21 votes, average: 4.95 out of 521 votes, average: 4.95 out of 521 votes, average: 4.95 out of 521 votes, average: 4.95 out of 521 votes, average: 4.95 out of 5 (21 votes, average: 4.95 out of 5)
You need to be a registered member to rate this post.
Loading...

The Hobby Lobby, Biblical Manuscripts, and Academic Scandal

Yesterday I posted the most recent developments in the scandalous “first-century Mark” affair.   Readers of the blog who are not familiar with or invested much in the study of ancient manuscripts may have shrugged their shoulders and not seen what the big deal was.  I completely get that.   But anyone involved in New Testament textual criticism, the history of the Bible, and the ethics of modern biblical scholarship would have seen that this is a very, very big deal.  A  blockbuster development.

For years now conservative evangelical scholars have been declaring that they have solid proof to support their views about the New Testament, against crazy liberal types (like me): we NOW have, they claimed, reliable *first* century evidence that the Gospels were both written earlier than the skeptics claim *and* that it was being reliably copied.  Their evidence?  A portion of the Gospel of Mark that had been dated by one of the world’s experts to the first century itself.  Amazing!

And where was this manuscript of Mark?  No one would say.  How much of Mark’s Gospel was contained in it?  No one would say.  How do we know it dates to the first century?  No one would say.  Has the date been collaborated by other experts?  No one would say.   And so it goes….

When the piece was published in 2018, it turns out that it was a tiny scrap with a few verses on it (definitely from Mark’s Gospel), that dates to the end of the second or the beginning of the third century.  Uh, so, well, in fact it is *not* evidence (or even close to being evidence) for the claims so many people were making about it (none of whom, I might point out, had actually investigated the fragment!)  I talk about the fragment and its real significance here in an older post, made once the publication appeared.:

https://ehrmanblog.org/what-the-new-fragment-of-marks-gospel-looks-like-the-so-called-first-century-mark/

It is important to provide some of the scintillating details that emerged two days ago, that you might not know about.

It’s a little bit complicated, but it involves the retail chain, Hobby Lobby.  Really.    Those who …

Hey, it gets even more interesting.  To see the rest of the post, you will need to be a blog member.  It won’t cost much, and you’ll get tons of intriguing information, in five posts a week.  All the money goes to charity.  So why not?

You need to be logged in to see this part of the content. Please Login to access.


Flat-out Lies or Willful Ignorance. How Do They Get Away With It?
Finally! Now We Know. The “First-Century Copy” of Mark

42

Comments

  1. Avatar
    craig@corbettlaw.org  June 25, 2019

    Thanks for the links. Great work.

  2. NulliusInVerba
    NulliusInVerba  June 25, 2019

    Thanks especially for tackling this issue.

    Bart: There is a lot, lot more that can be said about the whole affair, and there continue to be very big questions indeed.

    Do you anticipate another post on this matter, now or in the future?

  3. Avatar
    andybruner  June 25, 2019

    I still don’t quite understand why this would be a huge event to find a manuscript from 1st century? Isn’t it accepted that the gospel of Mark was written around 70 AD? So why would it be surprising to find a bit of manuscript from the 1st century?

  4. Robert
    Robert  June 25, 2019

    Bart: “For years now conservative evangelical scholars have been declaring that they have solid proof to support their views about the New Testament, against crazy liberal types (like me): we NOW have, they claimed, reliable *first* century evidence that the Gospels were both written earlier than the skeptics claim *and* that it was being reliably copied.  Their evidence?”

    Here’s an example of just such an ignorant (or possibly dishonest?) and absurd attack on you and scholarship in general by Scott Carroll in 2016:

    ” There’s actually a, a fragment of the Gospel of Mark that’s been discovered that has been tentatively dated somewhere between 70 AD and like 110 AD. So Gospel of Mark, maybe dating as early as 70 AD. Um, this is outstanding because, uh, the more liberal scholars, uh, like Bart Ehrman from, uh, from the University of North Carolina, uh, has said that the, uh, Gospel of Mark was the lastgospel written, and was probably written around 200.  So this will completely, uh, cause him to have to rework his chronologies. That’s what these liberal scholars do. They’ll take things that are early and date them late, and take things that are late and date them early and try to turn topsy-turvey the, um, our understanding of, of things. And so, he’s already crying foul that he’s not had time to, uh, see the manuscript at all, but it’s fortunately in the hands of conservative scholars who usually don’t get an opportunity to work with these things, who are in the process of preparing them for publication.”

