Monday, February 06, 2012

Is the original New Testament lost?

Dan Wallace and Bart Ehrman have had another debate. Dan blogs about his arguments and strategy here (including news about mysteriously unknowable new manuscripts including the autograph of Mark). Andreas Ko/estenberger was there too and didn't like Dan's approach, he blogs about it here (Dan answers Andreas' critique in a long and interesting comment). I don't know what Bart thought about it all.

64 comments:

  1. Strong wishful thinking: that the early fragment of Mark contains either the first or the last verses...

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  2. I don't think he's claiming an autograph, just a first century copy (!). There are also fragments of Paul too.

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  3. I think Tommy has the idea: 'strong wishful thinking'.

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  4. Wow, 1st century Mark fragment? This is the first I have heard of it...sets aside P52 for earliest NT fragment! Needless to say, the suspense will be great until this is published.

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  5. Wallace says it's "just a fragment" of Mark. I hope we have more letters than what 7Q5 had and that these letters are diagnostic of dating (a problem with P52).

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  6. From the visible traces I am thinking:

    ARX]H [TOU IU XU
    KAQ]W[S GEGRAPTAI
    EN T]W [HSAIA TW
    PROF]H[TH

    The lettering appears to me most likely between AD 83 and 84. And this sort of papyrus is definitely from the western bank of the Nile.

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  7. The other side could possibly be:

    META DE TO] P[ARA
    DOQHNAI TON] I[WA
    NNHN HLQEN O I]S [EIS
    THN GALILAIAN] K[HRUS
    SSWN TO EUAGGE]L[ION

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  8. I think we can tell from this that it lacks the long ending, but has the pericope adulterae.

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  9. It's nice to have the top margin on both sides. That means we can work out number of letters per page. There are some very interesting Ur-Markus variants on this page.

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  10. Terrific humor here today...Dr. Head are you sure about the west bank of the nile? Sure looks like papyrus cut from the Nile delta to me.

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  11. The fact that it has been so amazingly preserved suggests that it may have been somewhere away either from the bank of the Nile or from the Delta.

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  12. It will be interesting to have Roger Bagnall's opinion on the dating, once he decides to weigh in. His discussion of dating in Early Christian Books in Egypt urges great caution, and calls for the sort of careful scholarship we can expect from P.M. Head! Whatever the date, these are exciting finds!

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  13. I must say that I don't quite share Darrell's suspense or Peter R's excitement. Scepticism is more my feeling. Time will no doubt tell, but a firm date for an allegedly small fragment, announced in the middle of a debate is not a good start.

    Imagine if Bart had argued like this: I have a first century fragment showing that [fill in gap for something about Christianity disproved] but I'm not yet at liberty to disclose more details, but, believe me, this really does support my argument. I think that appeals to hidden evidence or future evidence are bad form in debate.

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  14. Let's just hope Brill doesn't end up being embarrassed...

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  15. "I must say that I don't quite share Darrell's suspense or Peter R's excitement."

    You are no doubt correct to remain skeptical, but new significant finds in NTTC do not come along every day...or month, or year. So when someone like Wallace announces (even in a debate) that in effect P52 is about to be replaced as the oldest witness to the NT, its hard not to be interested (excitedly).

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  16. Well, new significant finds in NTTC do not, of course, come around every day, but much more common are those sensational, first-century claims that haven't panned out, for example, O'Callaghan's identification of 7Q5 as Mark, Thiede's redating of P64, and Kim's redating of P46.

    That's why it is prudent to wait for the publication before getting one's hope up (and dashed).

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  17. That is how such rare finds are announced in a blog post that is not even about the find, but about a different subject.

    I'm no expert , but surely a manuscript is made available before a book on the subject, and not the other way around.

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  18. I think we need a P (Papyrus) number for the manuscript which Peter Head announced for us at '5:24 p.m.' on 6 Feb. I suggest that since the manuscript is so important it should not be given a high number, but something at the beginning of an alphabet. I suggest that we call it P-Aleph.

