basel began to study some of the papyri collection and made a remarkable discovery.

New Testament Phrase
She was struck by one document, in particular, a letter, with the reference number P. Bas. 2.43. “This has been in the possession of the University of Basel for over 100 years” reports Phys.org. Yet it appears that it was not studied by any academic or researcher in the past.

Curiosmos reports that the letter was written by a “man called Arrianus to his brother”. The letter refers to some family business and Arrianus informs his sibling that their parents are well. He also asks for some fish liver sauce. There is nothing remarkable in this document apart from the last line, where the writer states that he hoped that his brother will “prosper in the Lord” according to Curiosmos.

This phrase was one that was widely used in the Christian community and was called the nomen sacrum . It was an abbreviation of the phrase “I pray that you fare well in the Lord”, reports Phys.org. This phrase appears in many early manuscripts of the Gospels. This was a significant discovery by Huebner because it seemed to indicate that the letter writer was a Christian.

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SOURCE: Ancient Origins