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!)
[A guest post from Dr. George Kiraz]
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It is with excitement that I can now announce that I am under contract with the University of Michigan Press to publish a volume in the Michigan Papyri series (=P.Mich.) tentatively titled Christian Papyri in the Michigan Collection. This will be the first P.Mich. volume devoted solely to Christian papyri. The series is edited by Prof. Arthur Verhoogt and Dr. Brendan Haug.
As many of my readers know, I have worked on/published several papyri in the Michigan Papyrology Collection and have grown fond of the collection's staff, its history, and all the interesting artifacts within it. I look forward to taking on the task of editing a new batch of Christian papyri.
If you have not read Prof. Verhoogt's history of the Michigan Papyrology Collection, please be sure to buy his book, Discarded, Discovered, Collected: The University of Michigan Papyrus Collection.
Well, it has been six years since the announcement that an apparent first century fragment of Mark's Gospel had been discovered, a topic of debate that I have followed closely since the news first broke. It was announced by Dan Wallace during a debate with Bart Ehrman back in 2012. Following the announcement, the academic community began to scratch its head: Where is this fragment? Who owns it? Who has dated it? Is it being published? If so, where is it being published?
Wallace has refused to provide any details, because he indicated he was asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement not to talk about the fragment. Given the lack of details, some even surmised that the fragment simply did not exist. Answers to some of the questions became apparent (or somewhat apparent) only after years of public inquiry, largely based on bits of information pieced together from the internet.
The obvious significance of a first-century fragment of Mark is that it would be the first-known manuscript of the Greek New Testament (GNT) to exist. Craig Evans reported that this fragment was “dated to the 80s” (see here also) and I told CNN in 2015 that this was rubbish, based on how scholars date manuscripts according to the handwriting (=palaeography).
Today, Elijah Hixson posted a blog post over on the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog about a Markan fragment that is to appear as no. 5345 in the 83rd volume of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri series. The initial post questions whether or not this fragment is the same fragment as the so-called “first century fragment of Mark.”
Dan Wallace, who first announced the discovery of this fragment, has finally broken his silence and responded to Hixson’s post, verifying that P.Oxy. 83.5345 is indeed the fragment he was referring to back in 2012. Significantly, this fragment has now officially been dated to the second/third century, as indicated in a draft of the publication shown on the ETC blog.
Wallace admits that he was “urged to make the announcement [of the fragment] at the debate.” I wonder: who urged him and for what reason? Could it have been for financial reasons?
I ask this question because Scott Carroll (on whom see here, here and here) contributed comments to Hixson’s post indicating the following:
“D. Obbink offered a papyrus of Mark 1 for sale in late 2011 to the Greens and it was still in his possession and he was trying to sell it in 2013. On both occasions, he unequivocally said that the papyrus dated to the late first or early second century and detailed reasons for his dating.”
So, based on Carroll’s comments, Dirk Obbink, the co-editor of the Markan fragment, was apparently trying to sell off this fragment for a few years. [Side note: Wallace claims in his post that he learned later the famous papyrologist who dated the fragment to the first century already adjusted his views about the dating prior to Wallace's announcement of its discovery in 2012. Carroll's comment indicates that Obbink was still arguing for a first century date in 2013, a year after the initial announcement. So, we need clarification here.] According to Hixson’s post, the Greens were “possibly inline to purchase it,” but the transaction never took place.
I have not seen the full publication or an image of this fragment [UPDATE: image of the papyrus is at the top of this post], so I cannot make any real judgments about dating, etc. But, I would be interested in knowing how Obbink got his hands on an Oxyrhynchus papyrus (presumably) outside of the Oxhyrhynchus collection, and who gave him the authority to sell it. If what Carroll says is true, Obbink was in the business to make money off this papyrus. Could it be that the manuscript was purchased by Obbink and that he finally sold it to the EES and it ended up in the Oxyrhynchus collection? Or, could the Oxyrhynchus collection/EES have been attempting to deaccession this fragment in an attempt to raise money (this seems very improbable to me)?
If Carroll's assertations are true, does the fact that we are now seeing this fragment in the Oxyrhynchus Papyri series undermine the integrity of the series? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
I want more answers to the questions raised above before I say anything else. But, I will say this: some people/groups apparently missed the mark (no pun intended) by more than a century or two!
UPDATE: The EES has issued a statement about P.Oxy. 5345 and uploaded the section of the publication which includes the editio princeps of the manuscript along with an image. See here.