I was recently asked to contribute an article on the "first-century" Mark fragment (P.Oxy. 83.5345) in the journal Early Christianity. Toward the end of that published piece, I wrote:
"There is one important question that remains unanswered regarding this papyrus. Despite the EES’s statement to the contrary, why have multiple people, including Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby and the Green Collection’s benefactor, admitted that the Oxyrhynchus Mark papyrus was for sale at some point?"
It is now fairly evident that “first century” Mark was offered for sale. Please see the THIS blog post by my colleague, Brent Nongbri, who relays breaking e-mail correspondence from Mike Holmes.
Essentially, if the allegation in the e-mail is true, it indicates that an Oxford professor (Dirk Obbink) intentionally tried to sell papyri belonging to the Egypt Exploration Society (EES) to the Green Collection.
This is not to be taken lightly. I am very curious to see what actions the EES will take here. It seems altogether criminal, in my opinion. This is a sad state of affairs indeed, but a conclusion (if proven true) that many have already drawn.
This news is part of a much larger web of conversation and debate around the manuscript acquisitions of the Green Collection, which I have posted about here, here, here, and here.
The Detroit Bookfest did an exclusive interview with Dr. Brendan Haug, archivist at the University of Michigan Papyrology Collection. Readers of this blog should be interested in this article/interview, which can be accessed here. There are some great pictures included int he piece. Brendan is a great archivist and has provided tremendous assistance to me as a researcher over the last several years. I visited the collection in 2017, which you can read all about here!
It's been a while since I've posted and so I thought I would include a few updates (=personal plugs) here. Back in the fall, I accepted an invitation to submit an article for a special issue of Early Christianity, whose theme is "Oxyrhynchus." I wrote a brief overview of P137, widely known as the "first century" Gospel of Mark....that is not from the first century! So many things could be said about this little fragment but I only scratch the surface in a few pages. It is forthcoming in the first issue of vol. 10 of the journal.
Last but not least, I am very happy to announce that my book on amulets has just appeared in paperback; I received my first copies today from the press (Bloomsbury). There are three differences from the hardback: 1) a few corrections were made, 2) the images of papyri are converted to black and white, and 3) it's about $100 cheaper! So, now is the time to go BUY ONE...HERE.
I had several kind invitations to submit my manuscript to other publishers, but I am very happy with my decision to have my work published in the prestigious Library of New Testament Studies series. The book has been reviewed many times already in the field, and the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. The book has been cited in several books and articles; I'm just glad that people are reading it and finding something to take away from it. If nothing else, get it for the pretty pictures of papyri, which pop in color in the hardback version.
(Please excuse the self-blurbing in this post!)
In P.Col. 10.254, an interesting 2nd century papyrus from Egypt, we meet Herakleia who purchases a female slave named Berenike. Since Herakleia is herself a woman, this raises questions about women's property in Egypt. How much property could women possess? Was it normal for women to buy slaves? Did women purchase slaves for themselves or on behalf of men? In her article "Women as Property Owners in Roman Egypt" (TAPA 113, 1983: 311-321), Deborah Hobson demonstrated, from her analysis of documentary papyri, that women often owned a good deal of property. Usually, property was kept in the family and women and men were recipients of family property, even though men were the usual recipients of real estate (there are several exceptions). P.Col. 10.254 (text reproduced below) is not unique; there are indeed other papyri that mention women as purchasers of slaves (e.g., BGU 11.2111, P.Col. 8.219, P.Oxy. 1.73). So, we know that women could purchase slaves.
But what P.Col. 10.254 and other similar papyri reveal is that women had access to full participation in the economy of Roman Egypt. Herakleia visited the appropriate financial office in person and the transaction was made in her name without any objection. In other words, there seems to have been no social stigma attached to Herakleia's purchase of her own property. The text indicates that Herakleia could "dispose" (i.e., sell, transfer) of Berenike "in whatever way she chooses," underscoring her rights to her property. As the editor maintains, "this is clearly a case of a woman acting independently of men in her own financial interests" (P.Col. 10.254, p. 25). Documentary papyri thus reflect social realities and deepen our knowledge of all sorts of human activity in Egypt, from transportation, business, death, marriage, divorce, and so on.
Notice in the image at the bottom, in a second hand, the subscription of Petechon, from whom Herakleia purchased Berenike. This is an example of a "slow writer," someone who could write his name and a few practiced lines but nothing more. The contract itself was probably written by a private clerk.