The discovery of a 1,500 year-old papyrus charm is making waves in the theological world.
Coined The Last Supper Charm for its reference to Jesus Christ’s Last Supper with his disciples, the papyrus charm is thought to be the “first ever found to refer to the Last Supper and use magic in the Christian context,” according to Capitol OTC.
The papyrus charm was discovered in a vault of historical antiquities in a Manchester library at John Rylands Research Institute in the United Kingdom.
Written in Greek and dated between 575 and 660 AD, the tiny document from Roman Egypt has been housed in the library since 1901, but no one had taken notice of it. However, Roberta Mazza, a research fellow at the John Rylands Research Institute came across it when she was examining thousands of papyrus documents.
“It’s one of the first recorded documents to use magic in the Christian context and the first charm ever found to refer to the Eucharist – the Last Supper – as the manna of the Old Testament.”
Mazza said the papyrus charm includes passages from Psalm 78: 23-24, Matthew 26: 28-30 and other biblical passages.
“To this day, Christians use biblical passages from the Bible as protective charms so our amulet marks the start of an important trend in Christianity.”
The amulet Mazza speaks of is the one probably used to carry the small papyrus document around in. The tiny document, folded up even smaller, was placed inside an amulet and worn as a protection charm. The Egyptians started the practice, but as Christianity grew in popularity, Christians would replace the prayers expressed to Egyptian and Greco-Roman Gods, and replace them with prayers to their own.
Mazza said that creases are clearly visible in the document, indicating that the owner folded up the document several times so that it would fit inside a small amulet. The creases indicate that the document was folded up to a size of only 3 by 10.5 centimeters.
Further examination of the papyrus charm via spectral imaging technology revealed that it was actually written on the back of a receipt the original owner probably received from payment on a grain tax, according to Fox News.
“The amulet maker would have cut a piece of the receipt, written the charm on the other side and then he would have folded the papyrus to be kept in a locket or pendant.”
What’s particularly fascinating, from a historical perspective, is that though the amulet maker clearly knew his Bible passages, he still made lots of mistakes, said Mazza. Some of the words were misspelled, and there are other errors in the passages, so the words were most likely written from memory.
Roberta Mazza revealed her findings last week at a conference entitled, From Egypt to Manchester: Unraveling the John Rylands Papyrus Collection.
image via The Cairo Post