Sacred scriptures as trash: Biblical papyri from oxyrhynchus

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Most New Testament papyri with a known provenance were found at the site of the ancient Egyptian city of Oxyrhynchus, or more precisely: on that city's rubbish mounds. The fact that sacred scriptures were discarded as garbage is surprising in view of the holiness of Christian biblical manuscripts, intrinsically and physically. Yet the trash aspect of provenance has never been adequately problematized or studied. Taking a social-historical and garbological approach, this article demonstrates that at Oxyrhynchus in antiquity entire manuscripts with biblical writings were deliberately discarded by Christians themselves, unrelated to persecution and issues of canonicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)217-254
Number of pages38
JournalVigiliae Christianae
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 1 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Archaeology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Language and Linguistics
  • History
  • Religious studies
  • Linguistics and Language


  • Garbology
  • New Testament Textual Criticism
  • New Testament papyri
  • Oxyrhynchus/el-Bahnasa
  • Sacredness of biblical manuscripts
  • Septuagint Papyri
  • Trash/discarding


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