Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Has anyone seen “First Century Mark”?

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I have had correspondence with Craig Evans and have his permission to confirm that he has not seen the alleged first-century manuscript of Mark and does not know the identity of the scholar or scholars to whom it has (presumably) been assigned for publication.

I also believe that Dan Wallace had not seen the alleged manuscript at the time he debated Ehrman. I do not know whether he has seen it since then.

There may have been more eyewitnesses to the Secret Gospel of Mark than to ‘FCM’.

Based on current evidence I would conclude that, although ‘FCM’ may exist, we currently have no reason to believe that it exists or will be published in the coming years. Of course, a historical kernel might exist to the stories of ‘FCM’, but I personally have very limited enthusiasm for source criticism.

33 comments :

  1. You'd better as Dan W as well. Denny Burk said:
    I have heard from Daniel Wallace privately, and he stands by his original claims from the debate with Ehrman. As for the suggestion that he hasn’t seen the fragment, he says those claims are uninformed. He is in a difficult position because many critics have judged his remarks negatively without having all the facts, yet he is not allowed to reveal them yet.
    http://www.dennyburk.com/first-century-copy-of-the-marks-gospel-discovered-wallaces-claim-to-ehrman-vindicated/#comments

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  2. Keeping the fragments a secret is a great little debate strategy, though. You can claim to have a first-century "copy of Mark", yet you never have to put up any evidence, because "non-disclosure agreements" and all that.

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  3. The question is whether anyone will say whether they've seen it. Let's not forget the famous Tweet published just months before Dan's announcement.

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  4. PH, I think that DW could claim that denials that he has seen the ms are uninformed if they have no source, even if he has actually not seen the ms, or if he saw the ms after the debate.

    If he wanted to say that he had seen the ms he could simply state it. A confidentiality agreement which allowed you to repeat an earlier claim would probably also have room for you to admit seeing it. You just wouldn't be able to say what, where, when, how, etc.

    PG, I agree that it is plausible that Scott C has seen an 'it' and is arguably the ultimate source of much of what was first said about 'it '.

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  5. All the secrecy around these non-disclosure agreements seems needlessly cloak-and-dagger, and not much in the spirit of normal academic research. I can understand wanting to keep the identity of the owners quiet if they do not want much publicity, and I can understand trying to keep other scholars from stealing your research before you can get it published, but if everything is actually legitimate, what is there to hide?

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    1. I mean, only with great difficulty can I keep myself from suspecting that everything is not actually legitimate.

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  6. This all reminds me of the controversy surrounding the publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls. I think everyone just needs to relax these things take time

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    1. While 'these things' do take time, then take the time and don't blurt things out! Also, I am not sure the 'Dead Sea Scrolls' are the best positive example since it took unusual coercion to get them released even to other scholars!
      Tim

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  7. It would actually be great if the reserch team was allowed by the owner to make a presentation at an SBL annual meeting before publication. That would really benefit all parties I think, provided that such presentation be done in a scholarly and transparent manner (without blurred images and the like).

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  8. It would be so sad if all these secrecy is just to make a maximum amount of money from something shaky.

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  9. There is a photo on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FirstCenturyMark?ref=bookmarks

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  10. Only about 1% of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri that have been published so far are of the NT. If those proportions hold true for these new mummy mask papyri, then there could be quite a few other papyri for publication, not just FCM. These things take time.

    The provenance of these new mummy mask papyri will be quite interesting. Typically, papyri from mummy cartonnage come from the Ptolemaic period (323-30 BCE). In his remarks on P.Armit. (2008), Dirk Obbink mentions that few mummy mask papyri are dated later than that... basically only P.Armit. and P.Köln 58 (both from the first century CE). Yet, if I'm understanding the reports (or leaks) correctly, the II cent NT papyri that have been mentioned for the past couple years also come from mummy cartonnage, which would be unusually late for this type of thing, even though for NT papyri they would be fascinatingly early. We'll just have to wait and see with the publications.

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    1. Your insight about the proportion of NT papyri from the Oxyrhynchus collection is helpful, but the proportions in the published volumes are somewhat misleading. There's a selection bias in how the items are published, preferring texts that are 1) more complete (and thus easier to publish as substantive texts) and 2) perceived as more significant. It takes much less legible text from a biblical or classical Greek text to make a worthwhile publication than for a documentary text such as (say) a tax receipt.
      Of course, over the years the Oxyrhynchus editors have published plenty of documentary material as well. But I imagine that the proportion of NT papyri in the total collection would be much smaller than the proportion in the published volumes.

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  11. The two pics on FB are different mss, with different letter shapes. Is the page spoof?

