First-century Mark: A Timeline
Are you braced for the impact of the Green Scholars Initiative’s work on newly discovered New Testament papyri? The most famous (or infamous) of these papyri is a fragment from the Gospel of Mark which has been assigned a production-date in the first century – but there are several important papyri among the documents which are scheduled to be published – hopefully – within a year. Maybe two. Or three. In the meantime, here’s a timeline of events leading up to this eventual important event.
- Late 1970’s-1990’s – Jaakko Frösén (Philology professor at theUniversity of Helsinki) develops methods to extract literary papyri from cartonnage. A video of his conservation-technique is accessible athttp://www.helsinki.fi/hum/kla/papupetra/papyrus/cartonnage.html . (You may need an up-to-date version of RealPlayer to watch the video.)
|A papyrus fragment, from Dr. Kraft’s report
Kraft’s report, Studies in the (Mis)uses of Papyrus Cartonnage, and Recovery/Conservation of Its Layers, shows that readable papyri are being extracted from cartonnage, as shown by the example athttp://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/rak/publics/papyri/pKraft/images/cartonnage/078-2w-scan.jpg .
- March 30, 2010 – Hobby Lobby founder and CEO David Green discusses the Green Collection and the plans for a Museum of the Bible, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLCNIZ3z_vk . (At the time of the interview, Dallas was the planned location of the Museum of the Bible, but that has changed; it is being constructed in Washington, D.C.) Codex Climaci Rescriptus, previously housed at Westminster College, Cambridge, is among the items in the collection.
|Codex Climaci Rescriptus (0250)
- May 19, 2011 – CBN reports (athttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4L_TP6O_Q4 ) about Scott Carroll, the rapid growth of the Green Collection, and plans for the Museum of the Bible. The reporter states that the Green Collection already contains over 30,000 items. Several collection-items are in view in the report, including a Dead Seas Scroll fragment, an illustrated Ethiopic codex, and Papyrus 37. At about 2:55, pages of the Codex Climaci Rescriptus are featured. Dr. Carroll describes it as the fifth-oldest near complete Bible in the world. He also claims, “The handwriting betrays that it actually was copied from something in the 100’s.”
- Summer 2011 – Baylor Magazine describes (athttp://www.baylor.edu/alumni/magazine/0904/news.php?action=story&story=95829 ) “an unconventional research project” in which exterior mummy-coverings were “dissolved” and in which “More than 150 papyri texts” were extracted. The report mentions that the Green Collection “provided the items for the study.” The report names Scott Carroll as the “principal investigator” of the research; specialists involved in the research include David Kyle Jeffrey and Jeffrey Fish.
- Fall 2011 – In a newsletter of Baylor University,Scott Carroll’s work on manuscript-extraction from mummy cartonnage is described: http://www.baylor.edu/content/services/document.php/182749.pdf . Jeff Fish was interviewed for the report: “One day I received a call on the phone from Dr. Scott Carroll, who told me about a vast new collection of unedited papyri. . . . I have since found that Byron Johnson, director of Baylor’s Institute for the Study of Religion, was instrumental in getting Baylor involved with the Green Scholars Initiative.”
- November 27, 2011 – Scott Carroll, known to be acquiring artifacts and manuscripts for the rapidly growing Green Collection, states on Twitter: “Finished exhibit and lectures in West Africa with over 21,000 registered. Now in Istanbul looking at a collection of unpublished papyri.” Later the same day: “My eyes feasted on classical texts, royal decrees, and Biblical and Gnostic texts; nearly 1,000 papyri hidden in this private treasure-trove.”
- December 1, 2011 – Scott Carroll states on Twitter: “For over 100 years the earliest known text of the New Testament has been the so-call John Rylands Papyrus. Not any more.” [The John Rylands Papyrus to which he refers is P52.] On Facebook, Carroll states: “For over 100 years the earliest-known text of the NT has been the so-called John Rylands papyrus. That is about to change with a sensational discover[y] I made yesterday. Stay tuned for the update.”
