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Papyrus 46 (in the Gregory-Aland numbering), scribal abbreviation P46, is one of the oldest extant New Testament manuscripts in Greek, written on papyrus, with its ‘most probable date’ between 125 and 150. Some leaves are part of the Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri (‘CB’ in the table below), and others are in the University of Michigan Papyrus Collection (‘Mich.’ in the table below).
Contents: P46 contains most of the Pauline epistles, though with some folios missing. It contains (in order) “the last eight chapters of Romans; all of Hebrews; virtually all of 1–2 Corinthians; all of Ephesians, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians; and two chapters of 1 Thessalonians. All of the leaves have lost some lines at the bottom through deterioration.”
Date: 150 C.E.
Discovered: Comfort says, “the Fayum, Egypt, or perhaps in the ruins of a church or monastery near Atfih (ancient Aphroditopolis).” (p. 203)
Housing Location: Ann Arbor, Mich.: the University of Michigan, Special Collections Library (P. Mich. inv. 6238).
Physical Features: In the original form, it would have had 52 folios, which equals 104 leaves, 208 pages. However, in its current condition, 9 folios are missing. It is 15 cm x 27 cm, with 25–31 lines per page, a single column of 26 – 32 lines of text per page. Its pagination is 1 – 199. P46 was written by a professional scribe.
Textual Character: P46 is an Alexandrian text-type / Category I. It is similar to Minuscule 1739.
Contents of P46
|18 (fragment)||Rom 14:9–15:11||CB|
|19–28||Rom 15:11–Hebrews 8:8||Mich.|
|31–39||Heb 9:26–1 Corinthians 2:3||CB|
|40||1 Cor 2:3–3:5||Mich.|
|41–69||1 Cor 3:6–2 Corinthians 9:7||CB|
|70–85||2 Cor 9:7–end, Ephesians, Galatians 1:1–6:10||Mich.|
|86–94||Gal 6:10–end, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians 1:1–2:3||CB|
|95–96||1 Thess 2:3–5:5||Missing|
|97 (fragment)||1 Thess 5:5, 23–28||CB|
|98–104||Thought to be 1 Thess 5:28–2 Thessalonians, and possibly Philemon; as for 1–2 Timothy, and Titus (see below)||Missing|
Folio size is approximately 28 by 16 centimeters (11.0 in × 6.3 in) with a single column of text averaging 11.5 centimeters (4.5 in). There are between 26 and 32 lines (rows) of text per page, although both the width of the rows and the number of rows per page increase progressively. Rows of text at the bottom of each page are damaged (lacunose), with between 1–2 lines lacunose in the first quarter of the MS, 2–3 lines lacunose in the central half, and up to seven lines lacunose in the final quarter. Unlike virtually every other ancient manuscript of any type known to exist, P46 contains the scribe’s colophon on some pages, as well as page numbers of the codex, though many pages lack both due to damage.
The manuscript was initially examined in a micrograph form by renowned scholar Frederic G. Kenyon. Kenyon attempted to ascertain the tendencies of the scribe of P46, the number of lines per page, and letters per line to estimate the contents of the missing pages. This data would have been used by the scribe to calculate how much writing material was needed, as well as the fee the scribe collected (scribes charged by the line for their services).
From the page numbers on existing pages, we know that seven leaves have been lost from the beginning of the codex, which accords perfectly with the length of the missing portion of Romans, which they undoubtedly contained. Since the codex is formed from a stack of papyrus sheets folded in the middle, magazine-style, what is lost is the outer seven sheets, containing the first and last seven leaves of the codex.
The contents of the seven missing leaves from the end are uncertain as they are lost. Kenyon calculated that 2 Thessalonians would require two leaves, leaving only five remaining leaves (10 pages) for the remaining canonical Pauline literature — 1 Timothy (estimated 8.25 pages), 2 Timothy (6 pages), Titus (3.5 pages) and Philemon (1.5 pages) — totaling ten required leaves (19.25 pages). Thus Kenyon concluded that P46 did not include the pastorals. This view was dominant for several decades.
However, recent research has called into question Kenyon’s analysis. Firstly, Kenyon did not account for the fact that the scribe’s average letter per page was increasing deeper into the Codex. There are half again as many letters per page in the last leaves than in the middle leaves. But this is partially due to the fact that the outer leaves are wider than the inner leaves. Nevertheless, there are more letters in the back outer leaves than the front outer leaves, showing that at least some compression did take place. And this seems to suggest that the scribe was aware of the problem he had created for including the pastorals and he began to compensate upon realizing his mistake.
