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Recent Manuscript Discoveries: A Blast from the Past

As we are nearing the five-year anniversary of the Blog, I have been looking back over some past postings, and this one caught my eye, from 3/30/13 (*four* years ago….).   It’s still of interest.  Two things to say about it: “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” is now recognized by everyone to be a modern forgery (it has been proved) (see, e.g., https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/07/the-unbelievable-tale-of-jesus-wife/485573/); and the fragment of Mark’s Gospel allegedly from the first century has STILL not been published!   Here is my original post on the two:


As I am taking a break from my Christological posts for a couple of days, I’ve received several inquiries about other things, including the newsworthy manuscript discoveries announced this past year: what has happened to them? Specifically, what about that Gospel of Jesus’ Wife that was named, announced, and published by Karen King back in September, and what about the first-century manuscript of the Gospel of Mark that Dan Wallace announced but would tell us nothing about in the debate that he had with me in Chapel Hill back in February, over a year ago now.

As far as I know, in both instances the answer is the same. We have heard nothing new about either one. That’s very disappointing! Both of them would be highly significant if they were actually, authentically, what their discoverers/publishers say they are!

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The Text of the New Testament: Are the Textual Traditions of Other Ancient Works Relevant? A Blast From the Past
Eternal Life and Damnation



  1. Josephsluna
    Josephsluna  March 31, 2017

    Bart ! Look me up on Facebook! joseph.s.luna@aol.com! LOL
    If i am ever near North Carolina, I will stop by and say hello !

  2. Avatar
    mjt  March 31, 2017

    It’s a little difficult for us amateurs to separate fact from fiction when we hear claims about new copy discoveries. For example, there’s a Dr Peter Ruckman who claimed in a 2016 book on Daniel that we have DSS Daniel copies dateable to 180 bce, half a century earlier than anyone else seems to be claiming. I assume he’s making this up?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 2, 2017

      He is absolutely not an authority on the DSS. He’s a fundamentalist preacher. I would be *amazed* if he was able to read the Scrolls — let alone provide a date for them. The 180 BCE claim is bogus.

  3. Avatar
    Tempo1936  March 31, 2017

    Another subject to add to your mailbag is predestination/election vs free will. It’s As controversial as the trinity.

    What did you believe when you were younger?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 2, 2017

      I believed in both simultaneously. We were free to choose, but our choice was predestined. Go figure.

      • talmoore
        talmoore  April 2, 2017

        When Christopher Hitchens was asked if he believed we have free will he said, “Of course we have free will, because we have no choice but to have it.”

  4. Lev
    Lev  March 31, 2017

    I suppose if the first C fragment of Mark carried the words “You are my son; today I have become your father.” at Mark 1:11, that would be highly significant.

    There is good reason to believe both Matthew and Luke originally had these words at the baptism of Christ, so if Mark was proved to have been changed also, then this would certainly bolster adoptionist Christology.

    It’s such a pity we are still awaiting publication, but I heard that it will probably happen this year at the opening of the Washington bible museum, who no doubt will put on display this fragment as their centrepiece exhibit.

    • Bart
      Bart  April 2, 2017

      It would be. But then the conservative Christians would say the fragment was not from Mark but from some other Gospel.

  5. Avatar
    SidDhartha1953  April 1, 2017

    Based on what you know of him, where would you rank Dan Wallace on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being Fundamentalist Hack and 10 being Eminent Critical Scholar? Has this incident caused you to think less of him professionally than before?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 2, 2017

      Ha! He’s not a fundamentalist hack!! But no, I won’t be ranking my colleagues!

