Testamentum Domini [The Last Will and Testament of Jesus], in Greek.

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Testamentum Domini [The Last Will and Testament of Jesus], in Greek.


Eastern Mediterranean (probably Constantinople),


5th c.


I find tiny fragments of medieval manuscripts irresistible, often the smaller the better, and I have well over 600 of them, covering a huge range of texts. This is part of a small group of ancient parchment scraps that I bought in London in 2001. The clutch included some of the earliest Biblical fragments known from the eastern Empire, probably from Constantinople or possibly Antioch, as well as seventeen pieces of the celebrated fifth- to sixth-century Codex Gregorii, possibly once in the imperial library of Justinian the Great, emperor 527–65. This little fragment, hardly an inch high, is the smallest of all. It is by far the oldest extant piece of the Testamentum Domini, an early Christian apocryphal book of the New Testament, purporting to be the Will of Jesus, written in Greek and supposedly given by him to his disciples after the Resurrection. The text was hitherto reconstructed only from primitive translations into Syriac and other near eastern languages, none surviving from earlier than the eighth century. This fragment, in uncial script resembling the Codex Sinaiticus, is by 300 years the oldest witness to the text and is the only specimen of the Testamentum Domini in its original language. It has now been published in The Journal of Theological Studies 62, 2011, pp. 118–35.


Christopher de Hamel