Secondly, the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) was able to take high-resolution images of the original Codex leaves. Upon examining the new images, the CSNTM determined that Kenyon’s lower quality microfilm was slightly skewed, leading Kenyon to overestimate how much writing space the scribe was using to complete his work. At least three of Kenyon’s measurements were off by 3 mm, and one was off by 5 mm. This measuring error then was compounded over the rest of the codex causing Kenyon to then underestimate how much space the scribe needed to complete his work. Daniel B. Wallace, only performing measurements on a few leaves, noted that further research was needed.
* The insertion of punctuation marks in a piece of writing.
Throughout Romans, Hebrews and the latter chapters of 1 Corinthians are found small and thick strokes or dots, usually agreed to be from the hand of a reader rather than the producer of the manuscript since the ink is always much paler than that of the text itself. They appear to mark sense divisions (similar to verse numbering found in Bibles) and are also found in portions of P45, possibly evidence of reading in the community which held both codices. Edgar Ebojo made a case that these “reading marks” with or without space-intervals were an aid to readers, most likely in a liturgical context.
P46 uses an extensive and well-developed system of nomina sacra. Griffin argued against Kim, in part, that such an extensive usage of the nomina sacra system nearly eliminates any possibility of the manuscript dating to the 1st century. He admitted, however, that Kim’s dating cannot be ruled out on this basis alone since the exact provenance of the nomina sacra system itself is not well-established.
On the other hand, Comfort (preferring a date c. 125-150) notes indications that the scribe’s exemplar made limited use of nomina sacra or none at all. In several instances, the word for Spirit is written out in full where the context should require a nomen sacrum, suggesting that the scribe was rendering nomina sacra where appropriate for the meaning but struggling with Spirit versus spirit without guidance from the exemplar. Further, the text inconsistently uses either the short or the long contracted forms of Christ.
The Greek text of the codex is a representative of the Alexandrian text-type. Kurt Aland placed it in Category I.
In Romans 16:15 it has singular reading Βηρεα και Αουλιαν for Ιουλιαν, Νηρεα.
In 1 Corinthians 2:1 it reads μυστηριον along with א, Α, C, 88, 436, ita,r, syrp, copbo. Other manuscripts read μαρτυριον or σωτηριον.
In 1 Corinthians 2:4 it reads πειθοις σοφιας (plausible wisdom) for πειθοις σοφιας λογοις (plausible words of wisdom), the reading is supported only by Codex Boernerianus (Greek text).
In 1 Corinthians 7:5 it reads τη προσευχη (prayer) along with P11, א*, A, B, C, D, F, G, P, Ψ, 6, 33, 81, 104, 181, 629, 630, 1739, 1877, 1881, 1962, it vg, cop, arm, eth. Other manuscripts read τη νηστεια και τη προσευχη (fasting and prayer) τη προσευχη και νηστεια (prayer and fasting).
In 1 Corinthians 12:9 it reads εν τω πνευματι for εν τω ενι πνευματι.[UBS3, p. 605.]
In 1 Corinthians 15:47 it has singular reading reads δευτερος ανθρωπος πνευματικος for δευτερος ανθρωπος (א*, B, C, D, F, G, 0243, 33, 1739, it, vg, copbo eth); or δευτερος ανθρωπος ο κυριος (אc, A, Dc, K, P, Ψ, 81, 104, 181, 326, 330, 436, 451, 614, 629, 1241, 1739mg, 1877, 1881, 1984, 1985, 2127, 2492, 2495, Byz, Lect).[UBS3, p. 616]
In 2 Corinthians 1:10 it reads τηλικουτων θανατων, along with 630, 1739c, itd,e, syrp,h, goth; majority reads τηλικουτου θανατου.[UBS3, p. 622]
Galatians 6:2 — αναπληρωσατε ] αποπληρωσετε[UBS3, p. 631]
Ephesians 4:16 — κατ ενεργειας ] και ενεργειας.[UBS3, p. 509]
Ephesians 6:12 — αρχας προς τας εξουσιας ] μεθοδιας[UBS3, p. 513]
However, it significantly also contains a non-Alexandrian reading in the following location, for which it is an important witness:
Romans 8:28 – παντα συνεργει ό θεος εις αγαθον[UBS3, p.551] (God always works together in good).
The provenance of the papyrus is unknown, although it was probably originally discovered in the ruins of an early Christian church or monastery. Following the discovery in Cairo, the manuscript was broken up by the dealer. Ten leaves were purchased by Chester Beatty in 1930; the University of Michigan acquired six in 1931 and 24 in 1933. Beatty purchased 46 more in 1935, and his acquisitions now form part of the Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri, eleven codices of biblical material.