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  19. Darrell said in part "So when someone like Wallace announces (even in a debate) that in effect P52 is about to be replaced as the oldest witness to the NT, its hard not to be interested (excitedly)"

    I suspect the first announcement of this frg. was not made by Daniel Wallace the other night, but was made by Scott Carroll on 1 Decemeber last year. Check his Facebook posting of that date where he states "For over 100 years the earliest-known text of the NT has been the so-called John Rylands papyrus. That is about to change with a sensational discover I made yesterday. Stay tuned for the update". So far no update

    Matthew Hamilton

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  20. Has it never occurred to anyone that the relationship of NT papyri, even early ones, to the Byzantine mss. tradition is not a singularity? Sometimes early papyri provide an important witness to the text, but sometimes they are less reliable than the Byz. tradition. I think some comparative evidence is needed to sustain some of the more hyperbolic claims on both sides. (18 first century papyri?)

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  21. Matthew: do you think that what Scott Carroll announced can be the same thing? Wallace appeared to say that the discoverer had no religious affiliation but Carroll appears to be an evangelical.

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  22. Lots of misinformation here, folks. First, this fragment is certainly not the autograph of Mark. Second, I spoke only of the paleographer, not the discoverer. I am neither. Third, it's a fragment, not the whole of Mark. Fourth, there are not now 18 MSS from the first century; there is at most one. 18 MSS that are either definitely or possibly from the second century is what I said. Rumors certainly do fly, even on an evangelical website! Im just the messenger, and I mentioned it at the debate because I just learned about it.

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  23. "Matthew: do you think that what Scott Carroll announced can be the same thing? Wallace appeared to say that the discoverer had no religious affiliation but Carroll appears to be an evangelical"

    I was under the impression that the palaeographer had no religious affiliation whereas Scott Carroll is the discoverer.
    Perhaps (and this is only speculation), (1) Scott Carroll discovered the frg. (2) dated it to pre P52 (he doesn't actually give a date in Facebook), and (3) had it professional dated by somebody who is not an Evangelical in anticipation of the usual charges of bias - plenty of which are to be observed in recent blog comments.

    Matthew Hamilton

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  24. Thanks for the correction, Dan. I should have said "paleographer".

    Thanks for your comments, Matthew. I look forward to seeing if your speculation is right!

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  25. Well, first, it's good to see that Dr. Wallace seems to be none the worse for his surgery.

    I want to chime in about something he said at the Credo House/P&P blog:

    After Dr. Wallace announces the existence of a first-century fragment from Mark, he said that Dr. Ehrman questioned the validity of the claim, and then Dr. Ehrman "said that even so, we don’t have thousands of manuscripts from the first century! That kind of skepticism is incomprehensible to me."

    Whaa? It's not "skepticism" to affirm that we don't have thousands of MSS from the first century. I don't see what is supposed to be so skeptical about that.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

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  26. And another thing.

    There is much to protest in Dr. Wallace's blog-post. He has a friendly and aggressively protected forum there. But in a fair dialogue (something I never expect to see at Parchment & Pen, unless it's for sale), several of his statements could and would be drawn into question. I haven't attended the debates he has had with Dr. Ehrman, but if Dr. Wallace walks into the cross-hairs in debates the way he does in written essays, I sure hope that readers understand that it's possible that his text-critical scholarship and debating skills might not be the best that American Christians have to offer.

    And another another thing: this is hindsight, but, when Dr. Ehrman mentioned that a Greek NT came out in 2005 that claimed to have the original wording but differs from other texts in over 6,000 places -- what a platform! If that happens again, one should point out, "Over 6,000? That seems awfully low considering what we've heard and read. Not 200,000? Not 400,000? Two vastly different theories of the transmission-history of the text, and the text is identical except for 6,000-7,000 places??" And so forth.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

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  27. I would suggest that the 2005 edition in question does not "claim to have the original wording" either in all particulars (else why include marginal alternative readings?) nor as regards the overall text itself (assuming that one does not share a certain theoretical perspective with the editors).

    I would expect that most readers would consider said edition as providing a reasonable approximation to the overall Byzantine Textform, unencumbered by dogmatic assertion.

