a gospel collection - were largely in place by the end of the second century, though other works remained disputed.88

A literary culture also requires social assets (literate persons,89 scribes) and material tools - papyrus, parchment, ink, scriptoria, archives and libraries.90 Significantly, Christians appear first to make a distinctive mark on material culture in the realm of books.91 Although the codex was occasionally used for 'pocketbook editions', it was not the favoured or common format for literature in the Graeco-Roman world. Yet fully 100 per cent of papyrus gospel fragments found have been from codexes.92 Their particular types of anthol-ogised literature (collections of letters, of gospels) and a cast of travelling teachers apparently were some of the reasons Christians early on adopted the codex format. Whether initially so intended or not, Christian use of the codex rather than the scroll served to set them apart from both Jews and 'pagans'. Two more bibliographic peculiarities point to a unique centre of the movement: special abbreviations used for the names 'Lord', 'Jesus', 'Christ' and 'God' (called by scholars nomina sacra),93 and an early use (2nd century) of a 'staurogram', a cross-shaped shorthand for the word 'cross', that may be the first piece of early Christian iconography - preserved on the pages of a papyrus codex.94

The genres adopted by the earliest Christian writers - letters, narrative 'gospels', histories and apocalypses - were to leave an inestimable mark on Christian identity throughout the period of this volume. Owing to Paul and his early imitators the epistolary form was to remain a favoured vehicle of Christian literary expression (twenty-one of twenty-seven New Testament documents, many of the Apostolic Fathers and subsequent figures like Dionysius of Corinth, even Constantine). Ironically, even those who may have opposed him in his lifetime, Peter and James, were later depicted as taking up Paul's weapon of choice, the epistle.95 By incorporating Graeco-Roman rhetorical techniques into his proclamation, Paul catapulted the Christian gospel into

88 Euseb. HE 3.25; further discussion in ch. 9, below. See Barton, Holy writings; cf.Metzger, Canon, 157-62.

89 Key here is 'group literacy' (in a world in which arguably 10 per cent were literate) - if one member of the group can read, they all have access to written texts, which were customarily read aloud (valuable discussion in Gamble, Books and readers, 2-10).

90 Gamble, Books and readers.

91 Hurtado,'Earliest evidence'.

92 Skeat in Elliott (ed.), Collected biblical writings ofT. C. Skeat, 73-87 (esp. 79), 269-80.

93 Gamble, Books and readers, 74-8. The practice is attested in literary sources in Ep. Barn. 9.8. In Fig. 5 (above) the reader can see the abbreviation ┬ęC (th-s for theos, 'God') in line 4.

94 Hurtado, 'Earliest evidence'.

95 Koester, Introduction, vol. 11, 292-7.

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