Sunday, March 16, 2014

History mystery: Ancient Manuscript Bodmer Papyri

Bodmer Papyri 1
Collections of ancient manuscripts were named after Martin Bodmer, a Swiss humanist and collector of rare literature around 1899–1971, who formed his library of world literature. They are a group of twenty two papyri which were discovered in Egypt in 1952 containing various segments from the Old and New Testaments, early Christian literature, Menander and Homer. The papyri are reserved at the Bibliotheca Bodmeriana in Cologny, outside Geneva in Switzerland. Around 2007, the Vatican Library obtained two of the papyri which are now in the custody of the Vatican Library. The Bodmer Papyri were found at Pabau near Dishna, Egypt, an ancient headquarters of the Pachomian order of monks in 1952. This discovery site is near Nag Hammadi where the Nag Hammadi library was found many years back.

These manuscripts were assembled by Cypriote, Phokio Tano of Cairo which was smuggled to Switzerland and then a bulk of which was bought by Martin Bodmer and a variety of it was in the possession of Sir Chester Beatty, the Universities of Mississippi and Cologne and the Fundacio `Sant Lluc Evangelista’ in Barcelona. The Papyrus Bodmer series were published in 1954 and the transcription of the text with note and introduction was given in French accompanied with French translation. Bodmer’s share numbered in excess of sixteen codices, three rolls of which have been published, in Pap XVII – 1-2 Peter, excluding Bodmer XVII, which belonged to a codex of heterogeneous material and was presented to Pope Paul VI at the time of his visit to Geneva in the year 1969. Presently it is housed in the Vatican Library.

Bodmer Papyri 2
The Bodmer are not Gnostic cache like Nag Hammadi Library but bear some pagan as well as Christian script, around thirty five books in all, in Coptic and in Greek along with the fragments of correspondence and the number of individual texts, has reached to fifty. While most of the scripts are in codex form, few are in scrolls, three of which are written on parchment. Homer’s Iliad, Books V and VI together with three comedies of Menander, Dyskolos P4, Samia and Aspis are among the Bodmer Papyri collections accompanied with gospel text – Papyrus 66, P66 which are part of text of the Gospel of John dating back to 200 CE according to the manuscript named the Alexandrian text type.

There are Christian text also that have been declared apocryphal in the 4th century like the Infancy Gospel of James and a Greek Latin lexicon in some of Paul’s letters besides some fragments of Melito of Sardis. In these works one will find Christian Vision of Dorotheus, son of Quintus the poet who is assumed to be the pagan poet Quintus Smymaeus, written in the earliest Christian hexameter poem, Homeric hexameters, where the earliest copy of the Third Epistle to the Corinthians was published in Bodmer Papryri X. These collection have some non literary material like the collection of letters from the abbots of the monastery of Saint Pachomius with the possibility that unifying circumstance of collections was part of a monastic library and the latest of the Bodmer Papyri dates to the 6th or 7th century.

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