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Going Offline . . . for a While

Starting intensive chemo therapy Mon, which will take 4-6 weeks.  So I won’t have much to blog about for that foreseeaable future.  Everyone enjoy the summer (at least those of you in the northern hemisphere!).

Calling All Interested in Papyri

I’ve been asked to circulate the following invitation from Prof. William Johnson to any/all seriously interested in the study of ancient papyri:

If you have papyrological interests, I want to point out to you the great deal offered by the American Society of Papyrologists. An individual ASP membership costs $35, and for that you will an annual subscription to theBulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists, almost 400 pages of high-quality papyrology spanning a wide range of subject matter, from editions to essays. Our new arrangement with Peeters Publishers allows us to offer this without shipping or other additional costs.
Where else can you subscribe to a papyrological journal for $35? (Or $16 if you are a student!)
To become a member, simply go to:
and click on the membership button.
Memberships also go to support the Society’s other activities, for which see the blurb below.
With best wishes to you all,
William Johnson
Secretary-Treasurer, American Society of Papyrologists

Honoring the Son: New Book Out Now

A two-week holiday break (in Canada) and subsequent illness has meant stillness on this blog site (but maybe that’s not all bad!).  More medical tests today, but a short note on my latest book:  Honoring the Son:  Jesus in Earliest Christian Devotional Practice (Lexham Press).  The publisher’s online catalog entry here.

This small volume (68 pp) is intended for a wide spectrum of readers, and I attempt to summarize some of the main historical points that I’ve tried to make over the past 30 years or so.

Summer Break

I’m off on holidays for a couple of weeks, and I don’t plan to blog during that time.  So, nothing over the next couple of weeks (likely).  Silence doesn’t mean I’m ill.  Just being reasonable.

Further Comment on the Mark Fragment and the Rumors

There is now a further news release from the Egypt Exploration Society about the recently published fragment of the Gospel of Mark.  It responds to some of the rumors circulating, and corrects certain of them.  See here, the second item on the page.

A Plea for Round-Table Discussion, not Debates

My posting about the publication of the interestingly early fragment of GMark elicited a number of comments, a few of which caused me to wonder about the persons writing them.  One, for example, citing the erroneous claims of a first-century fragment of GMark made in some public fora over the last couple of years, kept alleging these were lies and the speakers liars.

I won’t publish the comment.  For one thing the language of “lying”, “liars” would, in a good many courts, likely be deemed libel.  And if I published the comment I could be judged complicit in the libel.  But also, how does somebody who simply repeats what they’ve been told become thereby a liar?

This kind of vituperation clearly reflects an aspect of what is now called the “culture wars” afflicting the USA.  People on both sides of what they see as the chasm of differences  give no quarter to the other side.  It’s not quite (yet) as crazy as Northern Ireland during the “troubles” in the 70s-80s, but the analogy does come to mind, as far as mindsets are concerned.  North of the 49th parallel and on this side of the Atlantic, it all seems so bizarre.

Part of the problem, I think, is that many American “Evangelicals” unthinkingly link themselves also to so-called “conservative” political and social stances (when, actually, there is no necessary connection  . . . at all).  So if someone appears to affirm some kind of traditional Christian theology, others (who espouse more “liberal/progressive” stances on the social issues) will quickly label him/her as “the enemy”.  And those espousing a “conservative” stance will likewise demonize those who take a different view.

But back to the fragment of the GMark.  The erroneous claims about the GMark fragment were sometimes made in the context of a public debate, which seems to have become a now-staple feature of what passes for scholarly discussion in some circles.  Now, I was a very successful high-school debater (top level in the National Forensic League), and I know how to debate.  But I don’t do debates on issues that are scholarly in nature.  Debating is a win/lose contest, little subtlety or complexity allowed.  It doesn’t make for the sort of careful consideration of matters that is most often required. It certainly doesn’t allow for people to grow, develop/alter their understanding of matters.

Why not, instead, have round-table discussions, in which participants of various points of view could air their position, and engage more in dialogue with those of other views?  A round-table (if properly run) allows people to talk to those of other viewpoints.  There’s no win or lose, just an effort to try to understand one another, and, hopefully, clarify issues.  Participants can remain in disagreement thereafter, but a round-table ought to encourage respect (essential) for others, and careful presentations of viewpoints.

Just a thought.


