A 1500-year-old Greek document written between 574 and 660 connects the Last Supper and the New Covenant, themes important to both ancient and modern Christianity. The document was discovered in the village of Tertembuthis, a village present inside an ancient city that is now located in the town of el-Ashmunein.
The document contains passages from Psalm 78:23-24 and Matthew 26:28-30 that were written on the back of a grain tax receipt that was folded (the folded document measured 1.2 x 4.1 inches in size) in a fashion akin to how people fold documents when putting them in a secure place.
Researchers say that the small receipt itself may have been folded and placed into a locket or pendant for magic charm purposes. The document marks the first time that the Last Supper is connected to the Old Testament manna in the wilderness and shows the use of magic within the Christian context. “This is an important and unexpected discovery as it’s one of the first recorded documents to use magic in the Christian context and the first charm ever found to refer to the Eucharist – the Last Supper – as the manna of the Old Testament,” said researcher Roberta Mazza.
Mazza says that, despite the quotations from both passages, the writer’s spelling leaves much to be desired, and some of the words are in the wrong order, suggesting that the individual was recalling the words by heart rather than writing them down in a scribe-like manner. Mazza says that this practice of writing down scripture and keeping it close to one’s chest on a locket or pendant is similar to what contemporary Christians do with the virgin Mary or even the Bible: “This practice is not very far from nowadays use to wear necklaces with the cross or images of Jesus, Mary, or the saints, for protection. In many Catholic churches, nowadays believers are given holy pictures of the saints with a prayer on the back that you can bring along again for protection.”
Mazza presented the findings this week at an international conference at the University of Manchester UK and will appeal for their publication with the Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik.