Aurelius Leonides, a Flax Merchant from Egypt and the New Testament

Unreported Heritage News has:

A flax merchant from Egypt! Owner of 4th century New Testament papyrus identified.


A Princeton University researcher has identified the owner of a New Testament papyrus that dates to the time of Constantine the Great.

Constantine was the Roman emperor who allowed Christians to practice freely, ending hundreds of years of persecution. His decision led people throughout the empire to convert and disseminate the New Testament.

Now, thanks to this new discovery, we know the story of one of these Christians. 

“It is the first and only ancient instance where we know the owner of a Greek New Testament papyrus,” writes Professor AnneMarie Luijendijk in an article recently published in the Journal of Biblical Literature. “For most early New Testament manuscripts, we do not know where they were found, let alone who had owned them.”

The papyrus was discovered in the late 19th century at the Egyptian city of Oxyrhynchus, located roughly 160 kilometres south of Cairo. The document contains the first seven verses of Paul’s Letter to the Romans.

“There are several mistakes in spelling and part of verse 6 is omitted” wrote site excavators Bernard Grenfell and Arthur Hunt in 1899. They concluded that the papyrus was “no doubt a schoolboy’s exercise.”  

Who owned it?

To find the ancient owner of this papyrus Professor Luijendijk engaged in some archaeological detective work. Grenfell and Hunt mentioned in 1899 that “the papyrus was found tied up with a contract dating to 316 AD.” Unfortunately they did not specify which document this is.

“They were not particularly interested in the social context of the texts they had unearthed, or perhaps they were too busy editing their enormous find,” writes Luijendijk.

To find this missing document Luijendijk turned to a modern day papyrus database called the Heidelberger Gesamtverzeichnis or HGV. She searched for examples from Oxyrhynchus that date to AD 316. She found 13 examples but only two of them were contracts. One discussed a “lease of a plot of land” while the other was “a contract for the sale of a donkey.”

Luijendijk determined that the donkey sale could not be the missing contract. “Grenfell and Hunt cannot have referred to the latter papyrus, for it did not come from their excavations.”

This left only the land lease document. Further investigation revealed that it was excavated during the same field season as the New Testament papyrus. This meant that it had to be the one.

From there the discovery got even more interesting.

The land lease contract had a name on it – that of a man named Aurelius Leonides, a flax merchant from Egypt. He must have owned both the contract and the New Testament papyrus.

Further research revealed that there are more than a dozen papyri from Oxyrhynchus that belonged to Leonides. This gave Luijendijk the opportunity to reconstruct this man’s past – and give some clues as to how Christianity may have spread in his community…

More on this interesting research here.


Egypt Church Bombing: 17 People Arrested

After the massacre of  innocent Christians in Egypt yesterday… We demand nothing less!

Al Jazeera reports:

Egyptian police have arrested 17 people suspected of involvement in the bombing of a Coptic Christian church that killed at least 21 people, security sources say.

Sunday’s announcement came as congregants were back praying in al-Qiddissine [The Saints] church, targeted the day before by a car bomb that also wounded 97 people.

Dozens of worshippers attended Sunday Mass at the church, located in the Sidi Bechr district of the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, while riot police backed by armoured vehicles were deployed outside.

The service was marked by the grief and anger felt by a congregation devastated by the attack, which took place on Saturday outside the church’s door about 30 minutes into the New Year.

Many wept while others cried hysterically, screamed in anger or slapped themselves.

“We spend every feast in grief,” Sohair Fawzy, who lost two sisters and a niece in the attack, said.

Grim reminders of the attack remained in the church a day after the bombing. Its ground floor was stained with the blood of victims brought inside immediately after the attack.

Two statues of Christ and the Virgin Mary were toppled and the benches were scattered by the impact of the blast. And a “2011” sign hung on the inside of the church’s door was torn apart.

The attack was the worst violence against Egypt’s Christian minority in a decade.

