Christmas Letter

I feel like a student in the class of a proverbially unreasonable professor. The prof gave a final exam, with one question: “Define the universe. Use three examples.” So much has happened in the last year at the Center! Where to begin? I think I’ll just give three examples.

First, CSNTM is growing! Three new staff members have joined our team. Kelsey Hart is now our office manager. Stephen Clardy is our Development Coordinator, working closely with Andy Patton, our Development Manager. And Jacob Peterson is CSNTM’s Research Fellow. (You might recognize Jacob’s name; he worked for the Center before heading off to the University of Edinburgh for his PhD in New Testament textual criticism.) We are excited to see how Kelsey, Stephen, and Jacob will complement the team, enabling us to continue our mission of preserving ancient Scripture for a modern world.

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OLD AND NEW
IMAGES OF P40

Second, through a generous grant and magnificent gifts from you, our partners in preservation, we were able to purchase a multispectral imaging (MSI) camera. This camera, which came with a $100,000 price-tag, uses 15 points on the light spectra, including invisible bands on both ends. With it we can now see texts that disappeared over the centuries, were washed out in floods, became burnt in fires, or were scraped off by scribes who then penned something different over the erased text. And these ancient texts have been lost to the ages—until now. What natural disasters and man-made destruction did, with this equipment we can undo. With MSI, the age of rediscovery is born.

In May, four members of the CSNTM staff took an intensive course on using this new camera. We are now one of a handful of organizations in the world using a portable MSI camera. And this means that more doors are opening for us across the globe.

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PREPARING MANUSCRIPTS
IN TBILISI

And third, while the staff was learning the ropes with this game-changing camera, I was in Tbilisi (Republic of Georgia) with two former interns, Brit Burnette and Laura Peisker. We were on a ‘front trip’ to make contact with two libraries in Tbilisi and one in Mestia. A native of Georgia, Nino Fincher, translated for us as we built relationships, examined manuscripts, and wrote up our findings for the digitizing team that would follow. Then, as we were flying back home, Rob Marcello, CSNTM’s Assistant Executive Director, and Jacob Peterson flew to Tbilisi with the new camera.

I met up with Rob and Jacob in Greece where we did more photography. Finally, we traversed northern Europe, landing in Heidelberg. In these locales, words on ancient papyrus and parchment—words that time forgot—have come to life again!

So, where do we go from here? We are working out contracts for next year’s expeditions with institutes in Greece, Germany, and the U.S. Libraries, museums, and monasteries are seeking CSNTM’s help to digitally preserve these ancient artifacts, these irreplaceable treasures of the Church.

We have the opportunities. We have the staff. We have the equipment. But we don’t have all the funds needed to do this work. We are making aggressive plans for upcoming expeditions. This Christmas season, we hope to raise the first $150,000 needed to begin our work on these critical expeditions.

It is CSNTM’s mission both to protect the past and to ensure the future of these sacred Scriptures. As you ponder your end-of-the-year giving, please consider making a generous investment in this work. Our equipment and staff are opening doors across the globe, but it takes a team to make these expeditions possible.

Will you make an investment that ensures the handwritten text of the New Testament is preserved for the next generation? Together, we can accomplish our mission by having:

  • 2 people who give $25,000
  • 2 people who give $15,000
  • 2 people who give $10,000
  • 4 people who give $5,000
  • 15 people who give $1,000
  • 15 people who give $500
  • 15 people who give $250
  • 25 people who give $100
  • 10 people who give $50
  • 30 people who give $25

 

In His Grip,

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Daniel B. Wallace
Executive Director
Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts
www.csntm.org

 

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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‘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.

First-Century Mark Fragment Update

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There has been a flurry of announcements and comments on the internet about the “First-Century Mark Fragment” (FCM) ever since Elijah Hixson posted a blog on Evangelical Textual Criticism this morning. As many know, I signed a non-disclosure agreement about this manuscript in 2012 sometime after I made an announcement about it in my third debate with Bart Ehrman at North Carolina, Chapel Hill (February 1, 2012). I was told in the non-disclosure agreement not to speak about when it would be published or whether it even exists. The termination of this agreement would come when it was published. Consequently, I am now free to speak about it.

Confirmation
The first thing to mention is that yes, Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 5345, published in The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, vol. 83 (2018), is the same manuscript that I spoke about in the debate and blogged about afterward. In that volume the editors date it to the second or third century. And this now is what has created quite a stir.

Apology
In my debate with Bart, I mentioned that I had it on good authority that this was definitely a first-century fragment of Mark. A representative for who I understood was the owner of FCM urged me to make the announcement at the debate, which they realized would make this go viral. However, the information I received and was assured to have been vetted was incorrect. It was my fault for being naïve enough to trust that the data I got was unquestionable, as it was presented to me. So, I must first apologize to Bart Ehrman, and to everyone else, for giving misleading information about this discovery. While I am sorry for publicly announcing inaccurate facts, at no time in the public statements (either in the debate or on my blogsite) did I knowingly do this. But I should have been more careful about trusting any sources without my personal verification, a lesson I have since learned.

