The Date of P.Oxy. XLIII 3119, the Deputy-Prefect Lucius Mussius Aemilianus, and the Persecution of Christians by Valerian and Gallienus


P. Oxy. XLIII 3119, Christianity persecution, persecution of christians, History of Christianity


P.Oxy. XLIII 3119 is a fragmentary papyrus that measures 25.5 × 9.0 cm (H × W) and contains the remainsof what appears to be two of Þ cial letters preserved on a roll. 1 While their respective contents are notentirely clear since at least half of the lines of text are lost this papyrus has nevertheless garnered consider-able attention since the second text on two occasions refers to “Christians”. 2 Consequently, the editor ofthe text, John Rea, remarked: “Incomprehensible as this fragment still remains, it has strong claim on ourattention.” 3 Central to the interest in the two references to “Christians” is the date of the document. Reaargued that on paleographic grounds the text dated to the third century and based on the sole chronologi-cal reference on the papyrus, a reference to a “year 7” in l. 11 of the Þ rst text, he concluded that the cor-respondence could have been written: 227/28, year 7 of Severus Alexander; 243/44, year 7 of Gordian III;249 (autumn only), year 7 of Philip; 259/60, year 7 of Valerian and Gallienus; 275 (autumn only), year 7 ofAurelian; 281/82, year 7 of Probus; 290/91, year 7 of Diocletian. 4 While Rea went on to suggest that 259/60,“year 7” of Valerian and Gallienus, appeared like the most likely candidate since they had initiated a perse-cution of Christians and one might therefore expect to Þ nd references to “Christians” in of Þ cial documentsof the time, he remained tentative and simply gave a third-century date for the papyrus. A short time laterJ. E. G. Whitehorne published what is still considered the de Þ nitive treatment of this text. 5 After describingthe text and its features in some detail Whitehorne considered all of the dating possibilities outlined by Reaand via a comparison with Christian sources made a circumstantial case that the document should be datedto 259/60, “year 7” of Valerian and Gallienus, and that the text is best seen as emanating from the persecu-tion against Christians initiated by these emperors. 6 While he was more certain about this date than Rea, hestill exercised caution and reservation and admitted that the evidence was indirect. 7 Notwithstanding thisfact, the date promoted by Whitehorne has achieved widespread acceptance, 8 and there are only a handfulwho question this dating because it relies on circumstantial evidence derived from Christian sources.

Original Publication Citation

“The Date of P.Oxy. XLIII 3119, the Deputy-Prefect Lucius Mussius Aemilianus, and the Persecution of Christians by Valerian and Gallienus.” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 186 (2013): 111–113.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date







Religious Education


Ancient Scripture

University Standing at Time of Publication

Associate Professor