Papyrus Rylands 458

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Papyrus Rylands 458

Papyrus Rylands 458 is a copy of the Pentateuch in a Greek version of the Hebrew Bible known as the Septuagint. It is a papyrus manuscript in roll form. The manuscript has been assigned palaeographically to the 2nd century BCE, and before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls it was the oldest known manuscript of the Greek Bible. The manuscript has survived in a very fragmentary condition.


The text was written on papyrus in uncial letters. It is designated by the number 957 on the list of Septuagint manuscripts according to the numbering system devised by Alfred Rahlfs. The surviving texts of the Book of Deuteronomy are Deut 23:24(26)–24:3; 25:1–3; 26:12; 26:17–19; 28:31–33; 27:15; 28:2.[1]

The manuscript consists of only 8 small fragments, designated by the letters "a"–"h". Fragment "h" is the smallest and contains only two letters. The words are not divided by spaces, but written continuously. The writer uses the colometrical system, regularly leaving a space at the end of sentence or clause.[1]

The text of the manuscript agrees more with Codex Cottonianus than with Codex Vaticanus.[2]


The manuscript has been used in discussions about the Tetragrammaton, although there are actually blank spaces in the places where some scholars such as C. H. Roberts believe it contained letters.[3] According to Paul E. Kahle, the Tetragrammaton must have been written in the manuscript where these breaks or blank spaces appear.[4] In the Tosefta the practice of erasing the tetragrammaton by water from the manuscripts is recorded.

Shabbat 13:5

— The 'Gilyon[im]' and the [Biblical] books of the Judæo-Christians [ Minim ] are not saved [on the Sabbath] from fire; but one lets them burn together with the [ Tetragrammaton ] names of God written upon them." R. Jose the Galilean says: "On week-days the [ Tetragrammaton ] names of God are cut out and hidden while the rest is burned." R. Tarphon says: "I swear by the life of my children that if they fall into my hands I shall burn them together with the [ Tetragrammaton ] names of God upon them." R. Ishmael says: "If God has said, 'My name that has been written in holiness [i.e., in the "jealousy roll" mentioned in Num. v. 21 et seq.] shall be wiped out by water, in order to make peace between husband and wife,' then all the more should the books of the Judæo-Christians, that cause enmity, jealousy, and contention between Israel and its heavenly Father. [...] As they are not saved from fire, so they are not saved when they are in danger of decaying, or when they have fallen into water, or when any other mishap has befallen them.[5]

Albert Pietersma mentions P. Ryl. 458 "not because it is relevant to [their] discussion but because it has been forcibly introduced into the discussion, in part, one surmises, because it is the oldest extant" since, all the contemporary ancient manuscripts present any form of Divine Name.[6]:91 In 1984 A. Piertersma also states "One hopes that this text will henceforth be banned from further discussion regarding the tetragram, since it has nothing to say about it".[6]:92 Unfortunately Pietersma doesn't include the recent published manuscript: P. Oxy. 3522 the previous year, and other mansucript published almost thirty years later: P. Oxy. 5101, both exemplars of LXX that have written YHWH.

History of the scroll[edit]

Palaeographically the manuscript has been assigned to the mid-2nd century BC. It is the oldest known manuscript of the Septuagint. It is believed it came from Fayyum, where there were two Jewish synagogues.[1]

The manuscript was discovered in 1917 by J. Rendel Harris. It was examined by A. Vacari (1936) and A. Pietersma (1985).[1] The text was edited by C. H. Roberts in 1936.[7]

The manuscript is currently housed at the John Rylands Library (Gr. P. 458) in Manchester,[1] giving the manuscript its name.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Würthwein Ernst (1988). Der Text des Alten Testaments, Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, p. 190.
  2. ^ "Bible manuscripts", Rylands Papyri, UK: Katapi.
  3. ^ Sidney Jellicoe (1968). The Septuagint and Modern Study. Eisenbrauns. pp. 271–2. ISBN 0-931464-00-5.
  4. ^ Paul E. Kahle (1959). The Cairo Geniza. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. p. 222. ISBN 0758162456..
  5. ^ Ludwig Blau (1906). GILYONIM. Jewish Encyclopedia. Executive Committee of the Editorial Board.
  6. ^ a b Albert Pietersma (1984). Albert Pietersma and Claude Cox, ed. KYRIOS OR TETRAGRAM: A RENEWED QUEST FOR THE ORIGINAL LXX (PDF). DE SEPTUAGINTA. Studies in Honour of John William Wevers on his sixty-fifth birthday. Mississauga: Benben Publications.
  7. ^ Roberts, C. H. (1936) Two biblical Papyri in the John Rylands Library Manchester. Manchester 1936, p. 25.

Further reading[edit]

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