Friday, June 16, 2017

Forging Antiquity Website and Blog


Here is the new website for the Macquarie University/Heidelberg University project led by Malcolm Choat and funded by the Australian Research Council:

"Forging Antiquity: Authenticity, forgery and fake papyri"

And the related blog Markers of Authenticity

Questions of authenticity, forgery, provenance and ethics are very hot topics, as reflected in this year's SBL Programme (HT: Malcolm Choat), where I will contribute a paper together with Malcolm on Simonides, "The Cable Guy: Constantine Simonides and his New Testament papyri":

S18-235– Papyrology and Early Christian Backgrounds
1:00 PM to 3:15 PM
Theme: Authenticity and Dating
Roberta Mazza, University of Manchester, Presiding
Malcolm Choat, Macquarie University and Tommy Wasserman, Orebro School of Theology
The Cable Guy: Constantine Simonides and his New Testament papyri
Andrew Smith, Shepherds Theological Seminary
Analysis of Ink from Ancient Papyri through Raman Micro-Spectroscopy
Kipp Davis, Trinity Western University
Dead Sea Scrolls papyri, scribal features and questions of authenticity
Charles E. Hill, Reformed Theological Seminary
Dating and Breaking Up (the text): Textual Division as a Non-Paleographical Aid in Dating Biblical Texts

S19-140 Public Scholarship in the New Media
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Robert Cargill, University of Iowa, Introduction
Nina Burleigh, Newsweek Magazine
Ariel Sabar, The Atlantic
Caroline T. Schroeder, University of the Pacific
Christopher Rollston, George Washington University
Jodi Magness, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

S19-238 – Qumran
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Theme: Discovering and investigating manuscript and scribal features of the Dead Sea Scrolls
Alison Schofield, University of Denver, Presiding
Oren Gutfeld, Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Randall Price, Liberty University
The Discovery of a New Dead Sea Scroll Cave at Qumran
Ira Rabin, BAM Federal Institute of Materials Research and Testing
Material analysis: authentication or forgery detection?
Arstein Justnes, Universitetet i Agder
Yet Another Fake? A Pre-2002 Dead Sea Scrolls-like manuscript
Sarah Yardney, University of Chicago
Assessing Current Methods for Reconstructing Biblical Dead Sea Scrolls: A Quantitative Approach
Eibert Tigchelaar, KU Leuven
A Critique of Frank Moore Cross’ Typological Development of the Jewish Scripts

S19-206 Avoiding Deception: Forgeries, Fake News, and Unprovenanced Material in Religious Studies
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Hosted by the Student Advisory Board
Why is provenance important? Although the forgery of documents and artifacts has always been a primary concern in religious studies, recent events surrounding the colloquially designated “Jesus’ Wife Fragment” and various unprovenanced fragments touted as part of the Dead Sea Scrolls have propelled scholars into a new era of forgery studies. While some may suppose that scholars are easily able to identify and disprove such items as forgeries, the complicated landscape in which such materials surface and are distributed has necessitated the adaptation of scholarship to remain diligent in preserving authentic items of history for study. This panel will address the challenges facing scholars in identifying and disproving forgeries in our current era. Invited speakers will similarly offer a space to examine the complexities and current status of forgeries in religious studies, identifying ways scholars can navigate the field without perpetuating erroneous materials in their scholarship.
Joshua Matson, Florida State University
Adrianne Spunaugle, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
Roberta Mazza, University of Manchester
Arstein Justnes, Universitetet i Agder
Kipp Davis, Trinity Western University
Jennifer Knust, Boston University
Christian Askeland, Museum of the Bible
S19-335 Redescribing Early Christianity
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Theme: Pseudepigrapha, Deception, and Heresy
Sarah Rollens, Rhodes College, Presiding
Mark Letteney, Princeton University
Authoritative Forgeries and Authentic Apocrypha in Late Antiquity
Anna Cwikla, University of Toronto
The Coptic Apocalypse of Peter as a Pseudepigraphon
Glen J. Fairen, University of Alberta
Lies and the Lying Liars Who Wrote Them: Taking Seriously the Heresoligical Invention of Marcion
William Arnal, University of Regina, Respondent

S20-136 Provenience and Policy
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Theme: A panel and discussion about the SBL Policy on Scholarly Presentation and Publication of Ancient Artifacts and Its Implementation
Christine Thomas, University of California-Santa Barbara, Presiding
Daniel Schowalter, Carthage College,
Roberta Mazza, University of Manchester
Policy and Papyrology
Christopher Rollston, George Washington University
Policy and Cuneiform
Sidnie White Crawford, University of Nebraska – Lincoln
Policy and the Dead Sea Scrolls
Erin Darby, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Policy and Archaeology
Susan Ackerman, Dartmouth College
Issues of Provenience and Policy in ASOR

