To continue my posts about private collecting of historical artifacts, I provide below extracts from a video of Josh McDowell that contains some highly disturbing comments and images. (Thanks to an interested reader of this blog for bringing the video to my attention.) In this video (posted below), McDowell explicitly explains his involvement in the deciphering of mummy masks, images of which Scott Carroll has also made public (see my last post on this here). McDowell is a Christian evangelical apologist with no scholarly credentials. He is perhaps best known for his book, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, which attempts to prove the legitimacy, relevancy, and historical accuracy of the Bible. This book has itself become a "Bible" for fundamentalist Christians. What we learn from this video is that, apparently, McDowell is one of the main persons dismounting mummy masks. He states in the video that he doesn't know what he is doing and has to rely on what scholars tell him. In his PowerPoint, he shows many of the same images that appear in Carroll's PowerPoint in the video I posted last week.
All of this is deeply disconcerting and I would ask readers of this blog to disseminate this post widely. The scholarly community needs to be more and more aware of these practices, how these artifacts are being used, and the religious agendas behind it all.
“It was in here that we discovered Mark, the oldest ever: back to the first century. Before then it was 120-142, the John Ryland Papyri [sic]. Now, what you do, you take this mask [chuckles]…Scholars die when they hear it, but we own them so you can do it. You take these manuscripts, we soak them in water. There is a process we use with huge microwaves to do it but it’s not quite as good. We put it down into water at a certain temperature and you can only use Palmolive soap, the rest will start to destroy the manuscripts; Palmolive soap won’t. And you start massaging it for about 30-40 minutes you’ll pull it up and ring it out, literally ring it out, these are worth millions, and you’ll put it back in for 30-45 minutes.”
McDowell's statement that "we own them" suggests he is heavily involved in this collection, perhaps financially. I'm interested in learning more about the Palmolive soap and those "huge microwaves." In any case, McDowell explicitly reveals where the so-called "first-century" Gospel of Mark came from: a mummy mask.
“And you start pulling it apart. You say, “What?” Yep! They’re layered on top of each other. You start pulling them apart. Most scholars have never touched a manuscript. You have to have gloves on and everything…we just wash them and hold them in our hands. [Laughing] We don’t even make you wash your hands before.”
Apparently this is very funny to McDowell.
“A manuscript by definition is not an entire book; it’s a portion of the book.”
This is a new definition of "manuscript," folks. Replace all old definitions with this one.
“Now, see my hand up in the right hand [of the PowerPoint slide], that’s a pair of tweezers. And you take those tweezers and you start pulling the layers of manuscripts off. I was so scared the first time I did it…'What if you tear it?' They say, 'Well you tear it. Since we own it, it’s OK.'”
This attitude toward historical artifacts is disturbing. Private ownership means to these people that anything goes. They are essentially saying, "If we tear artifacts up in the process, then so be it. We own them and no one is here to hold us accountable."
“We have three classical scholars brought in, because I’m not a classical scholar. And they’re able to help me understand what we are doing…So I soaked it in water…and started peeling it off. That there [pointing to an image on a projector screen] is the oldest copy of the book of Romans by 125 years, ever discovered. Shoots the hole in every liberal theology about Romans and when it was written. If you’re a scholar—I’m not—and you discover one manuscript like that and your name is put on it that makes your entire career...No, it’s literally what you call a career-maker.”
So, the apparent specialists take the back seat while the pastors take to the papyri. The fact that McDowell invokes "liberal theology" is important, because it reveals his agenda: he is mainly interested in using these papyri and their dates (which are questionable at best) to prove the authenticity of the Bible.
“The top scholar in the world was in my office the other day and he brought in some new discoveries and we’re looking at it and we’re playing…we’re going to be doing two more of these masks December 5th and 6th…and he said Josh I hate to say this to ya, but in the last mask we broke your record: we took it back another 25 years, the book of Romans.”
It is interesting that all these texts get dated earlier and earlier. I am still waiting for the day that someone explains to me these peoples' methods of dating. As it stands, they apparently have discovered many, many of the world's "earliest" papyri that remain unpublished. I would guess that the "top scholar" is a reference to Scott Carroll.
"When it comes to the New Testament, as a result of several months ago, we now go back to within 50 years with God’s word…We were unlayering manuscripts that had not been seen for 2,000…a portion of the Gospel of Mark, first century A.D., where the liberal theologians all their teachers when you debate them and everything said none of these could be written until way into the end of the second century, into the third century, impossible they could have been written: one discovery took it all the way back into the first century and shot a shotgun off in liberal theology on their entire dating line. One discovery. It’s on Mark, and within probably, by November 15th, it will be published. I hope so because I want to use it on the 5th and 6th of December.”
So, the first century fragment of Mark was supposed to have been published November 15th, 2013. We are still waiting on that publication as of today. From this description, it seems that McDowell was also part of this discovery.
UPDATE: In the comments to this post, Matthijs den Dulk has provided a link to images of some of these papyri that he found publicly available on McDowell's website. One of them is of Homer's Iliad, the very end of book 15 (see image below). The script can be dated pretty confidently to c. 1st cent. CE. See Turner, GMAW, #15, #18, #37. Late 1st cent. BCE and early 2nd cent. CE cannot be ruled out. I would have to study the hand in more detail.