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The Oldest Christian Letter Outside the Bible Discovered: Here’s What It Says

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A 1,700-year old document has been determined as the oldest Christian letter in history outside Biblical texts. What it says has set it apart from most ancient writings.


Researchers have newly discovered the oldest Christian letter written outside the New Testament. According to CBN News, the ancient letter dates back to 230 AD—making it nearly 1,700-years-old. The 1,700-year-old letter is older than all previously known Christian sources from Roman Egypt by 40-50 years. The papyrus titled P.Bas. 2.43 has been a part of the collection of the University of Basel for over 100 years.

As noted by Christian Headlines, the letter pens an exchange between two men of faith—Arrianus to Paulus. In the letter, Arranius explains their everyday lives from asking for fish liver sauce to navigating political leadership in a pagan world. This casual exchange about life was contrary to the way Christians were often depicted in ancient Egypt as eccentric and withdrawn from society due to persecution.

Basel University researchers note the document is fairly ordinary about the content of the document with the exception of the closing line. The writer closes by hoping his brother “will prosper in the Lord”  per Ancient Origins.

This is what made the letter stand out from the rest of the ancient writings. Professor and Ancient History at University of Basel explains: “The use of this abbreviation, known as a nomen sacrum in this context, leaves no doubt about the Christian beliefs of the letter writer…It is an exclusively Christian formula that we are familiar with from New Testament manuscripts.” CBN News quotes.

The University of Basel has now made digital images of the ancient Christian papyrus available on their international database just this June.