The Amherst Papyri Revisited: Fragments of LXX/OG MSS

[30 December 2001, 11 February 2002]
by Robert A. Kraft, University of Pennsylvania

Published in Hamlet on a Hill: Semitic and Greek Studies Presented to Prof. T. Muraoka on the Occasion of his Sixty-Fifth Birthday (Analecta Orientalia Lovaniensia 118; Leuven: Peeters 2003).



My interest in the Amherst papyri collection, much of which was published a century ago in two volumes by Grenfell and Hunt,\1/ was sparked during a sabbatical in 1995 when I was a fellow at the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Advanced Judaic Studies [CAJS] doing research on its manuscript collections, among other things. Among the CAJS holdings was a small collection of papyri, mostly Greek, which seemed to have nothing to do with Jewish studies.\2/  

Attempts to trace its background and acquisition history led to the career of Nathaniel Reich (1876-1943), who taught at Dropsie College (the predecessor of the CAJS) from 1925 until his death in 1943, and who was trained in Egyptology and papyrology in Austria and Germany prior to his arrival in the United States. Among the Nachlass of Reich, still housed in the rich CAJS library, were notes on an unnamed papyrus collection and, as I later discovered, some correspondence with the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York which had retained Reich to evaluate the collection.\3/ As it turned out, this pertained, at least in part, to the Amherst collection that had been purchased by the Pierpont Morgan Library already in 1913.

Reich's list "A" covered the 201 numbered items described in the aforementioned two published volumes of Amherst papyri (minus the few omissions listed below as "missing"), with very brief notes on identification, language, and "number of frames." Presumably at some point he was able to see the materials in their mountings. Seldom do his notes add anything to what was already known about these materials, except for the indication of how many "frames" were involved. He does include the information that items 19, 24, 160, and 193 are on "vellum" not papyrus.

At this point, Reich's list becomes confusing. He adds, with each number in parentheses, 202-205, and then starts a new (double) numbering with "201 (=I)," "202 (=II)," etc. to "235 (=XXXV)," but with gaps from 216-221 and 223-234. All of these pieces are described by him as Hieratic or Hieroglyphic.

Then Reich gives the numbers 279-284, and the descriptions of four of these items are identical with the four additional numbers in parentheses at the end of his first list -- 279=(202), 280=(203), 282=(204), 284=(205). Number 281 in this sequence is noted by Reich as "(=201)," a frame of various fragments already mentioned summarily in the published Amherst volume 2 (p. 204), but number 284 is described simply as "(Reich)" and in Demotic without any mention of a number for "frames."\4/

Finally, Reich provides a separate list "B" of "Missing Papyri." This confirms that he must have been working from some sort of catalogue, probably that of the Egyptian papyri in the Amherst collection published by P. Newberry in 1899.\5/ Among these missing items are, from Reich's list "A," numbers "31=(?)XLIX," "52=XLVI," "53=XLVII," "54=XLVIII," 177 and 197, and all the other numbers not represented in the new numbering at the end of that list (216-221, 223-234), followed by "XXXVI" (presumably 236) to "XLV" (245), then "XLIX=(?)31," and finally "L" [250] through "LXXVIII" [278]. At the end of the list Reich notes that "there may be more papyri missing which it was impossible to trace." Presumably this refers to the body of Amherst materials that the Pierpont Morgan Library believed it has acquired, or possibly to other acquisitions of which he had been informed.

Most of these missing materials are noted by Reich as being written in Hieroglyphic, Hieratic, Demotic (including Demotic-Greek), or Coptic (including Coptic-Arabic); the exceptions are item 31/XLIX, a Greek papyrus found in a pot with some Demotic documents (perhaps including 52-54, listed as "Demotic-Greek"), 177 (a Greek receipt), 197 (actually part of 190, Shepherd of Hermas, and wrongly listed as a separate item in the published volume 2, since it had already been remounted with 190), LXVI-LXVII (Greek letters), LXVIII (Greek contract), LXIX (Greek accounts), and LXXVIII (Arabic accounts). For the missing materials, he notes, when possible, "number of pieces" or "sheets" or "pages" or "fragments," information that must have been in the inventories from which he worked. In one instance (LXXII), he refers to "8 slides," which suggests that photographic reproductions of some of the missing materials may have been available (unless "slides" had a different meaning in the late 1920s). Item XXXI, from the Book of the Dead, is described as "26 fragments of linen," while XLI, also Book of the Dead, consisists of "1 piece of mummy cloth." Otherwise, papyrus is assumed.


