Below are the text and image of P.Hibeh I 54 (3rd cent. B.C.E.), a fascinating letter from Demophon to Ptolemaios, extracted from mummy cartonnage. It was edited by Grenfell and Hunt in the first part of the Hibeh Papyri. The recipient is asked to provide a list of goods and musicians for a women's festival.
"Demophon to Ptolemaios, greetings. By all means send us the flute-player Petous with both the Phrygian and other flutes; and if any expenditure is necessary, pay it and you will be reimbursed by us. Send us also Zenobius the effeminate dancer with the drum and cymbals and castanets, for the women want him for the festival; and let him be dressed as well as possible. Get the kid from Aristion and send it to us. And if you have arrested the slave, hand him over to Semphtheus to bring to us. Send us also as many cheeses as you can, empty jars, vegetables of every sort, and whatever delicacies you have. Farewell. Put them on board with the policemen who will help to bring the boat along."
Δημοφῶν Πτολεμαίωι χαίρειν. ἀπό[σ-]τειλον ἡμῖν ἐκ παντὸς τρόπου τὸν αὐλητὴν Πετωῦν ἔχοντ[α] τούς τε Φρυγίους αὐλ[ο]ὺς καὶ τοὺς λοιπούς, κ[αὶ] ἐάν τι δέηι ἀνηλῶσαι δός, παρὰ δὲ ἡμ[ῶ]ν κ̣ομι̣ε̣ῖ̣. ἀπόστειλον δὲ ἡμῖν καὶ Ζηνόβιον τὸν μαλακὸν ἔχοντα τύμπανον καὶ κύμβαλα καὶ κρόταλα, χρεία γάρ ἐστι ταῖς γυναιξὶν πρὸς τὴν θυσίαν· ἐχέτω δὲ καὶ ἱματισμὸν ὡς ἀστειότατον. κόμισαι δὲ καὶ τὸν ἔριφον παρὰ Ἀριστίωνος καὶ πέμψον ἡμῖν. καὶ τὸ σῶμα δὲ εἰ συνείληφας παράδος ⟦αυτο⟧ Σεμφθεῖ ὅπως αὐτὸ διακομίσηι ἡμῖν. ἀπόστειλον δὲ ἡμῖν καὶ τύρους ὅσους ἂν δύνηι καὶ κέραμον κα̣[ι]νὸν καὶ λάχανα π[αντ]ο̣δαπὰ καὶ ἐὰν ὄψον τι ἔχ̣η̣ι̣[ς̣(?)] ἔρρ[ωσο.] ἐμβαλοῦ δὲ αὐ̣τ̣ὰ̣ καὶ φυλακίτας οἳ συνδιακομιοῦσιν ⟦α̣⟧ τὸ πλοῖο[ν.]
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.
Over on her excellent blog, Roberta Mazza reflects on a very interesting video featuring Scott Carroll, former director of the Green Scholars Initiative (GSI), which I posted about last week. Carroll has apparently become known as the "Indiana Jones of biblical archaeology" (see here). I encourage all my readers to read Mazza's post and watch this video of Carroll (reproduced below), where he alludes to discoveries of all sorts of biblical and non-biblical texts, including the famous "1st century" fragment of Mark that has piqued everyone's curiosity (see previous post here). Be sure to watch this video if you can, because it provides a great deal of information about Carroll, the texts he and others have identified, his process of dismounting mummy masks (with photos!), his acquisitions of antiquities, etc. In the video, Carroll refers to a very large number of biblical and classical texts, and I find it amusing that almost all of these are, according to Carroll, the earliest texts of their kind in the world. I am curious about his dating methods, and why he is so confident in dating papyri to within a <40 year period (see comment below). In any case, the video raises more questions about Carroll and the Green Collection, for which he apparently amassed an enormous amount of items. For those who cannot watch the entire video (it is long), I have provided a list of interesting comments from Carroll below.
"Often times the texts that are found are just common, everyday texts. But 5% are important."
So, are the 95% "common, everyday texts" unimportant?
