“The Greek Papyri” by George Milligan

George Milligan [1860-1934]
George Milligan [1860-1934]
The following public domain article is now available in PDF:

George Milligan [1860-1934], “The Greek Papyri – with special reference to their value for New Testament study,” Journal of the Transactions of the Victoria Institute 44 (1912): 62-78.

George Milligan was an noted biblical scholar in his day as this extract from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography makes clear:

It was a notable pioneering achievement for Milligan to issue, while still at Caputh, a standard commentary on St Paul’s epistles to the Thessalonians (1908), in which among other things he applied the new papyrological evidence to a re-examination of the Pauline grammar and vocabulary. He began his great work, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament (1914–29), in collaboration with J. H. Moulton, and after the issue of part two in 1915 completed it single-handedly. Its comprehensiveness and accuracy provided a foundation for successors to build upon, while remaining readable and full of human interest.

I suspect that this lecture is little-known, but I hope that, like his other works, it will still prove of Interest today.

The Greek Papyri by George Milligan

The most significant fact in the modern study of the New Testament is the recognition that it has a history, and consequently that its several books can only be fully understood in connexion with their surroundings or the special circumstances that called them forth. Everything, therefore, that throws light on the outward conditions of the New Testament writers is of value. And it is just here that we are in a peculiarly favourable position to-day. In the past, archaeological discovery has been mainly concerned with the Old Testament, but now the light it sheds has been extended to the New Testament, and is largely derivable from the immense number of texts on stone, on earthen ware, and on papyrus which recent discoveries have brought within our reach.

It is only with the papyrus texts that we are at present concerned, and for their preservation we have to thank them marvellously dry climate of Egypt. The first finds were made at Gizeh as far back as 1778, but it was not until 1877, when several thousands of papyri were unearthed at Crocodilopolis, or Arsinöe, the ancient capital of the Fayûm district, that public interest was fully aroused. The work of exploration was afterwards extended to Tebtunis, Oxyrhynchus, and other likely sites, with the result that we have now thousands of these texts in our hands. Some were discovered in the ruins of old temples, others in the cartonnage of mummies; but the greater number were found in what were literally the dust or refuse heaps on the outskirts of the towns or villages. The old Egyptians, instead of burning their waste-papers, as is the custom amongst ourselves, were in the habit of tearing them up and throwing them out on these heaps, where, thanks to a covering of desert sand, they have lain in safety all these years.

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Everyday Life in Byzantine Lycaonia

The following article by Sir William M. Ramsay is now available in PDF. This material is in the Public Domain and so can be freely distributed and copied.

William M. Ramsay [1851-1939], “A Country Town of Lycaonia. A Description of the Conditions of Christian Life under the Eastern Empire,” Journal of the Transactions of the Victoria Institute 41 (1909): 36-46.

A Country Town of Lycaonia

My subject is an attempt to set before you some slight picture of the main facts in the life of a country town in the centre of Anatolia in the province called in ancient time Lycaonia, during the Byzantine Empire. Now we read a great deal in books, in ancient history, and in the history of the Church about that period, but historians concern themselves chiefly with great men, the great religious leaders, generals, and statesmen; with the rarest exceptions we find nothing whatsoever with regard to the practical facts of life among the common people in that country during the period when these great men were living and working. There is some literary material, which has still to be collected, with regard to the life of that period in the private letters of Basil and other great men, which give a great deal of material for the facts of ordinary life. The ordinary people made it possible for Churchmen to exercise their leading power, for generals to have .armies to conduct to victory or defeat; and without the knowledge of their common life, a knowledge of history becomes one-sided and misleading in the highest degree. We want therefore to know something of the common people, the way they live, their surroundings, their views of life, and how far they were affected by the great Church leaders, generals and statesmen.

The question may be asked with regard to the Byzantine Empire; Is it worth while to take up our time in making out some picture of a period rightly regarded as a period of decay in the history of the world? There is no doubt that Gibbons’ title, The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, is correct. The fall was in great measure due to the pressure of what was going on in the Byzantine Empire, that is in Eastern Europe and Western Asia. Two remarks will bring out the importance of life in the Byzantine Empire.

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Learning From Ancient Exegesis

St Jerome (from Andre Thevet)
St Jerome (from Andre Thevet)

I am grateful to the Evangelical Homiletics Society for their kind permission to place on-line the following article, which explains what we can learn from examples of ancient exegesis of the biblical text:

Timothy J. Ralston, “‘Back to the Future’: Classical Categories of Exegesis, Application and Authority for Preaching and Spiritual Formation,” Journal of the Evangelical Homiletics Society 3.2 (2003): 33-51.

Summary (from text)

The categories lectio continua, lectio semi-continua, lectio selecta and lectio divina describe hermeneutical approaches to the application of scripture. Consequently these categories provide a helpful means to classify the hermeneutical validity of an application presented in a sermon and, by implication, the relative authority of the ethic derived from one’s interaction with a biblical text. They also offer a well accepted taxonomy to understand the differing use of the Bible in the spiritual formation of individuals and Christian communities. Therefore, they represent valuable categories worthy of recovery and adoption for evaluating sermons.

Perhaps I state the obvious. I hope so. Most (if not all) Evangelicals express a genuine commitment to the ideal of lectio continua, that which we believe lies at the heart of preaching in the tradition of sola scriptura. Often, however, our preaching hermeneutic, even that which designates itself as “expository,” displays more of the characteristics of lectio selecta or lectio divina. Unfortunately few appreciate the difference and most aren’t aware of the problem.

The Holy Spirit is not limited by the poverty of a method, but the weakness of our application to reflect the results of authoritative exegesis must surely detract from the simplicity of the Bible’s authority as it speaks to human need. Ultimately, anything less than lectio continua in preaching undermines a local church’s ability to form the lives of its members according to scripture and to engage with other Christian communities in obedience to our Lord’s requirement of unity in faith and witness – the measure of true Christian maturity and the measure of success in our effort toward the spiritual formation of the Body of Christ.

To read the full article click here. Visit the author’s web page here.