Once it had been established, by comparison with the published catalogues as well as the discovery of the correspondence, that Reich was dealing, at least in part, with the Amherst papyri, my curiosity led me to look more closely at the descriptions of unidentified Greek literary fragments found in those published catalogues. Most of these pieces were dated relatively late by the editors, and for most of them a few letters had been transcribed. Since the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae (TLG) project at the University of California in Irvine had put most Greek literature up to about the 6th century of the common era into computer readable form,\6/ I did some quick searches for the more extensive letter sequences in hopes of making fresh identifications. Having experienced some initial success (see below), I visited the Pierpont Morgan Library for a first hand look, and also ordered some photographs. These contacts with the Library have proved quite productive, and will hopefully result in making some of its valuable papyri collection more accessible to others. While the collection is relatively small, it contains an interesting range of materials, from Ptolemaic times through Byzantine, both literary and documentary, and in a number of languages. It should be noted that the Pierpont Morgan Library also houses the Colt-Nesssana papyri collection as well as a few other pieces, but I have not yet attempted to examine these.\7/


Newground: The "Biblical" and Related Materials

The two published Amherst volumes include a number of items from Jewish and Christian scriptures and related materials in Greek.\8/ The following were identified by the original editors, Grenfell and Hunt (their paleographic datings and Goettingen LXX/OG numbers are also supplied); the asterisk indicates further discussion below:

PAmherst 003(c1) LXX Genesis 1.1-5 (first half of 4th ce; Goettingen #912)
PAmherst 003(c2) Aquila Genesis 1.1-5 (first half of 4th ce)
*PAmherst 191(a) LXX Exodus 19 (6th ce; Goettingen #914)
*PAmherst 192 LXX Deuteronomy 32 (6th ce; Goettingen #916)
*PAmherst 004 OG Job 1-2 (stichometric, 7th ce; Goettingen #913)
PAmherst 005 OG Psalm 5 (stichoi marked in line, 5/6th ce; Goettingen #2008)
PAmherst 007 OG Psalm 58-59 (stichometric, 5th ce; Goettingen # 2010)
*PAmherst 006 + 200 OG Psalms 108, 118, 135, 138-140 (stichometric, 7-9th ce; Goettingen #2009)
PAmherst 193 (vellum) OG Proverbs 10 (stichometric, 6th ce; Goettingen #917)
PAmherst 008 (vellum) Acts 2 (5/6th ce)
PAmherst 003(b) Excerpt from Epistle to the Hebrews (early 4th ce)
PAmherst 001 Ascension of Isaiah (5/6th ce)
PAmherst 190 (+197) Shepherd of Hermas (6th ce)\9/
PAmherst 003 Ecclesiastical Letter from Rome to Egypt (3rd ce)
PAmherst 002 Christian Metrical Acrostic Hymn (4th ce)
PAmherst 009(a recto) Liturgical/Hymnic fragment (7/8th ce)
PAmherst 009(a verso) Liturgical/Hymnic fragment (7/8th ce)
PAmherst 009(b) Liturgical/Hymnic fragment (7/8th ce)

My attention was drawn especially to the unidentified items in the Appendix to volume 2, labelled PAmherst 191-201, which according to the editors "were all bought together" (p. 203), thus increasing the possibity of further matches within that sub-group. I will reproduce below the pertinent comments of the original editors:

PAmherst 191(a) (Exodus 19; Goettingen #914) is described as closely related to PAmherst 192 (Deuteronomy 32; Goettingen #916), which "is in a similar handwriting, and probably it as well as the unplaced piece printed below [i.e. fragment 191(b), see below] and three smaller fragments ([PAmherst] 194)\10/ belonged to the same manuscript, which may have extended to several volumes including the whole of the Pentateuch" (p. 201). Further, PAmherst 191(b) "is certainly from the same MS [as 191(a) = Exodus 19], and should be readily identified, but we have not succeeded in doing so. It is from the lower part of a leaf, and the recto formed the conclusion of a chapter or section [as indicated by the spacing marks found there]" (p. 201). Actually, this fragment [191(b)] comes from OG Isaiah 58.11-14, and was identified in time to be included 1914 Rahlfs' 1914 Verzeichnis as Goettingen #915.\11/ Thus on paleographical grounds, we have here several fragments (Exodus 19, Deuteronomy 32, Isaiah 58, and three previously unidentified pieces, one of which is from the same Isaiah 58 scrap) that display the same 6th century scribal features, and perhaps come from the same codex.

