Friday, 17 May 2019

Theodore de Bruyn: Prayers Written as Spoken in Exercises, Amulets, and Other Materials

How did prayers recited in the liturgy of the church shape the language of prayer beyond the liturgies of the church? Papyri, parchments, ostraca, and tablets that have survived from Egypt in Late Antiquity (ca. 300-800) preserve various types of non-liturgical prayers. Sometimes the textual-material-practical category into which such occasional prayers fall is relatively obvious: a writing exercise or an amulet or an aide-memoire. Other times it is difficult to categorize the artefact. This paper will survey the language of occasional prayers (Greek and Coptic) in writing exercises, amulets, and other putative categories. It will illustrate the range of formulations, from the brief and informal to the extended and formal. It will explore interactions between spoken and written cadences in those formulations. Finally, it will discuss why people would have written prayers that otherwise they might have said, and what the writing of such occasional prayers reveals about the practice of prayer among Christians in antiquity.

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