- February 1, 2012 – Daniel Wallace mentions the existence of “a fragment from Mark’s Gospel that is from the first century” during a debate with Bart Ehrman about the reliability of the New Testament text. The debate is online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kg-dJA3SnTA&feature=youtu.be (uploaded to YouTube on February 13, 2012). One hour and 13 minutes into the debate, Dr. Wallace mentions the existence of the first-century fragment of Mark:
“In the last few months several very early fragments of the New Testament have been discovered. These will be published by an international scholarly publishing house in a book one year from now. . . . Among the finds was also a fragment of Luke that is from the early second century. . . . 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.”
- February 15, 2012 – Ben Witherington III (New Testament professor at Asbury), after a lecture by Scott Carroll at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary – Charlotte, writes at his blog (at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bibleandculture/2012/02/15/the-ripening-of-the-green-collection/ ), “The brief lecture by Scott Carroll at GCTS Charlotte last Friday night highlighted some of the most exciting aspects of the Green Collection. It is possible that a very early copy of the Gospel of Mark in Greek, possibly the very earliest is a part of this collection. An epigrapher from Oxford has already prepared to say that it is a first century copy!” (Witherington also notes, “Sadly it does not include Mark 16.”)
[It so happens that Dirk Obbink is a papyrologist who works at Oxford. He has been working with Jerry Pattengale (who is currently the Green Scholars Initiative’s Executive Director of Education) as General Editor for the Brill Papyrus Series, in which, it is hoped, the first-century papyrus fragment will be published, along with the other early manuscripts Scott Carroll has described.]
February 24, 2012 – Hugh Hewitt’s interview of Daniel Wallace is published athttp://www.hughhewitt.com/new-testment-scholar-daniel-wallace-on-the-gospel-of-mark-discovery-and-other-biblical-papyri-with-it/ . Near the beginning of the interview, Wallace states: “First of all, there is a fragment of Mark, and it’s a very small fragment, not too many verses, but it’s definitely from Mark. And the most amazing thing about this is that it’s from the first century. We don’t have any other New Testament manuscripts that are written within the same century that the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament were written in. This is the first. And it’s dated by one of the world’s leading paleographers, whose name I’m not allowed to reveal yet.”
Asked for an “absolute last date” when the newly discovered fragments will be published, Wallace states, “I have been told that a book should be out, a multi-author book, should be out early next year. Now publishers sometimes take longer. Scholars sometimes take longer. So I’m not going to bet anything on that. But I’m pretty darned confident 2013 is going to be the year all of this is going to be published.”
- March 22, 2012 – Daniel Wallace posts the following at his blog (athttp://danielbwallace.com/2012/03/22/first-century-fragment-of-marks-gospel-found/ ): “At my debate with Bart Ehrman (1 Feb 2012, held at UNC Chapel Hill) over whether we can recover the wording of the New Testament autographs, I made the announcement that a probable first-century fragment of Mark’s Gospel had been recently discovered. I noted that a world-class paleographer had dated this manuscript and that he was pretty darn sure that it belonged to the first century. All the details will be coming out in a multi-author book published by E. J. Brill sometime in 2013.” And, “When the fragment is published along with six other early New Testament papyri (all from around the second century), the scholarly vetting will do its due diligence.”
- April 6, 2012 – Bart Ehrman, at http://ehrmanblog.org/first-century-copy-of-mark-part-1/ , expresses some frustration about the secrecy surrounding the first-century papyrus fragment of first-century papyrus of Mark: “I don’t understand why there is so much secrecy about this “manuscript.” Why NOT tell us where it was found, who found it, how extensive it is, who has examined it, what his grounds for dating it were, whether his views have been independently corroborated?”
August 13, 2013 – Updates are made to the Bibliographical Test Update (which is accessible at
https://s3.amazonaws.com/jmm.us/Bibliographical+Test+Update+-+08.13.14.pdf ). Items are added to the list of Coptic New Testament manuscripts and Greek New Testament manuscripts.
|Recto: Mt. 6:33 Verso: Mt. 7:4
Photos of some fragments are included; however, even though “The photos have been purposely obscured to protect copying of manuscripts before their publication,” some of them have a modicum of usefulness, such as a photo of a Coptic fragment containing text from Matthew 6:33 and 7:4. Another photo that shows a Coptic fragment with text from First John 2:21.