There is good reason to suspect that we are dealing here with an anthology of excerpts, rather than a continuous biblical manuscript. At the top of the first side of the Exodus 19 fragment (written along the fibers, in the top margin), are found the letters ]PO MEROUS with triple underlining both over and under them and some sort of marker after them.\12/ Similar underlining appears at the bottom of the second side of the Isaiah 58 fragment (written along the fibers, at a bottom margin), under an illegible line just below a row of filler markers that appear graphically thus: > > > > > >. The Exodus section took at least a column and a half, through Exod 19.6, and the Isaiah section covered at least Isa 11-14, where it ended. About 12 lines are missing at the bottom of the first Exodus column/page, and the same at the top of the second Isaiah column/page, leaving us with reconstructed columns of about 22 lines. Each line contained about 20-23 letters on average. The Deuteronomy 32 fragment has a similar format: 20-23 letters per line, with about 22 lines per column/page. Thus the judgment of the original editors that all of these pieces may have come from the same book might well be correct, if it were a book of excerpts.

Why these excerpts? All have something to do with God's covenant promises and punishments -- Exodus 19.1-6 promises rewards to Israel if they obey; Deuteronomy 32 is a hymn of praise to the protective deity who also judges disobedience harshly; Isaiah 58 challenges the transgressive people to obedience. What other passages might have been included, and whether the book that contained this material was entirely composed of excerpts, can only be conjectured at this point. A study of the patristic uses of these passages may produce more light on this subject.

PAmherst 198 is described as "six fragments ... from a papyrus book. ... About the fifth century A.D." (p. 203). This has proved to be from a codex of the "A text" of Judges, mostly chapter 16, and will be dealt with separately elsewhere.\13/

PAmherst 200 includes "fourteen small fragments ... belonging to the papyrus of the Psalms (Amh. Pap. I.6)." Closer inspection of these pieces with the help of computer searching has made it possible to place several of them securely, on fragment "d" of PAmherst 006 at Psalm 138(139).21-140(141).5. The other scraps have proved too small and/or illegible to render positive results thus far.\14/

PAmherst 201 consists of "eleven miscellaneous fragments of papyrus books ... in different hands. Sixth or seventh century A.D." (p. 204). Only nine fragments are now present in the glass mounting (perhaps some joins were made before the collection left England?). They are all relatively small (3.5 by 4.6 cm for the largest), although some have enough clear letters to encourage the possibility of identification and deserve to be transcribed and described in more detail. Indeed, two of them are from a page that contained portions of Job 25-26, in a hand and format very similar to P.Amherst 4, a "seventh century" fragment of Job 1-2.\15/ I have been unsuccessful in identifying any of the others thus far (they don't seem to be "biblical").

The remaining unidentified pieces in PAmherst 194-201 do not seem to coincide with biblical and related texts represented in the TLG #D data bank (textual variations are, of course, always possible). PAmherst 199\16/ may include a proverbial saying found also in Athanasius, John Chrysostom, and John of Damascus, to the effect that "Where God wills, the order of nature conquers."\17/

PAmherst 196 includes 7 very readable fragments in a clear if "irregular" uncial hand dated to the 6/7th century by the editors, but it was not transcribed fully by them and has not yet been identified. It seems to have some affinities with the language of such patristic authors as Gregory Nazianzus and Theodoret, and deserves closer study.

PAmherst 195 is less extensive (only one fragment) and rather faded on one side, but also exhibits a quite readable 5th century uncial hand.

In sum, close examination of the hitherto unidentified fragments from the Amherst collection at the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York City has thus far produced additional Greek fragments of Isaiah (PAmherst 194, joining 191(b)), Psalms (PAmherst 200, joining PAmh 6(d)), Job (PAmherst 201.4 and 8, probably from the same codex as PAmh 4), and Judges (PAmherst 198). Hopefully such results will serve as encouragement to reexamine the many unidentified fragments, published or summarily described (as well as those unpublished), in the collections throughout the world.\18/ Electronic searching and imaging is helping to make such investigations more possible and fruitful.