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  12. P. J. Williams,
    I'll try to cobble together a time-line of events surrounding the /new/ Archaic Mark. (The old Archaic Mark turned out to be not so archaic.) It should be at my newly furbished blog, "The Text of the Gospels," at http://onyxkylix.blogspot.com/ , within a few days.

    I presently believe that the manuscript is real, and that it was extracted from mummy cartonnage.

    But why all the secrecy? Perhaps its text is Byzantine, and the researchers who are in the loop (I have seen Baylor professor Jeff Fish's name come up -- is he the co-publisher, with Dirk Obbink?) are strategizing the best way to brace themselves!

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

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  13. In order for the text to be Byzantine, that would mean a substantial amount of it has been preserved. It would have to be shown that the pattern of variation matches the Byzantine text. A single reading on a small fragment wouldn't do. Of course if this fragment sheds some light on the ending of Mark, that would be quite interesting. But the delay is more likely just the normal process of publishing. The fragment of 1 Corinthians owned by the Green Collection has been spoken about for four years now and is still not published.

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    1. Maybe this stuff takes so long because they announce it first, then forge it after the announcement.

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  14. The timeline, which includes links to videos and documents relevant in one way or another to the first-century fragment of Mark (should we call it "Really Archaic Mark"?), is at

    http://www.thetextofthegospels.com/2015/01/the-first-century-fragment-of-mark-this.html .

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  15. Roberta Mazza2/03/2015 6:51 am

    The last video showing Scott Carroll, Josh McDowell and scholars and students of Baylor University dissolving a mummy mask in January 2012. Here is from where the slides showed by McDowell and more recently Evans are from. Enjoy: https://facesandvoices.wordpress.com/2015/02/02/mark-fragment-well-they-look-like-green-papyri/

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  16. Thanks James. Your chronology looks complete. I still consider it somewhat funny that the Green collection's fragment of 1 Corinthians 10:1-6 that toured with their passages exhibit, under the strict regulation against photography by guests, was accidently included in the photos they allowed to be part of the presentation in one of those links.

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  17. Roberta, alas, despite your encouragement I was unable to find the video enjoyable.

    I would, however, note that no one who's really in the know about the Green Collection (Pattengale, Trobisch, Holmes) has claimed that the collection possesses a First Century Mark, and that the only claim by someone very close to the Collection that the Rylands fragment P52 was going to be soon superseded was made by someone (Carroll) who shortly afterwards was no longer employed by the Collection.

    So I think there are actually three clusters of activity which need to be evaluated, but clearly distinguished:

    1) Activities by Scott Carroll.
    2) Activities of the Green Collection (allowing that practices are likely to have evolved over time in such a fast growing organization).
    3) Claims by some scholars who may advise the GC, but are not necessarily privy to GC information and decision making that somewhere (in the GC or not) there is a First Century Mark.

    I believe that 1) and 2) need to be clearly distinguished, and that the claims in 3) are not only completely unsubstantiated, but should not be connected with the GC until such time as an official of the GC makes them.

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment. I do not want to go back to the Mark fragment because for now it simply does not exist except as a means of propaganda for those apologists and scholars who have disseminated for their own aims false information generated by other scholars (i.e. those in the video) .

      The past activities of Scott Carroll are not separated from the Green Collection and the Green Scholars Initiative, as your list might induce to think, since one of the persons dissolving the mummy mask with Scott Carroll in that video is a main editors of the Green papyri, and a current member of the GSI. Besides this the papyri from it are Green papyri unless someone will correct me on the point.

      Since nobody is answering questions I have posed publicly and privately, at this point I am hoping to read details on the acquisition circumstances, dissolving of the mummy mask, and the papyri retrieved from it in the first volume of the Green papyri when published by Brill.

      I am not particularly happy about what I have seen so far, as you all already know.

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  18. I understand the need for confidentiality. I guess what I don't understand is what harm comes to them from simply holding a press conference or issuing a news release and say, officially, "Yes, it is true that we have in our possession an ancient fragment of Mark's gospel. Experts shown this fragment strongly believe it was copied in the first century. We can say nothing more until the publication is released in the coming months." This sort of statement reveals nothing that isn't already suspected, and in fact would only serve to increase awareness, suspense, and book sales.

    Peter, regarding #3 in your list, there was some indication that Dan Wallace was more than simply advising the GC. In his interview with Hugh Hewitt...

    http://www.hughhewitt.com/new-testment-scholar-daniel-wallace-on-the-gospel-of-mark-discovery-and-other-biblical-papyri-with-it/

    ...there was this question near the end, regarding the forthcoming publication that will include the FCM:

    HH: Are you one of the authors, by the way, Professor?

    DW: Yes.

