First-Century Fragment of Mark’s 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. Several newspapers and magazines have covered the story already. John Farrell, writing for Forbes, wrote a brief article on it, followed up by an update (now incorporated with the first article). He is working on a third article that will discuss new technology that may help us to be more precise in our dating of the manuscript. In particular, there is a newly developed carbon-14 dating method that does not destroy the object it is dating. That’s always a good thing when it comes to ancient manuscripts! The inventor is Professor Marvin Rowe of Texas A & M. His assistant, Dr. Karen Steelman, wrote her dissertation on this new procedure. I met with both of them recently and discussed the possibilities of using this technology for dating ancient manuscripts.

You can see the Forbes article here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnfarrell/2012/02/27/fragments-of-marks-gospel-may-date-to-1st-century/. Stay tuned for follow-ups! In the meantime, the best attitude for all to have is “wait and see.” Über-exuberance or dismissive skepticism are both unwarranted responses based on the information supplied so far. But 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. It should be fun!

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149 comments on “First-Century Fragment of Mark’s Gospel Found!?

  1. [...] First-Century Fragment of Mark’s Gospel Found!? « Daniel B. Wallace. Share this:FacebookTwitterMorePrintEmailDiggLinkedInRedditStumbleUponTumblr [...]

  2. Thank you for your work… I m teacher and scientist in human area, ideas, mind, spirit, soul, and your work are very blessing for us… God bless you… !!

  3. Dr. Wallace,

    Could you comment on the photo of “Markan manuscript” that someone claimed that it was the one you’re referring to during your debate with Ehrman?



    In my opinion, this “Markan manuscript” is a practical joke made by someone who thinks that Christians are gullible who would believe anything. Hence, the practical joke. It originated from someone with the forum username “GodAlmighty.” This person claims that his friend posted the photo on Facebook. Quote:

    “A Facebook friend of mine posted a pic. He knows his Koine pretty well and he says it’s definitely from Mark 5:15-18. (GodAlmighty)

  4. I just heard about this from a friend of mine and so I’ve started researching it. I see many people on other blogs questioning who this “world-class paleographer” is….and casting skepticism because of the person’s name not being cited. Also questioned is where the fragment was found. I’m happy to wait for the book for all the details to surface, but certainly a discovery of this magnitude would be well served by citing at least the basics…who discovered it, where it was discovered, and who dated it with such certainty. Otherwise, your silence casts more doubt on it. So, any more basic info you care to share on this?

    • As I said in the blogpost, dismissive skepticism is uncalled for. If people choose to act that way I can’t stop them. Trying to put pressure on me to reveal a name won’t work with me either. After all, this is not like the supposed Ark of the Covenant in some Ethiopian church where all they say is, “Trust us–it’s here!” If this papyrus would never get vetted by the scholarly community, only then would it (and I) be subject to deserved ridicule.

      • I don’t get it. Why the mystery?

        Just state what your facts are.


        Unless, of course, you are up to something.

      • intresting find,hey this may be off topic doc.Wallace are you a pre trib rapture believer

    • Personally, I love the suspense! Waiting for a new manuscript to be published is much better than waiting for the midnight showing of some new movie!

  5. Jouras, that’s a pretty narrow view of things: If I don’t simply state the facts, I must be up to something.

    • Daniel, I think what we’re all wondering is why you would take the time to answer “Joiras, that’s…” instead of something like “the paleographer was xyz”. Or it was found at abc”. When asked simple questions that are met with avoiding answers, it creates doubt and skepticism. It also seems highly unorthodox to announce such a find during a debate. What are you up to? Possibly trying to create future demand for a book you plan to sell? That would make sense. And if that is the reason, just say so. “hey guys, i’m going to sell a book…buy the book for the story”. Maybe you are under contract to not release the facts? Say so. Maybe you think answering one question will simply lead to another? Say so. I’m trying to take a wider view :-).

      I’m a fellow Christian, and i would love for this to be true. However, since you wont state even the basic facts, it forces those of us out here to speculate “a narrow view” of things. You could really help us out here by giving us THE view that is correct, instead of deflecting and avoiding the questions…that you caused by making the announcement.

      • Christianface, no, I disagree. This is how scholarship is often done: an announcement comes ahead of time, but the complete work and all the details must await the fully vetted scholarly tome. If you choose to take the narrow view of things, that’s your business. But as I have said repeatedly, in interview after interview, the proper attitude for those on the outside of this work needs to be ‘wait and see.’ Not too skeptical, not too gullible.

  6. Dr. Wallace,

    What are your thoughts on the manuscripts found by Jose O’ Callahan years back? Supposedly, they had strong reason to believe them to be from the first century (Passages in Mark, I believe).There are some,such as Geisler, that still currently point to these as possibly possessing strong value (apologetically and historically) yet, if so persuasive, why does one really never hear anything concerning them except from a select few apologists?

    (Yes, I am the same one that also asked your stance on Anglicanism/joining their ranks a week or so back)


    • Dr. Wallace I understand how frustrating it is to debate with Skeptics, I believe I heard you say the Manuscript would be revealed in Feb 2013. Is this true? Is it about to be revealed?

  7. Dr, Wallace,

    Can you tell me about the location where the manuscript was found?

    According to what I have read, this fragment proved that the Bible text is pretty accurate. Am I correct?

    Mrs. Joe C.

  8. Russ, I believe you are referring to 7Q5, the postage-stamp sized Greek fragment that made a huge sensation when O’Callaghan in 1971 (ten years after it was published) claimed that it was from Mark 6. This was later followed by Carsten Peter Thiede who argued the same. This has been debunked time and time again by NT scholars. I wrote a couple of articles on it myself: “7Q5: The Earliest NT Papyrus?” Westminster Theological Journal 56 (1994) 173–80; “A Review of the Earliest Gospel Manuscript? by Carsten Peter Thiede,” Bibliotheca Sacra 150 (1994) 350–54. It’s not from Mark, but is most likely identified with 1 Enoch, if memory serves.

  9. Great news! We are waiting for a publication. Greetings from Poland. :)

  10. VERY excited to read this book. Mr. Wallace is absolutely correct. The scholars must have their time to pour over all the data. To reveal too much before the proper time leaves everyone with egg on their face if it proves false. Once the data is published, other scholars will have their chance to weigh in. I personally hope it all comes out authentic. Keep up the good work.

  11. Yes, it’s the way things are. The process. In the meantime we can drink lots of tea and chew our fingers to the bone, in anticipation.

  12. [...] First-Century Fragment of Mark’s Gospel Found!? by Daniel B. Wallace (22.03.2012) [...]

  13. Mr. Wallace,
    How will the “average joe” student of the Bible like myself get notified when the findings are published? Do you have an email list? Thanks much, Paul from Ft. Collins, CO

  14. Dan, you’re a champ!

  15. i wanna be sure about the gospile of mark ending is it added or no as a result with some information.,,,,,,, please send it to my email for sake of jesus

  16. I understand that scholars need time to publish. I get that. I just wish it would be a bit faster. I know Dr Wallace is faster than the DSS writers, some of whom have taken decades. Please, Hurry up! I want to read about this!

