The Greek Papyri 265
of New Testament Greek and, particularly in the case of the
Gospels, have brought it more into touch with the world from
which it sprang; even St. Paul, whose style and thought is most
his own, had to make concessions to the reader of the day.
Such words as Ttapovaia (used of the Second Advent) or awzi-
Srjais (conscience) can be placed in their contemporary setting,
and we can form some idea of the overtones and associations they
carried with them; while others such as dpxwroi/zTjv (chief
shepherd) or opOoTroSelv (to walk uprightly), are seen to be not
eccentric neologisms but normal, if infrequently used, expressions.
More difficult and more elusive is the question how far the
conditions of life as the papyri represent them provide an appro-
priate background for the events described in the New Testa-
ment. Here, though we must guard against the tendency to
press every chance parallelism into the service of exegesis, we
must remember that even such specifically religious works as the
Gospels, which have their own canons to obey, yet had to fit into
the framework of the society of their day. A single example
must suffice. When in a report of legal proceedings of A.D. 88
we find the prefect C. Septimius Vegetus admonishing the
plaintiff for imprisoning on his own initiative a man probably his
debtor (a practice to which there are plenty of parallels in the
papyri), it is legitimate to recall the parable of the unmerciful
servant; and when the prefect summing up observes 'you deserve
scourging (for this action) . . . but I make a present of you to
the crowd and will show myself more merciful than you*, the
story of Pilate and Barabbas forces itself upon our minds.
Just as the Christian letters and the Christian literary texts
supplement each other in that they combine to give a picture
of the Church in Egypt, so a similar relation may be asserted
between the Greek literary papyri and some of the documents.
Even in isolation the former have their value for the historian.
A phrase such as 'Hellenization of the Near East' takes on a
more definite meaning when we reflect that on the site of the