    Brent quoted this and links to the video here:

    https://brentnongbri.com/2019/06/24/revisiting-some-scott-carroll-comments-in-light-of-the-first-century-mark-purchase-agreement/

    Is Carroll really this stupid or is he purposely misrepresenting your consensus opinion on the dating of Mark to score apologetic points?

    2
    • Bart
      Bart  June 26, 2019

      Ha! I hadn’t seen your comment before writing today’s post!!

      2
  5. Avatar
    Todd  June 25, 2019

    Are there any photos of these fragments available? It’s just interesting to see what they look like.

  6. Avatar
    Pattylt  June 25, 2019

    I often wonder if Christians and other religions will ever understand that avoiding scandal winds up being even more scandalous eventually. The deception and greed evident in this event, the Catholic church’s shuffling of Priests accused of child abuse and several other stories of deception or outright lying to protect the faith or individuals within it just makes the bleeding of church numbers not only continue but justifiably so.

    When the leaders of a faith become the biggest reason for the problems of the faith there is no one else to blame but themselves, try though they may. Perhaps if we eventually have a much smaller but more honest, humble and accountable churches they will become a faith that can be relevant again? I really don’t want to see faiths disappear completely but being less relevant in our society and politics doesn’t hurt my feelings!

  7. epicurus
    epicurus  June 25, 2019

    Holy cow. Sounds like a detective novel. We’ll need Columbo to sort it all out!

    • Avatar
      Sixtus  June 26, 2019

      Or a series with Angela Lansbury: Papyri She Wrote!

      2
  8. Rick
    Rick  June 25, 2019

    Professor,
    Have any other schools even approaching the prestige of Oxford ever been caught up in such a scandal?

    Dominus Illuminatio Mea
    Ego fur in nocte,

    1
    • Bart
      Bart  June 26, 2019

      I”m not sure any of the blame can be laid on Oxford. Most universities have a faculty member or twelve who engage in scandalous behavior, but it’s not usually (though sometimes!) the university’s fault.

      1
  9. Avatar
    dannawid  June 25, 2019

    In the dark ages, golden age of the church, there was no need to prove or disprove anything. The pope spoke for God, end of argument. Were there monks who arrived at the same conclusions as Dr. Bart Ehrman? logic assumes there were. Would those monks dare to go public? of course not. They valued their lives and there was no internet. so they became hermits and bit their tongs. Ignorance reigned supreme.

  10. Avatar
    fishician  June 25, 2019

    Interesting how those who consider themselves crusaders for the truth of God can be so cavalier about truth and facts, some to the point of being downright unethical and untruthful. Especially in a matter (the accuracy of the Gospels) that most Christians don’t really care about; they have their stories of Jesus and they are content. I doubt a single person would have been converted to Christianity if a 1st Century copy of Mark had been found, but some may turn away when they realize the chicanery by those claiming to represent Christ.

  11. Avatar
    RRomanchek  June 25, 2019

    Wow!

  12. Avatar
    AstaKask  June 25, 2019

    What had been the ramifications if this had been true? A first-century copy of Mark – that would shake up the field, wouldn’t it?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 26, 2019

      Becuase it was such a tiny fragment, I think not. I devoted a couple of full length posts to the question, asking what difference it could and did make (one posted before we know what was in the fragment, and one after)

  13. Avatar
    jmmarine1  June 25, 2019

    From Brent Nongbri’s blog, quoting Scott Carroll:

    ‘So Gospel of Mark, maybe dating as early as 70 AD (the fragment in question–Mine). Um, this is outstanding because, uh, the more liberal scholars, uh, like Bart Ehrman from, uh, from the University of North Carolina, uh, has said that the, uh, Gospel of Mark was the last gospel written, and was probably written around 200. So this will completely, uh, cause him to have to rework his chronologies. That’s what these liberal scholars do. They’ll take things that are early and date them late, and take things that are late and date them early and try to turn topsy-turvey the, um, our understanding of, of things.’

    https://brentnongbri.com/2019/06/24/revisiting-some-scott-carroll-comments-in-light-of-the-first-century-mark-purchase-agreement/

    How good can Scott Carroll’s NT scholarship be if he could make a claim like the one above; about you or any other credible scholar? No NT scholar, even the most ‘liberal’ believes that Mark was written last, or that it was probably written around 200. No credible (or liberal) scholar would posit that any part of the NT was written that late. How did Carroll not catch himself after voicing so uninformed a statement? Similarly, how does he not see the absolute irony of what he claims *liberals* do, when he is insisting, against all evidence, that this fragment is 1st Century? Early dating material is no better than ideologically late dating material.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 26, 2019

      Ah, I hadn’t seen your comment before doing today’s post!