    Also to Jacck – Dr Wallace is publishing about a fragment of Mark, not a complete gospel. It is very unlikely his work will have any bearing whatsoever to the discussion regarding the ending of Mark 16. Nearly everyone agrees that the passage after verse 8 was added. Liberal scholars believe it does NOT reflect the original ending, conservative scholars believe it is very close to the original ending. Clearly, the gospel did NOT end with verse 8. That would make no sense whatsoever.

    • Actually Joe, it would make sense, if Mark is trying to dramatize the Resurrection.
      If he is trying to get people’s attention and get them to start talking about it. The ending accomplishes an important literary goal: Make the reader curious. Raise questions.
      The key question is who was Mark’s audience and what was he trying to tell them.
      In this context we might want to ask what debates were going on within his audience.
      If Mark’s audience already accepted the Resurrection, then Mark would not need to state what to them was the obvious ending. Could emphasizing the empty tomb the way he did, be an effort to underscore the resurrection?
      The only way it “would make no sense whatsoever” is by insisting that their has to be an ending of some kind. I’m not sure why that would need to be so.

      • Spike, I can’t imagine that Mark was writing to believers only. Nearly everyone agrees it was the first gospel, and the first verse states the purpose – Mark 1:1 The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I find it inconceivable that the audience did not include unbelievers.

        He is setting out to tell the story of the Son of God. 5 times Mark’s gospel says Jesus will rise from the dead (8:31, 9:9, 9:31, 10:34, & 14:28) and in 16:6 it states he HAS risen. I respectfully completely disagree that Mark would have any reason to leave the resurrection out of the narrative. 16:8 as a final verse is completely incongruous with the theme of the entire book.

        Most believing scholars agree there was some ending originally (unbelievers don’t have that problem). But at the end of the day, we probably will never know for sure.

        thanks for the dialog.

  17. [...] to determine the date of these old manuscripts.  You can read more about this new discovery here. Textual criticism is very much alive. Hopefully this new discovery will settle the question about [...]

  18. Dr. Wallace,

    Thank you for all your work. It has been a year and I have been checking the internet frequently. Any updates on the the published work coming out this year?


  19. Have there been any updates on this? I know you said last year in the debate that you were sworn to secrecy, but is there a place you can point us to for further info? Thanks!

    • Sorry. I’m still sworn to secrecy. Can’t say anything else.

      • Daniel, can you at least tell us if the fragment really does exist? There has been some speculating that you were mistaken about this announcement.

      • Sorry, but I have signed a nondisclosure agreement. Can’t say a thing.

      • Can you say WHEN you can say? I have to say we are growing increasingly skeptical.

      • It will be funny to see who’s skeptical of people like Bill and Joe when the information is finally released. I guess after nearly 2000 years, a couple of months of waiting is just rough, huh? Dr. Wallace, we support you and your team’s work, due diligence, and ethics. Keep up the good work.

      • Devin, I don’t doubt the authenticity of Mark’s gospel. It is already well-attested. I certainly hope we have an earlier fragment that could be dated to the first century.

        My skepticism is about this particular fragment. There have been plenty of claims over the years that turned out to not be legitimate. The legitimacy of the NT documents is more than well attested, but an earlier copy would be great. If the publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls is a model, we might not hear about this fragment of Mark for decades.

        As for non-believers, we have a fragment of John’s gospel dating to approximately AD 130, only a few decades after it was written, and still many atheists claim ridiculous things like the NT was written in the 4th century and edited by Constantine, and that Jesus did not even exist. An older copy of Mark won’t change their minds.

        But it would mean a lot to biblical scholars and students like those of us commenting here.

        Please… hurry up! We really want to examine the evidence you have! I am getting old! I’m certain that Herschel Shanks will give you some prime space in his magazine to get the word out. Thanks!

      • Thank you Dr. Wallace. I understand that you’re sworn to secrecy and that you “signed a non-disclosure agreement”. But obviously there are some things that you were given permission to disclose:

        (1) A fragment of Mark was discovered.
        (2) It is believed to be from the first century.
        (3) The details about this specific fragment will be coming out in a book published by E. J. Brill sometime in 2013.

        So, since it has been over a year, can you at least verify that the above mentioned things that you were given permission to disclose are still accurate (especially #3)? Just curious.

        Thanks for everything you do!

  20. Dr Wallace, I mean no disrespect, by the way. Just a pointy stick to encourage you to hurry up and publish. Again, thanks.

  21. In regards to the alternate endings of Mark and early proof for the long ending:

    Doesn’t iraneus quote mark 16:19 in his book, “against heresies”? I am baffled how often this is overlooked, especially because Iraneus says “at the end of Mark’s Gospel” and then quotes it in the year 177.

    Therefore I believe we already have enough proof for the long ending of Mark that is in our Bibles today.

    • David, thanks for sharing that. I just read chapter 10 of against heresies (book 3) and you are correct – he does quote mark 16:19. I was not aware of that – thanks for sharing that. I have believed that the long ending was probably the original ending, or at least a close proximity to the original ending, having come from a different line of copies. Obviously the original had an ending beyond verse 8 – the only question in my mind is what did it say. Iranaeus (AD177) precedes vaticanus and sinaiticus.

      To me, one of the best evidences for the NT documents is the fact that you can reconstruct about 99% of the NT from quotations from ante-nicene writings.


  22. […] az első századi Márk-kézirattal (meg a többi hat korai másolattal), amit tavaly év elején harangozott be Dan Wallace Bart Ehrmannal vívott vitája második felében. Wallace akkor arra figyelmeztetett, […]

  23. Hi Daniel, Can you comment on ending of Mark and what David just said about Iraneus. And If translators always say the Earliest And Most Reliable Manuscripts do not contain this ending,why do they include it in our modern bible translations like niv ,nasv?

    Thank you for your ministry,you really help us not look stupid for being a christian.

    • Most scholars believe that Mark 16.9-20 was added later. But virtually all acknowledge that it would have been added in the second century, perhaps even early in the second century. When Eusebius in the early fourth century says that he knows of very few MSS that have the longer ending, and Jerome at the end of the fourth century claims that he knows of almost no Greek MSS that have it, their testimony must be taken very seriously. Eusebius had at his disposal the MSS that Origen used a century earlier, as well as numerous others because of being commissioned by Constantine to produce fifty Bibles for the churches. And Jerome had the backing and funding of Rome. Thus, these two scholars represent the best available evidence in the east and the west over the range of the whole fourth century, yet what was the majority in their day has become a very small minority today.

      The reason that these verses show up in our Bibles is due to a tradition of timidity. But some Bibles mark them out to show that they are most likely not authentic. The NIV 2011 puts the words in italics. The NET puts them in brackets, with a very large footnote, and uses smaller font for 16.9-20. Still, much more needs to be done to reflect honestly where scholars are concerning these verses.

  24. […] First Century Fragment of The Gospel of Mark might have been found  […]

  25. […] A.D. 70–100. And although it’s still being verified, New Testament scholar Daniel Wallace reports that a fragment from Mark may very well be dated to the first century, making it an even earlier […]

  26. […] A.D. 70–100. And although it’s still being verified, New Testament scholar Daniel Wallace reports that a fragment from Mark may very well be dated to the first century, making it an even earlier […]

  27. Dear Mr Wallace, I read this blog yesterday and I am curious which text-type the Mark fragment represents? Does it confirm the scholary work of the past two centuries concerning the recreation of the Critical Text, or does it represent a Byzantine textual reading, or maybe a totally new textual type? Kind regards, Nick Laarakkers, student of theology, the Netherlands.

