In Praise of Michael the Archangel

University of Pennsylvania Museum -- E 16403
Papyrus, Greek; 13.8 x 11 cm

[copyright Robert A. Kraft, 8 September 1998]

DRAFT: Still to do --
-get better color scans of both sides
-check and confirm paleographical parallels
-do basic list of late-antique materials on Michael
-refine translation, add translation notes
-determine how to handle ... and [[line]] coding
-update bibliography

This single sheet of papyrus is written on both sides, with the upper margin on side one (written along the fibers) and the lower margin on side two (written perpendicular to the fibers) partly preserved, since the text on side two is upside down in relation to side one (that is, after side one is read the piece must be turned on its horizontal axis to read side two correctly). The left and right margins are also mostly intact. There is no sure way to determine how many lines are missing in the middle part, unless a close parallel to that part of the text is discovered.

The rather neat uncial handwriting (misidentified as "Coptic" in the older Museum inventory), slanting noticeably to the right, is difficult to date with any precision, but probably falls within the general period of the 5th through 8th centuries. The abbreviated form of kai/ in lines 2-3 and 12, as well as some other paleographical features, resemble liturgical texts from that period, especially from the Fayum. The text includes what appear to be punctuation marks (lines 2, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14), as well as some other marks (lines 1, 4, 8, 9, and 15 [perhaps a dieresis on the final iota]), and the first letter of line 9 extends uniquely into the left margin. The first few markings in the margin above line one (and possibly the final two letters on the last line) may be musical or calendric notations of some sort.

This is a "liturgical" piece, possibly serving as a "script" for the leader of a ritual or ceremony in honor of the archangel Michael. Reverence for Michael was widespread in Egypt (and elsewhere) in this period, as the appended bibliography attests. Other examples on papyri include P.Rainer 19879 and 19880 (6th century?), and on parchment P.Gr.Vind 19886 (early 5th century?). Budge (Miscellaneous Coptic Texts ..., 1915; Saint Michael the Archangel ..., 1894) and Hyvernat (Bibliothecae Pierpont Morgan, codices coptici..., 1922) also list numerous literary pieces from the 4th century and later devoted in part or entirely to praising the archangel Michael. In some areas, the 12th day of every month seems to have been dedicated to Michael.


side 1 (along the fibers) slightly lightened
(top = side 2 bottom)

V D'
. . . . .

side 2 (against the fibers) slightly lightened
(bottom = side 1 top)

                                         ]...[].YIS       7
TWNAPANTWNI+A                         15



[[1]] Deu=te proskunh/somen
[[2]]     k(ai\) prospeu/somen au)tou=
[[3]]         k(ai\) sunhmnh/somen:
        O( xoro\s [[4]]tw=n a)gge/llwn
[[5]]     Xai/re Mixahl
                o( me/gas li[tourgo/s ...]

                  .     .     .     .

[[7]] ...]isth[ ] u(yi/s[[8]]ths ei)kw\n
              ei)s tou\s ai)w=nas;-
[[9]] A(/pas tw=n a)gge/llwn o( xoro\s [[10]] kiqome/noi
          doca/sousin [[11]] to\n stefanou/santa:
              A)r[[12]]xh\ k(ai\) tw=n a)gge/llwn.
          Su\n so[i] [[13]] a)name/lpontes
              u(mnh/s[omen k(ai\)] [[14]] boou=men:
          A(/gios ei)/
              trista/[ths] [[15]] tw=n a(pa/ntwn ia


[possibly musical or liturgical notations]

1 Come, let us bow down
        and let us fall before him
              and let us sing together
3 While the chorus of angels
                            is saying:
5     Hail, Michael
              the great fu[nctionary...]
7         ...       exalted image
9 As the entire chorus of angels assists
      they glorify the one who has crowned (them):
11     ARCHE even of the angels.
      With yo[u], as we raise a song
              [we] sing a hymn and cry out:
14     Holy are you
              Captain of the entirety (?).


