Thursday, March 26, 2015

The “First Century Gospel of Mark” Fragment Seems to Be in Good Hands

Michael Holmes
Michael Holmes
Some of you may recall that Michael Holmes, a scholar of early Christian writings (recently of Princeton Theological Seminary) and the translator and editor of The Apostolic Fathers in English and The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, had been named executive director of The Green Scholars Initiative, and will be overseeing the Museum of the Bible’s research projects around the world.

Holmes recently issued this statement on the question of “How Soon Will It Be Published?”, that is, “when will we know more about the alleged First Century Gospel of Mark?”:

With regard to any ancient artifact, answering questions such as these requires one to balance several complementary and sometimes competing interests. These interests include the need: (1) to acknowledge the privacy and ownership rights of the owner of the artifact; (2) to minimize distractions for the researcher investigating the artifact; and (3) to satisfy the legitimate curiosity of the scholarly community and other public audiences …

* Artifacts of various sorts have been assigned to GSI scholars, who will, under the supervision of experienced editors, investigate and prepare them for publication. These artifacts include jar handles, inscribed bowls, DSS fragments, and a variety of Greek papyri, both documentary and literary (including, but not limited to, fragments of the LXX, gospels, epistles, and patristic writings).

* For every item published under the auspices of GSI, the goal will be to give, as part of the initial publication, as much detail as necessary regarding (a) provenance, both ancient and modern (subject, of course, to any legal restrictions attached to the terms of purchase); (b) authenticity; and (c) date—along with, of course, all the other information that usually accompanies such publications.

* Items will be published in the order that they become ready for publication—a status that is difficult to predict. (Some items, for example, are easily identified, while the identity of others can be difficult to determine. For example, the presence of canonical material in a fragment does not necessarily mean it is a copy of a canonical document; it could be a citation that is part of a patristic homily or sermon. Some items are easily read, while others require special photographic or other treatment to reveal the writing, etc., etc.) GSI will seek to move items to publication as quickly as possible—but not at the expense of dealing with critical issues as fully as necessary.

In many respects, the above comments reflect a continuation of traditional scholarly practice and procedure: publication of the editio princeps marks the beginning of the public discussion of an artifact. Such an approach allows the researcher(s) an opportunity to make full and carefully considered judgments and to share fully the reasons and evidence upon which those judgments are based—a foundation, as it were, for any ensuing public discussion.

In the age of the Internet, this traditional approach stands at odds with the ethos and speed of the Internet, and it is no doubt time to explore other ways of publishing or sharing the results of the investigation and research of artifacts. Others perhaps have already started such discussions, which I would be very glad to learn from. But in the meantime, the above comments represent my attempt to balance the competing interests.

Read his entire statement here.

Tim Henderson responds to comments here, noting:

These texts will face peer review after publication, but this has been complicated by the leaking of information over the past few years, before all the details have been published. It does seem to me, though, that the Green family has taken some steps to bring in scholars who are not conservative Christians. For example, they hired Emanuel Tov as the general editor who will handle the publication of the “Early Jewish Texts” series. They also hired David Trobisch as the director of the entire collection, which seems to be one of the most important roles in the whole project. Many of those working on these texts are “conservative Christian,” but there are others involved, too.


  1. Two words: "Live Blogging".

    1. I'm sure that the scholarly mills grind far too slowly for anything approaching live blogging. :-)

    2. Thanks for the post. Helpful information.

      Is Holmes replacing Trobisch, or holding a different position?