Missionary Mishap: Oxyrhynchus 3057

I had a bit of a strange incident in the twilight of yesterday’s morning. See, I had ventured into a Christian dialogue/ debate room and proceeded to ask a nonchalant question on the importance or lack thereof, of an early Christian letter: Oxyrhynchus 3057. This is what the manuscript looks like[1]:



Its transcription and translation reads as follows[2]:

Ammonios to Apollonios his brother greeting. I received the crossed letter and the portmanteau and the cloak and (l. 5) your good reeds. I received the cloaks not as  old but as better than new because of your intention. I do not want you, brother,  to weigh me down with continuous philanthropy, not being able to repay, but we  suppose we only (l. 10) offer to you the intention of friendly disposition. I exhort  you, brother, no longer to concern yourself with the key of the single room. For  I do not want you, the brethren, on account of me or (l. 15) another to have any  difference. For I pray that oneness of mind and mutual concord remain among  you so that you are free from gossip and you are not like us. For the trial leads  me to impel you to peace and not to give (l. 20) a starting point to others against  you. And so attempt to do this for me, favoring me, which in the meantime you  will recognize as good. Write to me if the wool you received from Silvanus in full  measure is pleasing to you. I wrote ridiculous things to you in a (l. 25) former  epistle, which you should disregard. For my soul becomes careless whenever your  name is present, and this though it has no habit to rest on account of the things that are happening, but it [soul] endures. I, Leonas, greet you, master, and (l. 30) all your people. Farewell, most honored friend. (back) To Apollonius, son of Apollo(?) surveyer, brother.

The manuscript is dated to be from the late first century, to early second century CE. What happened next took me a bit by surprise. A missionary of some sort responded to my question and stated that the manuscript in question contained several important passages from the Gospel accounts. If you read the above transcription and translation, not a single sentence is related to, or from any Gospel account in the New Testament, or otherwise. I found his claim to be quite, odd. I took the initiative and asked him if he knew that for certain or if he just Googled it, and merely read one of the results as a response to my question. He did reply honestly and confirmed that he did Google for an answer and read one of the resulting articles, thereby making him uncertain that his response was accurate.

This however, was not the strangest statement he was to make. Our conversation progressed for sometime until he asked me a question in relation to the Muslim understanding of Surah 4, Verse 157. My response involved the dating of Papyri 52, which I mentioned was the earliest extant manuscript of any of the four Gospels. To this, he was surprised and he subsequently proceeded to validate my statement by again, searching via Google. When I realised that he doubted what I had said about Papyri 52, I then realised the discussion was useless, as he was most certainly uninformed about the most basic information about New Testament manuscripts. I have to admit though, that since I’ve begun to ask questions about textual criticism and New Testament development, many polemical and missionary Christians have all attempted to respond to me in a plethora of ways. A significant majority of those had no idea what they were talking about, and it’s been quite a thrill listening to many of these individuals tell me of the extant manuscripts of the disciples which were written in the first century, in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. I’ve found though, that once I introduce them to textual criticism and inform them of their wrong understanding, they’d become quite hostile and begin to make crass remarks about my person.

Perhaps, what I’m trying to say after having had all of these strange experiences with many polemical and missionary Christians, is that while I do value the time I spend with them, I’m quickly realising that a majority of lay Christians are uninformed about their scripture, its history, development and preservation. Nothing though, can beat the expression on their faces when they learn that Textus Receptus (which the KJV Bible is based upon) was codified and published by a humanist, Desiderius Erasmus, a disbeliever in the Christian God. Oh, what a sight that is to behold.


[1] – “Oxyrhynchus 3057“, Recto.

[2] – “Is P.OXY. XLII 3057 The Earliest Christian Letter”, by Licoln H. Blumell, Early Christian Manuscripts: Examples of Applied Method and Approach, Edited by Thomas J. Kraus & Tobias Nicklas (Boston: 2010).

and Allaah knows best.

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