Lot 3
  • 3

The 'Wyman Fragment', Bible, Paul's Epistle to the Romans, in Greek uncials, manuscript on vellum [Egypt (probably region of Fustât), late third century]

150,000 - 200,000 GBP
301,250 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Vellum
a fragment, 85mm. by 111mm., part of 14 lines present, in a small late classical Greek uncial without word division, upper margin about 16mm. high and lateral margin about 22mm. wide, very defective, only about 3 lines substantially intact and others with large central lacuna and other losses of text, verso very faded and difficult to read, dampstained and surface cockled, between glass, in a fitted red morocco case gilt



Dr Leland C. Wyman (1897-1988), anthropologist, of Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, who had bought it from an antiquities dealer in Cairo on 3 July 1950. The dealer reported that it had been found by Arabs at Fustât, now in the north-eastern part of Old Cairo, near the site of the Roman fortress of Babylon, where the so-called 'Hanging Church' (El Muallaqa) is one of the oldest Christian sites in Egypt, at least as early as the third century. The acquisition of the fragment is described by Hatch (see below) and in D. M. Brugge and C. J. Frisbie, eds., Navajo Religion and Culture, Selected Views, Papers in Honour of Leland C. Wyman, 1982, p.5. It was sold by Wyman's heirs in our rooms, 21 June 1988, lot 47, to Martin Schøyen; Schøyen MS 113.



W. P. Hatch, 'A Recently Discovered Fragment of the Epistle to the Romans', Harvard Theological Review, XLV, 1952, pp.81-85; J. Finegan, Light from the Ancient Past, 1959, p.431; K. Aland, Kurzgefasste Liste der Greichischen Handschriften des Neuen Testaments, I, 1963, p.55; B. M. Metzger, The Text of the New Testament, 2 ed., 1968, p.61; J. Finegan, Encountering New Testament Manuscripts, A Working Introduction to Textual Criticism, 1974, p.92 (and 1980 ed., p.79); J. van Haelst, Catalogue des papyrus littéraires juifs et chrétiens, 1976, p.178, no.495; S. S. Sibinga, 'A Fragment of Paul at Amsterdam (0270)', Supplements to Novum Testamentum, ed. T. Baarda, 1978, p.31; H. R. Balz et al., Theologische Realenzyklopädie, 1980, VI, p.122; S. Pedersen, Die Paulinische Literatur und Theologie, 1980, p.209; P.W. Comfort, Early Manuscripts & Modern Translations of the New Testament, 1990, pp.73 and 132-3; K. Aland and B. Aland, The Text of the New Testament, 1990 (reprinted 1995, etc.), pp.57, 76, 95, 105, 123 and 240, and pl.14; P. W. Comfort, The Quest for the Original Text of the New Testament, 1992, p.123; F. E. Gaebelein and J. D. Douglas, The Expositor's Bible Commentary, X, 1992, p.58; E. J. Epp and G. D. Fee, Studies in the Theory and Method of New Testament Textual Criticism, 1993, p.92; B. D. Ehrman and M. W. Holmes, The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research, 1995, p.6; C. P. Thiede, Ein Fisch für den römischen Kaiser ... Die Welt des Jesus Christus, 1998, p.323; T. K. Heckel, Vom Evangelium des Markus zum viergestaltigen Evangelium (Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament, 120), 1999, p.210; P.W. Comfort and D.P. Barrett, The Complete Text of the Earliest New Testament Manuscripts, 1999, pp.646-7, with transcription; A. R. Millard, Reading and Writing in the Time of Jesus, 2000, p.45; J. K. Elliott, A Bibliography of Greek New Testament Manuscripts, 2 ed., 2000, p.87; L. J. Gugliotto, Handbook for Bible Studies, 2000, p.341; P. W. Comfort and D. P. Barrett, The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts, 2001, pp.696-97; U. Victor et al., Antike Kultur und Neues Testament, 2003, p.189; S. McKnight and G. Osborne, eds., The Face of New Testament Studies, 2004, p.65; R. L. Mullen, The Expansion of Christianity, 2004, p.289; M. J. Kruger, The Gospel of the Savior, An Analysis of P.Oxy.840, 2005, p.22; S.E. Porter, 'Papyrological Evidence', The Bible as Book, The Transmission of the Greek Text, ed. S. McKendrick and O. O'Sullivan, 2003, p.183, n.52; P. W. Comfort, Encountering the Manuscripts, An Introduction to New Testament Palaeography and Textual Criticism, 2005, p.198; P. Cherubini, Forme e modelli della tradizione manoscritta della Biblia, 2005, pp.28 and 538; R. Pintaudi, Papyri Graeca Schøyen, 2005 (Papyrologica Florentina, XXXV), pp.65-71; R. Jewett et al., Romans, A Commentary, 2007, p.10; J. R. Royse, Scribal Habits in Early Greek New Testament Papyri, 2008, p.15; C. Blomberg and J. F. Markley, A Handbook of New Testament Exegesis, 2010, p.17; F. J. Matera, Romans, 2010, p.11; D. C. Parker, 'The Majuscule Manuscripts of the New Testament', Manuscripts, Texts, Theology, Collected Papers 1977-2007, 2010, p.40; S. Westerholm, The Blackwell Companion to Paul, 2011, p.218; and A. J. Hultgren, Paul's Letter to the Romans, A Commentary, 2011, p.676.

