Section 1. Biblical Backgrounds

3. Aesop’s Fables, 1st Century BC—1st Century AD

Museum of Christian Missions, South Korea

A fable is a moral truth that is derived from a story in nature. Fables were extremely popular in the ancient world and were often copied and memorized by students. The largest collection of fables was attributed to a Greek named Aesop.
Aesop’s Fables are a collection of moral stories associated with a Greek slave and storyteller named Aesop, who died in 564 BC. Fables are fictional stories using nature to point to truth. They were a popular genre throughout the ancient world. Several fables even find their way into Jewish literature from the 1 st century AD. Fables were extremely popular in the Medieval and Renaissance eras. Because fables were transmitted orally, they were written and edited over time. Babrius (1 st century BC) was an author and editor of one of an extensive collection of 160 Fables attributed to Aesop. This papyrus is the earliest known text of Aesop’s Fables. The papyrus was once part of a papyrus book-roll (or scroll) written in Greek. It preserves an abridged version of the text of Aesop’s Fables 71 in Babrius’ verse. The fable is preceded by and followed by texts of unidentified fables, each divided by lines. The papyrus dates to the 1 st century BC or, at the latest, the early 1 st century AD. This papyrus is contemporaneous with the lifetime of the author. The majority of surviving copies of Aesop’s Fables were student copies, assigned for writing samples and lessons for living, although preserving only small portions of text. With this papyrus, various reader’s marks indicate it was a formally produced book.