The Curious Case Of P: What An Ancient Manuscript Can Tell Us About The Epistles Of Peter And Jude -- By: Phillip David Strickland

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 60:4 (Dec 2017)
Article: The Curious Case Of P: What An Ancient Manuscript Can Tell Us About The Epistles Of Peter And Jude
Author: Phillip David Strickland


The Curious Case Of P72:
What An Ancient Manuscript Can Tell Us
About The Epistles Of Peter And Jude

Phillip David Strickland*

* Phillip Strickland is a doctoral candidate at McMaster Divinity College. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 2016 annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, San Antonio, TX. He may be contacted at strickpd@mcmaster.ca.

Abstract: This paper takes a different line of approach in exploring the canonical journeys of the epistles of Peter and Jude. Going beyond discussions of patristic witnesses, which tends to be the focus of commentaries, this study instead seeks to discover what an ancient manuscript can tell us about how these NT letters were received and used by early Christians. The focus of this study is Papyrus 72, which is the earliest extant copy of the letters of Peter and Jude in Greek. Instead of looking solely or even primarily at the text-critical issues associated with this manuscript, however, this study instead takes an artifactual approach by interpreting the manuscript artifact through the lens of its own social and literary contexts, as well as the context of its discovery, in order to understand how 1-2 Peter and Jude might have been significant for the Coptic Christian community to whom this papyrus belonged. The study argues that, in a social context where there was sharp disagreement over what represented authentic Petrine teaching, 1-2 Peter and Jude were viewed by this proto-orthodox Coptic community as consisting of the authentic and authoritative Petrine tradition.

Key words: papyrology, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, Jude, Egyptian Christianity, New Testament canon, Nag Hammadi

The history of the development of the canon lies at the heart of the question of how we got the NT. However, what quickly becomes evident to those who first study the history of the canon is that this process was not always as straightforward as one might have initially been led to believe. Such is the case for the history of the letters of Peter—especially 2 Peter—and Jude.

Concerning the canonical status of 1 Peter, the testimony from the early church is nearly unassailable. While it was evidently not included in the Muratorian Fragment or in the Syriac Canon, 1 Peter was used as authoritative Scripture by notable early Christian writers such as Polycarp, Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria.1 The church historian Eusebius also considered 1 Peter to be authentic.2 In general, it was widely known, and wherever 1 Peter was known it was believed to have been genuinely authored by the apostle Peter. In reg...

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