S20-246 Use, Influence, and Impact of the Bible
1:00 PM to 3:00 PM
Theme: The United States of Hobby Lobby
In this session, invited discussants will respond to Candida R. Moss and Joel S. Baden’s Bible Nation: The United States of Hobby Lobby (Princeton UP, 2017).
Mark Chancey, Southern Methodist University, Panelist
Malcolm Choat, Macquarie University, Panelist
Peter Manseau, Smithsonian Institution, Panelist
John Fea, Panelist

S20-322 Hebrew Bible, History, and Archaeology
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Theme: Forgery and Writing Provenance in Writing Histories of Ancient Israel and Judah
Laura Wright, Luther College, Presiding
Christopher Rollston, George Washington University
Washington’s Museum of the Bible, ASOR and SBL’s Policies on Pillaged Antiquities, and Modern Forged Inscriptions
Michael Johnson, McMaster University
A Case Study in Professional Ethics concerning Secondary Publications of Unprovenanced Artefacts: The New Edition DSS F.Instruction1
Roberta Mazza, University of Manchester
Market of cultural heritage mass destruction? A survey of the contemporary trade in ancient manuscripts from Egypt
Kathleen Nicoll, University of Utah and Matthew Suriano, University of Maryland – College Park
Cross-disciplinary perspectives on unprovenanced artifacts: Reexamining the authenticity of the so-called Jehoash Inscription as a case study
Robert Duke, Azusa Pacific University
New data for scholarship: Why unprovenanced items should not be dismissed

S21-116 – Digital Humanities in Biblical, Early Jewish, and Christian Studies
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Theme: Reading, Publishing, Gaming: academic digital challenges
Paul Dilley, University of Iowa, Presiding
Richard Bautch, St. Edward’s University
Gameplay, Biblical Text, and What Drives the Prophet: How Students Turned Call Narratives into a Video Game
James F. McGrath, Butler University
Can the Dynamics of Canon Formation be Replicated through Game Mechanics? An Experiment in Gamified Pedagogy
Katherine Jones, George Washington University
Likely Lies: A Statistical Analysis of the Prevalence of Modern Forgeries
Claire Clivaz, Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics, Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics
Academic publishing in an Open Access world : a partnership approach
John Dyer, Durham University
The Habits and Hermeneutics of Digital Bible Readers: Comparing Print and Screen Engagement, Comprehension, and Behavior
*Edited on 15/6/2017 to add the full participant list for ‘Avoiding Deception’ panel, and on 16/6/2017 to add the session on ‘Public Scholarship in the New Media’.


  1. 1) A new article attempting (unpersuasively, so far, to this reader) to present the Shapira Deuteronomy ms as genuine:
    The Shapira Scroll was an Authentic Dead Sea Scroll
    Shlomo Guil
    Palestine Exploration Quarterly
    Volume 149, 2017 - Issue 1
    Pages 6-27

    2) A fairly new book on fakes considered nonetheless-interesting:
    Splendide mendax : rethinking fakes and forgeries in classical, late antique, and early Christian literature / edited by Edmund P. Cueva and Javier Martínez.
    Groningen : Barkhuis, 2016.
    If interested I wrote a brief review, mostly on the Morton Smith 1950s ms:

    1. Until somebody validates the arguments for forgery put forth in 1883 then we should not assume the MS is a forgery.

      Depending on how they are divided or grouped there are about 30 different arguments that have been advanced as to why the MS is a forgery yet when each is looked at – more than superficially – doubts set in about the arguments and they end up being found to be either wrong or inconclusive.

      Most of the arguments have their origins back in 1883 in work on the MS that was hastily done and filled with readily observable discrepancies – so for example, there are well over 200 differences between the text published by Ginsburg and the text published by Guthe, yet no mention of these in the book reviews of Guthe by Kautzsch, Nöldeke, Nowack and Strack. So much for peer review! There was also at least one case of exaggeration that might actually have been an outright lie and at least one case of misdirection to cover up a fault in an argument as to why the MS was a forgery.

      Some niggling little errors in Guil’s article as well as it appears a more significant one (to do with the columns of text and dry point ruling), but he does identify an interesting detail about the MS, the arc shape of the strip with the Decalogue. Potentially rather than just being a refutation of previous arguments that the MS was a forgery, this is a detail that positively supports the genuineness of the MS. Will be interesting to see what others make out about the arc shape.

      Matthew Hamilton
      Sydney, Australia

    2. Thanks, Matthew Hamilton. Given that you have closely compared the transcriptions, I wonder whether you have noticed if Shapira Deuteronomy text has significant confirmation(s) in later discovered Deut. mss. A new copy of the ten (or eleven) commandments might require good evidence.
      Also, is it remarkable that manuscripts formerly owned by Shapira and now at San Francisco State University (the Adolf Sutro collection), according to Chanan Tigay, The Lost Book of Moses (2016) 313-18, includes mss--including a Torah scroll--with margins cut off? (Might measurements--width and height--be useful for comparison?)

