Thursday, September 27, 2012

Møguliga elstu kristnu innskriftirnar higartil

Ótrúðliga áhugavert! Í býnum Smyrna har kristni leiðarin Polykarp leiddi til einafer ár 150-55, tá hann leið pínslaváttadeyðan, hava fornfrøðingar, funni møguliga tær elstu kristnu innskriftinar higartil. Talan er um tekstir, harav onkur møguliga stavar frá tíðini áðrenn ár 125.

Tann eina innskriftin inniheldur tildømis orðini 'Harrin' og 'trúgv' og ein onnur: 'Tann sum hevur givið Andan'.

Persónliga haldi eg tað mest áhugaverda verða innskriftina sum møguliga er partur av navninum á Polykarp sjálvum:

In my previous posting I briefly described Roger Bagnall’s new book, Everyday Writing in the Graeco-Roman East, and I mentioned his lead chapter on a body of graffiti from ancient Smyrna. Among the items he discusses in this chapter, I was particularly (predictably!) intrigued with one that Bagnall confidently claims must be Christian (pp. 22-23).  Here are the basic data:
  • The graffiti in question are on plastered surfaces in the basement of a city structure, and there are multiple layers of plaster laid on across time.
  • One graffito includes a date, which Bagnall correlates to 125/126 CE.
  • The layer of plaster beneath the layer on which this dated graffito is written is partially exposed, and on this exposed plaster is “a most remarkable graffito, incised into the plaster rather than written with ink or charcoal.”   This graffito reads:
κυριος  ω
πιστις  ω
  • The first word, ισοψηφα, means “of equal value/number”, indicating that the graffito is an example of “isopsephy”, the ancient practice of comparing words of equal numerical value (by adding up the value of their letters).  The letters of each of the two words, κυριος (“Lord”) and πιστις (“faith”), = 800, which is expressed by the omega after each one (the omega = 800).
  • The distinguishing centrality of these two Greek words in early Christian vocabulary (as well as the interest in 8 and multiples of 8) combine to prompt Bagnall’s judgment that the graffito “can only indicate a Christian character” (22).
  • As this graffito is on a layer of plaster just beneath the layer with the dated graffito, it must be dated earlier than 125 CE, perhaps some years earlier.  This would make this certainly the earliest identifiable Christian graffito, and perhaps also likely the earliest artifact of Christian writing.
Perhaps because Bagnall doesn’t have a TV production company behind him, we haven’t seen this item in the daily news.  But, while we wait to see what scholars make of the Talpiot tombs, and whether in fact we have a fragment of a 1st-century copy of the Gospel of Mark, here we have a published artifact that has strong claims for anyone interested in the origins of Christianity.
Bagnall also notes a few other graffiti from Smyrna that he judges “possible references to Christianity” (23).  These include a fragmentary graffito that can be restored as “the one who has given the spirit”.  Another partially-preserved graffito “even more tantalizingly” has the letters ΚΑΡΠΟΣ, which Bagnall wonders might have been the name of Polycarp (Greek:  Πολυκαρπος), a leader in the church in Smyrna in the period of the graffito.