For 100 years, John Ryland’s library at England’s University of Manchester didn’t realize it had a 1,500 year old Egyptian manuscript that was actually a Christian good luck charm.
It was recently discovered by Dr. Roberta Mazza as she searched through the library’s collection of ancient manuscripts. Mazza works for a research institute attached to the library.
The charm was written on a piece of papyrus that had earlier been used as a tax receipt for a grain purchase.
According to Dr. Mazza, this document was probably part of a charm that would have been part of an amulet hung around a person’s neck. The amulets were often quite decorative having rare stones on the cover. Some were even made from gold.
Amulets contained prayers to Greek or Egyptian gods that were written on papyrus, folded up, and put inside. These messages were believed to have ‘magical’ properties and were used to ward off danger, sickness and evil spirits. Ancient medical practitioners would even assign specific messages to be put in an amulet to cure people of diseases. They were even put on animals for protection (Judges 8:21, 26)
Commenting on the charm, Mazza said in the University’s news release:
“It’s doubly fascinating because the amulet maker clearly knew the Bible, but made lots of mistakes: some words are misspelled and others are in the wrong order. This suggests that he was writing by heart rather than copying it.
“It’s quite exciting. Thanks to this discovery, we now think that the knowledge of the Bible was more embedded in sixth century AD Egypt than we previously realized.”
Using spectral imaging techniques, Mazza discovered the person had written the charm on a grain tax-receipt for a sale that took place in the village of Tertembuthis in Egypt.
Here is what the charm said:
‘Fear you all who rule over the earth.
‘Know you nations and peoples that Christ is our God.
‘For he spoke and they came to being, he commanded and they were created; he put everything under our feet and delivered us from the wish of our enemies.
‘Our God prepared a sacred table in the desert for the people and gave manna of the new covenant to eat, the Lord’s immortal body and the blood of Christ poured for us in remission of sins.’
Source: Daily Mail
The good and bad
First it seems the person who owned the amulet had become a Christian and switched out the message to what was probably an Egyptian god, with a Christian one.
But as well it showed the person was putting a Christian spin on a pagan practice.
According to the University of Manchester news release:
The remarkable document uniquely contains some of the earliest documented references to the Last Supper and ‘manna from heaven’. It is the earliest surviving document to use the Christian Eucharist liturgy – which outlines the Last Supper – as a protective charm.
The Old Testament is very clear in its condemnation of amulets common at this time classifying them as divination. It even condemned Jews who were doing similar things — sewing magical messages on sleeves and garments to bring good luck (Ezekiel 13:18-23).
As people put their trust in these messages, they became a snare entrapping people and turning them away from a personal relationship with God.
The passage says the righteous were “disheartened” by the activity, because they put their trust in a “falsehood” and the wicked were emboldened by the practice believing it brought divine protection from God.
For Christians, faith in God alone is our protector.
Faith preachers and their charms
Unfortunately, I believe Christians are still using charms today. I read the story about a faith preacher (I will not name him) who during a service a few years back handed out smooth, shiny stones to the 650 people in attendance.
He was preaching about prosperity and the perilous economic times the US was going through. As he strode down the aisle, he told the story of Gideon (Judges 6:1-30) who was preparing to sacrifice a goat. Gideon placed it on a rock and an Angel of the Lord appeared and ignited the sacrifice by sending fire from the rock (v 21). The message here was God’s miraculous provision through the stone.
He held up one of the shiny stones he was handing out and told people to take one and then rub it every time they felt economic pressure like higher gas prices. As the rock had done for Gideon, these stones would magically supply.
After the offering, he then offered an igniting prayer over the stones.
Is this faith or a charm?
It is difficult to know. A lot of it is based on the motivation of the person using them.
I sometimes wonder if faith preachers even treat their prosperity verses in much the same way — magical charms that will bring you good luck.
If they are, Ezekiel says they will “dishearten” even the righteous.