Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Dan Wallace responds on (formerly) ‘First-century Mark’

Over on his blog, Dan Wallace has just written a post about his involvement with the fragment formerly known as “First-century Mark.” We now know, thanks in part to this post by Dan, that P. Oxy. 5345 is the fragment formerly known as “first-century Mark” and that it is not, therefore, first-century. Instead, the editors, Dirk Obbink and Daniela Colomo, date it to the 2nd/3rd century (see Elijah’s post). This is important because we have known for quite some time that the first-century date was based on the expertise of Dirk Obbink. Apparently he changed his mind before Dan even made the initial announcement, but Dan didn’t know. So, why was it ever dated first century? I don’t know.

In any case, here is the first part of Dan’s post.
There has been a flurry of announcements and comments on the internet about the “First-Century Mark Fragment” (FCM) ever since Elijah Hixson posted a blog on Evangelical Textual Criticism this morning. As many know, I signed a non-disclosure agreement about this manuscript in 2012 sometime after I made an announcement about it in my third debate with Bart Ehrman at North Carolina, Chapel Hill (February 1, 2012). I was told in the non-disclosure agreement not to speak about when it would be published or whether it even exists. The termination of this agreement would come when it was published. Consequently, I am now free to speak about it.

The first thing to mention is that yes, Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 5345, published in The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, vol. 83 (2018), is the same manuscript that I spoke about in the debate and blogged about afterward. In that volume the editors date it to the second or third century. And this now is what has created quite a stir.

In my debate with Bart, I mentioned that I had it on good authority that this was definitely a first-century fragment of Mark. A representative for who I understood was the owner of FCM urged me to make the announcement at the debate, which they realized would make this go viral. However, the information I received and was assured to have been vetted was incorrect. It was my fault for being naïve enough to trust that the data I got was unquestionable, as it was presented to me. So, I must first apologize to Bart Ehrman, and to everyone else, for giving misleading information about this discovery. While I am sorry for publicly announcing inaccurate facts, at no time in the public statements (either in the debate or on my blogsite) did I knowingly do this. But I should have been more careful about trusting any sources without my personal verification, a lesson I have since learned.
 Do read the rest of his post for his personal history with the fragment. 


  1. It was dated to the first century because in the world of illegal trade in antiquities no one can be trusted to tell the truth.

    1. The other reason is that it was provisionally assigned a late first century date in the Oxyrhynchus hand catalogue "many years ago" (acc EES statement:

    2. I wonder who--what hand--"provisionally assigned a late first century date" and circa what year that was.
      According to Scott Carroll (comment to previous post):
      "On both occasions [late 2011 and 2013], he [D. O.] unequivocally said that the papyrus dated to the late first or early second century and detailed reasons for his dating." What were the--provisional--detailed reasons?
      And why, *allegedly*, " gave no clear indication about its provenance."

    3. Among other unknowns, unless the new book addresses this, is when the Mark 1 identification was made. E.g., before or after the "many years ago" early date estimate? Did the date or ID influence the other?
      Who knew (and for how long) either date and/or ID?
      (Not to detail some seemingly inconsistent accounts about who thought it had been sold, when, to Greens or not, though presumably (?) via misunderstanding or misinformation.(?))

    4. Nothing relating to any of those questions is in the edition.

    5. "The EES has no knowledge of, and has never seen, the NDA which Professor Daniel Wallace says someone required him to sign about the unpublished Mark fragment."

      For more, read here:

  2. Congratulations to Elijah for making this identification.

    One further piece of information, which I suspect that Dan is not able to share because of its nature, is the identity of the person or organisation with whom he signed a non-disclosure agreement.

    So far as I am aware, there is only one organisation in this field which has a policy of requiring academics to sign non-disclosure agreements, namely the Museum of the Bible (as reported by Candida Moss and Joel Baden in their recent book). Yet, according to the various recent blog posts and comments on this subject, the Museum of the Bible has never been the owner of this fragment - and therefore presumably has never been in a position to enforce such an agreement.

    This raises the concern that the use of non-disclosure agreements could be spreading more widely. Please may I appeal to all readers of this blog to resist such a trend, so far as possible, in the interests of openness and collegiality? It seems to me too that Christian apologetics is also ill-served by a culture of secrecy. As academics, we do our best with the evidence available to us, but - as Dan has shown - the withholding of material understandably casts doubt on the trustworthiness of those involved. Even if the doubt is - as in this case - later shown to be unfounded, its effect on our discussions and relationships can only be negative.

  3. Dan Wallace's apology is laudable, but it is shameful to see a professor was being instrumentalized by revealing unqualified information in a public(!) discussion. That discussion has gone viral, can be found on Youtube and DVD of course. All this pollutes the credibility of all involved! In the case of Dan Wallace, it can be said that, on the basis of this false statement, he aroused enormous interest in his person and the work of CSNTM. And now that there is clarity, everything starts again. Something like that is beeing preceived extremely unprofessional in the world of academically working people! It is reassuring to know that the final, big decisions on this topic are in the hands of INTF.