Beginning on page 23 of the Bibliographical Test Update, there is a report of the contents of non-Biblical papyri from the second century B.C., extracted from a mummy-mask that is not the same mask that was featured in McDowell’s video.
|Text: First John 2:21
(from the Bibl. Test Update)
September 6, 2013 – A presentation given by Scott Carroll at the University of the Nations is uploaded to YouTube (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CSUzWsuLpso – 2013 UofN WS: S11 Dr. Scott Carroll). In the course of this video, Carroll describes the process that was used to extract literary papyri from mummy cartonnage. Things get interesting about 23 minutes into the video. (At 25:04, bottles of Palmolive are visible in the background as a mummy-mask is being prepared for deconstruction in a sink. This appears to be the same extraction-method that was presented by McDowell.) Carroll makes the following statements:
Min. 28: Carroll announces his discovery of the earliest known text of Romans, lost works of Sappho, and “tons of Homer.”
Min. 29: Carroll describes the multi-spectral imaging technology that is being used to read the underwriting of Codex Cimaci Rescriptus. Other subjects are also covered, such as the use of lasers to recover text by measuring the microscopic imprint of the stylus where no ink has survived on the page.
Min. 33: Carroll mentions that a text of Euripides has been recovered.
Min. 36: Carroll mentions that he has (there in the room) the earliest text of Exodus 24.
Min. 37: Carroll states that texts from “many of the Old Testament books,” have been discovered, “with New Testament books,” – “including a first-century text of the Gospel of Mark. That will be the earliest text of the New Testament.”
Min. 38: Carroll states, “We’re looking now at a text of Mark that dates between 70 and 110. And there’s even something more important than that, that I’ve not even told David Hamilton. And I’m not going to.”
Min. 39: Carroll displays a Powerpoint-graphic with a list of manuscripts, including:
- Gospel of Mt c. 140
- Mt 6 mid-2c
- Gospel of Mark late 1c-early 2c
- Gospel of Luke mid-2c
- Gospel of Luke mid-to-late 2c
- John 8 early-3c
- Early 4c fragment of John 3 in Coptic
- Acts 19 in Coptic
- Romans early-3c.
The next slide includes:
- Romans 14 early 4c papyrus in Coptic
- I Corinthians 9 mid-2c
- Codex quire of 2 Corinthians and Galatians 4c in Coptic
- Ephesians 4 Coptic
- Hebrews 9 early-3c
- Hebrews 11 mid-2c (the earliest text of Hebrews)
- 2 Timothy 3 papyrus (only surviving evidence for the epistle)
In the course of describing these items and others, Carroll mentions the existence of an ancient fragment that is a portion of Matthew 27-28 and “The earliest text in the world of Luke 16,” “the earliest text of Timothy,” a manuscript containing Second Corinthians chapter 6 through Galatians 3 (which would necessarily be several pages long), “The earliest text in the world of Genesis 17,” and “The earliest text of Second Kings 9.” Referring to a text of First Samuel, Carroll states, “This text came from a mummy mask,” and says that it was found along with a fragment of the Iliad.
Min. 51: Carroll refers to a fragment of Matthew 12 which will be the second-earliest New Testament manuscript when it is published, to a fragment of Matthew and Luke “dating to around 150,” to the earliest surviving manuscript of Luke 2, “dating to around 140,” and to a fragment of Luke 12, “dating to before 200.”
Other items mentioned in Carroll’s description of the newly discovered manuscripts: “The earliest text of Acts 19,” the “earliest text of Romans, found in a mummy mask,” “earliest of Romans 14,” and the “earliest copy of any of Paul’s writings – First Corinthians 9.” He seems to say that last-mentioned item (a manuscript of First Corinthians 9) was produced in 140 to 160, and was found in a box. [Therefore we ought to keep in mind that some of the new finds are not from mummy cartonnage!]
- March 24, 2014– Josh McDowell, in a lecture (online at http://vimeo.com/62646535 ) given at Gracespring Bible Church, describes an experience at the Discover the Evidence seminar (which took place Dec. 5-6, 2013) at which a mummy-mask was deconstructed to obtain literary papyri that were among its component-parts.
Beginning in the 26th minute of the video, the deconstruction of the mummy-mask is clearly shown: it is submerged in a sink at specific temperature-levels, a gentle detergent (Palmolive) is applied, the material is massaged, and then the layers of papyri are gently separated. This results in the destruction of the artwork on the surface of the mask. In the 28th minute of the video, McDowell mentions that “three classical scholars” were involved in the identification of texts derived via this method of papyrus-extraction. (Footage of the mask-deconstruction and papyrus-extraction is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_gwgGcpD1M .)