--- NOTES ---

\1/ The Amherst Papyri, being an account of The Greek Papyri in the collection of the Right Hon. Lord Amherst of Hackney, F.S.A., at Didlington Hall, Norfolk, by Bernard P. Greenfell and Arthur S. Hunt. Part I: The Ascension of Isaiah, and other Theological Fragments, with nine plates (London 1900) and Part II: Classical Fragments and Documents of the Ptolemaic, Roman and Byzantine Periods, with an Appendix containing additional Theological Fragments; twenty-five plates (London 1901). A second Appendix to volume 2 contains "Addenda and Corrigenda to Amherst Papyri, Part I," with references to reviews by Burkitt, Deissmann, Harnack, Preuschen, and others. Checking reviews of Part II would probably be valuable for present purposes.

\2/See my article "The Papyri Collection at the Center for Judaic Studies, University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia): An Overview," pp. 749-752 in the second volume of Atti del XXII Congresso Internazionale di Papirologia, Firenze, 23-29 agosto 1998, edd. I. Andorlini et al. (Florence 2001); an online version is also available at -- along with some other relevant materials. A preliminary inventory is located at

\3/CAJS Library Archives, Nathaniel Reich, box 3 folders 2-3 contain correspondence with the Director of the Pierpont Morgan Library, Bella da Costa Greene, regarding the availability of room for working with the papyri (4 January 1927) and arranging for Reich to study them (28-30 July 1927). The main lists are found in box 15 folder 2.

\4/The CAJS Library files also produced a "Reich" papyrus, which has proved to be a fragment of a Greek letter from Ptolemaic times (3rd-2nd century bce), and thus cannot be this item -- see my "Some Ptolemaic Papyri Fragments," pp. 163-167, in Papyri in Honorem Johannis Bingen Octogenarii (P.Bingen), ed. H. Melaerts (Leuven 2000), item 32. Other references in the archival materials to papyri presumably in Reich's possession have proved more difficult to trace. Only small scraps of Demotic papyri have turned up in the CAJS collection.

\5/The Amherst papyri: being an account of the Egyptian papyri in the collection of the Right Hon. Lord Amherst of Hackney, F.S.A. at Didlington Hall, Norfolk, by Percy E. Newberry; with an appendix on a Coptic papyrus, by W.E. Crum (London 1899). Reich's roman numerals from I to LXXVIII agree completely with Newberry's catalogue. Reich also refers, cryptically, to "Lee Catalogue" (numbers or pages 431, 435, 430, 437, for Reich's "missing" items XXXVIII-XLI) -- presumably to John (Fiott) Lee (1783-1866), a British lawyer and collector whose Egyptian holdings were catalogued by Joseph Bonomi in 1858 (Catalogue of the Egyptian antiquities in the Museum of Hartwell House) and were sold to Lord Amherst in 1868, after Lee's death -- and to "Gliddon" (for item XLII) -- presumably George Robins Gliddon (1809-1857), an American political apointee in Egypt who wrote widely on Egyptological matters and materials (especially Hieroglyphics). Reich also refers to "Lee" in connection with items 203/280 (Greek-Demotic), 204/282 (Coptic), and 205/283 (Arabic), as well as 205/V (second numbering) for a Hieratic piece (following Newberry). Otherwise we find the added designations (all of which are also in Newberry) "Amherst papyrus" for 206/VI and "Harris papyrus" [perhaps Anthony Charles Harris (1790-1869)] for 207/VII as well as "Astarte papyrus" for 209/IX. See note 4 above on the notation "Reich" for number 284.

\6/My searching has been done primairly through an IBYCUS microcomputer accessing TLG CD-ROM #D (1992), although version #E has appeared more recently, with additional texts but in a new format not compatible with the older search engines.

\7/For the most updated public list of the papyri at the Pierpont Morgan Library, see the Leuven Homepage of Papyrus Collections Worldwide by Willy Clarisse et al., in the "collections" folder under New York -- -- and for general information on papyri collections --

\8/I use "LXX" to designate the standard Greek Pentateuch (the "original" Septuagint), and "OG" for Old Greek translations of other works from Jewish scriptures, which have different origins and histories from the LXX materials.

