Crosby Schøyen Codex


(earlier names: Crosby Codex, Mississippi Coptic I, and Savery Codex), a single-quire papyrus codex in Sahidic Coptic that came to light as part of a major discovery made by Egyptian peasants in 1952 near the base of the cliff Abu some 7½ miles (12 km) east of the discovery site of the NAG HAMMADI LIBRARY.

The collection, known locally as the Dishna Papers (after the nearby town of Dishna), included remains of some thirty-eight books (rolls and codices) among which are classical texts, biblical and apocryphal manuscripts, mathematical exercises, and letters of monks. The inclusion of the Pachomian material has led James M. Robinson to suggest that the entire collection derives originally from a Pachomian library (Robinson, 1986, pp. 1-25). The Pachomian monastic system, headquartered at nearby Pbow (modern Faw al-Qibli), included some eleven in Upper Egypt.

The Crøsby-Schyen Codex, which measures 15.2 14.7 cm, is composed of a single quire of thirty-five sheets or folded pairs of conjugate leaves. Its original total of 136 pages has been diminished through loss of material from the beginning and end. Pages 25-126 are in excellent condition and relatively complete, and one-half of pages 23-24 survives. Some minor additional text appears on the remnants of pages 10-22 and 127-28. In addition, forty-one fragments are preserved in the Rare Book Room of Perkins Library at Duke University (P. Duke inv. C 125).

The surviving pages of the preserve five distinct tractates. These include MELITIUS OF SARDIS’s On the Pascha (pp. 7-51; pp. 23-51 extant), The Jewish Martyrs, a translation of 2 Maccabees 5:27-7:41 (pp. 52-74), 1 Peter (pp. 75-107), Jonah (pp. 107-124), and an unidentified text (pp. 124-26). An additional tractate may have existed on lost pages 3-6 (assuming a front fly leaf, pp. 1-2). Since the final pages of the are lost, one has no way of knowing whether the last unidentified text continued to the end of the codex. This final text appears to be an early homily that advises the need for action and preparedness alongside of belief.

The selection of these five tractates for inclusion in a single has led to the speculation of the codex’s use as a paschal lectionary, “a reader’s book used at the observance of Christ’s death and resurrection—and ipso facto at a baptism” (Cabaniss, 1961, pp. 70-72).

The single scribe who copied the wrote in black ink with a coarse pen. The hand is careful, large, and bold (Willis, 1961, p. 388). Later corrections to the text may be the work of a second scribe. With the exception of the final unidentified tractate, the codex was written in double columns of varying length (11-19 lines).

The final tractate is written in a single column. Coptic pagination is present though not continuous for the entire codex. The scribe began new enumeration with the first page of 1 Peter (p. 75) and the first page of Jonah (p. 107). The Coptic dialect throughout is Sahidic, though various dialectical are to be found.

The date of the has been variously estimated from the latter half of the second century to the sixth century, though a third-century date is most often cited (Willis, p. 389; Cabaniss, p. 71; E. G. Turner, 1977, p. 137; Hall, 1979, p. xlv and xvii n. 8).

The Crøsby-Schyen was originally acquired by the University of Mississippi in 1955 through a donation of Lucius Olen and Margaret Reed Crosby (Willis, pp. 382-83). It was labeled by the university as Mississippi Coptic Codex I: the Crosby Codex. Work toward publication was begun immediately, but circumstances resulting from the desegregation of the University of Mississippi caused delay and in the end failure of these efforts. The codex remained in the University of Mississippi library until 1981 when it was deacquisitioned and sold. It has since remained in private hands.

It was acquired in the early 1980s by the Pax ex Innovatione Foundation under the leadership of Winsor T. Savery. While owned by the foundation, the bore the name Savery Codex (“The Savery Codex in Claremont,” pp. 4-5). The codex was purchased at auction in December 1988 (Checkland, 1988) by Schyen of Norway and relabeled Crosby-Schøyen Codex, 193 in the Schøyen Collection. A critical edition, the editio princeps, prepared under the auspices of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity in Claremont, California, is forthcoming.


  • “Bible Scripts Bought. Two Rare Collections Are Gifts to University of Mississippi.” The Times, Nov. 27, 1955, p. 135. Cabaniss, A. “The University of Mississippi Coptic Papyrus Manuscript: A Paschal Lectionary?” New Testament Studies 8 (1961):70-72.
  • Checkland, S. J. “Medieval Texts Fetch 2.5m for Museum.” The London Times, Dec. 7, 1988, p. 5.
  • Hall, S. G. Melito of Sardis. On Pascha and Fragments. Oxford Early Texts. Oxford, 1979.
  • Metzger, B. “Recent Discoveries and Investigations of New Testament Manuscripts.” Journal of Biblical Literature 78 (1959):15-16.
  • Robinson, J. M. “The Discovering and Marketing of Coptic Manuscripts: The Nag Hammadi Codices and the Bodmer Papyri.” In The Roots of Egyptian Christianity, pp. 1-25.
  • “The Savery in Claremont.” Bulletin of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity 12 (1985):4-5.
  • Turner, E. G. The Typology of the Early Codex. Philadelphia, 1977. Turner, J. S. “A of Coptic Christianity.” Humanities 10 (1989):10-11.
  • Willis, W. H. “The New Collections of Papyri at the University of Mississippi.” In Proceedings of the IX International Congress of Papyrology, pp. 381-92. Oslo, 1961.