P46 Date [CPH 125-150]
As with all manuscripts dated solely by paleography, the dating of P46 is uncertain. The first editor of parts of the papyrus, H. A. Sanders, proposed a date possibly as late as the second half of the 3rd century. F. G. Kenyon, editor of the complete editio princeps, preferred a date in the first half of the 3rd century. The manuscript is now sometimes dated to about 200. Young Kyu Kim has argued for an exceptionally early date of c. 80. Kim’s dating has been widely rejected. Griffin critiqued and disputed Kim’s dating, placing the ‘most probable date’ between 175–225, with a ‘95% confidence interval’ for a date between 150–250.
Comfort and Barrett have claimed that P46 shares affinities with the following:
- P. Oxy. 8 (assigned late 1st or early 2nd century),
- P. Oxy. 841 (the second hand, which cannot be dated later than 125–150),
- P. Oxy. 1622 (dated with confidence to pre-148, probably during the reign of Hadrian (117–138), because of the documentary text on the verso),
- P. Oxy. 2337 (assigned to the late 1st century),
- P. Oxy. 3721 (assigned to the second half of the 2nd century),
- P. Rylands III 550 (assigned to the 2nd century), and
- P. Berol. 9810 (early 2nd century).
This, they conclude, points to a date during the middle of the 2nd century for P46.
+ P. Mich. Inv. 6238)
Contents most of Paul’s epistles, excluding the Pastorals. The order is as follows: Rom. 5:17–6:3, 5–14; 8:15–25, 27–35; 8:37–9:32; 10:1–11:22, 24–33; 11:35–15:10; 15:11–16:27; Heb. 1:1–9:16; 9:18–10:20, 22–30; 10:32–13:25; 1 Cor. 1:1–9:2; 9:4–14:14; 14:16–15:15; 15:17–16:22; 2 Cor. 1:1–11:10, 12–21; 11:23–13:13; Eph. 1:1–2:7; 2:10–5:6; 5:8–6:6, 8–18, 20–24; Gal. 1:1–8; 1:10–2:9, 12–21; 3:2–29; 4:2–18; 4:20–5:17; 5:20–6:8, 10–18; Phil. 1:1, 5–15, 17–28; 1:30–2:12, 14–27; 2:29–3:8, 10–21; 4:2–12, 14–23; Col. 1:1–2, 5–13, 16–24; 1:27–2:19; 2:23–3:11, 13–24; 4:3–12, 16–18; 1 Thess. 1:1; 1:9–2:3; 5:5–9, 23–28. New reconstructions appear in Rom. 11:2; 15:10; Heb. 7:28; 1 Cor. 1:13–14; 4:10; 5:7–8; 14:15; 15:50; 16:23; 2 Cor. 4:12; 6:2; 11:21–22; Eph. 5:6; 6:18; Phil. 1:1; 3:8. (Each is noted in the text.)
Date middle second century; see discussion below.
Provenance the Fayum, Egypt, or perhaps in the ruins of a church or monastery near Atfih (ancient Aphroditopolis)
Housing location Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, Special Collections Library (P. Mich. inv. 6238; thirty leaves, containing Rom. 11:35–14:8; Rom. 15:11–Heb. 8:8; Heb. 9:10–26; 1 Cor. 2:3–3:5; 2 Cor. 9:7–13:14; Ephesians; Gal. 1:1–6:10); Dublin, Ireland: Chester Beatty Collection (P. Chester Beatty II; fifty-six leaves, containing Rom. 5:17–6:14; 8:15–11:35; 14:19–15:11; Heb. 8:9–9:10; Heb. 9:26–1 Cor. 2:3; 1 Cor. 3:6–2 Cor. 9:7; Gal. 6:10–18; Philippians; Colossians; 1 Thess. 1:1–2:3; 5:5–28).
Bibliography *Frederic G. Kenyon, The Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri, fasc. 3.1, Pauline Epistles and Revelation, Text (London: Emery Walker, 1934); fasc. 3, supp. 3.1, Pauline Epistles, Text (London: Emery Walker, 1936); fasc. 3, supp. 3.2, Pauline Epistles, Plates (London: Emery Walker, 1937).
Henry A. Sanders, A Third-Century Papyrus Codex of the Epistles of Paul (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1935).
Young Kyu Kim, “Palaeographical Dating of P46 to the Later First Century,” Biblica 69 (1988): 248–57.
Ulrich Wilcken, Archiv für Papyrusforschung 11 (1935): 112–14.
Physical features originally had 52 folios (= 104 leaves; 208 pages); 9 folios are missing; 15 cm x 27 cm; 25–31 lines per page; pagination from 1 to 199; written by a professional scribe.
