Eusebius' claims, not only respecting the role of Severus in the persecu-tion92 and its extent ('countless numbers [murioi] were being wreathed with the crowns of martyrdom', 6.2.3), but also the areas in Egypt whence these martyrs came. Nevertheless, it is certainly not the case that Christianity in Egypt in 190 (at the time of the paschal controversy) was 'confined to the city and its environs'.93 Harnack, in his great work on Christianity's expansion,94 cites for the second century only journeys into the chora supposedly made by the heretics Basilides and Valentinus according to Epiphanius (Pan. 24.2.2, 3, 4; Pan. 31.7.1), but Epiphanius' testimony is highly dubious. As we have noted, Irenaeus contended that the church in Egypt confessed the universal creed, but he probably had no knowledge of the situation outside Alexandria.
For more reliable evidence of Christianity in Egypt outside Alexandria in the second century we must turn to the papyri preserved by Egypt's desert sands, dated on the basis of palaeography.95 Van Haelst's Catalogue provides the following evidence: from the Fayum come fragments of the Old Testament (nos. 174, 224, and possibly 52 and 304),96 possibly one from the New Testament (462),97 one from the Shepherd of Hermas (657), and one from the Naassene Psalm (1066). Three fragments from an Old Testament codex come from Qarara (Hipponon polis, no. 33). Possibly from Panopolis or nearby come fragments from the New Testament (John, 426) and the Old Testament (Psalms, 118). Antinoopolis is represented by two Old Testament fragments (179). Of uncertain provenance are the Egerton gospel fragments (586), and a fragment of the Sibylline oracles (581). Oxyrhynchus is well represented, with fragments from the Old Testament (13, 40), the New Testament (372),98 the Gospel of Thomas (593), a fragment from an unknown gospel (592), a fragment from Irenaeus' Adversus haereses (671), several from writings of Philo of Alexandria (696) and a magical fragment (1076). Colin Roberts has suggested that a
92 There seems to be no basis for the view that the emperor initiated the persecution that broke out soon after he left Alexandria in 201. See Birley, Septimius Severus, 209. The persecution was most likely a local affair, in which the prefect, Laetus, was probably involved (HE 6.2.2).
93 Telfer, 'Episcopal succession', 2.
94 Mission und Ausbreitung, vol. 11, 708.
96 Nos. 52 and 304 are part of the Chester Beatty collection, for which alternative provenances have been suggested: Aphroditopolis or elsewhere in Upper Egypt. See van Haelst's discussion, Catalogue, 30.
97 P.Ryl. 457, which could have come from Oxyrhynchus (Catalogue, 30).
98 P. Oxy. 1683, a fragment from a codex containing (at least) the gospel of Matthew. To this should now be added P. Oxy. 3523, from a codex containing the gospel ofJohn, on which see Llewelyn's discussion in NewDocs, vol. vii, 242-8.
Was this article helpful?