Thirty of the rarest, earliest pages of the Epistles of St. Paul, dating from 180 to 220 AD, have been digitized and are now an interactive app usable on iPhones and iPads. "What's especially important is the direct experience with the ancient world," In an interview with AnnArbor.com, Arthur Verhoogt, acting archivist of the library’s papyrus collection, said "History is nice to read about but it's much more important to be able to touch history."
Known as Papyrus 46, it is believed to be the oldest surviving copy of the Letters of St. Paul. Out of the 104 page collection, 30 pages or "leaves" are located in a collection at the University of Michigan, 56 leaves are found at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin and 18 are remain undiscovered. A leaf is made up of two pages of a book.
Prepared by the Digital Media Commons 3-D Lab at the University of Michigan, the app allows users to flip through the letters as though they were viewing a book. App users can let their fingers do the walking and translate the Koine Greek text into English. Annotations explain translation discrepancies and highlight errors put into the text by the original scribe or scribes. According to Verhoogt, the Greek text is continuous and thus shows "no word division, no punctuation, no nothing." However, the new translation on the app allows for editing, such as simple punctuation.
Although biblical text is derived from the letters, the app's translation of the text is more literal than what is found in a modern edition of Holy Scripture.There are also other treasures, said Verhoogt, who added "This manuscript, it has the text that you know in the Bible, but there are many texts in the manuscript that didn't make it into the Bible."
The Ann Arbor-based institution bought the text more than 80 years ago from antiquities dealers in Egypt. The dealers told university experts that the leaves were discovered in a cemetery containing the remains of early Christian monastics. The university’s papyrus collection of 17,000 fragments is the largest in North America, and one of the five largest collections in the world, according to university officials.
The new app has changed the experience of the viewing Papyrus 46 for experts such as Verhoogt. The actual letters are each individually framed, making it difficult to consider them as a whole. The app is not bound by glass frames like the actual copy but treats the individual leaves like a pages in a book.
To download the free app for an iPhone or iPad, search for “PictureIt: EP” at iTunes here.
Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.