Hi, John! Can you comment this news, please? http://www.manchester.ac.uk/discover/news/article/?id=12687 Thank you!
I had already seen this article. The papyrus is an interesting find, but I believe the author exaggerates the significance. This is not unusual, as authors have a tendency to overstate the significance of a particular piece, for the obvious reason that it will draw attention to themselves and will help their career. I do not mean to be cynical, or even critical of the author, but this is the natural human tendency, even for sincere scholars.
I have looked at the evidence and I have two responses which explain why, in my opinion, the author is overstating the significance.
1. He/she neglected to spin an alternative hypothesis, which is a classic science error. It is possible that the person folded this papyrus so that he/she could use it for devotional purposes, not as a charm. To be honest, I saw no evidence here to convince me this was used as a charm, although I agree with the author that this is a possible interpretation. Although it is possible, it is not convincing and I am not even sure it is the most likely interpretation, never mind claiming that it is THE interpretation. To me, it seems even more likely that it was used for worship, not as a good luck charm.
2. Besides, it is common knowledge for scholars of early Christianity that by the seventh century (the given date for this papyrus), Christianity had moved very far toward superstitious behaviors, including praying through saints, believing in the power of relics to heal, worshipping at the tombs of “saints” and much more. The false doctrine of transubstantiation had already become widespread at this time, which might also explain superstitious use of items related to the Lord’s supper. Although I am a bit suspicious of this scholar’s interpretation, it is not because it would be surprising that a seventh century Christian used the scriptures as a kind of a charm, but because the evidence is not strong enough. So, this is an interesting find, but I believe the author overstates the significance of this interesting miniscule folded papyrus.