Hamburg Papyrus


(State and University Library of Hamburg, inventory no. Papyrus bilinguis 1 [Pap. bil. 1]; no. 998, according to the list of Greek manuscripts in the Gottingen Septuagint project), papyrus consisting of twenty-eight leaves (fifty-six pages) of an originally codex. In the first part fragments of a previously unknown version of the Greek Acta Pauli are preserved on eleven pages. This text was published in 1936 by C. Schmidt and W. Schubart. The second part contains forty-five pages of fragments of Old Testament writings in the Coptic and Greek languages: Song of Songs in Coptic (seven pages), Lamentations of Jeremiah in Coptic (ten pages), as well as Ecclesiastes in Greek (fourteen pages) and Coptic (fourteen pages).

The place where the papyrus was found has not been determined with certainty, and the same can be said of the time of discovery. The papyrus scroll came into the possession of the State and University Library of Hamburg in 1927. The leaves of the codex measure about 10.5 inches (26 cm) long and 8 inches (20 cm) wide. The length and breadth of the space covered by writing on the separate pages amounts to about 8.5 inches by 6.2 inches (22 cm by 15.5 cm). The pages of the Greek sections of the text have an average of thirty-five lines; those of the Coptic part, an average of thirty-two lines of text. The script is in at least two different hands and can be dated to about A.D. 400. The conservation work by H. Ibscher revealed that the surviving fragmentary codex was made up of four quaternions (gatherings of four double leaves [eight leaves or sixteen pages]), preserved only in parts.

The dialect of the papyrus was designated Old Fayyumic by C. Schmidt. Accordingly, it was given the siglum “Fo” in R. Kasser (1964, p. xvii). Kasser now classifies it as Fayyumic subdialect F 7 in his system.

It is possible that Pap. bil. 1 was not a codex destined for usage in the church but a school exercise. Various criteria indicate this, such as the nature and character of the writing, mistakes made in the hand of the pupil scribe, and corrections by the teacher. The composition of the writings preserved in the fragmentary codex allows one to suppose that the original from which it was copied was an ecclesiastical book of devotion or a lectionary.

A comparison between the Greek Ecclesiastes and the Coptic Ecclesiastes of Pap. bil. 1 and of both texts with Codex Vaticanus Graecus 1209 (B), as well as other great Septuagint codices, points to a closer affinity of the Greek Vorlage of Coptic Ecclesiastes to B than can be observed in Greek Ecclesiastes transmitted in the same codex. At all events, Greek Ecclesiastes is not the Vorlage of the Coptic version of Ecclesiastes in the Hamburg papyrus (on this see B. J. Diebner).

The Coptic versions of Pap. bil. 1 of Song of Songs, Lamentations, and Ecclesiastes are important in the investigation of early Coptic dialects. They also have significance for the history of the text of the Old Testament and not least for the history of interpretation, since the examination of the technique of the Coptic translators offers a glimpse of the interpretation of Old Testament texts in the of the third and fourth centuries.


  • Diebner, B. J. “Die biblischen Texte des Hamburger Papyrus bilinguis 1 (Cant, Lam, co., Eccl gr. et co.) in ihrem Verhältnis zum Text der Septuaginta, besonders des Kodex B (Vat. Gr. 1209).—Beobachtungen und methodische Bemerkungen.” In Festgabe für Chr. Burchard zum 50. Geburtstag. Heidelberg, 1981.
  • Diebner, B. J., and R. Kasser. Hamburger Papyrus bil. 1: Die alttestamentlichen Texte des Papyrus bilinguis 1 der Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Hamburg. Cahiers d’Orientalisme 18. Geneva, 1989.
  • Schmidt, C., and W. Schubart. PRAXIS PAULOU. Acta Pauli nach dem Papyrus der Hamburger Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek. Veröffentlichungen aus der Hamburger Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek, n.s. 2. Glückstadt and Hamburg, 1936.