Experts have revealed new details about a 1,500-year-old Christian papyrus that sat inside a university library for more than 100 years before a researcher recently realized its importance.
The document, believed to be part of a charm, was found at the University of Manchester’s John Rylands Library in Manchester, United Kingdom, and offers up one of the earliest references to the Last Supper on record as well as details about early Christian practices.
“It is the earliest surviving document to use the Christian Eucharist liturgy — which outlines the Last Supper — as a protective charm,” reads a university press release.
Written on a recycled piece of papyrus, the document was rediscovered by Dr. Roberta Mazza, a researcher with the John Rylands Research Institute, as he was going through old and unpublished materials at the library, the Daily Mail reported.
“Fear you all who rule over the earth. Know you nations and peoples that Christ is our God,” the papyrus reads. “For he spoke and they came to being, he commanded and they were created; he put everything under our feet and delivered us from the wish of our enemies.”
It continues,”Our God prepared a sacred table in the desert for the people and gave manna of the new covenant to eat, the Lord’s immortal body and the blood of Christ poured for us in remission of sins.”
Mazza said that the papyrus is evidence that Christians adopted the Egyptian practice of wearing amulets in an effort to protect themselves from danger, though little is known about the individual who owned this particular charm.
“This practice of writing charms on pieces of papyrus was continued by the Christians who replaced the prayers to Egyptian and Greco-Roman gods with extracts from the Bible,” according to the press release.
Experts say the Christian text was written on a recycled paper that was previously used as a receipt for a grain tax payment in Tertembuthis, an ancient village in present-day Egypt.
“The amulet maker would have cut a piece of the receipt, written the charm on the other side and then he would have folded the papyrus to be kept in a locket or pendant,” Mazza explained. “It is for this reason the tax receipt on the exterior was damaged and faded away.”
The researcher said that the discovery is “quite exciting,” as it shows that biblical knowledge was more embedded in 6th century A.D. Egypt than was previously thought.
Read more about the find here.
(H/T: Daily Mail)