On Papyri and Integrity

The publication of the fragment of the Gospel of Mark that has been generating excitement and controversy for several years now and the preceding and ensuing accounts about it raise the issue of integrity.

The papyrus fragment (which I posted about most recently here) is now palaeographically dated by its editors as late second/early third century CE.  The earlier claim that it was a first-century fragment that was sounded by Daniel Wallace in a debate with Bart Ehrman a few years ago, was clearly based on incorrect information.  Wallace (in a commendable example of scholarly honesty and integrity) has now given his own account of how he was misled (here).

On another site, Brice Jones has expressed puzzlement (here) about claims that the fragment was offered for sale, given that it is now clear that it was part of the Oxyrhynchus hoard of ancient papyri held now in the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford).  The claims implicate the esteemed papyrologist, Dirk Obbink, and Jones poses questions about how he could have supposedly offered the fragment for sale.

The recent news release on the fragment from the Egypt Exploration Society (which own the Oxyrhynchus Papyri) denies that any of the papyri in its collection was ever put up for sale (here).  As a further note, I personally have great confidence in Dirk Obbink as a scholar and a person of honor and integrity.  I will say nothing more about the claim that troubled Jones or the person to whom it is ascribed.  But I trust Obbink, and that means that the claim that he offered the item for sale like some huckster I regard as false and mischievous.

This whole drama has been a sad instance of ballyhoo and perhaps worse distorting what should have been a sober editing and analysis of a small but very important bit of papyrus.  I hope that we shall not see such a case anytime soon.

Consequences of Christian Faith in the Early Period

Another video in the series sponsored by our Centre for the Study of Christian Origins has just been posted here.  In this one, I talk about the “social consequences” of adherence to early Christianity.

Paul, Stephen Fowl, and Trinitarian Doctrine

The contributions to the multi-author volume that I noted yesterday here include a thoughtful essay by Stephen Fowl (who, in my experience, writes only thoughtful work):  “Paul and the Trinity” (pp. 151-61).

He first notes that, although in Paul we have a “christological maximalism,” Paul did not engage the questions that occupied pro and anti figures in the Nicene-era debates, such as how to understand the “generation of the Son.”  So, “both pro- and anti-Nicene theologians made ready recourse to Paul.  If one is to say that there are Trinitarian implications to Paul’s view of God, then one must say that there are Arian implications too” (152).

Fowl then surveys quickly the questions with which Paul was concerned, which mainly focused on the terms on which Gentiles could be treated as full co-religionists by Jewish Jesus-believers.  But Fowl also notes how readily Paul linked God, Jesus, and the Spirit in his discourse and references to divine redemptive and creative work.

Fowl concludes by proposing that we, though we should not ascribe a full-blown Trinitarianism to Paul, “pro-Nicene doctrine” may be viewed as a reasonable way of handling the tensions in Paul’s thought between an “unwavering commitment to God’s singularity and his Christological maximalism in the light of theological and ecclesial pressures different from those Paul faced” (161).

That’s not to close off further discussion, and Fowl would agree.  But his essay demonstrates the kind of patient and irenic exploration of how each age has to formulate doctrine in light of its own conceptual categories and pressing issues.

What Yet Lies Beneath? The Hoard of Unpublished Oxyrhynchus Texts

My note about the newly published items included in vol 83 of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri reminded me that to date, over 100 years after the excavations there, the vast hoard of papyri shipped to Britain by Grenfell & Hunt (in hundreds of metal boxes) remains stored and unpublished.  This latest volume brings the number of published items well past 5,000.  But by some estimates this leaves several hundred thousands of papyrus fragments, perhaps more, yet to be studied and published.

That only in this latest volume do we have a remarkably early fragment of the Gospel of Mark, as well as fragments of a couple of other NT writings, shows that gems continue to be found in that hoard.  And who knows what else lies there?

Nearly 50 years ago, on a trans-Atlantic flight, I found myself seated next to a lady who worked for the British Library.  When she discovered that I was (then) a graduate student working in NT textual criticism and with strong manuscript interests, she said gave me her card, and encouraged me to visit her.  “There are crates of to-date unexamined material down in the basement,” she said, “You might want to see it.”  Sadly, my pre-booked itinerary did not permit it.

I think that the bulk of the Oxyrhynchus material is now housed in the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford), where the editing process is centered.  We must all be grateful to those scholars who have developed the expertise to do this work, and who quietly go about it without fanfare.  Strength to their hands!


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