Papyrology

The scientific study of papyrus, commonly narrowed to its use as a writing material and what is written thereon. There are NT references in 2 John 12; 3 John 13. Papyrology is a by-product of the archaeological recovery of antiquity. Ancient Upper Egypt has been the major source, since the dry desert climate provided the chief preservative factor in the survival of this material. Oddly, however, the initial finds were made at Herculaneum in 1752, when the charred remains of a library, sealed by the volcanic eruption of Vesuvius in a.d. 79, were uncovered. Beginning in 1815, bundles of papyri unearthed at Memphis and Thebes were acquired by museums in London, Paris, Turin, Vienna, and Leyden.

The winter of 1895-96 saw the first archaeological expedition undertaken specifically for the recovery of papyri-that of the Egyptian Exploration Fund in the north of the Fayum. Of importance to the history of Christianity, apart from the discovery of important examples of its major literary works, is the vast array of documentation illustrating nearly every facet of its inner life, as well as its conflict with the Roman state. The finding of fresh sources of koinem vocabulary and usage led not only to new understandings of the inherent meanings within the NT and other early Christian literature, but also to the obvious awareness that such literature could no longer be treated as an anomaly in the history of the Greek language. Papyrology had demonstrated that koinem, not academic Atticism, stood in the mainstream, more adequately representing the reality which was the ongoing, living speech of men.