25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

I want to tell you about a special giving opportunity through CSNTM that will make a substantial difference in our mission to preserve ancient New Testament manuscripts for the modern world.

It is called the 25 Days of Christmas. We are inviting 25 of you to give $25 monthly by December 25th. Together, your partnership will give $7,500 in year-round support for CSNTM’s mission to preserve, study, and share Greek New Testament manuscripts.

Monthly donations are a critical part of CSNTM’s planning for future expeditions and special projects. Your monthly donations could unlock the partnership between CSNTM and a library or monastery. You can preserve a unique manuscript before it experiences further deterioration. And you would give everyone worldwide access to the best images of some of the earliest texts of the New Testament.

Will you join our special team of 25 and make a monthly gift of $25?

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UPDATE ON ED’S HEALTH

Ed Komoszewski was once again my roommate at the annual Evangelical Theological Society and Society of Biblical Literature conferences. Every year, these combined conferences take place over a 7–8 day period just before Thanksgiving, somewhere in North America. This year, it was Denver. These academic conferences are vital for current research and books in biblical studies. Lectures from world-class scholars—both Christian and non-Christian—fill the meeting rooms that span several hotels and the Convention Center. The book area is almost the size of a football field. All the most recent works in biblical studies are there.

Ed comes every year. He has friends who cover virtually all of his costs. It’s not a vacation. It’s work. And it always takes a toll on his body. Weeks are needed for him to recover. In the afternoons and evenings, he can get out of the hotel room. This year he was able to get to only five sessions between the two conferences combined. He also met with publishers, editors, co-authors, scholars, and folks who simply wanted to get with Ed.

He met with everyone who wanted to see him—even some old friends. He talked with them about his faith. They all had a stimulating conversation. However, when Ed got back to the hotel, he was exhausted almost beyond belief. He could not form words properly because he lost control over his facial muscles. His whole face was literally sagging. He looked like he had aged 20 years right before my eyes! I’ve never seen anything like this. I scolded him, and said that he needed to take better care of himself. He needed to not say yes to everything and everyone. But Ed was just being Ed: everyone else is more important, the gospel is more important, and his life counts for naught. I could not dissuade him.

Ed Denver 2018

During most afternoons and evenings, to look at Ed you’d swear he was in good health. He works hard to make others comfortable around him. I know the truth. Ed has an invisible illness—or rather, invisible illnessES. By Thursday of last week he hit the wall. Just to get out of bed took extreme effort. At one point he was in such pain that he couldn’t even take his shoes off. His health has continued to degenerate. I have urged him to stay home from the conferences. But he’s far more concerned about making an impact for Jesus Christ than his own comfort or health. I could list a litany of physical issues he faced just on this trip. But suffice it to say that he sacrificed much to be here, and he continues to sacrifice much for the gospel.

I want to thank so many of you for your generous gifts to Ed’s GoFundMe account. Such a great response! Just a few more thousand dollars to pay off the current medical bills. Wouldn’t that be a marvelous Christmas present? This is an investment in eternity. Hundreds of small donations would add up to a big gift. Let’s do this.

Ed Komoszewski needs your help!

Dear friends, you may know about Ed Komoszewski. If not, you should! He co-authored Reinventing Jesus with Jim Sawyer and Dan Wallace. He also co-authored Putting Jesus in His Place with Rob Bowman. This is probably the best book in defense of the deity of Christ. Ed is a champion of the faith, a superb writer, and a gifted speaker. But he has battled serious health problems for years. And he’s struggled to provide for his family as a result.

Ed Komo pic

Ed had another serious health incident about a month ago. While pushing a cart at Walmart, Ed’s heart totally failed; he immediately lost consciousness and hit the floor. When he woke up, he was in the Intensive Care Unit at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center in McKinney, TX. Four days later, when doctors determined that the electrical system in Ed’s heart would not recover, a pacemaker was surgically implanted in Ed’s chest.

This latest incident came out of left field. It was unrelated to Ed’s other chronic health conditions, which continue to wreak havoc. Indeed, over the past sixteen months, Ed has been hospitalized for serious complications four times.

Through all of this, Ed has fought to remain as productive as possible. He and Darrell Bock recently submitted a manuscript on the historical Jesus that they are co-editing. And Ed and Rob Bowman are currently working to revise their book on the deity of Christ within the next year.

Though many are aware of Ed’s health situation, fewer are aware of the GoFundMe campaign that was launched for Ed a year ago. The campaign is still far short of its goal, and Ed’s bills have only increased (significantly!) since the campaign commenced.