    And if merely orthographic differences were also included in the tabulation, I expect that the 6000 variants could be increased by over 33%.

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  28. It'll be fascinating to see what's on the verso of this new Mark fragment. First century would be very, very early for a codex. Instead, the verso could be blank (like p22)... or have LXX text (like p12 or p18)... or have secular text (like p13)... or have disparate text of Mark, but upside-down (ala p43)... all of which can be tell-tale signs of a scroll.

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  29. Daniel,
    Thanks for putting the record straight. I still think there was more speculation and ironic disinformation than actual misinformation.

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  30. I will hazard the guess that Dirk Obbink is our doctrinally unaffiliated scholar involved in the dating of this papyri, given his affiliation with the Green Initiative. Whoever dated it, we can be almost certain that this dating as originally released was not based upon a thorough comparison with a large number of early dated samples, because such work would take weeks or months and not one to two days. (Two days is the amount of time before the CNN report when this papyrus was publicized.) What we have here is a gut feeling based upon someone's previous experience with papyri.

    I have dated Coptic papyri based on gut instinct before, and come to regret it based on further research. Here is where we must be balanced in our hope for a uniquely early papyrus and in our skepticism, not only of this dating but of the other dates which we already have. We should also have some grace for those involved in case their opinions evolve. Scholarly skepticism concerning paleography is becoming more apparent (IMO) with each passing SBL meeting.

    Roger Bagnall would not date this papyrus paleographically, if I understand his position. He does not like to do that. From a statistical perspective, I think that he would be very skeptical that scholars would recover much from the first three centuries (especially the first two). I may post on this a bit later.

    Is there a possibility that the Mark fragment is in a scroll format, thus offering a codicological argument for an early date?

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  31. blogger did not like my html encoding. Dirk Obbink's wikipedia page is here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dirk_Obbink

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  32. I would have to register a protest if anyone were to imply that a palaeographer's opinion might bear more weight if they were non-confessional. Surely competence should be the consideration.

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  33. PMH's reconstruction: ARX]H [TOU IU XU

    Wow ... apparently this scribe omitted ΤΟΥ ΕΥΑΓΓΕΛΙΟΥ because of the similar genitive endings, who knows what else he omitted. ;-)

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  34. Compared to previous little "fights", I think Peter H conducted himself very well in this one... :)

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  35. I too am shocked and disgusted that Christian scholars should put any weight on the fact that a scholar is non-confessional. The very statement accepts the presumption of bias and inaccuracy among Christian scholars.

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  36. G.W. Schwendner wrote:

    Has it never occurred to anyone that the relationship of NT papyri, even early ones, to the Byzantine mss. tradition is not a singularity? Sometimes early papyri provide an important witness to the text, but sometimes they are less reliable than the Byz. tradition. I think some comparative evidence is needed to sustain some of the more hyperbolic claims on both sides.

    Are you speaking of evidence that medieval copies of Classical texts (e.g. Homer) are often more reliable than the papyri? If so, the comparison of Homeric and NT materials would indeed be most interesting. I do not know of any works which do this with a focus on evaluating the merits of earlier and later witnesses. Are there any?

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  37. My last comment was actually serious.

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  38. In private dialogue, Matthew Hamilton has correctly indicated that my statement above reflects only the dating of the Romans fragment (dated to the 2nd century) and not of the Mark fragment which has been dated to the 1st century.

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  39. Unfortunately while everybody is focused on the paleography of the fragment, the problems of precise and narrow dating by palaeography (eg: P52), and previous palaeographical misdatings (eg: P46 by Kim, P64/67 by Thiede), do we know that it is only on palaeography that the fragment was dated?

    Daniel Wallace makes mention of a (for now) anonymous palaeographer but nobody is considering that if other NT papyri in the Green Collection were recovered from cartonnage, then perhaps also the fragment of Mark.

