One of the things that I find disconcerting about all the discussion about whether it is legitimate to destroy mummy masks in order to get NT papyri is that the only people who seem to know anything about what has been found (this alleged first century copy of the Gospel of Mark) are not experts in the specific fields in which expertise is required, both to dismantle masks and to date papyri. As it turns out, they’re all friends of mine. Craig Evans is a New Testament scholar, but he is not a textual critic, let alone a papyrologist (expert in papyri) or palaeographer (expert in dating manuscripts). Dan Wallace, who first announced the discovery in a debate against me over two years ago, is in the same boat; he’s done lots of good for the academy by going around the world to photograph/digitize manuscripts, but he is not trained in either papyrology or palaeography and is expert in neither. My oldest friend in the field, a good friend for some thirty years now, Michael Holmes, is, as Craig told us in his response to the criticism, the person in charge of textual research for the Green Scholars Initiative (the group behind the destruction and discovery) (and is on this Blog!), and even though he is one of the leading textual critics in North America, he too is not trained or expert in papyrology or palaeography. Why don’t we have an expert tell us what’s going on???
Someone who is trained in, and expert in, these fields is Roberta Mazza, lecturer in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Manchester. She currently is Research Fellow of the John Rylands Research Institute (John Rylands Library, University of Manchester), and honorary academic curator of the Graeco-Roman Egypt collection of the Manchester Museum. Here are some of her trenchant comments on the whole situation, very much worth reading!
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