ome of the most beautiful prayers written by late antique Christians can be recovered from papyri preserved in the dry sand of Egypt. Written in ancient Greek, the official language of the Egyptian church at that time, and in Coptic, the local language, most of them have since then been fallen out of liturgical use. They testify how the church in the Nile valley addressed God in the morning and evening and in the Eucharist. The researcher who wishes to bring these prayers back to light has to read the cursive handwriting of the often broken papyri. Moreover, their place within the worship needs to be understood and their text positioned within the religious currents of the day. As a result of this complex research, a volume will be prepared with the Greek and Coptic text, English translation and commentary of these texts, together with a searchable digital publication of the texts and translations.
Liturgy was an essential part of Christian life from the earliest times. What was said and heard during the rituals informed the beliefs of the faithful, and their responses to everyday concerns. This important aspect of early Christian life is often overlooked due to the interdisciplinary approach that any treatment of the subject requires. The liturgical papyri, the earliest liturgical manuscripts, have in particular suffered from this neglect, since the lack of a comprehensive treatment has so far hindered their exploitation. Such an introduction has partially been supplied by my PhD thesis and forthcoming book.
However, in order to allow the researchers to explore the full potential of these sources, a new edition of these texts is required as well, which can offer reliable readings, translation, and commentary. This project aims at providing such a corpus for all prayers on papyrus in Greek and Coptic coming from the third to the ninth century by approaching these sources with an interdisciplinary methodology. The editorial work will require papyrological and philological methods, while for the commentary I will rely on comparative liturgical studies and theology. I will also provide a searchable, open-access digital edition of the prayers with English translation. Finally, with the help of the corpus I will inquire into the interplay between Christian magical and liturgical praying.
Claudia Rapp's 'Euchologia' project, based at the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna, is the ideal host for my undertaking, since it is engaged in a similar work of establishing a corpus of Byzantine euchologia, and it has gathered a unique team of experts on Christian prayers in Greek. The editorial work will be assisted by the Papyrussammlung of the Austrian National Library and my mentor in Oslo, Anastasia Maravela, with papyrological and philological expertise.