  28. He won’t tell you that yet, as he’s sworn to secrecy. My question remains… how much longer?

    • Dear David,

      I don’t think we will know very soon whether the fragment is from the first century A.D., it will probably take several decades. (Of course the preliminary results will be published this year, or maybe next year.) Dozens of scholars have to exam the fragment, etc. I do think it is possible that the fragment is from the first century A.D., since the Gospel of Mark was written somewhere in the first century (I even believe a quite early date is possible for [proto-]Mark).

  29. Dear Dr. Wallace

    In your debate with Dr. Ehrman (1 Feb. 2012) you announced that a frament of Mark from the first century had been found, and you said that it would be revealed within about a year. It’s past almost two years, and tha manuscript hasn’t been revealed yet. Will it be revealed anytime soon, or will it be revealed at all?
    Thank you very much.

    • Sorry, I’m sworn to secrecy about this. Can’t talk about it.

      • Under what circumstance would an oath of secrecy regarding an important biblical discovery be of benefit to the scholarly and religious communities? What sort of benefit would accrue from such an oath?

        It’s been almost two years since you announced this “discovery.” At what point does the shelf life of an unsubstantiated claim of this kind expire and begin smelling up the room? At what point is the claimant (yourself, in this case) properly subject to “deserved ridicule”?

      • To D Thomas – These scholars make their living publishing. if they get “scooped” they lose money. It stinks that it works this way. We had to wait for decades for many of the Dead Sea Scrolls for the same reason.

        Scholars need to be responsible and publish quickly (at least as quickly as possible). 2 years seems like way too long to me. Especially for a claim this important. A first century Mark MSS, if true, would be huge.

      • It took a while between the discovery of the Syriac Sinaitic and the first publication of its content.

  30. These sort of discoveries take time for publication. Hopefully we won’t have to wait as long as some of the DSS. In April of this year I was attending a Green Collection event and was delighted to see their (yet to be published) 2nd century fragment of 1 Corinthians 8:10-9:3 and 10:1-6. While photography was prohibited, I was able to easily transcribe the letters on the side visible within the display case (10:1-6). I have since learned that Mike Holmes was assigned to study this fragment back in 2011. There still has been no publication of this fragment and the INTF has not issued it a GA number. From what I transcribed, I can see no textual value to what was found in the 10:1-6 side of the fragment. So unless there is something on the reverse side of great significance, it remains to just guess why it takes so long to publish this fragment. I say all this to point out that if this small 2nd century Corinthians fragment has languished, how much more a 1st century Mark fragment.

  31. “All the details will be coming out in a multi-author book published by E. J. Brill sometime in 2013.”

    Has such a book been released? Was this an uninformed statement? 2013 ends in less than two months.

  32. David, a search of Brill’s website shows nothing regarding a new book on these discoveries for upcoming releases, either in late 2013 or early 2014.

    In all likelihood there has been a delay. These things can be painfully slow to roll out.

  33. Guess what? Nobody can see this manuscript.

    It was useful for a debate with Ehrman, and I’m sure other people will forget that these brave words by Wallace were never backed up with facts.

    But I won’t forget.

    • Steven, it often takes a Loooonnnng time for publication. It was DECADES for many of the dead sea scrolls. This is annoying, but not unusual.

      It may or may not turn out to be a genuine 1st century artifact. But a delay in publication does not mean it does not exist. Remember, these guys make their living via publication, so if they let out photos prior to publication, they lose their exclusivity and therefore a lot of ability to sell books.

      also, Wallace is not the person who is doing the writing. He was reporting that another source claims to have a first century MSS. So chill, dude.

  34. If I recall correctly, the whole thing with this Mark 1st century fragment started with a social media post by Scott Carroll, formerly a scholar with the Green Collection. This led many to believe that the fragment was associated with the Green Collection. But there has been no confirmation that the Green Collection has the fragment. I am actually encouraged by the fact that Dr. Wallace continues to confirm that he cannot talk about it, as this is further confirmation that it does exist. If he did not know whether or not it existed, he would say so. There would be no point in saying he committed himself to secrecy and therefore cannot talk about it.

  35. Prof. Wallace is certainly fortunate to have so many avid supporters willing to make excuses for him. My questions seen worthy of an answer by Prof. Wallace himself. Until those answers are forthcoming, it’s fair to assume one of the following: 1) the fragment he referred to does not exist, 2) it exists but is of doubtful authenticity and therefore of little significance. Regardless, in the absence of full disclosure, it appears that DW has been sold a bill of goods and is stalling in hopes that it will “go away,” and the identity of the perpetrator will remain secret.

    • Dude, he is not the one with the fragment, and he is not the one publishing it. He reported that SOMEONE ELSE claimed to have the fragment, was doing the research, and was going to publish it.

      He has NO CONTROL over when it will be published, and he has no obligation to answer you. If he had said that HE had a first century Mark fragment, then you would have a point.

      Your issue is not with Wallace but with the person who made the claim to Wallace (unless Wallace made the whole thing up, which would make no sense at all. To what end?) Perhaps the guy who told Wallace he had the fragment was wrong, lying or exaggerating. Unless Prof Wallace got to examine it himself, he has no idea of its authenticity.

      it may turn out that upon peer review, the fragment won’t be first century. But just like the DSS, it seems that we will have to wait. That stinks. But we have no choice.

      I am not a supporter of Wallace – I don’t know him from Adam (or Mark). But the attacks on him are not warranted. I hope this turns out to be a real first century manuscript. But it will probably take years to know. Even once the secret scholar publishes, it may take years for others to examine his claims and make rebuttal claims. Thus is the frustrating field of ancient texts.

      • Joe wrote: “Perhaps the guy who told Wallace he had the fragment was wrong, lying or exaggerating. Unless Prof Wallace got to examine it himself, he has no idea of its authenticity.”

        If indeed Daniel Wallace had “no idea” of the item’s authenticity, he exercised very poor judgment when he cited it in a public debate. As a scholar, he has an ethical obligation to exercise due diligence to ensure he is not misleading the scholarly and religious communities.

        If Dr. Wallace learns that he was basing his statements on false or questionable information, he has an responsibility to make a public retraction and to apologize to Dr. Ehrman.

        (A comparable situation would be the recent 60 Minute report on Benghazi. When 60 Minutes realized their informant had misled them, they retracted the report and apologized to the public. Having not done so would have been a violation of journalistic ethics and further jeopardized the credibility of 60 Minutes and its correspondent, Lara Logan, as well as that of others responsible for vetting the report.)

        It’s specious to compare the massive DSS find with what has been described as a small fragment of Mark. Not only did DSS consist of a huge amount of material, many factors made it extremely difficult to simply organize, let alone publish, the scrolls.

        You have a rather strange notion of how peer review works. Obviously, peer review is impossible if the artifact and the particulars of its provenance are not shared with the scholarly community.

        At this point, Dr. Wallace should either reassure the community that he feels confident that the discovery is authentic, or, if he has misgivings, he should admit that he spoke prematurely and apologize to Dr. Ehrman for having done so.

        By the way, Joe, I’m well beyond the “dude” demographic and would appreciate being called “Thomas” or “Tom.” Thanks.

      • Tom, I apologize for calling you “dude.” Just trying to be friendly.