side 1

notation: the letters X and D' are clear, but the stigma or gamma-like strokes that precede the delta might possibly be an abbreviation (for EIS?) or something else; compare P.Berlin 1326 (BKT 6: 7th c. Christmas Liturgy) which begins similarly with X on its own line followed by EIS A'D' on the next line [W. Schubart, Papyri Graecae Berolinensis (Bonn 1911) comments "quae ad melodiam spectare videntur"]

lines 1-2: Ps 94(95).6 proskunh/swmen...prospe/swmen au)tw=|
line 1: supralinear mark (`) over the initial D
lines 2-3: an abbreviated form of kai\ is used (also line 12)
line 4: tw=n a)gge/llon in text
line 5: for the reconstruction leitourgo/s, see P.Ranier 19879 (6th c. Prayer/Hymn to Michael), line 10, where Michael is addressed (vocative) as litourge\ tou= u(yi/stou.
line 6: some traces of ink seem to be preserved

side 2

line 7: for ei)kw/n language associated with Michael, see the Coptic/Sahidic version of Theodosius' Encomium to Michael (6th century), section 2.
line 9: to\n a)gge/llon in text
line 10: read kinoume/noi (?), or a form of kiqari/zein
lines 11-13: Morton Smith made valuable suggestions on how to read these lines
line 12: a)gge/llon in text
lines 12f: for Michael as a)rxh/, see P.Ranier 19880 (undated; Prayer/Hymn to Michael), lines 1-3, where Michael (apparently) is referred to as a)rxh\ katesta/qh (established as Arche).
line 13: compare P.Ranier 19880 line 9 u(mnou=si/n se a(/gios (the angels hymn you as holy).
line 15 (end): the final letters I+A seem probable; perhaps they represent a form of i)a=sqai "Heal!" -- or possibly special notations such as occur at the start of the piece.


"Michael the Archangel, St.," in Oxford DCC (2nd ed, 19 ) 913.
[general, special attention to impact on western churches]

"Michael, archangel," in Oxford Dict of Saints (1987) 300f.
[general, special attention to British Isles]

R. H. Charles, "Michael ...," in HDB 3(1900) 362f.

T. L. Fallon, "Michael, Archangel," in New Cath. Ency. (1967) 793-95.
[general: bible, cult, art (with 4 pictures)]

J. Michl, et al., "Michael," in LTK2 7(19 ) 393-95.
[detailed sections on literary references, iconography, popular impact, religious community connections]

E. Lohse and E. Dinkler-v.Schubert, "Michael, Erzengel," in RGG3 ??(19??) 932f
[backgrounds in Judaism (incl. Qumran, rabbinic); impact on liturgy, cult and art]

A. Penna, et al., "Michael ...," in EncCatt 8(1952) 948-54. [G.Loew, E. Josi, ... not yet examined]

R. S., "Michael the Archangel, and All Angels, Festival of," in Dict of Christian Antiquities (1880) 1176.
[developments and oppositions in Christianity]

H. Leclercq, "Michel (Culte de Saint)," in DACL 11 (1933) 903-907
[focus on impact in the west].

F. Spadafora & M. G. Mara, "...," in Bibliotheca Sanctorum 9 (Rome, 1967) 410-46.


C. Stengeli, De Michaelis archangeli principatu, apparationibus, templis, cultu et miraculis (Aug. Vind., 1629).

J. B. Mai, De Festo Michaelis (Kilon., 1698).

F. D. Haeberlin, Selecta quaedam de S. Michaelis archangeli festis et cultu ... (Helmstad, 1758).

W. Lueken, Michael: Eine Darstellung und Vergleichung der juedischen und der morgenlaendisch-christlichen Tradition vom Erzengel Michael (Goettingen: V & R, 1898).

Olga Rojdestvensky, Le Culte de Saint Michel et le moyen a^ge latin (Paris, 1922).

A. M. Renner, Der Erzangel Michael in der Geistes- und Kunstgeschichte (Saarbruecken, 1927).

A. A. Bialas, The Patronage of Saint Michael the Archangel (Chicago, 1954).

J. Lemarie/, "Textes liturgiques concernant le culte de S. Michel," Sacris Erudiri 14(1963) 277-85.

J. Danie/lou, Les anges et leur mission (1952).

James McKinnon, Music in early Christian literature. (Cambridge: Univ. Press, 1987); esp 1Clem 34.5ff, Orig Cels 8.67

C. D. G. Mueller, Die Engellehre der kopt. Kirche (Vienna, 1959) [esp. 8-35]

Caspar D. G. Mueller, Books of Michael and Gabriel (1962). [CSCO Coptic 225-226: 231.4C/C815.3/31-32]

C. Detlef G. Mueller, Buecher der Einsetzung der Erzangel Michael und Gabriel (Louvain, 1962).

J. P. Rohland, Der Erzengel Michael Arzt und Feldherr (Leiden, 1977).

//updates 8 Sept 1998 [10/9/78] [12/9/81] [10/19/87 (for PSCO 25.1)]//
//html file created by RAK 7 December 2000//