Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Obbink loses $7m lawsuit and is hiding from authorities

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Two reports have recently come out detailing the latest turn in the story of Dirk Obbink and First-Century Mark. According to Die Zeit and Christianity Today, Obbink is living in a houseboat south of Oxford where he has been avoiding the authorities. From CT:

Obbink with the famed pool table. (source)

Obbink was arrested in 2020 and then sued in 2021. Shortly after that, court records show, he moved to a houseboat named the James Brindley and started hiding from the private investigators attempting to serve him summons. 

A neighbor signed an affidavit that she saw Obbink on the boat a little before 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, September 11, and the summons had been removed from the houseboat door. 

“The main cabin door was open,” the affidavit says. “Mr. Obbink would have had to remove the envelop to open the door.” 

The British woman helpfully photographed Obbink for the investigators, who presented it to the US federal court as evidence and asked for a default judgment. 

Obbink is also facing criminal charges in England. The investigation is ongoing.

Given that Obbink hasn’t responded , the federal court has “certified a default judgment” against him. Apparently that means he now owes Hobby Lobby $7m. Perhaps most striking is that there are still some 80 papyri unaccounted for! Someone should check that houseboat.

11 comments

  1. Fascinating stuff. Thank you. Zeit is feminine, btw (as is Zeitung). I wonder if the author, Susanna Kinzig, is the daughter of Wolfram Kinzig, Chair of Church History in Bonn.

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  2. Whatever the facts of the matter, this is not how matters should go. Poor guy.

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    1. Poor wouldn't be my first choice of adjective given the sums involved...

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  3. The CT story may have some inaccuracies, like this statement:

    "A sales record shows that Obbink claimed four of them were first-century copies of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—which would have made them the oldest known pieces of the New Testament."

    If I recall correctly, only Mark was presented as 1st century, not all four of those fragments.


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    1. The purchase agreement described all 4 Gospel manuscripts as “Circa 0100 AD.”
      https://evangelicaltextualcriticism.blogspot.com/2019/06/invoice-for-sale-of-first-century-mark.html

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    2. I was thinking of this article and the statement from Pattengale:

      https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/june-web-only/first-century-mark-pattengale-inside-saga.html

      "Obbink said that three of the pieces dated from the second century (AD 100–200). Then he pointed to key letter markings in the Mark fragment: the epsilon (e), upsilon (u), and tau (t). He was convinced, he said, that it was extremely early: 'very likely first century.'"

      Interesting that the initial assessment Obbink communicated to Carroll and Pattengale was 2nd century for Matthew, Luke and John, but then the final invoice describes all four as circa 100.


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    3. Describing all 4 as ca. AD 100 doesn't really contradict what Pattengale says in that quote (which is also just Pattengale's recollection of a conversation, so may not be exactly what Obbink told him).

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    4. But, to your original point, Darrell, the CT wasn't quite accurate in saying that he claimed all 4 were "first century," even if that was based on calling them ca. 100.

      That kind of muddying things up by treating the phrases "1st century" and "1st-2nd century" as if they're interchangeable, is unfortunately too common.

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    5. I just find it interesting--if in fact Pattengale accurately remembered how Obbink first presented these four fragments-- how they got older, on average, the longer the negotiations went on.

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    6. Kind of like the alleged age of the earth. It didn't finally settle out until my lifetime, and I'm not so sure that date is even believed any more by everyone who used to teach it as settled science.

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