        I don’t know who his source is, and I also think you and I are not going to agree here. You make some good points, but we have a difference of opinion here. I don’t think the onus is on Wallace, but on the owner of the fragment.

        As you know, the DSS were not all assigned to one scholar. Many scholars had only a small manuscript and still took years, sometimes decades to publish.

        Look, I am not defending the supposed scholar. Maybe it is real, maybe not. But Wallace apparently has enough confidence in the person to say he claimed to have a first c fragment of Mark. Wallace can’t make him publish, and he can’t bring out the fragment that he doesn’t possess.

        As for Ehrman, he is one of the most biased “Scholars” I have run across in my 35 years of apologetics study. I don’t find him to be a particularly credible scholar. Since I know virtually nothing of Wallace, I can’t defend him. He might be brilliant, or a complete hack. I just don’t know.

        I understand that there can’t be any peer review until the MSS is made available. But most scholars won’t do that until AFTER they publish. Like everything else, it is unfortunately all about the money to be made.

        anyway, perhaps one day we’ll get to see this supposed artifact and have a more fruitful discussion. Thanks for some interesting discussion in the meantime.

      • Ehrman is a very good scholar in the field of textual criticism, probably one of the best. He is quoted a lot in Dutch scholary books, although I think that he is not a particularly “neutral scholar”. But I often ask myself the question: are there any neutral theologians/textual scholars etc.?

      • Nick, you are correct. We’re all biased, myself included, to some degree. I have found Dr Ehrman’s bias, however, to color his view of the evidence more than necessary for good scholarship.

        J.Green – yes, it was Wallace who made the claim. Yes, Thomas, Wallace needs to own his words. Yes, if he made the statement, and he knows the fragment to be fake or not first century, then he would be a liar.

        The fragment may be 100% legit, and he knows it. BUT – he does not have the right to usurp the publication rights of the (future) author of the paper. He can’t publish a photo of the fragment, and he can’t leak the paper. He doesn’t possess the fragment. All he said was “there is a guy I know who purports to have a first century fragment of Mark, and I am sworn to secrecy until he publishes as to giving you an more details.”

        Tom, why assume it is a false claim? At this point it is an unsubstantiated claim. there’s a difference. and I agree – this guy seems to have put Prof Wallace in a bad spot. But then again, it is not his fault Wallace leaked the info – unless he asked him to – which is not a bad marketing technique, but is not a very good scholarly practice, in my opinion. Since we are all talking about it, it has generated interest. Maybe that was their goal the whole time. If so (and I am NOT saying it was) then I would tend to agree with you guys.

        thanks for the input guys.

        Thomas – Most scholars won’t release the source materials and/or their work in progress until they are ready to publish. These guys have books to sell, etc. Forgive me for writing incoherently. Do you remember that Biblical Archaeology Review (and editor Hershel Shanks) was sued for a LOT of money for publishing photos of DSS manuscripts. By whom? By the guy tasked with publishing them. Guess who won? the plaintiff.

        I suppose you guys think Wallace should not have spoken until the author published. Perhaps. Certainly if he had no more knowledge than rumor, you would be correct. But why assume all he has is a rumor?

        What do you want Wallace to do? Hold the guy at gunpoint until he publishes? I think some of the commenters here (who I am assuming do not want to ascribe an early date to Mark) want Wallace to say “I give up. Mark is a second century document. Never mind.”

      • D. Thomas – I appreciate Dr. Ehrman’s contributions on the field of textual criticism, for example his excellent studies on the corruption of scripture, but I don’t always agree with his interpretation of the evidence, which is sometimes to speculative to my taste.

      • joe wrote: ” I don’t think the onus is on Wallace, but on the owner of the fragment.”

        Wallace may not be the owner of the fragment, but he IS the owner of HIS OWN WORDS!

        So the onus was not on 60 Minutes? Are you saying they had no obligation to fact-check their story? The fact that they apologized and retracted the story tells it all.

        Scholarly ethical standards should be at least as rigorous as the media’s. Wallace repeated a rumor – for all we know, it may be a complete fabrication – as fact. He should either stand by his statement (and stop with the “sworn to secrecy” sham) or apologize for making claims he is unable to support with facts.

        (One wonders what sort of person would leave Wallace in such an awkward and embarrassing position for nearly two years.)

        joe wrote: “I understand that there can’t be any peer review until the MSS is made available. But most scholars won’t do that until AFTER they publish. Like everything else, it is unfortunately all about the money to be made.”

        Eh? This statement lacks coherence and substance. Most scholars won’t do WHAT until after they publish? How do you know this is “all about the money to be made”? Do you have inside information that Wallace is involved in a financially-motivated conspiracy to withhold historically significant information? Gosh, this is going from bad to worse!

        Your feelings about Bart Ehrman are irrelevant. It was not Ehrman who made what appears to be a false claim. It is Wallace, not Ehrman, who owes the scholarly/religious community either full disclosure or an apology.

      • Joe it was Dr.Wallace who made the claim publicly in a debate.
        If he has no idea of it’s authenticity he should not have made the claim in a debate.
        That is a misdirection ,in some circles called lying.

  36. Joe, you asked what do I want Wallace to do. I believe I’ve made it clear what steps I think he is ethically bound to take. For starters, he should answer the questions I asked in my initial post. An academic setting is supposed to foster free and open exchange of information. In an academic environment, an “oath of secrecy” is a highly dubious proposition that raises questions of propriety. It demands an explanation.

    And, as I said, if Dr. Wallace still believes a) the fragment exists, b) is authentic, and c) has been authoritatively dated to the first century, he should reaffirm his convictions regarding those points of fact. If he has had misgivings since the debate, he should admit that he used poor judgment in speaking prematurely. In the latter case, he also owes Dr. Ehrman an apology.

    Given that Dr. Wallace used “insider” information to gain advantage in a pubic debate setting, that’s not really asking much. Under those circumstances, many would say that by using the information, he has obligated himself to fully disclose his sources and everything else he knows about the alleged discovery.

  37. Still waiting…

  38. Dr. Wallace

    What’s the status of news/publication regarding this manuscript?

    Jimmy Doyle

  39. So 2013 came and went. If the dating had already been made when you made this public nearly two years ago, why on earth can’t something this important get published in a timely matter? Has it been vetted by peer review and found wanting? Why the need to be sworn to secrecy for something such as this that calls for open academic transparency?

    • Eric, I agree with your sentiment. 2 years is too long to wait for publishing after an announcement of that magnitude.

      However, this is very common in the archaeological community. It took some scholars DECADES to publish their parts of the Dead Sea Scrolls. In this circle, 2 years is not a really long time.

      My opinion is – if you are not close to being ready to publish your findings – shut up! Keep quiet until you are close to publishing. Of course, the anticipation will increase sales of the author’s book, which is the point, right?

      If Wallace spoke without the author’s permission, then shame on Wallace. If he spoke with the (so far unknown) author’s permission, then shame on the author.

      I will not be surprised if it is 2 more years before we hear anything.

  40. People can relax.

    Brill have indeed released a book on the status of New Testament manuscripts.

    The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research: Essays on the Status Quaestionis, Second Edition, eds. B. D. Ehrman & M. W. Holmes (Leiden: Brill, 2013)

    Daniel Wallace promised us a book by Brill about the status of the text.

    It has appeared.

    O ye of little faith!

