The Willoughby Papyrus (P134)

The Bible and Culture | 1/20/2019 | Staff
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In the latest issue of Journal of Biblical Literature Geoffrey Smith offers an in-depth discussion of an interesting papyrus that has a few verses of John on one side and what appears to be remnants of an otherwise unknown Christian text on the other side of the writing material: Geoffrey Smith, “The Willoughby Papyrus: A New Fragment of John 1:492:1 (P134) and an Unidentified Christian Text,” JBL 137.4 (2018): 935-58.

The item was acquired by Professor Harold Willoughby (University of Chicago) at some point earlier than the early 1950s, when it shows up in a hand-written list of such items among Willoughby’s large personal collection of books and manuscripts. But Willoughby never published the item. Instead, at his death it went into a suitcase and was stored in an attic, until one of his descendents discovered it. Initially, it was put on e-Bay for sale, but when Brice Jones noticed it and blogged about it (here), the e-Bay listing was cancelled. The item remains in the possession of the Willoughby relative (who wishes to remain anonymous). But Smith was permitted to make an autopsy examination and to make his own photo-images, on the basis of which he offers his newly published study.

Features - Item - First - Portion - Leaf

There are some noteworthy features of the item. First, it is not apparently a portion of a leaf of a codex, for the two sides have two different texts (whereas in a codex the text continues from one side to the other). It is possibly a fragment of an isolated sheet, perhaps even an amulet, or (Smith’s favored suggestion) perhaps a remnant of a book-roll initially used for a copy of the Gospel of John and then re-used for the other early Christian text. If this last option is the correct one, then P134 would be the first instance of...
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