Last December I spoke at Josh McDowell’s Discover the Evidence conference in Dallas. There has been a flurry of activity commenting on this conference of late, and I wanted to set the record straight about a couple of things, but only a couple of things. My colleague, Darrell Bock, has quipped that the Internet rumor mill is just as fast as any angelic messenger, but it is not as reliable! His apothegm has proved true once again.
First, some blogposts have suggested that I was involved in the organizing of the event. This is not true. I was asked to speak at the event during lunch, which I was happy to do. I was one among many guest speakers, including some well-known scholars such as Father Columba Stewart, Director of the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library in Collegeville, Minnesota, and Dr. Peter Flint, Canada Research Chair of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Institute, Trinity Western University. As a guest speaker at conferences, I usually have no input on what others are going to say. Such was the case here. My time at the conference was also quite limited. I heard no other lectures about the manuscripts, but simply gave mine and worked on identifying some papyrus fragments with some students for an hour or two. A terrible snowstorm hit Dallas that weekend, and my time at the event was significantly curtailed because of it.
Second, I am aware of what some bloggers are saying by way of criticisms against certain claims that were made by some of the participants at the conference. I never heard any of these claims so have no first-hand knowledge of them.
Third, other criticisms were made about the handling of archives and the dating of some of the papyri. Again, I was not a part of either of these features of the conference: we had papyrus fragments at our table and we never touched them by hand. We also did not have time to definitively date any of them.
Finally, some claims were made at the conference (so I am told) about one papyrus in particular, a fragment from Mark’s Gospel. What was said about that fragment was not said in my presence. And even if it had been, I can neither confirm nor deny the points made because I signed a nondisclosure agreement on this issue some time ago.
I realize that this note doesn’t satisfy the rumor mill much since there are no juicy revelations made here. And it hardly sets the record straight—except to note that my participation in this event, though happily entered into, was minimal. I am making no comment on conduct in handling the artifacts or statements made in my absence.