    • At the website of Brill it is stated that the book was published in 2012 (it’s rather expensive to my taste). Does anybody actually read the book? There is no essay included concerning the first century fragment of Mark. Wallace seems to have written about the Majority Text. It contains however (as it seems) some information about P.Oxy. 76.5073, an amulet with the words of Mark 1:1-2 (without the “Son of God” phrase), but this amulet is from the late third or early fourth century.

      • So the 1st century Markan fragment that Dr. Wallace invoked in the debate with Bart Ehrman was a phantasm?

      • That was not the meaning of my reply, only that the 1st century Markan fragment isn’t in the book (or to say: it is not mentioned in the reviews of the book on the internet. One would think that such a discovery as the 1st century fragment, should be mentioned in the reviews?) So the fragment is probably not mentioned in the book, which was ready to be published back in 2012. Maybe it will be mentioned in a 3rd edition.

      • And maybe it won’t.

        I look forward to Dr. Wallace’s explanation for the omission. The ethical aspect looms larger as he continues to duck his obligation to make a full disclosure regarding his association with the fragment and with those who claimed to have discovered it.

  41. here is a link that has a reference to Scott Carroll’s tweet that P52 was about to be dethroned as the oldest witness to the New Testament:


    • So it’s actually disputed that P52 is from the early second century, it could be younger. Dear Darrell, how old is P. Ryl. 463? Is it from the second century? Is it older than P52? I have read some stuff about the Green Collection and Dr Carroll. He is the guy that tries to extract texts from paper mummy masks. If there is a first century old Markan fragment, it is likely to be part of the Green collection.

  42. In the absence of a shred of evidence to substantiate Dr. Wallace’s statement, and in light of his refusal to elucidate further on it, I’ve reached the tentative conclusion that the fragment story is a hoax.

  43. Nick, I would have to go back and review the back and forth on this, but I think the Green Collection denied possessing the Mark fragment. If this is true, then there appear to be two questions, 1) who has the Mark fragment? and 2) what was the meaning of the Carroll tweet that p52 was about to be eclipsed by an older fragment? I suppose another possibility is that Carroll’s tweet was about the Mark fragment, but it was something he was working on outside of his work done for the Green Collection.

    • Darrell I would love to see your transcription of the 1 cor fragment (what is the passage? has an estimated date been established besides “2nd c”?) joespamjoe@yahoo. I understand publication takes time (just look at the decades it tooks for the DSS) – BUT piecing together the DSS was a long and laborius process. How long does it take to publish one fragment? Also, I couldn’t find any evidence that the Green collection possesses this. thanks. Joe

  44. Darrell, but how old is P. Ryl. 463? Older than P52?

  45. Nick, I would have to read the literature on it to see how disputed the dating is of P. Ryl. 463. Here is one link that suggests P. Ryl. 463 to be early 3rd century, much later than p52.


    • Thank you. I read the article. Although I am not an expert on apocryphal gospels, it’s always interestingly to see that Christianity in it’s beginning was not a heterogenous religion as was thought in the old days. You had the “orthodox” group (probably the largest group with the four oldest, canonical, gospels, attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), the gnostic group with there gospels of Thomas, Mary and Judas etc., the Jewish Christian group, with there gospels of the Ebionites, Nazarenes, Hebrews, the Aramaic/Hebrew Matthew, the Clementine literature, partially preserved in the works of the Church Fathers and the Marcionites with there altered gospel of Luke and some epistles of St. Paul. And of course al these groups had there own “oral tradition”, preserving words of Jesus (the Agrapha – I actually wrote a small book about the Agrapha back in 2010) and stories about the apostles.

  46. Dr. Wallace?

    Any word on your debate claim of a first century Mark manuscript? Don’t you think you owe Bart Ehrman an apology? Even if a manuscript turns up at this point, how appropriate was it to introduce “evidence” into a debate that has failed to be substantiated over two years later?

  47. Since the discovery of the Nag Hammadi library, it’s been common knowledge that the second century produced many non-canonical, mostly gnostic gospels and letters. But what’s that got to do with the mysterious 1st century fragment of Mark that Dr. Wallace cited during his debate with Bart Ehrman more than two years ago?

    According to DW, the alleged fragment was scheduled to be published by Brill in 2013. That didn’t happen. In the interim, he’s been stalling for time, telling us that he’s taken an oath of silence – an oath that he apparently prioritizes over his collegial obligations to the academic community.

    This red herring’s shelf life has long since expired, and the odor of scandal is beginning to sear the nostrils.

  48. These new discoveries can be painfully slow to roll out and publish. Like I said above, textual scholar Mike Holmes was able to study the Green Collection’s 1st Corinthians fragment dated possibly to the 2nd century. This was three years ago. This fragment has also not been published. I was able to see this same fragment at a Green Collection event and I transcribed the side of it visible in the display case. There was nothing of textual value on the visible side. But a portion of this fragment covers a verse that is lacunose in p46, meaning this fragment preserves the oldest witness to a portion of 1 Corinthians. But it has languished now for three years. It has not been published, and has not been issued a GA number. Now I realize that Mike Holmes didn’t use this fragment in a debate, but I think at this point Dr. Wallace should be given the benefit of the doubt. It is very reasonable to conclude that normal delays have slowed the process of getting this fragment published. I would be glad to send to any of you my transcription of this Corinthians fragment, if your thirst for something new must be satisfied.

    • Sure, we could give Dr. Wallace the benefit of the doubt … but there’s no reason to give his apologetic “evidence” the benefit of the doubt.

  49. I am extremely hesitant to post this and no one here knows me from Adam, but.I’ve been following this for a few months now. The other day I accidently came across another party who is familiar with the situation and verified Dr. Wallace’s statements. I know this seems like little information from just another poster who has no reputation. However, when all this plays out, Dr. Wallace’s good reputation will be intact.

    • I see.

      So an unknown person verified Wallace’s statement that a book on this manuscript would be published bu Brill in 2013.


      • I’m sorry, I should have been more specific about which parts this other person verified. It was simply the existence of the fragment and it’s potential early date, nothing to do with it’s eventual publication.

        Of course, you are getting this third hand. Which is why I was very reluctant to post in the first place.

      • Why aren’t you revealing your source? Are you also “sworn to secrecy”? What harm would be done by revealing the specifics of this discovery?

        Two years ago, almost to the day, Dr. Wallace wrote: “If this papyrus would never get vetted by the scholarly community, only then would it (and I) be subject to deserved ridicule.”

        NEVER? When might that be? Ten years? Twenty? When do we reach the point when Dr. Wallace’s statement refusal to support his words with facts becomes the subject of well-deserved ridicule?

  50. I was not sworn, but I was asked.

    I see now that I should have stayed out of this discussion. My only purpose was to give some reassurance as to a few particulars, hoping that would invoke more patience.

  51. Secrecy about evidence is out of place in most academic settings, but apparently not in this one. The lack of concern about unfettered exchange of information is very revealing about the standards of collegiality and intellectual integrity that prevail in Christian colleges – they seem more like pharmaceutical companies than institutions of learning.

  52. snelldl, your comments confirm what I suspected. This is why I tried to appeal for patience by referencing the Green Collection fragment from 1 Corinthians. This could be as early as a 2nd century fragment. As potentially valuable as this Corinthians fragment might be, it would be nowhere near as valuable as a 1st century Mark fragment, and yet this Corinthians fragment has languished since 2011 when Mike Holmes examined it.