We need Ed in the battle, and if countless people would donate even a small amount it would encourage Ed to keep fighting. In fact, it would enable him to keep getting the medical attention he needs to stick around! If 3000 people donated $10, he could pay the bills he has accumulated to date. The bills will continue to pile up; my desire is to see some folks give to Ed’s GoFundMe account every month for as long as it takes. And I’ve put my money where my mouth is.

Here’s the link to the GoFundMe page

The Battle Cry of the Reformation and the Surrender of Greek and Hebrew

One of the great ironies and unnecessary casualties of the Protestant Reformation is shaping up in America today. The battle cry of the Reformation was ad fontes—“back to the sources!”—which meant going behind Jerome’s Latin Vulgate and reading the original Greek New Testament. This was coined by Erasmus, the man responsible for publishing the first Greek New Testament in 1516. He was a Roman Catholic priest who was swimming against the current of much of 16th century Catholic scholarship. It was especially the Protestants who latched onto Erasmus’ Greek New Testament. During his lifetime, over 300,000 copies were sold! A few years after his death, the Council of Trent banned many of his writings.

The Reformers also went beyond the Vulgate and translated the Bible into modern languages.

Reformation

Now, half a millennium after Luther nailed his theses to the door of the great Schlosskirche in Wittenberg, theological seminaries are on a rapid decline. Greek and Hebrew continue to be casualties. Genuine study of the biblical languages is being replaced by “Greek/Hebrew appreciation” courses—a euphemism for anything but deep appreciation, or nothing at all. Bible software, which can be an absolutely amazing tool for profound study of the original languages, has too often become a crutch. Rely on it enough and it becomes a wheelchair. One really needs to get immersed in Greek for a couple of years before being able to profit fully from Bible software that deals with the Greek.

Evangelical churches are frequently seeking pastors who have amazing speaking abilities, but who can’t exegete their way out of a paper bag. This is hardly what the Reformers had in mind. Listen to Luther:

In proportion as we value the gospel, let us zealously hold to the languages. For it was not without purpose that God caused his Scriptures to be set down in these two languages alone—the Old Testament in Hebrew, the New in Greek. Now if God did not despise them but chose them above all others for his word, then we too ought to honor them above all others.

And let us be sure of this: we will not long preserve the gospel without the languages.

It is inevitable that unless the languages remain, the gospel must finally perish.

Melanchthon was more to the point:

Those who advise inexperienced young students, training for ministry, not to study the languages ought to have their tongues cut off.

More positively stated, Erasmus said this in the preface to his Novum Instrumentum—the Greek New Testament published in 1516:

These holy pages will… give you Christ… they will give him to you in an intimacy so close that he would be less visible to you if he stood before your eyes.

In a role reversal from the 16th century, Roman Catholic graduate schools are doing incredible work in the biblical languages. I applaud this endeavor at these institutes, but grieve for what is happening in the conservative Protestant tradition. MDiv and ThM programs are shrinking at an alarming rate. And those that are remaining strong have often sacrificed the biblical languages on the altar of student enrollment.

The Reformation deserves better than this. Our churches deserve better than this. And, above all, Jesus Christ deserves better than this.

To those who are thinking about committing their lives to a lifetime of service in the Church, and especially to a ministry of the Word, I urge you to take the high road. Don’t shortchange your education and don’t shortchange your flock. Log time—significant time—learning the languages. Go to a seminary that is strong in Greek and Hebrew. And when you get into ministry after your theological education, do not measure the success of the church by the size of the congregation but by its depth of devotion to Christ and the Word.

‘First-Century’ Mark Fragment: Second Update

A Note about Comments
I have been moderating the comments on my blogs and have been, up until now, responsible for approving all that are posted. On more than one occasion the comments take on a life of their own. They go down rabbit trails not related to the blog, or simply repeat the same comments over and over again. This distracts from the content of the blogs and has taken far too much time to moderate. So, for the foreseeable future, this site will not allow any comments on blogs.

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Egypt Exploration Society Statement on P.Oxy 5345
On June 4, the Egypt Exploration Society (EES) posted a statement about the ‘First-Century’ Mark fragment (a.k.a. FCM, P.Oxy. 5345, P137). The statement offered some backstory on the manuscript and the controversy that has surrounded it. Inter alia, the EES claimed the following:

  1. The papyrus fragment was most likely dug up by Grenfell and Hunt in 1903.
  2. In the early 1980s, the fragment was provisionally dated ‘I/II’ by Dr. Revel A. Coles, though it was not at that time identified as from Mark’s Gospel.
  3. A researcher working for Professor Dirk Obbink of Oxford University identified it as from Mark in 2011; Obbink decided that he would be the one to edit and publish it.
  4. The EES noted that editors of its papyri are allowed at times to remove certain papyri from the collection for study or teaching purposes. The conditions for such a privilege were not mentioned.
  5. The EES claimed more than once in this statement that the manuscript was never for sale.
  6. “The EES has no knowledge of, and has never seen, the NDA which Professor Daniel Wallace says someone required him to sign about the unpublished Mark fragment. Professor Obbink too says he has no knowledge of it.

