Dating Early Christian Papyri: Old and New Methods – Introduction

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This article provides a methodological introduction to the issues and questions raised in the dossier: How can we attribute a date to ancient papyri when it is not indicated in the text? What methods have been employed so far for dating and how reliable are they? What kind of conscious and unconscious biases underpin the attribution of a date to Christian papyri in particular? Is scientific analysis a more reliable means than palaeography to establish the age of composition of an ancient text? After discussing some research performed on papyri from the Rylands collection, bearing early Christian texts, the author addresses some of the strengths and pitfalls of any of the methods currently available, ranging from palaeography to radiocarbon dating and Raman spectroscopy. In conclusion, it is argued that more clarity and transparency are needed in the way motivations for attributing a date to a fragment are provided in academic publications and that only a multidisciplinary approach can partially overcome the problems at stake.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal for the Study of the New Testament
Early online date1 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2019