The letter is found in Loeb vol. 266, Select Papyri and is number 120, “From a Penitent Son.” The translation and notes below are my own.
To his mother
tê mêtri: The article functions as a possessive pronoun: literally, the mother
I’m really happy to write to you!
I am always praying that you will be healthy.
Kai dia pantos euchomai. The thought is parallel to Paul’s greeting: 1 Thessalonians 1:2 (ESV), “We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers.” The word for prayer in the letter emphasizes a pray for something. It has the connotation of wish: I want this for you.
I perform worship to Lord Serapis every single day.
Kat’ aikastên êmairan. I’m not quite sure what the word in modifying daily means, because it does not appear in the BDAG or the LSJ. From the context, I think it must be emphatic. Serapis was associated with healing.
I wish you to know that I did not hope to come to the metropolis
Hope: elipzô. A future anticipation. Again, some guess work here on how to translate this concept: it could be “expect”, as the Loeb has it. But this young man sounds more pathetic and pleading than that. He could not even hope to be near his mother.
This is the reason that I did not come to the city.
Charein: reason, on this cause.
I felt shame to come to Karanis, because I walked around in an evil state.
He uses a verb which is not listed in the BDAG or the LSJ. It is built off of the word which mean “modesty” (he says he is naked, which would immodest); but the emphasis is worse here. His “evil state” could be “rotten” or disgusting. “I didn’t want to see you, because I’m disgusting.”
I wrote to you that I am naked.
The “I wrote” is spelled with an “ai” rather than an “ê”. The letter contains a number of such unusual spellings.
I beg you mother, consider how I am.
Loeb has “be reconciled with me.” What verb he means here is unclear. There are two possible words based upon the spelling. One word me divide by lot, therefore (share) an inheritance. There is also the verb to consider.
It’s my fault. I have learned the right lesson from all this.
Literally, For the rest, I know that for myself I have caused [this]. I have learned that which is fit.
I know that I have done wrong.
Loeb has “I have sinned.” It is the verb translated in the NT as “sin”. But I am not certain that the theological connotation of the word is fitting here. The word means to err, miss the mark.
I heard about you from [name is missing]; that you were found in Arsinoite. He [?] told me all about you.
He spoke of you accurately.
Don’t you know that I would rather be crippled than that I should someone else even a dollar?
The money is an “obol”. Crippled could be maimed, disfigured. This last bit rings true to life. Having spoke of himself pitifully throughout he ends with a final justification. I am guessing that acted foolishly, lost everything and is priding himself on not being debt — now.