Textual character proto-Alexandrian (see discussion below)
Kenyon dated this codex to the first half of the third century. Kenyon’s dating was largely influenced by the handwriting of the stichometrical notes at the end of several of the epistles, which he dated to the early part of the third century. Ulrich Wilcken, who was director of the Vienna library and founder of Archiv für Papyrusforschung, thought it belonged to the second century and said it could be dated safely to around a.d. 200. Wilcken suggested this date on the basis of seeing only one leaf. Hans Gerstinger also thought it belonged to the second century.
Young Kyu Kim proposed a date in the reign of Domitian (a.d. 81–96) based on six criteria:
1. All literary papyri similar to the exact style of P46 have been assigned dates between the first century b.c. and the early second century a.d. His primary examples are P. Oxy. 1790, P. Oxy. 2337, P. Oxy. 3695, P. Mil. Vogl. 1181, P. Mich. 6789, P. Alex. 443, P. Med. 70.01 verso, and P. Rylands III 550. His secondary examples are P. Mon. Gr. 216, P. Berol. 6926/P. Gen. 100, P. Gr. Berol. 19c, P. Gr. Berol. 29b, P. Oxy. 8, P. Hamb. III 193, and P. Oxy. 3721.
2. Comparable documentary papyri are dated early: P. Oxy. 211, 270, 318, 320, and 3051.
3. The handwriting of P46 is an upright, informal uncial of the early type. It is a bookhand, manifesting at times a running hand, giving way here and there to ligatures, while still trying to keep the upper line. Such a style is very rare after the first century.
4. The finals at the feet of the letters are seen in other manuscripts dated from the last quarter of the third century b.c. to the third quarter of the first century a.d.
5. The εγ-form (before compounds with β, δ, and λ) is very early, as compared with the εκ-form.
6. The hand of a certain corrector (no. 11, writing και) appears in manuscripts from the second century b.c. to the early second century a.d.
My observation is that most of the manuscripts from the first century that Kim sees as displaying a hand comparable to P46 show some similarities in individual letters but not in overall appearance and therefore do not belong to the same time period as P46. Kim himself admits that several of these manuscripts display an early form of what we see later in P46, especially with respect to the serifs at the bottom and tops of letters.
Let us take, for example, several of the papyri dated to the first century that Kim cites as illustrating the kind of hand manifested in P46. My observation is that the following manuscripts are too early to be parallel examples of P46:
P. Med. 70.01 verso (a.d. 55)—several similarities, but earlier than P46
P. Oxy. 270 (a.d. 94)—some similarities, but not many
P. Oxy. 2987 (a.d. 78–79)—nascent similarities
P. Oxy. 3051 (a.d. 89)—a few similarities
P. Oxy. 3695 (first century a.d.)—many similarities, but not completely identical
P. Gr. Berol. 6845 (ca. a.d. 100)—a few similarities
P. Berol. 6926 + P. Gen. 100 (second half of first century a.d.)—a few similarities in small serifs, but not completely identical
These manuscripts may have, here and there, a few letters like P46, but their overall appearance is earlier.
Far more similarities are seen in the following manuscripts:
P. Oxy. 8 (assigned late first or early second century)—very similar morphologically
P. Oxy. 841 (the second hand, which cannot be dated later than a.d. 125–150 [see plate and discussion in C. H. Roberts, Greek Literary Hands, no. 14])—the handwriting is similar to that found in P46
P. Oxy. 1622 (dated with confidence to pre-a.d. 148, probably during the reign of Hadrian [117–138], because of the documentary text on the verso)—this early-dated specimen shares many similar features with P46
P. Oxy. 2337 (assigned to the late first century)—very similar but probably earlier than P46
P. Oxy. 3721 (assigned to the second half of the second century, but Kim would date it earlier)—the most comparable of all the manuscripts I have personally seen
P. Rylands III 550 (assigned to the second century)—a remarkable likeness to P46
P. Berol. 9810 (early second century)—quite similar (see plate and discussion in Schubart, Palaeographie, Handbuch der Altertumswissenschaft, 1.4.1 [Munich: C. H. Beck, 1925], 29b.)