Catalogue Note


The earliest witness to the text of one of the most important passages of the New Testament, and one of the oldest vellum manuscripts in codex form. The fragment comprises Romans 4:23-5:3 on the recto, and Romans 5:8-13 on the verso, in the original language. This includes the crucial passage on the justification by faith (Romans 5:1), which forms the core of the Epistle and of the theology of Christianity: 'Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.'

The script is consistent with the fragment's accepted dating in the late third century, resembling classical literary uncials (cf. lot 1). Hatch calculated in 1952 that the manuscript was part of a vellum codex with original dimensions of about 150mm. by 127mm., almost square, and that it would have had 24 lines within a written area of c.117mm. by 85mm. In all probability, the Epistles of Paul were the earliest texts of any kind commonly written in codex format (cf. H.Y. Gamble, Books and Readers in the Early Church, 1995, esp. pp.58-65), and the Wyman Fragment is among the oldest surviving examples. The Codex Sinaiticus, the primary manuscript for most of the Greek Bible, dates from the first half of the fourth century. About three dozen New Testament fragments, mostly on papyrus, are ascribed to the third century, or optimistically earlier, of which only four others include parts of Romans. They are: (a) Cambridge University Library, Add. MS.7211, with portions of Romans 8; (b) Heidelberg Universitätsbibl. Pap.slg. Inv.45, with parts of Romans 1-2, 3-4 (to verse 8 only), 6 and 9; (c) Dublin, Chester Beatty Library (+ Ann Arbor Inv. 6238), with Romans from 15:17 onwards; and (d) Oklahoma City, Green Collection, with parts of Romans 9-10 (Verbum Domini, 2012, p.13, no.3).   For the present passage, the Wyman fragment is universally accepted as the earliest witness. Christianity was then still an illegal cult in the Roman empire (Constantine adopted Christianity in 312 A.D.); an old man at the date of the present manuscript could in theory have met someone whose grandparents saw Jesus.

The manuscript is 0220 in Aland's standard list of Greek uncials of the New Testament, and it was classified by him as 'Category I Strict text', the highest level of accepted accuracy. It agrees with the Codex Vaticanus in all readings except the crucial verb in Romans 5:1, 'we have peace with God', whereas Vaticanus and other early manuscripts used the subjunctive, 'may we have peace with God'; the Wyman reading is now regarded as authentic.

To judge from the datings given by Aland, the Wyman fragment is the second-oldest New Testament fragment of any kind on vellum, the medium which came to dominate biblical manuscript production for well over a millenium.

Since its first publication in 1952 and especially since its sale in 1988, the fragment has received enormous scholarly attention. The following bibliography, where it is cited or described, is not remotely comprehensive but conveys a sense of the item's iconic status in biblical studies.