It sparked clashes between riot police and Christians who say the government hasn’t done enough to protect them.

The Copts are the biggest Christian community in the Middle East and account for up to 10 per cent of Egypt’s 80 million population…

Read on here.

Dear Lord, in Your mercy,visit, console and heal the grieving and broken of heart… as only You can… And in may justice be served here.


Homily – Epiphany of the Lord, Year A (2011)

Today is the great feast of Epiphany, or as it is known is some places, Three Kings’ Day. From the Gospel lesson it is very clear that on this occasion, the Church recalls the coming of the wise men (or magi) to Bethlehem, bringing gifts to the God-child, Jesus, and in doing, God in the form of His Son is revealed to all the nations of the world as Lord and as King.

It’s been the subject of much scholarly debate: who were these men? Led by a star, the Bible records that they came from the ‘east’ to Jerusalem, to pay ‘homage’ to the ‘newborn king of the Jews’ (Matt 2:1-2). The fact that they end up before King Herod, ruler of Palestine, stating their intent, indicates that they were indeed men of some importance.

We surmise from the gifts that they brought, ‘gold, frankincense, and myrrh’ (Matt 2:11), that these men were three. But those who walk in the corridors of learning tell us that there is simply no way that we can be sure. Certainly, bearing such expensive and valuable gifts, it is highly unlikely that these men would have travelled alone such a great distance. Banditry and thieving was rife at the time and protection and safety was ensured by travelling in large numbers. If we postulate that they came from Persia or Babylon (as is most commonly accepted), it would have taken them at least forty days of travelling by camel caravan, if they were fortunate enough to enjoy optimal conditions, to reach Jerusalem.

‘Kings’ is probably not the most appropriate word to describe them. Most theologians think of them as astrologers or priests who were familiar with astrology, magic (hence ‘magi’) and divination; thus the concern and interest that they had in this extraordinary star. But more important than who they were, or where they came from, is what they come to represent: the first Gentiles to recognise the Lordship and Kingship of Christ Jesus.

Now with these men coming to the baby, God was making known to all men the Good News of salvation. What was formerly ‘a mystery’, in the words of St Paul, ‘has now been revealed’ (Eph 3:5). And while God had up until the Incarnation of His Son, sovereignly elected to reveal Himself and salvation history primarily in and through the nation Israel, with the arrival of the wise men, a new chapter opens that foreshadows the recognition and worship of Jesus Christ as God by all the pagan (or Gentle) nations of the world. It’s as if the entire world was now bowing before Him.

It’s interesting to note too that those who should have read the signs of the coming Messiah, and understood them all too well, fail dismally so to do. Where are the Chief Priests? Where are the scribes, the Pharisees, the keepers of the law and the religious leaders of the Chosen people? Why are pagans paying homage to the King of the Jews? We known that by now, Jesus would have already been a boy of about one or two years old. He was living in a house in Bethlehem with Joseph and Mary when the wise men found Him. And the only real thing His own people offered Him was a bloodthirsty tyrant as ruler who was bent on killing and destroying any potential threat to his rule.

There is a good lesson here: Jesus does not only belong to us. We cannot own Jesus as ours’ alone. St Matthew clearly presents Him as Lord and King over all the world. Even today, it is so. We need to guard against that familiarity that can so easily creep into our self-perceived status as ‘Christians’. Was it pride or the arrogance of the leaders of the Jewish people that caused them to miss the Messiah? Was it because they considered themselves to be the custodians of God’s revelation and no one else worthy of Him? Possibly; but we know that God chooses to reveal Himself in and through those that are humble and pure in heart (Matt 5:3, 8). And though salvation in Jesus comes to man today primarily through the Church, wise are those who seek and worship Him not for any benefit or status they can derive from so doing, but simply for who He is: Messiah, Lord and King over all.