    • If it’s this frustrating for you and me, just think what it must be like for the professionals in the field.

    • Nothing is being hidden in secrecy from your Green collection example. You know what has been studied so far and can even see it on display. No one has used it as “evidence” in a public debate against an academic colleague. A poor analogy to what Dr. Wallace has done.

    • Beau, your comment is a valid one. To make a statement as extreme as “we have a first century fragment of Mark” when there is no timetable for it being published and nobody else has seen it is questionable from an ethics standpoint. I think it is fair to say that Prof Wallace probably should not have mentioned it.

      the other commenters who are saying “see, they are just liars” are NOT adding value to the discussion. Anyone who follows archaeology and those who study ancient texts knows that publication is often glacially slow. Many of the DSS took decades to publish. All of us would love to know the following:

      1. Does the Green collection really have the fragment?
      2. Has anyone dated it?
      3. When will it be published?
      4. has there been any peer review?
      5. Can we see a photo? (ok, I KNOW that won’t happen until it is published, because there is money to be made in publishing a book on the find, but hey, we can hope…)


  53. Beau, I agree its not an exact analogy, but the question core to this discussion is the timetable for the publication of the Mark fragment. My point of comparison to the Green Collection Corinthians fragment was only on the fact that it has not yet been published either, and in reality is probably not as valuable as the Mark fragment.

    • The real question here is whether it is academically ethical or appropriate to make extreme claims about a piece of evidence such as this purported 1st century Mark fragment (especially in the context of a public debate point) years before one is even willing to reveal one’s sources, much less publish actual findings.

  54. Hi Dr Wallace, what year and if possible month will the findings be published? I have been waiting over a year for the details on this. Sure its going to be awesome.

    • Apparently, a complete amateur evangelical apologist, Josh McDowell is claiming that he is working on this Mark fragment. He is joking about his lack of professional care in unwrapping the fragments from a mummy, using bare hands and risking tears. He then carelessly tosses out early dates for a variety of fragments with no methodology whatsoever.

      • It sounds like Scott Carroll might be the scholar McDowell refers to, and no doubt McDowell didn’t have anything to do with the dating. But as I reviewed the story, I just wanted to shout “drop what you are doing and step away from the artifacts!”

      • I am quite annoyed by these amateurs that try to prove the historicity of the Bible. These people have no knowledge whatsoever and should be kept away from these artifacts. If there is any fragment of Mark’s gospel from the first century, than this fragment should serve science and not as so-called “the Bible is right after all” evidence. You can’t prove the Bible or the stories it contains. (You can for example prove Jesus lived in the first century, that He was a teacher and was crucified, but you can not prove that He was the Son of God or that He had Messianic pretentions, that is something you can choose to believe – I and believe that He is my Lord – but I don’t except any fabricated or disputed “evidence” or attemps to rationalize faith. Faith is precious to me, but not science or things you can prove, it’s more than that.)

  55. and one of the images in the above link is of the Green Collection fragment of 1 Corinthians that I mentioned above in this thread. It shows exactly what I saw in the display case, the side of the fragment that contains portions of 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, and was dated tentatively to the 2nd century.

  56. and its sort of funny too, because when I saw that fragment in the display case, they warned me that if I took a picture of it, they would confiscate my camera. But here on their own they release the image of it.

  57. So what are the actual chances that we have on our hands a 1st century document?

  58. David, it sounds like the chances are good that there does exist a fragment that someone believes to be 1st century, but we will have to wait until how this claim stands up against the intense scrutiny that will follow once the images are published.

  59. It’s still possible that such a fragment exists. I hope it’s in the hands of scolars and not of apologists or amateurs.

    • I am sorry it’s “scholars” instead of “scolars”.

      • Nick, what is your opposition to apologists? Are you saying they can’t be scholars?

      • No, of course not. I completely agree with your definition of a mircale, and I believe in miracles. But we should not call everything that can be explaned perfectly on rational grounds “miracles”. We should be careful with the word miracle, especially scholars. It is impossible to explain a miracle (such as raising a dead person). If it’s possible to explain it, it is no longer a miracle.
        These mss can be genuine, I do think they are, but I wish they could be examined by more scholars, not just by people with a specific agenda.

  60. […] might be emerging about the alleged first-century fragment of the Gospel of Mark, which was first mentioned by Daniel Wallace two years ago. Two posts from the weekend are worth reading for possible information on the Mark fragment and […]

  61. back to the 1 Corinthians fragment:

    Here is how I see it

    μαι ου θελω (v. 9:27, 10:1)
    νεφελην η (v. 1)
    η εβαπτι (v. 2)
    ευματικον (v. 3)
    ν γαρ εκ π (v. 4)
    εν τοις πλ (v. 5)
    ω ταυτα δ (vv. 5-6)
    κακων κ (v. 6)

    There is a reflection on the glass blocking some of the fragment on verse 4, but I supplied what was missing from the transcription I did when I saw this fragment in person a year ago.

  62. “God used our frail inabilities and worked with us. This isn’t the Quran! See, this is the Bible, God working graciously through fallen people to protect his word. So you don’t need to create or continue far-fetched stories that don’t match the evidence.”
    Are these the words of a scholar??? This is probably somekind of an apologist mixing his religious conviction with science. http://bricecjones.weebly.com/1/post/2014/05/more-on-the-private-collecting-of-the-indiana-jones-of-biblical-archaeology.html
    I want you to compare the statement above with a statement from Biblical scholar Emanuel Tov of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the book “De Dode Zeerollen” (The Dead Sea Scrolls), page 153 in which he writes that the Hebrew text of the Bible is perfectly preserved from the time of Dead Sea Scrolls till the Medieval Leningrad Codex, he calls it “a miracle. NOT A MIRACLE FROM GOD, but a HUMAN MIRACLE”, because of the system developed by the Masoretes. So, which one is the true scientist, the adventurer Carroll, or the eminent Professor Emanuel Tov of the Hebrew University?

    • Nick, technically, a miracle would be when God does something that violates the laws of nature, such as raising a dead person. Finding old manuscripts might be an answered prayer, but not technically a miracle. Many people call things miracles that may indeed be God working, but we can never say for sure.

      Just because Carroll is not a scholar does not mean his MSS are bogus. right?

      • No, of course not. I completely agree with your definition of a mircale, and I believe in miracles. But we should not call everything that can be explaned perfectly on rational grounds “miracles”. We should be careful with the word miracle, especially scholars. It is impossible to explain a miracle (such as raising a dead person). If it’s possible to explain it, it is no longer a miracle.
        These mss can be genuine, I do think they are, but I wish they could be examined by more scholars, not just by people with a specific agenda.

      • Nick I agree completely with your comment that the fragments should be examined by others who have a different viewpoint than McDowell. If my faith can’t be challenged, then it is not a very solid faith. Similarly, if his claims about the dates of these MSS can’t be verified, then his claims are not that solid. I think peer review and other viewpoints strengthen our knowledge. I enjoy listening to people who have a different viewpoint than me.

        As much as I would like to have first century bible MSS, if they are not genuine, what is the point? I have no interest in tricking folks to have faith.

