Scientists of the University of Basel (Switzerland) have identified the oldest Christian private letter known from the beginning of the third century and named "P.Bas. 2.43 ", according to a statement released today by the same.
The letter, dated in the 230 years after Christ, offers information about the world of the first Christians of the Roman Empire and is older than all the Christian documentary testimonies previously known from Roman Egypt.
The papyrus content indicates that the Christians were already at the beginning of the third century, far from the cities of the Egyptian interior, where they assumed functions of political leadership and in their daily life they were not distinguished from their pagan environment.
In this way, the information questions the idea that the first Christians in the Roman Empire are usually portrayed as eccentric and persecuted peoples.
The papyrus questions the idea that the first Christians in the Roman Empire are usually portrayed as eccentric and persecuted peoples
Papyrus, owned by the University of Basel for more than 100 years, includes a letter sent from Arrianus to his brother Paulus and "highlights", according to the communiqué, the other letters received from Greco-Roman Egypt for its final greeting formula: "I pray that you are well, in 'the Lord'", using an abbreviated spelling at the end. "The use of this abbreviation, we are talking about a so-called 'nomen sacrum', leaves no doubt about the Christian sentiment of the author," says Sabine Huebner, professor of Ancient History at the University of Basel.
"Pablo is a very strange name at that time, and we can deduce that the parents mentioned in the letter were already Christians and that they had given their son the name of the apostle 200 after Christ," explains Huebner.
The letter provides details about the social origins of this early Christian family
In addition, the letter provides details about the social origins of this primitive Christian family: the two brothers were educated young sons of the local elite, landlords and officials. "It is not surprising that the early Christians also participated in Roman daily life. And they also valued the same pleasures as their non-Christian fellow citizens, "Dr. Sebastian Ristow of the Archaeological Institute of the University of Cologne (west) told Efe.
The fact that only a part of the early Christians lived in a "truly pious and ascetic" way is documented in the writings of the Fathers of the Church, he added. However, (the Fathers of the Church) generally "complain," according to him, of the lifestyle of the other half.
The papyrus comes from the town Theadelphia (Egypt) and belongs to the Heroninos, the largest papyrus archive of Roman times, concludes the statement.
The University of Basel was one of the first universities in the field of German language and the first in German Switzerland to create a collection of papyri own at the beginning of the 20th century.
At that time, the study of papyri was a flourishing discipline and it was hoped to gain with it information about the evolution of primitive Christianity.
The papyrus comes from the town Theadelphia (Egypt) and belongs to the Heroninos