The gifts that the magi bring have come to be seen as symbolic of who this Child is: Gold for royalty; frankincense, a resin used to worship deity; and myrrh, a burial ointment marking the humanity of Christ. These treasures would have well sustained and supported the family on their later flight to Egypt as they sought to escape Herod’s furious rage. But as St Gregory the Great reminds us, ‘the treasures signify the gifts we present to Christ in our daily lives. Gold is Christ’s wisdom, which shines in us, frankincense is the prayer of adoration we give him, and myrrh is our daily self-sacrifices’ (Hom. in Evan. 10).

Be as those wise men. Come to Jesus not for gain, but for who He is: Saviour, Lord and King. Offer Him your gifts, you time and resources. Adore Him. That is the essence of true worship: Giving Jesus our all.

Allow me to conclude with the words of a carol, which if I may add, I have sadly not heard sung in quite some time:

We three kings of orient are,
bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain,
moor and mountain,
following yonder star.
O star of wonder, star of night,
star with royal beauty bright.
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.

As I came up to Church this morning, I saw a newspaper sign on the lamppost saying, ‘See what your stars say for 2011’. How foolish… There is only one ‘Star’ that will count this year and that is Jesus. Allow Him to shine into your hearts and let yourselves be lead by the glory of His guiding light. And may your new year be blessed one indeed.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.


More on the First Anglicans Received into the Ordinariate

More is slowly emerging on what we reported on yesterday: The exciting news that the Ordinariate has begun!

The BBC News with: Communion for converting bishops.

Three Anglican bishops who are converting to Roman Catholicism have taken holy communion at Westminster Cathedral, with three ex-Anglican nuns.

Ex-bishop of Ebbsfleet Andrew Burnham, the former bishop of Richborough Keith Newton and John Broadhurst, previously bishop of Fulham, oppose women bishops.

They are expected to be ordained as Catholic priests on 15 January.

They plan to join the special “ordinariate” for former Anglicans within the Roman Catholic church.

Catholic Bishop Alan Hopes said up to 50 Anglican clergy could convert before Easter.

The move has been enabled by a Vatican scheme intended to provide a welcome for Anglicans who are unhappy over issues such as the consecration of women bishops and the Church’s attitude to homosexuality.

It intends to allow them to maintain a distinct religious identity and spiritual heritage within a section of the Roman Catholic Church, known as an ordinariate…

The Catholic Herald has: Three ex-Anglican bishops are received into full communion.

Three former Anglican bishops were received into full communion with the Catholic Church during a Mass at Westminster Cathedral today.

John Broadhurst, Andrew Burnham and Keith Newton – the former bishops of Fulham, Ebbsfleet and Richborough respectively – will take prominent roles in the Personal Ordinariate for England and Wales which will be established in early 2011.

The wives of two of the ex-Church of England bishops and three nuns from Walsingham were also received.

Westminster auxiliary Bishop Alan Hopes, himself a former Anglican, was chief celebrant at the Mass…

And the Telegraph (UK): First Anglicans are received into the Roman Catholic Church in historic service.

Priests and worshippers from around 20 Church of England parishes converted to Catholicism on Saturday at a ceremony in Westminster Cathedral.

Three former bishops were among those confirmed at the service, which saw the first wave of Anglicans defecting to Rome to join the Ordinariate.

The Pope introduced the structure in 2009 to welcome disillusioned Anglicans into the Catholic fold after secret meetings were held at the Vatican with Church of England bishops, as The Sunday Telegraph revealed a year earlier.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, admitted the move had put him in “an awkward position”, but more recently he said he respected the decisions of those who decided to leave.

While around 50 clergy are expected to defect to the Catholic Church over the coming months, it has been predicted that thousands of traditionalist worshippers will join the exodus, particularly if they are given no concessions once women are made bishops…

 If anything else come out, I’ll pass it on.

Photos? Anyone?

UPDATE I:   Catholic Herald, Ex-Anglican bishops to be ordained to priesthood on January 15.