  63. I have no problems with apologists. If someone wants to defend his or her faith on rational grounds, they are free to do so. Personally I don’t believe it is possible to defend your faith on rational grounds. What is rational about most dogma’s? If you rationalize them, they become ridiculous.

    • Nick, your comment makes your bias clear. “I don’t believe it is possible to defend your faith on rational grounds. What is rational about most dogma’s? If you rationalize them, they become ridiculous.” (by the way, you meant dogmas, not dogma’s)

      I invite you to consider the evidence as a jury would. Examine the evidence without your preconceptions and biases. As a former atheist, that is what I had to do.

      If you have an open mind, I could refer you to some rational evidence, including things I have written and spoken on (which are online). Have a good day.

      • If the evidence is so overwelming, why are there so many atheists in the western world? Because Christians try to make there religion rational. But religion is not only rational, it is faith, trust in a Higher Power, which we Christians describe as God the Father (a very Personal God) who has a Son, Jesus Christ, the Lord (and who is enriched by many other sons and daughters, those who have accepted the faith) and illuminates the world through his Holy Spirit. Christianity (and also Judaism and Islam) is a religion of stories, of pratical living, not a static, rational, religion of philosophers. Of course religion has its rational aspects. For example it is just as rational as believing in a God as not to believe in a God. For me, believing in God makes sense. But do I believe in God because it’s rational? No, I believe in God because I trust in Him. I can’t give any rational explanation why I believe in God. He somehow “touched” me, I can’t describe it (I don’t mean that I had an Evangelical experience or something of the kind). In the Netherlands we call this “Ethisch Christendom” (Ethical Christianity). Ethical means that religion is concerning your whole person, is does not only concern your ratio, but also your hart, your mind, etc.

      • Nick I think we are misunderstanding each other here. I thought that you were saying there is no God. My mistake. I apologize.

        Faith is rational. You can’t PROVE it, because an invisible God is unprovable. But God has given us tons of evidence, and we need to judge the evidence in the same way as a jury would. Weigh it, and determine what makes the most rational sense. Yes, at the end of the day, it still takes FAITH to believe, but god never asked people to check their brains at the door.

        The greatest commandment is to love the lord your god with all your heart, soul, strength and MIND. The OT says “come let us REASON together.”

        The scientific evidence points so strongly toward God (not necessarily the god of the bible, but a God) that a rational person must commit intellectual suicide to be an atheist, if he/she honestly looks at the evidence. . The fact is that well over 90% of Americans do believe in God. According to a Rice Univ study, 61-69% of scientists believe in God and multiple studies have shown that 40% of scientists believe in a personal God who answers prayer.

        There is quite a bit of evidence that the bible is the inspired word of God, and incredible evidence that Jesus Christ was who he said he was – God in the flesh, risen from the dead.

        If you check out colachurch.org, there will be 3 audio lessons (with power point). 2 are already there, I believe. I taught about 80% of each of the 3 lessons. The first is scientific evidence for the existence of God, the 2nd is evidence for the bible as God’s word, and the third is evidence for Jesus Christ.

        Now faith does not come from apologetics, it comes from the word of God (romans 10:17). But for many unbelievers, these evidences help them overcome their skepticism so that they will be open to read the bible.

        I am a former atheist. I was not converted by evidences (I learned those later). I was converted by reading the bible daily for over a year. You are correct that the Holy spirit has to work in a person’s heart. But “I feel God in my heart” is not going to convince an atheist that God is real. He is going to need a lot more than that.

        Anyway, great chatting with you.

      • Dear Joe Thomas,

        “I thought that you were saying there is no God.” – I believe in the Christian conception of God. I am very active within my church.

        “Faith is rational.” – I agree, it has its rational aspects.

        “The OT says “come let us REASON together.” – The people in Old Testament times alle believe in God/gods. They didn’t doubt the existence of God/the gods. They took that for granted. They didn’t talk rational abou God, they didn’t present evidence about the existence of God.

        “The scientific evidence points so strongly toward God” – Maybe you are right about that. I really don’t know. An atheist would say: “There is probably no God”.

        “There is quite a bit of evidence that the bible is the inspired word of God” – There are different interpretations about the meaning of inspiration. I completely reject the socalled scholastic invention of “mechanical inspiration”. I believe: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, And light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105 ASV).

        “Now faith does not come from apologetics, it comes from the word of God (Romans 10:17)” – I couldn’t say it better.

        But “I feel God in my heart” is not going to convince an atheist that God is real. – I am not convinced that evidence produced by apologists will convince them either.

        Kind regards and God bless,


  64. I forgot to answer your first question. why are there so many atheists? Simple. They do not WANT to believe. Faith means I must change my life. no faith means I can do what I want.

    Most atheists are atheists because they have decided that is what they want to believe. Sadly, many believers also have no good reason for their faith. I think god intends for us to study, to work, and at the end of the day, to trust him. that is what faith is – trust. but blind faith is of little value (and blind unbelief is of NO value!)

    by the way, if my understanding is correct, atheism and agnosticism are the majority view in scandanavia, is that correct?

    • Sorry, but I do think we think different about atheism and agnoticism. Of course there some people that don’t want to believe, but on the other hand if you aren’t interested in religion, or you aren’t born a religious person, why bother about religion? Some atheists present rather good arguments for there choice to be an atheist, just as some Christians present good arguments for there choice to be Christian.

      The Netherlands is NOT a Scandinavian country. It’s a fine liberal country, polls have shown that the majority of the people are spiritual, a minority of them is Christian.

      • Nick, I think we we mostly agree on most of this.

        I appreciate the corrections about the Netherlands. We americans are not as globally knowledgeable as we ought to be. Most of us consider Holland as part of scandanavia. Shame on us for not knowing better.

        Here in america, most people (over 90%) claim to believe in God, but few people actually follow. My experience with atheists and agnostics here (and Europe may be different) is that very few are unable to believe. Most have been turned off by religion. Few have ever examined any evidence whatsoever, and few have ever read the bible.

        Most assume there is no god, and a large percentage don’t WANT to believe.

        I have spent thousands of hours examining evidences. I think faith is very reasonable. but you are right – apologetics does not convert, but it can get a person’s attention and interest their curiosity. I have heard many stories of unbelievers getting interested via apologetics.

        Here is an example. A young man (23 years old) happened to come to our church for the first time 2 weeks ago and heard me speak on evidence for God from science. He told me he was an agnostic, but after hearing me talk was reconsidering his position. He told me his reason for unbelief were some really bad things done to him and his family by so-called christians. His name is Warren. I explained to him that if I punched someone in the nose and said that “Warren told me to do that” – would it be fair to blame him? Of course not. but that is what happens when people claim to be christians and then do unchristlike things.

        All I did was get his interest. If he is open to God, the Holy spirit will get his heart when he reads the bible. That, I think, is the place of apologetics. to help strip away people’s obejctions and excuses.

        anyway, I have really enjoyed speaking with you.

      • You’re welcome Joe! It was god talking with you. Kind regards and God bless,

    • I’m sorry, but as a nonbeliever, I find this sort of comment aggravating, dismissive, and insulting: “most atheists are atheists because they have decided that is what they want to believe.”

      How do you know that? Have you taken a poll? Do you really think that is how atheists would describe themselves, or is this really just your own psychobabble reasoning for how atheists take their position?

