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.
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.