Over the years, I have encountered a number of bilingual Christian manuscripts. And I have even seen a number of interesting palimpsests written in different languages. But I have to say that I had never seen a Greek and Pahlavi (Middle Persian) manuscript—at least until now! Meet P.Vindob. G 19802 (Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek): three partial folios from a significant sixth century Greek New Testament parchment codex (known as GA 0225 among New Testament scholars). The surviving pages of the codex contain portions of 2 Corinthians. Not long after the composition of this text, a Persian scribe tore (at least) a bifolium (=two folios, four pages) from the codex, sewed on an additional sheet (see example of the sewing at right), and wrote a Pahlavi text at right angles in black ink across the Greek text (now the scriptio inferior). The Persian scribe did not efface the Greek text. Instead, the scribe knew that the comparably smaller Greek script would not get in the way of the large brush strokes, so he/she did not go to the trouble of washing the Greek text off the parchment. Nonetheless, the thick black strokes of the ink make the Greek text difficult to decipher at times.
The lower, Greek text is generally dated to the mid-sixth century on the grounds of palaeography. In addition, the Persian occupation of Egypt (615-618 C.E.) provides a terminus ante quem (latest possible date) for the Greek text. The Pahlavi text belongs to an important group of Pahlavi documents written exclusively in Egypt during the reign of Persian ruler Khosrow II, the last great king of the Sasanian Empire. On this group of Pahlavi documents, see here. The secure dating of these two separate texts allows us to see that the biblical codex did not have a very long life. If the biblical codex was composed some time in the mid-sixth century and the Pahlavi text sometime around 620, then this once-beautiful codex lived for approximately 70 years. But this raises an interesting historical question: is the demise of this codex connected in some way to Persia's occupation of Egypt? If so, how? The wife of Khosrow II was a Christian, and the Christian religion was tolerated under his reign, so I doubt there were any Bible-burnings going on. Nonetheless, we can only wonder how the biblical codex came into the hands of this particular Persian scribe.