1. The Word "Logia" and Its History:

The word logion, which is a diminutive of logos, was regularly used of Divine utterances. There are examples in the classics, the Septuagint, the writings of Josephus and Philo and in four passages in the New Testament (Ac 7:38; Ro 3:2; Heb 5:12; 1Pe 4:11) where it is uniformly rendered both in the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American) "oracles." It is not, therefore, surprising that early Christian writers, who thought of Christ as Divine, applied this term to His sayings also. We find this use, according to the usual interpretation, in the title of the lost work of Papias as preserved by Eusebius, Logion kuriakon exegesis, "Exposition of the Lord's Logia" (Historia Ecclesiastica, III, 39), in that writer's obscure reference to a Hebrew or Aramaic writing by the apostle Matthew (same place) , and in Polycarp's Epistle (section symbol 7), "the logia of the Lord." The modern use of the word is twofold:

(a) as the name of the document referred to by Papins which may or may not be the Q of recent inquirers;

(b) as the name of recently discovered sayings ascribed to Jesus. For the former compare GOSPELS.

The latter is theme of this article.

2. The Discovery of the Logia:

About 9 1/2 miles from the railway station of Beni Mazar, 121 miles from Cairo, a place now called Behnesa marks the site of an ancient city named by the Greeks Oxyrhynchus, from the name of a sacred fish, the modern binni, which had long been known as a great Christian center in early times and was therefore selected by Messrs. Grenfell and Hunt for exploration in behalf of the Egyptian Exploration Fund. They began work on the ruins of the town, January 11, 1897, and on the following day discovered a papyrus leaf inscribed with a number of sayings introduced by the formula legei Iesous, "saith Jesus," some of which were at once seen to be quite new. When excavation was resumed in February, 1903, a second fragment was discovered, which must have belonged to the same or a similar collection, as the formula "saith Jesus" is employed in exactly the same way, and the sayings exhibit the same mixed character. The first of these two fragments was named by the discoverers logia, but the short preface to the second fragment suggests that the word used in the original title may have been logoi, which is found in Ac 20:35 as the title perhaps of a collection of sayings of Jesus used by the apostle Paul. It is convenient, however, to retain logia, at any rate for the present. Other remains of early Christian texts have been found on the same site (compare AGRAPHA) but none of precisely the same character.

3. Description of the Texts:

The first fragment, found and published in 1897, afterward referred to as A, is a leaf from a papyrus book measuring in its present state 5 3/4 X 3 3/4 inches and having 42 lines on the two pages. As it is broken at the bottom it is impossible, in the absence of another leaf, to ascertain or even conjecture how much has been lost. At the top right-hand corner of one page are the letters iota, alpha, used as numerals, that is 11, and it has been suggested that this, with other characteristics, marks the page as the first of the two. The uncial writing is assigned to the 3rd century, perhaps to the early part of it. The text is fairly complete except at the end of the third logion, for the five following lines, and at the bottom. The second fragment, henceforth referred to as B, found in 1903 and published in 1904, has also 42 lines, or rather parts of lines, but on only one page or column, the Christian text being written on the back of a roll the recto of which contained a survey list. The characters of this, too, are uncial, and the date, like that of A, seems to be also the 3rd century, but perhaps a little later. B is unfortunately very defective, the bit of papyrus being broken vertically throughout, so that several letters are lost at the end of each line, and also horizontally for parts of several lines at the bottom.

4. Logia with Canonical Parallels:

Seven of these sayings, or logia, inclusive of the preface of B, have or contain canonical parallels, namely:

(1) A1, which coincides with the usual text of Lu 6:42;

(2) A5a (according to the editio princeps, 6a), which comes very close to Lu 4:24;

(3) A6 (or 7), a variant of Mt 5:14;

(4) the saying contained in the preface of B which resembles Joh 8:52;

(5) B2, ll. 7 f, "The kingdom of heaven is within you," which reminds us of Lu 17:21;

(6) B3, ll. 4 f, "Many that are first shall be last; and the last first," which corresponds to Mr 10:31; compare Mt 19:30; Lu 13:30;

(7) B4, ll. 2-5, "That which is hidden from thee shall be revealed to thee: for there is nothing hidden that shall not be made manifest," which is like Mr 4:22 (compare Mt 10:26; Lu 12:2).

These parallels or partial parallels--for some of them exhibit interesting variations--are, with one exception, of synoptic character.

5. New Sayings:

The other seven or eight logia, although not without possible echoes of the canonical Gospels in thought and diction, are all non-canonical and with one exception new.

Three of them, namely B2 and 3 (apart from the canonical sayings given above) and 5, may be set aside as too uncertain to be of any value. What is preserved of the first ("Who are they that draw you (MS, us) to the kingdom?" etc.) is indeed very tempting, but the restoration of the lost matter is too precarious for any suggestion to be more than an ingenious conjecture. This is seen by comparing the restoration of this logion by the discoverers, Dr. Swete and Dr. C. Taylor, with that proposed by Delssmann (Licht vom Osten1, 329). While the English scholars take helko in the sense of "draw," the German takes it in the sense which it has in the New Testament, "drag," with the result of utter divergence as to the meaning and even the subject of the logion. The logia which remain are undeniably of great interest, although the significance of at least one is exceedingly obscure. The number of the sayings is not certain. Dr. Taylor has shown that in A2 f "and" may couple two distinct utterances brought together by the compiler. If this suggestion is adopted, and if the words after A3 in the editio princeps are regarded as belonging to it and not as the remains of a separate logion, we get the following eight sayings:

(1) "Except ye fast to the world (or "from the world"), ye shall in no wise find the kingdom of God" (A2a);

(2) "Except ye keep the sabbath (Taylor "sabbatize the sabbath"), ye shall not see the Father" (A2b);

(3) "I stood in the midst of the world, and in flesh was I seen of them, and I found all men drunken, and none found I athirst among them" (A3a);

(4) "My soul grieveth over the sons of men, because they are blind in their heart and see not their wretchedness and their poverty" (the last clause restored by conjecture) (A3b);

(5) "Wherever there are two they are not without God, and where there is one alone I say I am with him (after Blass). Raise the stone and (there) thou shalt find me: cleave the wood (Taylor, "the tree") and there am I" (A4);

(6) "A physician does not work cures on them that know him" (A5b);

(7) "Thou hearest with one ear but the other thou hast closed" (largely conjectural but almost certain) (A6);

(8) "(There is nothing) buried which shall not be raised" (or "known") (B4, 1,5).

6. Origin and Character of the Logia:

Attempts have been made to trace the collection represented by these fragments (assuming that they belong to the same work) to some lost gospel--the Gospel according to the Egyptians (Harnack, Van Manen), the Gospel of the Ebionites or the Gospel of the Twelve Apostles (Zahn), or the Gospel according to the Hebrews (Batiffol), but without decisive result. That there is a connection of some kind with the last-mentioned apocryphal work is evident from the fact that B1 ("Jesus saith, Let not him who seeks .... cease until he find Him; and having found Him, let him be amazed; and being amazed he shall reign, and reigning shall rest") is ascribed by Clement of Alexandria to this writing, but that cannot have been the only source. It was probably one of a number drawn on by the compiler. The latter, so far as B is concerned, represents the sayings as spoken by Jesus to ".... and Thomas." In whatever way the gap is supplied--whether by "Philip," or "Judas" or "the other disciples"--one of the Twelve known as Thomas is clearly referred to as the medium or one of the media of transmission. It is possible that the short preface in which this statement is made belongs not to the whole collection but to a part of it. The whole work may, as Swete suggests (Expository Times, XV, 494), have been entitled "Words of Jesus to the Twelve," and this may have been the portion addressed to Thomas. The other fragment, A, might belong to a section associated with the name of another apostle. In any case the Logia must have formed part of a collection of considerable extent, as we know of material for 24 pages or columns of about 21 or 22 lines each. So far as can be judged the writing was not a gospel in the ordinary sense of that term, but a collection of sayings perhaps bearing considerable resemblance as to the form to the Logia of Matthew mentioned by Papias.

The remains of B5, however, show that a saying might be prefaced with introductory matter. Perhaps a short narrative was sometimes appended. The relation to the canonical Gospels cannot be determined with present evidence. The sayings preserved generally exhibit the synoptic type, perhaps more specifically the Lukan type, but Johannine echoes, that is, possible traces of the thought and diction represented in the Fourth Gospel, are not absent (compare A, logia 2 f, and preface to B). It seems not improbable that the compiler had our four Gospels before him, but nothing can be proved. There is no distinct sign of heretical influence. The much-debated saying about the wood and the stone (A4b) undoubtedly lends itself to pantheistic teaching, but can be otherwise understood.

Under these circumstances the date of the compilation cannot at present be fixed except in a very general way. If our papyri which represent two copies were written, as the discoverers think, in the 3rd century, that fact and the indubitably archaic character of the sayings make it all but certain that the text as arranged is not later than the 2nd century. To what part of the century it is to be assigned is at present undiscoverable. Sanday inclines to about 120 AD, the finders suggest about 140 AD as the terminus ad quem, Zahn dates 160-70 AD, and Dr. Taylor 150-200 AD. Further research may solve these problems, but, with the resources now available, all that can be said is that we have in the Logia of Oxyrhynchus a few glimpses of an early collection of sayings ascribed to Jesus which circulated in Egypt in the 3rd century of great interest and possibly of considerable value, but of completely unknown origin.


Of the extensive literature which has gathered round the Logia--as many as fifty publications relating to A only in the first few months--only a few can be mentioned here. A was first published in 1897 as a pamphlet and afterward as Number 1 of Oxyrhynchus Papyri. Valuable articles by Cross and Harnack peared in The Expositor, series V, volume VI, 257 ff, 321 ff, 401 ff, an important lecture by Swete in The Expository Times, VIII, 544 ff, 568, and a very useful pamphlet by Sanday and Lock in the same year. B appeared in 1904 in pamphlet form and as Number 654 of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, with a fuller commentary. Dr. C. Taylor's pamphlets on A and B issued respectively in 1899 and 1905, and Swete's lecture on B, The Expositor T, XV, 488 ff, are of exceptional significance for the study of the subject. Compare also Griffinhoofe, The Unwritten Sayings of Christ (A only), 55-67; Klostermann, Kleine Texte, Numbers 8, pp. 11 f and 11, pp. 17 ff; Resch, Agrapha2, 68-73, 353 f; HDB, article "Agrapha," extra vol; also articles on "Unwritten Sayings" in HDB, 1909, and DCG.

William Taylor Smith

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