  6. Avatar
    JGonzalezGUS  April 1, 2017

    Dr. Ehrman,
    What’s the very latest on that Mark gospel fragment from the first century? Nothing new? Have you spoken to Dan Wallace lately? Since you had that debate a few years ago, don’t you think you have the right to pick up the phone and call him? He may not respond to the question (or maybe he might give a politician’s answer), but I think after Wallace’s claims scholars should hold his feet to the fire.
    On a different subject, if I may ask: I’ve read that early in the 2nd century it is thought that an editor gathered together many of Paul’s letters and published them. Perhaps at this time is when 2 Cor. was clobbered into what it is now. I recently read E.J.Richard’s commentary in ‘Sacra Pagina’ series. Because of certain anomalies in 1 Thess. he writes: “In light of these considerations, I am led to accept the composite character of 1 Thessalonians, whereby a short earlier missive (2:13–4:2) was inserted into a later Thessalonian letter (1:1–2:12 + 4:3–5:28).
    1st question: What are your thoughts on 1 Thessalonians also being a composite?
    2nd question: Have you come across any writings claiming, or at least hinting, that because in the 2nd century theology was progressing among other things, towards ‘incarnation’, the 2nd century editor of Paul’s letters cleaned-up some of Paul’s earlier views on Jesus and that is why some of the correspondence is patched together?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 2, 2017

      Very latest on the fragment: to be published this year or next. We’ll see!

      1. I doubt it, but I haven’t read al the arguments; 2. Nope!

  7. Avatar
    SidDhartha1953  April 1, 2017

    Having read the Atlantic article, I wonder if scholars who are willing to stake their careers on the authenticity of newly “discovered” manuscripts ought not have some background in investigative journalism. Mr. Fritz seems to have set out to make a fool of someone and succeeded quite well.

  8. Avatar
    Ron  April 2, 2017

    Dr. Bart, I’m on a quest to figure out what this statement means “Jesus died for my sins”. In your research and studies what is do you think Jesus actually accomplished? Ron

    • Bart
      Bart  April 3, 2017

      Are you asking my personal belief? I’m not a Christian. I think the death of Jesus was a tragedy that didn’t accomplish anything.

      • Avatar
        GregLogan  January 30, 2018

        Perhaps as an example of a man who at least thought He as sold out to God and was following through with the will of God – as, thus, a motivation to those so inclined?

  9. Avatar
    tskorick  April 3, 2017

    I’d been curious about that supposed 1st century Mark fragment for some time as well, and the excuses of those messing with the burial mask cartonnages as to them being under some secrecy agreement are starting to ring hollow. As great a tragedy as it would be to lose out on an early Markan text due to, if I were to speculate, violations of decades-old Egyptian antiquities laws for instance, it seems already a greater tragedy to me that academics are destroying ancient artifacts in the trowling for the same.

  10. Christopher
    Christopher  April 5, 2017

    It’s nice of you to stand by Dan. But he is a flat out jerk for making his “grand announcement” during the debate. It was a cheap and despicable move and honestly has made me regard him of low in character, ever since. I tell that to people whenever I get the chance.

    • Avatar
      GregLogan  January 30, 2018

      Agreed!! Esp. because that was SIX (6) YEARS ago…. And he stated with such secrecy but affirmation…..

  11. Avatar
    HawksJ  April 6, 2017

    Bart, I may be ‘mis-remembering’, but I believe the VERY first time I ever heard your name – an instance that changed my life, by the way – was an appearance by you on the British radio show, “Unbelievable”, and one thing I SEEM to remember about that episode was you reacting to the news of the discovery of a new manuscript with incredulity (as if that was the very first time you’d ever heard of it). Strangely enough, I was just thinking about this a few days ago and considered asking you about it on here (whether anything had come of it).

    Perhaps I am confusing that with the Chapel Hill debate you mention above, and it had nothing to do with the show ‘Unbelievable’. Just curious – Do you remember whether such a manuscript was discussed by you on ‘Unbelievable’, and, if so, was it this same alleged manuscript you mention above?

    By the way, I love your appearances on that show. Justin does such a great job hosting and moderating, and you are his most entertaining guest!

    By the way (part 2), speaking of Chapel Hill…congratulations! Rock Chalk (though)!

    • Bart
      Bart  April 7, 2017

      I don’t remember if we discussed it or not — but it seems unlikely. I wonder if you’re remembering the Chapel Hill debate?

  12. Avatar
    lobojose  April 11, 2017

    Dr Ehrman,
    Do you know where or how can I obtain a list of early gospels manuscripts (from the 2nd century to the 5th) which it can provide the information if those gospels manuscripts have or does not have the “Title/name” of the gospels??

    In addition I hope that the list will mention if the first(s) page(s) is/are missing. I understand that the title should be in the first page. If a manuscript is missing its first page, then it may not be possible to say if the gospel manuscript was anonymous or not.

