Saturday, May 02, 2015

What happened to that promised early NT papyrus?

For the last few years, we've been hearing about a forthcoming publication (from Brill about a first century fragment from Mark.

The problem is that no one has seen it. Everything seems to revolve around a video of Josh McDowell explaining how he extracted the papyrus fragments from a mummy mask.

Well, on April 30, PARSE, a web site that is part of the Christianity Today family, published an interview with McDowell. In it he mentions early manuscripts, finding two fragments from Matthew in a codex. He refers to them as being from around AD 300. Apparently they were in the binding of the codex (that's inferred by me based on the wording; he doesn't say where in the codex).

But, this is interesting, he makes no mention of anything older. What happened to the supposed first century Mark fragment? He's talking about the early manuscripts and the importance of early manuscripts for the fidelity of the New Testament. But why no mention of the Mark fragment? The context would have been perfect for it. In the following paragraph he says:

In fact, a top Greek scholar of biblical artifacts recently said that in all these manuscripts that are being discovered today, you could now intellectually say that we possess the exact wording of Jesus in the New Testament, though we don’t know exactly what that is yet. With current technology, maybe in five to six years, we could possibly reconstruct a New Testament of the original wording stated by Jesus. I never dreamed this could happen in my lifetime.
Leaving aside the hyperbole of that statement for now, this would have been the perfect spot to mention early Mark! Why didn't he? Has it disappeared? Did it turn out to be something else? Enquiring minds want to know...

Just an
</idle musing> on a Saturday morning as I procrastinate finishing repairs on the cabins...

Tommy Wasserman tells me that the Brill book is about the Green Collection and doesn't include the Mark fragment. He also informed me that the fragments that McDowell is talking about are Coptic, not Greek! (see here)

And, this is encouraging, Tommy really does believe that the fragment exists, but he doesn't believe it is first century. I hope it gets published!

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