Bodmer Papyri of John

BODMER PAPYRI OF JOHN. A group of early Christian papyri from the collection of M. Martin Bodmer of Geneva began to be published in 1954, and other texts stemming from the same find are at the University of Mississippi, and in one case in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin. Two texts are classical; the rest are Christian in both Gr. and Coptic. These include Biblical documents and also apoc. such as the Nativity of Mary, the apocryphal correspondence of Paul with the Corinthians, and the eleventh Ode of Solomon together with a second copy of Melito On the Passover (see Chester Beatty papyri). Among the Biblical documents in Gr. are two MSS containing the gospel of John (Papyrus Bodmer II and XV).

Papyrus II was originally published in 1956 as containing only the first fourteen chs. of the gospel. Two years later the remaining part also appeared, in some instances much more fragmentarily preserved. The whole was later made available in photographic reproduction. It consists of seventy-five leaves in all, and is to be dated, on grounds of its paleography, about the year a.d. 200. It presents a number of features of binding which add to the knowledge of this aspect of early papyrus codices.

Divisions of the text into chs. or sections are indicated by projecting the first letter into the mg. while leaving the latter part of the previous line blank. This feature is also paralleled in the other Bodmer papyrus. In both cases the system of division is akin to the more developed systems found in D and the Freer Codex of the gospels preserved in Washington. The text of the gospel in Bodmer Papyrus II presents the experts in this field with a number of hitherto unparalleled problems which do not yet have a complete explanation, but which may well open up new advances in tracing the complicated history of the text of the gospels. In the gospel of John there are two main ancient text-types to be discerned in Gr. MSS: one similar to B, and one similar to the text of D and Aleph. Recently M-E. Boismard has claimed to identify a third type discernible in the witnesses to the Diatessaron, and the ancient VSS influenced by it, and also in John Chrysostom. This third is notable for its short readings. In previous papyrus discoveries it has seemed reasonable to identify the new text with one of the two MSS attested types. Bodmer Papyrus II, however, does not reveal itself as an ally of either, but in different sections is related first to one then to the other. It also attests readings previously known only in the Tatianic and versional tradition. Besides this, it also attests a number of attempts to polish the style according to current views of propriety in Gr. literary works.

Papyrus Bodmer XV was published in 1961. It forms one document with Papyrus Bodmer XIV. Together they contain Luke 3-24 and John 1-15 on fifty-one leaves, some well-preserved, some fragmentary. It has similar features of binding and text division as its fellow, and has been dated in the early part of the 3rd cent., or one or two decades earlier. In both gospels the text of this papyrus contrasts markedly with that of its fellow. Whereas that displays a text peculiar to itself, this shows a form of the gospels close indeed to that known in B. Both in orthography and in readings the two are in close agreement, not that one could think that B is a copy of Papyrus Bodmer XV, but that he can assert with certainty that the papyrus shows a text which was carefully handed down in Egypt and perhaps elsewhere from a period much earlier than that from which its existence could previously be traced. B then attests a text which cannot be called the result of 3rd cent. recension as has often been suggested. These two papyri of approximately the same date are of the greatest significance for the history of the NT text. On the one hand, the early existence of the so-called Alexandrian text is shown by the more recently published one. On the other hand, the evidence of the one first published shows that the 2nd cent. knew types of texts which have not been passed down in identical form, and that there existed in Gr. at that time readings later preserved in VSS or quotations only. While both these positions have been propounded before, they now each receive documentary proof. In other words, the knowledge of documents still leaves the problems of the judgment of readings and the preferability of this or that text.

Among readings in which the two documents agree the following are of some interest: John 1:28, Bethany (against Bethabara); 4:9, omitted “for Jews...Samaritans”; 5:2, Bethsaida (against Bethzatha); 7:53-8:11, omitted; 12:40, “maimed” for “hardened” (with Aleph, the Freer Codex, and others).


Papyrus Bodmer II. Evangile de Jean, chs. 1-14 (1956); M. E. Boismard, “Le Papyrus Bodmer II.” RB LXIV (1957), 363-398; Papyrus Bodmer II. Supplement. Evangile de Jean, chs. 14-21 (1958); J. N. Birdsall, The Bodmer Papyrus of the Gospel of John, (1960); Papyrus Bodmer XIV-XV. Evangiles de Luc et Jean, 2 vols. (1961); Papyrus Bodmer II. Supplément. Évanile de Jean, chs. 14-21. Nouvelle édition augmentée et corrigée avec réproduction photographique complète du manuscrit. (chs. 1-21) (1962); C. M. Martini, Il problema della recensionalita de codice B alla luce del papiro Bodmer XIV, (1966); C. L. Porter, “Papyrus Bodmer XV and the Text of Codex Vaticanus,” JBL, LXXXI (1966), pp. 363-376; G. D. Fee, Papyrus Bodmer II: Its textual relationships and scribal characteristics (1968).