    1. I'm not quite sure I see a meaningful link to INTF in the current context?

    2. So Peter, here is the link: The INTF took care of collecting, searching, photographing, validating and communicating information about manuscripts during the first approx. 50 years of its existence. When they started, the total number of known manustcripts was not more than 4250. In 1983 the number was 5460 (what means that they could add more than 1200 manuscrpits to the official "Kurzgefasste Liste").
      With the deceace of Kurt Aland in 1994 and the generation change in that field, INTF is not collecting or photographing manuscripts anymore - they keep concentrating on producing the NA, UBS-GNT and last not least the Editio Critica Maior-Editions.
      Coming back to the link: No academic at the worlds leading institute in textual criticism in Muenster/Germany (INTF) would have made such a statement about manuscripts, without any prove!

    3. Thanks for clarification.

    4. Btw, who am I talking with? I have a feeling we may have met before :)

    5. No academic at any of the worlds leading institutions dealing with textual criticism would have made such a statement.

    6. I tend to agree. In this case, the problem lay not in the lack of *one* centralised institution making authoritative but correct statements that everyone would abide by, but in the lack of professionalism exhibited by people who should have known better.

  4. First, thanks to ETC scholars for holding the line on this FCM matter. Very helpful! The GJW debacle recently caught Harvard & Columbia in its net. I assume you would all agree that some unique cultural pressures are feeding into the aqueducts of otherwise decent biblical scholarship?

  5. Do we know who gave Wallace this information before the debate?

    1. No, not unless and until Dan decides to fully clear up this mess.

    2. In comments under the original ETC blog post about this (the post just prior to this one), Scott Carroll claims that he told Wallace about the fragment.

    3. But Scott denies deceiving Dan about the change in dating and he doesn't say he 'authorized' Dan to make the announcement at the debate. We do not yet know the full truth of the matter here.

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. In that denial, it's clear that Scott is talking about a change from a 1st/2nd century to a 2nd/3rd century date.

      But the revision Wallace refers to is a much more modest expansion of the range from strictly 1st century (which he says the rep told him) to a broader 1st/2nd century range.

      Scott apparently misunderstood Wallace's claim. He doesn't deny that he knew about the 1st/2nd century date range at that time. In fact, in an earlier comment he even says explicitly that that 1st/2nd century range is exactly what Obbink told him all along.

    6. Dan says he thought the rep authorized and urged him to make the announcement and Scott certainly disagrees with this interpretation of anything he said to Dan. I think we still need further clarification, not only about this, but also about the NDA.

    7. What stood out to me was that Scott didn't actually deny urging Wallace to mention it in the debate. Rather he said that he didn't have the authority to order him to do it. To me, this comes close to actually admitting that he did urge him to.

      Also, the impression I get from Scott's account in that same comment is that he believed himself to be the person who first informed Wallace about the manuscript. Whereas, from Wallace's account, the person who first informed him about it was the person he thought was acting as a rep for the owners. Scott, meanwhile, does say that he was acting as a rep for the Greens, whom he himself thought were soon to be the owners.

      Also, by Scott's own account the timing of this was right before Wallace's debate with Ehrman.

      Combine these coincidences with the fact that none of the points Scott made in trying to tell his side of the story as distinct from Wallace's actually holding up, and it's hard for me to see how the person Wallace calls the rep could be anyone else.

    8. Maybe the following is reading Dan Wallace too closely?
      "A representative for who I understood was the owner of FCM urged me to make the announcement at the debate, which they realized would make this go viral." Is that the increasingly-popular singular "they"? Or "they" as in the rep and the--presumed--owner?

    9. If you listen to the recent radio interview Dan gave, note that he says "people" at 9:35 and reiterates "person or persons" at 10:45.

      Here's the link to the interview:

      Eric, I don't disagree with your interpretation of Steve possibly hyping the fragment to Dan, but it does sound like there could have been others involved in doing this as well.

    10. "The EES has no knowledge of, and has never seen, the NDA which Professor Daniel Wallace says someone required him to sign about the unpublished Mark fragment."

  6. “My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.” -- Gerald Ford.

  7. Autonomy is an enemy of academic credibility and scholarly advancement. I am so thankful for Dr. Wallace to be able to clarify what happened.

  8. Daniel Wallace,

    << I signed a non-disclosure agreement about this manuscript in 2012 >>

    With who?

    1. Read: 'whom'

    2. Who said "Read: 'whom'"?

  9. Point taken, anonymous.

    With whom?