Personal History

Prior to the Debate
Just prior to the debate, this representative discussed with me the discovery of FCM. It was my understanding that their group had purchased the papyrus; had I known otherwise, I never would have made the public announcement. I was urged—and authorized—to make the announcement at the debate. I was also told that a high-ranking papyrologist had confirmed that FCM was definitely a first-century manuscript. On that basis, I made the announcement.

Post-Debate
After the debate I posted a blog entitled, First-Century Fragment of Mark’s Gospel Found!?, which came online March 22, 2012. Hundreds of comments were made on that blog, all the way up to the end of 2017. Many of them were negative, asking me why I didn’t say more. I have been accused of dissemblage or incompetence or both. But I could not say more. The reason was simple: I was asked not to say more.

Some thought that I was the one who discovered the fragment or that I was the one editing it for publication. Whenever this was suggested, I denied both. I had not even seen the fragment!

Post-Non-disclosure Agreement
Later in 2012 I did get the opportunity to see the manuscript. I was allowed to see it only after I signed a non-disclosure agreement. From that point on, I have essentially kept my mouth shut (though I was also asked not to take the blog down, since that would only raise more questions). What struck me about the fragment especially was that in Mark 1.17 instead of αυτοις ο Ιησους the papyrus did not have ο Ιησους. I thought at the time that, if this really was a first-century fragment (which I was not prepared, with my limited knowledge of papyrology and paleography, to claim), it most likely was due to ο Ιησους existing as a nomen sacrum already in the first century. I surmised that the exemplar that the scribe was copying from most likely read αυτοιςοις (no spacing, and Ιησους written with just the first and last letters with a supralinear bar over them). The scribe of FCM then could have easily and accidentally skipped over the duplicated οις. Alternatively, it was possible that the scribe’s exemplar did not have ο Ιησους, but this seemed far less likely.

Nomina sacra are a well-known phenomenon in New Testament manuscripts from the earliest papyri, although the reasons for their creation are not altogether clear. (For a recent discussion, see Larry Hurtado, Earliest Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts and Christian Origins [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006], 95–134.) To find a first-century fragment whose exemplar most likely had this nomen sacrum was truly exciting! But was it really from the first century? With only a few minutes looking at the papyrus, and no permission to take pictures, I too had to wait, like everyone else, to see the publication.

In virtually every speaking engagement I have had since then, the question inevitably comes up: “What can you tell us about the first-century Mark fragment?” The answer is always the same: I’ve signed a non-disclosure agreement.

Somewhere along the line, I learned that the world-class papyrologist who dated the fragment to the first century had already, prior to my debate with Ehrman, adjusted his views. He was not so certain about the date (perhaps it was early second century). I learned that the rep knew, two weeks prior to the debate, that the papyrologist had changed his views. But I was told none of this. Regrettably, even when I made the announcement in Chapel Hill, I was giving misinformation. Even more regrettable, I have not been able to reveal the papyrologist’s uncertainty until now.

Further, I did not know that FCM was dated to the second/third century until I saw Elijah Hixson’s blog. The reasons for my silence had to do exclusively with the fact that I signed a non-disclosure agreement. Journalists, authors, newspaper editors, and many, many others have asked for information about it. But I was not allowed to say anything. Some have accused me of being silent to protect my reputation; just the opposite is the case. I was silent because I gave my word to be, even if it would hurt my reputation.

Final Reflections
One of the lessons my wife and I drilled into our four sons was that their integrity would be in question unless there were times when being honest hurt them. When they repeatedly told us they were telling the truth, but the consequences were always to their advantage, we couldn’t trust them. In short, integrity sometimes hurts. I am glad that this fragment has finally been published, so that I can get past the accusations and condemnations. To be sure, there is much to criticize me for, in particular that I did not personally verify the information I received about this manuscript before announcing it to the world. But the speculations about my character otherwise I would hope have been resolved.

Honoring loved ones in your life this Christmas

Friends, I wanted to share a link with you all about a unique Christmas present opportunity. It’s a way you can both honor friends, family, or those who have influenced you and preserve unique, handwritten pages of the New Testament at the same time. I’ve done this for my parents. Mom went to be with the Lord last January and Dad doesn’t want any more stuff in his life. This is a way to give him a Christmas present that doesn’t clutter his home. (I’m sure he won’t know about this until I tell him.) You may wish to honor a beloved teacher, parent, child, friend, or even an author/speaker who has shown you the importance of the word of God.

Click on the link below to find out how to put the honoree’s name on a special Internet page; the honorees will be listed on Christmas Eve.

11×12 Donation honoring someone in your life