    Unlike papyri like P52, a papyrus fragment found in cartonnage has at least 2 elements of context:

    Firstly the other papyri in the cartonnage may indicate a date range - if they all appear to be 2nd century then a 1st century date for a NT frg. would be odd, and conversely, if they all appear to be 1st century then a 2nd century date for a NT frg. would be odd. But if they come from a wide range then the context is much weaker

    Secondly, if the cartonnage is dated by style or other features to the late 1st century then any of the papyri that make up the cartonnage MUST predate the late 1st century.

    Unfortunately Daniel Wallace's information does not make it clear if the fragment of Mark was from cartonnage like the fragment of Romans, or if it was a loose fragment.

    Matthew Hamilton

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  40. Peter Head said "I too am shocked and disgusted that Christian scholars should put any weight on the fact that a scholar is non-confessional. The very statement accepts the presumption of bias and inaccuracy among Christian scholars."

    This issue makes one think of this qoute "He (a confessional and non-confessional scholar?) must be guided by a pure disinterested concern for knowledge, which accepts every really compelling result... He must be able to keep his own viewpoint, however precious, quite separate from the object of his research and hold it in suspense. Then he will indeed know only what really was” William Wrede, The Task and Method of ‘New Testament Theology’ (TMNTT; 1973, p 70).

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  41. Is there any info on this mysterious Mk fragment out there besides Dan's comment in passing?

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  42. Matthew you talk sense as usual. When it finally comes to a consensus on the dating of this tiny fragment it will be the dating of the documentary texts in the same setting which will prove decisive.

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  43. Only a few comments to go before we reach fifty (always a cause for celebration on the ETC blog).

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  44. Unless Tommy wrote the original post.

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  45. Yes, Peter, I noticed that too. Wallace was lucky that Ehrman didn't respond with, "Well, I'm non-confessional too and ..."

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  46. I was quite surprised to see the quote from Wrede posted above. This is surely the opinion of a bygone age which has now been widely rejected. Throughout my studies it was drilled into me that we all have presuppositions. If memory serves me well the classic essay is 'Is exegesis without presuppositions possible?’ by Rudolf Bultmann. Also there is an essay about presuppositions by Graham Stanton in a volume of essays called ‘New Testament Interpretation’ edited by Howard Marshall, which I recall as being is pretty good.

    Pete C

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  47. I agree. The Wrede quotation is naive.

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  48. I suppose Wallace's point in the context of the debate was to point out that the paleographer in question had no axe to grind, the kind of point that does resonate with an audience for a debate that is cast in either / or terms. For what it's worth, it's why I find that kind of either / or way of framing what are actually nuanced subjects less than ideal.

    (I didn't really have anything to say. I just wanted to be comment number 50. :) )

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  49. Mark reached the mark commenting on Mark. That is re-markable.

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  50. Is this a blog record for the number of comments?

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  51. @ PJ WIlliams,
    There is no such study, although occasional NT scholars have taken note of the issue: e.g. An introduction to New Testament textual criticism
    By Léon Vaganay, Christian-Bernard Amphoux, Jenny Heimerdinger p. 73, referring to P.Petrie I 5-8. This is a third BC papyrus from cartonnage (Gurob), dated paleographically and by the docs. found with it to the first quarter or first half of the century, a generation after Plato's death (347). It's reading, however, were worse than those of the paradosis. From the patristic tradition, some of the Tura papyri are copies of a dictated text, taken down in shorthand and then expanded, of Didymus the Blind's comments on the Pslams and Ecclesiastes. The copy we have come from the time of Justinian, two hundred years and a bit after Didymus death (398). That is, it is likely that our papyrus is separated from the shorthand original by only a single copy, and yet, it is replete with confusions, mistakes, and blunders of all sorts.

    Bagnall was writing based on the data available to him, and would certainly reassess his conclusions based on new evidence (as documentary papyrologists must constantly do). Being a papyrologist means living in expectation of some new find that will overturn what we thought we knew.

    Dirk is not a paleographer per se, but from his position as editor of the P.Oxy series sees more Roman literary hands than anyone now living, so his opinion, however cursory, would carry great weight.