  10. What’s going on here?
    1. Shady non disclosure agreements by some shady and powerful company
    2. lack of clear and honest protocols by the EEF in light of various claims made by Scott Carroll
    3. The convenient silence of associate professor Obbink while his academic reputation (as well as the integrity of Oxford University) is on the line

  11. Some general thoughts (part 1)

    It is unquestionable, that Dr. Daniel B Wallace is a good professor, and also a very good story teller who I like listening to, because he always is presenting the (most of the time) pretty difficult and complex text-critical topics by using words, everybody understands. And that’s pretty useful, if someone is reliant on donations of people who want to help to realize all those expeditions. But, all in all – now that the terrible story of a First-Century Mark fragment is over – someone has to question the professionalism and reliability of all people involved. And that’s Daniel B Wallace as well, of course.
    I believe that by presenting all those (unconfirmed) information (as reliable facts at the discussion that Wallace had in 2012 debating Bart Ehrman), he simply liked the fact to be able to present such information. Being in the position to announce something of that importance to the world, has highlighted himself and also his work in a way, that has always somehow been over the top.
    Wallace always presents himself as a nice and sympathetic guy (that he truly is, of course), he also likes to give personal, family related information in the beginning of his lectures. Something like that is well received. He does not belong to the "old" generation of professors who were unapproachable, inviolable and have worked all-embracing, such as e.g. Kurt Aland. I am mentioning his name, because someone could get the impression that Wallace's idea of making photographs of all extant manuscripts (plus a few new discoveries) is a groundbreaking and totally inevitably necessary act in the long run in preserving the word of god. But this has been done initially by the team of INTF in Muenster/Germany since its founding in 1959 by Kurt Aland, already.
    I do understand the problem and importance of getting all money that is needed being able to travel to Europe and also to get High Quality pictures of all Greek Manuscripts.
    But this should be possible without minimizing the work (or at least parts of it) and hard labor that has been done - and that is still being done - by the world-wide well accepted Institute for New Testament Research!

  12. Some general thoughts (part 2)

    Quality of Photos
    Wallace claims the quality of the microfilms/photos that have been taken by INTF over the years (that have been made by using up-to-date technology, cameras and microfilm) to be unreadable (which equals unusable). Someone can check those digitized manuscripts at the NTVMR – the quality of some manuscripts is not good, that’s for sure. But isn`t INTF and the staff of the Aland`s also the publisher of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Greace 25 - 28 and also of all UBS GNT editions, since its existence? For my knowledge, the editorial board was able to use those photographs in order to set up a reliable text, that’s respected by the majority and is being used for translation worldwide.
    The technological progresses over the last years and also the usage of High Quality digital cameras has made possible, to create much better photos, than on microfilm of course. Also the existence of the first editions of the Editio Critica Maior (which is by the way also a product that’s been published by INTF) has made several changes in the Nestle-Aland text possible, but without any groundbreaking changes of the text itself.

    New Manuscript findings
    Of course the diligent CSNTM team that is travelling all over the world, is finding new manuscripts, that have not been known by the theological world, and that have not been catalogued by INTF yet.
    Again: INTF, because when Kurt Aland started his work in the 50s he also took over the responsibility for completing the official list of all Greek New Testament manuscripts (“Kurzgefaste Liste”). Every new finding is being checked intensively and is being given a Gregory-Aland (GA) number, if meaningful. In some presentations that can be found on YouTube Wallace gives the impression, that INTF did not do a good job. Furthermore he adds smartly, that “no other institute has found more manuscripts in that time” than CSNTM did. That’s obvious, because there is no other institution in the world, that is searching for manuscripts. By the way, the total number of approx. 5900 Greek new Testament manuscripts could not be increased by CSNTM dramatically – we are talking about some 120 manuscripts here. But hopefully this number might rise over the decades.

    To come to an end, let me say, that I would like to see a little more honesty and earthiness – not only in Dr Wallace statements – but also in some other cases/personals.
    Without giving this (false) statement on the First-Century Mark fragment and the total silence which followed, Wallace and CSNTM would never have been recognized in the way, it i being recognized now. All this gives the matter a bland taste. What makes me very sad.
    Some of you may think “Why do I have to read what I already know?” - not all people who are following this blog are that deep into that topic.
    And I believe everyone should have the chance to get to know the full and true story/History.


  13. Wallace now says that he gave "misleading information" and erred in "publicly announcing inaccurate facts".

    But he is completely understating the calculated assurances he gave in that announcement:

    “The oldest manuscript of the new testament is now a fragment from Mark’s gospel that is from the first century. How accurate is the dating? Well, my source is a papyrologist who worked on this manuscript, a man whose reputation is unimpeachable. Many consider him to be the best papyrologist on the planet. His reputation is on the line with this dating, and he knows it; but he is certain that this manuscript was from the first century.”

    [Later in the debate, in answer to a question about the manuscript from Ehrman, Daniel stated:]

    “Yes, the dating has been corroborated by others.”

    Isn’t it interesting how quickly legends can develop?

  14. Another update from Dan Wallace:
    Did Wallace see the ms itself or a photo?
    Did Obbink tell Wallace directly that it was for sale?
    was pOxy origin never mentioned?

  15. Since Dan Wallace has understandably turned off comments on his blog, I will thank him here for confirming that his NDA was signed with Jerry Pattengale, who was at that time the Executive Director of the Green Scholar Initiative.