\9/On the confusing situation with regard to PAmherst 197, which does not exist among the mounted fragments, since its contents apparently were identified before the materials were mounted in England and were correctly added to PAmherst 190, see Kurt Aland and Hans-Udo Rosenbaum, Repertorium der Griechishen Christlichen Papyri 2, Kirchenva%ter-Papyri, Teil I: Beschreibungen (Berlin 1995) 235 note 1.

\10/On PAmherst 194 the editors write: "Three small fragments from a papyrus book ... in a large uncial hand resembling that of 191 and 192, perhaps forming part of the same manuscript. About the sixth century A.D." (p. 203). One of these fragments has proved to be from the same Isaiah 58 excerpt as in PAmherst 191(b).

\11/Alfred Rahlfs, Verzeichnis der griechischen Handschriften des Alten Testaments (Berlin 1914); Rahlfs does not say who made the identification, but quotes the original editors about the relationship of these two fragments included under the 191 label and comments "that a papyrus book had contained both Exodus and Isaiah is not very probable." In Joseph Ziegler's 1939 edition of Isaiah for the Goettingen LXX (vol. 14), this fragment is included but is still described as located in "Didlington Hall," although in fact the entire collection had been transferred to the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York city a quarter of a century earlier! Ziegler does not mention who identified the fragment as Isaiah, or that it is unidentified in the editio princeps.

\12/The original editors read the first partial letter as T, with a dot underneath to indicate room for doubt, and called the line "a title of some kind." I've read the initial letter as P, in accord with the probability that it is an excerpting formula indicating that what follows is a passage from Exodus "in part" (apo merouV). If the heading had been indented slightly from the left, we might expect that about 8-10 letters are missing to the left. Similar formulas are found in various 4th-5th century patristic texts, but I have not found anything yet that is identical in format.

\13/Consult my Amherst Papyri web page for developments and details: -- including images.

\14/I am indebted to the careful work of Bryan Harmelink, a doctoral student at the Westminster Theological Seminary, in attempting to place more of these small fragments. He is almost certainly correct in locating fragment 6 on the original plate as also from the page represented by PAmherst 6(d), just above the larger fragment from PAmherst 200 noted above. These are items 1 and 4 on the rearranged images of PAmherst 200 found at -- top and bottom of the left hand vertical row. Once that page of the original papyrus could be reconstructed visually, some other small pieces also seemed to fall into place, as can be seen at

\15/According to Joseph van Haelst, Catalogue des Papyrus Litte/raires Juifs et Chre/tiens (Paris 1976) #271, citing H.J.M.Milne, P.Amherst 4 is a piece of the same codex that is represented in P.Rylands 2 (3 fragments; Job 1.15-21, 5.24-6.9) and P.Lit.London 210 (British Library pap 1859B; Job 14.1-14). The various editors date these materials to 6th or 7th century, while according to van Haelst, a 5th century date was proposed by Serruys, and a late 5th or early 6th by G. Cavallo. My own inclination for this nicely rounded uncial hand with a semi stichometric arrangement of lines (using indentation and spacing) tends towards the (late?) 6th rather than 7th century.

\16/"Three fragments ... containing on the recto some effaced cursive writing and on the verso parts of several lines in a large uncial hand of the sixth or seventh century A.D." (p. 204).

\17/See (ps-)Athanasius, Quaestiones aliae [TLG 081 = MPG 28] 789.15, Sermo in nativitatem Christi [TLG 089 = MPG 28] 960.37; John Chrysostom (?), In natalem Christi diem [TLG 214 = MPG 56] 385.33; John of Damascus, Sacra Parallela [TLG 018 = MPG 95] 1265.19 and 1349.25 -- OPOU BOULETAI QEOS NIKATAI FUSEWS TACIS. PAmherst 199 has the letters KATAIFUSEW.

\18/van Halest, Catalogue, chapter 10 ("Textes non identifie/s" =##1082-1190; see also ##1214-1215 [Latin] and 1223-1226) provides and excellent starting point from the mid 1970s. I hope to summarize this information and supplement it on an appropriate internet folder on my own papyri page. The temporary location of this material is gopher://