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Oxyrhynchus: A City and its Texts, Virtual Exhibition: Daily Life

Order to arrest a Christian: 28 February, AD 256

An order from the head of the council of Oxyrhynchus to the police officers in a country village to arrest a man described as a Christian (lines 4-5). No reason for the arrest is given; we cannot assume that we are looking at evidence for persecution, although this is possible. A period of Christian persecution was instituted under the emperor Valerian in AD 257 and 258.

This is one of the earliest uses of the word ‘Christian’ on a papyrus. Seventy years later, it would no longer have been dangerous to admit to being a Christian.

The Oxyrhynchus Papyri vol.XLII no.3035