      It’s frankly ridiculous to put what one believes in terms of desires, as though we should feel guilty over what we believe. No matter how much I love fairy stories, pictures of fairies, films about fairies, etc., I cannot force myself to believe in fairies. I know better. There is no evidence of their existence and wishful thinking will not change that. This is the real atheist stance on God. We don’t believe because we see no evidence of the Christian God. Even if I liked the idea of heaven, (I personally do not), I cannot force myself to believe in something, just because it is a pleasant notion.

      I realize that Christian apologists will submit their own rationale for God, and while I don’t find the rationale convincing, I don’t mind discussing it. What bothers me is when Christians assert some pseudo-psychological reasoning for why atheists “refuse” to believe, as though it were simply a rebellious choice. I could just as easily frame Christian belief in terms of some sort of psychological wishful thinking, but I don’t – if Christians tell me they are convinced by reason, I may not agree with the reasoning, but I will at least take them at their word.

      One has to wonder what is more important to Christians: demeaning atheists or bearing false witness.

      • Beau, thanks for your reply. I apologize if I came across insulting and I certainly don’t want to demean atheists. That is not my intent. I myself was an atheist. Over the past 35 years as a believer, I have found that most non-believers have NOT examined the evidence, and have decided a priori that there is no God. And most have been turned off by religion, and based on the lives of most religious people, it is hard to blame them. No, I have not taken a scientific poll. (Scientific polls have shown that around 95% of americans believe in God (that number is dropping), 62-69% of scientists believe in God, and 40% of scientists believe in a personal God who answers prayer – a number that has remained steady for a century.)

        Christopher Hitchens himself said the same thing – he dismissed God on an a priori basis.

        There is an incredible amount of evidence for God from science, for the bible as the word of God, and for Jesus Christ as the messiah. You may choose to dismiss it flippantly, but the evidence is there. If you have the courage, you can examine it for yourself. I am in the process of writing a book on apologetics. I was asked to teach 4 classes on apologetics, and you can listen to them at colachurch.org. (3 are already up online) Another person did the intros, and the introductions may not be convincing to you. Unfortunately, I was limited by time, and was not able to cover everything I would have liked. The first class looks at scientific evidence for God. The second, evidence for the bible, and the last 2 are evidence for Jesus Christ.

        Calling Christianity a fairy tale is incredibly insulting. Please, investigate the evidence with an open mind. I had to do that as an atheist, and I encourage you to do the same.

        I will be the first to admit that the majority of people who call themselves Christians are hypocrites, and some apologists appeal to evidences that are unproven (like the folks that say they have found Noah’s ark.)

        I do not believe because it is a “pleasant notion.” In fact, I was not looking for God at all. And the fact is, the Christian life is incredibly challenging. It is not fairies and gumdrops – it takes guts.

        Your statements “there is no evidence” tells me that you have not looked, because the evidence is quite frankly, overwhelming. I am a believer today because I would have to commit intellectual suicide to remain an atheist. Please, have an open mind and really examine the evidence. Otherwise, you can’t consider yourself an honest person. Good luck, Beau.

      • Thank you for the apology, Joe.

        I used to be a Christian, and not in name only, I was thoughtful Christian and one who defended the faith. My journey to atheism was not an emotional journey, it was an intellectual one. I still have friends and family who are Christians, and they remain my friends and family with no loss of love on either side.

        I have read many apologetic treatises on the evidences for God. I’m pretty familiar with most of the current apologetic arguments from sources that range from Mike Licona to William Lane Craig to to Alvin Plantinga to N.T. Wright to the Discovery Institute, but I don’t find them very convincing, and even if one conceded the indirect possibility of an omnipotent creator of the universe, the leap from that notion to the very specific God of Christianity is huge.

        That is probably a conversation for another post, perhaps another blog.

  65. That’s all fine and dandy, but you digress. What happened to the Incredible Disappearing Markan Fragment?

    • Hi D. Thomas,
      apparently you have not heard about the on-going saga of the mummy masks and the reused papyri that were used to create these paper mache-like artifacts. Dating one of these would seem straight forward if we knew the date of these mummies from other records and information. That a fragment of Mark was recycled to use on one of these early masks is stunning, to say the least.

    • To D Thomas – Yes Nick and I digressed into a personal discussion not related to the Mark fragments. Which I have enjoyed very much, by the way. (My last name is Thomas – maybe we are related.)

      Alex is correct – if you have not had a chance to view the video of Josh McDowell explaining how they are disassembling Egyptian burial masks in order to get old manuscripts, I highly recommend it. It is very controversial, because they destroy one relic (a mask) in order to get to many other relics (ancient manuscripts).

      The masks were made of a type of papier mache – layers of discarded papyri and layers of silk with some sort of glue-like substance. McDowell and his partners buy the masks, soak them in water and Palmolive soap (very controversial) and have found hundreds of MSS, including many of the New Testament, and one of the oldest fragments of Homer ever found (if what they are claiming is true).

      McDowell claims they stopped making the masks in 125 CE (AD 125). If that is true, these are the oldest NT manuscripts ever found.

      • Sorry, but Josh McDowell’s credibility is at the sub-zero level. Any claim he makes should be taken with several tablespoons of salt.

  66. Dear Beau and Joe,

    This is what a mean about apologetic Christianity. It is actually about the interpretation of the “evidence”. For example. For most apologetic Christians a first century fragment of the Gospel of Mark is “evidence” that the content of that gospel is now “finally” been “proven” to be the truth. But that is not the case: It just shows that the gospel of Mark was written in the first century, it doesn’t prove that the words that are ascribed to our Lord Jesus were spoken by Him as recorded in that gospel. It only proves that a person, living in the first century, commonly identified as St. Mark, the interpreter of St. Peter, wrote down a story of the public life of Jesus. Of course one can say that it is reasonable to assume that the content of that gospel is more trustworthy because it was written down a few decades after the crucifixion (and maybe by an eyewitness account). Opponents however can say that this is not the case, because memory, even collective memory isn’t that trustworthy. So it is all about the interpretation of the “evidence”.

    Bea wrote: “I’m pretty familiar with most of the current apologetic arguments … but I don’t find them very convincing”. I agree somewhat with Beau. But other than Beau, I am a believer who believes in the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ and I believe He is my Saviour. But I don’t need apologetics to be convinced.

    Dear Beau, read all the stories of the Bible again, forget all dogmatics (whether you can discover the Trinity in the OT or that the sign on Cain’s forehead was a cross or not, or that Adam and Eve already knew Jesus etc.), don’t use a popular, dynamic equivalent translation, use a literal translation (less biased by people with an agenda), let the stories speak to you. Read some articles about Karl Barth and Hendrikus Berkhof (I think his work about dogmatics is translated in English), Karl Rahner, Hans Küng, or Dale Allison (I think his “The Intertextual Jesus” is very inspiring).

    • Thanks Nick, I have read the entire text of the bible multiple times in my life, usually in earlier or later revisions of the revised standard, occasionally in the New International. I still read it on occasion. It’s a fascinating collection of ancient writings, with a widely diverse range of writing styles, contexts, and agendas.

      And whether I like it or not, the bible has an enormous impact on the modern world simply because of the overwhelming prevalence of the three abrahamic religions. There is wisdom to be found in the bible (as there is in other ancient writings such as the Tao Te Ching), but I don’t find the supernatural elements of biblical writings any more persuasive than those found in the plethora of other similar tales from the ancient world.

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