Another reasonable way to date P46 (P. Chester Beatty II) is to compare it with the other manuscripts with which it was discovered. The earliest manuscript in this collection is unquestionably P. Chester Beatty VI (Numbers–Deuteronomy). This manuscript, displaying a good example of a Roman type of hand, is very comparable to the great Hyperides manuscript, P. London 132 (early second century a.d.); the Herodas manuscript, P. Egerton 1 (ca. a.d. 100); and P. Oxy. 270 (a documentary text dated a.d. 94). Thus, Beatty VI should be dated around a.d. 125. P46 (P. Chester Beatty II) is probably not as early as Beatty VI; indeed, it seemed to Kenyon that P46 had “lost a little of the simplicity of the best of the Roman hands.” In the final analysis, P46 belongs to the second century and probably belongs to the middle part of that century, when we consider its undeniable comparability with P. Oxy. 1622 (ca. a.d. 117–138), P. Oxy. 3721 (second half of second century), P. Rylands III 550 (second century), P. Berol 9810 (early second century), and P. Oxy. 841 (second hand; 125–150). Thus, it is my opinion that P46 belongs to an era after a.d. 81–96 (the era posited by Kim)—perhaps the middle of the second century.
Dating P46 to this era allows time for the formation of the Pauline corpus to have occurred and for an archetypal collection to have been produced and to circulate in Egypt. Zuntz figured that an archetypal Pauline corpus was formed by a.d. 100 in Alexandria. Thus, an Alexandrian copy such as P46 could have been produced shortly thereafter and been used by Egyptian Christians in Alexandria and other nearby towns such as Aphroditopolis (see the discussion of the provenance of the related manuscript P45).
P46 was discovered (along with P45 and P47) somewhere in the Fayum of Egypt or perhaps in the ruins of a church or monastery near Atfih, ancient Aphroditopolis (see comments on P45). A dealer from Cairo sold the manuscript in different batches to two different parties, Chester Beatty and the University of Michigan. Chester Beatty purchased ten leaves of the manuscript in 1930–31, and the University of Michigan purchased six leaves in the same period. The University of Michigan acquired twenty-four more leaves in the winter of 1932–33. The ten leaves in the Beatty collection were first published in 1936 in fascicle 3 of The Chester Beatty Papyri. The thirty leaves in the Michigan collection were published in 1935 by H. A. Sanders in A Third-Century Papyrus Codex of the Epistles of Paul. Soon after this publication, Chester Beatty announced that he had obtained forty-six more leaves of the same manuscript. Through collaboration, the entire manuscript was published in 1936 (see bibliography).
The scribe who produced this manuscript used an early, excellent exemplar. He was a professional scribe, because there are stichoi notations at the end of several books (see the conclusion of Romans, 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, and Philippians). The stichoi were used by professionals to note how many lines had been copied for commensurate pay. Most likely, an employee of the scriptorium (perhaps connected with a church library) paginated the codex and indicated the stichoi. The scribe himself made some corrections as he went, and then several other readers made corrections here and there. Kim noted at least sixteen different hands. Thus, the manuscript was very well used, probably by various members of the church or monastery. One reader had marked almost all of Romans and Hebrews with lectoral marks in preparation for oral reading. But these marks do not continue thereafter, except in 1 Corinthians 14–15 (worthy chapters for oral reading). All in all, the manuscript was very well used and somewhat corrected, but not in a thoroughgoing manner. In this volume we have indicated the corrections of the original scribe as c1, those of the paginator (who made corrections in bold, broad strokes) as c2, and those of a corrector who made corrections in cursive (probably in the third century) as c3. This accords generally with Zuntz’s observations.
The text of P46 shows a strong affinity with B (especially in 1 and 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, and Hebrews), with the tenth-century Alexandrian manuscript 1739, and then with א. In Hebrews, P46 and P13 display a very similar text, exhibiting 80 percent agreement with respect to textual variants. The copyists of P13 and P46 made similar use of double points for punctuation, and the pagination of both documents indicates that Romans preceded Hebrews in P13 as well as in P46. Textual critics have observed that when P46 agrees with B and with D, F, and G the reading is usually “Western.” (A reading with the combination of B, D, F, G was usually rejected by Westcott and Hort.) However, a number of readings supported by P46 and B by themselves or with manuscripts of all text types show themselves to be most likely Pauline. Aside from the several scribal blunders in P46, Zuntz said that P46 was a representative of “a text of the superior, early-Alexandrian type.”
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 Philip Wesley Comfort and David P. Barrett, The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2019), 183 Vol. II.
 Aland, Kurt; Aland, Barbara (1995). The Text of the New Testament: An Introduction to the Critical Editions and to the Theory and Practice of Modern Textual Criticism. Erroll F. Rhodes (trans.). Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. p. 98.
 Comfort, Philip W. (2005). Encountering the Manuscripts: An Introduction to New Testament Paleography & Textual Criticism. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 131–139, 223, 231–238
 Philip Wesley Comfort and David P. Barrett, The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2019), 183-188 Vol. II.