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Artefact ID453
TM IDTM 33317
Findspot (DEChriM ID)12   (Ismant al-Ḫarāb)
Writing mediumSheet/roll
Text contentDocumentary

P.Kellis I 63: Manichean letter.

Letter sent by someone whose name is lost to Pausanias and Pisistratos, with greetings in God, apparently replying to their request for a letter of recommendation and confirming receipt of a few commodities.

The editor notes the elegant phrasings which are quite uncommon in ordinary Greek private letters and quotes I. Gardner comments about this exceptional letter: "The Manichaean beliefs held by the letter's author, and presumably shared by Pausanias and Pisistratos, are made evident by the reference to 'our lord the Paraclete' (l. 27-28). Mani claimed to have been the recipient of direct revelation from his divine Twin-Spirit, which being was understood to have been the 'Paraclete' foretold by Jesus (Jn. 14:16); and with whom Mani became 'one body and one spirit' (Kephalaia 15.23-24). This reference here in 63, and two amongst the Coptic personal letters (P.KellisCopt. I 19, line 9, and P.KellisCopt. I 35, line 27), answers a long-running discussion among scholars as to whether the community directly identified their founder with the Paraclete (in catholic Christianity identified as the Holy Spirit), or otherwise in some sense held the divine and human apart. It would seem that, at this popular level at least, the identification became complete. Once the Manichaean authorship is noted various other distinctive features in the letter's terminology can also be understood with reference to the community's doctrine".

The text was written parallel with the fibres on both sides of the sheet, with a postscript in the recto left margin, and address on the verso.

Selection criteriaChristian terms/formulas/concepts, Archaeological context associated with Christian markers
Date from300
Date to349
Dating criteria

Palaeography ("somewhere in the first part of the 4th c.") and prosopography: the Pausanias here is likely to be the same as the one in P.Kellis 4 (331, from House 2) and P.Kellis 38 (333, also from House 3).

Absolute/relative dateRelative date
Archaeological context

House 3, room 6, level 4, South wall

Accession number

Kellis, excavations Dakleh Oasis Project 1986-, inv. P. 87


Editio princeps

• Worp, Klaas, with contributions by J.E.G. Whitehorne and R.W. Daniel. 1995. Greek Papyri from Kellis I. (P.Kell.G.). Nos. 1-90. Dakhleh Oasis Project: Monograph 3. Oxford: Oxbow Books, no. 63: 167-170 and pl. 63.

Valérie Schram, 2021
Suggested citation
Valérie Schram, 2021, "Artefact ID 453", 4CARE database - Fourth-Century Christian Archaeological Record of Egypt,