Papyri in the John Rylands Library

 Christian amulet written on the back of a tax receipt.

Christian amulet written on the back of a tax receipt.

From the Nag Hammadi codices discovered in 1945 to the tiny, business card-sized scrap of papyrus mentioning Jesus' wife that surfaced in 2012, Egyptian papyri have yielded some of the most interesting tidbits about early Christianity. The latest such discovery is now accessible in digital form through our LUNA software courtesy of the John Rylands Library at the University of Manchester. This 1,500-year-old fragment of papyrus, which refers to a combination of Biblical passages, is among the first documents to compare the Last Supper with 'manna from heaven,' and according to researcher Dr. Robert Mazza it was probably worn as an amulet.

[The charm] shows how Christians adopted the ancient Egyptian practice of wearing amulets to protect the wearer against dangers.

Before being used as a charm, however, the original piece of papyrus appears to have been a tax receipt. According Dr Mazza: “The amulet maker would have cut a piece of the receipt, written the charm on the other side and then he would have folded the papyrus to be kept in a locket or pendant. It is for this reason the tax receipt on the exterior was damaged and faded away.”

According to this article on the University of Manchester's website, the charm "shows how Christians adopted the ancient Egyptian practice of wearing amulets to protect the wearer against dangers. This practice of writing charms on pieces of papyrus was continued by the Christians who replaced the prayers to Egyptian and Greco-Roman gods with extracts from the Bible."

You can read more here, or take a spin through the Rylands Papyri Collection here. Who knows what you'll discover.