  14. Avatar
    Robby  June 25, 2019

    Has Dan Wallace contacted you about the debate that he mentioned it in? If not, do you think you two will discuss it anytime soon? I’d like to hear his response.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 26, 2019

      Yes, he apologized to me. I posted about it — you can find it in the blog by searching for his name.

      1
  15. Avatar
    RICHWEN90  June 25, 2019

    Do evangelical scholars ever worry about credibility? Can we perhaps expect an admission of error? Will they cease to claim that there is a “first century Mark”? I have some doubts about all of the above. Could be something like creationist arguments about transitional fossils– still denying there are such things when in fact, many have been found.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 26, 2019

      Oh yes, they’ve realized they were wrong about that one and are willing to say so — but always because someone *else* misled them….

  16. Avatar
    Pedro  June 25, 2019

    Although many pieces are falling into place, I still have some questions. For instance, in his blog, Dr. Wallace stated that the papyrologist (Obbink?) had changed his mind about the fragment being first century some time *before* the debate. But then much later, the fragment was being promoted as being from the first century, but this time through Dr. Craig Evans and presenting it as part of an Egyptian funersry mask. How from a fragment obtained from Oxyrhynchus, did they get to the story of it being part of an Egyptian mask that was going to be destroyed? I don’t get it. There is far more to this than has been revealed.

    1
    • Bart
      Bart  June 26, 2019

      Yes there is. And all the various accounts simply don’t add up — even accounts coming from the same individual sometimes.

      4
  17. Avatar
    mkahn1977  June 26, 2019

    Reprehensible.

    These belong in a real, respectable museum–not some private ownership monopolizing black-market group, not to mention their ongoing violations of UNESCO of 1970!

    Here’s a question, since you mention “conservative evangelical scholars”– what is the main difference in methodology/philosophy between so-called liberal and conservative biblical/textual scholars? It seems to me that the conservative/evangelical ones do not subscribe to the scientific and or historical methods and they are out to “prove” the historical accuracy of scripture by circular reasoning, fallacious reductive-thinking and trying to reconcile discrepancies.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 26, 2019

      Many evangelical scholars do indeed claim to engage in serious historical research — and some actually do so. But to an outsider, many times it seems that their *conclusions* always seem to align with the *beliefs* (e.g., about the Bible) that they had going into the investigation; and if that’s the case, then it’s hard to see how it is only the evidence is driving their conclusions. That’s true, of course, of *everyone* who ends up concluding what they thought ahead of time, not just one kind of Christian!

      4
      • Avatar
        mkahn1977  June 26, 2019

        So it’s the old “do the facts fit the theory” or “does the theory fit the facts” methodology I learned in historiography?

  18. Avatar
    johnmaxx  June 27, 2019

    Dirk Obbink is obviously the gravitational center around which this scandal orbits. Do we know what has happened to Obbink in the aftermath of what appears to be a fraudulent sale of artifacts he did not own, the origins, provenance, and dating of which he misrepresented? Has he faced either academic censure or legal consequence?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 28, 2019

      He is no longer the head of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri project, and was relieved of duties (or resigned?) right about the time when the scandal broke. But no one is saying if the scandal caused it. He apparently still has the money, and I believe Hobby Lobby would very much like to have it back :-). I do not believe Oxford University itself has taken any actions, but do not know for a fact one way or the other.

  19. Avatar
    JonH  June 27, 2019

    Bart, I have a minor quibble. You wrote that Wallace looked at the manuscript fragment, “believed Carroll and Obbink,” and “announced the discovery at my debate with him as a newly found “first century Mark.” ”

    While this is all correct, I think it is a bit out of order. Wallace says he had not seen the manuscript prior to the debate. He only saw it after he signed an NDA later in 2012. At the time of the debate, he was only relaying what he had been told and not something he had personally seen yet.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 28, 2019

      Ah, thanks. I think you’re right: he believed them without even looking at it.

      2
  20. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  June 29, 2019

    I know you work very hard to separate politics from religion and I understand that goal. But, in this case, the two just cannot be separated because the same baloney drives both. So, this “baloney” needs to be analyzed as a question about humans and their tendency to be indoctrinated in and then to circulate baloney. My mother’s favorite phrase was “That’s baloney!” The “baloney” can provide substantial comfort and intense human relationships thus it is incredibly hard to give up. Anyone who has left a Christian group knows how hard this can be.

    1
    • Bart
      Bart  June 30, 2019

      Yeah, my mom too. Later in life I wondered what “balogna” was….

      1

You must be logged in to post a comment.