Response and Update
In light of the fact that I am named in this statement, some clarification and response is needed. A few of these points are simply giving more details on my previous blog and not necessarily related to the EES statement.

  1. It was news to me that this fragment had most likely been excavated over a century ago, not to mention that it was provisionally dated to the first or second century about 35 years ago. My previous (incorrect) understanding, which was also that of key individuals, was that Obbink was the one who dated it to the first century.
  2. It is true that I never signed an NDA with the EES. The NDA I signed was with Jerry Pattengale, who represented a major collection that was interested in purchasing the papyrus.
  3. Pattengale was not the representative of this collection whom I had met just prior to my debate with Bart Ehrman. That representative was the one who assured me that the fragment was definitely dated to the first century. Had I known that the first-century date was not certain, I never would have said that it was in the debate.
  4. That first representative indicated that Dirk Obbink was certain of the date. Further, the representative had credentials of their own regarding the dating of papyri. Had I known that it would take years to publish this papyrus, I never would have mentioned it in the debate. So, it wasn’t hearsay or merely the statement of an acquisitions person, but on the basis of good authority that the dating was right. The date of the fragment, the date of the publication, and the publishing house were represented as certain. All three turned out to be wrong. As I admitted in my first update on the FCM, I naïvely accepted as facts things that I needed to personally vet. This has been a hard lesson but one I’ve learned.
  5. I signed the NDA in early October 2012; I still possess my copy of it along with the email it was attached to—an email that explicitly speaks of the purchase as the reason for the NDA.
  6. So far as I know, the fragment was most certainly for sale in 2012. This was confirmed to me by several individuals, Dr. Pattengale included.
  7. Pattengale relayed to me that the reason for me signing the NDA was that it was requested by the seller before I could see the images of the manuscript.
  8. I was asked by the collection that Pattengale represented to assess the fragment for two things. First, was this a continuous text? Second, was it likely to be a first-century fragment? My assessment was directly related to the purchase of the manuscript. I confirmed that it was a continuous text, but I refrained from offering any date for the fragment. With just a few minutes to examine it, and without access to my standard tools on paleography, I was unable to say anything more than that it was early. I did not, so far as I remember, even suggest any date range.

Some Questions about the EES Statement
I have a few questions myself about the backstory on the FCM. Some things are not adding up. If I were an outsider, I would most certainly trust the statement of an established, revered, and significant organization such as the Egypt Exploration Society over that of an individual. Hence, the need for this blog. I have some questions for the EES, too.

  1. Why would I be asked to sign an NDA on the request of the seller if the document was never for sale?
  2. Why would I be asked by the potential purchaser to evaluate the content and date of the fragment if the document was never for sale?
  3. My understanding was that the fragment was for sale not only in 2012, but for some years afterward. Why would the fragment be presented as for sale—and over a lengthy period of time?
  4. I was told that the condition of the sale was that the seller of the manuscript would be free to choose who would edit it. How could this be the case if there was no seller?
  5. If the content of this fragment was known in 2011, why did it take nearly seven years to publish the papyrus? Although it certainly takes some time to properly edit such a fragment, why would it take this long to get it published if there’s a straight line between discovery and publication?
  6. If the EES, according to their own statement on June 4, 2018, knew in the spring of 2016 that they possessed the so-called First-Century Mark, why did they not tell the rest of us? Further, why did they not announce its publication, in light of the “social media debate” (their expression), when Oxyrhynchus Papyri volume LXXXIII was published? This publication was stumbled upon by Elijah Hixson. His announcement at the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog on May 23 says:

I have not yet seen the latest volume of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri. The Egypt Exploration Society’s website shows vol. LXXXII as the most current volume, at least as of today. However, Amazon informs me that volume LXXXIII was published last month. – Elijah Hixon

Why was the publication not widely announced for such a significant, newsworthy, highly-rumored, and mysterious find—especially if the “social media debate” is what prompted their review of their NT fragments? This papyrus already received more international attention than any other NT papyrus in decades, yet it gets published without even a tweet. Why was it significant enough for the EES to do a review of their collection, but not significant enough to announce its publication?

Some answers, some more questions. P137 still is mysterious, and the backstory still needs clarification. I must leave that to others who know the details to fill them in.