Public Reading from Early Christian Manuscripts

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper, not in proceeding


Interest in the distinctive features of early Christian manuscripts (e.g. codex format, staurogram, nomina sacra, handwriting, and lectional signs) has increased significantly over the last decade. They are no longer merely identified and compared, but also put into a sociocultural context of early Christian scribal habits and reading culture. Similarly, more attention is constantly being directed towards the oral/aural event of public reading (or performance) of early Christian writings.

This paper demonstrates how focused studies of early Christian manuscripts can deepen our understanding of public reading in early Christian congregations. With examples from several early manuscripts (primarily P46, P66, and P75) it shows how features such as format, layout, and lectional signs affect not only the aesthetics of a manuscript, but also how it functions in public reading. It indicates, for example, to what extent distinctive features impart restrictions upon the person reading aloud. It explores how different formats affect the extent to which the reader can express the content of the text (vocally and bodily) and it discusses the impact of lectional signs upon the range of people who can manage the task of reading aloud from such a manuscript.

Finally, it summarizes the findings and presents an interpretation of the broad implications of early Christian manuscripts upon public reading. This includes replies to questions such as: Did the lectional signs found in early Christian manuscripts function as “reader’s aids” in public reading? Were professional readers (or lectors) needed for public reading from such manuscripts? To what extent do the results challenge or support the notion that early Christian writings were performed with gestures, mimicry, and vocal expression?


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Religious Studies


  • Early Christian Manuscripts, Manuscript Studies, Public Reading, Lectional Signs, Lector, Orality, Performance, New Testament, Textual Criticism
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2013
Publication categoryResearch
EventSociety for Biblical Literature Annual Meeting 2013 - Baltimore, United States
Duration: 2013 Nov 232013 Nov 26


ConferenceSociety for Biblical Literature Annual Meeting 2013
CountryUnited States

Bibliographic note

The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015. The record was previously connected to the following departments: New Testament Studies (015017052)