    Now it is possible of course that Wallace studied one of the other fragments to be published along with the FCM. We know that Holmes did the work on the 1 Corinthians fragment. But in that Wallace was at least involved as an author, he probably has more involvement than simply an advisor. Furthermore, I would point out that during the second half of 2014, there are substantial gaps in new blog posts on Wallace's blog. And if you look at the CSNTM website, there was a news entry back in December 2013, then nothing at all for the entire year of 2014 (the last two entries were wrongly dated 2014 and should read 2015). So it seems Wallace was perhaps occupied the last half of 2014--perhaps an indication he was working on something substantial for the GC?

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  19. Darrell, One reason that GC might not hold a press conference is that they are not looking to be secret about anything at all. They are simply following their procedures for publication of what they have. They have made no claim to having an FCM. Therefore there is nothing to comment on.

    Dan may or may not be in the know about these things, but any statements he's made have not been clearly on behalf of GC.

    I think that a decrease in blogging does not mean that Dan is publishing an FCM. My blogging has also decreased in the last few years, and I know I have not been preparing to publish an FCM. There are plenty of issues of a personal kind which can explain such fluctuations in blogging.

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  20. Dan Wallace's interview with Hugh Hewitt was almost three years ago. And the Brill website showing forthcoming volumes goes out through January 2016 and there is no mention of a volume on NT papyri. So I totally understand growing skepticism about all this.

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  21. It is also possible that the Green Collection isn't all that excited about these new finds. I recall two years ago when I toured their Passages exhibit. I spoke to the GC staff and they were all excited about early printed English Bibles, even fake replicas, and other artifacts. The lady standing just 2 feet away from the newly found fragment of 1 Corinthians was all excited about a printed Latin Bible. When I tried to explain how significant that 1 Corinthians fragment was, she just shrugged it off and said something like she wasn't really that interested in it.

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    1. I fail to see the significance either. You said in the comment on another post about that fragment (http://evangelicaltextualcriticism.blogspot.com/2011/08/early-papyrus-ms-of-1-corinthians-in.html):

      "But if a second century date is correct, then this would be the oldest witness to this epistle, again, assuming it is truly older than P46."

      But 1 Cor has always been the epistle with the best attestation, most quoted in the fathers and by the earliest ones too, like Clement. So what's the big deal?

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    2. Context is everything. In the context of the other things displayed by the Green Collection in their Passages display, the newly found fragment of 1 Corinthians was far more significant than the other items on display. Now a small portion of the unrevealed side of the fragment may contain words that are lacunose in P46, so it remains to be seen just how significant it is. But in that we only have just over 120 fragmentary NT manuscripts written on papyri, any time a new one is added has a measure of significance to it....especially when portions of it represent the oldest extant witness to a verse.

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  22. More hilarious/creepy stuff: Evans mocking himself in an auto produced video and the mask pretended to be dismounted in fact being alive in an Australian museum.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OmG6pz6Imr0&app=desktop
    http://australianmuseum.net.au/image/ancient-egyptian-mummy-mask

    I have never seen as many weirdos around as in this last year in all my entire career. Honestly!

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  23. Roberta wrote: "Since nobody is answering questions I have posed publicly and privately, at this point I am hoping to read details on the acquisition circumstances, dissolving of the mummy mask, and the papyri retrieved from it in the first volume of the Green papyri when published by Brill."

    The current GSI Director, Mike Holmes has published the following comment:

    "For every item published under the auspices of GSI, the goal will be to give, as part of the initial publication, as much detail as necessary regarding (a) provenance, both ancient and modern (subject, of course, to any legal restrictions attached to the terms of purchase); (b) authenticity; and (c) date—along with, of course, all the other information that usually accompanies such publications.
    Items will be published in the order that they become ready for publication—a status that is difficult to predict. (Some items, for example, are easily identified, while the identity of others can be difficult to determine. For example, the presence of canonical material in a fragment does not necessarily mean it is a copy of a canonical document; it could be a citation that is part of a patristic homily or sermon. Some items are easily read, while others require special photographic or other treatment to reveal the writing, etc., etc.) GSI will seek to move items to publication as quickly as possible—but not at the expense of dealing with critical issues as fully as necessary."

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  24. This is not an answer, Tommy: it is a request for waiting. I guess everybody is free to interpret the reasons why we have to wait after all what we have seen so far. 'Subject, of course, to any legal restrictions attached to the terms of purchase': whatever this conveniently means.

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  25. Yes, it is indeed a request for waiting (which is also an answer, albeit not definitive).

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  26. Has anything about this been heard in the last 9 months? The only thing I can find is this list which makes some very specific claims without very many citations: http://metataphysika.blogspot.sg/2015/09/dr-scott-carroll-brief-bio.html

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