    @ confessional : non-confessional dating: it is not a question of "bias and inaccuracy" but a more fundamental urge toward sensationalism. Papyrologists are trained to eschew this urge because it compels one to make ordinary things more important than they are, and therefore we are suspicious of sensational claims prima facie. (and, honestly, when was the last time a NT scholar argued that a papyrus was later than the communes opinio?

    Ehrman has exacerbated this urge by baiting believers with his wrongheaded taunts (how can our copies be reliable when they are more than two centuries removed from the ipsissima verba, so to speak). One really needs to take the mode of discourse here: debate, not constructive scholarly discourse. Debate is the enemy of the truth, compelling its participants to "score points". As for the urge to sensationalize findings, examples abound, such as the claim a newly excavated codex made of wood tablets was a lost work of Aristotle, when it turned out to be the most commonly read work of Isocrates instead.

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  52. This seems to be very exciting news!

    @ Peter, yes you are correct that the assertion that a confessional scholar cannot do the type of research that a non-confessional scholar can only plays into bad pre-existent biases against confessional scholars. However, I really don't think Wallace's mentioning the Paleographer's confessional stance was for that purpose. In fact, he states that the individual did not have an ax to grind in the debate, and therefore, amid a debate full of skepticism, it seems like Wallace was trying to avoid a simple dismissal of his announcement on the basis of confession, which could have easily and unsurprisingly been Ehrman's rebuttal. The debate context seems to inform that type of statement, as any conversation with Wallace would clearly indicate that he in no way "put[s] any weight on the fact that a scholar is non-confessional."

    I, for one, will be very interested to see the data that comes out about the dating of this fragment, especially if as Matthew has pointed out, it does come from the Green Collection and more particularly from cartonnages. I also wonder if there are other items that they have yet to investigate that may lead to more findings.

    Rob

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  53. It's interesting that Wallace's blog-post now describes the paleographer as 'a world-class paleographer, whose qualifications are unimpeachable'. There isn't anything about the scholar being 'non-confessional'. So if it's Obbink, maybe he's not 'non-confessional' after all, or perhaps it's someone else. It's seems clear, though, that Wallace means a real expert, and not someone who has a 'side area' in dating documents.

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  54. In view of this really really exciting discussion about dating newly-found papyri, can we have a separate discussion on the current state of affairs along this line, especially from the perspective of the members and contributors in this blog, whether they are pre-committed to a particular confession or not? (Or whether it really matters if you are pre-committed to some form of ideology!).

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  55. To this day, I've never met anyone who wasn't in some form and intensity committed to some sort of ideology. But hey, I'm only 25! (I think)

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  56. ARX]H[TOUIUXU
    UUQU]W[SGEGRAP
    TAIE]N[TOISPROF
    HTAIS]I[DOUEGWA

    @Peter, you are way off. As I reconstruct it, this is clearly a Byz mss, differing from the Majority only by the accidental omission (the most common scribal error) of EUANGGELIOU, no doubt another clear case of h.t.

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  57. Someone should tell Brent Nongbri about this.

    361 days to go!

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

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  58. Dr. Wallace wrote a short summary and update here: http://www.dts.edu/read/wallace-new-testament-manscript-first-century/

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  59. The debate where Dr. Wallace announces new manuscript discoveries, including a possible 1st Century Mark, is now online.
    http://youtu.be/kg-dJA3SnTA

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  60. Dr. Wallace’s announcement of new discoveries is at 1:13:40 and Dr. Ehrman and Dr. Wallace discuss it briefly at 1:48:10.

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  61. Hi,

    Daniel Wallace,
    "MSS that are either definitely or possibly from the second century is what I said."

    It is not scholarship writing to make a positive affirmation of antiquity based on unlikely possibilities.

    The great bulk of the "43%" text is from four mss that are mostly considered 3rd century, as on Peter Head's site.

    P46 P66 P72 P75

    Sure they are "possibly" 2nd century, "possibly" 1st or 4th century too, maybe some are "possibly" 5th century. The word "possibly" should not be abused to make political claims.

    Steven Avery
    Queens, NY

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