    3. Hello Stephen,

      Comparison of the transcriptions has at this stage only gone as far as identifying differences between Ginsburg and Guthe, is currently at the next stage of looking at a range of other sources such as comments by Shapira on various readings and the drawings and notes by Ginsburg in the British Museum dossier. Once this is completed I am considering comparing the text to DSS MSS for readings – at least I will be in a better position to do this than Helen Jefferson was in 1968 – but this might be a task for somebody with more Hebrew language skills than I have.

      Chanan Tigays’s book is a great read and I recommend it to anybody who wants to know about Shapira, but has a number of errors when it comes to the MS itself. The main cluster of errors relate to his “smoking gun” of a Yemenite Torah scroll in the Sutro collection with the margin cut off. I won’t go into the technical details as I’m still writing a response and don’t want to give away too much, but here is an example of the sort of errors – despite Chanan consulting a number of experts he and they failed to realise that the scroll isn’t even Yemenite. At column 11 line 4 the “smoking gun has בעור rather than בצר as is normally found in Yemenite scrolls at Num.22:5.


    4. Thanks, Matthew. please let us know when your response is available.

  2. Where is the paper explaining how the scribe of 2427 should/could have proceeded so his or her forgery would not likely ever have been caught?

    (Answer: he or she simply should not have followed a printed edition so strictly).

    But seriously: had the connection to a printed edition of B/03 not been discovered, would 2427 continue to be regarded as an important Alexandrian witness to the Gospel of Mark? The answer appears to be in the affirmative.

  3. Perhaps not Maurice because there were many other problems with the MS, e.g., the use of too recent ink, the illuminations are idiosyncratic, etc.

    1. Yet aside from a few scattered doubts, during the 20th century MS 2427 fooled or at least created a reasonable atmosphere of authenticity among most textual scholars (including its citation as a constant witness in NA27 and SQE) before it finally was exposed by Carlson, no?

      Compared to the flawed forgeries of Simonides, this one obviously had much higher merit.

    2. Yes, this was a far better forgery. However it was suspected and in an article Margaret Mitchell challenged readers to find the text which Stephen did. He went to a library and went through a number of 19th century editions, and bingo! In the meantime Mitchell had assembled an interdisciplinary team to test it, the results of which were published in NovT where she also acknowledges Carlson's contribution. The article is well worth reading.

  4. Since you're doing your paper on Simonedes, you might be interested to note (not because of the quality of his work, mind you!) David Sorenson, Neither Oldest Nor Best (2017)--the premise of the book is that Simonedes forged Sinaiticus, which then Tsichendorf took credit for. Needless to say, somewhat of an unbalanced treatment (I've read the entire thing and am definitely not convinced).

  5. Thanks Paul, but I will not waste any time (or money) on that kind of pseudo-scholarship.

    1. Isn't wasting time and money on Simonides pretty much the same thing?

    2. Certainly not! As it was not on the sloppy forgery of the so-called Gospel of Jesus' Wife. But it would be a waste of time to read a book that tried to defend its authenticity and explain its implications for the historical Jesus.

    3. I have deleted a comment by "Steven Avery" who claims that Sinaiticus is not an ancient manuscript. We will avoid the spread of such propaganda on this blog.

  6. FYI, I've added this to the blogroll.

  7. Maurice asks: "Had the connection to a printed edition of B/03 not been discovered, would 2427 continue to be regarded as an important Alexandrian witness to the Gospel of Mark?"
    One can answer this question by stating that despite its irregularities, despite scholarly caution, despite a lack of provenance, "Archaic Mark" was assigned a paleographic date, given a Gregory-Aland number, and entered as a constant witness in the GNT of record. Given that rousing acceptance, only the thoroughly defended discovery that it was the hand-copy of a printed text could have hoped to dislodge it from its privileged position of reverence.

  8. Initially I thought so too but having studied this case closely I realize that this is probably not the case. The team Mitchell had assembled already before Carlson's smoking gun (and she was the one who challenged him to find it), did a very good jobbin exposing the fake by other scientific means than the textual aspect.

  9. Two new relevant articles, the second of which, among other things, does not accept the conclusion--on dating carbon ink--of the first.
    Goler, S., J. T. Yardley, A. Cacciola, A. Hagadorn, D. Ratzan, and R. Bagnall. “Characterizing the age of ancient Egyptian manuscripts through micro-Raman spectroscopy.”
    Journal of Raman Spectroscopy 47 (2016): 1185–93. doi: 10.1002/jrs.4945.

    Nine Dubious “Dead Sea Scrolls” Fragments
    from the Twenty-First Century, Dead Sea Discoveries 24 (2017) 1-40 by
    Kipp Davis, Ira Rabin, Ines Feldman, Myriam Krutzsch, Hasia Rimon,
    Årstein Justnes, Torleif Elgvin, and Michael Langlois.