"We found last year, I found, the earliest know text of Romans, the earliest known text of 1 Samuel, lost works of Sappho, tons of Homer."
I wonder if the "lost works of Sappho" refer to the fragments recently published by Dirk Obbink, which Roberta Mazza has posted about here?
"Look, what I'll briefly go down the list, what you need to understand is that the Times, the London Times Literary Supplement, that 30 of these items will be front page news when they're published."
"We have the earliest text of Exodus 24 here. There's nothing earlier in the world. This is the earliest in the world. And you might not believe it or you wonder how do I know. Please understand that in the world I work in, people demand that you know. No one will pay $1.1 million for that text is in his hands [pointing to a glassed papyrus that is circulating among the audience] unless you know for sure that it dates when it dates to."
First, it's disturbing that this papyrus would be passed around to a public audience. I am an advocate of "hands-on" learning when it comes to manuscripts, but I think it needs to be done in a controlled environment. Second, it would seem that someone or some group paid $1.1 million for this little fragment: I wonder how they feel about this papyrus being passed around like a hot potato? That's all that needs to be said here; my questions in this regard are probably also your questions.
"If you look on the screen you see texts discovered of almost many of the Old Testament books with New Testament books, most of the Gospels, including a first century text of the Gospel of Mark. That's the earliest, that will be the earliest text of the New Testament [...] We're looking now at a text of Mark that dates between 70 and 110."
See Brent Nongbri's judicious comments on dating small fragments like P52 in his article "The Use and Abuse of P52: Papyrological Pitfalls in the Dating of the Fourth Gospel," HTR 98.1 (2005): 23-48. This kind of certainty in dating small literary fragments ("between 70 and 110") is discouraged and avoided by most papyrologists. The recent article by P. Orsini and W. Clarysse comes to mind here for more than one reason: "Early New Testament Manuscripts and Their Dates: A Critique of Theological Palaeography," ETL 88.4 (2012): 443-474.
"I was with my wife eating Thai in Okalhoma city, and I got a text from a collector in the Middle East. It was a box of broken papyrus. While we ate our good food, I noticed that the text was all written by the same hand. Looked like some of the pieces may fit together. Thought it looked like 1 Corinthians. Turned out to be 20 pages of 1 Corinthians."
I would love to know more about this "collector in the Middle East." The statement suggests that Carroll and the collector were working close together. So, where are all these items coming from?
"No pictures of the papyrus, please. They're not published. Just understand the value of these things are enormous. There are professors who from North America would send students here, they would pay their tickets and send them here, to do two things: to take pictures of the texts for them to publish and number two, to discredit you and us because they're [i.e., the papyri] in your hands."
I don't know what "discredit" means in this context, but if he means that he would receive criticism from scholars for unpublished papyri being passed around in this manner, well then, yes, of course! In the comments section of a 2011 blog post about a papyrus of Hebrews someone on the "inside" of the Green collection reprimanded a Baylor doctoral student for taking pictures of this papyrus and blamed him for violating "Baylor's contractual agreement with the Exhibition." (In fact, the doctoral student in question did absolutely nothing wrong and broke no "contractual agreements." He disseminated information about the papyrus in a very appropriate manner, and many scholars reacted against the false charges and claims made against the doctoral student.) The anonymous comment went on to say that the doctoral student "took pictures, tried to work on the papyrus..." (a charge that is inaccurate). So, Carroll seems to be worried that his texts will be taken from him in a similar sense.
"I want you to understand that the largest collection of scrolls in private hands 10 years ago was about 100, and I had the privilege of organizing that. Now the largest collection—I also had the privilege of organizing—is 4,500 scrolls. So we've been blessed to work with scrolls."
I am guessing that the first collection ("10 years ago") refers to the private collection of Robert Van Kampen of Orlando, which Carroll also built (see here).
"God used our frail inabilities and worked with us. This isn't the Quran! See, this is the Bible, God working graciously through fallen people to protect his word. So you don't need to create or continue far-fetched stories that don't match the evidence."