Monday, January 26, 2015

"Stop talking about a first-century fragment of the Gospel of Mark!" - Larry Hurtado

This statement sums up Larry Hurtado's opinion on all this hearsay. I agree with him. Here are his reasons to stop talking about it:


  1. Alan, I saw this -- Hurtado's point was, what we can ask in the case of this putative fragment of Mark is that the owner(s) enable the scholarly world to access it, so that a critical and measured analysis can be done. Until then, there is no need to ask what I think of the claim that it is a first-century fragment of Mark. No data, no opinion.

    However, it's been said from the beginning that a Brill work is scheduled on this and potentially other fragments. A Brill work implies the very kind of "scholarly review" that Hurtado says is necessary. What are the odds that such work is already being done -- and is being done privately, in such a way that he (Hurtado) simply doesn't have access to it?

    That's what seems to me to be happening here.

  2. Hi John, the fact that a Brill publication is said to be published on these fragments, however, does not say anything about the conclusions of the research, conclusions that are simply hearsay. Furthermore, even if there was a conclusion by a Brill editor, that does not mean that the conclusion is viable according to other scholars. It is just a futile exercise to talk about all of this when the public scholarly community does not have access to the data. I hope this make sense.

    1. What's the difference between "the scholarly community" having access to this, vs the owners just simply having engaged selected scholars working under a Non-Disclosure agreement? That's the kind of thing that Wallace hinted at in his debate with Ehrman, that brought all of this up in the first place.

      Certainly, as it is, everyone is kept waiting, but this current process (assuming that the private owners have good intentions and that they would be attempting to do correctly -- is there even an "owner's manual" for ancient papyrii?) will avoid the kinds of false starts that we've seen with other early manuscripts ("Jesus wife" and potentially 7Q5). Don't you think?

    2. I think there is a large difference. The dust can never settle with a few anonymous scholars (is Josh McDowell one them?) making conclusions on such a fantastic TC claim. The ramifications are too historic for us to overestimate on hearsay before the data is available.

      Citing the "Jesus wife" episode does not work. The TC scholarly community did an excellent job in refuting that sensationalist claim. They would not have done so if they did not have evidence available to them.

      Let's just wait and see what happens.

    3. I'm sure that Josh McDowell isn't one of the scholars, but he seems to be one of the owners. And a very excited owner at that.

      I agree with you, the ramifications would (or could possibly be) historic. I agree with you, too, better to underestimate than to overestimate.

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  4. Let's take this scenario. Let's suppose that this Markan fragment ends up being dated A.D. 100-150. That would be most impressive! The implications are tremendous. But much of its significance will be deflated by the fact that is did not end up being a "first-century fragment." Not to mention that the other second-century fragments will be overshadowed by the sensationalism surrounding the first-century claim.

    In short, let's underestimate, not overestimate the forthcoming conclusions.