Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Sabar on Dirk Obbink

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Ariel Sabar has produced an engaging and informative overview of the tragic story of Dirk Obbink and the stolen Egyptian Exploration Society papyri. Naturally, we must all leave Obbink’s guilt to criminal investigations and proceedings. Sabar’s article, however, introduces those outside the EES and Museum of the Bible contexts to the main characters in this drama and the timeline which framed the events.

Ariel Sabar, ‘The Case of the Phantom Papyrus.’ The Atlantic (June 2020).

17 comments

  1. “At the time, I didn’t feel that it was duplicitous.”

    Leapin' lizards.

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    1. Duplicitous? Maybe a stronger word is needed.

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  3. I am still very curious about why a full 14 months elapsed between the two events recounted below.

    //When the Mark fragment was finally published, in April 2018, in the book The Oxyrhynchus Papyri Vol. LXXXIII, it ignited exactly the scholarly firestorm anyone might have predicted. On his influential blog, Brent Nongbri wrote, wryly, “Seems like there is a bit more to the story.”

    In june 2019, Michael Holmes, who replaced Pattengale as the director of the scholars initiative, flew to London to meet with leaders of the Egypt Exploration Society, who remained skeptical that Obbink, whatever his other shortcomings, might have sold Oxyrhynchus papyri.//

    I had personally already heard about the invoice in question from a firsthand source back in 2016 who told me everything that Mazar says about it. And I know of others both inside and outside the MOTB circle who had also been told. Scott Carroll himself asserted explicitly in comments on this blog immediately after the publication of Oxyrhynchus Papyri Vol LXXXIII that Obbink had sold the Green's that manuscript, and it seemed like the EES just laughed off the claim, when they could have verified it right away. Likewise, people inside the MOTB and Green Scholars Initiative organizations were well aware that Carroll was telling the truth that time and could have said so without delay.

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    1. Greg Matthews5/13/2020 6:55 pm

      The Greens had a pretty low opinion of SC way before then. Maybe they just thought he was someone not to be trusted. I think there's a lot more to this we don't know though.

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    2. That doesn't change the fact that they knew that Carroll's claim that Obbink had sold the manuscript to them was true and verifiable.

      During that period of time I assumed that the two parties (EES and MOTB/Greens) were in communication behind the scenes and that the EES had to be aware of what happened. I had no idea that this wasn't the case until Holmes went public with the invoice and it became clear at that time that the EES had only just recently learned of it.

      It is not as though the invoice was only known to some tiny group of those who personally took part in the sale and who then kept it secret and hid the invoice only for it to be rediscovered by Holmes in 2019. If the EES didn't even take Carroll's claims seriously enough to inquire with the MOTB about them, they should have. And if the MOTB didn't voluntarily share with the EES their knowledge that Carroll was telling the truth as soon as possible, they should have.

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    3. Prob because this wasn't the only mess that MOTB and Mike Holmes were trying to sort out... there were literally thousands of other items for which they were trying to trace the provenance... to clean up messes and rectify things appropriately... and many of those cases were all interconnected.

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  4. "Believers in the truth of the Bible cannot act like pirates." This is my new motto.

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    1. Except on special days: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Talk_Like_a_Pirate_Day

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    2. The last paragraph was excellent. A warning to all Christians.

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    3. Might we invert the proposition? "Those who act like pirates cannot be Christians." Academia is as plagued with fraudsters and opportunists as any other sector of human activity. But - and it an emphatic "but" - the plague is as much exacerbated by the goad of media and publishers as it is by the pressures on academics to get kudos for themselves and/or for their employing institutions. And nor do we need the public display of "I'm party to a great secret that will change everything, but I'm not allowed to tell you about it".

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    4. PMH: Does this make MOTB, Carroll, and Obbink Papyrates?

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    5. “Might we invert the proposition.” We could if we are able to search the heart of people and see that instead of besetting sin; they are unbelievers!
      Tim

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  5. Greg Matthews5/13/2020 6:59 pm

    I'd still like to know how involved SC was with Obbink's side business. How did SC get the other fragments to show at those private groups he was meeting with? Did he just take and opportunity to "borrow them" from the Greens while they considered buying them or did he also know the provenance? I still keep wondering why SC threw Obbink under the bus on here. While we know SC was a conman, to me his comments on here might have been an attempt to put daylight between himself and Obbink and that perhaps he really didn't know the source of the fragments.

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    1. It does seem like SC helped muddy the waters of the provenance of a lot of the manuscripts that Obbink was in the process of selling or trying to sell the Greens during those years. But I can't see any scenario where Obbink would have let SC in on the secret that they were actually Oxyrhynchus Papyri.

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    2. Greg Matthews5/13/2020 9:43 pm

      That's what I'm thinking as well. Otherwise it makes no sense for Carroll to enter the ring by pointing fingers.

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  6. Proving once again...
    A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,
    and favor is better than silver or gold.
    (Prov. 22:1 ESV)

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