    Thank you!!

    • Bart
      Bart  April 12, 2017

      There are only four manuscripts up through the fifth century that have the first page: Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Alexandrinus, and Bezae (Aleph, B, A, and D). They all have “Mark” in the inscription. They date from the mid-fourth century (possibly 370 or so) to the early fifth century. None of the papyri of the New Testament have the first page of Mark.

      • Avatar
        lobojose  April 12, 2017

        Dr. Erhman,
        Firstly, thank you for taking the time to respond my interest to learn more about the original manuscripts.
        I have some confusion and I hope that you can clarify it. I have the understanding all “Gospels” manuscripts before the5 century are anonymous.
        But, then “if” all “Gospels” manuscripts before the 5th century are fragments (“if” all first pages missing). Therefore, we do not know if there are anonymous since the introduction to those gospels are missing (We do not know if those early gospels had titles or not).

        Since my knowledge in Gospels manuscripts is close to zero, I would like to know if a Gospel manuscript(s) exists before the 5th century (before Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Alexandrinus, and Bezae) which it had the first page, where the title for that gospel should appear, but “it did Not” (anonymous).
        Do you know the name and year of the manuscripts that have the firsts introductory pages, but the title of the gospel is missing (before the 5th century)??

        Thank you much for sharing your knowledge and clarified my confusion.

        • Bart
          Bart  April 13, 2017

          I don’t know what you mean about manuscripts being anonymous. Do you mean that they don’t assign the name to an author of the Gospel of Mark? None of the manuscripts I mentioned (Aleph, B, A, D) are fragments of Mark — they are complete texts, and they all ascribe the Gospel to Mark. There aren’t any other manuscript that have the first page prior to the fifth century.

          • Avatar
            lobojose  April 13, 2017

            Dr. Erhman,
            1- Yes, I mean with anonymous, that the name of the apostle is not in the manuscript (e.g. “Gospel of Mark”, or “Gospel of Luke”, etc.)

            2- Yes, I understand that manuscripts Aleph, B, A, D are complete texts, and the name of the “Gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John” are presents on those manuscripts.

            3- I was not aware that there is not a Gospel manuscript previous to the 5th century that does Not have the first page (New information for me…. Thank you). Which this could mean that the title of the gospel got lost (if it had one).

            4- I guess my confusion is that I thought that you mentioned in your lectures/debates that the Gospels manuscripts prior to the 5th century were “Anonymous” and that the names were added later…..

            Then the question is:
            When the names to the Gospels were added (year or century)??… And how do we know??

            I hope that you can clarified my confusion and lack of knowledge…… Thanks!!!

          • Bart
            Bart  April 15, 2017

            3. P45 is from around 220 CE, and it is lacking the first page.

            I was not arguing that there are manuscripts lacking the title before the fifth century. I was arguing on the basis of other evidence that the Gospels were not originally written with titles. One simple piece of evidence: whoever called the first Gospel of the New Testament “According to Matthew” was someone telling you who, in his opinion, the Gospel came from. No author ever gives as a *title* of his book “According to me” (when I write a book I never have as its *title* “According to Bart.” I have an actual title)

  13. Avatar
    JohnMuellerJD  April 2, 2018

    Any updates on Dan Wallace’s discovery of the first century manuscript of Mark?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 3, 2018

      It appears to be bogus. Doesn’t exist. Or rather, the piece of papyrus exists but it’s not a first-century manuscript of Mark. I know that only from scuttlebutt, but it appears to be pretty well sourced scuttlebutt.

  14. Avatar
    DaveJaxon  December 6, 2019

    Professor Ehrman, is it not true that Dr Ruckman had a PHD and Masters in philosophy or religion? I read a bio on him which says he basically read a book per day. Is it fair to only refer to him as a “fundamentalists preacher”? I may have mixed him up with another person but I believe it’s the same man.

    • Bart
      Bart  December 6, 2019

      I’m afraid I don’t know anything about him. I’d have to know where his PhD comes from. Some people basically buy them — but I have no idea about him. From a quick glance online it looks like he was a fundamentalist preacher, not a scholar. Reading a book a day isn’t actually all that hard if you figure out how to do it. It was a trick I learned in my mid-twenties. Sounded a lot more impressive back then than it actually is.

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