The Discover the Evidence seminar is described at http://www.josh.org/discover/ . The webpage includes detailed bios of Scott Carroll (Ph.D., Miami University, Ohio) and Josh McDowell (M.Div., Talbot Theological Seminary).
- May 5, 2014 – Tommy Wasserman, at the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog, using information from Brice C. Jones, posts photos of some of the manuscripts featured in Josh McDowell’s video. One of the photos is of a fragment containing First Corinthians 10:1-6. Peter Head (who currently is a scholar involved in the Green Scholars Initiative, according to the list at http://www.greenscholarsinitiative.org/scholars-staff ) refers to McDowell’s “outlandish claims” and describes the process of papyri-extraction as “slapdash” and “deplorable.” Wasserman (who is alsocurrently a scholar involved in the Green Scholars initiative) concurs, briefly stating, “Slapdash is the word.”
- May 15, 2014 – Jerry Pattengale, in a video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLCNIZ3z_vk , describes the work of the Green Scholars Initiative, as well as plans for the opening of the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. in 2017.
- September 13, 2014 – Dorothy King compares Josh McDowell to the Taliban in a blog-post at
http://phdiva.blogspot.com/2014/09/i-come-to-bury-green-not-to-praise-him.html , stating, “If islamic fundamentalists destroy cultural property to propagate religious propaganda – whether it’s the Taliban or ISIS – we’re metaphorically up in arms. Why do we treat Christian fundamentalists differently? Why do we make allowances for the Green Collection scholars destroying ancient Egyptian mummies? If this ain’t religious discrimination, I don’t know what is.”
- November 7, 2014 – Michael Holmes, the compiler of the SBL-GNT, becomes the Executive Director of the Green Scholars Initiative.
- December 5, 2014 – Scott Carroll appears in a chapel-service at Dallas Theological Seminary (where Dan Wallace is a professor), online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htXrOgDahAQ , beginning at about 23 minutes into the video. His title, in a caption in the video, is “Director, Manuscript Research Group, Grand Haven, MI.”
- January 9, 2015 – Dirk Obbink releases information on newly discovered texts of Sappho, including a statement that these particular fragments were not obtained from mummy cartonnage. In his report (which includes photos) at http://www.papyrology.ox.ac.uk/Fragments/SCS.Sappho.2015.Obbink.paper.pdf , Obbink refers to the material as “industrial papyri,” and offers a guess that it existed as a book-binding. [However, I note that his basis for this is that “none of the fragments showed any trace of gesso or paint prior to dissolving or after.” It seems to me that this does not preclude an origin in mummy cartonnage; it only implies that the fragments were not from its outer layer or layers.] He mentions that his fellow-researchers included Simon Burris and Jeffrey Fish. [These may be the “three classical scholars” alluded to by Josh McDowell in his 2013 lecture.]
Scheduled for 2017: the opening of the Museum of the Bible. The museum has a website at http://www.museumofthebible.org . Passages, a traveling exhibit featuring items from the Green Collection, continues to draw public attention to the collection. The current director of the museum’s collections is David Trobisch. Dr. Trobisch is currently listed online as a Fellow of the Center for Inquiry at http://www.centerforinquiry.net/jesusproject/fellows/trobisch_david ; interestingly, the stated mission of the CFI, as stated at http://www.centerforinquiry.netabout , is “to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanistic values.” [This seems very different from the candid Christian commitment that has been expressed by Dr. Carroll. It also seems diametrically opposed to the priorities of the Green family.]
That about covers it. We are still awaiting the publication of the first-century papyrus of the Gospel of Mark; I expect that it will be published by Dirk Obbink (perhaps along with Jeffrey Fish) in late 2015 or 2016, and that it will turn out to be a small fragment with text from Mark chapter one. It is very possible that some of the other fragments to be published in the same series, which is expected to be prohibitively expensive, will turn out to make a much more significant text-critical contribution than the Mark fragment. (Note to the GSI and Brill: affordable digital copies would be a nice compensation for making everyone wait so long!)