P.Oxy. 840 is a fragment of a lost Gospel that was published by Grenfell & Hunt in 1908.
Prima facie P.Oxy. 840 contains a controversy dialogue between Jesus and a high priest
regarding purity set within the temple of Jerusalem. The research history shows that the most
controversial aspects of P.Oxy. 840 are its historical plausibility, what inter-texts relate to it,
how the text is to be reconstructed, and what kind of Christianity lies behind P.Oxy. 840. This
dissertation attempts to classify the Christianity of P.Oxy. 840. In the past three trajectories
have been proposed in answer to this problem: orthodoxy, Gnosis and Jewish Christianity.
This study attempts to answer this research problem by means of a comparative
analysis of P.Oxy. 840's inter-texts. A comparative key for analysing texts is designed in
accordance with Smith's comparative approach to religions. 22 Representative texts from the
three trajectories are compared with P.Oxy. 840 that show comparable theological positions
regarding purity and anti-Judaism, and that utilize the same form (chria). The three
trajectories, Gnosis, Jewish Christianity and Proto-Orthodoxy are then described as proper
taxonomies that can help us classify texts according to their trajectory. The dissertation's
classificatory approach understands the various trajectories descriptively in terms of each
other, instead of right or wrong (orthodox or heterodox). At the same time the study is
informed by a historical conscience, sensitive to the development of theology within the
Chapter 4 is the articulation of the author's reading of P.Oxy. 840. Two theological
positions emerge: Firstly, P.Oxy. 840 contains strong anti-Jewish polemic, accusing its
opponents of lust. Secondly, P.Oxy. 840 motivates the supersession of immersion by baptism
Chapter 5 looks at Gnostic inter-texts comparable to P.Oxy. 840. It emerges that
Gnostics had the same symbolic understanding of purity as the Proto-Orthodox had. Bovon's
idea of a typical Gnostic anti-baptism is undermined. Bovon underestimates the metaphorical
reference of "baptism." The similarities between P.Oxy. 840 and the CMC is judged to be
circumstantial. Similar logical methodology and a shared literary canon can account for this.
Anti-Jewish polemic is not that common in Gnostic literature.
Chapter 6 analyses Jewish-Christian inter-texts comparable to P.Oxy. 840. Problems
in Kruger's identification of P.Oxy. 840 with the Nazarene community are shown. By
looking at Jewish Christian literature it becomes evident that P.Oxy. 840's argumentation is entirely different. P.Oxy. 840 undermines the whole law, while this literature is at pains to
uphold it. P.Oxy. 840 appears ignorant of Jewish theology.
Chapter 7 examines Proto-Orthodox inter-texts (or at least inter-texts later absorbed
by Proto-Orthodoxy) comparable to P.Oxy. 840. Of all the trajectories anti-Judaism plays the
biggest role with the Proto-Orthodox. The accusation of Jewish lust becomes characteristic of
the emerging Orthodox movement. In the literature of the Proto-Orthodox (both that written
by them and that appropriated by them later on) it becomes ever more important to distance
oneself from Jewish institutions. Supersessionism becomes an important tool to do this. One
of these institutions that is superseded is purificatory immersion by baptism. This idea
develops on a trajectory that can be expressed as Q-Mark-John-Hebrews-Barnabas-
Justin/P.Oxy. 840. While Justin makes his point through the invention of abstract Christian
philosophy, P.Oxy. 840 is an institutional dinosaur that utilizes the chria (attached to the
genre of Gospel) to make its point.